Life is a Mystery

27 March 2009 . Comments Off on Clueless

Clueless

A friend just pointed out this NYT article about the 5 November 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall to me.

Who was clueless? Try Larry Summers:

“Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. “This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.”

Phil Gramm:

“The world changes, and we have to change with it,” said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. “We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.”

or Chuck Schumer:

“If we don’t pass this bill, we could find London or Frankfurt or years down the road Shanghai becoming the financial capital of the world,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “There are many reasons for this bill, but first and foremost is to ensure that U.S. financial firms remain competitive.”

Who realized we were playing with fire? Try Paul Wellstone:

“Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,” Mr. Wellstone said. “Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.”

and Byron Dorgan:

“I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. “I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”

The repeal of Glass-Steagall passed by overwhelming margins toward the end of the Clinton administration.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

As it turned out, it didn’t even take ten years for the house of cards to fall. And who’s advising Obama now? Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs. Not a very good sign.

20 March 2009 . 1 Comment

It’s the infrastructure, stupid!

Maybe we’ve been thinking about electric cars backwards. Shai Agassi of Better Place sure thinks so. He tells David Pogue:

Most of the car efforts were done from within the car, and assuming that there is no infrastructure change at all. It’s as if people were trying to build cars, but skipping over the gas station.

We started from the infrastructure. We came up with an electric car that would have two features that nobody had before. 1) The battery is removable. So if you wanted to go a long distance, you could switch your battery instead of waiting for it to charge for a very long time.
And 2) It was cheaper than gasoline car, not more expensive. Because you didn’t buy the battery. You paid just for the miles and for the car.

His interview with Pogue is fascinating. Israel, Denmark, and Hawaii will be giving this a go within three years. The San Francisco Bay Area is getting very serious about building this infrastructure. I wonder if the Twin Cities or state of Minnesota could make a run for it? Talk about stimulus!

15 March 2009 . Comments Off on PD: Celeste Family Edition

PD: Celeste Family Edition

Today’s front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer feels like a Celeste family edition to this far-removed Clevelander. The Sunday PD’s painful article about the closing of parishes in Cleveland includes an image of St. Colman’s and another of St. Malachi’s. St. Colman’s is the church I went to as a boy, it is where I had my first communion. I remember waiting on the street after Sunday School there, thinking heretical thoughts about our lessons. St. Malachi’s is where we worshiped as a family when I was a bit older, though high school. I learned to love the music now in the Gather hymnal there. My sister was married there. It looks like St. Colman’s will be closing as the Cleveland Catholic Diocese adjusts to new demographic realities. St. Malachi’s will stay open, though the picture in the paper is a far cry from the standing-room-only crowds I remember there in my youth. Sad news, though I must say the church is bringing this on itself.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the front page a glimmer of happier news from the Cleveland International Film Festival. My sister has worked with the film festival for years and next week I may have my first chance to attend since she has been involved. Happy news!

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11 March 2009 . Comments Off on Ruins

Ruins

A cry of dismay from a friend upon seeing pictures of his childhood haunts in Detroit brought this site to my attention. It is impossible for me not to look on these pictures and wonder just how much of our society will fall into this kind of ruin. I state glibly, from time to time, that our American way of life is unsustainable. Is this what unsustainable looks like after the fantasy fades?

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See Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography for more.

18 February 2009 . Comments Off on Dubai dry

Dubai dry

At a recent dinner, a cousin of mine was singing the praises of Dubai, which she had been lucky enough to visit. She was very impressed. It could be that she’ll be less impressed on her next visit; Dubai is drying up.

Many new urban landscapes have sprouted around the world in the last decade. I had not considered the effect of those cities turning to ruins in the next ten years. Yikes.

18 January 2009 . Comments Off on Obamarama

Obamarama

We are packed and ready to go. At 4:30 in the morning we will head to the airport, ready for whatever Washington has in store for us. I happened to be in DC in late October last year and realized, as I walked between the Washington and Lincoln memorials that I really wanted to be back there on January 20th with Mary and the boys. Marnie, a longtime family friend, opened her house to us when we called in November and the plan was set.

As the actual trip has come closer, I’ve become much more nervous about it. Reports are that DC will be pretty overwhelmed. I think it really hit me when the Metro started to say they won’t be able to carry the load. Yikes! Still, we were locked in so we kept moving ahead. Tomorrow we’ll see just how hard Barrack will rock the town.

This is such an important event. I am so grateful to be able to share my nation’s capitol with my children on a day we can be so proud of our accomplishment. We have so much more to do, may this week launch us into that future with hearts full of joy.

If you want to follow along on our journey, I’ll try to tweet regularly. Check out twitter.com/efc. We may even get a few pictures up there!

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12 January 2009 . Comments Off on Physical fitness yields mental fitness

Physical fitness yields mental fitness

This is pretty inspiring. (Thanks Merrilee!)

Obama has gone to the gym, for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He always has treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the past few months.

Right now I’m more like the reporters covering him.

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama’s every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald’s while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect’s gym trips last month, noted: “While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop.”

Of course, I’m no longer 22, so I’ve missed years on my commitment to mental fitness and I feel it too!

It’s a schedule he started as a 22-year-old student at Columbia University in New York, and it immediately transformed him. … Physical fitness yielded mental fitness, Obama decided, and the two concepts have been married in his mind ever since.

11 January 2009 . Comments Off on Instruction manual

Instruction manual

Mary pointed to this wonderful little film. In eight minutes it describes a life lived by the book and the dangers of a narrow reading. I love how the filmmaker makes subtle shifts in the backgrounds to amplify the feelings of the characters. The colors are so well used, angry parents or angry child reinforced by bright angry colors. Very nice, both what is said and how it is said.

7 January 2009 . Comments Off on Justified?

Justified?

How do we justify this? Such an illustration could just as easily be made out of US and Iraqi coffins. We were presented an opportunity on 9/11 to help the world along a new path that could break the cycle of violence. We declined. I wonder how long it will take for us to change?

16 December 2008 . Comments Off on No more Christmas?

No more Christmas?

Apple cancelled Christmas. This will be our last one. Well, almost. I guess I’ll get more work done in January from now on.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org