Monday, March 31, 2008

Debts to Pay

If we were to sell every house in America and pay off the mortgages, the money left over wouldn't be enough to pay off the Medicare gap. If fact we'd need three times that much money to cover the expected shortfall.

Thomas G. Dolan writes in Barron's this week that we'd only get $11.9 trillion with a "t" from our home equity (and that was way back at the end of '07 when houses were worth something) but the gap between Medicare expenses and revenue over the next 75 years will add up to a whoppin' $38.6 trillion with a "t". And that's before inflation, which for as long as anyone can remember has been higher for medical costs than it has been for the economy as a whole.

Pretty scary thought for all you college kids out there who were expecting Medicare in yer old age.

Something's got to give. I fear that no one inside the Beltway has the will or the talent to do anything about it.

What No One Will Say

Or rather, let's just say this is what very few people are willing say.

One of the reasons for the subprime mortgage debacle, the debacle that has led to what is certainly the worst real estate slump since the early 1990s and what may well become the worst since the Great Depression, is found here, to wit, banks and lenders were pressured to relax lending standards in order to make more loans to minorities.

Writes Liebowitz, "Countrywide's chief executive bragged that, to approve minority applications that would otherwise be rejected 'lenders have had to stretch the rules a bit.'" I love it: instead of the borrower having to have a down payment, a job, and a credit score, now all that was needed to get a mortgage was a diploma from a credit counseling program.

Skip to today and what was once just a little "stretching of the rules a bit" (in order to provide loans to minorities in order to avoid discrimination lawsuits), has now (inevitably) been dubbed "predatory lending". Nice. Compel the banks and mortgage companies to make these loans and then brand them as thieves and carnivores when the folks don't master the skills taught in their ACORN credit counseling sessions.

It was great politics then and it's great politics now.

Sometimes you just can't win.

Once again, the law of unintended consequences.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Forty four years ago were they doing the same thing for The Beatles?

This, from the cover of The Wall Street Journal.

The look of pure joy. Good for them.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama's Dilemna

Here is the problem for Obie: he can't reject being black and he cannot fully embrace it and celebrate it if it includes the comments made by his preacher. Unless he's willing to pay the political price, that is.

The most telling quote from his famous race speech? "I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community." He cannot disown the black community. Not from where he sits. (Whether he cannot for political reasons or for other-than-political reasons is a different question.) Disowning the black community simply is not an option.

A quote that keeps coming back to me was made by a black guy who called into a radio show right after the Rev. Wright story broke. This fella said that Rev. Wright, in saying what he did, was just "being black". And, asked this caller, "what's wrong with that? You can't condemn the reverend simply for being black."

A few questions. . .

First, is what Rev. Wright said really a part of the black identity? Are those comments what being black is all about?

Second, will it be perceived as such by the voters in the general election? That is, will voters in the general election say to themselves, "what Rev. Wright said is what being black is all about. Obama is black. Therefore, what Rev. Wright said is what Obama is about."

Many folks out there, especially white folks, consider the YouTube comments by the reverend to be anti-American. Are the comments anti-American? Is part of blackness inherently anti-American?

If the choice on election day comes down to the choice between a black candidate who cannot disown this preacher any more than he could disown the black community and a white candidate who in no way could ever be labeled as anti-American, does it come down to choice between Blackness and Americanness?

It will be interesting to see--to see if that's what it will come down to. And if so, to see how America will vote.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Race & Racism

Need there be intent for one to be a racist?

As a white guy, it always makes me a uncomfortable to hear folks talk about institutional racism. For if an institution is racist, then members of that institution, I guess, are racists even though they as individuals may not be. Am I by definition a racist simply bc. I'm part of those institutions and have what folks call white privilege?

Hard for me to accept that one. By accepting the institutional racism concept, I would have to accept the racist label myself. But I don't really feel like a racist. What would I have to do to throw off my white privilege and be accepted as racism-free? It's not such a silly question.

Maybe we need another word bc. being a racist implies that the person so labeled is hateful or has the intent to discriminate or hurt. I guess I could be acting in a racist-like way, but that doesn't mean I have hate in my heart if I don't even know that what I'm doing is hurtful.

The problem with any public dialogue on the subject of race is that politics inevitably interfere. Take this recent case with Geraldine Ferraro. No one can argue that she has a racist history. Quite the contrary. And yet, the minute she makes a political statement about race, she's accused of being a racist and is drummed off the Billary fund raising committee.

Come on people, there's a difference between talking about race and being a racist. If the solution is a dialogue about race, everyone in the discussion needs to stop throwing around the R Word. People won't talk about race if they're afraid that in doing so they'll be called a racist. In Ferraro's case there was no intent to be hurtful, no hate in her heart.

Were her comments hurtful to some people? Probably so. But it also hurts some people to say that the Patriots stunk it up and blew the Super Bowl or that lives lost in Iraq were wasted. The point is that Ferraro's comments, hurtful tho they may be to some folks, do not make her a racist.

The shame of it is that the people calling Ferraro a racist are themselves making political statements, but they deny it, and hide instead behind the issue of race. If you want to solve the "race issue", want to "open a dialogue" on race (which is what everyone seems to agree that we need in this country), you need to stop beating people over the head when they do try to talk about it.

Or else we'll just never talk about it. Accept that in any dialogue, uncomfortable things will be said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Masterpiece Two--"Enough Dymamite, Butch?"

"Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

This classic line from the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid qualifies as a masterpiece. While robbing a train, Butch (Paul Newman), Sundance (Robert Redford), and their Hole-in-the-Wall Gang come upon a safe that's just a little too sturdy. Butch, tasked with blowing the safe, overdoes it with the dynamite and the whole thing--train car, safe, and contents--is blow to smithereens creating a snowstorm of dollar bills. Our two heroes are knocked off their feet by the explosion at which time Sundance, chewing a wad of tobacco, surrounded by outlaws running around snatching money from the air, turns to Butch and asks the immortal question.

It's the line that launched Robert Redford's career. And interestingly enough, it reportedly was ad libbed.

Of course, the true beauty of this line is its appropriateness for use on those rare but inevitable occasions where a touch of humor is needed to recognize a noble, strenuous, and well-intended effort that has resulted in disaster. How many times in your life have you or someone in your family or workplace tried to do the right thing but used too much dynamite? At times like these, one needs a little laugh.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot the Idiot

What an idiot. Lovely wife and three daughters. Big state governor whose residents inhabit the financial capital of the world. Sittin' on top of it all.

And he throws it all away. For what? It is simply beyond comprehension. Eliot Spitzer is yet another Martian. He's that pro athlete who grew up on another planet where from the sixth grade he lives by different rules and can do no wrong. He has the same incomprehensibly bloated ego, the same tragically self-absorbed world view.

Getting his just dessert? Sure he is. At the same time this is tragedy.

What an idiot.


p.s. Interesting that we have to wait on the Dems to do their polls and the focus group samplings to see how the winds are blowing before we can hear them defend him or condemn him. Some real change that we can believe "in". They have to take a poll to figure out a no brainer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It'll Never Work

The government of China reportedly employs 50,000 people to monitor Chinese blogs. Wouldn't want anyone to criticize the government now, would we? Bloggers who complain about the environment or human rights or government bureaucracy find themselves cut off. Blogless.

The only thing worse than having my blog censored would be having to be one of those 50,000 editorial rats. I can't even imagine. It's the librarian who doesn't want you to check out the books bc. she's afraid you'll get them dirty.

I've got news for you,, China: it won't work. Word will get out and, in the end, freedom will find it's way.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hot Times in the Old House Tonight

Watching John McC on stage tonight giving his victory speech with wife Cindy by his side, all that came to mind was that there's going to be some hot sex in the McCain house tonight. The kind of sex reserved for sailors returning from the sea. Celebration sex.

You could just see it in their eyes--the happiness of a hard campaign waged and won. I mean this in the most complimentary way. They deserve it. Who would have thought last September 1st that they'd be where they are?

Billary tonight? I don't think so. Probably not much goes on in that department these days.

And the Obamas? They're too worried to have that sort of celebration. Hard to have celebration sex when you're shaking in your boots from Billary on your heels.

This brings me to one of the reasons I've always been a fan of McCain. He's a man. A manly man--a fighter pilot, a man with a temper, a rebel in many respects. A sailor. I had the pleasure of being an eye witness to what I now refer to as his suicide speech in Virginia Beach in 2000. He went into the heart of Pat Robertson country the week of the Virginia primary and attacked the religious right, said the Robertson/Falwell-ites were too far out of the American main stream and hurt the Republican party on the day of the general election.

I knew what he was doing. He knew he was going to lose in Virginia after having been smeared in South Carolina the week before. His speech was aimed at the the voters of Michigan who were voting in their primary the following week. So he went for it. Said what he believed. Caused audible gasps from the God Squad audience. But I've always admired him for the gutsiness.

He's gotten a little smarter since then, a little more diplomatic maybe. But at the same time, he's still a manly man.

And tonight? They have much to celebrate.

Great Quote

I showed up at church at 7:00 for a 7:30 meeting last night (not so good at times with my calendar) and so ducked in the library to grab something to kill a half hour. It is collection of essays published in 1977 by UU minister Ralph N. Helverson, Living the Questions.

In it I found this wonderful quote: "With an upward look toward the blue sky and the vast unknown, the human spirit senses what it can never attain, and accepts with trust what it can never possess" (p. 80).

We do spiritually sense what we can never obtain--the Holy, God, the Tao, I Am, whatever we want to call it. This Power is the common center of all religions, or maybe better put, it is the source of all religions, or that to which all religions look. It is beyond words and beyond comprehension. Beyond the Earthly and the Human.

And yet, we can can have the Faith and the Trust to accept this, to accept that we will never possess It or fully understand It. For It is Unknown. It is the Light which casts the shadows in Plato's cave.

Funny how we run across these things . . . a sloppy calendar may not always be such a bad thing.