#613 July 25, 2010

Bank reform and a leaning bridge draw Will’s attention

COLUMBUS: President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform bill. But really, it’s more of a Jobs bill, and all the new jobs will be in Washington. Thousands of Wall Streeters will move down there to advise the government on how to reform Wall Street. A couple dozen Harvard professors will be hired to assist them. Their job will be to write the rules in such a way that nobody can understand them except lawyers. Only one thing will be clear: there will be no rules or regulations pertaining to the financial dealings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Or Congress. Thereby assuring the failure of any financial reforms.

You have read in the papers that Wall Street banks paid bonuses of $2 Billion. These bonuses were paid even though those same outfits went so deep in the hole they had to be bailed out with $800 Billion. It kinda makes you wonder how much those birds rake in when they’re profitable.

Meanwhile, the BP Board of Directors is giving CEO Tony Heyward a $15 Million bonus, to leave. He also gets to keep his yacht and all the oil he can scoop up from the Gulf. No word from the Board yet if they are accepting my suggestion to change the name from BP to Amoco. That idea ought to be worth another $15 Million.

Here in Columbus, the mayor cut the ribbon on a new bridge. It was designed by a Harvard professor named Spiro Pollalis who said the 660 foot long bridge would cost $20 million. It’s called an inclined-arch bridge with one arch, not two, and the arch leans about 10 degrees upstream. Well, he designed it with match sticks and the engineers had to add a million pounds of steel to the design and 2500 cubic yards of concrete so it wouldn’t fall in the river. The cost TRIPLED to $60 million. But the mayor says it’s worth it because this bridge will become the symbol for Columbus, Ohio, the way the Space Needle is to Seattle, the Gateway Arch is to St. Louis and the Leaning Tower is to Pisa.

It seems we spent $20 million to cross the river and $40 million for advertising purposes. From now on, whenever you see on TV a prominent person being interviewed in Columbus, he will be standing in front of this bridge. Or maybe he’ll be standing on it, where hordes of tourists eventually will be photographed, pushing against the tilting arch. The mayor will go down in history because the city will become famous worldwide as the home of the Leaning Bridge of Columbus.

Professor Pollalis was asked about the extra $40 million for his bridge design, he scoffed and said, “In Athens, Greece, today nobody thinks about what the Parthenon cost.” He’s right. Greece has been operating by that same economic plan for centuries. That’s why they’re broke.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“Banking and After Dinner Speaking are two of the most Non-essential industries we have in this country.  I am ready to reform if they are.” WA #14, March 14, 1923

#612 July 16, 2010

Wall Street reform, carbon taxes and the Constitution

COLUMBUS: The big financial reform bill passed Congress. This is the Dodd-Frank bill I told you about last month. I thought they had passed it at 5 in the morning, but that was only a preliminary bill. They took another three weeks to see how much more they could pile on to it.

They got the bill up to 2300 pages, but they still could not find room for even a paragraph on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. How can they claim to reform Wall Street and prevent another financial catastrophe when the main culprits are left alone? That’s like saying, we will stop illegal immigration by patrolling the Mexican border, except for Arizona.

Next they are going to take on the electric power companies. See, this oil spill down in the Gulf made Congress so mad at Big Oil they are getting even by attacking Coal. Senator Kerry says we can’t tax the carbon in oil and gasoline now, so we’ll tax the carbon in coal. I guess he figures we would gripe if we see the price of gasoline increase at the pump, but an increase in the electric bill will slip through.

It appears that BP has capped the well. Once we know for sure there is no more oil leaking into the Gulf, vacationers will return to the beaches. There will still be millions of gallons of oil floating in the water, but people will react to a few tar balls the same as they do to jellyfish: we’ll put up with a little annoyance to enjoy the water and sandy beaches.

The heat has been in the news, and not just the Heat in Miami that signed LeBron James. It’s been so hot across the country Al Gore wishes he had scheduled a Global Warming conference this month. He could gather his doubters in a big convention center, turn off the air conditioning, and start talking. By supper time they would all be persuaded. And talking all day, Al would sweat so much he could go straight to sleep without need of a massage.

The NAACP is angry at the Tea Party, and the Tea Party is upset about the Black Panthers. The Constitution is in the middle, and you wonder how many have read it.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

(Many folks say) “‘Leave the Constitution alone.’  And that’s mighty good logic.  But here’s something they forget.  You or I can rightfully say we got where we are by these laws, but there’s a lot of folks that haven’t got anywhere under ‘em, you know.  And the prospects ain’t any too bright for ’em to get any further.  So they might not be averse to some small change in the Constitution.  They might say, ‘Yes, give us what you’ve got, and we’ll say it’s a perfect Constitution, too.’  See?
So it all gets back to just how good has the Constitution been to you?  That’s all it is.  And nobody can answer that question but yourself.  I would say that to the big majority, almost a unanimous majority over a long course of years, it’s been a mighty fine old document, and any person will think mighty serious before he’ll vote for any change in the Constitution.” 
Radio,  July 9, 1935

#611 July 11, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder announces a surprise lawsuit

COLUMBUS: Attorney General Eric Holder sued Arizona for passing a law that allows the state to enforce a federal law that bans illegal immigration. He said, “No state has a right to ban illegal immigration because that job belongs to the federal government.”

As a follow up, and to promote the Obama Administration views on immigration, Mr. Holder plans to sue the federal government for having a law that bans illegal immigration.

In the Super Bowl of soccer, Spain beat Netherlands 1-0 in the World Cup. Spain scored 8 times in 7 games, the mark of a dominating champion if there ever was one. It took them until near the end of the second overtime to score their only goal, and that was against a team that was a man short.

Now, I know we’re told that Americans should not joke about soccer because it is most popular sport in the world. But we can’t help it. The two easiest jobs in the world are working as a World Cup timekeeper and scorekeeper. The timer starts the clock and returns 45 minutes later to stop it. Then he rests a few minutes and does it again. The only trick to the job is that when hitting the start-stop button he can’t use his hands. The scorekeeper sits beside the timekeeper and when the fellow on the radio, whose only job is to yell G-O-O-O-O-A-A-A-L-L-L-L when someone scores (and that’s the third easiest job), well, that’s when the scorekeeper changes the 0 to 1, and goes back to sleep.

American kids like playing soccer, so when the World Cup comes on again in 4 years we’ll probably watch it. But only if they ban those darned horns.

Al-Qaeda published a new magazine, Inspire, to recruit English-speaking Muslim terrorist bombers. When asked for reaction from the President, a spokesman said, “It’s a missed opportunity. If we had known they were going to publish, we would have bought a full page NASA ad.”

Back to the Arizona lawsuit, a friend of mine in Tennessee suggested instead of battling illegal immigration, we should just give back to Mexico the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California. Then sit back and watch the fun as Mexico figures out how to deal with all their new illegal non-Mexican residents. The only problem is that when Mexico sees the California mountain of debt and Arizona’s foreclosed homes, they would be begging the U.S. to take them back. Mexico would say, “We don’t want to own your states; we just want our people to live and work there. And send money home.”

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“There is a good deal in the papers about giving my native state of Oklahoma back to the Indians.  Now I am Cherokee Indian and very proud of it, but I doubt if you can get them to accept it – not in its present state.” WA #59, Jan. 27, 1924

#610 July 4, 2010

Sen. Byrd helps state one last time

WESTON, West Va: Senator Robert Byrd left the Capitol Building for a final time last week. He was elected to Congress the same year Eisenhower was elected President, 1952.

As President, Eisenhower is remembered for building the Interstate Highway system. In West Virginia, Byrd is remembered for building everything else. Not quite, but he did arrange for a few buildings, including Social Security and FBI units, to settle in West Virginia when they ran out of space in DC.

I got to introduce him once in 1978 in Charleston when a wonderful group called Toastmasters gave him a Communication and Leadership award. He was the Senate Majority Leader at the time.

Byrd’s funeral was Friday in Charleston. When you look over the list of dignitaries who attended, including the President and Congressional leaders, you realize that, even in death, he managed to bring a few more federal dollars to his home state.

Down on the Gulf coast, a lot of beaches were deserted for the holiday. Usually hurricanes get the blame, but this year it’s BP.

I don’t want to get tarred and feathered for helping out BP, but if we expect them to pay all these Billions in costs, they’ve got to sell some gasoline, and people are boycotting BP filling stations. Here’s my idea: change the name of the stations from BP to Amoco. Americans like Amoco, which traces it’s roots to the Standard Oil companies of John D. Rockefeller. Henry Ford and Rockefeller did more to put Americans on the move than anyone. And Eisenhower helped them get there on smooth pavement without a stoplight at every intersection.

Did you know that President Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4? He has become kind of a patron saint to the Tea Party folks, not because of when he was born but what he did as President. Here’s how I summarized his record as he left office in March 1929: “Coolidge (becomes President) and does nothing and retires a hero, not only because he hadn’t done anything but because he had done it better than anyone.”

President Obama gave a speech on illegal immigration: “No matter how decent they are, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable. We’re going to publish their pictures in the newspaper. Then we’ll expedite their hearings so they can vote in 2012.” He didn’t really say the last part, but he was thinking it. The 11 million he referred to is an underestimate, and if he wrangles a way to make these folks American citizens without shutting down our borders, he’ll find out there’s 20 or 30 million by the time he leaves office.

Historic quote from Will Rogers: (on Independence Day speeches)
“Never was as much politics indulged in under the guise of Freedom and Liberty. They was 5 per cent what George Washington did, and 95 per cent what the speaker intended to do.” 
DT #2782, July 5, 1935