Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I have always admired people who try to predict the future. Governor Richard Lamm looked for trends which might give an indication of future consequences of legislative actions.

In my studies of the classics I recall much discussion of the Oracle at Delphi. Generals would go to the Oracle and ask her: "Should I go into battle against the Persians?" She would answer like this: "If you go into battle, general, a mighty kingdom will be destroyed."

The general went into battle and his enemies destroyed his kingdom. The oracle always tried not to be too specific on her predictions. She just did not mention that the kingdom to be destroyed was the general’s own.

I visited Delphi once, stood on the questioning stone and closed my eyes and asked if I should run for higher office. A British voice near me, high pitched and Oxford nasal warned, "Son, be careful, don't climb too high, you might fall." I felt like the Oracle had returned and I should be careful about what office I should seek. I looked and of course, it was not the oracle but a British mother speaking to her son.

I am happy I ran for auditor. I am having a grand time telling truth to power and working at helping power listen to reason, good judgment and best business practices.

Comes now an oracle, a predictor of the future, James Chanos, who unhesitatingly and boldly predicts the future. Chanos names names. He gives details in his predictions, contrary to the two-edged answers at Delphi. He warned about troubles with big banks, Boston Market chain and Tyco International.

Chanos has been saying for some time that China will be the next economic disaster to hit the world economic future. In the New York Times, Chanos warns China's fall will be "Dubai times 1000."

He accuses China of giving all the signs of a meltdown: cooking their books and not being truthful about their 8% growth rates. In the same article in The Times he answers skeptics for the signs he looks for in companies and countries pointing to disaster. He looks for "companies that appear to have overstated earnings, like Enron; companies that were victims of a flawed business plans, like many Internet firms; or have been engaged in 'outright fraud.'"

And remember what Shakespeare said: "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open my lips, let no dog bark."

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