Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Yeah, we had a bad bad ice storm up here in New England but for me, the real news in this mundane and terse report on the storm's lingering effects is that our power companies are owned by foreigners. While Lehman Brothers' Mr Fuld and other captains of the US investment industry were greedily swapping defaults, believing the sales pitches of Ponzi schemers and generally whooping it up waist deep in frothy fecal financial instruments with visions of skyward tilting trends, investors in Spain and London bought up our power companies. You are going to keep needing electricity even if the economy NEVER gets well again. Now who are the smartest guys in the room? Real assets for real investors and paper fortunes for those who will only deserve to be able to wipe their bums.

I admit I am still puzzled as to how a period of near-zero interest rates is going to cure problems partly precipitated by the housing bubble that grew on the fertilizer of a few years of unprecedented 2% and 1% fed funds rates between October 2001 and May 2004.

So is there any good news in the economy? Housing starts and sales are cadaverous, manufacturing activity has fallen off a cliff and price index measures sure seem to signal an incipient deflationary period.

Ah ha! There is one US business sector where the bloom is still on the boom. [It happens to be the industry, I confess, that often pays my salary]. Does that $40 billion in arms sales to dictators and dubious allies make up for the $40 billion that Madoff embezzled? I compare the "good" profits of our one healthy industry with the bad of our worst crook because I see the same ill deep in their hearts. It is all too human a trait to be able to blind oneself morally with the glittering light that shines from a pile of gold. Both the arms merchants and the crooked investment adviser ruin people's lives. They just do it in different ways.

But as Jarecki made so clear in his documentary Why we fight, the arms merchants are so in bed with the government that they are the one industry the government will guard from foreign ownership, even if they have to prevent "wasteful" domestic spending to persevere. We partner and cooperate with other countries in making war but we like to keep the profits for ourselves as much as possible.

There are some who can question the morality of this business:

The New America Foundation, a nonprofit research group, has called on Obama, who will be sworn in January 20, and the new U.S. Congress to consider multilateral efforts to curb "destructive and destabilizing" weapons exports.

More than half of the top 25 U.S. arms purchasers in the developing world were "undemocratic governments or regimes that engaged in major human rights abuses," in 2006 and 2007, the foundation said in a report last week.

But even the French masters of war just come out and say it: the terror they combat is the prospect that the world would become unsafe for war profiteering. Lord, we don't need another jet fighter.

What if the foreign investors go after our last growth industry: the death merchants? Don't you worry now, quick and sloppy death and the constant rattling of sabers in the third world will always have MADE IN USA on it somewhere.

Will the masters of war rescue our jobs as Bernanke has not? I think the case is the exact opposite and Bernanke just isn't aware or won't admit that he is trying to breath life into a domestic economy bled to death by a gargantuan tumor of defense appropriations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I vote for change IN THE PRESS CORPS

This "good bye kiss" from the Iraqi press to the source of so much suffering in Iraq is going to get a disproportional amount of air time.  As the son of a Bush prepares to slink off off the stage of history leaving blood, shit and ruins on all sides, one Iraqi journalist had the nerve to let him know what many in Iraq think of his nation building.  If only our own press corps were so untamed by the adminstration's control of access.  Though Mr. Zaidi will likely have his press pass withdrawn by someone in Maliki's tattered little government, there will surely be plenty of others to fill, er, um, ...his shoes.  I entertain the thought that the gaggle of pet journalists we call the white house press corp could be a little less cowed by the fear of being excluded from press briefings and photo ops if they understood the esteem the rest of the nation would accord them for chancing a disinvitation in exchange for harder and more pointed questions.  We have plenty of journalist who would like to be in the room when the president or the sec of state speak.  And when we have run out of the present crop, there are pools of excellent talent in  this country who could carry on the new tradition of true press freedom.  How could it be worse than the softball our best most privileged journalists played with the white house as Plame was shafted?

Too bad we didn't have a good shoe chucker in 2003.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Screw the bankers

There are plenty of ways to share the blame for the present poor state of the economy. In particular, I would say the MSM coverage, excluding the outlets owned by and patently inclined to paint the world as seen by uncle Rupert, has been able to sell more papers by making it sound as if the boards of directors and the vice presidents in charge of creatively disguising trashy debts as sound investments are exclusively the devils in this saga. And on my side of the blogosphere, we see plenty of counter arguments against the stupidity of conservatives who try to lay all harms at the feet of "socialist meddling" in bank regulation that required banks which took deposits in poorer neighborhoods to make loans in those same neighborhoods. I don't happen to think the conservatives are actually stupid on this particular topic but observe that their selfishness and willing alienation from have-not classes makes them function as if stupid.

In the middle of an excellent article he as just written for Vanity Fair, Niall Ferguson seems to reach a similar view: plenty of blame to share if blame is what makes you feel good:
This hunt for scapegoats is futile. To understand the downfall of Planet Finance, you need to take several steps back and locate this crisis in the long run of financial history. Only then will you see that we have all played a part in this latest sorry example of what the Victorian journalist Charles Mackay described in his 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

You see we have had social conservatives whose numbers were spread over several economic classes for a long time in this country. And for 30 years, the old voting patterns of poor vs rich were successfully breached by the Rovesque strategies of wedge issue politics around social issues. But I think that the fact that until some point in the late 70s or early 80s the middle class had been expanding and average wealth rising was the ironic enabler of the shift in voting patterns. The success of liberal views in raising the standard of living was to some extent then the cause of its own eventual failure at the polls: we never ceased to "vote our pocket books" but our pocket books seemed to be headed toward higher tax brackets. By an equally ironic turn, the last 30 years of "success" of this perverse conservative shift have so ruined our economy that the voting block of people whose dominant issue is a feeling of financial precariousness has expanded back toward the majority that it was in the first half of the 20th century. I say success because the Republicans DID control congress and the White house long enough to significantly expand the advantages of corporations and high income families. Perverse because in 30 years of legislation, [de]regulation and rhetoric ad nauseum about wasteful government spending, they managed to completely expunge that quaint notion that debt is a bad thing and bills should be paid on time from our our nations political dialog.

I mentioned blame. Except for the downward spirals of divisive politics, blame is not a useful tool. Note how seldom Obama named names and how often he spoke rather of hope, change and what to do to make things better. With the pathetic exception of the 2000 election, Americans damn well got what they voted for whether they understood that or not at the time they cast their ballots. Blaming a banker, or a debt rating agency, or a financially insecure first time home buyer who takes an oversized loan is beside the point. Assessing where we have systemic failures should be a first priority. Systemic failure would include shoddy neutered regulatory powers as we now, even Alan Greedspan, all seem to recognize. We should be concerned who knew what and when they knew it regarding the margins of debt and levels of risk and unsustainable or fragile leveraging of debt. Greed being the heart of all actors in this tragedy, our best defense against the kind of fiscal calamity in which we are all now stewing is transparency.

So, getting back to blame, who fights transparency? All of us like to hold our cards close to the vest but who mounts an organized and well funded war on transparency?  We who go for a loan to buy a $22000 car get x-rayed for our credit history and lenders can go on line and learn details of our financial past we ourselves hardly remember. Can the nation's tax payers ask the same questions of those lenders who now want trillions of OUR tax dollars? Hell NO! No one less than Bloomberg has been trying to get a little transparency and they find:
Banks oppose any release of information because that might signal weakness and spur short-selling or a run by depositors, Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington trade group, said in an interview last month.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Kristol Knocked

Everybody gets it wrong. I don't have high hopes for my country's future. We will probably wind up with a stimulus package that puts a boob job and face lift on an economic model that is more ready for taxidermy. The word "green" will no doubt get used liberally, its all the rage. Infrastructure expenditures at least might, for better or worse, still be facilitating the growth of commerce in our children's time. My misgivings, not to belabor the matter more in this outing, arise from my distrust of growth as an unquestioned economic holy cow. But there is a "stimulus" that will make the money just go away, doing at most nothing better than getting people killed as it goes to oblivion....growth will not be a side effect. I speak of the dumbest response to the stimulus idea and it comes from right where you would expect.

Near the end of his confused confession that, in effect, Republican administrations have expanded government spending [ though he neglects to mention that they did so by borrowing in our names, rather than honestly paying via taxes], the incredibly stupid alien named Mr William Kristol is inexplicably allowed to write the following diaper load in the New York Times:
Similarly, if you're against big government, you'll oppose a huge public works stimulus package. If you think some government action is inevitable, you might instead point out that the most unambiguous public good is national defense. You might then suggest spending a good chunk of the stimulus on national security directing dollars to much-needed and underfunded defense procurement rather than to fanciful green technologies, making sure funds are available for the needed expansion of the Army and Marines before rushing to create make-work civilian jobs. Obama wants to spend much of the stimulus on transportation infrastructure and schools. Fine, but lots of schools and airports seem to me to have been refurbished more recently and more generously than military bases I've visited.

The reader commentary gleefully flings Mr Kristol's poo back in his face

"Unambiguous good". Kristol, you are a disgusting paper peckered twit! Oh what a helpful expenditure the 750 billion already blown on military adventures in Iraq has been for us! Look how we prosper! By all means Mr. Kristol, lets pour more of this money we no longer have down this star spangled rat hole of yours. Even the generals who still have lunch with you for want of any other fan club must feel ashamed afterwards.

Oil: get over it.

Sen. Dodd asking for the head of the chairman of GM misses the point and sounds personal in the process. Obama himself is the only quoted official who has said anything remotely sane about bailing out the auto industry but it remains to be seen if he is setting the tone for this Bailout.

President-elect Barack Obama, whose transition team has been involved in the talks, made starkly clear in an interview and at a brief news conference on Sunday that any aid to the Big Three auto companies should not come without significant concessions.

"They're going to have to restructure," Mr. Obama said in an interview on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "And all their stakeholders are going to have restructure. Labor, management, shareholders, creditors — everybody is going to recognize that they have — they do not have a sustainable business model right now, and if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can't keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they, frankly, should have made 20 or 30 years ago."

So we are going to bail out the dinosaurs who lobbied successfully for a "truck" loophole in fleet mileage standards after OPEC gave notice in 73 that oil prices were theirs to set. This industry, for salvation of which labor and shareholders and management alike beg my tax dollars, is the same one that foisted off the SUV on the fatuous American car market and had us all driving "trucks" through their loophole. Mr. Frank, an intelligent representative whom I trust to be well informed about the likely financial consequences of inaction, is nonetheless being stampeded by the dire prospect of double digit joblessness. Pray, do not join us in our financial neurosis, Barney! I would advise Congressman Frank to stand back and let this 8-cylinder, 5 MPG industry be hung, albatross-fashion, around the neck of the departing turd who will soon trudge back to Texas.

We once made great bicycles and were only the more healthy for doing so. But we did not bail out the bicycle companies that faced bankruptcy. [do read that link. It is a short review of a great cautionary tale of how to ruin an industry leader...we better learn its lessons quickly] The companies we are now being asked to give billions to rescue have been merely larger scale examples of the mismanagement and missed markets that sank Schwinn.

Surely we could pick a better industry to save than the one that has lobbied to keep us up to our chins in debt and Saudi oil with only smoke to breath. We should be a bit more grown up. We should face the fact that change is painful and our fortunes have shrunken...NOW is the time to bite such bullets and tighten such belts as are needed to turn us toward a greener and more sustainable economy. If money we will be long repaying must be spent, NOW is the time for us to invest it in things that wean us from our 20th century fuelishness and fondness for fattened asses.

David Brooks misrepresents Obama's stance on salvaging our junkie domestic car industry but his questioning of why we won't let a failure go about its failing so as to make room for whatever creature will prove fitter than the paleocarbonmobile industry are questions we should answer. I would not be much moved by the dissolution of Detroit though my view of its demise as a benign effect comes from a quite different rationale than Mr. Brooks. We who live, live with the "what happened" of our history and the professors and authors live with the "why it happened". Let it happen. How often have you seen Krugman and Brooks in anything like a state of agreement? Do you realize the money sought by Automakers would suffice to retrain most of their workers for greener jobs?

Friday, December 05, 2008

e-petition your ______

In the last week or two, my in-box increasingly bulges with the flurry of pleas to sign this petition or that. And I have gone along with many of these requests. I used to clean the personally identifying data out of the requests and post them at Daily Cause but its a lot of work. I can however point you to a very useful website I learned of via one of these pleas:

The Bush administration is feverishly f__king the environment, old-growth forests, workers rights and a number of other causes for the benefit of its corporate sponsors. All this goes on while congress is distracted with the fallout of 8 years of financial mismanagement. Whatever rule changes the executive branch can, or at least thinks it can, make without congressional oversight, it is changing full speed ahead.

Go to that linked page to see regulation changes you may care to protest or which are still subject to public comment prior to their adoption. Bush is not dead yet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Small change

What is the use of keeping this conflicted nincompoop in power? I understand Obama wants to build a consensus administration but building bridges to the conservative base should be done with steel and concrete rather than balsa wood and pressed yak dung, in a manner of speaking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barak Obama, American Political holographic Rorschach

Let me review for you how many ostensibly distinct constituencies lay claim on Obama as "their man" in one sense or another.

Some folks in Kenya...that is understandable but the politics of that country brought Obama's father here rather than that man bringing Kenya's politics, and we are grateful as we have quite enough political dysfunction of our own making, thank you very much.

Those tears you saw in Jesse Jackson's eyes Tuesday night in Chicago were one eloquent moment of video worth a thousand books that made me forgive TV its generally pandering to least common denominator viewer. There is a constituency, not precisely defined by their skin color, but by the tears they too had in their eyes at America finally living up to it's potential to do the right thing. This is a constituency to watch.

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon must have been cleaning the trash or looking for websites where you can find the words of conservatives who have had their distemper shots. He points us to Murdoch's newest newswarper, the WSJ where Scott Rasmusson tells us that Obama got his votes because he had an appeal like Reagan's [NO SHIT, he actually writes:]
He offered voters an upbeat message, praised the nation as a land of opportunity, promised tax cuts to just about everyone, and overcame doubts about his experience with a strong performance in the presidential debates.

Does this sound familiar? It should. Mr. Obama followed the approach that worked for Ronald Reagan. His victory confirmed that voters still embrace the guiding beliefs of the Reagan era.

MoveOn members must have loved Obama. Though I never heard one of them call him a progressive, the hope he stirred was palpable at MoveOn GOTV efforts I attended. At least Obama is fashioning a way to have dialog with progressives...I doubt Bush distinguished MoveOn or other progressive interests from an unarmed communist insurgency he could afford to ignore.

One group I consider the most meaningful constituency to think Obama owes them anything is teh voters: 65,974,960 of them.

But somehow we lib'ruls were all fooled because actually Obama won as a conservative!
[how do people get paid to say such crazy crap? I could be rich!]

The coastal highbrows and intellectual elites [all fighting words in our political vocabulary ] according to Kristof at NY Times, see Obama and sigh "landsman!"
Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.
Personally, it is under that, more than my affiliation with liberal politics, that I fix hope and attachment on the president elect. My copy of Atlantic is NOT tucked inside some NASCAR magazine. Have I given myself away by assuming NASCAR fans know how to read?

Well, the list goes on, as you might expect when there is a new king and the old one needs his diapers changed. We do want change.

People voted for Obama out of hope, people voted for McCain out of fear and habit. The decades of wedge issue politics and synthesizing majorities via mastery of corporate media, such as Rove excelled at, have really made fear and habit synonymous in American voters. That era of politics has just failed a contest against a new era. Neither hope nor fear require being highly informed or even being rational.

I watch intently to see what really changes but I doubt much of what now seems wrong in our world will change if we ourselves do not change first.

UPDATE: Not likely the NY Times writers read my blog for ideas but nice to know we see the same patterns.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Hell Yes! There are all kinds of reasons so many came together at the polling places to elect Obama but undoing the shitty decisions that the decider enacted unilaterally is one of the best reasons.

I suppose it would have been a bit over the top for Obama to have campaigned with the slogan "change you have been praying for" but it would have worked for me.

We have such a long, long way to go.

What most becomes a democracy

In Senator Byrd's yielding the power of his role as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in McCain's concession speech and in Al Gore deciding not to fight the questionable process by which he was done out of the presidency in 2000 there is a sweetly hopeful theme. While we do need regulation in finance and commerce to hold self serving in check and we need checks and balances in government to stave off the ego, the clique and the single interest cabals, those controls alone will not save us from ourselves. We also can be grateful for that quality of character that most becomes a member of a democracy: recognizing when his or her preferences have parted ways from what is best for the common good and letting that good prevail.

Over the years, I have pitched in small donations to help Byrd repel the vile political buffeting from Virginia's reactionaries and said an occasional good word here to point out the clear headed defense of our institutions that he had so often mounted. Though his fight is far from finished and his spirit is still in the fight, he knows when to quit.

By not just relinquishing but doing so with explicit consent, these people exemplify a value that wedge issue politics have bruised and obscured: these leaders are saying to us that they honor the process more than the person, the federation more than the faction. By this they cheer on and steady the toddling gait of our frailer-than-supposed constitutional democracy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A country within a country and other election fallout

Map of the new borders of No. Nigrastan

Brad Delong pointed to Matt Yglesias who pointed to a map the NY Times provided to illustrate where the events of the last 8 years caused an increase in Republican votes rather than the much more logical reverse. And as it was passed from link to link each writer made important observations about the meaning of such a map. Of course, it is not a pattern owing to the last 8 years or to the accomplishments of the Bush league but to the prospect of the alternative leadership that sprang up in response. I don't have to be worried about being fired from my writing job so let me spell out its significance in stark and few words: A large factor in McCain's loss is that N0. Nigrastan has shrunken. Palin may not know where Africa is and the benighted denizens of No. Nigrastan have voted their certainty that it could not produce the father of a man of presidential stature. When she comes back out of the woodwork in 2012, Palin should definitely run for president of this disgraceful and irrelevant new enclave.

Why would the Barbie Doll of necon fantasies go into the woodwork after such a bang up job on the Republican ticket? Nothing to wear. And those Republican lawyers were also looking for her integrity but they will just have to settle for the clothes.

I too thought this video was funny. After such a desperately needed victory, the wind naturally goes out of your sails a bit. My serious expectation is that MoveOn members will strive to be a conscience for the president Obama as much as they did to be supporters of candidate Obama. It does mean we will have less to do than under Bush.

There have been some good comments or perhaps self congratulating from quite a few bloggers that new media has made for a new kind of political campaign. I agree. It has gotten harder to make lies stick when anyone with google and a blog can rebut.

And lastly, some digs at a few of the pundits who write stuff I actually read.

Thom Friedman frequently says things I agree with and says them well:
And somewhere they also knew that after the abysmal performance of the Bush team, there had to be consequences for the Republican Party. Electing McCain now would have, in some way, meant rewarding incompetence. It would have made a mockery of accountability in government and unleashed a wave of cynicism in America that would have been deeply corrosive.


Bush & Co. did not believe that government could be an instrument of the common good. They neutered their cabinet secretaries and appointed hacks to big jobs. For them, pursuit of the common good was all about pursuit of individual self-interest.

My problem with Mr Friedman is when he says things. For a guy who purports to have his fingers on the pulse of our economic culture firmly enough to project its trends, I find it suspicious that he is only now saying things about the Bush League you could have read from Atrios, or Josh Marshall seven years ago. Turn around and watch where you are going Thom.

David Brooks is a different case. I give him good marks for consistency. He always says a few clued in things and then blunts his insight with some sort of conservative blinders that nothing will remove from in front of his vision. Today he claims to know the "meaning" of the election results and to know where the voters are coming from:
The administration of my dreams understands where the country is today. Its members know that, as Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center put it on “The NewsHour,” “This was an election where the middle asserted itself.” There was “no sign” of a “movement to the left.”

I fear he may have a reasonable fix on the center of gravity of the electorate's sentiments but in typical Brooks fashion, he proceeds to talk as if that is where they should be and bowing to their unenlightened views would be the right course. No, David, its not like that. We are so very fucked up because a 30 year reign of Republicans and a few Democrats thought they were governing as your essay dreams: a little to the right of the sacred cow of centrist appeasing. You are looking at a sacred cheeseburger right now. Your thinking grinds to a useless halt in a pit of vagueness when you approach the matter of how bad things really are right now:
Most of all, they’ll take significant action on the problems facing the country without causing a mass freak-out among voters to the right of Nancy Pelosi.
Significant action but not enough new ideas to ruffle any one's feathers? Yeah, right. In the Obama administration of MY dreams, an inspirational message some how finally soaks in for each of us to take more responsible portions of the cost of paying our debts, living and governing within our environmental and economic means and admitting our place in the world is peer, not master. It will ruffle quite a few feathers if our sense of worry, pain and neediness, which has been used to convince us we need not share more with our neighbors, is flipped and shown to have grown upon us precisely because of how routinely disconnected and selfish we have been with our neighbors.

A far better essay from Mr Brooks was his previous NY Times piece. He said hard words about the broken promise and political underachievement of the spoiled generation we call the baby boom...the Not So Great Generation as I call them. In keeping with his need to mar every good thought he has, Brooks emphasizes the wealth of Obama's backers and ignores how much of his record breaking campaign fund came from nobodies like yours truly. I share Brook's dismay at the frittering away of the spiritual capital with which my generation seemed to roar in the 60's but which eventually climbed into an SUV and drove off to a McMansion in the suburbs where it only voted its fears and stood only for its entitlement to ignorance and uninvolvement.

But much as I agree with Brooks' dire words about how ill prepared this nation is to finally start paying for its necessary services just at a time when we have burnt all our surpluses, I think he is utterly clueless about what a "liberal" response to scarcity entails.
We’re probably entering a period, in other words, in which smart young liberals meet a stone-cold scarcity that they do not seem to recognize or have a plan for.

They say heaven and hell are identical: Infinite banquet tables where endless rows of souls sit facing each other across a sumptuous spread of food. And in both heaven and hell, the people are manacled in an interesting way that locks their arms straight at the elbows. Every motion is possible except bringing their hands to their mouths. In hell the sullen rows of people complain and starve. In heaven, they simply spoon food into each other's mouths. The difference between plenty and scarcity is as much about our willingness to share as it is about the amount of our provisions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


We have made history, now can we fix history?

We had a rough debate but its done. All sides were heard and we are still one country. If McCain had been half so gracious in campaigning as he was in defeat, defeat would not have been so complete.

There will be, more or less as expected, some new help for Obama in congress. The changing face of congress does have the complexion Krugman foresaw: moderate republicans replaced by democrats but pimpled with reprobates of red meat republicanism still there to sabotage what ever they can. I won't bother linking all the sober op-eds and analysis pieces about the mess Bush leaves Obama: the guy is going to need all the help he can get.

There are still places where progress can be repealed, however.

just do it. do it justice

Election 2008 Voting Information

Today, November 4th, is Election Day! Remember to vote--not just for Barack Obama, but for Congressional, state and local candidates as well.

Where and when do I vote?

Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information by checking out these sites and the hotline below. These resources are good, but not perfect. To be doubly sure, you can also contact your local elections office.

What should I do before I go?

  • After you've entered your address on either Vote For Change or Vote411, read the voting instructions and special rules for your state.
  • Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it.
  • Check out all the voting myths and misinformation to look out for: http://truth.voteforchange.com/

What if something goes wrong?

  • Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then demand a provisional ballot.
  • If you're voting on an electronic machine with a paper record, verify that the record is accurate.
  • Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE
  • Try to get video of the problem and submit it to VideoTheVote.org

Want to do more?

  • Text all of your friends: "Vote Obama today! Pass it on!"
  • Volunteer at your local Obama office. Find an office here or here.
  • Make calls from home for Obama.

Now everybody go vote!!!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Your Choice, America.

There is nothing I could add to the rising din of news, no outrage at swift boating ads or voter suppression you have not already got coming at you from a torrent of sources. I can report that my MoveOn party to make calls into VA was a fun affair and we found a dozen volunteers among the hundreds of calls we made. I have had robots calling me to urge I vote for this or that republican...don't they have any people in their party? The calls I get for democrats are all from humans. I think there is a message in that.

I post this on the off chance that anyone who reads here before Tuesday is either complacent about an Obama win or actually still under the impression that McCain is more than a shell of the man he seemed to be in 2000. If this nation does not elect Obama, and if it does not do so in a broadly sweeping way that brings in a better congress then we will be lead by our fears and our selfishness. Obama will not save us but he will ask us to save ourselves. McCain will promise us security and give us richer corporations...just going down the path we have been on and which has brought us to a dark moment in our history. 2000 was a mistake, 2004 was a massive show of poor character and cowardice....maybe this is our last chance?

Please, Please do vote and do it for the kind of country you know YOU could restore to your heirs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the news will be repeated until you get a fxxxking clue

This AP report, which I found nowhere else but in Huffington Post underscores a point that was perfectly obvious to me before I researched the issue back in 2006. Bush and McBush desperately need fear and terror to consolidate their fascist grip on the mind of the nation. Al-Qaeda know this perfectly well. They are, via this news story, finally on record as admitting that they need a belligerent guns-beat-words leadership in America in order for their cruel and primitive view of Islam to sell well with the so called Arab street. It is a kind of deadly embrace of backward interests we cannot afford to support.

Neoconservative hawks, and other idiots who still support our counterproductive abortion in Iraq should face a few facts. Bush did not fight back in any useful way against the architects of the 9/11 attacks...he just helped them recruit so that they continue to gain ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

UPDATE: eventually WaPo and TPM picked up on this "endorsement". Good, the more the better. I'd like it if the facts that McBush campaign are trying to completely reverse by mere assertion and spin got wider exposure. That would make it more obvious that the credibility of the McBush campaign is in the toilet because they put it there. They are pathetic and I doubt they understand what credibility is all about or why their lack of it has only driven them to shred it further with desperate tactics.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

but then so did Milton Friedman!

Congratulations to Paul Krugman, and a big grin for all us liberals and progressives who have been cheered by his opinions written up in the NY Times over the last few years: He has won the Nobel Prize in economics for his improvements to models and explanations of international trade.

One more example of how much worse the present administration is at financial leadership than most of its critics outside of government.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

paranoia is optional

In a conversation with a friend last week I heard something about a coup that Bush had pulled or was planning to pull...I happen to trust this person though the story seemed outlandish. So I looked into it.

At bottom, the news fact around which the speculation has crystallized is this vague mention of a deployment of active army brigade to train for a prospective domestic urban counter terror mission. The correction at the bottom of that article bears reading.

When Democracy Now wrote it up, they did not seem too alarmed nor did they read too much into the Army Times piece.

So is this post by Chicago Dyke at CorrenteWire a little over the top?

Not as crazy as she sounds. I thought bringing in the regulars just to have them standing around resting from their year or two of wasting Iraqis was bad enough. And it doesn't actually violate the third amendment. But, as one commenter to the Correntewire post points out, such deployment probably violates the Posse Commitatus law, which is nowadays interpreted as prohibiting the use of federal armed forces to do domestic peace keeping that is the domain of state authorities. That law has a weird history. But even if you don't opt for the conspiracy theory don't you just hate having a president who thinks the national guard is for deploying to discretionary wars in foreign countries and regular army brigades are for riot control? How screwed up is our government?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yet another day of atonement.

Duh economy
Well its getting pretty bad here folks. Not sure where to draw the line between buying opportunities and bear traps...$4 GM shares anyone?...the company's liabilities exceed its assets just now according to MarketWatch data. The amount that has evaporated out of retirement accounts in the last year is headed toward 10 trillion dollars: that is about $33000 for each person in the USA which would be enough to pay off the national debt. My consolation at having so shriveled a nest egg will have to be that I have lived to see a Republican administration complete the nationalization of the banking system, which actually began in the FDR administration's attempt to cure the depression's collapsed banks. That Republican administration swore its true belief in the gospel of free and unregulated markets.

I was raised in a home where Republican was the only choice and my dad cursed Democrats and FDR in particular...though I could never get a clear explanation of that stance. FDR-hatred must have been a common ailment among the reactionary patchwork of constituencies that neoconservatism pulled together for Reagan. The end result is that these assholes have made capitalism look like more of a failure than even I believe it to be. And yet, my sense of revenge is sweet.

In its effort to trace the roots of the rot that grips our markets, New York Times casts a critical eye on the wonk-hero of the economy for the previous decade: Alan Greenspan. Genteel enough to grace Time magazine covers 20 years ago and work amiably enough with a Clinton administration as well as a Bush Administration, he even had a grudging fan in Brad DeLong...until recently. But do not be fooled. The guy liked Ayan Rand's writing - a lot - so why do you think his policies would care about YOU? The Times and plenty of other sources cite deregulation of financial markets as the cause of present grief. That deregulation went on since Reagan Administration let the Savings and Loan industry crater while its magnates wined and dined John McCain and then got bailed out with your tax money. When congress was Newtered in the mid 90's systematic removal of oversight went on apace until 2004, when SEC basically said to the investment bankers "y'all can just police yourselves". I understood none of this as it was happening. But I had the queasiest discomfort at 2% prime interest rates making houses seem affordable to people who were in fact NOT getting raises under the bush administration ... which was simultaneously spending ever increasing levels of borrowed money itself. I could not understand why inflation was not worse [that may have been dampened by the shift to foreign labor that went on concurrently]. It just felt like Greenspan was faking a recovery....so I moved investments I control [much of my retirement money is managed and out of my hands] into cash. As of today, those investments are in tact and my tax-free municipals have made a tiny 3% a year since 2003. I admit I felt a bit foolish at first when the market continued up to 14000 but now I lick my chops and smile at all the bargains I can buy into!

Was/is the problem really deregulation? When asked if the complex derivitives contracts that imaginative bankers cooked up to hide the risk in bundles of bad housing loans had been a bad idea, Greenspan said no:
The problem is not that the contracts failed, he says. Rather, the people using them got greedy. A lack of integrity spawned the crisis, he argued

But if you ask me, Greenspan is actually conceding his error by blaming the problem on mere human nature, common old greed: that is EXACTLY why we ever institute regulation. Some check on human failings is vital where our lives and fortunes basically rest on our trust of one person or a small group of people.

But in the end, only a few of the greedy CEO's got what they had coming for not treating deregulation as both a gift to act freely and a burden to act responsibly with everyone else's money.

Desperation of the ignorant becomes a danger to the republic
With so much expert opinion now arrayed on Obama's side of the arguments about what government failures led us to this mess and what steps may rescue the economy, I don't blame the McCain campaign for trying to divert attention to other concerns. I hope McCain's deplorable decision to just go all out negative backfires and disgusts any undecided voters. To those who are paying any attention, the shift of tactics certainly makes a bald lie out of his claim that he would run a civil and respectful campaign.

Who are these rabid McCain supporters that Palin attracts? You might want to dismiss this very unpleasant kind of campaign and the ugly natures it appeals to as fringe politics and desperation on McCain's part. Don't. That was just the attitude of many when the German fascists began to draw crowds in the 30's. Don't go thinking Germans of that era were somehow a different kind of human than Americans of the 2000's...we are all just people and quite subject to fear and manipulation. Have you seen the footage from McCain rallies, that even MSM stations are playing, of extremely agitated ignoramuses venting anger at strawmen and completly misidentified policies and threats they label as Obama's? I predict, or at least hope, that in the not too distant future and for long thereafter, videos of McCain's performances at these rallies will become synonymous with the small minded and the fear-driven themes of American voting patterns...and understood to show empty conservative jingoism in its flop sweat moment of collapse. All of the forgetting that it takes for a nation to retread the worst impulses and mobs of political history may, I pray, be vanquished by YouTube.

The end game for the campaign is at hand. Edsell, insightful as ever, points to the choices Obama now faces. The quandry Edsell raises is, with victory nearly assured by Obama's margin in the polls, will a switch to more realistic speaches about the sacrifices our foxed up economy demands help set expectations or hurt his vote tally?

Monday, October 06, 2008

My cheery disposition deteriorates along with the economy

A shit-for-brains such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reily, Sara Palin or Dick Cheney might read things I have said in this blog and try to raise questions about my patriotism. Well, I sure as hell do criticize many of the actions and expenditures made or avoided by the current administration and some of its predecessors and I try to get at the attitudes that enabled such incompetent and damaging government: the predominant jingoism and war lust we use to blind ourselves to economic common sense. But I just came across a prospect that hurts and angers me and leaves a raw bruise on the particular mix of identities and allegiances that make up my patriotism: America has been so financially weakened by its "we can just spend like mad, cut taxes and borrow" leadership that international commerce has become as indispensable for us as it was for other struggling nations. And what strikes an especially sore nerve in me is that we are no longer going to do business by merely selling stuff we make: we are going to have to sell off parts of the farm, as it were, in order to keep our house. Thom Friedman points to our empire's setting sun:
I would also bet that more and more of the foreign investors who come our way are going to want to buy hard, tangible assets skyscrapers, real estate and real companies not just mutual funds, T-bills, bank stocks or other equities. No problem. Americans own assets all over the world; foreigners have long owned substantial positions in U.S. companies. That’s globalization and now you are going to see globalization and financial integration on steroids. It should help us, but also change us.

The next round of capital that comes in from abroad is going to be much more demanding and move into real assets, argued Jeffrey Garten, professor of trade and finance at the Yale School of Management. Being a bigger debtor nation means losing even more of our sovereignty. It means conducting our economic policies with an eye toward whether others approve. It means bearing the advice and criticism that we have dispensed ad nauseam to other countries for over half a century. It means far more intensive consultations with other capitals on our fiscal policies and our monetary policies.
God Damn every last politician and voter who has gone along thinking they would never have to pay for anything. You have gotten and are getting what you deserve but why did you drag the rest of us down? What future do my children have? What do I have to show for my years of forgone luxuries and toys passed up in order to pay off all my debts? I would have been looked upon as an anachronistic economic puritan a few years ago. The dollars I saved have been cut in half by the those of you who supported Bush. God damn you. I never understood grasshoppers could do that to ants.

The next American president will not deal with the world from a position of strength because we have wasted our strength.

How long have we been fooling ourselves? What kind of leaders have kept shafting the next generation of tax payers and getting into office by telling this generation's voters they shouldn't have to pay? Here is part of the story you really need to read.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Present Tense

and getting more tense.

OK, fine, Palin got through her debut debate with Joe Biden without saying anything grossly stupid though without actually answering 80% of the questions. The polls tell us her performance compared to Biden's left a strong majority of viewers better impressed with Biden's ability and readiness to be VP or, god forbid, President.

So now she is out on the trail, saying things she thinks will staunch the desertions from McCain's base. The crap she lets out of her mouth is about the most vile distortion you could imagine without resorting to completely fabricated "facts". Actually, since she speaks of Obama's meeting with a 60's radical in the present tense, she is fabricating. Her words:
"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,"
That audience in Colorado should be insulted but you know Republicans. Mind you, the source linked here is the Associated Press, a news organization with an ill-disguised preference for the success of the right wing politics of the Republican party...as you will see elsewhere in the article. Whoever took off Palin's muzzle may eventually feel her bite. They can send her to cheer up the Republican donors but they better start closing those meetings to the press.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kudos to Thomas Friedman

My elitism will be in evidence here...

That is not a sarcastic title. Mr. Friedman does not always get things right in my view but I have to commend him on this Op-Ed piece. In a valiant stab at public service, he tries to explain in terms even a Republican could understand just exactly why so many people think there is a problem:

This is a credit crisis. It’s all about confidence. What you can’t see is how bank A will no longer lend to good company B or mortgage company C. Because no one is sure the other guy’s assets and collateral are worth anything, which is why the government needs to come in and put a floor under them. Otherwise, the system will be choked of credit, like a body being choked of oxygen and turning blue.

Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.

And I particularly enjoy Friedman's turn of phrase, blunt as a 2X4 up side the head:

I’ve always believed that America’s government was a unique political system — one designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots. I was wrong. No system can be smart enough to survive this level of incompetence and recklessness by the people charged to run it.

This is dangerous. We have House members, many of whom I suspect can’t balance their own checkbooks, rejecting a complex rescue package because some voters, whom I fear also don’t understand, swamped them with phone calls. I appreciate the popular anger against Wall Street, but you can’t deal with this crisis this way.

David Leonhardt, a NY Times reporter on finance, gives a more thorough if less ringing lesson on the nature of the problem. That confidence as much as palpable cash is at the heart of the matter became apparent to me last week, Friedman has said it in just so many words and it is looking at us from between the lines of Leonhardt's article:
As a young academic economist in the 1980s, Mr. Bernanke largely developed the theory that the loan officers’ lost knowledge was a crucial cause of the Depression. He referred to this lost knowledge as “informational capital.” In plain English, it means that trust vanished from the banking sector.

I must repeat this question until somewhere I hear the right answer, on many lips: If it was so well understood that trust and faith that deposits were safe is what really makes the world go around, why for goodness sake, would the government eject the minimum regulation needed to maintain that trust? "Greed is good" never impressed me as the lone and sufficient maxim to rule the management of trillions of other people's dollars. But that is all Gramm, Donaldson, Bush or any other Neoconservative has given us.

So, there we have it. All the right things have been said and written...often...and not just in the last week. Will any of that soak in?

The problem here is that I am reading this Op-Ed and you may have, but the constituents of the congress critters [left and right populist wings] who knocked over the hard fought improvements over Paulson's original ransom note...they are not reading. Are those the congress critters that have gained congress a 15% approval rating this afternoon, or is it the ones who voted for the so called bailout. After FCC deregulation and the '76 ruling that money can talk, tox radio and Reagan's cheer leaders have managed to make education synonymous with "elite", any recitation of degrees or non-business accomplishments synonymous with "elite", "intelligent" synonymous with "elite" and finally, "elite" so dirty a word [despite the fabulous financial power of those who have crafted this shift] you can affix to any enemy of conservatism. Obama may break that spell...I fevently hope so. They try to make wealth a mark of elitism but it has backfired at last in the case of McCain. I think it is time that the standard for expert and professional services this country desperately needs be faced up to: we cannot have another administration that bypasses the best candidates for appointment to regulatory jobs based solely on a few litmus test questions or Old Boy connections. It is not likely the protofascist constituency will quickly mend its ways. Still, I hope that a sound drubbing and the spread of actual financial pain to the stiff necked rabble that simply have not learned where their bread is buttered may reduce that constituency, may make a few percent more realize they should have been reading at places like the NY Times and disabuse them of the false comfort of their jingoism in favor of a broader attention to real news. The best elites, of course, are not exactly what the name, or the connotation of class distinction it has been laden with, imply but a wish to do better rather than to be better that has come true by some effort and which invites others to follow and to join.

The rapidity with which poverty trickles down, as compared to the tax gifts to billionaires most of which never trickled down, is stunning. Speaking with Barney Frank this evening, Anderson Cooper asked whether the bailout might pass the house on the second try. Frank answered by saying that reality had bitten share holders, in their retirement accounts almost instantly on Monday and that reality might soak through the skulls of the hold-out republicans who had seen the tax consequences as real and dismissed the economic connectedness we all suffer and occasionally benefit from. CNN reported in that same segment that in a week's time the 55+ demographic, one eye on their shriking 401K acccounts, moved from net approval of McCain to the utterly unlikely stance of favoring Obama slightly...that demographic has never moved for any reason but percieved security. The "socialism" against which the Republican purists were holding out is the security play at the moment, and more comfortable territory for Democrats.

BTW, liveblogginly speaking, Bill Clinton is on CSPAN, stumping for Obama before a crowd in FL and man, are they loving that. He has great delivery and I am pleased at the points he is making.

The R-word has been sighted in the MSM.

[or, "how to make yourself feel like a financial expert by merely reading"]

``The cards are on the table and a recession is coming,'' Henry Herrmann, chief executive officer of Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. in Overland Park, Kansas, which manages $70 billion, told Bloomberg Television. ``Our focus is going to be on things like dividend yields, solid brand names, consumer staples, less cyclical exposure and those sorts of things. Broadly speaking, earnings estimates are coming down.''

The dreaded R word that Greenspan and all Bush Administration econotoadies bent numerous rules to avoid pronouncing, has not be put off for long, just made more severe.

And Herrmann better not bet his farm on the consumer staples either. It isn't just the deteriorating world of high financiers that is a statistic in support of declaring a recession: the republican party's favorite trickle down theories, the faith that their megarich corporate sponsors would drip dollars into blue collar pockets, work in practice far more swiftly and efficiently when it is absence rather than excess of money to be distributed:
Consumer spending held flat in August as high prices and lower earnings pinched U.S. households and put the economy in line for the first quarterly drop in consumer spending since the 1990-1991 recession.

The Commerce Department said August consumer spending held steady after dropping 0.5% in July. "Consumers are pulling back really across the board," said Bank of America economist Peter Kretzmer, who expects spending to decline at a 2.2% annual pace for the July through September period, following a 1.2% gain in the second quarter.

And consumer spending for the quarter as measured in the reported Commerce Department stats is an overstatement of the economic health: after correcting the dollars spent for the inflation that has taken place in that time period, we actually bought less stuff, not a steady level of stuff. Being 70% of the nation's economic activity, a decline in consumer spending pretty much makes a recession all by itself. When that last happened, in 1991, what did we do the the bush in the white house then? Eh? [The more damning question about us voters is why did we then plant another bush in the white house?]

Will I gloat over bad news like this when Obama is in office? It seems unlikely I will get the chance. We have let the Bush administration screw things up so thoroughly for so long that Obama, if he can merely arrest our downward spiral, would actually be a hero...there is nowhere to go but up.

I hope.

That this low ebb of American economic power is the bottom is not entirely certain but I am a far more optimistic person by nature than evolution usually tolerates. So let me make my prediction that things will worsen in the economy only a little while longer, perhaps until next February...and then level off and begin a slow, hardworking but upward progress...if you and I, fellow citizen, are willing to do the work.

Why not make a prediction? I have been bitching about the neocon economy since at least 2006. I started bookmarking posts by economists around the time of the '06 election because I found my own opinions uninformed on economics. I was drafting but not publishing posts by Nov '07 because plenty of smart people had already been painting a picture of fiscal malaise seeping, despite officials in denial, into most quarters of commerce. I had no trouble foreseeing at the end of last year, in general terms, that Bush and Wall Street would trash our economy by the middle of this year...All I had to do was read the right columnists on the economy. And after all, voters have been worrying about the economy more and sooner than the politicians they elected. But let me hedge a bit: "upward progress" will never return us to the unsustainable excesses of consumption by which consumers helped wreck our economy...our wealth ultimately deriving from an over taxed nature, our life style will hence forth need to be a bit more modest.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Bailout has a Blowout

For a week or so, we have heard Paulson and Bernanke blasting air raid sirens to announce what sober economists of both liberal and conservative stripe have been telling us for a year: the financial infrastructure of our nation, and given our size, that of the world to a lesser extent, is being sailed into the rocks by captains of our financial industry in their heedless pursuit of short term profit. And lately SEC chairman Cox admitted maybe he should not have let those captains off the regulatory leash. OK, we little people had our own ways of knowing that already...the economy is busted. Did we bust it? Consumers beside yours truly certainly did their share of the borrowing. I intend by that graphic to illustrate that not just "wealthy people" but about half of America's work force have seen their paper wealth mushroom and then evaporate. And many of the little players can't get out from under a bad investment that is locked up in a retirement plan...unless they swallow the penalties. Given how things are going, that option may not be so dumb after all. One of my 401K's is in Wachovia...its too late for me to crack open that rotten nest egg.

It is supposedly so busted that there isn't time to sort out exactly where the money went and get it all back from whoever took it. But I think we have now seen that something equally important has been broken. And that something is important because it provides the wherewithal to solve the big problems like war mongering enemies and harmful shifts in natural resources and business climate: it is the workings of our democracy. The level of trust in our government has been so damaged by the last 7 years that the administration can neither lead nor command its own political party. How screwed is that? And as Forbes' Joshua Zumbrun and Brian Wingfield write Now What? The Democrats demanded taxpayer equity and assurances in the bill and then reluctantly got behind it. The presidential candidates at least tepidly said they would support it. The preznit has addressed congress and country saying we need to act soon. ....but his own party will not play with him on this one. Could that lost confidence in government and respectful check and balance of congressional interests and administration be resurrected? More likely in an Obama adminstration.

Either those who have belatedly sounded the sirens are wrong and we won't have a collapse, or they have some idea, not understood by the House Republican caucus, that in fact the monetary equivalent of a large hole in a space ship is about to rapidly depressurize the capital flow and credit machinery on which we allegedly depend. Don't ask me which is more correct! The thing is, people with money being almost the same a humans, when there is uncertainty and a threat or rumor of danger, it is their nature to hide the goodies for safe keeping. Banks, bankers have shown us, are NOT safe places to keep money. Much of what is screwed about our economy is the dirty little secret of how it depends on psychology more than on math.

Is your bicycle in good repair? Have you laid in enough root vegetables and canned goods for a long spell? Is your heating oil tank filled up for the season?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the "Who won the debate" debate

Every web outlet for political news that I had time to scan is replete with the attempts of the entire punditocracy to tell the rest of us who did better in Friday's almost-cancelled debate.   I found NY Times and Politico.Com's "Arena" most useful but look where you will, the interwebs are awash with the fluff.

 If you ask me, it was the very unpresidential brinksmanship or just dumb vascillation on McCain's part...but whatever the cause, the rest of us certainly have an answer for the pundits: Point to Obama.   How do ya like them apples?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A quick roundup of this afternoons news:

I listen to the news, I have violent reactions...its just been one of those weeks. Today's crop:
--- what seems to be the problem? ---
After listening to NPR try to explain exactly what IS the problem Bernanke and Paulson want us to be in a panic over....I paraphrase but lets see if I got it at all right:
All liquidity was based on confidence of repayment, not actual deposits. And not just for a few mortgage issuers but the entire system. So, its supposedly not the beach-house-in-the-Hamptons, $20 million severance package, Armani clad class from wall street we are saving, or their firms but rather the quantity of cash in the money pool that can be lent/spent to found, expand or just run businesses. In plainer English, we are to swallow the claim that to save our own jobs, we have to save the CEOs and CFOs and the bundlers of moldy mortgages.
I have to ask: if that is how fragile the US financial machinery really is, why on earth did the Bush money mavens leave it so exposed to default? Why did they administer what is in a sense a confidence game in a way that made it so easy for a little greed to undermine a lot of confidence? I read commentary saying Paulsen is no where near as dumb as his boss...but that ain't saying much.

--- republicanism going down in frames ---
Where is Rove when they need him the most? Lakoff pointed, for years, to the way the neoconservatives always got the drop on their opponents, the middle class, by staking out the high ground in the framing of issues in the early rounds. Boy has framing discipline gone to hell in the Bush league! The mess in the markets and the dire measures Paulson and Bernanke offer to clean it up are almost universally referred to in the news stories I hear as some variation of a discussion about how taxpayers are going to bail out billionaires and brokers on wall street...it doesn't matter what answer you come up with if that is the question! McSame can't put enough distance between himself and Bush Buck Bailout Boys if this is the setup. [not saying it shouldn't be the setup, just noting how the chickens have come home to roost for republicans]

--- if he were executive material, he'd have executive class excuses ---
And speaking of McCain's inability to distance himself from Washington, why, at 3pm on Thursday is his campaign saying the debate is still on hold until there is a bailout deal [as if captain crash had anything to do with that!] when as of Wednesday afternoon, Barney Frank...who is calling the shots more than McCain, said the compromises overturning the worst of the P&B bailout's anti-middle class and pro-corporation giveaways were nearly complete? Implicit in that timing is a serious question about McCain's ability to process information or his sincerity in the excuse he gives for postponing the debate: How come mere me out here in the internet boonies knew yesterday the deal would be done and McCain, a senator and presidential candidate with oodles of staffers is STILL claiming he isn't really sure if there is a deal.
What does McCain know that I don't know? He knows the Republicans are going to, or at least he is going to scuttle the agreement...why should Barney Frank get any credit?

--- if not a manufactured crisis, one harvested when ripe ---
I want to point to a modest little post in a diary over at Agonist because it puts facts to a suspicion I find obvious and disturbing: Paulson, Bush and Bernanke have given congress an ultimatum and said there was no time to ponder and yet, they have been drafting their ransom note for months! This makes the power grab accusations more plausible. hat tip to Agonist diarist LeePenn

--- so who ARE the 43% that polls claim favor Capt. Crash ---
People who didn't like Bush, don't like McCain. That should leave McCain at the 30% level. And they think the only way McCain can say something about the economy [or health care or social security, for that matter] that will gain him some favor among voters is to imitate Bush's positions on those issues. But he is imitating Obama's slogans. If Obama can't get a copyright on the words "Change" or "Hope", McCain can certainly dilute their political worth by appropriation and misuse. On the other side of the spectrum McCain has not been able to nail down the votes of racist and religious bigots among America's peasantry or the "no regulation" fundamentalists among America's most greedy Republicans. The unappealing history of his varying positions on abortion/choice are only partly repaired by his choice of bare-knuckles Palin. His moment in the sunshine for having once tried to legislate the lobbyists out of their powerful and often corrupt jobs long since completely eclipsed by his well publicized embrace of lobbyists as advisers and campaign managers, there is nothing left of his record: at 14% behind on polls asking about economic competence, he is regarded at home and abroad as a nincompoop on the economy.

What is left? What has he done repeatedly in his career with some form of success? He's crashed airplanes and lived to tell about it is all I can find. That is why I call him Capt. Crash. Keep him away from the capital lest some horrendous accident might allow him to act out his delusions of being able to pilot our nation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The last person I want to see in Washington at this time

...is John McCain. We already have more economic stupidity than we can handle.

He has not been on the Senate Finance Committee. He is not now a member of that committee. His colleagues do not accord him a position indicating their trust of his expertise in economics. Why then does he claim his particular services are so desperately needed to solve the financial crisis that he can blow off a debate that until quite recently he was demanding? The posturing old fart has been clumsily trying to sow doubts about whether Obama is ready to lead and yet, McCain signals loud and clear he is not even ready to debate. As Josh Marshall and a few other veterans of unblinkered commentary point out, all McCain can add to the proceedings is politicizing at a moment when political polarizing would be most damaging.

The guru of deregulation of the financial markets, a man often cited as a key architect of the financial environment in which commodity speculators can double the price of oil in a year or top-10 investment banks can basically write their own rules about how secure their "securities" need to be...is Phil Gramm. Gramm is the architect of legislation that has enabled the explosion of government debt since the Reagan administration. This is the man that John McCain relies on for explanations and advice on all matters economic. And McCain's campaign refuse to deny that Gramm would be appointed Secretary of the Treasury if McCain should win the election. Now is that the kind of proven incompetence we need meddling with this supposedly dire crisis? Wasn't this guy saying the fundamentals of the economy were sound just two or three weeks ago? Has he got a f__king clue?

You want clues? What source do you trust for opinions about financial probity and acumen?
The Wall Street Journal says that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street."... [and that is George Will quoting WSJ...who are McCain's friends if these are his detractors?]
Every writer the Asia Times cares to publish regarding US finances sees no value in the programs McCain flips back and forth on but Muhammad Cohen is particularly blunt in saying so. Askari and Krichene think Paulson and Bernanke overstate the trouble in the credit supply. Martin Hutchinson gives a history lesson showing the long term confidence erosion that accreted from short term bailouts...and warns us beware of "financially illiterate" presidents. Hutchinson has been keeping track of all the bailouts: Bernanke is 0 for 5 at this point. Kevin Phillips, the very valuable apostate Republican now churning out book after debunking book about Republican embraces of errant politics, has an even longer list than Hutchinson. In the International Herald Tribune, Sorkin provides a thorough and informative criticism of Paulson's wildly deficient plan.

Robert Reich on the other hand shows how Paulson and Bernanke have understated the problem by omitting other bad debt on the banks books that will get its turn to swell as foreclosures have: they are low-balling us.

Which deregulation did the damage? What institutions should come firmly under control and scrutiny of the government and tax payers who are asked to make up for their shoddy version of due diligence in lending? Here is a clue from Time writer Justin Fox that its not the "usual suspects" whose names now stream across across the bottom of your CNN news shows. I found the Fox article linked by Brad DeLong who backs the article with an interesting chart showing just who poured bad loans into the magic washing machine of derivative debt instruments and when.

As you can see, there is much to know, lots to learn before one could claim any useful expertise: I was looking forward to the debate as a way to hear what cogent solution McCain has and how he can make clear to voters what that crowd of published experts have not...I have not linked even 1% of the news and opinion on the emergency that Mr Bernake and Mr Paulson just discovered. Since the functional members of congress have by now largely completed the negotiations and since his colleagues don't rank him a great resource in their work on the economy wouldn't it have been smarter for McCain to use the pulpit he already had waiting in tomorrow's scheduled debate? From there, he could lay out his impressive and persuasive and powerfully informed and reasoned plans...that would surely persuade voters to call their representatives and demand the "McCain plan".

Let me put aside my sarcasm and just wonder: what will the world think of us if we elect this disaster of a man to run our country?

Friday, September 19, 2008

I come out of hibernation and what do I find?!

My savings going up in smoke and the new candidate for the arsonist party only 2% behind in the polls. NY Times, for one, mentions that we who have been saving the last 30 or 40 years for our retirement just took a hit many will not recover from.

There are a thousand things to say about the administration's attempt to use the massive screw-ups of our unregulated financial giants as a cover for taking the last bits of power from congress and the last bits of taxpayer money in the treasury and just giving it to Mr Paulson's former colleagues on Wall Street. Fortunately, these things are being said. At TPM, HuffPo, TruthOut, Brad DeLong and Agonist you will find a flood of facts and contempt for what the administration is trying to do. TPM and Agonist have nice juicy dirt on McCain's connection to the beneficiaries of the proposed bailout via his lobbyists/advisers Carly Fiorina, Phil Gramm and Rick Davis.

So why am I writing? I have soured on politics...it is the sport and distraction of people who have problems they can't ignore but don't understand and who do not wish to deal in person with the shiftless dehumanized bums they hold responsible. Seriously, just do one thing: do not let that senile sell-out, John McCain nor his Bush-in-a-skirt ratings buoy get in to office. Those idiots will plunge us into a dark age and a depression faster than I can get safely to a place off the grid, with low taxes and a climate that would let me feed myself.

I fear this bailout will be no longer lived, in its good effects, than the previous gyrations and heroics with which the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have papered over the stock market's tumbles three times in the last 16 months. How long do you think this nation could go on ignoring all the laws of common sense economics, spending a trillion on useless wars, cutting taxes, letting jobs go off shore with no plan to re-educate the bereft workers and removing all obstacles to head long consumer spending and balance of trade hemorrhaging? How long? You can also ignore the laws of gravity until the moment of impact with the ground. Borrowing to prop up all those losing activities will naturally come to an end. Just as Reagan smirked in 1989 that communism was dead, I suspect Hu Jintao and Putin now smirk that capitalism as Americans do it, is in equally poor health.

It really and deeply hurts me that this country has been so weakened, I can not find an article in any of my reading that overstates how stupid and treacherous the Republicans have been. Even Larisa Alexandrovna seems too restrained.

I have read just one too many of these dooms day scenarios by "America-hating" liberals. I have seen too many of their predictions unfold like clockwork ticking.
Steve Fraser, writing the day before the administration's finance managers, Bernanke and Paulson called their desperate huddle on capitol hill, gave a pretty good summary of how bad things were, how drastic the solutions must be and a gentle reminder that this train wreck of ruined credit vehicles at all levels of the economy was not an accident. It is the largely predictable consequence of dismantling regulation of markets that has gone on throughout Democratic but mostly Republican administrations over the last 30 years. The line in Dubya's speech last night in which he claimed our problems were due to old regulations written for different times is a lie...his party tore up the regulations. There are many things that are meant by regulation but the rules and enforcements that would double check greed-colored decisions that risk other people's money should not be weakened until a species of human can be found that does not sucome to greed. I repeat: Democrats and Republicans have had a hand in weakening such rules and we ought to ask why they did so. I think Fraser's article also points in a good direction for solutions. Rather than these fits of spilled tax monies and deferred debt that suspend consequences for the risk taking of a coterie of bankers and deal makers who amass vast empires of paper wealth, we need to subsidize the creation of education, productive capacity and infrastructure, as the Chinese have been doing like mad for a decade, . You might give Mr. Fraser's remarks a little attention, if not for their appearance in TruthOut, then for their having also been picked up by the generally perceptive editors of Asia Times. Did y'all read Stirling's essay on "penultimate crises"? Are we there yet?

My blogging ceased recently. I found all I was doing was passing on the complaints you have already heard from sources closer to the fray. My excuses for writing have been the general relief of venting my anger at our subjugation by smug, selfish, ignorant and privileged fools, or the claim that every voice counts for something if it adds to the din of outraged hue and cry. But other than my feeble involvement with MoveOn, what have I done to change things? Not much. In my blog as a partisan in the war for sustainability, I have perhaps a more activist, or perhaps more accurately a PASSIVIST, approach to things. I expose myself to chastisement for abandoning a fight that I consider lost. I really don't think Americans, nor Chinese for that matter, in their governments nor in the minute daily struggles and decisions of citizens and consumers, give a damn for whether their strivings amount to a stable long term program for human life on earth. These economic dramas by which we seem to be caught up and swept along, are symptoms of an even bigger collapse that our nearly universal quest for a bigger share of nature's pie has doomed us to suffer.

I am contemplating what I suspect most readers would confuse with the programs of survivalists and the anti-government paranoids. I wont have a rack of guns and boxes of ammunition in a bunker but I do actually consider it likely that most of us will at some point in the next two generations, be forced to fend for our selves personally to gain food and warmth when they are no longer obtainable by the ordinary economy. Corporate greed may be accelerating the ruin and necessitating the occasional revamping of the macroeconomic machinery but the personal appetites, innate or induced by ad culture, on which that machinery has fed is equally to blame and more to blame for the irresponsible way we outstrip the mineral and biosphere capacities to support our life style ambitions.

I am planning a retreat from all this. I am lucky enough to be able to buy arable land at a time when the housing debacle in the US has put a few such acres on the market at a discount. I plan to work at jobs for pay or to otherwise participate in the emerging nationalized-finance economy as little as possible. We have finally heard sensible complaints from pundits who should have said long ago that the wholesale abandonment of fiscal conservatism by the republicans and the suspension of critical economic thought by the electorate are burying us and generations of our children with debt. If I make no money, I cannot be taxed to pay that debt. Take the repayment from the accounts of the chairmen and CEO's of Wall street, please. I will have beans and squash to plant and strawberries and peaches to can. I wonder though, if many take up my strategy, how long before the US income tax would be augmented by a national real estate tax or a "small farm" tax. Would our reduction to serfs in a subsistence agriculture economy be so very different from the present state of the late and unlamented middle class? Only the size of the paycheck and the demands on the earth's resources would shrink. Too many of the little people, the wage earners and workers, their vision diverted by hope that they too will participate in Dubya's mythical "ownership society" have seen that to pursue that participation via debt makes for a "foreclosure society". We are there now. Even before that was visible, it was clear that these workers were being saddled with deferred national debt spent on useless wars and bankers who had ceased to worry about risk. I refuse to carry these fat bankers on my back, no matter how diffuse and indirect the means by which I am hitched to their mistakes.

The day after I drafted this post, I found one Jo Fish at FDL had an inkling of the revolt that attracts me. Larisa is not the revolutionary at all.

I claim to have been a model citizen: If a democracy is a government that derives its legitimacy and its policy directions by consulting all its citizens, then it is an absolute necessity that those citizens actively engage in being broadly informed and recognize their individual obligation to bear the costs of the commons. Biden is right that it is patriotic to pay your taxes. I would go so far as to say it is idiotic not to. It is perverse that one of our nation's last great public investments in those commons, the Internet, had the potential for each of us to finally be constantly and broadly informed but instead our natures lent us the Internet as a means to form balkanized virtual enclaves. Our awareness of the plural nature of our society and the interdependence of its parts has changed to estrangement and an arms length perception of faceless competitors in our midst. We now have a country where the recognition of our obligations is atrophied. When I first began earning a good paycheck as a 20-something engineer, I did resent the chunk taken by the state and the federal government. In the 35 years since my career began, the household income here at Greensmile Acres has grown to 97th percentile and our tax bill is now 50% larger than the median yearly income in the US yet I have grown grateful that I can carry my share of the weight. I should be a Republican but I am not and I only resent the taxes pissed away on warfare and the useless leeches in the Defense and Energy and Fatherland Security departments. What madness is it that permits a man to see himself as a would be savior while lining his pockets with public monies for which greater needs are in plain sight? Our family has saved more and consumed far less than is typical even in our income bracket. We have lived 35 years with a modestly escalating and, we thought, absolutely sound prosperity resting on good paychecks and a value for prudent saving. Our story differs from Sean-Paul's. And that difference may only tell a story of one generation and its successor in this country. We have had money for our children's education. Our checks to the IRS do not mean we will have to do without. Retirement, if we ever wanted it, should have been a fat chest of goodies we were positioning at the end of our working years. We have had no debt for over a decade. But now the rotten condition in which Republican policies have left that chest, and the way the majority of voters in this country have supported, ignored or acquiesced to those policies despite being hurt by them all darken my view of life in this country. Of what have I been a model citizen? Will the feeble mined elders who have clung in their insecurity to the protofascist pitches of Rove and of Bush turn to cling the more fervently to McCain now that their fears and harms have been aggravated by a deeper plunge into financial insecurity? I want no part of such a nation yet I have no choice.

"In the long run" is a phrase that slips in to many a polemical paragraph, certainly in to mine, to warn you the writer fancies he has some perspective or can accurately project trends forward to some eventuality. I don't know how long we have to run before retrospectives of the history of protests against the selfishness exemplified by Republican economic policy can be said to remove doubt and ambiguity from my conclusions: some liberal economists and a few progressive legislators have had a good grasp of what was wrong with those policies. I don't know how long we have to run, period. Now that nothing less than our entire national economy lays bleeding, bled, and broken in a heap before congress, it is a bit late to admit that in the long run, pandering to the selfishness of taxpayers is a fucked up scheme and the most toxic substitute for leadership, however successful it may be in getting you in office for in the short term.

I do not trust these fascists. Though many liberal economists can see clearly enough that Republican deregulation is a cause of the over extension of debt instruments that finally collapsed our entire credit apparatus, I expect to hear daily in the news the bleating of Neoconservatives who will try to hide their matches and gasoline and say we are witnessing a kind of Reichstag fire on Wall Street for which, god knows how, those tax-and-spend liberals must be to blame. Naomi Klein has been mentioned by a few of my favorite bloggers in light of this week's economic events. That is apt. We might have paid more attention to the feckless pursuit of Bin Laden, now gone somewhat into reverse in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we might have looked at the connection between the devastation of Galveston and the disappearance of the polar ice sheets...real problems abound... but now the Republicans can shout "oh! look! An emergency! Quick, give me more power, cede more rights so I can protect you!".

What is being judged then, by all these tribulations? We cast all our judgments on our political champions so they may stand in for us, and we the voters absolve ourselves of blame. My disgust and withdrawal stem from this understanding: voting only dilutes blame, it does not absolve. If we stumble on as we have, electing McCain and otherwise teetering toward fascism, it is not John McCain who should be examined for his failures but we teh people.

I am not talking about somebody else, I am talking about YOU. The "we" who stumble includes me, all who say and do the right things as well as the dangerously ignorant and mislead who foam at the mouth over at TownHall.com. We all have the vote. Everybody says vile things about lawyers except the one who gets them out of jail or wins their civil case. Everyone resents the wealth of doctors...except the doctor who cures their disease. Everyone is saying vile things about bankers...except the one who lent them the money to start their business. Do you not see what a shitty job we are doing of sharing the world?