Desk sergeant: You mean to say you got no identification at all?
Jack Burns: That's right.
Desk sergeant: No draft card, no social security, no discharge? No insurance, no driver's license, no nothing?
Jack Burns: No nothing.
Desk sergeant: Look, cowboy, you can't go around with no identification. It's against the law. How are people going to know who you are?
Jack Burns: I don't need a card to figure out who I am. I already know.
Lonely are the Brave
I'm flipping channels the other night looking for something to fall asleep to when I stumble on a Kirk Douglas movie from 1962. It was a typical Douglas, regular tough guy that doesn't want to be bothered, yet has an endearing quality. I eventually did knockout in the middle of the film (but want to see the whole thing) but not before one scene made me sit up. After getting beaten up by a one-armed man (he was a tough dude) Douglas was arrested. The desk sergeant began asking questions including a request for forms of identification.
Turns out Douglas's character, jack Burns, doesn't have any (see dialogue above) because he lives by the code that he already know who he was. There wasn't any mention of the need for identification being bias or unfair. Indeed I thought it was the law to this day. Yet, it's just another thing that has been commonplace- at least fifty years according to the movie- that is now creating victims. Getting good grades creates victims of those that don't get good grades. People that shoot others are victims of guns.
It's all nuts.
"Money can't buy you happiness, but it helps you look for it in a lot more places."
Looks like the only person getting a free pass is President Obama as Mitt Romney must explain his economic plan and Ben Bernanke felt compelled to defend his policies calling on Uncle Milton. I'm not talking about "Mr. Television" Milton Berle whose humor once made him the most famous entertainer alive. Instead Bernanke brought up a different Uncle Milton. In a speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Indiana Ben Bernanke defended his work as Fed Chairman and at the same time tried to create a sense of calm.
Of course the drastic actions of the Fed belie any notion the economy is well.
Still, Ben Bernanke said among other thing:
"We expect the economy to continue to grow."
"Our concern is not really a recession."
"Our concern is that growth will continue but at a pace insufficient to put people back to work."
While not causing panic on the economy was a focus of his comments it was mostly about defending policy. To that end Bernanke said the Fed has taken "very much to heart" the conclusions of Friedman and Anna Schwartz, (in the world of economics Friedman only needs one name like Madonna or Adele) whose 1963 book, "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960," said the Depression was triggered by monetary tightening and the collapse of the banking system.
In other words if there is a double dip recession history will not blame the Bernanke Fed.
Bernanke added "we were aggressive early in, we didn't allow the fact that interest rates were very low to fool us into thinking that monetary policy was as accommodative as it needed to be, and we were aggressive, as you know, in trying to prevent the collapse of the banking system." While it's true the Fed became aggressive including a secret $13.0 trillion lending program, but the Fed didn't act early, and that is something Bernanke cannot change.
The street wasn't sure what to make of Bernanke's comments which were contradictory at times. The house is not on fire but I'm still going to unleash Niagara Falls to dose the smoldering embers.
The rally ran out of steam, money moved into blue chip names and the street began to wonder about events later in the week. This economy isn't far from a double dip recession and that's the bottom line. I'm not a fan of the Fed's opaqueness (Bernanke made another plea for no increases in transparency or greater role for Congress) and crazy money-printing but I understand the frustration of a pro-growth Fed versus a anti-growth administration.
Their fortunes are tied together but one has to campaign while the other just coast along without having to explain why so many people aren't working, so many homes have been foreclosed, incomes are lower and malaise is part of the permanent fabric of the economy.
Speaking Of Charisma
Earlier in the week I mentioned charisma and the role it plays in our election process. Throughout history people have gone against common sense, and common morality to follow charismatic leaders. I can't think of any other areas where it's as important. When picking a surgeon we don't ask them to perform a song and dance routine and regal us with charm.
It's kind of a shame the most important trait the President of the United States most possess was the key strength of old school Vaudevillian performers.
Tonight is the first of several debates and according to many a do or die moment for Mitt Romney. While the media has been unfair and poisonous toward the GOP candidate it does feel like he has to find a way to communicate to the common man. He has to be folksy, humorous and tough at the same time. But can he be charismatic? One thing is for sure it's a lot less about resumes or game plans than sizzle and sparkle.
It should be exciting.
Charisma Cults and Country
Charisma, the magnetic ability of some people to inspire and lead others, is an enigma that most of us have experienced yet find hard to explain. The concept seems inherently mysterious and indefinable, but the power of a Churchill or a Hitler to dominate others is obvious. What is this thing called charisma?
The idea of a divinely inspired power or talent is as old as mankind. The oldest surviving work of fiction, the Epic of Gilgamesh, tells of a warrior-king, part god and part man, who quests for the secret of eternal life.
The word "charisma" comes from the name of the Greek goddess Charis, who personified grace, beauty, purity, and altruism. Possession of these faculties came to be known as charisma.
Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities (1997) by Len Oakes
Question of the Day
I think Americans put too much emphasis on charisma and after spending part of the weekend with relatives and friends I'm convinced we may be creating a cult in this country. Yet, without charisma a leader can't get people to buy into his or her vision and plans which renders them ineffective dead on arrival.
How important should charisma be as part of the job of being President of the United States?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org...we will post comments on www.wstreet.com
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