First Prediction, Bernie Madoff will not, I repeat, will not be named Treasury Secretary by President Elect Barack Obama. He already was an insider sufficient to avoid SEC scrutiny during the Bush and Clinton years, as well as by his New Yorker heavyweight clients who thought they knew as much as they needed to know about high finance, earning big returns, and keeping them as they did about Alaska and Sarah Palin. His simple scheme of taking in more money than he paid out (until those pesky Asians pretended they didn’t understand a hedge fund), was so brilliant that even his own sons had to be told about the crime, after refusing their early year end bonuses. They weren’t warned by the Barron’s article all those years back or by any small thing a dutiful son might notice, like (maybe) the way Bernie, had trouble handling his check account or his bills, that the man they knew intimately as their father could outperform the market during all the boom and bust years. And now, every famous loser interviewed has the same excuse: they were dealing with a middle man or a middle man’s middle man in a fund of funds and assumed that guy or that fund had the resident genius earning twelve percent in good years and bad. Bernie Madoff? Never heard of him- until now.
I believe all of this because –after all- I once believed in Santa Claus and the Chanukah Bunny. It’s the holiday season and I love cover stories.
Elliot Spitzer, the tough minded investigator who gave Wall Street and fraudsters fits, was driven off the hunt and out of the picture by a timely investigation of his bank records. At least he paid for services he received. Getting rid of Spitzer before the Bank bailout and the Madoff disclosure was just one big coincidence. It’s the holiday season.
And all of those sharp Upper Eastsiders who were ready to crow over those idiots from Alaska who could see Russia from some places, but worked and dined with thieves, sociopaths and corporate welfare kings? Was it too close to home for them to read the handwriting on the wall while Alaska was just far enough away for them to understand? Caroline Kennedy answers questions like Sarah Palin in the early days, but she is One of Them so Fit to Run. (By the way, I actually did see Russia from Alaska. After freaking out several nests of Puffins who retaliated by dive bombing me, I reached the top of a bluff over the Siberian Yupik Eskimo village of Gambell on the St. Lawrence Island. I found a gun emplacement, old sandbags and barbed wire. There it was. The first line of Defense in the Cold War, manned, no doubt, all those years ago, by a member of the Eskimo National Guard). So Sarah Palin’s comment was right.
Second Prediction. The Message of Change, which has already given way to Smaller Change in the face of catastrophe, will morph by Inauguration Day into a truly Kennedy-esqe message. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’s money transfer machine.” If you are too big to fail, step to the front of the line. If you’re union, prepare to crawl. The second Obama excuse- “It was Bush’s fault”. Repeat after me, “It was Bush’s fault”. Bill Clinton? Deregulation in the Clinton era? Who, he? By the way, so-called Conservatives and Moderate Democrats who used deregulation to cripple government protection were not Conservatives or Moderate Democrats at all. They were Anarchists set to destroy a working government. When they made enforcement of laws impossible with niggardly appropriations (just an expression, like Washington “Redskins”), their aim was to make government a hated burden on taxpayers. When they gave our money away to those who helped them get into office with their donations, they communicated to the rest of us that tax collection was extortion of the less powerful for the powerful. Why throw bombs when you can destroy from within while keeping yours hands clean? They rewrote the “Anarchists’ Cookbook”.
Third Prediction- The Obama Brand is the hottest commercial label in the public domain. You’ve seen the painted coins on cable TV. Sure, Spellcheck still can’t get it right. Their programmer still has the flu. “Obama” still comes up, “Osama.” His face will appear everywhere, on clothing lines, on underwear, on wallpaper, on the sides of cars, on umbrellas, even on shoes. Watch for this on Inauguration Day. It will look like Carnival in Rio or Accra on Independence Day, all in High Definition.
Fourth Prediction- Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming. The Terminator has the perfect bio for higher office, a combination of movie fantasy, a Kennedy connection, political visibility and flexibility as California’s governor. As he grapples with that state’ depression, comparisons with Obama’s efforts are inevitable. I thought he would run for Vice President this last time around. That’s Constitutionally allowable for foreign-born right now. But he was smarter than that. Watch for a move to amend the Constitution to allow a citizen in this nation of immigrants to run for President before 2012. In four years, America will want the Terminator. To terminate our problems.
Fifth prediction: The Alaskan fixation will continue. Palin haters and admirers abound. Anonymous bloggers to the Anchorage Daily News drive those of us who are interested in an exchange of ideas on the state and its people absolutely batty. There is a way for non-Alaskans to learn about Alaska before 2012. The Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN.ORG), the best statewide public radio in the nation, is available on the web. APRN has been a farm system for NPR for years. Peter Kenyan, Elizabeth Arnold, Corey Flintoff and others did their time in Alaska. Listen to APRN, especially back programs of the eclectic AK, with a map at your side to locate communities. Then you can drive Alaskans nuts with astute advice. And, remember. Sarah Palin said a lot of stupid things on the campaign trail, but did not steal a dime of your money. Remind the next New Yorker you meet who sneers at Alaska, to say hello to Bernie.
Sixth prediction. Clean coal technology , described by the President-elect in campaign appearances as America’s next moon shot, a clip now repeated endlessly by the coal industry on CNN with the background chant of “Yes, we can,” will waste precious tax dollars and succeed when it is finally proven that missile defense works and the moon is made of feta cheese.
Seventh prediction, the President will get on the Patch and encourage millions of smokers to do the same. Otherwise, his sculpted physique will encourage millions of supporters to take up smoking and Rahm will have to keep him away from the nuclear button during his nicotine fits. He will wear a hat on Inauguration Day, bringing back the haberdashery industry destroyed by President Kennedy when he went bareheaded on his own cold January morning. Take it from an old-time Alaskan, Mr. soon-to-be President; keeping all that heat from escaping off the top of your head is a proven energy saver. Unlike clean coal technology.
Eighth Prediction. Vice-President elect Joe Biden, who received a portfolio to deal with the ills of the middle class, will admit his earlier successes in amendment of the bankruptcy laws on behalf of the credit card industry were destructive of middle-class wellbeing, and, as the preeminent expert on consumer debt, will seek a massive revision of this federal law to allow debt forgiveness similar to that provided the financial industry. His candor will earn him the grudging respect of the nation and his former colleagues in the Senate. Biden will urge his President to bring John Edwards, the only candidate who focused on the Nation’s poor, back from the political wilderness, to a top policy post on issues of poverty. And he will press the President to nominate former Carter cabinet member and former Public Citizen Director, Joan Claybrook, to a new post as America’s consumer czar. After all, it’s the holiday season.
Happy New Year, everyone.
STEVE CONN lived in Alaska from 1972 until 2007. He is a retired professor, University of Alaska. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org