Archive for November, 2008

Explaining ‘unexpected’ consumer confidence

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Consumer confidence didn’t drop as much as anticipated this month.

There’s no mystery to this supposedly unexpected result. The explanation is simple: president-elect Barack Hussein Obama.

Nothing like electing a sharp, talented, educated adult to the nation’s highest office to jumpstart people’s faith that better times eventually will prevail.

Why no bailout will work

Friday, November 14th, 2008

First the $850 billion bailout was intended to purchase questionable mortgage-related securities.

Then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen announced plans to invest directly into banks, which promptly sat on the money or gave their top executives big bonuses instead of starting to make loans again.

Now, in yet a third course correction, Paulsen says the rest of the bailout bucks (400 billion of them) will focus on consumer debt, nonbank financial companies, and homeowners facing foreclosure.

No, the Bush administration has not (finally) developed an actual case of compassionate conservatism. It’s that all those troubled mortgages repacked into bonds simply don’t exist. You read that right. They are figments of Wall Street’s imagination and boundless greed.

Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, reveals the full extent of the mess in an article that should be required reading for every current and incoming member of Congress and the administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Bottom line: $850 billion–or all the money in the world–won’t work because there is nothing to bail out. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The real end of Wall Street cannot come a moment too soon.

Revising the story of human origins–again

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

gobeklitepe_nov08_41.jpg 

(Photo c. 2008 by Berthold Steinhillber; used with permission.) 

Take a good look at the carvings on the stone in the photo above (original here). Very similar to Egyptian hierogliphs, aren’t they? Especially since they present their subjects in profile, so common among Egyptian carvings and paintings.

Yet this carved stone comes from a site in southeastern Turkey called Gobekli Tepe, where German archeologist Klaus Schmidt, featured in this month’s issue of Smithsonian, has unearthed enormous carved stones roughly 11,000 years old.

Schmidt’s find has generated a lot of excitement about revising the origins of human history.

Get used to it. What archeologists think they know about human history and the reality of our past are very different. There will be a lot more changes to the narrative before we gain even a glimmer of true understanding.

Reaping What They Sow

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Can’t help wondering: Where was this three-plus decades ago when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) derailed the Equal Rights Amendment? 

The wanna-be theocrats from Utah now face a backlash over their church’s starring role in derailing same-sex marriage in California by funneling millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of votes in support of Proposition 8.

This outraged response is more than just street protests. A group of Bay Area residents has organized a drive to close the loophole that permits religious organizations with the 501(c)(3) tax exemption to support ballot initiatives even while not allowed to back specific political candidates or directly lobby on political issues.

Better late than never. When state legislatures were considering whether to ratify the ERA back in the early to mid-1970s, the Mormon leadership told church members from the pulpit to lobby against it, and defeated the ERA in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. This killed any chance for the amendment to become part of the U.S. Constitution and guarantee women’s rights.

Apparently, taking away women’s chance of full equality under the law was no big deal, but times have changed, and the opponents of Proposition 8 have come out swinging.

One note of caution. Sounding too bitter or angry is a good way to prompt a negative reaction to the backlash.

State our cause firmly yet dispassionately, without rancor or venom. Don’t unwittingly stir up sympathy for the Mormons–especially among those unfamiliar with LDS church history, or its continued refusal to take the same kind of active stand as it did against gay marriage toward (supposedly excommunicated) Mormon extremists who engage in repeated child molesting through “spiritual marriage” to numerous girls barely in their teens.

Remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who supported full equality before the laws for GLBT people: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

GOP Nervous About Texas?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Guess what showed up on Texas television the night before Election Day?

None other than the National Republican Trust PAC’s television spot of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

This odious piece of political theater shows clips of Wright at his most fiery in the pulpit. It then claims that since Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama never objected to any of his former pastor’s rhetoric, Obama is too radical to be U.S. president.

This ad targets voters in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. So why did it air in a supposedly safe Republican state?

Could Texas be about to swing purple?

The morning of Election Day, the Lone Star state is leaning toward Obama 62 percent to 38 percent, according to the 7-Eleven coffee cup poll that was accurate in the 2004 and 2000 presidential elections.

We’ll see in just a few short hours.

Where Being Raped is the Crime

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Human rights organization Amnesty International reports from war-ravaged Somalia that a female stoned to death recently after reporting being raped was 13, not 23.

The girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, reported being raped by three men to the al-Shabab militia that controls Kismayo. She was then accused of adultery and detained. None of the trio she accused of raping her was arrested (of course).

From eye-witness accounts, the stoning was unusually cruel. Women or girls in Azgard who reported being raped could expect the same treatment, or worse.

My author has not yet named the fifth book in the Green Stone of Healing(R) series, but it details how one young privileged Toltec lady of high birth met a similar gruesome fate after becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

I was hoping that human society would have evolved further by now. Females still suffer under the lethal double standard that prevailed in my time. This has to change.

Just Like Toltec Rulers

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

John Dean, formerly counsel to president Richard M. Nixon, writes about authoritarian conservatives at AlterNet today. 

I know the type only too well. The rulers of  Azgard and their high-level supporters displayed the same traits that Dean ascribes to authoritarian conservatives. These sorry and dangerous personality characteristics include amorality, bullying, cheating, dishonesty, militant nationalism, vengefulness, and so on. 

The most critical point in Dean’s excellent article is this observation from Canadian social scientist Robert Altemeyer about the devoted followers of authoritarian conservatives:

“They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away.”

Prescient words of warning to all those who hope that an Election Day landslide or even just a strong showing by Democratic candidate Barack Obama will put an end to all this divisive and nasty nonsense.

It won’t. They’ll be back. And if GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has anything to say about it, she will be their standard-bearer in 2012.