Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Glacial fog

One of the things that makes life here so cool is the weather.

This morning, as I'm sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window, what looks like a glacier of fog is rolling through the Golden Gate. I hear a foghorn, and I see a slight frosting of pink-yellow-orange sunrise over the top of the fog. It's like you can reach out and scoop it up.

A picture wouldn't do it justice.

Yesterday was beautifully clear and as I looked out the kitchen window I could easily see the Golden Gate Bridge towers and houses on hills in Marin County -- probably 10-15 miles away.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rest easy, George

It's ironic.

The Bush Administration has ignored domestic policy, especially economic policy for eight years. It only steps in when its rich investment banking buddies start to lose money on the regulation-skirting financial instruments that they themselves devised.

Its foreign policy, meanwhile, has been almost entirely rooted in revenge. It has propped up its short-sighted aims by making the masses feel that if the country didn't spend thousands of lives and billions of dollars to invade other countries, our country would be less secure.

Now the irony. (See below.) A Japanese bank is taking a big stake in troubled Morgan Stanley. You can only guess how many other flush foreign institutions (Japanese, Chinese, British, French, Saudi?) eventually will take stakes in these bedrock institutions of American free-market capitalism.

How is America more secure by allowing unfettered, unregulated markets to undermine the economy's foundation, leading to our assets being handed off to foreign institutions?

Count another Republican free-market victory. Their friends will get their money, die comfortably, pass their money along to their children and complain about taxes. The rest of us will be left a) holding the bag for the government bailout of bad business decisions, b) less market security and c) less of our own financial security.

Union Bank of California’s future parent, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, said Monday it will take a stake in troubled investment bank Morgan Stanley for about $8.4 billion.
MUFG’s (NYSE: MTU) stake will range from 10 percent to 20 percent, based on Morgan Stanley’s book value and what the Japanese bank finds in its due diligence.
"This strategic alliance with Mitsubishi UFJ can put Morgan Stanley in an even stronger position as we look to realize the opportunities we see in the rapidly changing financial marketplace,” said John Mack, Morgan Stanley’s chairman and CEO.
MUFG’s buyout of the publicly held stake of San Francisco-based UnionBanCal (NYSE: UB) is pending. MUFG reportedly sees that transaction as the foundation for pursuing its ambition to be a significant player in American banking. Today’s plans to take a stake in Morgan Stanley moves MUFG further along that path.
Both Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) received approval over the weekend to become commercial banks. Monday’s MUFG-Morgan Stanley announcement follows a weekend of intense negotiations between Morgan Stanley and Wachovia, where a lot of closed door meetings at the Charlotte bank’s headquarters appears to have ended with Wachovia not taking on the risk of integrating a big investment bank like Morgan Stanley.
Wachovia’s (NYSE: WB) fate remains uncertain as the bank grapples with billions in troubled loans, many of them picked up in the company’s 2006 purchase of Oakland-based Golden West Financial. The bank acquired the parent of World Savings for about $25 billion. Today, Wachovia’s entire stock market cap is approximately $40 billion.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can you put brains in a creationist?

This little diddy appeared in the Sept. 11 column of Debra Saunders, one of the right-wing representatives in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Obama just can't help himself. The Democratic nominee brought up the "Swift boat" ads again Wednesday - undeterred by the left's series of scurrilous personal attacks against GOP vice presidential candidate Palin and her family. It started with a Daily Kos story alleging that Palin was actually the grandmother of her infant son Trig.
But it didn't end there. The folks at felt compelled to respond to a flood of falsehoods being spread about Palin. As the organization reported, "She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library."
"She was never a member of the (secessionist) Alaskan Independence Party."
And: "Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools."
Straight news stories have probed meetings in which Palin, then a rookie mayor, asked Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons about removing books from the library. Palin never named any specific books. No books were banned. The librarian kept her job. But none of that matters.
In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, Palin said she believed in a "healthy debate" in public schools between creationism and evolution - and that reasonable view has been contorted into Palin wanting to force her creationist views down others' throats. Actually, it is the side that wants no debate that is intolerant.

Wow -- nice cutting around the words, Debra.

• Palin did not "demand" banning books but she inquired about it. If Hillary inquired about health care reform, the GOP would be crying "socialized medicine."
• Palin was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. She didn't ignore the idiots, either.
• Palin did not push for teaching creationism in Alaska's school. She merely wanted a "healthy debate."

This is where Saunders' (and the nut-job creationists') arguments fall apart, because there is NO NEED for a debate in public schools between creationism and evolution. Evolution is fact.

Calling for "healthy debate" legitimizes creationism. Just like inquiring about banning books is an implied threat to the librarian to fly-right or get checked out of her job, and not reminding the Alaskan Independence Party that they should be considered traitors and that they are a couple snowflakes short of a snowball is tacit approval of their mission to secede from the United States.

If you want your kid to learn creationism, 'intelligent design' or whatever name fundamentalists are putting on it today, send him/her to a parochial or private school. Just like if you want school-sponsored prayer.

It's a nice followup strategy by the GOP, though: criticize the tolerant for appearing intolerant and paint the intolerant as tolerant.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Different brand, same company

OK, I didn't mean for this blog to turn political, but it's the season. And we've got seven more weeks of the depressing knowledge that the Republicans are once again finding a way into the White House. From there -- with the collusion of key Democrats in Congress -- they can shove a conservative Supreme Court down our throats that will last two or three generations and implement such meaningful reform as creationism in schools and protections for companies that sell hurtful prescription drugs or toys with excessive levels of lead that were made in China simply to save the company money.

This rant, of course, comes after a rough night of sleep following Sarah Palin's speech at the GOP convention.

The Republicans obviously are distancing themselves from George Bush, the man with the lowest prolonged approval rating in modern American presidential history. Where's Osama bin Laden? Is the world safer? Is gas cheaper? Is our food less expensive? (If Republicans want to focus on gas, Democrats should focus on food -- except then the GOP will spin something about the farm bill ...) Will my son's grandchildren be saddled with this war-driven national debt brought to you by the party of fiscal responsibility?

Republicans are dousing the McCain-Palin ticket in the same bogus aw-shucks optimism that carried George II and Slick Dick Cheney into office almost eight years ago. Except this one they've packaged in the TV news show formula: pair the old male anchor (trust, strength) with the bright-faced, "young" female anchor (compassion, optimism, sexiness).

It may be the McCain-Palin brand -- with its implied message of "new and improved" compassionate conservatism -- but it's from the same company that sold you the Bush-Cheney model.

Don't buy it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Four more years of this?

And this from a Republican Party that says the market should decide. Apparently, only if the market gets the chance.
Court: US can block mad cow testing
Associated Press
Aug. 29
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration can prohibit meat
packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal
appeals court said Friday. The dispute pits the Agriculture Department,
which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease,
against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium
Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other
companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the
rareness of the disease. Mad cow disease has been linked to more than
150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Great Britain. Only three cases
have been reported in the U.S., all involving cows, not humans.