- Al Gore's decision not to request a recount of all Florida votes. Al Gore won the popular vote count in 2000 by more than 500,000, and the results in Florida were close -- leading to a partial recount. Gore could have demanded a recount of all the Florida votes, which might have kept the election away from the Supreme Court. Though some think a statewide recount would have tipped Florida to Gore, we'll never know how much better or worse a Gore presidency might have been.
- The Supreme Court's decision to in effect elect George Bush. This decision was a historic hijacking of a democratic process in which a country's citizens elect a leader, rather than its Supreme Court. Granted, the Florida voting was a complicated mess, but this outcome set a terrible precedent and led to what some argue was the worst presidency in American history.
- President Bush's decision to ignore warnings of a terrorist attack in the summer of 2001. Bush received a Presidential Daily Brief in August 2001 titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S." He also appeared to ignore people who who tried to warn him. If he had heeded those warnings, it's at least possible that 9/11 could have been averted. He did not, and thousands died.
- President Bush's decision to let Osama Bin Laden escape in December 2001. The battle of Tora Bora could have led to Bin Laden's capture as he tried to flee into Pakistan. The U.S had him surrounded but failed to reinforce the position. So the architect of those terrorist attacks escaped.
- President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Bush knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and no tie to the 9/11 attacks, but he made both claims to justify going to war against it. Six years later, no Iraqi WMDs were ever found, and Iraq still doesn't have a flourishing democracy. But 4,370 U.S. soldiers are dead (plus untold thousands more Iraqis) and $800 billion worth of taxpayer money has been spent for that war.
- Government's failure to regulate Wall Street. The idea that free markets would regulate themselves was strongly promoted by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, and during the decade that view prevailed in the White House. The result was to allow a weakly regulated $10 trillion mortgage-securitization industry to grow unchecked. And that led to millions of homes entering foreclosure; the end of Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers; and very nearly a global financial collapse.
- Government's decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt. History's biggest bankruptcy -- the $639 billion failure of Lehman Brothers -- was avoidable. While it might have been temporarily satisfying to let the market exact its pound of flesh, that decision to let Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 rapidly eroded confidence in the capital markets. And if people had lost all faith in that, the social order may have collapsed.
- President Bush's decision to more than double the national debt. During Bush's tenure, the national debt increased from $5 trillion to more than $11 trillion -- and it has since risen to $12 trillion. This decision to borrow so much money early in his tenure boosted the federal deficit to record levels and severely weakened the U.S.'s financial position. Adding to that weakness were the president's $1.3 trillion worth of tax cuts -- 32.6% of which went to the top 1% of earners.
- Banks' decision to use too much debt and to mismatch assets and liabilities. Banks borrowed way too much money during the decade, and that made them extremely vulnerable when their leveraged bets went against them. At some points, Wall Street borrowed as much as $30 for every dollar of equity. And Wall Street's decision to borrow short -- meaning the big firms needed to refinance their balance sheet every week or month -- and lend long -- meaning they got repaid over the course of many years -- put the Street's daily survival at the mercy of the very short-term commercial paper market.
- The SEC's failure to stop Bernie Madoff. As the Washington Post has reported, the SEC had numerous chances to stop Bernie Madoff's $60 billion Ponzi scheme during the decade -- although it turned out that his deception had gone on for decades before that. The SEC's ongoing decision to not pursue Madoff and his fraud cost many people their life savings.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, said it expects to report third-quarter profit that far exceeds forecasts on Wall Street, adding to hopes that the worst of the downturn may be over for traditional media outlets such as publishers and broadcasters.
"Gannett also announced plans to sell $400 million in five- and eight-year notes as it joins the raft of companies raising fresh capital to pay off other debt.
Following the announcement, shares of Gannett rose about 17% to $11.69 in Tuesday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, extending a strong summer rally in the stock."
Well, whoopdy doo. It doesn't say how Gannett is going to accomplish this. It's selling bonds to pay off previous bondholders so it doesn't have to declare bankruptcy in 2011, as rumored.
Gannett is the nation's largest newspaper chain and publisher of The Journal News, a shadow of its former self, in Westchester.
A friend inside the paper, who is still employed, says that the latest bloodletting in August carried away some of the most talented people, especially photographers and photo editors. I won't mention the name of this friend because I want the friend to continue to be employed.
I couldn't believe who was let go. Three photographers who had won just about every photo award short of the Pulitzer Prize were let go. One had passed on the early retirement package that I took because that person needed the medical benefit and the income to take care of a sick relative. There is no mercy in Gannettland.
Two talented photographers who had been there for at least 20 years and two photo editors, including one who had been there for at least a dozen years.
The business editor and the financial editor, both gone. A great New York Giants beat writer, gone. A copy editor who had moved up from the South to learn Yankee ways, gone. The Yankees beat writer hit the road to Boston.
The place is a mess. But there are still managing editors, deputy managing editors, all kinds of middle managers. Glad to see the back of it. I wish those who are left much patience.
It slices; it dices
Are you as sick of stacked ads on television as I am? Sue and I counted 11 stacked ads between program segments on either USA or TNT or both.
One that gets my goat is the "free credit report." What a rip. Yes, if you sign up for the credit watch program, you can get a credit report. But you need to sign up for the service before you get the credit report, so how is it free?
In addition, on some of those that you get as a "service" through your credit card, you may get a report, but with some of them, if you want your credit score, you need to fork over $12.
And to top it all off, there are three credit-rating agencies from which you should get reports. You want the other two? Fork over another $30 or so.
So, you pirate guy, shut up.
And speaking of shut up, how about the WCBS sportscaster who is always talking about refinancing his house through this mortgage banker and not dealing with "my bank."
Well, Gary Stanley, if your bank is so horrible, why is it still your bank? Change banks and shut up. Please.
Bye, bye Bambi
In the lede of this posting, I talked about attending funerals on two succeeding Tuesdays.
This last one was for Bambi Bixon. Bambi's given name was Beatrice, but nobody called her that.
Bambi was one of the stalwart group that meets once a week to study the Hebrew Bible, hoping to get to all 24 books of it . Bambi was one of that group.
She was born in Brooklyn, married, had one son.
Bambi was a woman of sublime intellect, razor-sharp inquisitiveness, wonderful sense of humor and asked and gave no quarter. She had a difficult life, but found sublime satisfaction with her relationship with friends in Iceland. She went there every summer.
She loved things Norse, and I hope when she gets to heaven, as she surely will, it appears to her as the Hall of the Valkyrie.
She was a tough lady, a feminist to the end, and we will all miss her. She would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, and if there is any justice, she will get to laugh with the saints, because she certainly belongs there.
Her funeral was a traditional Jewish affair that she helped plan as her final illness progressed as she knew it would. But in my heart of hearts, I would have loved to see her on a Viking ship, sailing slowly into the sunset as the flaming arrows set it afire.
Fare well, Bambi.
Until next time...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
When the gracious depart, the world is diminished.