Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Big, Bad Banks' Billions Breaking News Stories--Again

PBS, May 20, 2015: The usual suspects have now been fined
more heavily than previously, billions of dollars this time, for
manipulating international currency markets, according to
a young reporter for Bloomberg this evening. She also
reminded us that, as impressive as the amounts are, this
spate of fines will ostensibly not impact these mega banks'
bottom lines; indeed, execs at these institutions have known
the ax was about to drop and have had funds allocated and
accumulating for several years to pay said fines...whew!
No one has been arrested yet, which is par for the course,
although a FEW wretched Wall Street miscreants have been
jailed in the past.

The current financial scandal, serious and sinister as it is,
isn't new. The rigged trading involving five of the world's
biggest banks occurred from 2007 to 2013. Corporate
units of Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, the Royal
Bank of Scotland, and indefatigable UBS have been cited
by the DOJ, the FED and other U.S. and European
authorities, hence the hefty fines, which won't, sadly,
badly hinder these behemoths by much.  As Simon
Johnson at MIT has so memorably said in his books
and all around the media venues, breaking up the
behemoths is the only real way to reel in most of the
detrimental behavior...or resurrect  regulatory walls
between investment, commercial, savings and checking
accounts, a la Glass-Steagall. (Dodd-Frank, a mildly
corrective palliative, passed only after most of its
important enforcement provisions were gutted.)

Just thinking about it takes my breath away--free
trade, anyone? What say you, Laissez Faire devotees
out there? For SIX YEARS the foreign exchange rates
(via the foreign exchange spot markets) between U.S.
and European currencies weren't real reflections of
the ebb and flow of that sainted monolith, the market.

I'll direct my special institutional ire at two of these
big boys, Chase and UBS, both of which are run by
two Americans: Chase's NYC giant Jamie Dimon
who also serves on the NY FED (hello SEC, do your
damn job, stop that) and UBS in Switzerland's Phil
Gramm, former Texas Senator and architect of
Glass-Steagall's demise. Both of these men should,
in my estimation, be in prison, as they contributed
materially to the Great Recession of 2007.

"As long as I got mine, don't care much for anybody else"
is the Wall Street Titans' credo, as well as their acolytes'.
Is such a sentiment worthy of the City on a Hill (per
Reagan, St. Augustine, St. Matthew)? It would seem
not. The United States is really little better than the
usual run of nations, although some of our PR is
inspiring, particularly evoked by our Founders.

To actually deserve such vaunted visions,
the U.S. could:

(1) Fix the SEC
(2) Fix the big banks but GOOD
(3) Stop hiding massive off-budget expenditures

Those three items realized equate to a tsunami-swept
revolution in the financial world, but everything the big
banks' boys do affects every one of us, even isolated
indigenous tribes let's revolt to a new,
more honest day, shall we?

Meanwhile, the banks' nine billion in fines appears mere
slaps on their collective wrists. Today's breaking news
DOES, however, have the value of raising resolve and
creating more questions...

I'm all for that.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Voila! Here is THE Solution to Pension Problems

Simply stop having, issuing, contributing to them:
Pensions should, by all logic and humanity, wind up
on the dustbin of history, in the tatters and ashes
they already are right now...

Are they working? Do states and counties across
the U.S. fully fund them? Check with Illinois,
Indiana and New Jersey to understand me; two
of these states fund ~45% of the contractually,
legally mandated amounts. Some of these pensions
are partially paid for out of the workers' pockets,
so there is a greater moral aspect (reread: cheating,
lying, etc.) to the various states' bureaucratic,
budgetary bunglings.

If pensions didn't exist, state budgets would be more
in the black than residing in the red; retirees would
not rely on them for future income; people would have
a more realistic, accurate awareness of  just what
their situations are so as to better plan, accordingly,
spending less as the decades pass, saving more.

Since economic dislocations have always occurred
(called "contractions" by economists), how can contracts
like these even make money or logic sense? Unions,
politicians, attorneys, accountants and judges better snap
to attention here: chaos is coming, if it hasn't already
arrived.  This situation is, has been, impossible for a
very long time; apparently, negotiators get caught up in
minutiae (political power plays, rivalries, ego, etc.) at the
expense of fundamental realities, so such contracts,
completely untenable, are written--and taken seriously!

Individual investments and savings, along with a revitalized
social security system, make more sense than over-generous
pension benefits predicated on an economic future which may/
may not ever exist, burdening the tax payers twice, through
government-funded pensions and social security.

My solution:

Make the greatest, most just payout amounts
now for those with pensions; then pass a
federal fiduciary act abjuring the entire U.S.
pension system from that point forward.

Stop the insanity; understand historical,
current financial reality, explain this carefully
to our people--THEN ACT.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Formaldehyde: From China, With Love

Do any of you recall the news some 30+ years back, when
formaldehyde was implicated in negative health effects from
being included in flooring, walls, and--Palmolive Face Soap?
Various infotainments recently blared more "formo" news in
our products, but this time, sent from our creditor China.

Frankly, I don't trust China's intentions. She is a very old
society, distinguished chiefly by her fecundity and very
violent, authoritarian "solutions" to internal/external
problems...over millennia. That is not what I'd term true
civilization: kindness, caring, willingness to negotiate, having
respect for life, especially children, is advanced behavior,
worthy of  the description, civilization. (--Granted, by my
definition there, civilization never has had a significant run
on the planet anywhere.)

Why did the United States allow itself to become so
indebted to such a suspicious society? Because Nixon
opened communications with China back in 1972?
Communicate, yes, negotiate, yes--but not the inextricably
intertwined, intimate relationship we now "enjoy" with

Hark back to 2007, when China imports included such
friendly items as the Emerald Ash Borer, lead in baby bibs
and cat food, ad infinitum. With "friends" like these,
who needs enemies? China may well be playing the
patience game, wearing us out slowly via economics
and harmfully defective imports...then, voila! China
rules the world, to everyone else's sorrow.

Ah, their latest gift, Formaldehyde: From China,
With Love.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

@Carl Stokes: No, the "N" Word Is NOT Synonymous With Thug

I'm sorry about it all: the more than a few wrongful killings
of young African Americans by white police, about Baltimore
aflame, about the necessity and embarrassment of calling in
the National Guard to restore and maintain order there.

But I do have a serious bone to pick with you, sir:
you were wrong to use the "N" word on CNN when the
young white interviewer asked you if "thug" isn't the proper
word to use regarding the rioting and looting there. She may/
may not have had an agenda, as you very confrontationally
and defensively implied, inflamed by being lectured to a
bit about right vs. wrong, impelling you to employ that
nastiest of racial expletives...and it wasn't OK because you
also are "Black".

First, a little lexicography: the original "thugs" (thugees) were
roving bands of indigenous gangs engaged in murder and
mayhem in the India of the 1800s. The modern meaning of
"thug" has come to define criminality perpetrated by young
toughs wearing hoods, as well as mob enforcers. Short of
murder, "thug" does describe the riotous, arson fire-setting,
property-smashing behavior by Baltimore's bad boys of the
week. (--Yes, "boys" are any human males under the age of
18  in my book.) Mr. Stokes, if you don't have an adequate
understanding of this well in hand, you ought to resign from
the Baltimore City Council.

The "N" word is a degrading, unjust pejorative branding
anyone of color, whether law-abiding or not, male, female
or child.  Only a racist (and yes, there are still very many
here at home and elsewhere) would use such a term to
explain what went wrong this April in Baltimore.

Thugs, though, can be Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian
(let's not forget China's infamous Tongs), African and
African American; they are usually under the age of 45
and reasonably physically fit. Whether the mob action
happens after a major sports event or any other occasion,
it's always wrong, irrespective of the racial makeup
of those involved.

But I see you do understand, Mr. Stokes, a sad truth
about our society: we never left the Civil War, trading
troop action for uncivil, unkind  behavior of every
stripe: murder, trafficking, kidnapping, sexism, racism,
ageism, class warfare/elitism, etc. Ancient atavisms
antecede even the days of officially-sanctioned slavery,
which still occurs.

Only when almost all of us unite to do away with
all injustice will we truly achieve Civilization.

In the meantime, please do not equate thug behavior
with the "N" word--you aren't helping; you're
just plain  wrong.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Guy's Gyro Copter Caper Gives New Meaning to "Going Postal"

Here we have a little paradox: an aging guy, Doug Hughes,
modest, self-abnegating postal worker, conceives a splashy
caper. He puts himself and 535 letters into his tiny gyro copter,
flying it from Gettysburg, PA over state lines into Maryland,
into restricted airspace, below the radar, landing on Congress'
lawn, where he produced the building's evacuation and  a
whole media and security kerfuffle...

But dear Douggie, he is modesty personified--it's not about
me, he insists; it's about all this big money controlling what
comes into and out of Washington, DC. --WHAT??
He can't be so unaware as all that. He knew he'd be
getting at least five minutes of fame, which must matter
to him, stunt-spending, planning and executing as he did.
With all the hoopla, most of his message went unremarked;
how had he missed that?

Most of us also think the many millions of dollars showering
unchecked over DC and NYC are a disaster--a second
Gilded Age more dangerous than the first. But Mr. Hughes
has been bitten by the celebrity bug, that's plain enough.
He would be better advised to take care of his bankruptcy he still employed by the U.S. Postal Service?

Meanwhile, the unconscionable political spending by the
Koch Brothers et al. continues in a ruinous, rushing river
flood, taking all of us with it. We've never had a democracy,
but the Republic we do have has almost capitulated to
an Oligarchy--so unnecessary if most adult Americans
would just do their damn job, read, speak out and vote.

Now, however, "going postal" has acquired a new meaning.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Americans Anywhere Demonstrate Their Values with Discretionary Spending

Watching the news today (04/22/'15) on Chicago's
independent TV station, WGN, I was struck yet
again by the vapid spending choices too many make
here in the USA:

Lady Gaga came to Chicago yesterday to raise
funds for her charity Born This Way. For $2,500
someone could bike alongside the entertainment
diva on stationary cycles at a local bike shop. TV
file film showed a respectable turnout for this
event, but raises some telling questions:

(1) Why is it necessary to have celebrities rub
shoulders with fans to persuade them to part
with contributions for worthy causes?  Can't they
simply send a check? ( Or pay via the electronic
equivalent thereof.)

(2)  What's the  motivation here? Are these
fans philanthropists, or are they shelling out
kale for later bragging rights? (--I seriously
suspect the latter.)

This brings to mind most of discretionary
spending in the United States; how do
relative amounts between spending on
entertainment vs. donating to the needy
and/or unfortunate compare?  I'll wager
much more is spent on sports tix, movies,
concerts, cds, dvds, etc. (-Time for more
research just to be certain....)

Whatever the true figures, imagine how much
more aid work the American Red Cross,
the WHO, the United Way, the ASPCA and any
other charitable organization could accomplish
--but worshipping at the altar of fun will sharply
militate against such sharing.

Attempting to demonstrate discretion,
Donna Quixote signs off for now.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Abolish American Aristocracy in Time for 2016

--When we'd better have better choices than the same
ol', same ol' names, namely, Kennedy, Clinton
and Bush. (--An aristocracy by any other name
STILL stinks, methinks!)

Regarding all these three families: Is our nation a
joke, or do we truly wish to give every qualified
person a chance to reach the top, elected-leader
wise?? That we don't call the Clintons lord and/or
lady doesn't disguise their presumption in handing
down their political power to spouse and  offspring.

Check Parliament in England, where you and yours
are awarded a seat in the House of Lords into
(-practically) perpetuity. Aren't both nations
aristocracies, yes or no?? Bill and Hill have publicly,
proudly proclaimed their only child, Chelsea, as
qualified to make a run for president some day.
In my book, in the USA, that's a no-go theorem...
along with the Bushes' desire to have THREE
U.S. presidents in one family, beating the Adams
and Roosevelt clans.

Chicago, Illinois: The Berrios family has taken
every political job except, perhaps, dog-catcher.
Ditto Daleys and Mells, to a fare-thee-well. (!)
This is NOT an inevitable  succession due to
fine family talent, civic-mindedness, etc. It IS
slurping up every last available public penny in
the taxpayers' trough--with so little shame!
Greedy ambition, a lust for fame, automatic
entrance to the game (entitlement), propel people
like these...then the nation, and the world, pay.

If fortune favors the bold, I'll just say it:
Abolish American aristocracy in time for
2016. Plenty of principle, political prowess
and acumen resides in others of our country
not named Bush, Clinton or Kennedy....