Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Liberty and Justice for All

Today is Gay Pride Day in New York City.  The march commemorates the Stonewall Uprising by Gay men in a Greenwich Village bar over 40 years ago.  Stonewall was a watershed event for everyone.  It was a poignant reminder to all people that a specific population of our citizens were the victims of harassment and repression because of their sexual identity.  Stonewall was a bold proclamation that the LGBT community would no longer suffer in silence and shame.  Refusing to be victimized,  LGBT people would courageously come out of the closet at great personal cost to claim their place at the table of the worlds great democratic republic.  It is the very same spirit and motivation that led to the creation of the United States and its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Sodomy Laws prohibiting homosexuality and its practice has been on the books of state and municipal law since the founding of our republic.   Jefferson wrote the first sodomy law in Virginia in 1778,  proposing castration for those found guilty of the act. Pretty amazing that during the height of the Revolution, Virginia took time to write laws prohibiting homosexuality.  I also find it a bit ironic that as revolutionaries were striking a blow to end the rule of a foreign tyrannical monarchy they would focus their attention to pass a tyrannical law aimed at repressing the rights for a portion of its citizens.

Sodomy laws find their inspiration and justification in a biblical certainty proclaimed by parties that remain painfully at odds with the promises and problems of secular democratic government.  Proponents of  laws prohibiting civil rights to LGBT offer a world view informed by Old Testament precepts and proscriptions authored two thousand years ago.  Their moral compass seems to be ruled more by a dogmatic creed enforced by a vengeful deity.  In their zeal to live a pious life they seem to miss the greater message that all God’s children enjoy full and equal rights in God’s Kingdom and that we demonstrate our love of God by extending that love to others.

Those that oppose equal and full rights of citizenship to all people are the avowed enemies of democracy.  Democratic republics cannot survive if it withholds any right or civil liberty to a group of its citizens based on a legislative distinction of acceptability.  Indeed, today’s proponents of laws like Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Laws, the prohibition of gays openly serving in the military or the denial of the right for a teenage girl to go to the prom with her girlfriend share a mindset more in common with the Taliban then our Founding Fathers.  We recoil in horror as we witness the divinely inspired handiwork of the Taliban and rise to meet it with a national resolve to assert and protect the sacred liberties offered by secular democratic governments.  Given a choice and a true understanding of what is at stake, I pray that my countrymen will join me in support of equal rights and civil liberties for all citizens.

Frederick Douglas’s famous quote that “power concedes nothing without demand”, is as relevant today as it was when the great abolitionist spoke these words.  Douglas states,  “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

We salute the Gay Pride Marchers as they step off  this morning  to remind us that liberty and justice for all remain beyond compromise and an absolute necessity for America to remain true this promise for all its citizens.

You Tube Music Video: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Get Up Stand Up

Risk: democracy, civil rights, 

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June 27, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, legal, LGBT, politics, religion, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hedge Funds Navigating Industry Sea Change

This years Schulte Roth Zabel’s (SRZ) 19th Annual Private Investment Funds Seminar stuck a very different pose from last years event. One year on from the global meltdown of financial markets, languishing institutional certainty and the pervading crisis of industry confidence has been replaced with a cautious optimism. The bold swagger of the industry however is gone, in its place a more certain sense of direction and expectation is emerging. Though managers continue to labor under unachievable high water marks due to the 2008 market devastation, 2009 marked a year of exceptional performance. Investment portfolios rebounded in line with the upturn in the equity and bond markets. Liquidity improved and net inflows into the industry has turned positive during the last quarter as large institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds returned to the sector with generous allocations. These are taken as clear signs that the industry has stabilized and the path to recovery and the healing of economic and psychological wounds are underway. Yes the industry will survive and ultimately thrive again but it will do so under vastly different conditions. The new business landscape will require an industry with a guarded culture of opaqueness to provide much greater transparency while operating under a regimen of greater regulatory scrutiny.

The 1,900 registered attendees heard a message about an industry at a cross road still coming to terms with the market cataclysm brought on by unfettered, unregulated markets and excessive risk taking. SRZ offered an honest assessment in examining the industries role in the market turmoil. Speakers alerted attendees to an industry at a tipping point. To survive the industry must adapt to a converging world that believes that uniform market rules and regulations are the surest safeguards against catastrophic systemic risk events. A global political consensus is emerging that expresses support for industry regulation as an effective tool to mitigate the pervasiveness of fraud and market manipulation that undermines investor confidence and ultimately the functioning of a fair and efficient open free market.

Paul Roth, Founding Partner of SRZ, noted in the events opening remarks that the market is beginning to recover as evidenced by industry AUM once again exceeding the $2 trillion mark; but he warned that any exuberance needs to be tempered with the understanding that the new normal would not resemble the pre-crash world. The days of cowboy capitalism and radical laissez-faire investing are clearly over. Indeed Mr. Roth wryly observed “the industry must develop a maturity about the need for change. He concluded “that the industry must respond by playing a constructive role in forming that change.”

The conference subject matter, speakers and materials were all top shelf. Break out presentations on risk management, regulatory compliance, distressed debt deal structuring, tax strategies and compensation issues all reinforced the overriding theme of an industry in flux. The presenters passionately advocated the need to intentionally engage the issues to confront accelerated changes in market conditions. By doing so, fund complexes will be in a position to better manage the profound impact these changes will have on their business and operating culture. Subject issues like insider trading, tax efficient structuring, hedge fund registration, preparing for SEC examinations and the thrust of DOJ litigation initiatives and how to respond to subpoenas were some of the topics explored.

To highlight the emerging regulatory environment confronting the industry, a presenter pointed to the Southerization of the SEC. This is an allusion to the hiring of former criminal prosecutors from the Department of Justice, Southern District of New York to go after wayward fund managers. The SEC is ramping up its organizational capability to effectively prosecute any violations of the new regulatory codes. The growing specter of criminal prosecutions and the growing web of indictments concerning the high profile case of Mr. Raj Rajaratnam of the Galleon Group was presented as evidence of an emerging aggressive enforcement posture being pursued by regulators. Managers beware!

Presenters made some excellent points about how institutional investors are demanding greater levels of TLC from their hedge fund managers. This TLC stands for transparency, liquidity and control. Creating an operational infrastructure and business culture that can accommodate these demands by institutional investors will strengthen the fund complex and help it to attract capital during the difficult market cycle.

The evening concluded with an interesting and honest conversation between Paul Roth and Thomas Steyer, the Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management. The conversation included increased regulatory oversight, compensation issues, industry direction and matching investor liquidity with fund strategy, capacity, structure and scale. Mr. Steyer manages a multi-strategy fund complex with $20 billion AUM, his insights are borne from a rich industry experience. He made the startling admission that Farallon has been a registered hedge fund for many years and he believes that the regulatory oversight and preparation for examiners reviews helped his fund management company to develop operational discipline informed by sound practices.

Mr. Steyer also spoke about scale and that additional regulatory oversight will add expense to the cost of doing business. Mr. Steyer believes that it will become increasingly difficult for smaller hedge funds to operate and compete under these market conditions.

Another interesting topic Mr. Steyer addressed were issues surrounding investor redemption and fund liquidity. During last years SRZ conference investor liquidity was the hot topic. Fund preservation during a period of market illiquidity and a fair and orderly liquidation of an investment partnership were major themes that ran through last years presentations. Mr. Steyer struck a more conciliatory tone of investor accommodation. He confessed his dislike for the use of “gates” as a way to control the exit of capital from a fund. In its place he offered a new fund structure he referred to as a “strip” to allocate portfolio positions to redeeming partners in proportion to the overall funds liquid and illiquid positions. He stated he believed that strategy to be more investor friendly.

Schulte Roth & Zabel has once again demonstrated its market leadership and foresight to an industry clearly in flux, confronting multiple challenges. These challenges will force fund managers to transform their operating culture in response to the sweeping demands of global market pressures, political impetus for regulatory reform and the heightened expectations of increasingly sophisticated investors. The industry could not have a more capable hand at the helm to help it navigate through the jagged rocks and shifting shoals endemic to the alternative investment management marketplace.

You Tube Music Video: Beach Boys, Sail On Sailor

Risk: industry, market, regulatory, political

January 16, 2010 Posted by | commerce, compliance, corruption, hedge funds, investments, legal, off shore, private equity, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, SEC, sovereign wealth funds | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Il Duce’s Ghost

duceIl Duce’s ghost is restless. Summoned by the phantasmagorical fear of a people suffering from the multiple illnesses of a very sick nation, Il Duce’s ghost stalks the land. Raised from the grave by the craven babble of Talk Radio shills, pernicious corporate interests and a ruthless ruling oligarchy aided and abetted by complicit politicians bought on the cheap to act as their bagmen, Il Duce’s corpse twitters back to life.

As we count down to Harold Camping’s rapture date of 5/21/11, the frenetic fear of a collapsing world increasingly terrifies the masses. Religious fundamentalists of all stripes cry that modernity’s embrace of science and a culture of relativism is an abomination to the sight of God. The “Children of God” pine away about the erosion of the old values of the Old Time Religions; while the “Children of Enlightenment” fear that reason is quickly disappearing into a broken Hadron supercollider’s black hole of ignorance. One side is busy arming themselves in preparation for the coming battle of Armageddon while the other side lays up assets in their bank accounts to ride out the coming Day of Judgment. Il Duce is truly one of God’s favored. Anointed by fundamentalist TV preachers, he honors their creed and receives funding by Bible thumping wealth gospel believing businessmen because he promises to protects their God given fatted coffers. Only Il Duce can bring both sides together to sing praises in a divinely inspired choir.

The Federal Treasury paid a rich ransom to bankers to free our imaginations from the dread of the collapse of free market capitalism. Lately we hear murmurs that the nuke button still remains painfully close to the twitching fingers of fidgeting bankers. They threaten to shut down our tired and poor ATM networks and revoke our credit limits yearning for more debt. A strong dose of TARP II is the only known medicinal cure. Frenzied Tea Baggers scream their anger at a government intent on taxing the life blood out of its citizens so fat cat bankers can cash stupid money bonus checks. This insures that the syncopated beats of our capitalist heart continues to rock on. Il Duce is a skilled and gifted physician. He knows how to conduct the delicate procedures necessary to prevent coronary arrest. Il Duce alone knows the recipe to concoct a special brew of herbal teas. Its a powerful elixir that alleviates the caffeine induced head aches of Tea Bagger’s while keeping the circulation of our cholesterol challenged free markets flowing.

At town meetings, people in junk food fueled schizophrenic rants rave at impotent senators going through the motions of participatory democracy. The constituents insistent diatribes profess a love of country while they eagerly profane and condemn its democratic institutions. They say they are concerned about all the money being spent by the Feds. As deficit spending spirals into the trillions they shout “Who will pay for this?” and “Its unconscionable to saddle my kids and my grandchildren with this burden.” Perhaps. But we should also ask what are we doing to increase peace in a world rife with conflicts. Its just as unfair to ask our grandchildren to fight wars for which they had no grievance. Its also equally unjust to ask them to breathe air we polluted with chemicals or to drink water we spat in. I believe it is just to ask them to pay for our country’s infrastructure that all future generations will benefit from. They’ll need roads, water, hospitals and schools. I still cross bridges and traverse high ways and attend schools that were built by earlier generations. I drink water from aquifers and water systems that were built 100 years ago. New Yorkers ride in subways that were built by our great great grand parents.

Birthers are eager to de-legitimize the institutions of a democratic republic. They scream at congressmen that their actions are UnAmerican. They advise their representatives that they should read the constitution. Undoubtedly the culture of corruption consuming our politicians is a systemic disease badly in need of eradication. But emotional outbursts of Birthers shouting down representatives as they wave facsimiles of birth certificates, crying out “I want my country back” weakens the legitimacy of our government. The vehemence seems driven more by the fear of a person of color as president and the cultural transformation radically altering the ethnic landscape of America. Il Duce understands this anguish. It grieves him to see real Americans in such pain. He knows an ethnicity other then his own is unworthy to hold supreme office. The image of Il Duce is a venerated prism that must reflect the complexion of true Americans.

Federalism is not based on a two party system. It is based on a constitution complete with a Bill of Rights. It includes three independent branches of government that serve to check and balance the power of each branch. It is a system in dire need of reform but it has through our country’s history demonstrated its resilience and value as the best model to assure the semblance of a participatory democracy. It is the worthy expression of a free democratic peoples and it is certainly worthy of preservation. Federalism is not the problem. The problem lies in a compromised political process that elects entrapped representatives to office. Il Duce prefers obfuscation. Tyrants need to hold all the cards of power to smooth over the messy and uncomfortable edges of democratic republics. Its better and more expedient for a benevolent philosopher King to make the hard decisions that need to made.

The wisdom of Il Duce would be immediately put to use to make the hard choices to solve the health care problem vexing our country. The debate has stoked the howling yodelers of Talk Radio to turn up the volume of their vitriol. They have energized a nation of Valium saturated minds. They have woken millions from the torpor of ambivalence induced by the pharmaceutical industrial complex. This industry suspected of playing a role in the pharmacide of such cultural icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson buys spots that run in continuous loop on the grim reality TV shows. The ads hammer home the lesson that instant relief from the nausea of daily life is just a shot away. Mothers little helper dispensed en masse is as close and quick as the drive-in window at Walmart.  All for a small deductible of $5.00.

There is something in the water. America’s rivers are polluted with bio active elements people discharge from their bodies due to the use of products from the pharmaceutical industrial complex. It pollutes our aquifers. Il Duce takes a long cool drink, as he marvels at the wonder of our industry and invites more to freely imbibe.

The twittering nonsense and bold Facebook lies Sarahcuda’s minions are willing to swallow so as not to be out of goose stepping rhythm with other Dittoheads clearly comforts Il Duce. The Confederacy is rising again. This confederacy transcends the easy boundaries of geographic definition. This confederacy consists of state militiamen, libertarians and ad hoc communities springing up and thriving along the fracture lines of the urban and rural divide. They are seeking an ideology that is palatable enough to coexist with armed militias, Tea Baggers, Christian Falangists, nationalists and other malcontents. Throw in an assortment of skinheads, Nazis, White Supremacists and other national socialists and you have the semblance of a profile of the new confederacy for a new millennium. They worship force and the right of the stronger, believing that militarism is the supreme arbiter of all things. They are eager to project that power.

Il Duce’s ghost is awake and walking across the land like Goya’s Colossus. Summoned by the sycophants of right wing Talk Radio, encouraged by the Bush administrations use of the constitution as toilet paper, risen by the growing militarism and nationalist sentiment and fed by the militant anger of a people that can no longer suffer the abuse of power by the ruling oligarchs, Il Duce’s ghost has awakened, complete with freshly pressed Blackshirt.   It is ever listening, waiting for the right moment to fully materialize amidst the savagery of a savage nation.

You Tube Video: Benito Mussolini

Risk: fascism, Federalism, democracy

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

American Evita

sarah-palin-legs-photoIs Sarah Palin the friendly and ever so lovely face of a new American Peronism? Is her resignation from office as Governor of Alaska the first step and necessary precondition of her coronation as titular head and leader of a new political party? Does it signal her desire to lead a movement that embraces the growing number of disaffected middle class Americans perplexed about their plunging standard of living and growing obsessively angered with insolvent and impotent government institutions inability to arrest the decline?

Everyday the institutions of government and constitutional law are being delegitimized by raucous Tea Partyers, abortion doctor assassins, family focus fanatics and political miscreants waving birth certificates screaming that they want their country back. We wrote about this back in October.  Please allow me to quote from our McCain’s Know Nothings post of 10/11/08.

“Sarah Palin’s masterful use of the rhetoric of division and suspicion “who is Barack Obama?” has stoked the ugly side of America’s political angst. The lipstick wearing attack dog has done her job well. She has skillfully tapped into voter sentiment that is frightened about their economic security, fed up with the self serving lies of our political leaders and furious about their powerlessness to exercise control to stop the radical changes occurring in their lives. The stasis of Bush Republicanism is being washed away in a tsunami of world events that is accelerating the pace of change and cultural transformation. Palin promises to change our inability to arrest the changes that are overwhelming Americans. Sarah’s minions just want it to stop. They want it to go away. They want it to stay the way things always were. America is on top. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. They will accept nothing less then our full entitlement to the birthright of our American Exceptionalism; and unlike Easu we will not sell it or be tricked out of it by a fast talking Jacob that goes by the name of Barack.”

Sarah, “the barracuda” has a whole mythology springing up about her even as her pronouncements concerning vigilant hockey momdom (daughters teen pregnancy), pit bull fighter to the end (resignation as governor), irascible maverick (support of bridge to nowhere), impeccable governance ethics (improper use of state government funds) all paint a very different portrait of the super girl from Alaska. Her identity as the all American girl, who worked, rose and battled an establishment with nothing more then moxie and good old values has captured the hearts, support and imaginations of “real American’s” willing to fight against those seeking to undermine the values and ideals of our uniquely God blessed land.

Palin’s timely resignation stole the limelight from the Michael Jackson funereal spectacle; a nonstop orgy of media affectation that refused to let MJ’s troubled soul depart in peace.  Sarah’s announcement was a perfect foil and counterpoint to the ghoulish parade. Sarah’s photo op complete with overall fishing waders offered conclusive proof of how the still Governor of Alaska was working hard serving the needs of her constituents as her abandoned term of office was coming to a close. Sarah’s image of pulling in the nets bursting with sockeye could not have provided a more dramatic contrast to seeing MJ’s body bag being offloaded from a helicopter and placed into a ambulance for a trip to the Los Angeles morgue. It confirmed for her followers that Sarah’s way is filled with truth, light and a great catch as she stood beaming at the center of attention of a country obsessed with celebrity and a media that affirms their personal ethos du jour.

One of the reasons cited by Sarah for her resignation was that she was constantly under attack by the establishment. Sarah’s victimhood elicits empathy and a deep sense of identification from her countrymen. Middle America’s sense of victimization is quickly becoming its defining pathos.  Home foreclosures, job losses, bankruptcies, community instability and spiraling taxes are combustible issues ripping apart the social fabric of America’s middle class. The crushing pain is being expressed in a growing chorus of cries that Sarah’s political antenna is accurately attuned to. In turn, Sarah’s minions understand and validate her victimization that they believe she will overcome and triumph if she remains true to real American values. Persecuted Christians exhausted from the prolonged war on Christmas feel her pain. Family value proponents that yearn for a constitutional amendment to define marriage so as to exclude civil rights for the LGBT community are down with Sarah. Uber patriots who are convinced that terrorist lurk in the quiet shadows just off Main Street remain willing to cede their civil rights.  They also express a solid conviction to prosecute endless global wars as the only means to eradicate the terror threat  staunchly stand with  Sarah. Real American’s who live in a geography of anywhere USA that is not urban; or resides in an existential state of multicultural exclusion support Sarah. Those who are terrified by the hard edges of modernity and the difficult manageability of our complex society are arming themselves to the teeth to protect themselves from its ghostly specter take a cue from gun toting Sarah. And as Sarah’s supporters scream “drill baby drill” as a rallying cry to defend an expiring mode of life based upon the insatiable and unsustainable consumption of natural resources requiring the imperial projection of power and environmental degradation mindlessly shout “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah”.

Sarah, our self styled, self proclaimed maverick.  American’s steep themselves in the mythology of the outside gunslinger taking on established power elites to effect change. But I sense an alarming correlation that is closer to Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” then Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. Individualism counts and boldness wins out in the end in Sarah’s political morality fairy tale. But I see little in the actual trajectory of her career or her political pronouncements that suggest that she is an unconventional politician willing to lay it on the line to take principled stand against the power elite. Sarah’s principled stances are driven by political opportunism rather then courage.

Yes, Sarah is a perfect victim. White, hockey mom from the rural region. Liberal elite city slickers hate her for who she is. But as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, “let you hearts not be troubled” because as the world continues to hate America for it’s values Sarah remains on watch.  She is a sentinel of our arsenal of democracy protecting the common folk, Joe six packers and wannabe plumbers. This woman who rose to heights in this male dominated world got great legs, sports a nice dew and is quick with a wink and a smile.  She has seduced America and as national dissatisfaction grows with governmental institutions unable to address economic malaise and cultural deterioration, nationalistic sentiment and Sarah’s popularity will rise.  Unlike our current President, Sarah is American to the bone. Palin’s physical place of birth may have been Idaho; but her resignation as governor may have born her again as a new political force to be reckoned with.

You Tube Music Video: Madonna, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

Risk: politics, Peronism

July 23, 2009 Posted by | Obama, Palin, politics, recession, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We Must Disenthrall Ourselves

lincoln-collage1The wisdom resonating from this voice that now belongs to the ages still begs his countrymen to heed it. Lincoln’s admonition that his countrymen must disenthrall themselves to meet the momentous challenges of the time continues to speak to the dire condition of our nation today. Lincoln asks us to let go of our intransigence and the tired dogmas that we cling too. In a world rife with uncertainty and risk, surrounding us in a whirling maelstrom of existential dread, emotional responses to pressing problems born from fear of a perceived pending doom is insufficient and dangerous. We must mount a constructive response of considered actions to safely land our ship of state in a safe harbor. It is our pathway to becoming whole once again.

The great national hero Captain Sully was successful because he refused to succumb to the quickly deteriorating conditions that were enveloping him and the plane. He disenthralled himself from the emotional distraction of pending doom. He kept the wings level, his nose up and maintained the right speed. Captain Sully landed the plane in the most trying circumstances and became an example of how we must respond get through our national crisis.

Our politicians in Washington can learn much by heeding Mr. Lincoln’s words and studying Captain Sully’s actions. Our elected officials are enthralled with the righteousness of their ideals; contributing to a dreary deadlock of legislative stasis and partisan intractability. Politicians got to get over themselves and begin to serve their largest constituency and not their largest contributors.

Large corporations need to become disenthralled of their self perceived cleverness. Many believe that major investments in applied intelligence create a culture of insularity that hedges all risks and protects every business move. This allows corporate executives to hide behind a wall of opaqueness. They buy the best and brightest minds from our esteemed business schools convinced that this treasure of intellectual capital will protect them. They believe the digital blips of risk models to be sparkling Rosetta Stones containing the secrets that unlock the mysteries of effective risk management. The codified results of these algorithmic exercises are revered as holy Dead Sea Scrolls that offers the protection of an supernatural mojo. This is the thinking of a bankrupt brain trust.

As citizens of the worlds greatest military power we must disenthrall ourselves from the conviction that the powers of our armies, superior technologies and well stocked arsenals is our country’s surest way to protect our beloved country. The power of an enlightened citizenry educated in a vibrant public school system is the bulwark of a democratic republic and its surest defense. Our enlightenment will be a lamp to those who value liberty; as will our practice to extend the hand of peace to all nations through considered diplomacy and an honest search for shared interests.

As a people we must disenthrall ourselves from the petty preoccupations, dogmas and prejudices that consume our time and attention. I believe too many of my countrymen are more impassioned about A Rods admission of steroid use then they are about the substances that control and dictate our behaviors and beliefs and the ever present and growing dangers to our democratic way of life.

We’ll end with the words from the great man himself.

Happy birthday President Lincoln.

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

You Tube Video: George Harrison, Beware of Darkness

Risk: fear, discernment, action

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Civil Rights, culture, gay rights, philosophy, psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hand In Cookie Jar

cookiejar“The more things don’t change, the more they stay the same.” This quote is worthy of becoming a Yogism if it is not one already. The great American philosopher, Yogi Berra could have opined these words about the degree of change the new Obama Administration is bringing to the art of governance. Fresh off the trivial embarrassment of the new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s forgetfulness to pay taxes, we are now presented with the unsurprising news that Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle failed to pay taxes on various forms of income and gratuities. He has made up this slight oversight by writing a check for a cool $140 G’s. That is a lot of oversightedness.

Obama’s promise to bring change to governance looks suspiciously like the old ways of governance. The installation of a Treasury Secretary that is not aware of his tax liability is most disturbing. More disturbing is Tom Daschle’s nomination as a cabinet secretary charged with reforming a broken health care system. In that position Daschle will be responsible to fix a health care system that has been hijacked to serve the special interests of commercial providers. That will be a most difficult task for Daschle because most of the income and honorariums he failed to declare came from the very same special interests the new Health and Human Services Secretary will need to dislodge from gorging themselves at the money troughs the current health care system richly confers. Insurance companies, HMO’s, and other commercial health care service providers fed Mr. Daschle a steady stream of income since his departure from the Senate two years ago. Most ironic was the provision of a limousine and chauffeur to Mr. Daschle by a private equity firm. Mr. Daschle gives real meaning to the term limousine liberal.

You can’t make this stuff up. We criticized Republicans because of their hypocrisy concerning their self professed commitment to integrity and family values only to witness a parade of GOPers getting caught in extramarital affairs, lying to grand juries and gay sex scandals. The democrats ask Americans to pay taxes to serve the needs of the common folk and working people but take every opportunity to avoid reaching into their own pockets to pay their fair share. The disease of exceptionalism and a deep sense of entitlement is a pandemic that crosses the isle and has thoroughly infected the heard of elephants and donkeys that lazily graze within the people’s halls of government in our nations capitol.

You Tube Video: Mike and Angelo, Life Is So Peculiar

Risk: Health Care System, governance

February 3, 2009 Posted by | democrats, government, jazz, Obama | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Special Mission 28,000

Bush boarded Executive One.

He left town.

Flying back to Texas to clear some brush.

Badly shaken but still standing our nation
begins the earnest work of reconstructing the republic.

Fortunately the foundations of our nation remain strong.

Our constitution, our Bill of Rights, our rule of law,
tolerance, economic liberty and spirit of the people endure.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Goodbye Mr. Bush.

You Tube Video:
Alvin Lee, I’m Going Home

Risk: peaceful transition

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Bush, politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bishop Robinson’s Celebratory Benediction

I was the Warden at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church when the then Rev. Gene Robinson was being considered to become the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. At a vestry meeting the then Rector of St. Alban’s asked vestry members to sign a letter in support of the candidacy of the Rev. Robinson. I in good conscience stated that I could not sign the letter as it was written. Though I knew of Rev. Robinson I did not know him. Though I supported his right as a Gay man to be considered for the position of Bishop, I did not believe that his sexual orientation automatically qualified him for the office. Nor did it allow me to sign a letter advising the electors of the Diocese of New Hampshire that they should vote for Rev. Robinson because I new little of his experience and background and how he would benefit their Dioceses.

I suggested that we incorporate language that we believe that Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation should not be a consideration of his candidacy. We also stated that if the Diocesan electors understand Rev. Robinson to be qualified and suitably gifted to meet the requirements of the position then we wholeheartedly support their decision to call him as the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Thankfully God moved the electors to call Rev. Robinson. His consecration as Bishop has removed another barrier for the denial of civil rights for Gays.

I believe that my opposition to the letter as it was originally presented was in full conformance with Dr. Martin Luther King’s admonition that we should judge a person by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, or in the case of Rev. Robinson his sexual orientation. This teaching is central to my understanding of the ministry of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus practiced a ministry of inclusiveness that calls everyone to his table. By doing so Jesus asks us to see the divinity in one another, unencumbered by earthly prejudices and predispositions. Jesus asks us to see each other as God sees us by looking at what is written in the heart of a person. By recognizing that we are all children of God, equally endowed with the gift of grace and apportioned an equal amount of divine love.

The Constitution of the United States is a political document that parallels that idea. We are all equal citizens under the law. No law will abrogate or abridge the civil rights, privileges and protection of our laws for any citizen based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction will speak to this issue on many levels. His benediction will ask that we be mindful of the call for inclusiveness and to engage in the work to bridge the cultural, political and racial divide that is always a clear and present danger to a democratic republic. The shameful thrust of Proposition 8 that seeks to codify the denial of equal civil rights to Gay people denies them a place at the table of democracy. I don’t believe Jesus would approve. But we must take heart and be content in the understanding that children of God like Bishop Robinson walk and teach among us. Asking us to be ever mindful of those who suffer the injustice of exclusion and to set a place at the table so that all may eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of liberty.

You Tube Video: San Francisco Gay Men Chorus, “Oh, Happy Day”

Risk: civil rights, democracy

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Christian Gentleman”

The BBC News Hour ran a piece on US citizens reflections on the Bush Presidency. One woman from Ohio referred to Bush as “the perfect Christian gentleman.” Her point that Bush restored the morality and integrity of the Office of the President after the tidal wave of sin Clinton unleashed in the White House with his sexual dalliances and uncontrollable peccadilloes. According to this fundamentalist Christian woman, Bush achieved this do to his steadfast faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. She even cited Bush’s refusal to covert to Islam after he received an urgent appeal to do so by the Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ I take great exception to the characterization of George Bush as a “perfect Christian gentleman”. First I must say that my understanding of Christianity is that as human beings we are imperfect and need to be ever mindful of the mistakes and shortcomings we as human beings exhibit and practice every day of our lives. During the past couple of weeks Bush’ has been on a farewell media tour. He has been asked by many correspondents about any mistakes he might have made. To date Bush has not come up with anything of significance. I guess Bush believes himself to be the perfect Christian gentleman. But I believe that any cursory examination of the Bible revels that Mr. Bush has severely fallen short of the glory of God as advocated, taught and lived by Jesus Christ.

We not going to get into a theological debate concerning what a Christian is or what makes one perfect or imperfect. What I wish to convey is my understanding of what the ministry of Jesus Christ is all about and why I believe that George Bush and the rest of the religious right that thinks Jesus Christ is the Chairman of the GOP are dead wrong and misguided at best and damnable propagandists at worst for cooping a great faith tradition to serve their narrow political interests.

The first damnable indictment of Bush is his pernicious use of fear. Anyone with any knowledge of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ are aware of his consistent message of not to be afraid. Mr. Bush and his Republican party propagandists have fed the citizens of this country a steady diet of fear laden manna since 9/11 to justify their radical reactionary political agenda. Fundamentalists codify and justify their view of the world, actions and narrow beliefs with biblical certitude by citing chapter and verse. They turn the Bible or Quran into ideological dogma that protects the powerful and justifies their actions to protect their privilege. Jesus Christ took this world to task. He would not approve.

Another damnable indictment of Mr. Bush and the claim of his perfect Christian gentlemeness is his insistence on war as a means to project power and engage the world. Their are numerous examples of the Prince of Peace teaching that violence is not the chosen way Children of God engage the world. One can start with the Beatitudes and conclude with the night Jesus Christ was taken into custody in Gethsemane and one will have a pretty good insight about his position on violence and war. I often think of St. Peter greeting Mr. Bush at the gates of Heaven. I believe he’ll be asked about the lives of over 4,000 service women and men and significant collateral damage he initiated by his invasion of Iraq. He may also be asked about the 2 mn Iraqis that have been displaced by the war and the hardship it has wrought. Bush is convinced that history will absolve him for his actions. I wonder if St. Peter will do the same?

Mr. Bush’s justification of torture, his obstinate refusal to free the prisoners of Gitmo, his policies to exclude Gay people as equal citizens of our “One Nation Under God” in my opinion are additional examples of how our current president falls short in the perfect Christian gentleman category. Jesus Christ was about respecting life. “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done to me,” he said. The idea that Bush tortured, imprisoned or excluded Jesus Christ is most unsettling.

As a Christian I am aware of the log that is in my eye. After 52 years on this earth its as big as a Sequoia and in desperate need of removal. But I am comforted in the faith and knowledge that redemption is available to everyone. All it takes is some self knowledge that we are not perfect, that we have turned from our sinful ways and we put ourselves in service to God by helping others. Mr. Bush still has a shot. I’ll be praying that he becomes painfully aware of his imperfections and takes up the task of rectifying his shortcomings. Perfect Christian gentlemen? Don’t think so, not yet anyway.

You Tube Video: Cool Hand Luke, Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Risk: myopia, fundamentalism, dogma

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bush, Christianity, faith, gay rights, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Joe the Plumber

The GOP has injected another populist caricature into the election campaign. Joe the Plumber joins Hockey Moms and Joe Six Pack as the holy trinity on whose rocks the Republican Party will make its stand.

Joe the Plumber from the swing state Ohio sounds like he could be from Jersey. Joe the Plumber said he wants to buy his bosses plumbing business. But Joe the Plumber doesn’t like Obama’s tax plan because he thinks it will force him to pay higher taxes on a $250,000 salary he hopes to earn someday. I don’t know of many plumbers that are making $250K a year. Many small business owners don’t have to take a salary or pay themselves a distribution from the profits of the business if it pushes them into a higher tax bracket. Joe the Plumber should see an accountant.

But that is not the point. Joe the Plumber wants to start a business and hire Joe Six Pack. Joe Six Pack needs a job so he can make car payments on the Chrysler minivan that his Hockey Mom wife drives to get the kids to practice.

Every four years The GOP seems to rediscover the common folk with a slew of populist rhetoric to run cover for their trickle down economics. The trickle down economics that have been practiced for the past 8 years have led to the abysmal economic mess we are now fighting to overcome.

McCain’s disingenuous socialist insinuation of wealth redistribution belies the fact that generous unfunded tax cuts, entitlement giveaways and unbridled corporate welfare have all been hallmarks of the recent GOP legacy. A kind of socialism for the rich.

This legacy has contributed to the broken down minivan in Ms. Hockey Mom’s driveway and the inability to afford the kids participation in the way too expensive hockey league. All this has left Joe Six Pack crying in his beer over his lost job and his resetting mortgage rate that he won’t be able to make payments on.

Obama’s tax plan will not discourage small business capital formation. On the contrary, Obama’s plan will reduce the tax burden on the middle class so they can hire Joe the Plumber to replace the old hot water heater and repair the leaky pipes under the kitchen sink. Duct tape just ain’t doing it anymore.

So with all the extra income in the hands of Joe Six Pack and Ms. Hockey Mom they will have the money to spend with Joe the Plumber and he will finally be able to buy that business from his boss.

Joe the Plumber should really be in the tank for Obama. Another GOP administration may forever flush away the possibility of Joe the Plumber’s dream of owning his own business.

Music Video: Plumbing Song, Weird Al Yankovich

Risk: small business taxation, capital formation, tax policy

October 16, 2008 Posted by | elections, McCain, Obama, Palin, politics, pop, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment