But first . . .

LEHMAN

This is upsetting in a whole lot of ways, most specifically for my wonderful friends who worked there.

Bill D. (an angry investment banker personally unscathed): ‘Fiscally responsible? This is now the SECOND time in 20 years that the US financial system has been brought to its knees and the US government has had to effectively nationalize large swaths of the financial system. And, in each case, this has been after around 8 yrs of Republican control over the levers of oversight and regulation. The first one being the savings and loan crisis (the Keating Five and all that) and now the current mortgage crisis. The deficit has ballooned after Clinton left us with a surplus. Would you trust the republicans with YOUR money? The GOP likes to say that government is the problem. It sure is… When they are in charge of it.’

CHICKENS

They continue to come home to roost and they’re not all back. But the sun will come out tomorrow; America has an opportunity to regroup and renew itself (you know who I think has to win for that to take place); RSW, the ‘safe-ish way to short the market,’ won’t go up forever (though I doubt it has peaked); and if you eat right, walk or bike a lot, and do your crunches, you will feel better even if your index funds are down. (Peppy music helps too.)

SEEDLINGS

This is not the time to be taking risks you can’t afford. (The only time that makes sense is: never.) But if you are fortunate to have play money to supplement the core investments you have in (say) index funds and TIPS and cash, you might want to plant a seed every so often. For example, yesterday I bought 50,000 Boise warrants at 12 cents – and an $8 commission at Ameritrade. Chances are, in 2011, I’ll take a $6,008 loss when the warrants expire worthless. (If Boise goes under, I might get to take that loss much sooner.) The paper business is certainly not great right now. The stock is barely above $2. (The warrants were over $3 less than a year ago.) But what if, what if, what if. Three years is a long time. If the stock got back up to $9.50 (which I neither predict not expect, but than which I have seen stranger things happen), you have a twenty-fold long-term gain (the warrants give you the right to buy the stock at $7). Over the years, many such seeds I’ve planted have failed to germinate. These likely will, too. But not necessarily.

And now . . .

PALIN/McCAIN – #1

Bill M.: ‘Sarah Palin is driving me crazy. I maxed out to Hillary, but because I am a registered lobbyist, Obama won’t accept my contributions. I couldn’t even buy a yard sign on line for $8! What can I do?’

☞ You can sign up to lobby your neighbors.

But your experience with this draws a sharp contrast: The McCain campaign does take money from lobbyists. Is in fact run by lobbyists.

Not to say lobbyists don’t do a lot of good for the world . . . or that the fine lobbyists for the tobacco industry and chemical industry don’t have your children’s health foremost in mind (hey, I own some Dupont) . . . or – especially – that it’s fair to lump the lobbyist hired to fight fuel efficiency standards (why do I think she’s a Republican?) with the lobbyist hired to advocate for stem cell research (why do I think he’s a Democrat?). Everyone and every industry should have a chance to have his or her or its say.

But when lobbyists are hired to regulate their own industries, or when lobbyists write laws legislators pass in the middle of the night, we need a change.

PALIN/McCAIN – #2

I know this has been widely expressed elsewhere, but watching Sarah Palin with Hillary Clinton on ‘Saturday Night Live’ (surely you’ve seen it by now?), I found myself fumbling around for a pen to write: ‘His number one issue is national security, so he chose as his understudy a spunky mom who can see Russia from her house?

This is deadly serious stuff – world security. He met her once and he figured that was adequate due diligence?

This is exactly what you would do if you were the Party that’s great at winning elections but terrible at governing.

If the security of our financial system had been Senator McCain’s number one issue, would he have chosen a spunky mom from Jersey City because, from her window, she could see Wall Street?

And, yes, I know Bush 41 didn’t die, resign, or become incapacitated, so it didn’t matter that Dan Quayle was Vice President. Indeed, most Presidents don’t get replaced in mid-term. Only 9 out of 43.

But it’s like insurance. Even if only 9 of 43 families lost their homes to fire at some point in their lives, wouldn’t it still be prudent to carry fire insurance?

John McCain – who would never put politics ahead of national security – has made the judgment that Sarah Palin is ready to take the world stage on a moment’s notice.

‘Well, of course not,’ a Republican friend told me when I expressed that thought. ‘But first he needs to get elected and then he’ll fix it.’

Huh?

I know how you fire an inadequate Treasury Secretary or FEMA Administrator. How do you can the Vice President?

PALIN/McCAIN – #3

Sarah Palin is the most popular governor in the country – and I want to be very clear: I like her, too.

I disagree with her on almost everything, from the effectiveness of ‘abstinence only’ sex education to her views on the Bush Doctrine. And I am alarmed at the possibility of her becoming President. But this is one kick-ass hockey mom. If it were a movie and nothing real were at stake, you bet I’d be rooting for her to win. Who wouldn’t?

But it is not a movie.

And where everyone is pointing out how small Wasilla is (‘the city of Wasilla,’ as Governor Palin calls it), and how small Alaska is (Brooklyn’s borough president represents four times as many people), what I never see noted is that Alaska has no state sales, property, or income tax. In fact, each resident gets $2,100 a year back from the state, from its oil wealth; and with the price of oil soaring, Governor Palin added yet another $1,200. (So if you have a family of seven – if I understand this right – the state pays you $23,100 for living there.)

How hard is to be popular when instead of taxing the voters you’re giving them money?

And when you’re pulling in more earmarks, per capita, than any other governor?

(That said, all this fuss over earmarks may be overdone. As noted months ago, they amount to less than 1% of the federal budget. And not all that money is wasted – some new bridges and research grants are good investments.)

Still, to be fair, she was voted Miss Congeniality long before she ever got to hand out free money or fight for earmarks. So I don’t dispute that people truly like her. I like her. I just don’t see in her another Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Angela Merkel – or Hillary Clinton.

I don’t blame Governor Palin. She didn’t represent herself to John McCain – I assume – as anything but what she is. It was he who concluded that ‘she knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.’ Straight talk from a fine judge of talent. Can’t wait to see who he picks to run FEMA.

Senator McCain acknowledges that economics is not his strong suit (he’s reading Alan Greenspan’s book) and Governor Palin says she got a D in macroeconomics from one of the six colleges she went to on her road to an undergraduate degree.

I am not mocking her – and I’m certainly not calling her stupid. I am mocking the notion that she is qualified to be President. Which it seems to me is a baseline qualification for being Vice President.

 

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