Friday, September 19, 2008

Keep your stocks and sell the president.

WASHINGTON, DC - In a bid to shore up investor confidence in the face of the spiraling market crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily banned all short-selling in the shares of 799 financial companies. Short selling is a time-honored method for profiting when a stock drops.
The ban took effect immediately Friday and extends through October 2. The SEC said it might extend the ban - so that it would last for as many as 30 calendar days in total - if it deems that it is nec
You remember, several years ago, when the country was in the throes of an energy crisis? The thought-over solution proposed by the Bush administration was to extend Daylight Savings Time an extra six weeks - from March to November, making Standard Time practically non-existant.
Now, with the country in the throes of an economic crisis, the Bush administration's solution was to ban short selling of financial stocks by stock traders.
When a trader shorts a stock, he is aiming to profit from a drop in the stock price. Telling them that they can't do this is the best idea the administration had. It's like when your kid screws up and you send him to his room. You haven't fixed the problem but you've made it impossible for the kid to do anything else.
While you're busy asking yourself how much better off we are energy-wise with an extra two months of DST, ask yourself how much better off we'll be with this latest knee-jerk (emphasis on "jerk") reaction to a growing economic crisis.
When governments run out of ways to tax us they come up with lotteries and legalized gambling. When the people in charge run out of ways to keep unwanted things from happening, they ban the things that people use to profit from it.
Cars are faster - lower the speed limit. People are driving while intoxicated - lower the blood-alcohol limit. We like sports - charge us to watch it on television. We like to talk on the phone while we drive - make it illegal. Stocks are dropping - make the thing that creates profits illegal.
Sometimes government works against the things people enjoy. One of those documents proclaims, "Government by the people, and for the people."
Whatever happened to the people?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You always wanted to own an insurance company -- right?

Too many people going underground. Too many people reaching for a piece of cake.
Too many people bulled and pushed around. Too many waiting for that lucky break.
- Paul McCartney, Too Many People
As part of the humongous bailout of insurer American International Group, the federal government will lend the company up to a whopping $85 billion — of taxpayer money. It may seem like a risky investment, but some analysts say the government is likely to end up making a tidy profit from the deal through interest and stock profits.
Others, like Peter Schiff, author of "Crash Proof: How To Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse" and president of Euro Pacific Capital, say the government has made a stupid move.
"I think they will lose this money and more. This is not a good use of taxpayer money," Schiff says. "They're flushing $85 billion down the drain. Who knows how much more? I mean, I have no idea how much money AIG is going to lose. But the government is not going to run the company any better than the former management. These are the guys that can't run the post office — how are they going to run a complicated insurance company?"
- David Kestenbaum, NPR

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democrats outlined $18 billion in tax incentives over 10 years for alternative energy and efficiency improvements Monday, proposing to pay for them by rescinding tax breaks for the biggest oil companies. Meanwhile, a sharp debate continued Monday over whether the Democrats' energy legislation actually will produce any more oil from offshore waters.
"Somebody please explain this to me: how can the US government, which is running a current deficit of $438 billion and has a national debt of $9.7 trillion, "guarantee" $85 billion in revolving credit? I know, I know ... we "print more money." But to do that, someone out there has to buy our notes. When are they going to say "enough" ... or the interest rate simply fall too low?"
- Kathy Gill,
"Disappointed that taxpayers are called upon to bail out another one. Certainly AIG though with the construction bonds that they're holding and with the insurance that they are holding very, very impactful for Americans, so you know the shot that has been called by the Feds — it's understandable but very, very disappointing that taxpayers are called upon for another one."
- Sarah Palin, September 17, 2008
Our government can find 85 billion to bail out a failed insurance company, yet they struggle to fund $18 billion to fund alternative energy. What's wrong with this picture?
They argue over funding for the future of our country, yet seem to have no trouble giving 85 billion dollars to a loser.
Is it hot in here or is it me?
You took your lucky break and broke it in two. Now what can be done for you?
- Paul McCartney, Too Many People
The Feds can bail them out, Paul. Welcome to America.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another beautiful blog post.

Our local Comcast sports channel runs a pre and post-game show during every Eagles game. Last night I saw a promo for the show. In addition to the usual cast - Ike Reese, Ray Didinger, Vaughn Hebron and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (that's a topic for another day) ... the voice-over added "and the lovely Kathy Romano."

There's no doubt that she is lovely. It's TV, so it's part of the reason she got the job. She does this thing called "Roaming With Romano" where she ... um ... roams around and talks to fans (guys) who probably shove each other out of the way for a shot to get close to her. That's not the point.

The point is the "lovely" introduction. Is it sexist to introduce a woman as lovely if you aren't going to say something about the men on the show? Hebron is a nice looking guy, why don't they describe him as handsome?

We (the societal we) feel compelled to describe women in a physical sense but men don't get the same treatment. You rarely hear men introduced as handsome or with some other descriptive word. I guess we think it's polite, but maybe it's condescending? After all, if women and men are equals (they are, right?) then shouldn't they be afforded the same courtesy. Besides, what if I don't think someone is lovely? Do I get three minutes for rebuttal?
I think too much.

Is lovely a necessary adjective to use when describing a woman? Why not "the articulate Kathy Romano?"

Oh, I forgot. It's television.

Something for your lunch table.

As I was driving to work today, I saw a vacant lot with a sign proclaiming it to be the "Future home of [some] Church of Christ." The first thing I thought was, "aren't they all Christ's churches?"
The second thing I thought was, "There goes another ratable." Another currently taxable property is being turned over to a group who will develop it, use our resources and not pay taxes on the property.
That started off the chain of thought that wondered about (a) why it was necessary to build another church and (b) the whole separation of church and state thing.
The phrase separation of church and state is generally traced to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, in which he referred to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as creating a "wall of separation" between church and state. The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947.
Supposedly, we separate secular government from religion. That's the idea, anyway.
Why then, do religious groups like so-called Christian Evangelicals and Catholics have a say in who is elected to political office in this country? Shouldn't they, by order of the U.S. Constitution be told to "shut up and sit down?"
Bring it up around your lunch table at work. Let me know how it goes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Economic masochism

Something ain't right.
I know it's still technically summer, in spite of school schedules and holidays, but it's stifling hot here today.
Early this morning I figured I could get a quick bike ride in. "How bad could it be?" I wondered quietly to myself. It could be 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity. Within minutes I was soaked to the skin and struggling to breathe. Maybe it doesn't affect everyone like that, because I did see a few snakes and lizards crawling around, so I guess there's something wrong with me. Suffice it to say, I cut the ride way short and returned to the relative comfort of home.
Humans are doomed by their freedom. We have opposable thumbs and the ability to choose, so we travel. We choose to live in places like New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas and most of Florida where the weather kicks our asses on a regular basis. We put things back the way they were and resume our lives of denial.
Meanwhile, penguins don't venture far from their cold homes. If they could drive, they'd get as far as Bolivia and turn around and head back home. Alligators live where it's hot and wet and birds are smart enough to fly to a place where they are comfortable. Often, I think the animals have the drop on us, intellectually speaking.
There are so many of us that we have to live in places that we wouldn't live in if there were more room or fewer people.
Hurricanes blow through the southeast, snowstorms blanket the north and it's so hot in some places that we couldn't exist without air conditioning and so cold that we need more heat than we can afford. We plow tons of snow and pump water out of our basements just so we can continue to live in these places.
It seems as though sometimes, our quality of life is affected by our ability to live where we choose - even if that choice is outside our ability to control it.
Humans have no natural habitat.
We think we do. We blow conditioned air into our homes and cars, adapt our clothing to our environment and generally trick our bodies into conforming to things to which they probably should not have to conform.
Places like New Orleans are uninhabitable, in my opinion. It takes a levee system and a massive pumping system just to regulate the water that wants to come in under normal circumstances. When something extraordinary happens, it takes years and billions of dollars to get it back where it was so that nature can blow it away again.
"You get used to it," is the answer I get from people in such places where it's either always too hot or too cold. I could get used to having a hot poker up my ass too, but I wouldn't like it any more after the tenth time than I did the first time.
You might be used to it, but it feels better when you stop.