Saturday, January 17, 2009

Madoff Only The Tip Of The Iceberg

I sometimes find that real life is so fantastic it would never be believable as fiction. Take Bernie Madoff. Here is a guy who somehow got a reputation as a financial genius. He managed to get people to give him billions of dollars to invest without any oversight and as long as he returned profits they never questioned him.

We all know the rest of the story. One day people stopped investing and his Ponzi scheme came crashing down. Now it turns out he may never have invested a cent, he just sent out transaction statements showing the investors making a big profit and everyone slept well. The latest in this story came from an investigation hat says he may never have made any trades at all.

Red flags must have been going up all over the place but greed blinded the people who kept putting money into his hands. What they received was money from other investors in a giant pyramid scheme with Bernie skimming millions off the top.

Now comes word of a missing fund manager in Florida. Arthur Nadel left a cryptic note for his family and disappeared. Apparently his fund bilked $350 million out of its investors and he either went off to commit suicide or just went on the lamb. Either way it was another scheme where people were blinded by greed and never asked the right questions.

I guess it was only a matter of time before the super-rich were knocked back down to normal. I always figured it would be some sort of cosmic karma that did it but it apparently was their own negligence and greed. On second though maybe that was the karma at work?

For most of us, the idea of giving millions to someone we hardly know to "manage" for us seems pretty crazy. I would figure people with that much money spent at least some time investigating and vetting any fund or asset manager extensively. I guess it just shows how little those who become rich really "deserve" their wealth. The myth of the hard working billionaires is fast being put to rest.

I always like listening to super rich peolle who speak of their fortunes as though they did something either incrediblly clever or somehow just worked hard enough to get the fortune they hold. In reality, most rich people either inherited their wealth or gained it through a series of fortunate events much of which they had nothing to do with. For the doubters, read Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers". The "self made millionare" is usually only a partial truth.

If hard work was all it took to get rich, then welfare mothers holding down two jobs and raising a family alone would be in the Fortune 500. Hard work only results in sweat. Success comes from both hard work, luck and circumstances more than anything and much of that is beyond our control.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of foolish rich folks out there just waiting to give you their millions and not ask questions. If you have no scruples and a good wardrobe, go for it! Maybe a few more Bernie Madoff tales will finally wake people from their slumber and get them to consider exactally what they are doing with their money.

Great Moments In Bush Speeches. Video!

These are the moments I will miss the most from the Bush Presidency.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Unique Ad Campaign - Bye Bye Mr. Bush!

I had to publish this, it's way too tasteless and funny.

PETA, Sea Kittens, And The Pets It Kills

To follow up on the ludicrous "re-branding" effort by PETA to call fish "Sea Kittens" (not a joke) I did a little research on these alleged animal rights activists. What I found was not all that surprising.

PETA exists to raise money. Like many non-profit organizations they survive on funds contributed by ordinary folks. It would be one thing if they really believed what they sell, but according to information released by the State of Virginia, a PETA facility there killed almost 90% of the animals in its care from 1997 to 2007. The local SPCA manages to get almost 70% of its animals adopted.

Now that doesn't sound very ethical to me, especially from a group who does not even want people eating fish!

Next time you see a PETA protester, ask them about these figures and look at their wardrobe. If they are wearing leather shoes or a leather belt, point out that it came from a cuddly bovine. Ask if they ever eat meat or fish. I'll bet few are really ethical vegans and most are just confused.

Sure I love animals, I have two delightful "land fish" (cats) at home and I care for them like they were my children. I do not support needless cruelty toward animals, but I also love a good steak and occasional sushi. I wear leather not just because it is my fetish, but also because it is ethical. People slaughter cows for food, why should the animal's skin be wasted. The world will never go vegan, meat is too efficient a source of protein and it's been part of our diet forever. Granted we probably eat too much of it, but that is a healt issue not one for animal rights.

My message to PETA: Spend some of that money on a "no kill" shelter. We have them here in my home town in Texas and surely you , a big organizatino that raises millions a year can do that!

Miracle On The Hudson And Basic Human Nature

Our soon to be ex-president is always a big one to highlight heroes in his speeches. He often uses them as props and human shields to mask his agenda of scamming the country's wealth and invading our privacy. It is puzzling that he didn't even mention the heroes in New York yesterday afternoon who without a second thought sprang into action to rescue the passengers of the US Airways flight that had crash landed in the Hudson River.

Ferry pilots, small craft owners and their passengers and crew headed toward the downed jet and immediately began taking aboard the stranded passengers on the wings of the plane. That act reminded me of how basically good people are. That goodness shined through and it betrays the basic political tennent of the conservatives.

Leave it to me to find political significance in this event, but it was so obvious I couldn't avoid it.

Here is the deal. Conservatives believe that the basic of human nature is to turn toward evil. Therefore people always need a strong paternal hand to keep the populous law abiding. It's the "strong father" model of government, and though the GOP rails against big government they love the paternalistic approach to governing. Father always knows best whether its Uncle Sam or big business, its a top down approach.

Liberals believe in the basic goodness of people. Government is there to create a safe place for them to thrive and grow. A nurturing parent model wold be the best analogy. If a populace is free from oppression and has its basic needs met, the good human nature of the people will make it a great country.

Both those definitions are very simplistic, but the underlying premise is true. What happened on the Hudson yesterday shows that basic goodness. It was not just a display of how New Yorker's pull together, but a display of how people care for each other even if they are strangers.

It is that basic goodness that makes us a great country.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Live Blogging - Bush Says Goodbye - Finally!

I am watching the LAST Presidential Address by George W. Bush and I am underwhelmed as usual. He is speaking before an invited audience, once again papering the house with assured positive responses.

He is giving best wishes to President Elect Obama and in the same breath thanks VP Cheney. Kind of makes me feel dirty hearing those two names in the same sentences.

He said he remembers the "first time I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001". Funny that he didn't give any addresses prior to that day?

It is no surprise he mentions 9/11 since that is all he has going for him, and his response to it has been a dismal failure. The legacy is abridged human rights, less privacy, torture and an illegal war.
You betcha I will remember you Mr. Bush.

Update: Blah, blah, blah. Thank our military...blah, blah, blah...terrorists, fanatics...blah, blah!

Freedom, God, blah, blah, blah.

I could have phoned this speech in and done a better job.

Update: He just patted himself on the back for rescuing the economy! Say what?

Now he is saying he has always had the best interest of the country in all his decisions. Followed by more talk of terrorists and attacks. He is really a "one trick pony"!

Holder Intimates Possible War Crimes Investigation For Bush & Company

Looking at testimony from Eric Holder's confirmation hearing today I get the feeling the folks in the lame-duck Bush Withe House are preparing their pardons right now. Holder was asked the question if waterboarding qualified as torture, Holder didn't mince words.
"If you look at the history of the use of that technique used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes, we prosecuted our own soldiers in Vietnam, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture,"
When asked directly if the President could authorize torture he was pretty direct.
"No one is above the law," said Holder. "The president has a constitutional obligation to faithfully executive the laws of the United States. There are obligations that we have as a result of treaties we have signed and obligations to the Constitution."
That mention of war crimes should send a red flag up for Bush and Cheney. If Holder considers what the White House authorized as a war crime, then he as an obligation to investigate and prosecute as he sees fit. This sounds like potential good news for the thousands of people who have backed the idea of investigating the potential war crimes of the Bush administration.

Now if President Elect Obama will only let Holder do it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jan. 19 - National Day of Service

PETA Goes Off The Deep End - Fish Are Now "Sea Kittens"!

PETA, that wonderful group who goes around splashing red paint on fur has come up with the strangest idea yet. They have decided people would treat fish differently if they "re-branded" them as "sea kittens". I am not joking!

In a quote on Huffington Post:
"A lot of people don't realize that fish are capable of feeling fear and pain, that they develop relationships with each other, and even show affection by gently rubbing against one another," says Ashley Byrne, PETA's sea kitten campaign co-ordinator. "Knowing that the fish sticks in the school cafeteria are really made out of tortured sea kittens makes most kids want to lose their lunch."
Excuse me, but PETA makes me want to lose my lunch. I will remember this next time I have a California Roll with raw sea kitten. Puleeze!

These folks started out with good goals, preventing animals from being unnecessarily tortured for frivolous research. However, they have become militant vegans whose message is so muddled with ideas like "re-branding" fish that they are easy to dismiss.

Meanwhile I will continue to feed my real kittens, fish, not "sea kittens".

Bush Press Conference Filled WIth Fake Reporters

It's called "papering the house", and when I worked in show biz, it's what you did to assure the theater looked packed to the gills. You gave away a lot of free tickets to fill seats. Why? Nothing is worse than attending a show with a small audience in a big theater.

Well, Mr. Bush, the president who arguably has emphasized form over substance more than any other, took a lesson from Broadway. At his farewell press conference he ordered White House interns to fill empth seats so the room looked packed. I also assume it gave him an advantage when it came to applause or laughs. The working press has had their fill of Bush and his tired attempts at jokes often fall flat.

His last press conference was filled with excuses and shrugs. Bush seems intent on frosting his legacy with as much misinformation as he can. Admitting that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was a mistake, (Something which previously he denied having any part in) was about it when it came to mia culpa's. No sorry about the wiretapping, torture and infringements of citizen's rights. No wonder the press was not buying it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

John Berry Appointed As Director Of OPM

Federal Times reports that John Berry, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park, has accepted an offer by President Obama to become director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Why is that so important? Well, John is an openly gay man and that makes him the highest office for an openly LGBT person. Now that is the beginnings of some real change.

Human Rights Campaign chimed in on it:
"The selection of John Berry to head the Office of Personnel Management, making him the highest-ranking openly gay official ever, is a meaningful step forward for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

"In his new role, John will make critical decisions regarding the implementation of fair workplace policies for millions of federal workers. We congratulate him on his remarkable achievements and look forward to his continued leadership for the LGBT community and the nation as a whole."

I Don't Like Spiders - But Maybe This One?

My partner is not a big fan of spiders. He doesn't have full fledged arachnophobia, but they bother him. Maybe he would like this cute little fellow?

So far I don't have the name of this little creepy-crawly but you can see more of him here.

Bush Makes Last TV Appearance, Finally!

Have you still got an analog TV? Well here is a fun idea for disposing of it as long as it's old and you have the replacement digital one already.

First, this Thursday night, set the TV up outside on a nice concrete surface, like your front driveway. Then plug it in with an extension cord. Make sure it's tuned to a network affiliate and wait until the network announces a special message from the president. (Bush is going to give his farewell speech on TV in prime time, if the networks give him the time. No exact timeslot has been set but Thursday night is the target. )

Next have a ready supply of large rocks or bricks available and stacked about 8 feet from the TV. Put on a pair of safety goggles or protective glasses. Take a brick or large rock in hand and as the president is introduced, well you already know what to do.

It will make his departure both enjoyable and poignant. Be sure to take pictures or video, so YouTube can be filled with clips of this truly historic occasion. Also send me a clip or two so I can post them here.

I call it, "Let's Send Bush Out With A Bang Night!" Feel free to tell your friends.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bishop Gene Robinson Chosen For Inaugral Prayer At Lincoln Memorial

If anyone was going to accuse President Obama of shying away from controversy they would have a lot of explaining to do with his choice to lead the nation in prayer at the Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert. Bishop Gene Robinson, a man steeped in controversy as the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop was chosen to give the invocation.

Bishop Robinson's choice has been hailed by gay and lesbian leaders and human rights activists, in sharp contrast to the man chosed to give the inaugural invocation, Reverend Rick Warren. Robinson is a real superstar of LGBT rights and his appearance is comforting. For those who were panicing about Obama's "turning his back on the LGBT community" there is a sigh of relief.