It was 72 degrees this past weekend in New York City. It's an Al Gore, winter-free winter, conveniently temperate for all those other than ski resort magnates and the Senegalese who sell cashmere scarves up and down the streets here. The balmy weather is an appropriate metaphor for the balmy times we're in. It's a dislocated moment, and here are some inexplicable events that are the equivalent of April in January:
• President Bush is planning to announce his new Iraq strategy tonight. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense: tell the enemy your long-range plans. Can you imagine FDR making a speech to Congress laying out his scheme for taking back Europe? Why is the very existence of this speech not provoking ridicule?
• FBI have documents revealed that Justice Rehnquist was hopped up on the sedative-hypnotic Placidyl between 1972 and 1981, giving new meaning to the term "the highest court in the land." The fact that information about a druggy supreme court justice was systematically withheld should have been have been huge news, resulting in calls for bringing more transparency into the health and mental condition of Supreme Court justices. But it was a mere blip in the news cycle, generating less attention than Rush Limbaugh's drug abuse.
That is unfathomable. Beyond slurring his speech and having Farrah Fawcett-like difficulties in completing a sentence, Rehnquist was described by a doctor as being in possession of "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts." (I wonder if one of those included having his way with Sandra Day O'Connor.)
• The newly Democratic House of Representatives is planning to introduce and pass the September 11th Commission Bill. Many of the recommendations of the Commission, including those dealing with the illegal global market for nuclear weapons and cargo inspection, have not been implemented. What's inexplicable about this? That the Republicans still poll higher on national security issues despite the consistency of their Katrina-like handling of it.
• Wal-Mart can't seem to make up its mind if it's an evil slave owner or the heir to Rachel Carson. Last week they announced that they were putting all their market muscle behind an effort to convince America to buy more efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs. I guess they want to get us more accustomed to the ugly, harsh light that illuminates their crappy merchandise.
• Wesley Autrey man who jumped onto the subway tracks in New York City to save the life of a total stranger, triggered a media frenzy that trotted out the usual evolutionary biologists to opine on how altruism contributes to survival. Technology allows us to kill total strangers, but apparently we still need to rescue them the old-fashioned way.
• The Gap, whose fortunes were not lifted by black skinny pants and bringing back the winsome, sprite Audrey Hepburn, has hired Goldman Sachs to explore options, the most likely one being the sale of the company to a private equity firm. Here's the way that works: Gap management can't turn itself around, so the company gets bought by the likes of Blackstone or the Carlyle Group. They bring in new management, fix the ship, and set the company up for an IPO. The company goes public again and private equity makes a few billion. Question: if private equity can do it, why can't the Gap board?
• The Paulsen committee (or the Committee on Capital Markets for you formal types) issued a report that maintains Sarbanes-Oxley is hurting Wall Street by virtue of the onerous regulations. Actually, these punishing restrictions have squeezed largest bonus pool ever out of Wall Street. And enough money is sloshing around the system to create a desperate shortage of Ferraris. Yeah, let's liberalize the markets even more. Think what it would do for the Italian economy.