Busting the Greenspan Myth

Greenspan asserts that self-preservation keeps markets in check, and his invisible hand approach is based on the presumption that getting wiped out of financial existence is enough of a deterrent. But he is wrong for two reasons: Some banks these days are “too big to fail” and backed by their sugar daddy, the U.S. Treasury, so they’re free to bet the pot — which is what led to the 2008 crash. And two: he misreads the human nature to game the system. The more money involved, the more — not less — likely people are to lie, cheat and steal.

The Big Crash of 2008 should have been called “The Alan Greenspan Recession” because no single person contributed more to the conditions that caused the financial meltdown. Now Greenspan is back selling the same snake oil, claiming that the “global invisible hand” will make everything right, no need for strong regulation.

He couldn’t be more wrong. It’s time to bust the myth surrounding former federal reserve chairman Greenspan and his wrong-headed policies before another crash.

I used to believe the myth that Greenspan was largely responsible for the 1990’s economic boom by keeping interest rates low and regulators at bay. So did most everyone else. And indeed, many of his pronouncements are spot-on. But his blunders have been catastrophic, his worldview is naive and his economic prescriptions are thoroughly discredited. Take for example the “invisible hand.”

Greenspan has made a career out of hawking the idea that markets are best left to self-regulate through the invisible hand that guides behavior. The thinking goes that executives will not sink a company on purpose, because of the survival instinct: it’s in their best interest to stay in existence rather than go bankrupt — self-preservation at its best, just ask Lehman Bros or AIG.

Greenspan asserts that self-preservation keeps markets in check, and his invisible hand approach is based on the presumption that getting wiped out of financial existence is enough of a deterrent. But he is wrong for two reasons: Some banks these days are “too big to fail” and backed by their sugar daddy, the U.S. Treasury, so they’re free to bet the pot — which is what led to the 2008 crash. And two: he misreads the human nature to game the system. The more money involved, the more — not less — likely people are to lie, cheat and steal.

Greenspan’s theory survived scrutiny when the system and the individuals running it had more integrity, and the sums involved weren’t astronomical. We really do want to believe the best of ourselves and our institutions, but the globalized, deregulated financial system he helped create is a monster accountable to no one, driven by pure greed and run by kingpins. Fear of the invisible hand isn’t enough when the payday is hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Some people will do anything for that money, and did: when the system crashed in 2008, the rats jumped out with golden, diamond-encrusted parachutes, leaving taxpayers with the bill. Those executives couldn’t give a shit what happened to their companies. They feared no reprisal; their wealth made them untouchable.

Back when the movie Wall Street explored the roots of greed, a high yearly pay amounted to several million dollars, equivalent to around $10 million today. These days, top execs can spend that much just redecorating their offices. Faced with this reality, Greenspan’s invisible hand theory appears quaint, even comical, except that it has guided three decades of financial market policy, and his opinions are still influential.

Greenspan labeled the crash of 2008 a “notable exception” to his invisible hand theory — a hand so invisible it isn’t really there. The real exception though is finding circumstances where his theories hold true — and anywhere he still has credibility outside of Ayn Rand circles. Time has proven Mr. Greenspan wrong. The more he shows his face in the public arena, the more he is exposed as a thinker whose flaws are catching up with him.

Naughty Newt's Whopper: Passion for Country Led to Affair

The Lamest Excuse for an Adulterous Affair Award goes to Newt “Red, White and Screw” Gingrich, who claimed he slept with a woman other than his wife because he was busy serving his country and apparently didn’t have time to service the folks back home.

 

Newt affair
Newt’s latest wife, who he cheated with while married to his last wife, who he cheated with while married to his first wife.

Newt’s affair #3 led to marrying Calista, pictured here at the moment she realized she’d married a serial liar and egghead.

The Lamest Excuse for an Adulterous Affair Award goes to Newt ‘Red, White and Screw’ Gingrich, who claimed he slept with a woman other than his wife because he was busy serving his country and apparently didn’t have time to service the folks back home. What made him so busy back in 1998 was his personal crusade to impeach Bill Clinton for…?

The man living in the glass house is gearing up to run for president and trying to confront the #1 question he’ll face as a candidate: why’d he cheat? So he goes on Christian television and offers the whopper about loving his country more than his second wife, a calculated political move on par with Nixon’s Checker’s speech and Bill Clinton’s vehement denial that he “did not have sex with that woman.”

Newt’s audacity is breathtaking. He has learned from decades of making outrageous excuses for hypocrisy that none of it matters; he only gets more popular with the people that matter: contributors, Fox News and a large swath of Republican voters. He needs the evangelicals, and if not for his adulterous ways he’d be an early favorite to win their vote.

Newt wrapped his stinking turd in the flag and served it up with a big smile, and at the same time probably squashed any real chance he has of making his White House dream come true. As blogger Conservative Wanderer notes, if the stress of being Speaker of the House drove Newt to fuck around, what is he liable to do when he’s President?

If his Republican primary opponents don’t skewer him for being a hypocritical asshole, he’s sure to be the butt of every adultery joke, replacing his arch nemesis, President Clinton.

In fact, Newt could go down in history for this one. People centuries from now will still be talking about the douche bag who actually tried to claim he got some strange because he loved his country so much. Gingrich’s only hope is to slink away before word really spreads of what he claimed. But somehow I don’t think we’re going to get that lucky.

Fours Years and C-Ya: Why Obama Could Be a One-Term President

Barack Obama’s recent successes – health care reform, ABM treaty, improving economy – make 2010 look brighter for the Dems and 2012 look winnable for reelection by Mr. Obama. But I don’t think that he wants to run again, and that’s part of the plan.

Barack is a one-term president, by design.

The pace of this presidency is breath-taking, as noted by John Stewart the other night (link opens to video) when comparing Mr. Obama to Iron Man. Following on the heels of HCR, the administration made a series of announcements about major policy initiatives, and capped off the week with a trip to Afghanistan. Why is Obama in such a hurry, Mr. Stewart asked? Because he has a lot to do in only four years.

Compare the pace of this presidency to the relatively laconic pace of the Bush presidency. From the outset, that administration thought in terms of 8 years to push its agenda, and its first 4 years were devoted to reelection, with every action aimed at avoiding another one-term Bush presidency. A president who takes more vacation days than any other and tries to claim his Texas ranch as “White House West” is not in any particular hurry.

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The author of this post has a terrific novel available for Kindle and print. Click the cover to see it @Amazon!

President Obama, on the other hand, is not acting like a politician with his eyes glued on 2012. He is not pandering to his base – progressive Dems – or market testing reelection themes. He is, however, making bold steps in the face of intransigent resistance from Republicans and nervous pols in his own party. Willy-nilly talking heads foretell doom and gloom for the cautious president with a penchant for well-timed action, but he shrugs it off and focuses on the job.

Reading intentions from actions is a sure-fire way to make oneself look foolish, and if President Obama runs for reelection in 2012, I’ll certainly be eating my words. But my prediction is he will hand the leadership baton to Hillary, then spend time with his family before reemerging to take on a new challenge. His career-to-date shows a pattern of extensive brain-storming followed by meticulous planning and fastidious follow-through. My hunch is, he knew before running for president that
he’d stay for only one term, if elected. Now that he’s in the White
House, he’s sure acting like a man in a hurry

China Going Rogue

Palin
Going Rogue, or something like that.

Quick: Name one way that China is like Sarah Palin?

Some people might say that Palin is a dragon in disguise, but with China launching cyber espionage against Western companies and governments, scuttling the Copenhagen summit and ignoring international norms of behavior, the oldest civilization still in existence appears to have decided it doesn’t need the rest of the world. China is going rogue.

Palin, of course, still needs people to buy her book and watch her inane Fox commentaries. But China is free to do whatever it wants, and it shows.

The recent headline that cyberattacks against e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists originated from Chinese computer servers should be no surprise. Two decades of unbridled growth and a national bank account measured in trillions of dollars would make any nation intoxicated on its own power, but what we’re seeing in China’s assertiveness is beyond giddy. The country is outright high on its new power.

That’s why China doesn’t care if Google leaves. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, they say. China feels free to stick it to President Obama, saying, ‘whatchya going to do when we’re underwriting your massive budget deficits?’ China knows it has the United States, and the Western world in general, gripped by the short hairs. They know it, our government knows it, and now you know it. Hell, even Palin should know it.

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The author of this post has a fictional book about the return of King Antiochus. Click the cover to see it @Amazon!

China’s roguish activities extend further into cyberspace with a broad electronic spying network that has infiltrated the most sensitive computer servers. America’s vital military, government and industrial secrets are not secret anymore; China came like a thief in the night while America whittled away its advantage in Iraq, distracted away from the real threat to its power. China now possesses the designs of our nuclear warheads, the schematics to our aircraft carriers and submarines, and the inner working of our most important trade secrets. Agents of the Chinese government can access the U.S. power and communications grids and shut down the country with a few keystrokes.

Find out more for yourself by searching for “Ghostnet,” or read this article

The audacious way that China is flipping off the world – America in particular – reveals what their leadership really thinks. They no longer fear us or even respect us. They are the servant who usurps the master and transforms into the very thing they used to hate. In short, the Chinese government thinks we’re a bunch of shortsighted fools whose day of decline is nigh.

Step back for a moment and think from their perspective, unbiased by the American media smokescreen. Going on 9 years ago we were attacked by terrorists on 9/11 and completely lost our minds. We let the terrorist leaders, who were on the CIA payroll, off the hook in Afghanistan, to grind an ax in Iraq and sink into a stinky swamp. Our political leadership gave excuses so flimsy only a fool would believe, yet the entire nation swept along in a rush of induced patriotism, heedless of the consequences. All the while the American government kept coming back to China with hands out for money to pay for the ill-conceived war, and the Chinese government was only happy to fund the fiasco, well aware of the future ramifications. We presented them with an opportunity to gain leverage and continue infiltrating our most sensitive hiding spots while we were distracted, and they were only happy to take advantage.

Jet Li
Jet Li for Defense Minister. This man kicks ass.

Surprised? Shouldn’t be. What would you think if you watched the largest news network of your main rival and saw Palin, once a candidate for the second-highest office in the land, admitting that she believed Iraq was behind 9/11 and basing her credentials on a half-term as governor of a remote state? It would be like China naming Jet Li as their Defense Minister. “He know Kung Fu – he kick your ass!”

China is our national banker, and anyone who knows bankers knows they don’t lend out money without being sure of the returns (unless they work on Wall St.). China is only happy to aid America – whistling Dixie on the road to hell and pretending to be rogues when really we’re dependents, former rivals who handed our competitors the keys to our future and the means to overtake us.

By the way the Chinese leadership is acting, they think that day has already arrived. They’re probably right.

When a liberal doctor opposes the Senate version of health care reform, maybe it really should die

Howard Dean, a physician before he became a governor then the Democrat Party leader, is speaking out against the Senate version of health reform? Read here why, but I agree: this dog should have its day. The average person will get screwed while the insurance companies get richer.

Bush Values: an Oxymoron

One of the questions hanging over the Bush presidency, recently raised by his speech claiming that he “returned to Texas with (his) values intact,” is exactly what were the values of George W., and did he live up to them?

George presented himself as a small-government Republican. If limited government then is his value, the Bush presidency flunked. The federal government expanded more under Bush than any other president, especially in the area of security.

While some of the growth was due to extraordinary circumstances after September 11, 2001, the majority of it was from militaristic enforcement of drug and immigration laws, and the result of policies like the Medicare prescription drug benefit that ended up costing much more than advertised, and is a profit windfall for drug companies. Combined with the cost of the tax cuts of 2001 and ’03, those two policies account for $5 trillion of the $9 trillion in budget deficits projected for the next decade. Bush espoused the value of limited government, but his actions proved otherwise.

George loved to talk about freedom, but his must be a narrow definition related to the economic freedom to run the country’s finances into the ground. The policies of his administration greatly limited scientific research to please his religious base and the industries looking to stifle research that threatened their ability to make a profit at any cost to the nation’s health. Ironically, as the federal government, especially the EPA, unshackles itself from Bush’s grip and enjoys new freedom to save us all from disaster, Bush touts his presidential library in Texas—the only place in the world where he is still popular except maybe Israel and Poland—as a center for promoting global health. This coming from a president whose first broken campaign promise was rejecting the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases.

Whether or not human-made gases are warming the planet, we know they harm public health, so why use doubt about global warming to obscure the public health issues? The question answers itself: Obscuring public health issues allowed polluting industries freedom from regulation and scrutiny. Oops.

George also said about a million times that he values life, but his actions and policies are responsible for more deaths and loss of quality of life than perhaps any other leader in history. Begin the count with around a million Iraqis—mostly civilians—dead from the second Gulf War, add on the 4,000 Americans dead and ten times that number damaged beyond repair and the hundred times more who returned home traumatized, and we don’t even begin to count the true cost of that unnecessary war.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world have faced a direct loss because of the financial collapse of 2008, and billions from the ensuing global recession, the losses still mounting. All of which could have been prevented through financial regulation, but no, George believes in freedom when it benefits his political supporters. Screw the rest of us.

George claimed to value personal responsibility, but he continues to fail to own his responsibility for creating one of the greatest travesties of justice of all time: the secret interrogation program. Thousands of people had their freedom taken away, were tortured obscenely and treated like slaughterhouse animals. Now we learn that the driving motive behind some of the most brutal methods might have been to prove a connection between Iraq and 9/11. We’ll never know for sure because 92 CIA interrogation tapes were illegally destroyed. I bet the reason wasn’t because the White House didn’t want the public to see the embarrassing portions where interrogators tried to prove a connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam’s high school sweetheart.

Makes one wonder if these so-called values aren’t all a contrived way to cover what Bush really thinks and believes, which seems to boil down to crass opportunism. With a new library and policy center costing $300 million opening, I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more about the values George W. supposedly believes in.

An open letter to GW Bush

Some war president. Instead of rising to the challenge of the job, you shrunk down the definition. Don’t judge you as the steward of the national budget and economy, the carrier of our international respect, the spokesperson for our collective interests, the equalizer between all of the competing Washington interests, or as the one person we could turn to in an emergency. After you used 9/11 as a cover for an extreme domestic agenda, then to launch an unnecessary war in Iraq, all trust was lost. Took people a while to figure out who you really are—or, thank God, were, now that you’re back in Texas enjoying the perks.

Dear George,

Must be a different world for you now that you don’t rule it, back in Texas shuffling around the new digs and wondering what became of your grand ideas about yourself. I wouldn’t show your face in public for a while; I don’t think you know just how disappointed we are in your presidency and angry at the incredible mess you left, but first let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for fucking up so badly that America elected Barack Obama as your replacement.

You made it possible through incompetence and outright abuse of power. You inherited a fairly stable international order and created chaos by blithely provoking the Russians, disregarding treaties and attempting to reinvent the United Nations with a square wheel like Josh Bolton. You inherited a budget surplus, the greatest accomplishment of your predecessor, and spent us into bankruptcy—the whole world almost! Don’t play dumb; what did you expect when you removed the last regulatory restraints of your Yale buddies and created an atmosphere of anything goes if the price is right?

The destruction you’ve caused goes further into literal territory when we consider Iraq, then New Orleans, then Washington D.C., then the mess you left in Afghanistan. You know how you like to brand people with nicknames? (Brownie, for example) I call you George the Destroyer and have ever since you used 9/11 as a pretext for war in Iraq. It fits. Think about what else you destroyed in eight years:

Trust in our election system, the entire process tainted when the Supreme Court bypassed the House of Representatives and the will of the people to really know who they elected. Many of the same people who beat the drum about preferring you over Gore in a time of war wish otherwise now that you are (thankfully) departed the White House.

Trust—any shred of—you destroyed that our leaders will speak the truth to us about important matters like, oh, wars, national budgets, self-characterizations (A compassionate conservative who doesn’t think twice about executing possibly innocent people to execution?), election results, true intentions upon entering office, military service records, your family connections to the bin Ladens. Do I need to go on, or do you get the point? You lied to us, misappropriated, misinformed and misguided into a god-awful conundrum.

George, you also destroyed America’s trust that Mr. President will never morph into Mr. Hyde. Get it? I don’t mean Henry. You scared a lot of us for a while that absolutely nothing restrained your whim. I was so sure at one point that you were about to expand your terror war into Iran that I would have bet my entire savings, not that you’d be impressed by my bank statements. One more national disaster or terrorist strike on home soil and you might have instituted martial law. And you might have gotten away with it for a time, the opportunity used to institute more midnight end-runs around the Constitution.

Destroyed during your presidency was also our trust that the executive will be overseen by the Congress. Goes back to the previous point. For a while you had Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert and Bill Frist twisting their respective institutions in creative ways to ram through legislation that is proving to be exactly what your critics warned: wrong-headed and seriously harmful. You chose political expediency every time over sound judgment and wise deliberation, and look what it cost us. Yeah, you better hide your face, and if you show it again, wipe off that cocky grin. It never fit you, and now everyone sees that the flight suits belong on a real soldiers.

You ask us to respect that you made tough decisions, to wait and let history judge when the people currently writing that history are piling on the facts you conveniently ignore that add up to miserable failure. Even the one aspect of your job that you think you passed, to our eternal gratitude, as a “war president,” is less than stellar, perhaps only passing. George, you grabbed at that opportunity to define your job. Back in 2001, you got your tax cuts, but the rest of your legislative agenda was going nowhere. Once your campaign promises of 2000 had to be interpreted for the reality of implementation, collectively we started getting the first idea that you were less prepared than commonly understood for the presidency. Your proposals polled lousy and the Democrats were starting to wonder when you were going to give something back for their generous early support, something your Republican friends in the Congress did not extend to Obama. Face it George, the circumstances of your first election should have kicked off the mutual antagonism. You were never a uniter.

Instead you defined yourself as a war president. Maybe you thought the definition included permission to do whatever the hell you damn well pleased. That’s what you did. (I had never heard of a presidential signing statement until you used the excuse to circumvent Congressional law.). Students of American government from grade school on up are taught that our system of government is preserved by checks and balances. Were you asleep during those lessons, maybe working in Georgia on a senatorial campaign? We elect candidates we think we can trust to accept the incredible power that comes with the job, leaders who will act like all of the previous presidents and respect the balance of power enshrined in our founding principles and laws. You shredded centuries of tradition and legal doctrine in an underhanded expansion of executive authority during war.

Some war president. Instead of rising to the challenge of the job, you shrunk down the definition. Don’t judge you as the steward of the national budget and economy, the carrier of our international respect, the spokesperson for our collective interests, the equalizer between all of the competing Washington interests, or as the one person we could turn to in an emergency. After you used 9/11 as a cover for an extreme domestic agenda, then to launch an unnecessary war in Iraq, all trust was lost. Took people a while to figure out who you really are—or, thank God, were, now that you’re back in Texas enjoying the perks.

GW, I’m glad not only that you cleared the way for President Obama, but that you got reelected in 2004. I kid you not, told all my friends at the time that you needed four more years to lie in the bed you had made. Dropping that mess on John Kerry would be like a Democrat president fucking up as badly as you did, then passing it off on Bob Dole. Despite the flaws of those losers, a person would never wish such a thing on such decent losers. Both were a little too mild for American taste in presidents. You bamboozled us just long enough to get elected twice—elected by selling yourself as one thing to grab votes, then delivering another, George, that a few of us saw in you back when you were just a governor of Texas.

Let me correct something while we’re at it, on a question you answered during the primary campaign in 2000 about your favorite political philosopher. Jesus wasn’t a political philosopher. I don’t blame you for taking the opportunity to say what was needed to attract evangelical support, but as a political philosopher, I must remind you that Jesus expressed a few views that can be extrapolated as political philosophy. Like render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, telling people to pay their taxes. You created a tax system where Warren Buffett is taxed a lesser percentage than his secretaries, and he takes no tax write-offs, no loopholes that you know well from your experience helping billionaires avoid paying a fair share.

Jesus also said to feed and cloth the poor, and be generous, especially with the less fortunate. You inherited a tremendous opportunity in 2001 to prove yourself as a godly man and follower of Jesus by doing a little more for the po’ folks. They got little or nothing from your tax breaks. Instead your administration relentlessly slashed—or tried to slash—programs that feed hungry families, keep them warm and provide their health care. How symbolic was your first veto used to deny an expansion of children’s health care? Please, don’t cry budgetary priorities when you spent trillions in Iraq and wasted untold billions on top of the billions we already know about, more found out every day as what little record you left behind is scoured for information about what you were really doing for eight years.

So the question begs to be asked, if Jesus is your favorite political philosopher, who is your Messiah?

I don’t know about you George, but Jesus struck me as the sort of Messiah who preached against violence, if you remember that saying about turning cheek. I know that responding to the possibility of terrorist cells all over the country after 9/11 required force and speed. The public can forgive getting swept up in war fever and abusing a lot of innocent people along the way. But George, those guards in Gitmo were shoving stuff up the asses of some detainees, and other Gitmo guests are finally being set free to tell stories of horrors beyond horrors. You are ultimately responsible. People were tortured to death.

Some of the public blames Dick Cheney for the worst of the abuses authorized by your administration, but I blame you for believing Dick Cheney. You, George, who famously claimed to be able to look into someone’s eyes and get a sense of their soul, and famously failed twice that I can think of, no three: Dick, Putin and Brownie, though you might have never really looked in Brownie’s eyes. You also failed to seriously consider that Saddam might be bluffing about WMD in an attempt—like he had done so many other times in so many ways—to look more dangerous, both inside of his country and in the region. You didn’t look in his eyes and see a tired and desperate despot? Iraq could have been overthrown in 2003 by an army of grandmothers with knitting needles?

George, you also destroyed all respect for the President Medal of Freedom. After you used it to payoff your war buddies, no other president will feel comfortable awarding it again. Might as well call it the Thanks Anyway Medal of Presidents on Nitrous Oxide, or TAMPON for short.

And finally, between you and me George, thanks a lot for destroying your party. You left us with Rush to lead the Republicans further into obsolescence. You were the last Republican to exploit the Southern Strategy for winning the presidency. If you do show your face in public anytime soon, I recommend black face.

Genius or Fumble? What McCain was thinking choosing Palin as running mate

The McCain campaign either pulled a masterstroke or just lost the 2008 election by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. I can see the long nights of work ahead, the war hero and his new beauty queen, his old one in the background with that Dela Bourke in Designing Women look on her face like she better not open her mouth or the canary might fly out.

What else could a 72-year old man be thinking by picking a rookie who cut her teeth in the rough and tumble of Alaskan politics, where bachelors outnumber eligible women 6 to 1 and the annual sausage fest is a log rolling contest? We already know something isn’t right with the politics up there when Ted Stevens, the Alaskan senator who has been around even longer than Joe Biden, is under indictment. The Bush Justice Department doesn’t gun for one of its own unless the target is a sitting duck.

McCain likes a pretty face, but the motive of his campaign is contrast. Every joke about a horny old man will be accompanied by an implicit comparison to Barack Obama’s inexperience. After Bill Clinton emphatically endorsed Obama’s readiness when he damn well knows better, the opening presented itself. Say what you want about the McCain campaign’s other reasons, the strongest card is on the table.

Obama picks Biden to add a wise man to his side, assuring the public like Bush in 2000 with Cheney that the President is backed more experienced statesmen. We see how that turned out. In contrast, the candidate with what could be argued too much experience picks someone who should be giving a speech at the Republican Convention, not fronting it as a running mate.

Palin’s story parallels Obama’s, from community activist to state prominence to high-level office for a brief time before catapulting to the top. Is she ready to run the country? Hell no. Nothing on her resume says presidential material. So then what about Obama’s resume….

When her inexperience is mentioned, so is his. Question her readiness and his is also. Talk about two years as Governor of Alaska being too little to step in if the old man croaks, and what’s Obama’s four years in the Senate, two as a presidential candidate, in comparison? John McCain knows that the only reason why enough Americans will vote for him in November to win the presidency is if Obama doesn’t look ready for the job. What better way to plant that thought in voters minds than put a name on your ticket that sends an implicit message every time it is seen side-by-side with your opponent.

A stroke of genius hatched in Karl Rove’s cauldron, or a disaster waiting to happen.

McCain is also splintering the Hillary faction by waving in front of their faces Obama’s snub of her. About ten million women had their hearts set on voting for Hillary, making her the precedent. Now if McCain wins, a woman will be elected to the second highest office in the land. And when Hill comes charging back in 2012, some of her thunder will be lost.

Her supporters know that Obama won the party nomination because Hill voted for George Bush to use force in Iraq. Otherwise, new kid on the block Obama puts up a spirited fight and recedes before spring. The question behind the election then becomes, four more years of Bush or Clinton? Bill runs around the country reminding everyone how good things were under him, and Hillary wins the political gold in a man’s event by showing what a spirited fighter she is. They had it all planned out.

Most of Hillary’s gals won’t split the ticket and vote for McCain, but their voices and impact are fading into angry echoes down the corridors of the Dems’ convention hall. Hillary deserved the number two spot, if not the top spot, and that won’t soon be forgotten. The early returns are, Palin’s pick as VP looks like a masterstroke. Results come November.

Green Living: how I'm changing my world

As a proponent of green living I’m frequently asked, what does it really mean? “Being Green” is an oxymoron if you really think about it, but living green comes down to decision-making and caring.

Caring enough to plan ahead when leaving for work in the morning to bring bags to use at the grocery store afterwards. Planning ahead by bringing a pizza box to reuse, a fast-food bag, a coffee cup, decisions made many times a day, sometimes inconvenient, to show that I care for the ground from which I sprang and the next generations who inherit it. The real oxymoron—contradiction in terms—is believing that we don’t all have an important stake in changing our convenience culture. I ‘d say, saving our planet, but then I’d close some minds to my message, and I’m really writing to you, o ye of little faith in the rest of us to do the right thing.

So let’s start off by forgiving those who are fooled into not caring, who don’t think ahead and maybe never will. Who always double-bag their gallon of milk, don’t think twice about driving a yacht on wheels until it hurts them at the gas tank, and think solar power is why their lawn turns brown in the hot summer despite their sprinkler system. They are only following the leader. They’ve bought into the idea that conservationism is a personal virtue disconnected from good citizenship. Thankfully they also follow good examples, and I’m going to challenge you to be one. Here’s what I mean by Being Green.

First think of Green simply as the middle of a spectrum. You won’t be asked to live like a Hobbit denied the creature comforts, instead to balance convenience with responsibility. To get an outline of what that could mean for you, dear reader, in your life, I’ll share examples from mine.

My favorite pizza place is family-owned, recipes straight out of Brooklyn. Real New York pizza, generic boxes. Having worked in a few pizza places during my youth, I remember the hours folding boxes—the paper cuts, the unreal amount of waste. Last night when I placed my usual Friday order for a white pizza with extra garlic, I told the guy taking the order that I’d bring my own box.

“What’s that?” Incredulity in his voice. He heard me right, just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I said that I’ll bring my own box for the delicious pizza I order every week, so that you don’t have to use one of yours.” Once he understood what I was really saying was he’d be folding one less box tonight before close, he brightened to the idea. My dream is for the day when regular customers are expected to reuse containers and utensils, to save the business money and contribute to achieving sustainability—a balance of convenience with responsibility. Once green living is being demonstrated every day by early adopters, it’ll spread quickly, but first we need more concrete examples.

I’ll get to them. Right now I’m thinking about Al Gore’s Green campaign, and how so much money was spent to get a message out that boiled down to change your light bulbs. I’m thinking about tire gages being a political issue, the scoffs at the little things everyone can do everyday. We have no Big Fix; instead a thousand little changes in every community, inside every home and business, across every state and nation required to create sustainability in our time and place. And it begins with a few people willing set the example. There’s that word again.

In addition to pizza on Fridays, my weekly routine involves a fast-food stop or two, resulting in similarly hilarious exchanges with clueless clerks when I request the cheeseburger that I’m just going to scarf down before my vehicle leaves the parking lot to come through the window sans bag. I gave up trying to give them my own, but they’ll catch on eventually. They don’t appreciate the disruption to routine when I say, yes I’d like a drink with that, and I brought my own cup, ring me up for a large. Otherwise they don’t get my business.

You should have seen the grocery baggers when two customers followed each other with canvas bags. Paper or plastic? Neither, hemp. You curmudgeons out there pay close attention because changing your fellow human can be such fun. The amusement is endless with the befuddled looks, the “doh!” in voices as people catch on to your perfectly reasonable request to save their business a little money. The other day on the way to a dinner party, I picked up a six-pack of beer, and the clerk insisted that I depart with my purchase in a plastic bag. This rule being unexpected—guess it’s a Durham thing—I didn’t think to bring in my own. Rather than argue about the particulars of a billion or so pieces of manufactured petrol heaped on our planet daily, I took my purchase to my vehicle and returned with the bag.

The next scene I’ve seen play out two ways. Returned resentfully or haughtily, the clerk just throws the bag away, gaining a grudge against environmental snobs. Clerks are just doing their job. Or return the bag with a smile and most likely you won’t even have to say please reuse this. And sometimes you’ll see in the second or two of eye-contact that the clerk appreciates the extra effort to care. Secret yearning is behind those eyes for someone to show the way out of this mess. When about one out of every five people adopt green living, the adaptation will spread instantaneously throughout humanity. But let’s keep the conversation simple for now. Examples.

Convenience cups and drink bottles have to go. I reuse bottles multiple times, but the numbers add up, so now I’m going to carry a reusable all-purpose bottle. The cafeteria has a fountain dispenser at work, and so do about fifty convenience stores between here and there. The coffee shop actually asks me if I brought my cup that morning, as much as I’ve preached reusing and recycling to the poor high school kids who have to listen to me. Initial resistance is usually followed by grudging acceptance and eventually appreciation. Patience is required to see the change through to the end and set a good example. Persistence too, even in the face of a skeptical public.

Example-settlers are allowed to be imperfect. If you take this message to heart, fill your mind with lots of Green. The goal is to balance convenience with sustainability. I forget sometimes and one more pizza box ends up in the recycling bin with the drink bottles. Such is life; nobody’s perfect. But persistence leads to all sort of avenues opening to achieve more balance and a sense of being part of needed change. I’m an early adopter of green living ways which will soon be common. So common to be socially expected, I hope.

Doors have opened in my life at work where I save trade magazines and junk mail from the trash, at home where family has adopted more green living ways, using less energy and fuel. We buy more locally, support businesses like Vines Bistro in Cary which offer locally-grown food and are looking ahead to erasing this idea that it’s cool to ship stuff from all over the world. I buy gas based upon research into which energy companies are embracing a renewable future and which are fossils. Politicians paid-off by Big Oil are easy to spot, and my vote always goes against them. Point is, the more you open the door to green living, the more it’ll become glaringly apparent how easy it really is, and how many opportunities exist to make a difference in the calling of our time to save the planet.

There, I said save the planet and you didn’t flinch. Try to tell me it doesn’t seem perfectly reasonable when seen as incremental steps and opportunities knocking, balancing convenience with responsibility. The care one shows for the environment is returned in the ability to do a little more in other areas of life. And sometimes it’s returned in Big Ideas, appreciative gestures and a dozen other little ways as more responsibility is taken for analyzing our lives and seeing where changes can be made. It is quite possible that enough little changes will add up to the really big ones needed to create sustainability. And if I can dream, humanity can instantaneously adopt green living en mass once the early adopters show the way—if the science of adaptation for species lower than human applies to us. No offense to any primates or E.T.’s who might be reading.