Holding Accountants Accountable

If I had known that was the name of my accountant's firm, I don't think I would have turned over my life's savings....  (Photo by Indi Samarajia/Flickr)

If I had known that was the name of my accountant’s firm, I don’t think I would have turned over my life’s savings…. (Photo by Indi Samarajia/Flickr)

It’s on account of accountants that we can’t count anymore, and someone should hold them accountable. We call them bean counters not to disparage them — honestly, I mean no disrespect — but to remind us and them of their purpose: to tell us how many beans are in the jar. When instead they tell us how many beans were in the jar last year; or how many beans would be in the jar if we had only put more in; or exactly how many beans are in a jar we don’t have and can’t get, they are not just failing to do their job, they are doing a great deal of harm to the people and companies and system they serve. Continue reading

Wall Street Bulls Trampling Farmland

”]The idiots savant who lead Wall Street stampedes off cliffs have a new sure thing: by which they mean a sure-fire, get-rich-quick scheme; and from which we should infer, take cover. First, the savant part; more and more of them are coming to believe that when you apply arithmetic and logic to the rate at which the industrial world is destroying natural resources, you are led to the conclusion that the edifice is going to crash. (Also see “Hedge Fund Guy Says Brace for Impact: Believe it Now?”) The idiot part is, they want to get rich from the crash, as they cling to the pathetic belief that, after the crash, having lots of money is going to be useful. So they are pumping up a new investment bubble — farmland. Continue reading

Looking for Rage in All the Wrong Places

We Americans live in a country engaged in the longest war of its entire history — in Afghanistan — which is now in its ninth year with no end in sight. No military or political leader of our country can explain to us why we are fighting this war, how we are going to win it, or what benefit will accrue if and when we do. (Yes, yes, we understand why we started the war, the question is why are we still fighting it?) Continue reading

Muddy Water Rising

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises:
The Congressional Budget Office this week issued a new report on the national debt (little noticed in the furor over its cost estimates for “socialized” medicine) that reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s observation: “When I reflect that God is just, I tremble for my country.” The debt continues to skyrocket, faster than the Gross Domestic Product. “To put it bluntly,” the New York Times [“The Debt Tsunami”] observes, “the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable.” There’s that word again. It means we cannot keep doing it. If we try — if we allow our representatives to refuse to raise taxes, cut spending and fix health care — then we will find out the bad way what unsustainable means.
Various cheerleaders for the Way Things Used to Be pretend to see the end of the recession coming. But the end of the recession does not mean a return to what we used to think of as normal. People are showing a strong tendency to save money, drat them, rather than buy stuff, and that means that a great many people who lost their jobs in the past year are not going to get them back. Bob Herbert writes in the Times [“No Recovery in Sight”] that the official unemployment rate has reached 9.4 percent, much worse than recently predicted, and is headed for ten percent. And according to on study, the underutilized workers — who want full time but only get part-time, or who want jobs but are too discouraged to even look — now total nearly 30 million, the highest number in history and the highest rate in a quarter century.
We who worried about the dramatically increasing reproductive problems in frogs and fish used to endure a lot of ridicule. Now, not so much. [It’s Time to Learn From Frogs,” Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, again.] Because the problems are now occurring in humans, in the form of genital deformities in infants and declining sperm counts in adult males. The culprit? In all probability a class of widely used industrial chemicals called endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the infinitely complex system that manages our bodies’ growth, functioning and reproduction. These chemicals are everywhere — in agricultural chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning compounds, children’s toys, food storage containers, furniture and carpets, computers, phones, and appliances. Only now has it occurred to some to research their long-term effects, and the results, just starting to come in, are horrifying.
Scary stuff, but remember the main thesis of BRACE for IMPACT: saving the world is not possible, but you and I can save ourselves — can start living sustainably — at any time we choose.

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises: Continue reading

Forever Blowing (Up) Bubbles

The current financial meltdown offers a good model for other, far more serious disruptions that are on their way. If you think the greed-maddened, amoral stupidity of the investment bankers was unique, take a closer look at the masters of our supplies of food, water and energy. Continue reading

Bail Now, Sink Later

”I am concerned about taxpayer money being provided to those companies that may not survive.” — President Bush

How far should taxpayers go to rescue an ailing industry? — Reuters

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has recommended the use of more taxpayer funds for new efforts to prevent home foreclosures – The Sydney Morning Herald

To paraphrase Aristotle and Confucius, if you wish to have good government you must begin by calling things by their right names. And the notion that the American taxpayer is paying for things such as the financial-industry bailout, the automotive-industry bailout or even the war in Iraq is not right. It would be closer to the truth to say that the Chinese government is paying for these things. Continue reading

Too Big to Bail

A mind cartoon: a morbidly obese man is being escorted from a bank lobby by security guards, screaming, “But you don’t understand! I’m too big to fail!”

It comes to mind as the CEOs of morbidly obese American automobile companies wail to the Congress that what is bad for General Motors (or Ford or Chrysler) is bad for the country. Continue reading