Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zuckerberg is Us

Walter Bagehot, a British political philosopher in the 19th Century, said that you can tell a lot about a country by looking at who its people admire. Now if I talk about Mark Zuckerberg, you’re going to say what a loser, but that of course is not  an honest reaction. Among recent generations, who really wouldn’t have wanted to create Facebook? Remember when a lot of people from the Ivy’s wanted to become merchant bankers on Wall Street? They could make a lot of money really quickly and ethics wasn’t the most popular course in business school, so anything went.
This is not to throw rocks at any generations, because America has been moving in this direction for quite a while. People have learned to cut corners, shade the truth, and withhold evidence. The only things that impressed a lot of Americans were money and status. I remember when Monica Lewinsky was invited to lots of parties. She was famous for a gulp, but that didn’t matter. She was famous.
Notoriety and picking up a lot of cash were what a lot of people wanted and worked to obtain. Who do you think were the underlings that put together the sub-prime mortgage tranches? It was guys who before would have become professors of Math or Economics. They might have spent a couple of years in the Peace Corps if they came of age during the ‘60s.  But people think professors are people who want to be poor forever and striking it rich is what America’s all about. I wonder if today you would know how to find a lawyer you could really trust. I don't.
This has been evolving over the years; we’re just at one dark point in the journey. There’s a reason congressmen are slimy, they represent us. There’s a reason Bank CEOs are people who act like they crawled out from under a rock. Those are the guys in today’s America who won.
Once Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook he got laid a lot. Mark Zuckerberg is us.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


P.J. O’Rourke was on Bloomberg TV today to push his book Don’t Vote; It Just Encourages the Bastards.
I had already decided to write this blog, but listening to him only increased my desire to let this feeling out. The Democrats won in 2006 and 2008, because George Bush was too dumb to realize that all of Cheney’s ideas were stupid and dangerous. The Republicans are going to blow out the Democrats in the midterm election because Obama let two egomaniacs, Larry Summers and Nancy Pelosi run away with his first two years. He had little experience, but I voted for him out of blind faith he would be better than Bush, but I realized my standards weren’t very high. I should have voted for someone in the primaries who’d actually understood what being a President really required. Today O’Rourke called Obama an “Ivy League smarty pants.”
Pelosi thought she had a mandate, so she called the shots on the health care bill. (The only reason I’m glad it passed is that three of my friends desperately needed the coverage.) The bill didn’t try to control costs. The Dartmouth group, whose research Democrats used to show it wouldn’t increase the budget deficit, say their research was misinterpreted.
Obama and Pelosi didn’t have a mandate to turn America into a liberal paradise, and  they pissed off the American electorate and made a lot of people very angry, because they should have spent all their effort on finding jobs for Americans, rebuilding infrastructure and saving our National Parks by thinking like FDR.
Now the Republicans are going to blow out the Democrats by running witches (I’m still not sure O’Donnell isn’t one) and people who want to eliminate social security. The Tee-Hee party is filled with people who have major personality disorders who want to emulate Herbert Hoover. They’ll think they have a mandate. They don’t, people just want jobs. The problem is that the Republicans are the party of the employers, they really don’t care about employees and they love bankers. They’re going to think they have a mandate. They don’t, and when they try to privatize social security, everyone will say we want the Democrats back.
The average American isn’t left wing or right wing. There are new people becoming independents and carrying picture of Michael Bloomberg in their wallets every day. In fact, the average American doesn’t buy into either party’s radical philosophies. And they think members of congress are one step below used car salesmen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fathers and Daughters

Very soon I’ll take my daughter out for her birthday. She’ll come up from where she goes to college and we’ll eat Prime Rib to celebrate. She calls about four times a week, so I don’t know why that old song by Sara Evans called “Suds in a bucket” upsets me so much. In the song a girl turns 18 and takes off with a guy in a white pickup and it’s clear she’s leaving for good.
I feel like I’ve got a lot of nerve being upset by that song. I ran away from home when I was 15 and dropped out of college once to figure out what was going on. It’s clear everybody has to spread their wings.
But when you’ve put her to bed for years, taken dance lessons with her in the Canary Islands and had her sit next to you at the bar in Germany while you had Schnitzel (it’s perfectly acceptable in Germany), it’s hard not to think about how I’d feel if she moved to Alaska.
I wrote once before about carrying her on my shoulder into a drugstore when she was a little more than one. She started stroking my hair and from then on she owned me.
But for the father who didn’t walk away before she’s born, or isn’t mad she’s not a boy to take to Dodger’s games, it can be a great experience to love someone for the first time without reservation. It doesn’t matter how great your life is with someone, a daughter has a key to your inner self. She can finish your sentences; remember when you acted like a fool and forgiven you when you took her cell phone away.
It could be the same thing with a son. My Sunday Chinese language exchange is with a great guy from Inner Mongolia and his Dad frequently calls him when one of us is explaining his native tongue to the other. I can tell from the conversation they’ve got a close relationship. I guess any father is lucky to get a least one other homo sapiens who they can watch grow and then create life him/herself.

Lesser Songs for Lesser Cities

Many American cities have songs about them: there’s "New York, New York”, two songs for Chicago, many about Tulsa and, of course two great ones about San Francisco. Every city should have a song, but they might sound like this one:
“Omaha, you’ve been hanging heavy on my mind. I’m leaving even if I have to crawl.” That’s a little ditty made famous by Waylon Jennings.
So we should have some songs about other cities. They can all be sung to the tune of Omaha:
Syracuse is overcast 300 days a year. I’m leaving to try and find the sun.
Concord, New Hampshire is the world’s most boring place. I gotta get out before the snowflakes fall.
How about a new song about Gary, Indiana? They already have one:
Gary, Indiana is a city that’s barely alive. It’s nothing since they lost the Jackson Five.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Culture, Conflict and Calamity

In  Los Angeles, which is allegedly the future of America, they speak at least 120 different languages. You have to be careful not to insult people. Don’t tell me everybody should speak English and share our values. My people arrived here in 1620 and needed Native Americans to help them survive. Our next generation killed them. A whole lot of innovations were brought about by immigrants whose parents didn’t speak English. You don’t need to speak English in Zhongguocheng (Chinatown), or in the Spanish areas of Los Angeles. (To Tea partiers, I’m sorry our country changed, but we can’t do anything about it. By the way, Norman Rockwell is dead.) Here are a couple of things Americans need to know:
 Koreans show respect by looking down; therefore if you’re African American, they aren’t dissing you.
Don’t pat a Thai child on the head. That’s where his soul is located.
If your mother in law is Chinese, you can’t tell her you like her, and especially don’t tell her you love her if she’s really a great mother-in-law.
Never leave you shoes on when you enter a house inhabited by Chinese.
If a high end BMW is tailgating you in the morning on a normal road in Germany, don’t throw him the finger because he will try to drive you off the road. This is really important if you are driving into Frankfurt-Am-Main. He’s probably a banker or broker, just like the BMW drivers coming out of Brentwood in the early morning in Los Angeles. If you are on foot, you are just a little person who might mess up his bumper if he hits you in a crosswalk.
Nigerians and Ethiopians value age and wisdom (China, still). Americans don’t. Who needs wisdom if you  have learned to tweet while driving? I once followed a guy on the 60 in LA, who was trying to dry his hair by sticking his head out the window. Putting on your mascara while driving is normal.
In Australia they used to call a suit a bag of fruit.
Don’t use “keep it on the down low,” because people might think you’re one of the downlow brothers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meet Chinese Female Billionaires

The Financial Times today wrote about the Hurun report which states that 11 out of the 20 richest women in the world are Chinese. Those who follow my blog know that I have written on the qualities of Chinese women, but for you Calvinists out there, here is more proof that they are among the elect.
Think about the fact that Oprah is only  ninth on the list and you remember Horace Greely’s advice to go east.
Not only do they look 10 years younger than their age as time passes, but they could be worth a bundle. It’s not so hard to remember to turn out the lights when you leave a room, when you’re sleeping next to a billionaire.
Here’s how you go about getting one. You only have to know two sentences.
1.       Ni hen piao liang.
2.       Wo ting tai tai de.
The first means you’re beautiful and the second, which she will teach you, means “I listen to my wife.”
You knew there was no such thing as  a free lunch, right?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Devil is in the Details

Because Democrats made compromises on the Financial Reform Bill in the hopes of getting more Republicans to join in and do something, a lot of specifics were left to the regulators. The Republicans, except for those who lived Down East, threw the Democrats the finger. In other words, all the attempts to get Richard Shelby and the rest of the banker’s toadies to support the bill ended up weakening it. So now every detail is being fought over in the myriad groups that are supposed to control some part of the economy.
They didn’t have The Commodities Futures Trading Commission absorbed into the SEC, so there will be turf wars that will last into the future.
Sheila Bair and the FDIC decided banks should hold at least five percent of the credit risk when they come up with a new plan to securitize America into a crisis. Five percent doesn’t seem like a lot to hold onto, but it made the Treasury mad., because Geithner can’t stand to have a woman with guts, like Bair, standing up for important rules. He doesn’t want to have trouble playing footsie with the bankers.
Did you ever wonder how come the bankers hate a guy who kisses their butts?
How come banks didn’t give up the right to lobby when they took the TARP money? (It doesn’t matter, because the Roberts Court would have said it was an unconstitutional restraint on free speech anyway).
I’m trying to figure out what banks really want and all I can see is Adam Smith’s unseen hand. The problem with that is that every year there are a lot less people you can trust to play fair. I knew that every time I gave a test that seventy percent of the people in that room had cheated before. More and more we’re producing individuals with situational ethics. Situational ethics is when you are for anything that will make you money.
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need cops. But, in the world we live in now, there should be 1,000 State Troopers assigned permanently to Goldman Sachs.