The Twin Towers – Catalyst & Metaphor

7 09 2011

A friend on facebook posted an opinion article from the NY Times blaming “the elite” for our current woes in America. I read the article; the author laid the blame on G. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, greedy Wall Streeters, and the aloof elite.

I agreed with the time frame for the problems, and I agreed that the symptoms and reactions to the apparent problems contributed to the economic issues we face. Then something clicked.

Americans have not noticed that the twin towers attack of 9/11 was both catalyst & metaphor for the problems of the past decade. After the planes hit the towers, fires ensued. As the fires expanded, the buildings’ structures weakened. After the fires weakened the structures enough, the weight of the upper stories was too much, bringing down the buildings.

After 9/11, America’s fears were on fire. We were wounded, and scattered. The wars, in part, were attempts to get our strength, and courage back. However, the fires of fear continued to burn. The stock market declined, new businesses could not get funding. We languished for years.

Meanwhile, a trend, set by FNMA and GNMA with US Government encouragement, of lowering lending standards for less-qualified homebuyers went viral. Commercial financial institutions copied the government model: Package a pool of mortgages, get big insurance companies to guarantee them, and sell them to investors.

World investors, hungry for safe investments, created an insatiable demand for these mortgage-backed securities. The huge volume of money that had escaped from the stock market, and other “risky” investments, went looking for a new home. What could be safer than home mortgages, backed by property values, and insured by the US government, or other insurers? Unable to satisfy the demand, mortgage companies made everybody and their brothers mortgage brokers.

The buying frenzy put immense pressure on the homebuilders to keep up with the demand for new homes. Hiring all those construction workers, buying all those materials pumped up the economy, and the demand for everything. Home values rose rapidly. Spending for appliances, carpets, furniture, etc. mushroomed. Suppliers, transporters, retailers took on more staff. Employment was easy. We built a surplus inventory of 5-7 years of new homes at sky-high prices.

Refinancing went crazy. Credit-stretched Americans turned to home equity loans to expand their buying power. When the fallacies of this financial structure finally weakened enough, the weight of the bad loan investments brought down the financial institutions, collapsing the economy.

In other words, we got Osama bin Laden, but he got us first. The best part, from his standpoint, was that we blamed each other; we further weakened our nation by political in fighting, and vicious personal attacks on ourselves. How he must have laughed at us as we divided our house against itself, emulating the twin towers.


Powerless Inaction – Fast Lane “Into That Good Night”

5 09 2011

I never thought Americans would let our country degrade into economic ruin. I never envisioned citizens of the United States sitting, griping, gripping their remote controls, and passively wringing their hands, like Mudville fans in the stands, watching the home team in Casey at the Bat.

I still do not believe how we have allowed the politicians to dole, and dribble the medicine we need to save our collective economic lives, too little, too late, through our slack lips. What else can I say? For two solid, excruciating years, the economic elixirs have languished on the pharmacist’s shelf. The doctors have worried, and debated about malpractice, while the patient lapses moaning, into a coma.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

No matter whether you favor President Obama, or the Tea Party, SCREAM at the top of your voices:

1. “No Half Measures!!” Not 2%, 6% payroll tax suspension for both employees AND small businesses.
2. “No fear of tomorrow!” Fuel the bold initiatives of infrastructures, inspire the hoarded piles of money to flow out into our future, NOW!!
3. “Show Us Your Hearts!!” Rescue us from pettiness and power grubbing!
4. “Join together!!” Save our ship, our destiny, from capsizing.

Do not let our shining example of democracy go gentle into that good night.

Where Did All the Aliens Go? Look, They Just Morphed Into “Immigrants”

3 09 2011

Once a society loses its distinctions, it loses its direction.  How did we Americans miss the “sleight of words” that has muddled the discussion about citizenship?  There are “citizens,” and then there is everyone else; the appropriate legal label is “alien.”  “Alien” means you are not a citizen; nothing more.  If you need more details, see

Every sovereign nation on this planet has the distinction “citizen.”  If you were born in America, as a child of citizens, you are clearly, and plainly a citizen.  The laws lay out the standards for being or becoming a citizen.

The control of borders and the management of immigration are important in all countries.  Why?  Why not let everyone choose any country they like?  I really do not know.  I do know that every country in the world has strict laws about citizenship.

U.S. citizenship is a miracle, and mostly an accident of birth.  I have a common immigrant heritage for an American.  My father’s family lived in western Pennsylvania.  They were mostly German and the rest Scotch Irish.  My mother’s family was Scotch-Irish and English.  (I do not know anyone who does not suspect or even proclaim to be part Amerindian.)

In most countries, being born there does not matter; unless your parents are citizens, you remain an alien.  The United States is the only developed country in the world – yes, the only one that grants citizenship to anyone born under American jurisdiction.

Being a U.S. citizen bestows benefits on us as individuals, as a society, and as a culture; those benefits are immense, and amazing.  I feel like I won the lottery every day I wake up, realizing that, I am an American, living now; we have the astounding good fortune to live better than any aristocrat from any earlier era.  That is a topic for another time.

Would anyone be surprised to learn that American politicians are very quick to seize on any opportunity to acquire and attract votes?  The rhetorical magic of making the word “alien,” as used in our laws, “politically incorrect,” is no mistake.  By collapsing the terms used for legal immigrants, with language describing illegal aliens, they found a way to confuse us.  By doing so, they mobilized a new constituency, sympathetic to those aliens who have no legal right to be here.

Ignoring the law is one thing; changing the law is another; but throwing the book of law on the ground, and stomping on it with a cheer and a shout is a disgrace.  Just because we let things get so far out of hand, does not mean we do nothing.  It means we get to work, righting our ship of state, and refitting for the future.  Our own elected representatives have made martyrs out of scofflaws, and villains out of honest citizens who call for enforcement of our laws regarding aliens.

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