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Mon

17

Sep

2007

TH*NK*NG (CATALYSTS)
Monday, 17 September 2007 19:36
by Fred Cederholm

I’ve been thinking about catalysts. Actually I’ve been thinking Petraeus, interest rates, “fixes and carrys,” the election 2008 candidates, Oprah Winfrey, and Dede Forrest. A catalyst is something added into the mix of a process, situation, or a movement to accelerate activity and output. It may cause more of a desired effect to result than might otherwise occur, or it might merely speed up the process instead.

You see catalysts do not just happen without some outside intervention. They are engineered and have a long history on planet earth. From the earliest of times, alchemists sought “something” to turn base metal into gold – take something commonplace and of margin value (or even a liability) and make it into something rare, significant, and valuable. They were looking for catalysts, but beware as catalysts are a also double-edged sword. They may foster, promote, stimulate, and accelerate. However, the actions and re-actions may not always proceed unilaterally in the anticipated or desired direction.

Last week, we saw “der spinmeisters” of the administration push General Petraeus and his long anticipated reporting to the US Congress about the progress of American actions in Iraq made since the surge in troop deployments in spring. While Congress had mandated 18 criteria (or “bullet” points – no pun intended) for consideration and measurement, we all somehow knew the message was going to be one of “stay the course, minimal current troop reductions, and an American deployment of our young men and women long into the future.” With only marginal progress having been made on 3 of the 18 benchmark criteria, the Petraeus Report SHOULD justify a timetable for accelerated withdrawal instead. The opponents of the war should feel stimulated, NOT the proponents. Neither appears to be the case.

Last week also saw the publicity foreplay of the release of Maestro Greenspan’s book about his controversial tenure as the Chairman of the FED. It appears to be a composite history, apologia, and defense of the Greenspan years. The FED’s monetary and fiscal policies were clearly catalysts behind the dot-com boom, the irrational exuberance of a stock market running amok (and then crashing), and the surrogate bubble of the housing/Real Estate sector as the subsequent “fix” to an economic/ financial mess crested by the original meddling/ muddling of the FED’s rollercoaster interest rates! Will meetings of the Bernanke FED’s Open Market Committee on interest rates again interject the FED as the catalyst for good, or for ill? Will a return/ continuation of cheap money be the “fix,” the “carry,” or the problem?

US/us needs REAL leadership. The 2008 election of a President will prove perhaps THE most important of this generation. With rare exception, the candidates from both parties are lack luster, and depressing at best. We need our next President to be a true catalyst for change – to restore our economic, financial, and global reputation(s). Most of this gaggle appear straight out of Hollywood’s central casting with their good hair and great pearly whites. Where are the plan, the substance, and the real teeth we need. Democratic Senators Obama and Clinton, and Republican Congressman Ron Paul are clearly exceptions to the buffet of “the cream of wheat(s) on a beige plate.” But, are they the catalysts to put the fire into the bellies of their own parties? Or… will they accelerate the emotion behind support for their opposition candidates instead? Obama has captured the catalytic star power of Chicago talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, who has the reputation for being a rainmaker of public opinion and promotion. Her celebrity status “creates” celebrities. At least… she can sure make “a best seller” in the genre of books!

This past weekend my little hometown community celebrated its 51st annual Creston Booster Days festival. As part of this event, we single out someone who has volunteered and worked so very hard to make our community a special place. These individuals are true catalysts for change and betterment for our little village in only the most positive senses of the term. This year Dede Forrest was the recipient of the 2007 Theodore Cederholm Memorial Community Service Award. Congratulations, Dede, and thank you so much for all you’ve done for us. May God bless you as you have truly blessed us! I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
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