Archive for September 2008

Failure of the Bailout Plan and Recriminations

Well I would guess you are starting to get it.  The conservative Republican idea of compromise and country first only applies to their proposals and their ideas.  The economic bailout went down to defeat because the Republicans decided not to support it even with John McCain’s “leadership” (who most of them don’t like).  Speaker Pelosi made no secret that the bill would require 50% participation from the Republicans to make this thing work.  Then the Democratic leadership worked hand in hand with the Republican leadership and the White House to produce a comprised bill that was accepted by all parties.  After the leadership had agreed, they froze it, put it out for all to read, so that the vote would be a clean and quick process.  Then the Republicans leadership did not deliver their votes and somehow this is the Democrat’s fault.  I find this rather interesting thinking.  John McCain called its failure due to partisanship by the Democrats and then called for bipartisanship.  See any irony in this statement?  In plain terms, “You guys are stupid, ignorant jerks!  Now let’s stop calling each other names and work together.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner tells us that Speaker Pelosi gave a partisan speech prior to the vote that turned off the Republican Caucus and they responded by voting “no”.  Now lets think about this:  Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats recognized that something must be done and were willing to work with both the White House and the Republicans for a bill.  They gave and gave and gave in the negotiations and this bill is not what they wanted and they gave up their most important priority for a bill that would pass (mortgage rate relief).  So with a bill that is unpopular with the rabble in the country that just wants to lynch someone, she felt the need not to give those voting “no” cover by pointing out that this bill was the result of eight years of Republican economic policy, nobody liked taking this bitter medicine, but for the good of the country here it is.  The Republicans were offended and decided to screw the country.

Now it is true that 40% of Democrats did not support the bill.  Most didn’t support it, it would appear, because they were angry over the removal of the ability of the government to own the mortgages and negotiate new rates that would keep many in their houses or do enough for Main Street.  But two-thirds of Republicans were against it.  Most were standing behind the mantra that we should not reward the evil doers on Wall Street and the government should not be in the business of controlling the marketplace.  It is a faith-based belief that has served us poorly in the past and will continue to fail us until we finally grow up and quit believing in a magical invisible hand.  Most of us don’t know or understand the complexities of this market meltdown and the credit crunch we are facing, and neither do most in Congress; but most respected experts have said we are facing a calamity if no action is taken.  Apparently that is true since the market lost over $1 trillion dollars on Monday and that does not reflect the pain to come as credit freezes up.  That loss reflects the loss of real people’s retirement planning, education planning, hopes and dreams.  Meanwhile the Republicans sunk the whole deal because it wasn’t their perfect deal, didn’t reflect their religious belief in the marketplace, or their feelings were hurt by Speaker Pelosi.  So much for compromise, political courage, and country first.

Here is what I think really happened:  Like the Democrats, the Republicans have about 40% of their members who on basic philosophical terms (in the Republican’s case government has no place in the marketplace), disagreed with the bill.  But what about the other 26% of the Republicans that could have passed this bill?  They were gaming the system for political advantage.

According to Chuck Todd of MSNBC, those Republicans who voted “no” almost to the man/woman are in or have been in very tough re-election campaigns.  They wanted to go back home and convince their voters that they are not the lap dog of the Bush Administration (which of course they have been), and they have protected their constituents from rewarding the evil doer Wall Street financiers.  Even better, they wanted to make the case that they prevented the spending Democrat’s attempt to waste all that money and turn us into a socialist state.  People in the country have yet to really understand this problem and they are still in lynch mob mode.  They want to lash out instead of looking at solving the problem that will be much worse if they don’t reign in their need for revenge.  These Republicans were showing a total lack of moral courage by pandering to these constituents instead of supporting their country.  They were looking for a way to cover their political asses and they found one.

So where do we go from here?  If you believe like I do that we have to do something, then I would strongly recommend that the Democrats blow off the Republicans (except for the moderates) and write a bill that they really could whole heartedly support and then pass it.  That probably won’t happen and, after reality sets in, the Republicans will come back to the table.  I would give them nothing.  The bill is already bad so don’t make it worse.  Either pass the existing bill you worked so hard to build in a bipartisan way, or pass the bill you really think will not only help the market, but main street and let the Republicans flounder behind their leader, John McCain, who led them to nowhere.

That 10% Undecided Vote and Entitlement

I am afraid.  The election is going to depend upon what has been estimated as the 10% who are undecided voters.  Now after almost a year of campaigning how can there be undecided voters?  The difference between the candidates is striking, not only in tone, but in philosophy of government.  So the choice is stark.  One wants to continue the policies of the past, only with less “waste, pork, and earmarks” and other says the government is fundamentally going in the wrong direction and government needs to play a much stronger role in choosing the strategic direction of this country.  So it is not like these two candidates have similar policies and we are just trying to decide which would be more effective in implementing them.  Basically you either like the way things are, you are benefiting from our present course, and you think a little house cleaning will sort things out, or you want a whole different direction.  So why are there so many undecided voters?

It is fairly apparent these 10% are neither deep thinkers, nor have any real understanding of the political choices.  They are going to vote based upon how they “feel” about a candidate or which one promises them more goodies/free rides.  When you hear independent voters interviewed, as we did after the first debate, it was truly frightening.  Most of these people had no in depth understanding of the issues and were reacting to how they “felt” about who looked stronger.  Strong is good, but if your strength leads you in the wrong direction, it is wasted energy.  It leaves the nation’s future in the hands of those least equipped to judge where the nation should be heading.  These are the voters most susceptible to the argument of free rides.  By that I mean that with just some minor adjustments and no sacrifice on your part, we will be up and running in good working order in no time.  This is the argument of the Republicans.  This is the argument of the magical and invisible hand of the marketplace.  This is the argument that lower taxes will fix everything.  This is the argument that says why are we bailing out Wall Street?  Where is my handout?  This is the argument that says we need to stay and win in Iraq, but you need do nothing as we send our troops over for their fourth rotation and we will pay for this war by borrowing from China.

A prime example of this mentality is the belief that all of our problems can be solved by rooting the waste out of our government.  The present attack on earmarks is a perfect example.  As Barack pointed out in the debates, it is easy to get headup about these personalized appropriations, but they only represent a very small fraction of our spending and their elimination will make negligible impact on our spending problem.  The problem is one person’s wasteful spending is another person’s lifeline.  In the earmark debate John McCain has referred to the Bear DNA study as an example of this kind of waste.  In another attack, Barack Obama criticized the earmark funding of the study of the mating habits of Alaskan king crabs.  The problem is both of these studies produced valuable scientific information, one on de-listing the black bear as an endangered species, and the other to help an important fishing industry become sustainable.  Sure there are frivolous earmarks, but not all are.  They are cheap shots to appeal to that 10% that doesn’t think very deeply.  The key to earmarks, which is a minor problem, is to make them fully visible, not to outlaw them.  But that is beside the point and distracts from the real issue, do we have the self-discipline to reign in our feelings of entitlement and live within our means?

The issue here that neither candidate has addressed is that Americans have a strong sense of entitlement to their life style.  Even though they can’t afford that life style any more, they are unwilling to make the hard choices about what is important and what needs to be jettisoned.  We don’t want to pay taxes, but we want government there when we need them.  We want government to spend less, but when it comes to cutting programs, there is a great out cry.  I watched as one of my conservative friends who is now facing a severe medical crisis in his life, became appalled at the sorry state of medical insurance and wondered why doesn’t government do something?  This is the same guy who voted in George Bush and is against any increase in taxes.  So the demand for more and more services with less and less sacrifice on our part to pay for them is a non-partisan issue.  On a personal level we buy more and more on credit.  We need to have these things now and payment is in the future.  If you look at our balance of payments, we are borrowing to acquire all the stuff we have to have, and we are not bringing in the income to pay for them by selling our own stuff overseas.  As Andrew Bacevich pointed out in his highly insightful interview with Bill Moyers last week (Bill Moyers Journal) we all say we support the troops, but are not willing to make one sacrifice to support them.  Just keep on shopping.  We are on a path to total self-destruction.

So as we enter the last month of this campaign, the final outcome rests in the hands of that 10% who is clueless and looking for who promises them the best free ride.  They are not looking for the candidate to paint an honest picture of what we need to do in the future to get back on track, and the sacrifices they will have to make if we are to recover.  What they are looking for is who will promise them most convincingly that things will be all right and you don’t have to do anything.  They are looking for their bailout.  In this equation, it is weighted toward the Republicans.  I fear for this country’s future.

How Far We have Fallen

On this Sunday when I am sure the news stories will be full of the bailout and the debate, who stretched the truth the most, etc., I thought I might point out a couple of stories that might indicate why we need a change in direction, and make you wonder what we have been doing for the last 30 or 40 years.

I don’t know if you took note or not, but the Chinese launched two astronauts into space this week with a planned space walk for one of them this weekend.  They are on course to develop the capability to go to the moon and probably attempt to establish some form of presence there.  You remember the moon, that place we went to back in 1969 almost 40 years ago.  I remember it well.  I was in Navigator Training School in California and it was a warm July evening when I saw the first television pictures of “One small step for man….”.  It was amazing.  I remember going outside and looking up at the moon and thinking, “Wow.  They are up there right now.”  My idea of a relaxing evening was to pop some fish sticks and french fries (health food) in the oven (microwaves weren’t common then) and watch Star Trek on TV after a day of flying and trying to figure out where we were.  Now as I gazed up into the sky, we were taking the first steps to that great adventure.  Little did I know they would be our last significant steps for almost 40 years.

Some where in there we kind of lost our way.  We decided to think small and focus on the space station.  Now there have been some amazing accomplishments like the Hubble Telescope and our robot satellites to Mars and the outer solar system, but the dream of establishing a presence on the moon got pushed aside in the great “think small “world of government leadership that we entered into.  Now there are two bills in Congress (Washington Post) that demonstrate how thinking small imay be a very dangerous thing.

The first measure is a waiver of a law that forbids purchasing space and other sophisticated technology from nations, in this case Russia, that are deemed to be helping Iran and other “unfriendly” countries with nuclear programs.  Why would we want to waive this in the case of Russia?  We need them to get to the Space Station between 2010 and 2015 when we think we might have a replacement for the Space Shuttle.  Now one can question whether focusing our space program on the space station was a smart idea, or whether the reusable space shuttle was a smart idea, but we have been flying it for over 20 years and we have no replacement.  By law we must stop flying it in 2010 because, well it is getting old and dangerous.  In other words in all these years we have thought small, let our dream of the moon and beyond die, never funded a replacement for the shuttle, and now we are dependent on the Russians who have become a problem recently, as our only means to get to our space station.  The fact that the space shuttle was wearing out is not a surprise, but in our no tax, government is the problem leadership environment, we have done nothing and now we are dependent on the space program of the Russians.  This is not a good thing.

The other bill would prohibit NASA from taking any steps to make it impossible to resurrect the space shuttle fleet after 2010, when it is scheduled to be grounded.  In other words we are going to rethink using the space shuttle in those intervening years even though it may be at great risk to our astronauts because we simply have let our space program atrophy to nothing.  We have failed to plan and pay the bills for the future and some Americans may pay the ultimate price for our stupidity and small mindness by flying around in antiquated space junk.

Now some of you will say big deal, we have better things to spend our money on than the space program.  Okay, but the Chinese see the benefit of going to the moon and beyond and it will give them both a technological and military advantage over us.  Secondly, we spent $100 billion on the space station and now we have no way to get there.  We are totally dependent on the ever increasingly hostile Russians for access to our own space station.  Some great planning don’t you think?  We are the greatest nation in the world aren’t we?.

Just what did we do in those intervening years instead of spending money on research and development for space?  Did we establish a universal heath care system for our citizens like they have in other industrialized countries?  Did we invest in education and make college level education free like they do in the European Union?  Did we refocus our funding and effort on an alternative energy program to makes us the energy leaders in the world like they did in Denmark after the oil crisis in the 70’s?  Nope.  We cut taxes for the rich, believed in the fairy tale of flow down economics, left all our important and strategic decisions to the marketplace, while clutching our bibles and Ipods close to our breast in the belief that we are the chosen people.

So as you listen to the news shows on this Sunday morning about who was more truthful, who stretch the truth the most, who looked more Presidential, think about who really wants to set a new direction and that thinks just maybe government is the solution.  Think about who wants to think the big ideas about our future and who wants to let government lead in these endeavors instead of the marketplace, which has lead us into the abyss.  Think about who has a view of the future that is not rooted in the 20th century and who wants to shrink government and cut taxes one more time for the rich so that we will always be mired in backwater America as the very rich and the very poor.

It is funny how what seems like little stories on the back pages of the newspaper tell us all we need to know about what has happened to America.  It will be fun to visit the Chinese facility on the moon and marvel at their accomplishments.  Maybe they will share some of their technology with us.

The Debate: Who Won

I don’t know about you but I had a hard time listening to the debate.  I would listen to some of the pandering comments and just rage at the machine that was issuing them.  I finally had to listen to it outside on my satellite radio so I could pace and shout without disturbing my wife who was focused on ignoring the whole thing.  However my trusty golden retriever would come over and lick my hand after each of my outburst as to say, “There, there.”  It was like a football game and you just have too much invested in one side and the battle becomes a little too personal.  The suspense on the outcome becomes too much and you just can’t watch it anymore.

Okay, but it is over so who won?  Well the first thing I will tell you is that I am so biased I would not be a good source for an honest evaluation.  The pundits (ignore the campaign representatives who are simply spin misters and I have no idea why the networks/cable news bothers with them) seem to think McCain won it because he was more on the attack, although Obama’s defenses were excellent.  On the other hand they all thought he held his own during the portion of the debate on foreign policy threat the conventional wisdom says was John McCain’s strong point.  Some criticism of Obama’s performance centered on him not being aggressive enough on the economy and tying John McCain to the Bush Administration.  My own impression right after the debate was that Barrack held his own and I doubted if this debate was a decider in the minds of many voters.  But having some time to think about it, and the initial numbers supporting Obama’a performance, I think there was something else going on here on the visceral level that the pundits and I missed.

I think the first thing that the pundits did notice, but did not attach much importance to was that John McCain would not look at Barack Obama or address him directly.  Whatever the reason, whether visceral or planned, it was perceived, I believe, as condescending and arrogant.   Now for diehard McCain fans this is just fine:  “Who does this uppity Democrat think he is?”   But I think for that 10% undecided that this campaign is really fighting for, instead of reinforcing strength and steadiness, it presented a stubbornness and a unwillingness to listen to other opinions that is representative of how we got into the messes we are in today.  For conservative Republicans he was showing the strict father who would lecture the undisciplined and inesperienced  child.  For the rest of us it was the aging parent who had not moved on with the times and could not listen to new ideas.

Then there was the debate over Iraq.  We have heard all the points before.  But it was John McCain’s fixation on Iraq and his continuing belief that this war is central to our war on terrorism that I think once again emphasized his inability to move on to a more global view of the world.  Most Americans have moved on from Iraq no matter how they feel about “winning”.  They want to start nation building at home.  So I think what they wanted to hear was a way to quickly end this thing and get on to more pressing problems at home.  They don’t care if the surge is working, they just want out.  What they got from John McCain was a never ending commitment to “winning” with no end in sight.  Focus here:  I am not talking about which side had a better approach to ending our involvement in the Middle East, because neither one of them presented a comprehensive or realistic plan(see Looking Forward and Looking Forward II – Pakistan), but what I am talking about is an emotional feeling about which of them is better suited to face the crises of the future. In this argument, John was perceived as focused and stuck in a war of the last administration while the rest of the nation is moving on.

I will take on one thing that John McCain said that I deeply disagree with and Chris Mathews also pick up on and properly criticized McCain for and that is that if we don’t win in Iraq, all those people (it wasn’t just our soldiers who paid the ultimate price for this folly) died in vain.  The logic is that once we start a war we can never admit we were wrong or we will abandon and dishonor those who fought and died for us.  I have a few friends who died in Viet Nam, I fought there, and we lost that war.  But these people did their duty for their country and the outcome has nothing to do with their sacrifice.  It is another indication of John McCain’s rigid pattern of thinking that I think many voters recognize as not what we are looking for in the 21st century.

So all in all here is what I think:  Barack held his own, even though he missed many opportunities, especially in the economic portion of the debate to expose John’s basic unchanging approach to the economy from typical Republican approaches in the past.  To the conservative Republican who is looking for a leader who establishes obedience and discipline, John fits the bill with his unwavering beliefs (regardless of his “maverick” claims) and experience.  But to the voters he really has to connect to, that undecided 10%, he may have shown his intransigent world view that will not bring the change we need, even as he touts his “maverick” side.  Instead of the wise father figure, he looks like the aging patriarch stuck in another time, unable to make the transition to new ideas and ways of doing business, his experience firmly rooted in another time.  If the debate is finally judged a win by Obama, I think it was on these more visceral feelings than rational arguments about the issues.

Vine/Wine Friday

Vine: Summer has returned after a cool week in the mid to low 80’s and it will be in the 90’s today.  Yes we farmers are fixated on the weather but the vineyard is in the last stages of ripening (Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise) and I would prefer a little cooler weather to allow the tannins to catch up with the sugars.  I went out to do a tasting in the vineyard this morning and measure the brix.  Here is what I found:

GRAPE          BRIX    WA*    FLAVOR
Grenache    24-26    25     Skins and pips mellow, seeds mostly brown and nutty, no
bitterness
Mourvedre  22-26    23     Skins less bitter, pips browning with some bitterness in the
tannins
Counoise    22-26    24     Will be ready with the Grenache
*WA-Weighted Average

Taking sugar (brix) readings with a refractometer is somewhat of an art.

Late Fall Day in the Vineyard

Late Fall Day in the Vineyard

You can get very different readings depending on where you select the berry to be tested so the idea is to get  a representative sample and kind of mentally average it out.  That is what my weighted average is.  I am getting pretty good at this and my numbers correlate very well with what comes back from the laboratory.

These grapes are developing much faster than I had anticipated and I would think that the Grenache will be ready in a week, no more than two weeks.  They are developing some very nice flavors.  Jared Brandt of A Donkey and Goat was up here early Wednesday morning to taste the Counoise and the Grenache and he thought two to three weeks, but I think they are moving faster than that. As it should be, he will make the final call.  The Mourvedre is still a minimum of three weeks away and I am concerned about some raisining on some of the bunches, but that, I think, is a result of the very stringent water rationing

Grenache with Good Deep Colors

Grenache with Good Deep Colors

I did this year and that is what you have to live with if you want a quality grape.  It is once again a reflection of pushing quality reduces production in tons and as our margins get smaller and smaller as a grower, there are few that are going to survive this way unless they are willing to take the hit like I do.  Eventually I would like to do what the do in some areas of the Russian River for pinot noir; that is to sell by the acre and not by the ton.  Then there is no friction between quality and quantity.  But I have to establish my track record first.

Wine: I will try to give you a short course on what happens to my beauties after they are picked for those of you that are interested in why wines can be so distinctly different even from the same vineyard.  I am focusing here on red wines and I will keep this short and cover different techniques in future postings.  Okay all grapes start out picked into bins, well maybe.  Some wine styles demand more gentle treatment of the grapes to protect the skins from breaking (sugar to the open air and alien yeasts) and pick into smaller containers.  There is also the thought that the gentler you are, the less bitter tannins you extract.  Many pick in the early morning when it is cool and ship directly to the “destemmer/crusher” or they refrigerate and cold soak before “crushing”.  Now the reason I keep putting crushing in quotes is because crushing itself is a whole art in itself.  Some (Narrow Gate for example) simply remove the stems and ferment as whole berries.  Others (A Donkey and Goat) use the age old foot stomping to crush their grapes as they feel that this tried and true process extracts the perfect balance of juices and tannins.  Others use the crusher but use different settings on the vigorousness of the crushing (Holly’s Hill) to extract what they have found to be the right balance for the type and style of their wines.  Remember that reds are fermented with their skins to extract color and flavors including tannins.  Another factor is when you crush and when you ferment.  Some cold soak their grapes before crushing to stabilize the grapes and others crush as they come into the winery.  Had enough yet?  Next week I will give you some specific examples and we will talk about yeast, natural or cultivated.  At least I have given you some ammunition when you visit a winery to start asking questions about wine making style.  And if you are talking to someone who really does this instead of a tasting room “personality”, they will love to discuss their style of wine making.

Bacon Roasted Chicken on Saturday Night

Bacon Roasted Chicken on Saturday Night

I want to leave you with a little taste of pleasure so here is what I fixed for dinner last Saturday at home.  We get the Williams-Sonoma catalogue and they include (pure genius) recipes that you can cook with the cookware they are selling.  This one was for bacon roasted chicken with bacon strips over the chicken, and then creating a wonderful sauce to serve with the mashed potatoes and chicken.  I whipped up some harcort verts to go with it and some nice bread and olive oil.  The wine was a Holly’s Hill Viognier.  Just a quite night, a great movie (Other Peoples Lives), and a nice meal at home.  Carpe Diem

Bipartisanship

In case you haven’t figured it out, when conservative Republicans say they want bipartisanship they mean their way or your being partisan.  Democrats by their very nature want to find common ground and work (most of the time) to try to accommodate the other side.  The other side simply sees this as weakness and that is why they despise the Democrats.  See Democrats are immoral because they don’t stand up for their beliefs.  They give an inch and that is immoral.

Watching the negotiations on the economic bailout has been most instructive about these Republicans.  The Democrats (and to his credit, John McCain) laid out some basic guidelines.  In “negotiation speak” this is called the interests of the parties.  If you can establish each side’s real interests, instead of trying to negotiate hard terms first, you may be able to reach agreement by defining the terms of the agreement to satisfy those interests.  The trouble is there is a whole group of Republican conservatives in the House whose interest is to not have an agreement.  In their mind government has no role to play.  They presented a counter plan unknown to the negotiators to have private interests buy the bad paper with government insurance.  This is kind of like lobbing a grenade into peace negotiations.  I have not seen this plan in detail but if my initial assessment of the plan is correct, it simply allows the private sector to once again get rich if the economy comes back and if not, still leaves the tax payers holding the bag in the form of insurance.  As a taxpayer I think I would rather have an interest in this thing so if there is money to be made, the government and by extension we taxpayers, will benefit.

This whole thing started when businesses started to fail due to liquidity problems, credit started to dry up according to our government, and strong action was called for to keep the whole market from collapsing.  Now conservative Republicans are questioning this premise.   Some economists are arguing that the market must be left to self-correct.  Others are telling us to take action fast or the consequences could be far worse than the bitter medicine they are prescribing.  So whom do you believe?  Seen any responsible economists being interviewed on the cable news media?  Me either, but that is the nature of our media; they will focus more on the political implications of the issue than informing us on the economic basis for the plan.  But I digress.

Right now these conservative Republicans are working a populist agenda that is angry at Wall Street, and do not want to pay the bill for these evil doers while they (the populists) are suffering in the hinterlands.  It’s a lynch mob mentality.  So they will stand up for these folks even if the economy collapses.  Dogma is far more important than reality.  The bottom line is that these are people who brought you this disaster.  It is the same belief that government should stay out of the private sector that lead to this debacle.  Consider this:  Do you think those evil doer Wall Street Bankers are Democrats or Republicans?  It is their philosophy carried to its logical conclusion that has caused this crisis, and now it is their philosophy that will stymie any attempt to solve the problem by government.

Here is what I think:  Go ahead with the deal.  The paper we are buying does have value and if we can, in the next couple of years, get the economy back on track, we could actually recoup most of our investment.  The deal must allow the terms of the agreements to be managed to limit defaults.  Eventually these home prices will return and it is far less costly in the short term to reduce the mortgage payments, and by extension the return on investment on these agreements, than to foreclose, throw people out of their homes, and worsen our domestic economy.  Get over the punishment thing.  Right now we need to focus on saving the economy for all of us.  Typical of good conservative Republicans, driven by a system of obedience to authority and punishment, punishment is the first thing on their mind.  It is the most counter productive action we could take right now.  Some will benefit who don’t deserve to.  Get over it; life is not fair, but we need to do the right thing for the whole society, not focus on punishment for a few.  Democrats should not have to carry this water alone and Republicans need to support this bailout (with appropriate modifications) so that the nation can move forward in unison.  If they don’t, it won’t work.

Here are some things to think about:
•    John McCain parachuted into this fray without any power to do anything, disliked by conservative Republicans, and without the economic intellectual capital to lead anyone to a solution.  It was pure politics in its worst form and was hurtful to the process. So much for America First
•    Conservative Republicans do not believe, as demonstrated in this economic debate, in working in a bipartisan manner and never will.  This does not bode well for a country that is moving toward seeing the government as part of the solution as reflected in most polls
•    I don’t know whether this solution will work or not, but I think the chance that the economy will fail is not worth taking.  Carefully crafted, we might even benefit in the long run
•    As long as we keep electing fundamentalist conservative Republicans this country is going nowhere.  There is no hope for healthcare reform, energy investment, or rebuilding our infrastructure because their basic “religious” faith in the conservative Republican philosophy will not allow them to allow government to take a leading role

So if you really are unhappy with the direction of this country and you want to see government work togehter, maybe you ought to look at your own voting record.  Maybe you are the problem.

Update 3 9.24.08

The President has spoken and we need immediate action.  Or do we?  Both sides in Congress seem fairly close on what they want in safe guards and both seem to think that a couple of exta days to get this thing right as long as they are moving forward will do no harm.  So why is John McCain rushing to Washington to save the day?  Could it be grand standing or is it just pure histrionics?

Update 2 9.24.2008

Several have suggested that if John McCain wants to not attend the debate then maybe he should send in the Vice President.  She is ready to step in for him isn’t she?  Or even better just move up the VP debate and let Joe and Sarah go at it.  What do you think the odds are the Republicans will go for that?

Update 1 9.24.2008

Apparently Laura Bush was interviewed and told the interviewer that Sarah Palin will be a great Vice President.  This is from the woman who thinks George Bush is a great President.  What more do you need?

Looking Forward III – Fear

I have to admit, I feel fearful.  I think the whole country is feeling fearful.  The future we thought we were saving for may not be possible anymore.  If you are in my age group, which is in the early 60’s, and the stock market tanks and your home loses its value, our retirement planning will be for naught.  We are too old to wait for the system to recover.  I think many people in the country are starting to recognize what perilous times we are living in.   Then there is the anger, anger at the people who got us into this.  The trouble is, much of it is displaced.  Right now the tide seems to be turning against the $700b bailout because many want to punish Wall Street.

But when the dust settles, reward and punishment are not the critical factors right now.  The critical factor is what is the appropriate action to limit the harm that can be done if the market crashes.  The answer is nobody knows.  If the $700b plan goes forward it clearly has to have oversight and equity share for the taxpayer.  Senator Shelby, conservative Republican of Alabama, does not support it because he thinks the marketplace needs to operate to punish those that got greedy (that would be all of us).  Newt Gingrich, another free market advocate, feels the same way.  I think they are letting their conservative dogma and strict father family moral values overcome their good sense.  If we do nothing and let these businesses fail, will the domino effect make the $700b investment by us look cheap?

I think the party is over and the hangover may be a killer.  We can argue all day long about whether we need to win in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is moot.  As Tom Friedman pointed out in his column on Wednesday (Dear Iraqi Friends), we no longer can afford to solve the world’s problems.   Our own infrastructure is in bad need of investment so that our economy can compete and grow, yet we have been on this spending and get rich (read low to no taxes) quick train demanding ever increasing returns on our investments (read more and more risk) and now we must put ourselves more in debt just to bailout our investments.  We need massive, no I mean massive, investments in alternate energy to improve not only our national security, but to create an innovative energy segment of our economy that could just pull us out of the coming recession/depression.   I won’t mention climate change because many of you are still in denial and it would be counterproductive.  We have lost our moral leadership in the world under the Republicans and George Bush.  We have lost our financial leadership in the world and the consequences of this are yet to be realized.  The party is over and the house is trashed.

But what really scares me is that most Americans still can’t see that the greedy bankers in Wall Street were just the effect of a conservative philosophy of the marketplace.  It is not just the lack of regulation; it is the belief that government is the problem, hindering the acquisition of wealth that is the badge of success and morality.  Fifty percent of our population elected and re-elected George Bush and the Republicans who have not only reigned over our downfall, they have accelerated it.  Now these same people do not hold themselves accountable and are about to elect the same power structure with John McCain and Sarah Palin to continue the debacle.  They cannot see the connection in their conservative philosophy and a government that is powerless to respond to crises.

Think about it.  If we had a government that was empowered, then we would have fuel standards today that would have forced the automakers to produce cost efficient automobiles, and also not be in such financial trouble today. But our friends, the conservative Republicans and a couple of Detroit Democrats blocked every attempt.  As Bill Clinton pointed out on the Daily show Tuesday night, if after the tech bubble in 2001, if all that money that went into the housing bubble went into alternate energy innovation, we would be the leaders in the world today.  If after the 1970 energy crisis government would have stepped in and put a $1 additional tax on all gasoline, making the automobile a less economic choice for transportation, maybe we would look more like Europe with its excellent transportation systems.  We might also have money to fund infrastructure improvements, but that would be a tax and in the Republican mantra, all taxes are evil.  Government has a very big role to play by tempering the market with a long-term view of where we need to be.

Instead we are reacting in fear and anger, looking to find someone to punish for a philosophy of greed we all bought into.  We starved government because we are selfish and that selfishness reflects itself in the conservative philosophy of minimal regulation, low taxes, small government, and our unbridled self-interest reflected in the marketplace will solve all our problems.  It is a bankrupt philosophy, but the owners of this bankrupt philosophy  fail to recognize their own part in this disaster.  We may get John McCain, a reactionary throwback to the 80’s and Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, a throwback to the 19th century when gutting a moose was important, and the whole Republican power structure that brought you George Bush.

My fear is becoming anger too, but not at Wall Street, but at you people who voted these people into power, cannot see the failure in your own belief system that brought this misery, and are about to make the same mistake again.  Wall Street just reflects these values.  Have you learned nothing?  Apparently not and if you win this election, my children and their children will have to pay for your stupidity and selfishness.  You are the problem.

Note:  McCain is pulling a campaign stunt by trying to cancel his debate on Friday and go back to Washington “to solve the problem”.  It started with the hope for a joint statement from both Obama and McCain initiated by Obama, but then McCain unilaterally decided only he could solve the problem.  The last thing these negotiations need is the insertion of presidential politics and a new voice in the negotiations.  It is truly sad that anybody thinks this main who has jettisoned all the beliefs that made him a maverick to gain the presidential nomination will stroll into Congress and resolve the difficulties, when most of the people there don’t like him very much.  All he did was raise the stakes and turn this into a partisan battle ground.  Now that’s being Presidential.