Observing some of the events of the past several weeks brought to mind some random thoughts on unconnected issues. So here goes: :: While I share the opinion of Bernie Madoff as a knave, thief and general scam artist, I find it difficult to work up much sympathy for his victims. Most of them were victims of their own greed – accepting annual returns of 12 - 15% through ups and downs, returns unequaled by any other investment; failing to do due diligence by accepting an unknown accounting firm to do annual audits; and failing to accept the basic investment principles of diversification.
The second statewide position is for a justice of the State Supreme Court. When I watch the political commercial of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who at 75 and been a justice for 32 years, I conclude that running for another 10 year term makes her a poster person for term limits. I ask myself why a person of 75 with 32 years of service wouldn’t gracefully retire with honors and give another individual an opportunity for public service on the State Supreme Court. I’ve asked the same question of candidates for public office at the national, state, county and municipal level. The answer I come up with is that all of them are so egotistical that they think they are indispensable and their little world in which they revolve would collapse without them. In my eight year service on the Ozaukee County Board I have observed supervisors in various stages of dementia who couldn’t find the right committee room or find the correct voting button, but still continued to run for office. A few years ago the electors of Ozaukee County passed a non-binding referendum by a 73% margin asking the County Board to implement a term limit policy for supervisors. Guess what? A majority of supervisors rejected the request with the rationale that the electors didn’t understand how important supervisors were, so that indefinite terms were an absolute necessity.
QED: Our Founding Fathers, in their wildest imagination, never conceived that elected representatives would make a life career out of it. Until term limits are initiated at all levels, the political process in America will continue to dive to lower and lower levels. The only current alternative is for the electorate to impose term limits in the voting both, so I will be voting for Justice Abrahamson’s opponent. . It’s time for a change from an old ‘war horse" who couldn’t deliver during his last seven years of service as Deputy Superintendent – I will vote for Evers’ opponent. Observing the commercials of candidates for two statewide positions leads me to these conclusions: Tony Evers, presently Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the past seven years, running for the top job, rattled off 8-10 school improvements he would implement if elected. When I heard this, I wondered what he had been doing the last seven years. I concluded he was either a hypocrite in stating these goals or incompetent in his ability to implement even one of these improvements in his service as Deputy Superintendent. The hysteria over so called bonuses to AIG’s Financial Products Corporation’s. critical employees was uncalled for and a political ploy to deflect attention to the real culprits for the economic meltdown including key members of the US Congress. : The nationwide uproar over the AIG bonuses to certain executives of their Financial Products Corporation unit reminds me of the Shakespearean quotation: "Me thinks he doth protest too much." Here’s how I read the current brouhaha. AIG, a very successful holding company of many different insurance units, decided to expand into the area of insuring the unique financial products dreamed up by Wall Street that included sub-prime mortgages and other complicated derivatives. AIG organized the Financial Products Corporation with a headcount of less than 500 out of some 116,000 worldwide employees. During the heyday of the housing boom, AIG made millions off this product insurance, but when the housing boom blew up and AIG had to pay the piper, the billions of dollars owed to the issuers of these unique financial products came due all at once and AIG faced bankruptcy in paying the claims. The US government stepped in with a bailout of some $126 billion which flowed through the AIG Financial Products Corp to such insurance policy holders as Goldman Sachs, Barclay’s and Deutsche Banks. To unwind this maelstrom, they needed to retain the most capable employees of the Financial Products Corp. who normally would have bailed out for greener pastures. So AIG negotiated retention contracts with these employees to make extra payments over and above normal salary to remain with the unit for prescribed times to complete the unwinding. This was a normal procedure used by many, many companies in shutting down subsidiaries and divisions. Like most scams, greed was the motivating factor driving both Madoff and his clients – so the blame is a 50/50 proposition of blame between them both. .