Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Fark ... I tend to think much of the great (Rock) was done by the 80's
I'd likely drop the no repeats rule, like use Yardbirds, Cream and Clapton solo's
Would also layer in a bunch of Jazz, some "folk", blues, bluegrass, C&W
An Album For Each Year Of My Life
"There’s a new meme traversing the Internet. It involves compiling a list of albums (long play records) for each year of your life. In my case there’s 36 years of albums to choose from, going all the way back to 1972. One further rule is that you’re not allowed to pick an artist/band more than once: so no picking Prince for Purple Rain in 1984 and also for Sign O’ The Times in 1987."
I'm likely closest to Werner:
An Album for Each Year - All Things Distributed
CTO for Amazon
I would get to reach back to stuff like this (I would get to push back a bit more ...)
Birth of the Cool - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fouad Ajami: Samuel Huntington's Warning - WSJ.com:
"The last of Samuel Huntington's books -- 'Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity,' published four years ago -- may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades."
Original revision here: ( with links to original review and original article )
The Clash - Essay by Fouad Ajami - New York Times:
"It would have been unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say “I told you so” after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a man, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century — always swimming against the current of prevailing opinion."
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I learned that I miss multi-tasking, reading online, typing, while the TV is on, news or news type show, interviews etc.
Turned the pages of some great old Sci-Fi Shirley gave me for Christmas, took a well deserved nap (or two) kept the generator fueled etc.
So much for the simple life ...
Saturday, December 27, 2008
"To be an Error and to be Cast out is a part of God’s Design," wrote the visionary poet William Blake. Error, whether random or deliberate, must become an integral part of any process of creation. Evolution can be thought of as systematic error management.
On to Dick Armey:
Nov 5th 2008 - CNBC
"Biggest problem for Republicans was several years of acting as if they didn’t understand who they were on the on the American political scene…
The American Voter expects the Republican party to be the party of individual liberty and small government conservatism, and this party has for the last several years not been that party. So if the choice is the Democratic Party with big government and collective mentality or the Republicans that act like that, why not take the Real McCoy?"
So, did the Republicans stray from their "true path" and can they recover, or will they become a party of the past?
We were pretty much caught up from travels, and ready for a weekend of XC skiing or snowshoeing, but overnight the temps kept climbing.
Foot of snow gone by morning, thick fog (sometimes visibility of nil)
Cruised down the road to check the Crystal:
River in Full
Friday, December 26, 2008
LG Phone :
ABC News: New Cell Can Tell If You're Drunk:
"You can add one more feature to the list: a sobriety test."
Here's how it works: Users blow into a small spot on the phone, and if they've had too much to drink the phone issues a warning and shows a weaving car hitting traffic cones.
The company also sells plug-in Breathalyzer adapters for some phones. None of the models tell you exactly how much you may be over or under the legal limit, but it can keep you from making other alcohol-related mistakes.
The LP4100 also allows users to set up the phone so on certain nights and after a certain time they do not call certain people in their phone book. Think ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dave Weinberger on Rick Warren:
I'm A Lefty And I Like Obama's Pick Of Rick Warren : NPR:
"To be convinced you know what's right and therefore to sneer at those who disagree with you? Or does loving your country in practice mean finding what's best in all your fellow citizens?"
No sense in radical right or left - that is so 20th century
On Snow etc.
I guess it's combination of history of allergies - which don't affect me in winter, being rather warm-blooded, the cold doesn't seem to bother me all that much. Besides, I've always found it easier to get warm than to cool off.
With Winter there are fewer others in town, the woods, on the beaches.
I enjoy th quiet of the countryside/woods with snow to dampen sounds.
It's a time of rest for nature, and for the soul.
We enjoy a warm fire and a good book ...
WGBH | James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden, 1968:
(click link for video and audio)
"On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Boston, a city that was no stranger to racial tension, seemed ready to join the more than 60 other communities across the nation that were rioting. Mayor Kevin White considered canceling all public events in an effort to stem any potential violence."
This was the year of the killings of Dr.King, Bobby Kennedy, cities on fire, war protest, a failed presidency... turmoil
Makes a recession feel tame.
And ... we have a pending black president ... how things change
At the concert, and a day later, in Washington DC, James called for peace and that violence was anathema to the spirit of Dr. King
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Looney Dunes: Travel
Drove home today ... all OK for most of it.
Driving my nice '93 Cadillac STS (small with big engine)
Till the brakes started to fail
Got it into a dealership - Bill Marsh, they kept the doors open an extra few min for me.
Where do the trains come in?
Grandson got several sets of Thomas the Train in Lego form
That was fun
Monday, December 22, 2008
Did read part of hardcopy (rare for me, online is quick, easy and hands clean)
Found the following - but not online
My New Year wish is that we return to the time and attitude of can-do/will-do, not one of flash/bling and entitlement - both rich and poor.
From “The Emigrant’s Guide” (1829) by British writer William Cobbett:
“One great advantage in America is, that there is nobody to overshadow men of moderate property; no swaggering, shining, tax-eating wretches to set examples of extravagance, wealth, not according to what is called birth, but according to the real intrinsic merit of the party: this is a wonderful advantage.”pride and insolence to your sons and daughters, who are brought up in the habit of seeing men estimated, not according to the show that they make, not according to their supposed"
Above the the above piece was :
A New Land of Opportunity
One way to recapture the frontier spirit and relearn the value of hard work, self-reliance and risk-taking.
By GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS
Back when America was being settled, enterprising authors in Europe published books and pamphlets aimed at would-be immigrants, offering advice on how to flourish in the New World. Some of the advice was sound, and some of it wasn't, but readers devoured them anyway.
With "How to Live on Mars," Robert Zubrin has produced a new entry in the genre -- a guidebook for settlers to a place that hasn't been settled yet, written in the present tense of a future that won't happen for a hundred years. It makes for amusing and interesting reading and in some ways may capture the feel of a colonization-in-progress Mars better than more sober works about the challenges of planetary habitation.
Mr. Zubrin -- who has degrees in both astronautics and nuclear engineering -- has himself written plenty of more sober works on the subject of Mars, including "The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must" (1996). But unlike many scientists and engineers, he is interested in human nature as much as the laws of nature, and he understands that life on a frontier is very different from life in a society without one.
Thus the Mars that Mr. Zubrin describes is a place where opportunity and risk are both much higher than on late 21st-century Earth -- or, for that matter, early 21st-century Earth. The bold and enterprising can succeed big, or fail big, without fear of confiscatory taxes or hope of government bailouts. Getting ahead calls for a keen mind, a strong back, and a willingness to work hard and take chances; opportunities to succeed by manipulating laws and regulations are harder to come by -- though, humans being human, not entirely absent even on Mars.
Some of the qualities of the new world on Mars are outlined in a chapter titled "How to Get a Good Job That Pays Well and Doesn't Kill You." Mr. Zubrin opens by observing: "There is no point writing a chapter about 'how to get a job' on Mars because the problem does not exist. I know that this statement must sound unbelievable to you, coming as you do from a planet where your primary lifelong concern has been to find a way to convince some institution to grant you a livelihood in exchange for service, but that is not how things work here. . . . Earth has a labor surplus, while Mars has a labor shortage." As for possible work, he observes that crucial "fluorosilicate minerals are sometimes encountered in significant concentrations in the highlands. So, if you are up for a little field exploration, one way to make some serious money is just to go out and find the stuff and stake some claims."
Evidently, there is lots of honest work on a planet under settlement (as well as a lot of potentially lucrative semi-honest work in land speculation). And the shortage of people produces a number of other differences from Earth, not least when it comes to dating, sex and parenting. "I need to discuss one fact concerning our social life that inevitably startles and amazes all new Earthling immigrants . . . ," Mr. Zubrin writes. "On Mars, the institution of marriage still exists. I am not making this up. . . . Incredible as it sounds, people on Mars actually want to have children of their own and they form families for that purpose. Thus, while sexual attractiveness is a factor among us while seeking pairings, unlike Earth, it is not the only factor." Concerned with getting ahead and raising families, Mars settlers view traditional attributes like loyalty and trustworthiness as far more important than do the residents of Earth, who, as best as can be determined from Mr. Zubrin's passing allusions, live in one gigantic welfare state.
If "How to Live on Mars" is in the vein of 19th- century guides to the New World, it is also in the tradition of futuristic fiction -- using a hypothetical future society as a way of pointing up trends and problems in our own. There seems little question that Mr. Zubrin views the values of a frontier as superior to those of a closed civilization. He begins with a quotation from the historian Frederick Jackson Turner: "To the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness of strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things." Mr. Zubrin has written elsewhere that he believes the outlet and example of a frontier is necessary for the long-term survival of freedom for those who remain behind.
Such frontier values are perhaps unfashionable in the age of Hope and Change, but they are widely held among Americans nonetheless. If "How to Live on Mars" inspires a greater enthusiasm for opening frontiers in space, it will have served a good purpose. But it will have done as much if it merely succeeds in reminding people of the importance of things like enterprise, hard work and self-reliance.
Mr. Reynolds, a professor of law at the University of Tennessee, serves on the Board of Advisors of the National Space Society.
Mall of America Directory
I don't normally "Mall"
If I need something, I tend to buy, not shop.
But we had at least a day, the Marriott I picked was within walking distance - 1/2 mile ?
But with below zero temps, no hat/gloves, light jacket, we took shuttle ... then got our walking in.
Very few "essentials", changes of under-ware, cosmetics.. mostly killing time.
Anchors Nordstrum's, Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Sears, literally hundreds ore on 3 levels.
Did catch Cadillac Records, the history of Chess Records as told by Willi Dixon.
Some "mall watching"
Very MidWest, jeans (tighter if younger) sweats, parkas or light jackets, mukluks or high heel boots (huh?)
Kids doing "malling" older folks doing some buying.
I suppose it's a great place for mid winter, a dozen or so movie screens, several "special entertainment" events, indoor amusement park, little other than lots of fast food, though we found a passable Italian themed sit-down.
I'm calling it a "once in a lifetime" event - don't really need to go back.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
We wrapped a great visit with family (except many be the cool/rainy weather)
Made it to San Jose airport, no problem
12:25 flight delayed until 2:20 due to bad weather in Minneapolis ... but looked like our connecting flight was delayed as well.
We boarded about 2:15 (further delay until 3:10) - tight window with Air Traffic Control to get into Minneapolis
Until - as they were closing the door, NWA called my cell to tell me that the TVC leg was canceled, and no seats until Wed...
We could leave the plane - but - would delay while they retrieved our luggage
As this was all very last min, and we did not know when we'd be able to re-book, decided to to take the first leg.
Later, one of the stewardesses told me that if we had left, the delay (15-20 min to get our luggage) the crew would be right behind us - as it would make them go over limit on their travel time.
Good flight to MSP
We ended up in line (first/elite class check in) for 2hours for re-booking
Figured we could fly to Chicago, grab a rental car
Whoops - no one way rental Chicago to Lansing or Traverse City
15 below in MSP, wind chill of - 45 below.
At least I had been smart enough to call Marriott for a room (NWA call center was jammed)
Turned in by 1PM local, off to explore "Mall of America" this afternoon
We fly out 8:20 (PM) Mon - to Lansing, then grab car for TVC, luggage, dog etc.
Christmas at home this year
PS - need to revamp luggage planning - we aren't allowed to have ours - it goes to TVC
Will go back to a carry-on plus briefcase
Working on permanent list - such as cell charger... I've got the car charger with me, plug in packed in luggage - duh.
Following - MSP terminal, near midnight Sat.
There were at least a thousand still in line.
As I said above waited 2hrs - for 1st class re-booking
Friday, December 19, 2008
Spinach & Walnut : Roasted garlic, roasted red bell pepper, spinach, basil pesto, topped with honey walnut
Margherita : Fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, topped with roma tomatoes (aka the "REAL" Neapolitan Pizza
We did a Pepperoni and a cheese for others
All good stuff
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Comment on Robin Williams:
" He's the only person Keith Richards will tell, I've got to be going home now Jack"
Comment by Robby Emens upon being told that he has misbehaved, will loose television privilege's that there are consequences for actions...
Robby is 3
Monday, December 15, 2008
“It definitely poisoned the well on both sides,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, one of the few Republicans to vote against impeachment. “Without getting into the merits of anything, there’s no doubt there were Democrats waiting from the day George Bush took office to even the score for Bill Clinton. And Republicans are the same today with Barack Obama and the Rod Blagojevich scandal.”"
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We left blowing snow, in the 20's to head here to SiValley
Got chilly, windy and rain
Low last night in the mid-30's
Nikki and Rob did say it's near record lows ... we should expect 50's-60's
But we came for family, not weather (VBG)
Update : 49 in Los Altos Hills, 45 in Glen Arbor, but as Nikki says - no snow here
Hadn't read it in years
Still a great read
Chapter 1 "In Praise of Diversity" (seems timely)
When my son was three years old he liked to crawl into my bed in the early morning and talk about the problems of life. On morning he said abruptly, "You know there are tow Gods." I was surprised and asked him, "What are their names?" He replied, "One is called Jesus and he makes people, and the other is called Bacchus and he makes wine."
Humm ... profound for a three year old.
Got to meet George (the three year old) via PCForum, and a most interesting author in his own right.
Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland April--November 1985 (Paperback)
As well as George's work.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Of note : prior governor is currently in jail...
Further note - 20% of Illinois Governors in last 100yrs have been indicted or convicted felons
CHICAGO -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Mr. Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Mr. Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.
Mr. Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions.
Mr. Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested.
Federal agents were in Mr. Blagojevich's office in the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Tuesday morning.
Corruption in the Mr. Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal Operation Board Games involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Mr. Blagojevich.
The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday morning that the federal investigation had spread to Mr. Blagojevich's efforts to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by the election of Barack Obama as president.
Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Messrs. Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Mr. Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.
Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. The decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Mr. Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The models, according to finance experts and economists, did fail to keep pace with the explosive growth in complex securities, the resulting intricate web of risk and the dimensions of the danger.
But the larger failure, they say, was human — in how the risk models were applied, understood and managed. Some respected quantitative finance analysts, or quants, as financial engineers are known, had begun pointing to warning signs years ago. But while markets were booming, the incentives on Wall Street were to keep chasing profits by trading more and more sophisticated securities, piling on more debt and making larger and larger bets."
Friday, December 05, 2008
Northern Bob Downs from Northern Express.:
"What’s the most dangerous animal in the woods? The black bear, the honey bee, the human being? Well, it’s the deer of course: tens of thousands of them leap in front of our cars each year and 65,000 find their mark -- some flying through front windshields with deadly results."
He then enumerates data on the herd, how we have fewer hunters to cull the herd.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Finishing a period of
2) lower corporate taxes
3) lax regulation
This is an intergenerational change
He's not buying government paper but looking at corps
Too much flight to quality
Fed easeings lowers yields too much
CAT and HP – yield 6 to 8 !!!
Currently in banks, mortgage backed instruments that Govt is buying
Bank preferreds at 10+%
Good chance of stabilization now, improving asset prices, real growth
More government, govt fist vs. invisible hand, regulation increases, profits no longer due to leverage,
Risk will be rewarded
His thoughts laid out here PIMCO - Investment Outlook: Dow 5000 Gross Dec 08:
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
May have cooled earlier, therefore a slower evolution of life.
Having been a "student" of geology since at least the '60's (Oberlin College, where, on the leading edge, we had "Continental Drift" before Plate Tectonics) I've been fascinated with the ongoing evolution of thought and theories.
A New View of the Early Earth, Thanks to Australian Rocks - NYTimes.com:
"Geologists now almost universally agree that by 4.2 billion years ago, the Earth was a pretty placid place, with both land and oceans. Instead of hellishly hot, it may have frozen over. Because the young Sun put out 30 percent less energy than it does today, temperatures on Earth might have been cold enough for parts of the surface to have been covered by expanses of ice."
Monday, December 01, 2008
OK, so it snowed most of the way home, but we made it in good time
Just pay attention
So it continues to come down through the night
About 6AM - power out
We head to town for a bit of breakfast
Back and grab the saws
5 Min and the tree's moved out of the way
Likely culprit is branches like this:
Fired up generator, house is wired for minimal power with aux, just a few circuits
Food, heat, a few lights
Got caught up on some reading
Out again for some supper and word about outages - several circuits out
Power up by about 8PM
Not too bad, all things considered
Just another day in Paradise
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Tom Friedman starts to whistle another tune?
Bush was right in idea, wrong in execution?
Geopolitics do count?
Op-Ed Columnist - Obama’s Iraq Inheritance - NYTimes.com:
"I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an independent judiciary is good news. It’s a reminder of the most important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual politics and independent judiciaries. And it’s a reminder that a decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.
If Iraq can keep improving — still uncertain — and become a place where Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can write their own social contract and live together with a modicum of stability, it could one day become a strategic asset for the United States in the post-9/11 effort to promote different politics in the Arab-Muslim world."
Moore's law doesn't apply here, or why SiValley isn't Detroit.
Only the Rich Can Afford It. Should Taxpayers Back It? - NYTimes.com:
"Tesla says it cannot move forward on plans to bring out a second-generation car, a less expensive sedan seating five, without federal funds. It’s also counting on rapid improvements in the core component of its powertrain — a thousand-pound pack of lithium-ion batteries — but such improvements don’t happen at the pace Tesla needs them to happen.
Tesla’s backers in Silicon Valley can be forgiven for hoping for a miraculous technical breakthrough, because Moore’s Law makes miracles appear in the Valley every day: costs drop by half every two years, again and again and again. The law is actually a rule of thumb, not a scientific law, and is based on the recurring doubling of transistors placed on an integrated circuit.
Unfortunately for Tesla, batteries are based on chemistry and have nothing to do with Moore’s Law. Lawrence H. Dubois, chief technology officer at ATMI, a semiconductor industry supplier, said, “With batteries, you can’t just squeeze more energy into a smaller and smaller space the way you can squeeze more transistors.”
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A Rough Ride in Collectible Cars - WSJ.com:
"Or maybe they just ran out of money. Amid the broad economic deterioration of recent months, spending on extravagances like antique cars has slowed. In many cases, people can no longer afford even to keep their collections, says David Gooding, president of Gooding & Co., a Los Angeles car auction house.
In the past year, many collectors who used home-equity loans or other credit to buy the vintage convertible or muscle car of their dreams have had to sell as the housing and credit markets have declined. The same factors have kept new collectors from entering the market. As a result, many staple collector cars like 1957 Chevrolets, 1940 Fords and 1960s Pontiac GTOs are selling for half what they commanded two or three years ago."
Monday, November 24, 2008
Glen Arbor is always expensive (one station) but at $1.98 I could stand it
Best guess was $1.75 in Traverse City
Saw $1.66 on way, in Cadillac
Got to Lansing, and $1.58
Heading into a holiday week
Lansing peaked at $4.25 last July
“We put all our chips on a poker hand called durable goods manufacturing, particularly the autos,” said Charles L. Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University. “In the middle of the 20th century, every time we turned over the hand it was four aces, a straight flush. If you have an undiversified economy based on a sector that’s booming, great.”
That is not the case anymore."
"Meredith Whitney, who in turn called out Citi as a failing model"
This morning :
U.S. Approves Plan to Help Citigroup Weather Losses - NYTimes.com:
"Citigroup’s shares have been hit particularly hard. A year ago they were trading at about $30; on Friday they closed at $3.77."
Oh yeah - and dividend goes from 16cents annually to 4cents
for the next 3 years
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Long piece but the quote below gives insight to street "insight"
I'd been looking for copy of comments by John Gutreund on how work on the street isn't that noble - not serious like medicine or teaching. Fun, but not serious ...
The End of Wall Street's Boom - Portfolio.com:
"He was hired as a junior equity analyst, a helpmate who didn’t actually offer his opinions. That changed in December 1991, less than a year into his new job, when a subprime mortgage lender called Ames Financial went public and no one at Oppenheimer particularly cared to express an opinion about it. One of Oppenheimer’s investment bankers stomped around the research department looking for anyone who knew anything about the mortgage business. Recalls Eisman: “I’m a junior analyst and just trying to figure out which end is up, but I told him that as a lawyer I’d worked on a deal for the Money Store.” He was promptly appointed the lead analyst for Ames Financial. “What I didn’t tell him was that my job had been to proofread the documents and that I hadn’t understood a word of the fucking things.”"
The above bit was about Steve Eisman, who coached Meredith Whitney, who in turn called out Citi as a failing model (read the whole thing... it's gory)
And this is why I try to invest in real companies that do real things, provide real services or better yet, make real goods, that real people want and need.
Then spotted Sir Bob Gledof: (Mickey Mouse?)
Lexus : The hybrid debate blog : Could hybrids help reduce our thirst for oil?:
"UK politics would change significantly if hybrids were able to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and gas. Our foreign policy, in particular, would be completely different. After all, who's interested in Saudi Arabia or Libya without the oil? And would we still be so involved in Iraq? No.
It's a resources-based economy we live in, and our primary reason for getting involved in the Middle East is to get hold of its resources. We may still want to go there on holiday, of course, but our political relationship with the region would change utterly. Perhaps the
only thing that wouldn't change there, as a result of lower Western oil-dependency, is the Israel/Palestine situation.
But the reality is that we need to do much more than change the type of car we drive to make an impact on climate change. In the UK, we'll soon have to scramble for more nuclear power. On this issue, I don't care what anyone says: we're going to go with it, big-time. We may mess around with wind and waves and other renewable energy sources, trying to make them sustainable, but they're not. They're Mickey Mouse."
Bottom line - Russia is history, not the future.
Put it real simply - Russians die early.
Layer on collapsing oil prices (how's your budget Mr. Putin?) and the threat shrinks.
Undefensible borders, declining population, struggles over power (aka "mafia") and they can be a nuisance but not a real threat.
Op-Ed Contributor - Rising Ambitions, Sinking Population - NYTimes.com:
"To international audiences transfixed by Moscow’s military swaggering in Georgia or dazzled by the newfound oil wealth of the Russian petro-state and its billionaires, this notion of an unstoppable Russian ascent may seem plausible, even compelling. To anyone who pays attention to population trends, however, it is absurd.
Russia is in the midst of a genuine demographic disaster from which its rulers have no obvious exit strategy. Although the Russia’s fortunes (and the Kremlin’s ambitions) have waxed on a decade of windfall profits from oil and gas, the human foundations of the Russian nation — the ultimate sources of the country’s wealth and power — are in increasingly parlous straits."
Russia: U.N. Warning on Population - New York Times:
Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: April 29, 2008
Russia is doing too little to reverse a critical decline in its population driven by increasing alcohol abuse, poor diet and social change, a United Nations report said. Karl Kulessa, the United Nations Population Fund’s chief in Russia, said Russia’s population could fall to 100 million, from 142 million, in 40 to 50 years. Russia lost 400,000 to 650,000 people a year from 1992 to 2006. Life expectancy for men among the population of 142 million was 55 years in the 1990s, nearly 20 years less than in Western Europe. “There is no reason to assume that Russia can recover from the crisis and stabilize its population,” the report said. “The authors of this publication do not share the optimism of government officials who claim that Russia will succeed in halting the population decline by 2015 and increase the population to 145 million by 2025.”"
Saturday, November 22, 2008
So many quips - like "hard up for cash..."
GM Spends $17 Million Per Year on Viagra:
"GM provides health care for 1.1 million employees, retirees nd dependents and is the world’s largest private purchaser of Viagra....Given the large number of aging autoworkers in the U.S., the industrys Viagra tab and bill for other erectile dysfunction drugs is certain to continue rising. Neither Ford nor Chrysler will disclose the amount spent on erectile dysfunction drugs."
Friday, November 21, 2008
The decline of the Republican Party | Ship of fools
"Political parties die from the head down"
Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.
...the degeneracy of the conservative intelligentsia itself, a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.
The piece above is link-able to th Economist
Not sure if WSJournal will keep the following open, so I'm posting, in full, copcopyrighted material.
The Perils of 'Populist Chic' - WSJ.com: "The Perils of 'Populist Chic'
What the rise of Sarah Palin and populism means for the conservative intellectual tradition."
Finita la commedia. Many things ended on Tuesday evening when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, and depending on how you voted you are either celebrating or mourning this weekend. But no matter what our political affiliations, we should all -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- be toasting the return of Governor Sarah Palin to Juneau, Alaska.
The Palin farce is already the stuff of legend. For a generation at least it is sure to keep presidential historians and late-night comedians in gainful employment, which is no small thing. But it would be a pity if laughter drowned out serious reflection about this bizarre episode. As Jane Mayer reported recently in the New Yorker ("The Insiders," Oct. 27, 2008), John McCain's choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of desperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future.
And not just any intellectuals. It was the editors of National Review and the Weekly Standard, magazines that present themselves as heirs to the sophisticated conservatism of William F. Buckley and the bookish seriousness of the New York neoconservatives. After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be pronounced officially dead.
What a strange turn of events. For the past 40 years American conservatism has been politically ascendant, in no small part because it was also intellectually ascendant. In 1955 sociologist Daniel Bell could publish a collection of essays on "The New American Right" that treated it as a deeply anti-intellectual force, a view echoed a few years later in Richard Hofstadter's influential "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life" (1963).
But over the next decade and a half all that changed. Magazines like the Public Interest and Commentary became required reading for anyone seriously concerned about domestic and foreign affairs; conservative research institutes sprang up in Washington and on college campuses, giving a fresh perspective on public policy. Buckley, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Peter Berger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz -- agree or disagree with their views, these were people one had to take seriously.
Coming of age politically in the grim '70s, when liberalism seemed utterly exhausted, I still remember the thrill of coming upon their writings for the first time. I discovered the Public Interest the same week that Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and its pages offered shelter from the storm -- from the mobs on the street, the radical posing of my professors and fellow students, the cluelessness of limousine liberals, the whole mad circus of post-'60s politics. Conservative politics mattered less to me than the sober comportment of conservative intellectuals at that time; I admired their maturity and seriousness, their historical perspective, their sense of proportion. In a country susceptible to political hucksters and demagogues, they studied the passions of democratic life without succumbing to them. They were unapologetic elites, but elites who loved democracy and wanted to help it.
So what happened? How, 30 years later, could younger conservative intellectuals promote a candidate like Sarah Palin, whose ignorance, provinciality and populist demagoguery represent everything older conservative thinkers once stood against? It's a sad tale that began in the '80s, when leading conservatives frustrated with the left-leaning press and university establishment began to speak of an "adversary culture of intellectuals." It was a phrase borrowed from the great literary critic Lionel Trilling, who used it to describe the disquiet at the heart of liberal societies. Now the idea was taken up and distorted by angry conservatives who saw adversaries everywhere and decided to cast their lot with "ordinary Americans" whom they hardly knew. In 1976 Irving Kristol publicly worried that "populist paranoia" was "subverting the very institutions and authorities that the democratic republic laboriously creates for the purpose of orderly self-government." But by the mid-'80s, he was telling readers of this newspaper that the "common sense" of ordinary Americans on matters like crime and education had been betrayed by "our disoriented elites," which is why "so many people -- and I include myself among them -- who would ordinarily worry about a populist upsurge find themselves so sympathetic to this new populism."
The die was cast. Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues -- indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities; in fact, one of the masterminds of the Palin nomination was once a Harvard professor. But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes. They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them.
Back in the '70s, conservative intellectuals loved to talk about "radical chic," the well-known tendency of educated, often wealthy liberals to project their political fantasies onto brutal revolutionaries and street thugs, and romanticize their "struggles." But "populist chic" is just the inversion of "radical chic," and is no less absurd, comical or ominous. Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.
Writing recently in the New York Times, David Brooks noted correctly (if belatedly) that conservatives' "disdain for liberal intellectuals" had slipped into "disdain for the educated class as a whole," and worried that the Republican Party was alienating educated voters. I couldn't care less about the future of the Republican Party, but I do care about the quality of political thinking and judgment in the country as a whole. There was a time when conservative intellectuals raised the level of American public debate and helped to keep it sober. Those days are gone. As for political judgment, the promotion of Sarah Palin as a possible world leader speaks for itself. The Republican Party and the political right will survive, but the conservative intellectual tradition is already dead. And all of us, even liberals like myself, are poorer for it.
Mark Lilla is a professor of humanities at Columbia University and a former editor of the Public Interest.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Got back from Fritz's funeral, and headed to
Michigan's Future: Energy, Economy, Environment
2.5 Day event - I skipped Sunday
Richard Heinberg was keynote speaker and panelist.
While I don't buy into all the "Peak Oil" he has some interesting perspectives
Esp. that it isn't the end of oil, just changing cost structure(s)
On the other end of the spectrum (but trying to play off the topic) we had Ellen Brown, with Web of Debt - THE COLLAPSE OF A 300 YEAR PONZI SCHEME: THE REAL DEBATE IS CRONY SOCIALISM OR FINANCIAL SOVEREIGNTY:
In between, good stuff on Wind (same plant as Boone Pickens, place in Lake Michigan, could generate 50% more electricity) and Nukes (head of DTE on why we have to build new).
Some discussion of new law on "net metering" to the advantage of "alternative" sources of electricity
Side topics on local sourcing, from energy to food, and such topics as permaculture.
Monday, November 17, 2008
GSE's are OK ( Fanny Mae/Freddie Mac)
What They Said About Fan and Fred - WSJ.com: "House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:
Rep. Frank: I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing."
Not all the blame falls on crooks on Wall St.
More: and I love the Maxine Waters bit ...
House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 10, 2003:
Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.): I worry, frankly, that there's a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios. . . .
Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), speaking to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez:
Secretary Martinez, if it ain't broke, why do you want to fix it? Have the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] ever missed their housing goals?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Nah, then we might not have the sorts of idiots we usually get for Congress, left and right.
"... according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth."
Op-Ed Columnist - Obama and the War on Brains - NYTimes.com:
Monday, November 10, 2008
In the long run, maybe for the good, at least for the west.
The Chinese demand for raw materials were skewing markets as was the need to put Asian savings to work ... one of the many triggers of the credit market blow up (too much savings looking for places to invest).
Chinese Economy Is Showing Signs of a Slowdown - NYTimes.com:
"SHANGHAI — Each new forecast of China’s economic fortunes predicts slower growth than the forecast that preceded it.
Christmas orders were down 20 percent this year, as big retailers and toy marketers grew gloomy about the holiday season.
Just as China attained supercharged growth that astounded much of the world, it appears to be slowing more sharply and more quickly than anyone anticipated."
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Had the S2000: Vroom out with top down a few times.
Smells of Autumn
Leafs slowly molding, along with faster decomposition when some folks burn them...
Most are down by now
Time to start the leaf blower and tidy up
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
He voiced concern that Obama will not be able to cope with the troika (my term) of: finance, politicians (and lobbyists) and media that he views as ruling America.
Audio to be here later today : Fresh Air from WHYY : NPR
"Democratic Lobbyists already circling Washington"
I find it interesting that he includes the media.
My contention that they have fueled the fire of the Wall St. problems.
Much of the media is from NYC, and see the financial problems from a local perspective.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Link to video
Zakaria: President-elect won't have much time to celebrate - CNN.com
It's finance, not the economy.
Quick and sure action can stem the problems.
Wells Fargo's Kovacevich: The Importance of Hitting Bottom - BusinessWeek:
"What would your advice be for the next President, who will inherit a deeply damaged financial system and a troubled economy?
Priority No. 1 is to get the economy going. This is the worst financial crisis since the Depression, but it is far from the worst economic crisis. Simultaneous with that, we have to figure out a way that we don't continue to have these bubbles. Therefore, we have to look at regulating differently. Some people have called that regulating more, some think deregulation is to blame [for the crisis]. I think it is really a matter of doing things differently than we have done in the past.
Maria Bartiromo is the anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell."
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Doc sums things up pretty well.
My own politics tend towards libertarian and I have no truck with the right wing religio-control freaks.
I believe in safety nets, but not redistribution, cooperation not confrontation and demonetization.
Personal freedom's and modest government, a government to provide essential and community services, but not one that is a parent, a government which is of the people, not over the people.
Doc Searls Weblog : Back to real conservatism:
"Somewhere between Barry Goldwater and Sarah Palin, conservatism changed from a philosophical anchor — what Goldwater called a “conscience” — into a pure partisanship, defined at least as much by what and who it’s against (Liberals, Democrats, Hillary, Obama) as by what it’s for. The latter now includes a list of causes (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, religiously-defined “family values”) that bear no resemblance to Goldwater’s essentially Libertarian philosophy."
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Shares in VeraSun were trading for pennies in anticipation of the move, which, the company said in statement, was “precipitated by a series of events that led to a contraction in VeraSun’s liquidity, impairing its ability to operate its business and invest in production facilities.”"
Thursday, October 23, 2008
YouTube - Barack Obama and the American Global Image - Shashi Tharoor
Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation - NYTimes.com:
"A fervent proponent of deregulation during his 18-year tenure at the Fed’s helm, Mr. Greenspan has faced mounting criticism this year for having refused to consider cracking down on credit derivatives, an unchecked market whose excesses partly led to the current financial crisis."
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.
Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”
Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
Shashi was Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, United Nations at the time of the quote.
Heard him on NPR while on road yesterday.
Shashi Tharoor - Is the United Nations Still Relevant?:
"In fact, we used to have a nasty little joke about the agreements of the Security Council on all these matters where it was said there was an argument between an American diplomat and a French diplomat and a particular problem, and the American diplomat said, 'You now how we can solve this? We can do this and this and this and we can solve it', and the French diplomat replied, 'Yes, yes, yes, that will work in practice but will it work in theory?'"
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"President 'Bobby': Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President 'Bobby': In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President 'Bobby': Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President 'Bobby': Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President 'Bobby': Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President 'Bobby': I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill."
Monday, October 20, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Image cropped from one on William Claxton After Image Gallery
William Claxton, 80, Shot 'Jazz For The Eyes' : NPR Music:
"All Things Considered, October 18, 2008 - California is the land of sunlit beaches, cars and cool jazz. They all play a part in the photography of William J. Claxton, who died in Los Angeles on Oct. 11, one day shy of his 81st birthday.
Claxton was born in Pasadena and made his name with photographs of an Oklahoma trumpet player whose career took off in California: Chet Baker. In fact, Claxton's moody images helped propel Baker to stardom."
"Claxton called his photographs "jazz for the eyes" and likened his camera to the jazz musician's axe. He told music journalist Don Heckman, "It's the tool that you would like to be able to ignore, but you have to have it to convey your thoughts and whatever you want to express through it."
Images and nice soundtrack here:
William Claxton Photography
Race to the bottom.
It'll be an interesting few years coming up.
Declarations - WSJ.com:
"There is now something infantilizing about this election. Mr. Obama continued to claim he will remove wasteful spending by sitting down with the federal budget and going through it 'line by line.' This is absurd, and he must know it. Mr. McCain continued to vow he will 'balance the budget' in the next four years. Who believes that? Does even he?"
Friday, October 17, 2008
"Will we see it under $100 soon?" (Sept 2, 08)
"A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now." ... Warren Buffett
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
"For middle-aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power, research suggests.
A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning."
Tip of the hat to Doc Searls
Sunday, October 12, 2008
While I use margin, I have a bit of diversification.
Lesson - managers egos can drive them to severe errors in thinking.
Margin Calls Prompt Sales, and Drive Shares Even Lower - NYTimes.com:
"“That suggests that there may be other cases where chief executives who are controlling shareholders or the company’s major shareholder with the same problem,” Mr. Vogel said. “These people present themselves as financially savvy and not subject to great risk associated with debt. But in fact it seems that that is not always the case.”"
Such as :
On Friday, Aubrey K. McClendon, the chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, issued a statement saying he had been forced to sell all of his 33.5 million shares in Chesapeake because of a margin call. And Sumner M. Redstone, the chairman of Viacom and CBS, disclosed that he would sell $400 million in shares in those companies to pay down a loan.
But, that said, I agree with the idea of holding positions for the long term.
What this piece also misses is the tax cost of market timing.
I've got a few losses, but very few.
Likely will do some tax trades before the end of the year.
Your Money - Switching to Cash May Feel Safe, but Risks Remain - NYTimes.com:
"By fleeing for the comfort of safe and insured, however, investors with a time horizon beyond a few years may be doing real damage to their long-term finances. If you’re tempted to make a big move to cash right now, you’re doing something called market timing. It’s an implied statement that you’ve figured out the right moment to get out of stocks — and will also know the right time to get back in."
"The four most dangerous words for investors are: This time is different."
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I don't think that the shortwave was this model, but close
Learned a bit about assembly, a little about electronics, circuits, and picked up sputnik signals (late 1957)
Dad : not sure that I ever thanked you for this experience
Filter's your outgoing emails when you might be guilty of EUI
Emailing Under the Influence
Google launches Mail Goggles to save you from yourself | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone - CNET
As Dire as the Times May Seem, History Isn't About to Repeat Itself - WSJ.com: "Remember that we've been through tough times before. The Internet bust was almost as extraordinary as the 1929 crash: Between early 2000 and late 2002, the tech-heavy Nasdaq index fell almost 80%. You may recall the speculative real-estate lending that resulted in almost 2,000 bank failures between 1987 and 1991, and the Dow plunging 22.6% in one day in 1987. While none of those were pleasant, you're still here.
Stay the course. You know this, but it's a time to return to the basics. Live within your means. Reduce your debt. Keep saving -- and investing. When the cycle turns, and it will, you'll be glad you did."
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Condemn the Bush deficit?
Naw, just justify the Obama deficit...
Op-Ed Contributor - Saved by the Deficit? - NYTimes.com: "Both presidential candidates have been criticized for failing — at Tuesday’s debate and previously — to name any promises or plans they’re going to have to scrap because of the bailout and the failing economy. That criticism is unwarranted. The assumption that we are about to have a rerun of 1993 — when Bill Clinton, newly installed as president, was forced to jettison much of his agenda because of a surging budget deficit — may well be mistaken."
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Note that I did start buying today ... small
Forget Logic; Fear Appears to Have Edge - NYTimes.com:
"Anybody searching for cause-and-effect logic in the daily gyrations of the market will be disappointed — even if the overarching problem of a crisis of confidence in the global economy is now becoming clear.
Instead, the market has become a case study in the psychology of crowds, many experts say. In normal times, it runs on a healthy mix of fear and greed. But fear now seems to rule, with investors often exhibiting a Wall Street version of the fight-or-flight mechanism — they are selling first, and asking questions later."
I turned in after about 20 min.
Personally, I think it's over for McCain, but also that the "new" is wearing off Obama.
Either gets a crappy economy
Not a "Great Depression" but not "Happy Days" either
Add in a dysfunctional Congress and either may well be a one term holder.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
History of distrust in media and government adds to crisis of confidence, as exhibited on Wall St. and in the banking community.
Who dealt this mess?
On The Media: Transcript of "Past is Present" (October 3, 2008):
October 03, 2008
"During The Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Americans that their faith and confidence was key to recovery. Is that the case this time around? Columbia University Provost and historian Alan Brinkley discusses some lessons of past crises."
Conservatism overshoots its limit
By Gideon Rachman
Published: October 6 2008 19:13 | Last updated: October 6 2008 19:13
The market for ideas – like the market for shares – always overshoots. Ideas become fashionable and get pushed to their logical conclusion and beyond, as their backers succumb to “irrational exuberance”. Then comes the crash.
What we are experiencing now is the bust that has followed the 30-year bull run in conservative ideas that began with the Thatcher-Reagan revolution of 1979-80.
You can get a sense of how quickly the intellectual atmosphere has changed by picking up a copy of Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence, which was published last year. Mr Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve from 1987 until 2006, heaped praise on the magic of financial markets and decried the foolishness of those who called for more regulation: “Why do we wish to inhibit the pollinating bees of Wall Street?” he asked rhetorically. Why indeed?
Mr Greenspan was considered such a guru that last year Senator John McCain suggested putting him in charge of a committee on tax reform, adding: “If he’s alive or dead it doesn’t matter. If he’s dead, just prop him up and put some dark glasses on him.” But Mr Greenspan’s reputation is now on the slide and Mr McCain has reinvented himself as a champion of regulation – and is denouncing the “corruption and unbridled greed that has caused a crisis on Wall Street”.
This kind of ideological whiplash is what happens when an intellectual bull market crashes. The current financial crisis can be traced to three of the central ideas of the Reagan-Thatcher era: the promotion of home ownership, financial deregulation and a fervent faith in the market. Each of these ideas did sterling service for 30 years, increasing prosperity and freedom. But pushed too far – and combined – they have created a disaster.
The subprime mortgages that are at the heart of the current financial crisis expanded the dream of home ownership to people who could not afford the financial burdens they were taking on. In April 2005 Mr Greenspan praised subprime mortgages for helping to widen home ownership and hailed them as “representative of the market responses that have driven the financial services industry throughout the history of our country”.
Investment bankers, the shock- troops of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, were allowed to bet their banks on this new market, because regulators and politicians believed so firmly in the magical and self- regulating qualities of the market.
The same process of intellectual overshoot happened with other signature ideas of the Reagan- Thatcher era: privatisation, scepticism about environmentalism and democracy promotion.
When Thatcherites first mooted privatisation it was derided as an impractical dream. But early triumphs with airlines and telecommunications in Britain created a vogue that spread round the world. That emboldened the privatisers to take on new and harder challenges, such as the UK’s railways. But failure there led to a backlash.
Similarly, when the conservative era started, foreign military engagements were out of fashion in the west. But Britain’s Falklands war and the American invasion of Grenada began to change this. During the 1990s, a series of successful military interventions – the first Gulf war, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone – made Anglo-American political leaders much more relaxed about the use of military force. Too relaxed. The horrors that have followed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan will mean that the intellectual pendulum will now swing in the opposite direction.
The idea of democracy promotion has gone through a similar boom-and-bust cycle. The collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989 was regarded as the ultimate vindication of the rightwing universalism that argued that all people did indeed desire democratic, free-market systems. Advocates of the globalisation of democracy became much more assertive. A policy of providing moral support to anti-Soviet dissidents in Europe in the 1980s had, by 2003, transmogrified into a policy of exporting democracy by force of arms to the Middle East.
Once again, a successful idea has been pushed to its logical conclusion – and beyond. And once again an intellectual backlash has begun. David Cameron, the leader of Britain’s Conservatives, captured the new conventional wisdom when he said recently: “We should accept that we cannot impose democracy at the barrel of a gun. We cannot drop democracy from 10,000 feet.”
Both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher favoured growth over greenery. Mrs Thatcher hailed “the great car-owning democracy” and Reagan mused that trees were a major source of pollution. But in Britain – and, to a lesser extent, the US – climate change has turned conservatives green with anxiety. Mr Cameron, a reliable intellectual weather-vane, ostentatiously cycles to work and has adopted a tree as the symbol of the new Tory party. Mr McCain takes climate change very seriously.
The ideological roots of the conservative era lay in a reaction to the excesses of the Keynesian consensus. Now that the intellectual cycle has swung so decisively against the rightwing ideas of the Reagan-Thatcher era, it is bound to overshoot in the other direction. The joys of government regulation will quickly pall. In a few years’ time, nostalgia will set in for the go-go years on Wall Street and for the bracing moral certainties of neoconservatism.
Audacious intellectual investors should now be sniffing around. Quite soon ideas such as deregulation and democracy promotion will be a buy.