September 17th, 2008

barack obama

Good Morning!!

Forever is composed of nows.

Emily Dickinson

Forever is composed of nows.

I like it!!   I am reading Joe Biden's autobiography, Promises to Keep.

What amazes me is how hard he worked for the Violence Against Women Act.   We forget that it used to be considered by many a legal right for a man to beat or rape his wife.   Contrast to Sarah Palin who when she came to the town of Wasila, 5000 people when she was elected, the rape rate was high enough that they could save money by eliminating paying for the forensic test for a raped woman.   One might think her priority would have been to not only pay, but also institute programs to help women.   I have read nothing about that.   These are the issues on how we choose our president and vice-president.  Both Obama and Biden have worked to personally help people, people not oil companies.  There is a difference.  I was reading that Alaska voted Democratic until oil was discovered in 1959.  It is a telling point.    When we care about our neighbors, human and animal, we vote as though we share a boat.   There are so many reasons to vote for Obama and Biden, it seems unnecessary to list them, and yet, we must continue to do so.

As Emily said, "Forever is composed of nows."

alan's marigolds


For over a year it has been clear to me that something had to give in the financial markets, and it has and the question is how much we now bail out.  We are told the world will collapse if we don't, and yet I thought we were not going to help A.I.G.  and now we are.

This article interests me, because it seems we are helping a global company that is rooted in Asia.  This is very peculiar.  I continue to read that the intent of the Republicans is to bankrupt this country so we can't afford social programs.  I see no way that helps the world and I don't understand it.   What I do see is to talk of isolating this country as Palin does is ludicrous.   There are no longer any small town values if there ever were.   I know Barack Obama will make a difference.  I believe in him, and the tangle of what he inherits is frightening, and I believe we can ease through with a leader at the helm.  

A.I.G. Is Still Profitable, With a Wide Array of Enterprises

Published: September 16, 2008

American International Group and its assortment of businesses run the gamut from aircraft leasing to life insurance for Indians to retirement plans for elementary schoolteachers. Parts of the company have been battered by the credit crisis.

But many of its operations may put up for sale — as the Federal Reserve signaled they would be when it announced its rescue of the company Tuesday night — and they could prove attractive to prospective investors and competitors. The main insurance unit has remained profitable, as has the aircraft leasing arm.

The great assortment of assets reflects the determination of the man who built A.I.G., Maurice R. Greenberg, to create an global empire operating in complementary businesses. Not even the company’s annual reports to shareholders or its regulatory filings offer a chart of its complex corporate structure.

Though its name is American, the company is rooted in Asia. According to company lore, its founder, Cornelius Vander Starr, a World War I veteran, traveled to Asia with only 300 Japanese yen (less than $3 by today’s exchange rates) in his pocket and started the firm in Shanghai in 1919.

With a partner, he sold marine and fire insurance and expanded rapidly throughout the Philippines, Indonesia and China by hiring locals as agents and managers, a business strategy A.I.G. uses today. Nearly half of A.I.G.’s 116,000 direct employees — about 62,000 people — are in Asia.

In 1960, Mr. Greenberg joined the company, following his mentor, an executive at Continental Casualty Company in Chicago. Mr. Greenberg focused on making giant commercial deals, increasing its share of the life insurance business and writing what were, decades ago, unusual types of coverage, like insurance against kidnapping and protection from suits against a company’s officers and directors.

A.I.G.’s general insurance business, which accounted for nearly half its $110 billion in revenue last year, has held up well. A.I.G. claims that its companies are the largest underwriters of commercial and industrial insurance in the United States. Its policies cover everything from environmental liability for companies to auto insurance.

A.I.G.’s asset management group — it includes a private banking subsidiary for the wealthy, a broker dealer and another unit that manages mutual funds — has had losses, but it is not a unit that pushed the company to the brink. That group reported its first loss in years in the last quarter of 2007; in the second quarter of this year, it reported an operating loss of $314 million, which is modest these days.

Then there is the aircraft leasing business, which owns more than 900 planes and is part of the company’s financial services group. The company stated in its annual filing with regulators that the leasing unit would buy 73 new aircraft this year. That unit is profitable, according to the most recent report for the quarter ended June 30.

A.I.G.’s problems rest in the company’s London-based financial products unit, part of its financial services group, which is exposed to securities tied to the value of home loans — the same kind of securities that forced Lehman Brothers into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings on Monday. The financial products group sold credit-default swaps, complex financial contracts allowing buyers to insure securities backed by mortgages. Many of the buyers were European banks. As home values have fallen, the value of the underlying mortgages has declined, and A.I.G. has had to reduce the value of the securities on its books.

The company has other forms of real estate exposure. One subsidiary, American General Finance, makes home loans and has suffered along with the housing market. Another subsidiary, the United Guaranty Corporation, provides mortgage guarantee insurance. Still other units buy mortgage-backed securities directly.

“We’ve always been opportunistic,” Mr. Greenberg said, responding to a question about whether the company would buy other insurers struggling in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “When we see opportunities, we will never change. At A.I.G., it’s part of our culture.”

Geographically, A.I.G. is sprawling. One of its life insurance companies operates in 50 countries and other units offers other products, like health insurance and retirement services, in countries like Japan and the United States. It claims to be the largest life insurance company in the Philippines. Its private bank is based in Zurich.

A.I.G. ’s Asian asset management business has $115 billion in assets, and the company peddles mutual funds in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore and investment trusts in Taiwan.

The company is a sizable investor in Asian development projects, from toll roads in the Philippines to Seoul’s international finance center. It is also a major investor in the Taiwan government. As of February, A.I.G. held $14.2 billion in Taiwan government bonds, 13.1 percent of Taiwan’s total issued government bonds.

Though he left the company a few years ago after an accounting scandal, Mr. Greenberg’s fortune remains locked up with A.I.G., in which he has a stake of about 11 percent through various holdings, according to Bloomberg News.

Early in 2005, questions arose about financial transactions that had the effect of making the company’s earnings look better. Mr. Greenberg resigned as chief executive after regulators sent a wave of subpoenas to the company; eventually A.I.G. restated earnings covering a five-year period. His successor tried to restore confidence in the company but his efforts did not meet with investor approval and he was replaced this summer, after the company announced that it lost $7.8 billion in the first quarter of the year, the biggest loss in its history. In August it announced that it had lost another $5.3 billion in the second quarter.

Heather Timmons reported from New Delhi.

barack obama

McCain -

One wonders how McCain can be so out of touch.   We have had that for eight years and see where we are.   We rescue the wealthy.  That is okay, while others are "just not working hard enough."   McCain with all his homes has no ability to empathize with those who lose what they have worked for.  He has made it very clear that empathy is not in his care.

The NY Times says it well.

Mr. McCain and the Economy

Published: September 16, 2008

John McCain spent Monday claiming as he had countless times before — that the economy was fundamentally sound. Had he missed the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the sale of Merrill Lynch, which were announced the day before? Did he not notice the agonies of the American Insurance Group? Was he unaware of the impending layoffs of tens of thousands of Wall Street employees on top of the growing numbers of unemployed workers throughout the United States?

On Tuesday, he clarified his remarks. The clarification was far more worrisome than his initial comments.

He said that by calling the economy fundamentally sound, what he really meant was that American workers are the best in the world. In the best Karl Rovian fashion, he implied that if you dispute his statement about the economy’s firm foundation, you are, in effect, insulting American workers. “I believe in American workers, and someone who disagrees with that — it’s fine,” he told NBC’s Matt Lauer.

Let’s get a few things straight. First, no one who is currently running for president does not “believe in American workers.”

More to the point, the economy is stressed to the breaking point by fundamental problems — in housing, finance, credit, employment, health care and the federal budget — that have been at best neglected, at worst exacerbated during the Bush years. And as a result, American workers have taken a beating.

In clarifying his comments, Mr. McCain lavished praise on workers, but ignored their problems. That is the real insult.

For decades, typical Americans have not been rewarded for their increasing productivity with comparably higher pay or better benefits. The disconnect between work and reward has been especially acute during the Bush years, as workers’ incomes fell while corporate profits, which flow to investors and company executives, ballooned. For workers, that is a fundamental flaw in today’s economy. It is grounded in policies like a chronically inadequate minimum wage and an increasingly unprogressive tax system, for which Mr. McCain offers no alternatives.

As for Wall Street, Mr. McCain blamed the meltdown on “unbridled corruption and greed.” He called for a commission to find out what happened and propose solutions. His diagnosis and his cure are misguided. The crisis on Wall Street is fundamentally a failure to do the things that temper, detect and punish corruption and greed. It was a failure to police the markets, to enforce rules, to heed and sound warnings and expose questionable products and practices.

The regulatory failure is rooted in a markets-are-good-government-is-bad ideology that has been ascendant as long as Mr. McCain has been in Washington and championed by his own party. If Mr. McCain adheres to some other belief system, we would like to hear about it.

barack obama

Oh, what the heck -

I don't really like just lifting columns and placing them here but Maureen Dowd is so good, I can't resist.  This is what we are up against.  This is what McCain chose, Wal-Mart, ignorance, prejudice, hypocrisy and teenage moms who even when old enough to vote, don't.  

Op-Ed Columnist

‘Barbies for War!’

Published: September 16, 2008


Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Carly helpfully added that McCain (not to mention Obama and Biden) couldn’t run a major corporation. He couldn’t get his immigration bill passed either, but now he’s promising to eliminate centuries of greed on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was thinking about taking Palin to the U.N. General Assembly next week so she can shake hands with some heads of state. You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus. To paraphrase the sniffly Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a poy-son could develop a cold war.

The latest news from Alaska is that the governor keeps a tanning bed in the Juneau mansion. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, when Palin declared May 2007 Skin Cancer Awareness Month in Alaska, the press release explained that skin cancer was caused by “the sun and from tanning beds.”

I sautéed myself in Sarahville last week.

I wandered through the Wal-Mart, which seemed almost as large as Wasilla, a town that is a soulless strip mall without sidewalks set beside a soulful mountain and lake.

Wal-Mart has all the doodads that Sarah must need in her career as a sportsman — Remingtons and “torture tested” riflescopes, game bags for caribou, machines that imitate rabbits and young deer and coyotes to draw your quarry in so you can shoot it, and machines to squish cows into beef jerky.

I talked to a Wal-Mart mom, Betty Necas, 39, wearing sweatpants and tattoos on her wrists.

She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom “like Bristol.” She likes Sarah because she’s “down home” but said Obama “gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly.”

Ten Obama supporters in Wasilla braved taunts and drizzle to stand on a corner between McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. They complained that Sarah runs government like a vengeful fiefdom and held up signs. A guy with a bullhorn yelled out of a passing red car: “Go back to the city, you liberal Communists!”

At gatherings in The Last Frontier, pastors pray for reporters, drilling evokes cheers and Todd Palin is hailed as a guy who likes to burn fossil fuels.

I had many “Sarahs,” as her favorite skinny white mocha is now called, at the Mocha Moose. “I’ve seen her at 4 a.m. with no makeup,” said manager Karena Forster, “and she’s just as beautiful.”

I stopped by Sarah’s old Pentecostal church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, and perused some books: “The Bait of Satan,” “Deliverance from PMS,” and “Kissed the Girls and Made them Cry: Why Women Lose When They Give In.” (Author Lisa Bevere advises: “Run to the arms of your prince and enter your dream.”)

In Anchorage Saturday, I went by a conference conducted by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and supported by Sarah’s current church, the Wasilla Bible Church, about how to help gays and lesbians “journey out” of same-sex attraction.

(As The Times reported recently, in 1995, Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues she had seen “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelf of the library and did not approve. The Wasilla Assembly of God tried to ban “Pastor, I Am Gay” by Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in nearby Palmer.)

Anne Heche’s mother, Nancy, talked about her distress when her daughter told her she was involved with Ellen. Jeff Johnston told me he had “a struggle” with homosexuality “for a season,” but is now “happily married with three boys.” (Books for sale there included “Mommy, Why Are They Holding Hands?” and “You Don’t Have to Be Gay.”)

I covered a boisterous women against Palin rally in Anchorage, where women toted placards such as “Fess up about troopergate,” “Keep your vows off my body,” “Barbies for war!” “Sarah, please don’t put me on your enemies list,” and “McCain and Palin = McPain.”

A local conservative radio personality, Eddie Burke, who had lambasted the organizers as “a bunch of socialist, baby-killing maggots,” was on hand with a sign reading “Alaska is not Frisco.”

“We are one Supreme Court justice away from overturning Roe v. Wade,” he excitedly told me.

R. D. Levno, a retired school principal, flew in from Fairbanks. “She’s a child, inexperienced and simplistic,” she said of Sarah. “It’s taking us back to junior high school. She’s one of the popular girls, but one of the mean girls. She is seductive, but she is invented.”

alan's marigolds

Jarvis -

You may or may not know of Jarvis. He is in San Quentin. He is a Buddhist and an inspiration. There is a hearing on his case tomorrow and I will attend.

You can view an excerpt of his writings. You may want to order his book, his books.

You can also read about his Buddhist empowerment ceremony.

My friend Lee who visits Jarvis weekly has asked for my prayers for him for years, and I know he prays for me, too, for all of us.

There are many places to focus in this world. Jarvis is in San Quentin and he is a ray of light.

alexander calder


Katie, who received a bone marrow transplant this summer,  is now made up of her donor, which says something huge about the modern world and how connected we all are.  There are some who fear that ever-expanding connection, fear the "other," fear those who look different.    We learned to fear the stranger when we lived in caves. Then the stranger might bring disease or war, but now, the planet is small to be holding all these people and we need to learn acceptance and to train our perceptions to celebrate diversity.

Sarah Palin has her own tanning unit.  She tries to darken her skin even as many of those who support her openly admit they would not vote for a Black.  Now, that has to be absolutely the strangest of things.

Enjoy the day!

Book Cover

Evening -

I had time with my young friend Zach today.  We went to the playground and played in the grass and shared a generally wonderful time.  Another little two and a half year old came over to play and Zach shared his planes.  I thought if only the world could be like this, a playground with children playing and adults watching and enjoying.  

I continue with Joe Biden's autobiography and highly recommend it.   Revisiting history is fascinating for me and truly seeing the kind of man Biden is, exhilarating.   Barack Obama and Joe Biden are so far above McPain, it is astonishing and what I see is how strong the neocons are and how McCain has been part of that.  McCain is worst than I realized and he continues downhill.

So, it seems Palin's email has been hacked.   They got in using exactly what we all know not to use for passwords.  It seems it never occurred to Palin that her email might not be secure.  Each day a little more laughable or cryable depending how you look at it. 

Today I was driving with the radio on, and a man's voice was talking about A.I.G.   Zach asked if I would turn it off.  I said, yes, it is depressing, and he said what's depressing and I explained and he got it

I am exhausted tonight.  All this financial news is depressing.  I did hear one silver lining while driving today.   A man was talking about how huge the U.S. debt is, just this year has been another horrible increase in debt, and then, he said but at least our stock market is open.  Russia closed down for two days, and then, he said well, the good news is we can't afford a war, and neither can they.   Who would have guessed that this enormous debt could lead to peace.

May we all rest in silver linings and sleep well tonight.