Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Droopy banks

OK. New day… new bowl of confusion. Maybe you folks can help me out. I just read a couple of articles outlining some newer, local laws that are being strictly enforced, I assume for the good of all mankind. One is here in Massachusetts. A small town called Holliston is now at its limit, (for you moms out there, that means they’ve ‘had it up to here!’) regarding offenders of its helmet law for cyclists, and rollerbladers. While I think it’s a good idea for kids 16 and under to wear a helmet, I think it’s the parent’s job to see to it, not the town counsel. But that’s beside the point… Now, to further enforce this law, the Police, charged with public safety, law, and order, will now add taking Johnny’s bike away to their list of daily hazardous duties. How embarrassing to be in your cruiser responding to a call, siren wailing, lights flashing… with a pink Schwinn hanging out of your trunk. You can’t make this stuff up!

The other article was about Riviera Beach, Florida where the police are making sure its citizens are adhering to its ‘droopy pants’ law. People are not allowed to have more than 4” of their underwear showing. I wonder if the police have to carry little tape measures on their belts. Do these guys with their pants down on their hips look stupid? Of course! But as Americans, isn’t it our right to look as stupid as we want? I could see if they were wearing red fuzzy thongs, or God forbid it was laundry day forcing them to go commando… But they are pretty much just showing boxers. I saw a girl at the market the other day wearing a pair as shorts. And what of bikinis? Pretty much bra and panties for the beach, no? (That was merely for comparison… I fully support a woman’s right to wear as little as she wants…) Where was I… Oh yeah. For a third offense, you can be locked up for this. Yes – jailed! Holliston offers free helmets if you don’t have one, Shouldn’t Florida offer belts? I for one am much more offended by women who abuse the limits of spandex at a physical, and molecular level, and by white guys with dread locks. Where’s the justice there? Should we hand out free mirrors?

What got me on that silly little tangent is the current debacle on Wall Street. It kills me how we tend to focus so much effort on so fervently enforcing these little laws on little people, but will bail out big, powerful corporations which, in their extremely risky pursuit of a quick and very profitable turnaround, destroyed thousands of families, have spun our economy into turmoil, and will ultimately cost us taxpayers billions. These big lenders offered mortgage deals to people who did not qualify for loans, and would therefore sign up for anything for the chance to own their own home. It’s the American dream. Who wouldn’t go for that?

What happened was… When the rates were lowered after 2001, central banks made a lot of money available to help stimulate the economy, the success of which required a quick return on investment. So sub-prime mortgages were offered, at a higher initial rate to folks with a credit rating lower than 600. Thousands of these high risk loans were written. However, these plans hinge upon the borrowers refinancing at a better rate once your house increases in value. What could possibly go wrong??? House values plummeted, making it difficult to impossible for these people to keep up with payments, and stay in their homes. Houses were foreclosed upon, loans didn’t get paid, yatta yatta yatta. So, just to recap… Lenders; Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Lehman, AIG etc. gambled with these risky deals. They lost… and we the people are left to pick up the pieces. The government’s taken over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but Lehman and AIG are in real trouble because the gov won’t bail them out, which is actually a good thing. We’d be pretty much rubbing elbows with Socialism at that point. Besides, I never got bailed out on my investment. A promising young chemistry professor said he could cure several different deadly blood diseases with an enzyme in yak’s liver, and needed money for research. Well, that didn’t work out. How could I have known that Yak was his uncle’s name? Never saw that coming. Neither did Yak for that matter… The trial’s next week. My point is… capitalism is based on a certain amount of risk. People tend to be careful when risk is involved. If someone’s there to bail you out, why not go for broke? (so to speak).

Of course, mine is a very simple, very basic overview of what is in large part the reason we’re in this pickle. (Meaning I put it in terms I could understand). I know it’s a very complex series of events. Some which could not be helped, and some which could easily have been avoided. So we know what happened, and why, but will anyone ultimately pay? The last time something similar to this happened was the S&L scandal. Of the Keating 5 senators involved, 1 was severely reprimanded, 2 were ‘criticized for acting improperly’… Oh the humanity! And 1 of the 2 members who were ‘criticized for poor judgment’, is currently our Republican presidential candidate. 5 years in a Vietnamese prison, AND criticized by the ethics committee? The man should have a cape! Wouldn’t it be funny if the only one to get in trouble for all of this is the banker whose pants are too low, showing more than 4” of his Alan Greenspan boxer shorts?

Monday, September 8, 2008

And the oval office goes to...

Wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to elect a Hollywood president? My son commented this past weekend during the movie ‘Air Force One’, “I want that guy to be our president”. It got me thinking… (no ‘burning smell’ jokes please), it is not the first time I’ve heard that notion, or thought it myself while watching an actor’s portrayal of a fictional president. After all, they are always so much more interesting, have more integrity, and usually, less of a jaded past than the members of the political ‘value menu’ from which we always have to make a choice. I know, it’s a lot easier to make up a person on a page, and for that person to make the right life and death call when a script dictates his/her decision, as opposed to doing it for real… every day, with no one to yell ‘cut’, so they can do it again. But we’ve all thought it. From Jeb Bartlett from the West Wing, to Andrew Shepard, to the first TV female Prez, McKenzie Allen. Writers are always able to inject something into these characters that appeals to us in a way that real candidates don’t seem to be able to. OK, so lets break it down. If we could elect a Hollywood president, who is the best concrete hand print for the job?

Ya gotta love Henry Fonda… (I actually think there’s an Amendment to the constitution that says so. It includes Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne as well if I’m not mistaken). He was the president twice. ‘Young Mr Lincoln’, and again in ‘Failsafe’. Experience aside, I think one assassination, and one nuclear attack rule him out. The latter would also exclude Peter Sellers’ Merkin Muffly from ‘Dr Strangelove’. Sure’ he’d be fun for a while, but the last thing we need is Slim Pickins riding the back of a nuke to the ground like some eradiated mechanical bull. And unfortunately, Gina Davis, who played President Mckenzie Allen in ‘Commander in Chief’, probably wouldn’t get elected due to the fact that she was formerly the 50’ woman. Aside from being an abysmally bad movie, people get pissed when you step on their Volkswagens. We also have had two presidents who had to guide us through alien attacks. Jack Nicholson, in ‘Mars Attacks’, who didn’t do so hot amidst the crisis, since his character was a boob. Not his fault though, it was written that way, and is a funny movie. Then we had Bill Pullman as President Whitmore in the I wish there was some way to get those 2 hours of my life back classic, ‘Independence Day’. Personally, I think he peaked as Lonestar in Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’.

So now we know who’s out. Let’s meet our candidates, shall we? You ‘24’ fans out there remember David Palmer. Not much to not like about him. Good decision maker, always tried to do the right thing, and let’s not forget… at a most crucial time for his team, he was able to hit the homerun off the curve ball, without Jobu’s help, giving the Indians the pennant that year… Winner in my book. We have Kevin Klein’s ‘Dave’, who had to impersonate a corrupt president he just happened to be the spitting image of. A good, honest, simple man who wanted to help people. Of course, he was never tested on a security/military front. After all, he was a former CIA assassin in ‘A fish called Wanda’, and he couldn’t even k-k-k-kill K-K-K-Ken. Still, I like Dave. Thus concludes, the ‘possible, but long shot’ fictional president category.

OK - We’re down to the big 3, starting with Martin Sheen’s Jeb Bartlett. Let’s face it, Jeb rocked. Cool, collected, and very intelligent… Used the Bible for strength, not as a play book. Plus Sheen served his country in ‘Apocalypse Now’, worked 30 years for Blue Star Airlines, and served as Chief of staff under Michael Douglas… who oddly enough, as Gordon Gecko, tried to take over and liquidate Blue Star. Hmm… bygones I guess. And what about Michael Douglas’ Andrew Shepard… Come on ladies, ‘The American President’. Widower, raising a daughter alone, leader of the free world… and looks good in a suit. I have to say, I did like Andrew Shepard… good movie president. Plus, Michael helped clean up the streets of San Francisco, and got Joan Wilder out of a jam or two. But the imaginary movie press would definitely dig up dirt about the affair with Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction’. Which may end his bid right there. Ironically, Close has white house experience as well having played both first lady, in ‘Mars Attacks’, and vice-president, in ‘Air Force One’. Which brings me to my choice of movie presidents. I have to agree with Ryan on this one and go with President James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford. He makes politically unpopular, potentially career ending policy based on the fact that it’s the right thing to do. Stays behind with his family, beats up Gary Oldman and the bad guys, then jumps in the cockpit and flies the plane. Aside from that, he was part of Force ten from Navarone, recovered the Arc of the Covenant, and the Grail so the Nazis couldn’t get them, thereby taking over the world. He was deputy Director of the CIA, (though Alec Baldwin is still my favorite Jack Ryan). Not to mention the fact that he covered Luke in his final run at the Death Star’s exhaust port, and he is most famous for doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs… Are you kidding me? He can be my president anytime.

Agree with my little rantings or not, after all, they are just that. But think of this… Maybe finding a movie, or TV president we relate to in some way, would help us better realize the qualities and character of someone we would actually want to do the job. Sort of a $10.50 glimpse into our potential future. We see clothes, cars, and hair styles we like in movies, why not the traits of a good leader. After all, the men and women who create these characters are looking for something else as well.

Please don't forget to vote - for real!