Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bubble Trouble's Surprise Demise

Prosperity’s just a ticking clock,

     with fickle click and predictable dock

on a borrowed pendulum that swings

     until it busts with leveraged flings.

Speculators jumped in to make a hedge;

     upon  volatility’s predictable edge.

so that from the programmed algorithm 

     could precipitate pennies market-driven .

Their swaggering datas then drew a chart

      much more precarious than modern art

as through the market’s ticks they climb, 

     condensing profit from space and time

As every surge then upward seeks

     to surpass and exceed the previous peaks

and profits rise, both dollar and pound

     while bulls rise up  and bears bow down.

But something’s driven them off the rails; 

      twas the unforeseen fat tails

that wagged the bell curve’s deathly knell

      and cast a trough that’s deep as hell.

Now there’s no joy in Dow, nor in the S&P;

      no motivation in Detroit, nor surety in AIG.

 ‘cause from boom to bust, from tail to snout

      the mighty market has oinked out. 

And if in future tales they do deride 

       the  two thousand eight-nine market slide

then let it be said among the wise

      that the troubled bubble got down to knocked to size.

The thing had grown too big for its britches;

       they had it all patched up in stitches.

It’s not about the dips and leaps,

       but knowing what companies to keep.

 So whether you  like Walmart goods or Abercrombie’s

       steer clear from fakes and propped-up zombies.

Do your homework. Make investments true.

       And economy will revive for me and you.

Thanks for the donut. Go long.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Their last full measure of devotion

I spent these years as a university student.  I managed to evade military service. However, in my g-g-generation, there were many who did not evade. They were called to Vietnam and fought in the terrible war there. Today I honor and appreciate those who served in Vietnam while I did not. Thank you.

So many of those soldiers did not make it home alive. Their names are written in the history of heroic acts, and carved upon a hallowed black granite wall in Washington.  Thank you, families and friends of those whose sacrifice expressed their "last full measure of devotion" to the cause of freedom that we Americans espouse. They fought and died while I studied, partied, and figure out what this life is all about.

While I eventually figured out what it's all about, many of them never got the chance. 

And this is what I later discovered: Jesus Christ conquered death. He, like they, died for me.  But he rose from the dead.  I pray that I, and they, will  rise with him.

Maybe you don't believe that.  It is your right--a right insured by the blood of those who took the fall of death for us.

Near the dark monument into which those heroic names are chiseled, there is another monumental wall, upon which is chiseled these words: 

"...from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Thus by writing those words of President Lincoln (who was himself slain in the cause of freedom), and also these words of mine that you now see on this screen, freely... I write them freely...I do cherish all those brave men and women whose blood has lubricated the progress of liberty across our great history. They have paid the dearest price of all so that I, and you, can write freely, speak freely, worship freely, believe freely, and act freely within the bounds of nature's law.  

In this same spirit of gratitude do I honor all men and women who now serve and represent us in service to the cause of freedom.  Thank you for putting yourself in harm's way for us.  May the Lord of Hosts bless you.

Special thanks to the men and women of my parents' generation who beat the hell out of the Nazis, and scared their Feuhrer to death. May it never happen again.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for?

Perhaps you’re a serious student, doing research.  Good for you.


Or maybe you’re out here in cyberspace wandering around looking for something to amuse, or someone to abuse, an instituion to accuse, or woundeed memory to lose; you could be searching for your muse, patching together a ruse, singing the blues.  Choose. It’s just a click here, a reversible decision there.   Choose your cup of tea, or your poison; imbibe an elixir to intensify your wildest fantasies; swallow a rant to confirm your worst fears, chase an old ghost of bygone years, carry a torch till it consumes your tears, keyboard a message till someone hears. 

Perhaps you’re exploring the wild online west of anything goes, the untamed frontiers of human angst and quest.  You’re wanting to find yourself out on that thrilling limb.  Having groped up the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you’re out there on a branch, hanging on and wondering how you got there, having no support, fluttering in the breeze.  You’re looking at the ground and wondering how to get back down to earth. Maybe that’s you. Click the “Home” button?  Click the “Next” button?

Is this you? You want to push the envelope.  You want to rage against the machine,   You wamt to rip the world  to shreds, and  maybe yourself with it.  You want to hate someone. You want to scam someone. You want to screw someone. It’s all out there.  Choose your weapon; take up your implement of destruction. 

Maybe you’ll get caught into a  wind of discontent to fan the flames of your dreaded fears.  The robber bankers are out to get us; they want to get our homes; they want to collect all the real assets for themselves.  The banking crisis is all about the white collar crooks coming to swindle  us little guys out of our homes, using inflated money, fine print, and congress. 

Or is this you?  You’re looking for support. You want to find others who will confirm what you have already decided you believe.  You want to keep your SUV clean. You want to finance the kids’ college. You want to save the world. You want to love someone; you want to make love to someone. It’s all out there. Choose you implement of construction.

Out here in the wild online west of anything goes, you’ll see a spider spinning a web of discontent, visit a phisherman with a net content that’s heaven-sent ,  hear the groans of overdue  credit-card-lent minimum-payment rent, feel the hot blast of frustration vent, or catch your dreams in the big big tent, while ignoring those who’re dropping hint. 

100 Years earlier:

   One morning Duke ran into his old acquaintance, Asa Lemlein, on a Columbus Avenue car, and told him he was thinking of backing the Whelan brothers in further expansion of their (United Cigar) stores. 

   “How do you think it will work out?” asked Duke.

   “Not very well,” replied Lemlein. “My partner and I are having troubles enough with two stores and here you are thinking of opening two thousand. I think it would be a mistake, Mr. Duke.”

   Duke grinned, then he snorted: “A mistake, eh? Lemlein, let me tell you something. I’ve made mistakes all my life. And if there’s one thing that’s helped me, it’s the fact that when I make a mistake I never stop to talk about it--I just go ahead and make some more.”  ***

And he did too. From bulling his way through American commerce to assemble the largest tobacco empire in the world, to initiating  a company that would later become a mega-corporation for production of electrical power, to founding a great University, to. . . his successors reading  the Surgeon General’s report, Smoking can be hazardous to your health. . .

People do amazing things. Some special ones build great empires of wealth that enrich and sustain thousands or millions of other people for long periods of time. But human beings make mistakes too, no matter how big they are, no matter how small, now matter how important they are, no matter how insignificant. The big ones make big mistakes, the little ones make theirs too.  The big banks make bad loans; the US Treasury makes bad choices based on worse choices. It will be a long time before this ill wind blows down.

Deal with it.

But remember this:  Life is not about what the bankers did, or the Fed or the Congress. It’s not about the subprime sand gangrene greed upon which the derivative foundation of  the house of credit defaut cards came carte-blanching down while the world watched and the internet buzzed. No, life is not about that.

 What’s the notional value of your life?  That’s for you to determine. Life, for you, is about what  you  do.

Be careful out here in the wild wild west. Be careful who you follow. Make good choices and maybe everything will click together for you. 

***excerpt from: Tobacco Tycoon: the Story of James Buchanan Duke, by John K. Winkler. Random House; New York, 1942 

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Freedom of speech: a good example

We need to talk.
We need to gather information.
We need to analyze information in order to make informed decisions.
There are so many talking points for discussion.  

Take for instance, an historical event on the other side of the world. It happened in Beijing, China, at Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989. What did happen at Tiananmen Square?

Maybe it was something like the incident at Kent State University in Ohio, May 4, 1970.  Or perhaps will be seen one day as a "Lexington and Concord" of China.  The "massacre"-- or whatever it was-- might be compared to the "Prague Spring" in Czechoslavakia, 1968. Or maybe not.

Since I'm headed for Beijing this summer, I was wondering about it.  So I've done some research (mostly about China in general.)  Being an American, with ample opportunity to make inquiries, I decided to do a little digging online to gather some info about the sorrowful incident. A million or more citizens confronted the People's Liberation Army of China; it had a bad ending. Many Chinese citizens were killed.   Was it a massacre?

I found an informative source online; it's a blog by Mark Anthony Jones.  I'm linking it to you because it's a good example of the way information should be delivered online; it also enables a very productive discussion among informed people about the complex issues that culminated in bloodshed on that tragic day. 

Here's a preview:  The blogger, MAJ, raises the question of whether a "massacre" took place at Tiananmen-- or was the incident perhaps a battle between political factions?--a battle in which the army had attempted to intervene.  

Students had begun assembling at the ancient gathering spot to draw attention to their political grievances, following the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15. Their complaints mainly addressed corruption and unethical practices in the Communist party and the national government. 

The copious documentation (in 69 footnoted references) presented by Mark Anthony Jones indicates that the motivations and strategies of the student movement are essentially an extension of the CPC (Communist party) way of doing things. The "democratic" aspect of the protest might have been a western-media slant on what happened.  Those young intellectuals, becoming more militant as thousands gathered and filth accumulated, may have found their ideological foundation in the so-called "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s--rather than in what we westerners think of as the "march of democracy."

By May 18th,1989, their zealous ranks had been joined by the Workers' Autonomous Federation,  a labor movement.  But the swelling coalition of youthful, Maoist intelligencia with the hastily-assembled horde of workers proved to be a kind of shotgun wedding; ultimately it blew up in their faces. 

The cauldron of disaster might have erupted something like this: Student leaders, present from the inception, held a tight agenda. The workers--more likely the democratic element of the hastily-assembled coalition--had different ideas. Reports (as considered in MAJ's analysis) suggest that the burgeoning ranks of laborers were not given free access to organizational leadership. They may have even been denied entrance to Tiananmen Square itself by the control-freak students.  

The situation spun out of control, nd produced a gargantuan accumulation of garbage and human excrement, and threatened domestic tranquility. What would you do if you were Deng Xiaoping? If you're interested, read more about it on the May 8 posting of Mr. Jones' excellent blog: 

Scroll down to the May 8 posting. The blog and its subsequent discussion--not the events described therein--is a good example of how citizen journalism should work on the internet.  Thomas Jefferson wrote long ago that an informed citizenry is essential in a democracy.  This exchange of information and constructive opinion is what allows freedom to  happen in our widening (or shrinking?) world in the 21st century.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brer Foxbank & the TARPbaby

It's a good sign that banks are apparently wanting to rid themselves of the TARPbaby. Maybe there is hope for free enterprise in this country yet.  Mr. Geithner seems to be enacting a "bailout" of comic implications--the one in which a cartoon character attempts to plug holes and toss water from the bottom of a boat as one gushing leak after another threatens to overwhelm the vessel's seaworthiness. It makes sense in a desperate sort of way. Give him a gold medal for effort; he means well. On the other hand, maybe we'd all be better off if he'd just relax and let the ship sink. Then the small and mid-range dealers might just pick up the scraps from the big dealers' carnage, without becoming dependent on the pusher-man who's hawking financial crack down on the corner of Wall and Fed. When we first read that the Treasury Secretary was willing to recycle those returned TARP greenbacks from the too-big-to-fails , and toss them to the too-small-to-mess-withs (those banks who were not rabid with derivative fever) we were favorably impressed. It seemed generous.   But looking a little closer at it, like Brer Fox should have done when assessing the tarbaby, maybe it would be better to just back off from this bailout thing as soon as possible, so's we don't get stuck with sump'n that be downright inescapable. Regional and Main Street banks--how 'bout you jez keep away from the TARPbaby, so's you don't get stuck with debilitating governmental addiction, and we, the taxpaying public, don't get stuck with irretrievable government junk-shares. Banks of the United States, get out while you still can! Go out into the marketplace and do your thing like you did back in the day. Our free enterprise is depending on you to do the right thing. Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thank you, Carrie Prejean

for speaking truth at such a time as this.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Well now I don't know but I been told the streets in recovery are paved with gold, or some say, anyway, that they are. And so they're saying go out and buy gold and get ready for the big economic cataclysm that has struck. 

Then others say that it's just little-bigger-than-usual correction, and that it'll all pass over and we'll be back to normal in a few months or a year. And that the President's plans will work and we'll all be back in high cotton by this time next year. 

But it's too much for me to figure out, so I'm giving up on economics for a while, 'til I see  which way the wind blows.

Been reading a little about science, though, lately. And the global warming controversy.  Some say it's not a controversy at all--that it's a foregone conclusion, and this planet is heating up and we're all headed for hell in a handbasket.  And it does seem that things are warmin' up a bit-- with Katrina flooding New Orleans a few years ago just because of one little ole hurricane, and the North and South poles breaking up.  And I also remember the time I stood in the vestibule of the church of San Marco in Venice, and it was flooded...seemed a l little odd to me.  Maybe there is something to this global warming thing. 

But the question is: is human actiivtiy  causing it? Well, yes, I think it is to some extent, but what the hell can we do about it.  It's probably already too late(says one side of my mind.)  Nevertheless, I'm willing to join the effort to turn this excess of carbon emissions around.  I just don't think we need to sacrifice human rights and freedoms on the altar of environmental correctiveness to do it. 

It could be that the human trashing of the planet just happens to coincide with some much larger and wider geological and meteorlogical trends on our planet.  Maybe there really is not much we can do about global warming. Nevertheless, I'm willing, as I said before, to do my part, but I don't want to see human freedoms limited or withdrawn for the sake of implementing some unproven, politically-correct oppressions  just for the sake of theoretically curbing carbon emissions. 

And I've made a few notes lately in some science reading that I've undertaken. Scientists are taking a look at the causes of global warming, as well as other environmental problems. But these are not discussions that can be resolved quickly.  So we don't need to get too excited about it all. But we need to pay attention.  We need to take a hard look at Al Gore's findings, but also, for instance, at Willie Soon's studies. 

Science conclusions are made at a slower rate than economic ones.  Scientific facts need to be tested and proven.  

Did you know that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both figured out what calculus was, working independently of each other, back in the 1600s? There's a lot going on in the world of research and knowledge--always has been.

And a hundred or so years later an Englishman, Joseph Priestly, and a Frenchman, Antoine Lavoisier, both of them, were trying to figure what oxygen was. And Lavoisier figured it out because he founded the modern scientific method in the process, and that scientific process later confirmed his work, and so his work endured while Priestley's withered on the vine because he couldn't get some old phlogiston ideas out of his head.

And after another hundred years later, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace embarked on the same principles about natural selection in nature--discoveries  that later turned the world of bioligical research upside down, but Darwin got all the glory because, well, he just did.  I don't know why.  Help me out here. 

And then another hundred or so years later Watson and Crick were trying to figure out the structure of the DNA molcule, while Linus Pauling was doing the same thing in California, but Watson/Crick made the big breakthrough because they were visionaries who could act on a hunch, making a highly educated guess based on Rosalind Franklin's enigmatic photographs.

The point is that this scientific research is multifaceted, and it's complicated. And it's always going on somewhere.  Somewhere in the world today, some guys and gals are close to a breakthrough in Parkinsons disease or multiple sclerosis, or even cancer.

And somewhere in the world today there are practitoners of economics, the quasi-science, who are making breakthroughs of all kinds, busting up credit bubbles left and right. Back in the day,  Karl Marx figured a few things out about capitalism and then look what happened.  At the same time that he was crunching theories in the reading room of the British Museum, across the big pond Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller were conducting economic experiments of a different--and much more pragmatic, kind--experiments that spread the dinner tables in thousands of Michigan households and homesteads all the way to California and beyond. And look what happened. And now all those 19th-century infrastructures are falling into obsolescence and  rust-belt lethargy and look what happened.  The times they are a changing, always have. 

And now we are gathered here with this great economic catastrophe, and as if that weren't bad enough a global warming crisis right on top of it, and even Iran going nuclear with Israel getting nervous about it. So the lesson is: people have got to be careful with quasi-science. Lenin and Stalin took Marx's stuff and ran with it, but look what happened in the real world. 

Germans and Americans and Russians and humans took Einstein's discoveries and applied them to uranium and plutonium and look what happened--good stuff and bad stuff. No way around it.  Gotta be careful. Roosevelt and Johnson and Obama took Keynes' pump-priming, deficit-spending, crap-shootin, spendin'-stimulatin' stimuli and applied them to the downhill-racing, brake-failing economies of the world and, well,  let's see what happens.

O my God, it's enough to turn a fellow back to believing in something besides human nature. May God help us. And  Be sure and keep an eye out for your neighbor, while doing whatever's best for you and your loved ones. 

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full 


Monday, May 4, 2009

Freedom to do business

1.) The last-minute arrangement that was ramroded through Congress by Mr. Bush and Mr. Paulson--the one that appropriated $800 billion of public money for "too big to fail" financial institutions--was not consistent with the goal of preserving responsible government for the people. It was a bad precedent; as soon as the administration changed, the Democrats followed the Republican wake and sliced themselves a cut of the the action, appropriating $767 billion. Republicans trickle down; Democrats trickle up. But it's all taxpayer money, and now it's public liability that strangles our government with unsustainable hopeless hock. This is not favorable for preserving the US government as an instrument of the people, by the people and for the people. 2.) The TARP and the Stimulus are both irresponsible boondoggles.  We need to do something to overcome its effects, short term and long term.
3) What we need to preserve, at all costs, is this: the freedom and viability of all Americans to conduct business at the lowest levels. This means that all of our people, of all ethnic identities, must remain free to initiate enterprises and operate them prosperously, unobstructed by superfluous regulation and burdensome taxes. 4.) The American people, if allowed to remain free and resourceful, will build new free markets and enterprises on the ruins of this present economic chaos. But if people look to the government, or the banks, or the Fed, or even Wall Street, to bail them out of this mess--then they will become indentured servants. We cannot build recovery upon the shifting sands of irresponsible lending, or speculating on derivatives and credit default swaps. We need to find true value again. It's back to basics time. What is truly valuable? Find out what that is, and then produce it, or help someone else in producing it. Maybe it's solar panels; maybe it's corn or tomatoes or cabbage. Maybe it's widgets or bicycles or rickshaws or scooters. 5.) Americans, look around you. Ask yourself: What can I do to improve the present circumstances of myself and those whom I hold dear? Then do that--whatever comes to mind when you ask that question of yourself. Ask not your country to bail you out, but ask what you can do to bail yourself and your loved ones out of the deep mess in which we're stuck.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full