DONALD SHULL WHERE ARE YOU?

Donald Shull where are you?
Where have you been?
I was in the old neighborhood,
Just recently, once again.
No one knew your name,
Or had a clue, or cared.
No one had the time to talk,
But yet they stood and stared.
The days when we ruled it,
Owned our block, if you will,
Have never left my mind,
Memories are with me still.
Out beyond the street lamps
On the darkened edge of night,
We would run, oblivious,
Caring not for our plight.
Out beyond the lightning bugs
That summer seemed to spawn,
And beyond the swirling snow
On a cold winter’s dawn.
Then as happens in one’s life
We parted, you moved away,
Though we swore allegiance
To each other on that day.
We would write and we would call,
And always stay in touch.
When boys part at ten years old
Those promises mean so much.
Now half a century passes on
Though much faster than it seems,
Suddenly I remember you
And our childish dreams.
Donald Shull where are you?
Are you living still?
Do you wonder where I am,
Do you think you ever will?

WRITING IN THE MARGINS

Writing in the margins,
Upon the page of life,
Notes of calm acceptance
Amid the smoke of strife.
Notations to my family,
Paeons to my friends,
Notations in the margins,
Trying to make amends.
Wrongs I’ve done to others,
Writ large upon the page,
Things I’ve thought or said
In moments of hurt or rage.
Mistaken thoughts of others,
Motives I have misread,
Misunderstanding actions,
Mishearing what they’ve said.
Writing in the margins
Won’t undo the harms I’ve done,
Will not remove the shadows
In the noonday sun.
Writing in the margins
Is an attempt by me
To let down my defenses
And let others in to see.
So do not read the words
On the pages, god forgive,
But rather the scribbled notes
In the margins where I live.

Phil Gramm, Gone but Not Forgotten

We should all feel relieved that former Senator, Phil Gramm, has resigned from his co-chair position on the McCain campaign. Gramm, who last week stated publicly that we are in a “mental recession”, and posited that Americans are a nation of whiners, has now tried to distance himself from McCain, but theirs is too symbiotic a relationship for that to really be true.

Gramm has been, if not the chief architect of the McCain economic platform, then certainly one of the two or three most influential. McCain has publicly stated that he knows little about the economy, and that he has not much interest in it. He has even said, on the record, that he relies on Gramm for advice on economic matters. Therefore, people like Gramm have held inordinate sway over the policies expounded by the McCain campaign. One can only imagine that this influence will be even more pronounced should McCain be elected in November. Is a Treasury Secretaryship in the future of Phil Gramm should such an unthinkable thing happen? Very likely according to many insiders within the McCain campaign.

Why should we worry about Gramm’s influnce on McCain and his economic policies? I’m glad you asked, because there are many reasons for not just unease at such a prospect, but for real alarm and worry.

Gramm is one of the main architects of the subprime meltdown that has forced hundreds of thousands of Americans into default on their home mortgages. Rather than being reviled as the villain who bankrupted much of middle America, as he deserves, Gramm is a highly paid executive with Swiss Bank, and a major influence over John McCain and that candidate’s economic policy and worldview.

Gramm, as chairman of the Senate banking committee, almost single-handedly kept the Securities and Exchange Commission from policing Wall Street in any meaningful way by threatening to cut off funding to the SEC should they perform the job they were created to do. Then in 1999, Gramm pushed through a banking deregulation bill that decimated the firewalls between commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, and securities firms that had been in place since the Great Depression. That deregulation set off a wave of merger mania unlike anything ever seen in these industries.

On December 15, 2000, Gramm drove the final nail into the platform that has led to the institutionalized failures we have witnessed recently, and are continuing to see go on unabated. As Congress and the Clinton Administration were hammering out a huge omnibus spending bill, Gramm inserted a 262 page measure called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, written with the help of financial industry lobbyists. Few lawmakers read the bill Gramm inserted, either through not having access to the written bill or the inclination to read it in the first place.

Gramm, on the floor of the Senate, declared that this act would ensure that neither the SEC, nor the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would be able to regulate a then-emerging financial product called “swaps”, thus protecting financial institutions from what Gramm called “overregulation.” This lobbyist-written and influenced, ill-conceived, and visceral piece of legislation led to the subprime mortgage crisis, bankrupted home owners, banks, and other institutions, and Phil Gramm has the gall to call us a nation of whiners and to say that we are in a “mental depression.” All the while he draws down millions from the very excesses that he set in motion as an incompetent United States Senator.

What the Commodities Futures Modernization Act actually did was to permit the growth of a 62 trillion dollar flurry of mortgage bundling into securities swaps that were allowed to be done without regulation or oversight needed to ensure that financial institutions and hedge funds had the assets to cover the losses that they guaranteed. That 62 trillion dollar market was more than four times the size of the U.S. Stock Market, and yet no one could look into or poke around in the dark recesses of its mechanics, thanks to Phil Gramm.

Gramm was also behind the Enron collapse, partly through enactment of that bill, in that it exempted energy trading from regulatory oversight. This allowed Enron to carry on such trading unabated and unregulated, resulting in a collapse that cost consumers, investors, pension plans, and state and local governments billions of dollars.

It’s also interesting to note that in the 1990s Gramm’s wife, Wendy, was chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and that in that role, she had pushed through a rule excluding Enron from government oversight in the trading of energy futures contracts. Mrs. Gramm later joined Enron’s board where her salary and stock income brought nearly two million dollars into the Gramm household.

Of course Gramm himself has profited handsomely from his deregulatory work, as noted earlier. He has, since his retirement from Congress, lobbied that very body, as well as the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department, as a paid shill for Switzerland’s biggest bank.

Gramm’s record as a lobbyist or as an irresponsible and reckless deregulator did not keep him from becoming the chief economic guru to the McCain campaign. Nor does his resignation from his co-chair position on that campaign mean that he will hold no additional influence within McCain’s inner circle. To think that a public statement of resignation means that decades of poor vision and suspicious activities are now out the window in regards to the McCain campaign would likely be an exercise in naivete.