The Terrorists on Wall Street

Once again terrorists have visited Wall Street.   This time they did not attack with hijacked airliners, crashing into the iconic symbols of American finance and commerce.    This time it wasn’t even the fanatical zealots from the Middle East but instead our own home grown variety of terrorists.    Most were American born, indoctrinated with the teachings of an MBA instead of the Islamic fundamentalism.   Their spiritual, if you can call them that, convictions were not based on some warped view of Allah but on avarice.   They were on a mission from Wall Street and didn’t care if Main Street got in their way.

Financially speaking, they succeeded in ruinng the country.   We are flat broke, borrowing from every resource and printing money as fast as we can.   We are treading water.   Millions of everyday Americans have suffered massive hits to their retirement accounts and to just about anything of value.   And while some of the institutions that helped cause all this mess are going down in flames, those who worked there, aside from their personal inconveniences, seem hardly bothered at all.

The attacks on the World Trade Center was a tragedy.  It was horrible in every aspect.   Three thousand died and thousands more had their lives ruined.   Family members, friends, associates, were all damaged by the loss.   Americans from far away were shocked and horrified.   For me, perhaps the worst thing was watching on television as in the aftermath, surviving family ran around with photos and posters of their loved ones in the vain hope that someone had seen them alive.   Who can forget the workers in the building running away, covered with dust as the debris from the crumbling buildings rumbled behind them?

There were the leapers and the police and fireman, all suffering and dying from some demented ideology.  We all know the story.   We have seen it enough times, and we all know how we chased the culprits all over the world.  Whether we did the smart thing, or the right thing, is something I will leave alone at the moment, in order to focus on our current debacle.

Because in many ways, this fiasco is much worst than 9/11.   It has caused more damage, ruined more lives, and has created more terror, more uncertainty than that fateful attack, seven years ago.   Millions are affected by this.   Their savings are wiped out, their plans for retirement, for starting new careers, for funding their kids college money have all but vanished.   The very country which most found solace and though the best in the world is teetering and in danger of becoming a second tiered nation.

There are criminal investigations already under way.   If the Federal Law Enforcement services do their job, surely there will be indictments and convictions.   If anything, there is no lack of malfeasance, but the malfeasance is so great it can overwhelm the Department of Justice.   I’m sure there were be Federal Crimes, State Crimes and serious Civil Cases.    And then of course there are those who did not really perform any criminal acts.  Instead they were greedy and ruthless and cared not a wit for the average guy and his well being.

So when so many lives are ruined and the citizens are terrified, shouldn’t we then regard these transgressions as acts of terror.   When you act deliberately and create circumstances that terrify the citizens, rendering them uncertain and insecure, shouldn’t this be regarded as the height of a terrorist act.   And if our bankers, brokers, appraisers and all the other corrupt personnel that just had to get in on the party are to be regarded as terrorists, then perhaps we should consider sending them to the Guantanamo’s of the world.   Let them sit there and instead of the Koran they can shuffle expired contracts around to their hearts’ content.  Make them do penance, and force them to give intelligence and to rat each other out.   I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to get them to do so.

Hey, it’s just a thought.   It’s also a thought that achieved fruition in the past centuries.   Scalawags have been hanged, beaten, put into stocks, tarred and feathered.   Our predecessor may have been onto something, especially in the way they treated those who betrayed the public trust.   Oil may be a prohibitive expense, but tar is cheap enough, and you can recycle feathers out of old pillows.   Their pillows.

Sure, I realize they are not the only ones to blame.  You can blame our legislators for handing out favors and perhaps taking kickbacks to eliminate the inconveniences brought on by rules and regulations.   Government oversight is just too gauche    Let’s face it, you give people a license to steal, and they will steal.

We can blame ourselves, or some of us can blame ourselves, for wanting everything.  For actually believing you can buy a house with no money down and teaser payments that amount to maybe a third of the monthly mortgage.   We can blame ourselves for being gullible enough to believe houses will always appreciate and that we should use them for our piggy banks.  Pull out the equity so that we can buy boats and cars, and other trinkets and beads.   We can blame ourselves that a country this size can function as a consumer nation, where we don’t really make many things anymore but shuffle documents around that contain bad debt.   Or we can live in denial and not blame ourselves at all.

But most of us know better.  Most of us are seething how our public servants let us down and how Wall Street deceived not only us but the rest of the world.   We are angry that we now have to dig deep and forgo our own debts to pay off theirs.   I suppose it’s about now that all that shiny junk you bought on credit doesn’t look so good.   Those custom shirts are starting to fade and fray, the fancy car is, well, just another car.

And we are still terrified.   Because while we have had eight years of warning about terrorists, our own Quislings have taken us down.   Terror now is going to the gas pump, or being in a small business and trying to borrow money for the coming season.   Terror is sweating out the next couple of months on bad tires until you can afford to buy new ones.   Terror is feeding your kids and putting shoes on your feet.  And then should you get sick, then terror knows no bounds.

So what do we do with these craven beings who worked so hard to line their pockets out our expense.   Some, ironically, will be rewarded for their failures.   Rewards in this case are usually great than the money you may make in your lifetime.   Others, I suppose will be downsized, drift away and look for new avenues.  Perhaps the bloom is off the ethic of the MBA.  Perhaps a new kind of reality has set in.  Probably not.  But then, they may really have no choice.

So what do we do with all the greedy stooges?   Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps the best thing we can do is vow as we have done with other great tragedies, that it will never happen again.  Until the next time.

Got Milk? Hope It’s Not From China

More and more countries are banning Chinese milk.   According to an article in Bloomberg.com, India, South Korea and France have joined the twenty other countries that will not longer import dairy products from China.   Chinese milk has killed at least four children and has made at least another 50,000 ill.   If you start to consider the different products, the cakes, the chocolates, the variety of processed foods, that may contain this Chinese milk the overall picture is pretty scary.

The Chinese have processed the milk with contaminated fertilizer.   One more thing on the list of Chinese exports, that either contains toxins, that will either kill you or make you sick.   Cheap chemicals in furniture made in China reportedly causes serious allergies.   We all know about the lead in the toys and the melamine in the pet food that sent thousands of pets to their graves due to kidney failure.

We might have forgotten about the ingredients used in anti-freeze in the cheaper Chinese toothpaste.   The fish and seafood has been tainted.  Fomaldhyde, which for decades has been prohibited from use in America, is used freely and frequently in clothing manufactured in China.   With this type of track record, we can be reasonably sure that there are other products that are also contaminated, contain toxins that in some way will do us harm.

It is getting ridiculous.   Every week, it seems, there is a news story about another product made in China that is dangerous in some fashion.   The world raiese hell, and China vows to clean it up.  Maybe they do and maybe they don’t.   Maybe they clean it up just for awhile, until the heat is off.   And then back to business as usual.  Bad business.

So, then the real question becomes how long do we keep buying this junk?   How many kids, pets, and even adults must get sick before we stop buying dangerous products because they are “cheap?”   And what is cheap, if you are taking risks merely by purchasing everyday goods?   It’s amazing to me.

We were once a country that made stuff.  Not just a country that passed paper around and pretended we were a collection of service industries.   We actually made stuff.   We made good stuff.   Our cars, our clothes, our shoes, metals, electronics, they were quality stuff.  Realistically, there are some goods that we will never manufacture again, or maybe on a small scale.  As for the rest, maybe, with the econonmy this lousy and with our needing to change our ways, we can revisit our consumer reflext.  Buy fewer things of quality, that last, rather than a lot of junk that is toxic and falls apart.   And make stuff that is quality, that we can be proud of.   That we can buy.

The Rosenbergs–When Daddy and Mommy Are Spies

Morton Sobel, one of the key figures in what is known as the Rosenberg Spy Case, finally admitted he had spied for the Russians.  His confession came almost 60 years later, after he and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted for passing secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.   Sobel served more than 18 years in prison, and the Rosenbergs both died in the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison.

Since this all happened and long time ago and most of us have memories only slightly stronger than a dog’s, this may seem like ancient history.   But the case was sensational when the spies were first arrested.  There was much controversy about executing the Rosenbergs.   Up until Sobel’s belated confession, people have argued the innocence of the Rosenbergs or at least claims they could not have passed atomic secrets to the Soviets, since atomic secrets were passable.

Writer, Robert Coover, wrote the Public Burning, in 1977, a novel centering around the Rosenberg case.    It’s a terrific work, a classic, and the narration is formed through the minds and voices of the key players of the time, including our very own former President and Commie Hunter, Richard Nixon.   The book captures the spirit of the entire affair, perhaps more than any other non-fiction narrative.   But then, we now have Sobel’s confession.

The Rosenberg’s had two children.  They were six-years-old and ten-years-old, respectively, when their parents were put to death.   They lived anonymously for a number of years and then came forward, claiming their parent’s innocence.   But now we have Sobel’s confession.   Although Sobel’s confession was not a complete confession.  He still denied passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.   He implicated Julius in his confession, but claims Ethel was aware of her husband’s espionage but did not actually participate as a spy.

Others have argued that she transcribed some of the secrets, although old KGB archives may claim otherwise.   It gets murky and will probably stay murky, despite the release of the KGB archives and Sobel’s confession at 91-years of age.   Events as they happen are often seen through the prejudices of the people who participated and then misinterpreted by the media and historians.   Misperceptions of historical events have probably occurred since the beginning of time.

Most believe Ethel Rosenberg was not a participant and was implicated in order to pressure her husband to reveal names of conspirators.   He clammed up, and she died along with him.   The two boys were orphaned and after denying either their parents were spies or that they did not pass atomic secrets, they finally have to admit the truth.   Dad was a spy.

I would venture the two sons lived in at least partial denial or with the ambiguity as a means of buttressing against the sense of shame and embarrassment.    And anger. America did not invoke the relative morality aspect like it does today.   America did not like Commies and much work was done to assure that they were perceived a menace to our society and way of life.   Perhaps they were.   I would think so.  It was the harshest part of the Cold War, and while we can excuse human imperfections and perhaps even understand their wrong minded ideology and motives, at the end of the day Daddy, for sure, was a spy.

Whether they should have been executed or not, I’ll leave to others.   They were.   They were traitors.   No matter how you couch it, how you smooth it over, or how you claim they were not really passing atomic secrets, they remain guilty of treason.  Personally,  I share little sympathy for traitors.   While the Rosenbergs’ were a more compassionate example, perhaps even pathetic in some ways, they remain traitors.

In today’s world they would not face the executioner.   They would probably write a book in prison and eventually be paroled.  Like Sobel, who was paroled in 1969.  Who denied his complicity for almost sixty years.   Which brings the question if he denied his complicity for six decades and suddenly admits it, then how complete is that admission?  Sobel is obviously a proven liar and since his release from prison has embraced “progressive causes.”  Spots on the leopard, that kind thing.

Sobel argues, like other convicted traitors of the time, that he did it for peace.   He did it for defensive reasons, not to give the Russians an offensive edge.   He wanted parity in the world.  It is an old song, a standard, if you will, and one that I find tedious at best.   You have either betrayed your country or you have not betrayed your country.   Anything in between smells of the old axiom, “you can’t be a little bit pregnant.”

There have been other spies.   The Walker family gave the Soviets a lot more information than the Rosenbergs ever did.   Aldrich Ames was in the CIA, and he sold out his country for a few bucks he needed for his wife’s more lavish lifestyle and to prove a point to the government.   Dave Hansen, worked for the FBI, before he sold out his country.   Jonathan Pollard.  Ronald Pelton.  It’s a long list.

And now with the Russians back on the proverbial war path once again, or at least with them trying to reassert themselves as a world player,  we will probably see even more spies.  If the behavioral chicanery from the financial  market is any indication of modern character, it is hard to believe there isn’t a few thousand enterprising souls who would never let anything like patriotism get in the way of their alternate ideology or a few bucks in cash.   And the Russians are very good at espionage, and really good at turning people.  So I am sure we will see headlines in the future.

As for the Rosenberg children, I do feel sympathy.  Clearly, no matter how you examine the case, nobody was all right in their actions.  Probably not the government who it seems manufactured Ethel’s complicity in her husband’s espionage efforts.   As for the Rosenbergs, if both weren’t spies, then Julius certainly was and Ethel knew it and kept her mouth shut.  I can understand why she didn’t betray her husband, but it doesn’t exactly make her an innocent bystander, either.   She betrayed her country instead of her husband.  Tough choice.  Maybe jail time complicity, but not the death penalty.

As for the kids, they must live with it.  I’m sure they will digest what they may have known already and life will go on.   As for closure to this case, you can forget about it.   The Rosenbergs blighted the landscape with their treachery, and the government added to the scars with what is probably a miscarriage of justice.  The case itself resulted in shame, embarrassment, anger, guilt, and sense of betrayal.   It is not the kind of thing we forgive, although we do tend to forget it.  Usually.  The Rosenberg case is the exception.  It will always be controversial.   But at least we have Sobel’s confession.

Plastic, the Buzz Word of the Sixties, is Causing Health Concerns

For years industry has lived down the arguably unfair 60’s Hippie labeling as everything artificial, uniform and lacking in spirit as “plastic.”   Now the greatest concern with plastic may well be the health risks.   In a new study that was published on BreitBart the plastics used in food cans, baby bottles and just about everything else may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.   Use of plastics may result in reproductive issues as well.

This is pretty crazy.  It is also controversial with the plastics industry and other related industries denying all claims of danger, while growin evidence indicates there might be a few problems with plastics.   If health hazards are definitely proved this will have tremendous impact.   Think of the bottled water industry.  We will be going back to the faucet and demanding cleaner tap water.   There’s a switch.

This may also create an industry for environmentally sound and sustainable bottles and packaging.   There are reports already that petroleum based plastic bags will soon be replaced with those made from sugar.   Maybe you can eat the bag, after you get finished with its contents.

Meanwhile the controversy will rage for some time to come.   There is too much money on the table for the plastics industry to concede the potential health hazards.   Also, we are not the most innovative society and not very quick to change our habits.   What society is, really?  We are used to what we are used to, and we may keep doing it until…well…we do something else.

The one factor that may hasten our change is the growing evidence that BPA, the suspicious ingredient in plastic,  may cause sexual and reproductive disfunction.   Sexual disfunction is a big concern, and on the reporductive side maybe two heads are better than one but not in the children we bear.

And if plastic increases the risk of heart disease, the major killer, and diabetes, which is not only a killer but leads to sexual disfunction, then think of the impact it will have on the sexual industries.  I don’t mean pornography here, but everything from the alluring commercials and fashion ads, to the way we perceive ourselves drinking beer.   Could put us through lots of changes.

Talk about spoiling the mood.  I guess the upside would be all the money we save on dating.  Who wants to date if the possibility of sex is not in the offing?   Some.  I guess.   But not all that many.   And forget about the lingerie and candles.   A person could lose faith.  Or turn to it.  Hard to say.

So meanwhile, about that beer, drink it out of a glass bottle.   Use tap water, and refrigerate that in glass or ceramic.   Don’t eat off of plastic and don’t be microwaving your leftovers in a plastic bag or styrofoam box.   That should help.  Until something else comes along.

Doing the Laundry on Saturday Night

I live in a high rise.   As with most things, there are pluses and minuses to living in a high rise. The best part of living in a high rise is the views.   And then there are the conveniences.   There are cleaners in the building, markets adjacent.   Makes life easier in some ways.

You develop a sense of living in a community in a high rise.   That’s often an asset.  But just as often when you have noisy or lousy neighbors, the community seems more like a tenement than a high rise.   Then there are the party sessions and the neighbors who act like they just wandered in from a cave just a few short weeks before.

But one thing about life in a high rise and for that matter any building where the laundry room in centralized and accessible to all.   You get to see who is doing their laundry on Saturday night.   Surely, there are older folk, or middle aged couples who between showings on the pay per view race up and down the elevator to get in a load or two.   But then there are the singles.   You see very few younger couples doing the laundry together on Saturday night.  Just singles.   Single men.  For sure.  And a lot of single women.

Perhaps there is no better indicator that life ain’t exactly rich with romance than someone doing their laundry on a Saturday night.    The only other indicator that life is a drag is eating alone, table for one on Saturday night.   It means the networking efforts have failed, the online dating sites have yielded nada,  and the fix up-blind date schemes and situations have resulted in disillusionment.  So here you sit.  Doing the laundry on Saturday night.   Could be the title of a country song.

I guess the one advantage of doing the laundry on Saturday night is you don’t have to look your best.   Slop around in those sweats and tee shirts that should have been thrown out when the Chicago Cubs last won the pennant.  And oh those pink acrylic fluffy slippers.   Ironically, perhaps, it is not  just the homely sort who stuff the washers and dryers on Saturday night.   There are attractive men and women, sitting on those molded plastic chairs.   Now some women may not be what you call socially adroit, and some of the men may be geeky enough, so inundated with that lonely guy thing, that finding romance may have washed out of their hopes like a rip tide from Hurricane Ike.

There is something to be said for the fact that the laundry doers being seen doing their laundry on Saturday night.   Maybe they don’t realize that people take notice.  Or more than likely they don’t really care anymore.   They are lonely and miserable, and your sneers or pity won’t change the fact they can’t find a date, and dates cannot find them.    What’s really odd, is upon observation, they don’t seem to talk to each other.   You would think they would somehow form a lonely impromptu and random laundry club on Saturday Night.  Exchange numbers, swap spit.  Do something.  Or at least talk with each other, down in the laundry room.   I guess they don’t want to admit to another human that life has left them wanting.

And because of the funky outfits, the matted and unwashed hair and probable bad breath, the laundry on Saturday night crowd is not even a prospect for the other lonely people wandering in from the movies, bars and restaurants, empty handed.   In a perfect world the laundry room could be the post-closing time episode, the salvation in desperation, where those wandering  or staggering in from the parking lot could pick up on something that looks like Gilda Radner, as the Vick’s Vapo Rub-coated Lisa Lubner, in an old Saturday Night Live sketch.   Maybe smelly and gnarly, but, hey, it’s a heartbeat.

But I guess sometimes the world is a cruel place, and people have to fend for themselves in withstanding the harshness.   Where the rewards are meager, at best.  Where those that come home alone from bars are burdened only with a liquor tab.   And those compelled to do the laundry on Saturday Night never  suffer from a shortage of quarters.