Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Youth Cartoonists Support Japan inspires me. Youthful artists hopefully send in their political cartoons to the web site and the site editors select a few for its prominent space. Fortunately, the editors also show the pitched cartoons. I found an amazing selection of great drawings that show how much young artists around the world rally for support Japan with their talent.  The web site also lets you vote for the best cartoons.

Here's a selection for you to peruse and enjoy.  If you really like one of them, feel free to hop on over to and vote for it. I'm sure these young artists would appreciate your support.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't read this.

     Among books on the 2008 Financial Crisis, "Too Bit To Fail" was the most overrated. It is comprised primarily of a litany of the author's man crushes on Wall Street.

     Author Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times finance columnist, is a talented writer. But this book doesn't show off his writing chops. Instead it shows he can schmooze financiers.  His narrative consists chiefly of a string of meetings interrupted by golf games and the occasional bike ride.  In "Too Big To Fail" bankers meet, talk, and wear suits, khakis or even...jeans (gasp). I can't believe I spent money to read this.   In almost every single description of a meeting Sorkin tells the reader what the stars of his book are wearing  - even if its "a blazer and slacks" or "jeans and a polo-shirt." I didn't know it mattered so much to him. If it's worth putting in the book, then can he please include the designer, cut, fit, etcetera.

     "Too Big To Fail" is useful in that Sorkin illuminates the relationships between players - he connects the dots for the reader. There is a revolving door between regulators and executives. Hank Paulson's fretting over his integrity and independence from Wall Street is somewhat amusing.  Paulson headed Goldman Sachs for years, pushing out his own proteges when they appeared to become rivals.
Now he deems himself independent of Wall Street and Goldman and free of any conflict. He doesn't want to be seen talking to Goldman. Paulson can't step back and see the big picture. Neither can Sorkin. Most of the Goldman execs and the heads of the major banks and top regulators attend the same schools and worked at the same companies. They can't fathom life without one another. Sorkin's book fawns on the characters in an obsequious manner. He raves about Bob Steele, the undersecretary of Treasury, as "handsome" and waxes poetic about the manhood and looks of his cast of characters. Sorkin seems completely infatuated with his subjects.

    On the other hand, sometimes juicy tidbits slip by -- unheralded by the narrator -- but astounding in their import. Who knew that Paulson's blind trust was not so blind, or that the investment banks he was responsible for regulating actually sought out his personal investment dollars. He went fishing for money for them. He tried to stick Warren Buffet with the mess. It is kind of embarrassing that a sharp man like Paulson can have such blind spots. He had no business heading the US Treasury Department or orchestrating a bailout. He is rife with conflicts of interests. But no matter. Sorkin is fascinated that Paulson would sometimes forget to shave, or wear jeans. Pages 197-199 made me wonder why Sorkin could become so anal about recording such trivialities. Was he paid by the word? Nonetheless, Sorkin's tome describes a number of incidents that raise red flags. Perhaps he knew that adding a huge dollop of flattery would appease the subjects of his book even as he shared light on some of their secrets. If that was his plan, it's brilliant. I would prefer a summary of the book that gives the juicy tidbits and skips the monotonous meanderings of prose that appease the bankers.

     Sorkin excels at describing interpersonal relationships - but he gives short shrift to the description of the financial instruments involved in the 2008 crisis. There are far better accounts of the credit default swaps, super seniors, etc. and of the causes of the 2008 Financial Crisis - "All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis" by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera by and "Faultlines" by Raghuram Rajan.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Best political cartoons from Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster

Sometimes political cartoonists capture a complex reality with the most clarity. Here's a selection from the web, including Slate and the Japan Times. They show our growing fear of the nuclear energy on which we have come to depend and our sense of helplessness at nature's raw power.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SOS Japan

I can scarcely believe the images of destruction left by Japan's tsunami and earthquake. Now the nation is coping with possible meltdowns in three nuclear reactors.

What is especially poignant about this situation is that Japan, unlike most nations, prepared so carefully and guarded against such emergencies.
More than 40% of Japan's coast line is protected by sea walls. Japanese buildings met the highest standards of earthquake resistance. The nuclear reactors are encased in capsules with walls of steel six inches thick, then covered in a concrete encasement, and enclosed in thin exterior walls.
Not enough.

Nature always finds a way to subvert humankind's most careful plans.
We can all learn from Japan, and pray for Japan.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans - Stealing Power from the People

At first I was stunned, and then so proud, and almost teary-eyed, about the rallies to protect workers rights in Wisconsin. The public workers were so dedicated they even slept in the capitol building to ensure the Republicans did not sneak the bill through. So they ordered the building closed and in the middle of night, these Republicans betrayed every voter by sneaking through a bill to strip workers from the right to collective bargaining. Is that even legal?

Once upon a time, I lived in America, and legislators respected the voters.  Gov. Walker and his corporate-money fueled backers have walked all over the constitution. He acts as if he were king.

In the United States, the people are the sovereign, and Gov. Walker will surely face a recall next year. If Wisconsin voters can recall just 8 Republican legislators - Walker will lose control of the legislature. I'm supporting Act Blue, which is raising money to publicize the recall effort.
If we can recall these Republicans, they will learn to respect voters. It's the only way.

Here's an email I received from the Wisconsin Democrats:
By now, many of you have heard about the disgraceful action taken by the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate.
In the dark of the night, without notice to the public, without any debate, without even printing copies of the bill, 18 cowardly Republicans used procedural trickery to strip hundreds of thousands of workers in Wisconsin of their collective bargaining rights.
This is a National Outrage. We will NOT stand by and let them get away with this disgrace.
Will You?
Tonight, I'm asking you to look deep inside yourself and give everything you are able to give to help teach those 18 cowardly Republicans a lesson they will never forget.
Dan Kapanke. Sheila Harsdorf. Alberta Darling. Randy Hopper.  Robert Cowles. Luther Olson. Glenn Grothmann. Mary Lazich.
8 Republican Senators who conspired to secretly strip away the rights of working families in Wisconsin.
8 Republican Senators who snuck onto the Senate floor tonight and in just a few quick moments eliminated 50 years of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.
The people of Wisconsin had one message for the us after this disgraceful action.  Recall them All.
We intend to.
Will you help us take our government back? A donation tonight will go directly to the Wisconsin Senate Democrats' campaign to remove those 8 Senators from office. Now is the time.
We stand with you. Now is the time to stand with us and send a message that will echo across the nation.
Kory W. Kozloski
Executive Director, Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee