Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney truly is Dr. Evil

After watching Cheney's recent "rebuttal" of the Obama administration's anti-torture policies I felt compelled to come up with some words for our lovely little Dr. Evil from Wyoming - Please shut the F#$@# up and drop out of the public eye just for a little bit huh and let the new administration do their job. I don't want to see your draft-dodging, cardiac-arrest prone narrow minded bald head on TV just for a few weeks, is that too much to ask? As former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura said on the Larry King show just recently, "You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders." I think if you televised that event, you'd have more fans watching than all the last Superbowls combined.

But wait, Cheney wouldn't last a second during water boarding because he is the ultimate coward and the quintessential hypocrite. Dick Cheney claims to be a true patriot but we all knew that was a facade when he decided to dodge the draft 5 times in a row during the Vietnam years. However he still sees fit to send our young men and women into the battlefield whenever the situation suits the American Enterprise Institute, shareholders of Halliburton, and the neocons that have done more damage to the standing of the United States than any other group in recent memory.

You see, Cheney is a special breed of conservative. Something beyond a conservative really, but more a twisted example of what happens when certain people get into office and represent the views of the few at the expense of the majority.

Under the Bush administration, America slid into one of the worst recessions in modern times, over-extended itself in Iraq and arrogantly defended each and every blunder by a team of shameless, cowardly henchman. According to Condi Rice, the Bush Administration could do no wrong, and according to Dick Cheney, well, he didn't have to say much because we all know that he was the true puppet master behind nearly every move the administration made.

Finally, as Cheney bellows about how the interrogation techniques he approved kept our country safe from attack, he fails to mention just about anything else that he did that did our country any good. Like, oh, I don't know, a better health care policy? More funding for education? Job growth? I hope we never witness an administration that spent eight years doing nothing for domestic policy, only to foolishly claim a victory on its foriegn policy. Well Dick, you screwed up there too. By invading Iraq, you strengthened Iran - who now wields more power through Shiite militias in Iraq than before the war and will soon enrich enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb (but will use it as leverage and nothing more). You diverted our precious military resources to Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now the Taliban has the upper hand not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan as well. Your administration's policies have lead to the deterioration of Pakistan today with Taliban warlords controlling vast regions of the country as a result of your poor strategy. The current administration is now in a tailspin trying to figure out how to send troops to Afghanistan in way that won't hurt the security situation in Iraq, and to figure out how to deal with new threats in the region that have emerged as a result of 8 years of stupidity on your behalf.

Cheney is an all-around failure. At least ex-president Bush has had the decency to step out of the public eye and has avoided overt criticism of the Obama administration. Yet Cheney continues to be the sore loser who blames other for his faults, wastes TV air time whining about what Obama is doing wrong, and claims victory for what may very well be remembered as one of the worst administration's in modern history. Dick Cheney is a sad chapter in American politics - and a lesson to all Americans that we need to stand up for ourselves, stand up for the interests of the majority and elect leaders that will represent the people.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jobs, Snuggies and Kim Jong-Il

So tell me I'm dead wrong, but when CNN and the media go on and on about unemployment statistics, about the national average vs. state averages for unemployment every single day , does anyone else find that a little nauseating? Yes, the news should give us the most accurate statistics about hiring trends, inflation, and industry specific ups and downs. But I'm not a statistician and the emotional side of me wants to hear something positive as well. When times are uncertain, then give me some motivation and inspiration. If you're going do a segment on interviews with the jobless complaining about how tough it is out there, why not do a segment on someone who actually found a job in this economy and how they went about doing it? Is it CNN's fault, or is it just human nature to be fascinated by people's woes or take strange pleasure in them? Schadenfreude is as ugly a concept as it is to pronounce...and many of us suffer from it.

My advice to CNN and other major news networks are simple - do some positive segments. There are some segments of the economy that are hiring - such as healthcare, government, financial regulation (FDIC, SEC), cleantech and a handful of others. Specifically, how about doing an interview or segment on a laid off auto worker from Detroit who is now in nursing school and will have GUARANTEED employment when they graduate? Or the IT manager who lost his job but is now doing government IT consulting? This stuff is happening every day and it's being reported on, but it never makes headlines because it's not glamorous. On one hand, more people are losing jobs than being hired right now, resulting in a net loss - but why not give people a little hope and practical advice by showing them what to do to bounce back? To change careers? To retrain? (If these segments are being run regularly I'd love to know about them)

MBA students right now, myself included, are taking the approach that the unpaid internship is better than no internship at all. We've altered our strategy so that we can be both productive over the summer and position ourselves for the upswing next year or whenever it may come.

Some would argue that showing too many segments about people finding jobs might be unrealistic, and not characteristic of what's out happening to the majority right now. But if one positive job hiring story can motivate just one person to find a job, then it's realistic and has done some tangible good. There are lots of things on TV that are unrealistic and sort of useless - like the Snuggie Blanket (a blanket with sleeves?! - just wear a sweatshirt please) or having to stare at Kim Jong-Il's pathetic haircut. But I can guarantee you that an uplifiting story about someone finding a job in this climate would pay for itself many times over. After all, a job equals a paycheck, and with that paycheck you could provide for yourself or just buy more snuggies and send Kim Jong-Il some industrial hair spray.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Curious Case of Bernard Madoff

It seems like not a day goes by since the Madoff scandal was uncovered that we don’t hear another story about another organization or individual that had all its net worth eradicated by investing directly or indirectly in Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme. As an alumni of Tufts University, I got an email saying that Tufts had invested $20,000,000, or 2% of its endowment in Ascot Partners, which had in turn invested in Madoff. The money is now gone though the school is working to try to get as much of the money back as possible. So whether its Tufts, other universities, or charities, the worst part about the scandal to me is exactly that; Madoff’s greed crippled the institutions that actually add the greatest net benefit to our society. Cheating a Fortune 500 company is one thing. Cheating Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation which donated $3.3 million to Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is something totally different, and even nauseating.

This brings up the $64,000 question - why? I’d have to rule out greed. Madoff had more money than he knew what to do with. He was a former NASDAQ chairman, a trusted financial advisor, and a man who’s funds always seemed to beat the market average. So he had the wealth, respect and admiration of his clients as well as the charities that he made donations to. (It’s interesting to think of all the charities he did donate to, because after his Ponzi scheme unraveled, many of the charities invested in him went bankrupt). So all I could come up with was the thrill of creating the most elaborate financial scheme of all time, and seeing how long it would last. People do all sorts of things for a thrill. All sorts of stupid, risky and counter-intuitive things. Except in Madoff’s case, his need for a thrill set the charitable and non-profit foundations of this country back several years and destroyed the wealth of thousands of individuals who put their trust in him.

So this begs the question, what if Madoff hadn’t been dealing with the well-healed in society? What if he’d, say, helped the mob invest their laundered money and guaranteed them some sort of return? What if he wasn’t representing people who believe in the legal system, but had crossed paths with organizations that don’t like playing games, and don’t deal well with people that steal from them? I think he wouldn’t have made the walk to the bullet-proof vest store before someone would have taken him out. So he should consider himself lucky that he’s under house-arrest in his ultra-luxurious Manhattan apartment, and that his court dates will be made under tight security. In the meantime, we can all think about what drives people to seek the ultimate thrill, and if bringing Madoff to justice will bring any closure to the lives of those most devastated by his hideous acts.