- Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.
Now, I am coming up for air again.
Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.
My Books & Stories
(What You Should Be Reading!):
Bone Theologies: A Poetic Mass - [Kindle Edition]
15 poems, a little chapbook of old and new - [Kindle Edition]
The Nick Tales - [Kindle Edition]
By the People, for the People - [Kindle Edition]
The Blue Chip Deal - [Kindle Edition]
Stigmata: Apotheosis of an unbeliever - [Kindle Edition]
Still Waters run Deep: Five Women of the Bible Speak
The Binding (Aqedah) and Its Transformations in Judaism and Islam: The Lambs of God
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Call it incipient socialism if you want, but I suspect it would be less costly, less painful, and less contrary to free-market principles than the bailout and nationalization of assets we are engaging in right now.
“It’s about their leadership styles,” said Stanley A. Renshon, a scholar of the presidency who is also a psychiatrist. “McCain is a man of trying to do things. Obama is a man who tends to act cautiously and prudently. . . . It’s not that one approach is necessarily better; they both come with advantages and risks.”Yeah. That's about it.
I've already discussed McCain's proposal in response to the collapse and bailout: Now Obama has outlined his own approach. Here's the full text of his statement (courtesy of Politico), which in broad strokes outlines a slightly more nuanced and comprehensive view:
"First, we cannot only have a plan for Wall Street. We must also help Main Street as well. I’m glad that our government is moving so quickly in addressing the crisis that threatens some of our biggest banks and corporations. But a similar crisis has threatened families, workers and homeowners for months and months and Washington has done far too little to help. For too long, this administration has been willing to hit the fast-forward button in helping distressed Wall Street firms while pressing pause when it comes to saving jobs or keeping people in their homes. We already know that the credit crisis that has emerged from our largest financial institutions is becoming a credit crunch for small business owners, homeowners, and students seeking loans in big cities and small towns. Now that American taxpayers are being called on to share in this new burden, we must take equally swift and serious action to help lift the burdens they face every day. In the same bipartisan spirit that is being shown with regard to the crisis on Wall Street, I ask Sen. McCain, President Bush, Republicans and Democrats to join me in supporting an emergency economic plan for working families — a plan that would help folks cope with rising gas and food prices, spark job creation through repair of our schools and roads, help states and cities avoid painful budget cuts and tax increases, help homeowners stay in their homes, and provide retooling assistance for America’s auto industry. John McCain and I can continue to argue about our different economic agendas for next year, but we should come together now to work on what this country urgently needs this year.I want more detail, just as I want more detail in Paulson's 2.5 page, $700 billion outline for the nationalization of the entire mortgage banking system. But in the broad strokes, I think that Obama has hit the right points, and the right notes for the long term. Whoever is president in January will be faced with a continuing problem and a staggering debt; where McCain's outlook mirrors the aftermath of 9/11, Obama's four points look more like a modern interpretation of FDR's New Deal actions.
"The second principle I would like to see in the emerging plan from the Treasury and the Fed is that our approach should be one of mutual responsibility and reciprocity. It must not be designed to reward particular companies or the irresponsible decisions of borrowers or lenders. It must not be designed to enhance the personal gain of CEOs and management. The recklessness of some of these executives has helped cause this mess, even as they walk away with multimillion dollar golden parachutes while taxpayers are left holding the bag. As taxpayers are asked to take extraordinary steps to protect our financial system, it is only appropriate that those who benefit be expected to contribute to the protection of American homeowners and the American economy. Just as support is not designed to payoff egregious executive compensation, it should not reward those who are ruthlessly foreclosing on American families.
"Third, this plan must be temporary and coupled with tough new oversight and regulations of our financial institutions, and there must be a clear process to wind down this plan and restore private sector assets into private sector hands after restoring stability to the system. Taxpayers must share in any upside benefit that such stability brings.
"Fourth, this plan should be part of a globally coordinated effort with our partners in the G-20. This is a worldwide issue, and while the United States can and will lead in stabilizing the credit markets, we should ask other nations, who share in this crisis, to be part of the solution as well."
Somehow I think that the latter is more appropriate for the crisis at hand.
The AP-Yahoo study concluded that about two and one-half percent of white Democrats “may turn away from Obama because of his race”My own thought is if 2.5% of white Democrats will not cast a vote for Obama due to his race, that's just the tip of the iceberg. That's 2.5% of white Democrats who are self-admitted racists. The study shows that there are far more who sublimate their prejudice --- or simply won't admit it publicly.
Also, they note the high correlation of former Hillary Clinton supporters with negative responses to the race question; this is a truly unnerving statistic. Were a slice of Clinton's backers always there simply because the alternative was a person of color? Read the post. It's worth it.
As I've said before, this election may well come down to the racial prejudices and antipathies of this country, and a certain segment of America's inability to grow beyond their own blindered and arrogant racism.
Let's hope that's not what tips the scales.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Mr. McCain said that the new entity he proposed Thursday — the Mortgage and Financial Institutions trust — would differ from similar agencies in the past because it would not wait for financial institutions to become insolvent before offering help.This sounds like an awfully heavy-handed government intervention, coming from a man who has espoused deregulation for decades---or for that matter, from anyone at all.
"This trust will work with the private sector and regulators to identify institutions that are weak and fix them before they become insolvent," he said in a hastily arranged speech here this morning to a chamber of commerce. "The M.F.I. is an early intervention program to help financial institutions avoid bankruptcy, expensive bailouts and damage to their customers. This will get the Treasury and other financial regulatory authorities in a proactive position instead of reacting in a crisis mode to one situation after another."
First off, the audacity of proposing a governmental "economic health police" is a recipe for abuse. Will the trust be led by appointees? By elected officials? By private sector? How much temptation for corruption would be implicit in this setup?
Next, why on earth is McCain making alternative proposals while the sitting government is busy trying to implement solutions? Doesn't this sort of undermine any consumer confidence that might be built by the Fed and Treasury actions this week?
Credit to Obama for noting this, and toning down a bit. McCain should as well.
You know what I'd love to see today, in the wake of the economic turmoil, and the troubles of the world? I'd like to see the candidates say: Enough. Let's take a break. Let's just stop, take a deep breath, and act like adults again. Drop the sarcasm. Drop the spin. Maybe take a hiatus for three days, no commercials, no proxies, no power plays. And then a discussion or two; a debate or two. A review of core principle and policy, instead of the perpetual snark and mudslinging over what the opponent did or didn't say, does or doesn't support, would or wouldn't do if elected. Perhaps it would be a relief to hear them both try talking like a pirate for a moment. We need some humor right now, and we need humor that isn't negative, and isn't derogatory. Something to make us all smile.
"The break-in of Palin's private account is especially significant because Palin sometimes uses non-government e-mail to conduct state business. Previously disclosed e-mails indicate her administration embraced Yahoo accounts as an alternative to government e-mail, which could possibly be released to the public under Alaska's Open Records Act."Would someone please ask McCain his opinion on the decision to use Yahoo Mail for official government business, particularly as an explicit method of avoiding transparency and/or subpoena?
Palin made the comment at a rally Thursday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when she said she and McCain want to cut taxes for small business: "That's exactly what we're gonna do in a Palin and McCain administration."Avast, mateys! It be lookin' like there's rough seas ahead!
"An avowed fiscal conservative, she has increased state spending by about one-fifth since taking office. An ardent opponent of abortion, she did not fight for measures requiring parental consent and banning the procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortion -- bills the legislature ultimately defeated. A proponent of public safety, she has drawn criticism for devoting too little money to the state police and public safety projects."For some reason, this all sounds to me like a package incorporating the worst aspects of both President Bush, and the Clintons.
"Her admirers view her as gutsy and sure-footed; her detractors see her as reckless and insular. She relies heavily on a small coterie of senior advisers, and her husband, Todd, an oilfield worker and commercial fisherman, is present in the statehouse to a degree unusual for a first spouse, sitting in on news conferences, occasional Cabinet meetings and private sessions with lawmakers."
"Haycox summed up a common criticism of Palin: "She seems as if she is incurious about the mechanism of government." "
How does a pirate say, "Eeeewww?"
"I'm a devout Democrat - I just can't in good conscience vote for that man."
Now, I don't think the problem is the lack of support for Obama: everyone needs to make their choices. The problem is the fascinating choice of the word "devout." How can one be a "devout" member of a political party?
I think this once again sheds light on the weird religiosity that shades all the corners of American discourse today. We take our politics as we take our faith: wholly, literally, and without question. And when we find that it runs afoul of some basic personal instinct: be that racism, class-ism, fear of change, whatever---we drop our dogma wholesale, and become either seasonal agnostics, or feral apostates.
When the partisans of politics become identical to the ideologues of faith, then we have lost the Republic. I expect that if it happens, and we truly are walking that road, we won't see it clearly until it is far too late to turn in another direction.
"The Obama campaign has been one of real dignity and cool, and in this it reflected its candidate. It won't be good to see this end. It will be sad, actually.Her conclusion is that we are being driven by fear that it just doesn't matter who we elect. In this conclusion, I think she misses the ultimate appeal of Obama to many of his supporters:
On the Republican side, the legitimate anger sparked by the media's personal attacks on Sarah Palin and her family has now been funneled, coolly and almost chillingly, into antimedia manipulation. This is no good. It may help the Republicans win, because no one likes the media. Even the media doesn't like the media. But it invites charges of winning bad. And if you win bad in a 50/50 nation, it makes it really hard to govern."
The hope, and the change message, is driven by the underlying notion that in these times, with a leader like this particular young and still somewhat untried man, that this once, it just might matter after all.
As for me, I think that the nastiness is being driven more by the inertia of our cultural dialectic and the resentment of both sides at the disdain shown by each other for their core belief systems. But that's just the pirate in me talkin'. Arrgh.
The 10 percent increase in tax withholdings from workers' paychecks has been taken out, but the budget still requires individuals and businesses that make quarterly estimated tax payments to pay 60 percent of their taxes in the first half of the 2009 calendar year rather than 50 percent.So we have a fudge on the part of the GOP, in that 10% increase in forward payment of quarterly taxes, and an equal fudge on the part of the Democrats, in the acceptance of the lottery loans and reduction of the rainy day reserve fund by $300 million. Not a great plan, and I expect that the lottery loan plan will get trounced by the voters when it comes up on the ballot, putting us in the hole yet again. But this is a start (arrrgh!).
The new budget fills the deficit in part by doubling the penalty on corporations that consistently underpay taxes. The agreement also would leave the state with a cash reserve of $900 million rather than the $1.2 billion in the budget approved by the Legislature.
Bass [Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County)] said she was willing to make the changes because they shift the fiscal impact away from individuals and small businesses to larger corporations.
"Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first."Now, if she could be translatin' that into PirateSpeak, arrrgh, matey, that'd be a sure fine thing. (Or frankly even into plain English would be good.)
And this from the person who "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America" according to John McCain. Arrgh.
In this time of turmoil, do we really want to consider electing a man who was a part of the last major meltdown as well, and who was officially reprimanded by the investigation for having "poor judgment"?
In the last month, McCain appears to be recapturing the essence of his moment in the sun with Keating et al. Now is not the time for this man to lead this nation.
Now is not the time.
“Now people are going to actually have to have a job to get a loan and they are going to have to make installment payments that are already higher per dollar borrowed than they used to be,” he said, arguing that the debt-fueled prosperity of the bubble years was unsustainable.Fair enough.
But there is not, for the moment, an adequate replacement.
I happened to get my annual free credit reports yesterday, just to check up. While I am happy to say that I continue to have stellar credit (though my FICO score dropped a few points after killing off my Citi and Wells credit lines in favor of my local Credit Union), I found it interesting that Amex has queried my history every month for the last year, in order to offer me yet another product---all declined. I find that sort of aggressive interrogatory selling interesting, as well as somewhat telling: since the one retail consumer financial industry not really affected as yet by the mess is the credit card world, was Amex looking to bolster against the coming storm by upping their sales cycles? Just curious.
OK. Time for some coffee and clearing of the head.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Du Pont notes that if we open up what is already known, it could provide up to 25 years' worth of domestic oil needs at present use rates. Now, aside from the given that without heavy investment into alternatives, oil use rates will rise over the next quarter century, and that it would be more than a decade before we could realize the gains from additional drilling, this still begs the question: after 25 years, then what?
He then gets a bit disingenuous: in quick parallel to this number, he juxtaposes that
"The Interior Department estimates that these restricted areas contain 19.1 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the equivalent of perhaps 30 years of oil we will import from Saudi Arabia."Don't blink: if you do, you'll miss that we only import a fraction of our needs from Saudi. So he's saying that this would provide less than a quarter of our need for that same quarter century. Once again: after 25 years, then what?
Next, he trots out the claim that "natural ocean floor seepage puts more oil into our ocean than oil production spillage." Unfortunately, that claim has already been debunked. The problem is not total amount of oil, but the collateral damage that it causes. But even so: the idea that drilling provides anything more than a brief respite from the need to address our energy dependency problems, or that the trade of clear and inviting oceans and wilderness for a few centuries is less valuable than 25 years of continuing addiction to fossil fuels, it just not a sane argument. In areas dependent on travel and tourist trade, for instance, the blight of derricks and pumps and the smell of refineries is a problem: when the production of energy is actually a detriment to the economy, it starts to be a more convoluted issue than a mere "drill, baby, drill" can encompass.
How long will it take to understand that the problem is not our lack of oil, but our dependency on oil? Trotting out the Middle East---and not mentioning Venezuela, nor Nigeria, nor Russia even--when discussing oil is mere fear-mongering to the folks frightened of the "mysterious middle eastern terroist" (and considering the post below on how risk response and political identity are intertwined, this play to WSJ readers makes sense, I suppose).
How about a look at the comparative long term costs of investment and innovation in alternative poiwer sources and methods of distribution, versus the slow collapse of the oil industry?
What will we do when Exxon suddenly looks like Lehman Brothers?
"Their research, published in the journal Science, indicates that people who are sensitive to fear or threat are likely to support a right wing agenda.Correlating political ideology with risk response is an interesting take on things. I suppose you could hypothetically attempt a similar correlary with religious dogmatism.
Those who perceived less danger in a series of images and sounds were more inclined to support liberal policies.
The authors believe their findings may help to explain why voters' minds are so hard to change."
Hmmm. Perhaps the trouble in America is just that we're all running scared.
Now, I think too much time and ink has been spent on Palin at this point; it's time to move on. But what troubles me about this email, what troubles me about the state of our nation right now, is that we have a vast swath of the population who may well vote for a presidential candidate---McCain---because they believe that his VP selection has been anointed by God to play a critical role in the "End Times" and an imminent Rapture.
They play with our lives in order to bring about the end of the world. Do you wish to be held hostage to an idiosyncratic christianist belief system through the manipulations of the levers of government? Is that the America you wish to see?
'This is the moment to leave behind discrepancies with Spain,' he said in an interview published in Sunday's edition of the newspaper El Pais.That's John McCain, this past April.
'I would like (Zapatero) to visit the US. Zapatero is the first leader in Spain's democratic history who has not made such a visit in an official capacity,' he said.
"All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the Hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region."That's yesterday.
Interviewer: "But what about Europe? I'm talking about the President of Spain."
McCain: "What about me, what?
Interviewer: "Are you willing to meet with him if you're elected president?"
McCain: "I am wiling to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for humans rights, democracy and freedom. And I will stand up to those who do not."
Josh Marshall has it all down here.
Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest independent U.S. securities firm, may sell a larger stake to China Investment Corp. and is in talks about a possible merger with Wachovia Corp., a person familiar with the matter said.
China's state-controlled fund may buy as much as 49 percent of the New York-based investment bank, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks aren't public and may end in no agreement. Morgan Stanley resumed its decline on the New York Stock Exchange, falling as much as 22 percent.
"I think it's a stretch to, in any way, to say that she's got the experience to be president of the United States," Hagel said.Read the piece. His irritation is apparent. But he stops short of condemning McCain for making such a boneheaded move as selecting Palin for the ticket. I guess that would be a bridge too far. At least for now.
"I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" he said. "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."
"McCain's other problem is that Sarah Palin may no longer be an asset to the ticket; in fact, she may be a liability. Averaging the candidates' favorability scores across four recent polls -- as one should always try and do when looking at favorability numbers since they can vary greatly depending on question wording -- Palin now has the worst net scores among the four principals in the race...It's good to see more folks coming to their senses about this. Let's hope the scales continue to fall.
Palin's average favorability score is now a +7 -- about 10 points behind Joe Biden's numbers. Perhaps more importantly, these numbers are 10-15 points behind where Palin's numbers were just a week or so ago. If voters come in not knowing very much about a candidate -- and the more they see of the candidate, the less they like of the candidate -- this is a major concern."
"A consortium of investors proposing to rescue airline Alitalia has withdrawn its takeover offer, raising fears the carrier may go into liquidation."
So, just how many airlines have we lost since the start of the year? While I am unsurprised that backing has fallen through after the last four days, I just gotta say: this doesn't bode well for anyone.
signal a flight to economic conservatism, and a threat to the West's
financial hegemony? Robert Peston of the BBC thinks so:
"Conservative institutions, and those with simpler business models and
a history of careful management of their funding sources, are the new
It's a world in which Bank of America, JP Morgan, HSBC, Santander and
even Lloyds TSB have the whip hand.
It's a world in which the Chinese state, if it co-ordinated the
investments of its cash-rich institutions, could end up owning
more-or-less the entire financial system of the US and the UK."
This is the sort of questioning that should indeed be driving the
policymakers right now. But my question is---how will the next US
President address this sea change in the economic world, and how will
he address it's impact on our current needs and ventures? I don't
think either Obama or McCain are prepared to deal with---let alone
comprehend---the extent of the implications of not only the meltdown,
but the nationalization of institutions, and the propping up of the
Fed with new cash. And how this will play into the power politics of
the next few years is anyone's guess.
I have to say though, I'd rather have someone in the White House who
can at least keep straight who is the PM of Spain (and what hemisphere
Spain and Europe are in), when talking to the Spanish press. It
implies a little bit of big picture thinking, neh?
Paul Mortimer-Lee, head of market economics in the London office at
BNP Paribas, said the move reflected concerns that the financial
markets now appeared to be facing their gravest problems since the
"We're high on a mountain, with a thin rope and holding on by our
fingertips," he said. "Are policy makers scared? They should be."
On the up side, it looks like there is a concerted itnernational
effort to stem the tide of this mess, and come up with something more
than a mere stopgap solution.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
"Disappointed that taxpayers are called upon to bailout another one. Certainly AIG though with the construction bonds that they're holding and with the insurance that they are holding very, very impactful to Americans so you know the shot that has been called by the Feds its understandable but very, very disappointing that taxpayers are called upon for another one."
Construction bonds? Hello? Her first unscripted Q&A (singular) with the press, and that's the answer she comes up with? Can anyone make any sense of that? No wonder her staff have been keeping her under wraps.
Well, no shit, Dana. "Ultimately" we will not only weather the turmoil, but likely cure cancer. Ultimately, the war in Iraq will end. Ultimately, we'll all be worm food. That doesn't change the facts on the ground: Right now, Americans are scared, the rest of the world is biting fingernails, and we haven't nearly hit bottom yet.
The Bush administration and GOP policy has brought us to a disastrous moment, and it's gonna take all the energy and all the power and all the leadership ability of someone far better than Bush to dig us out effectively.
Brown's amends include a much needed corrective that Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson and other Christian creationists might consider.Literalism and a blind faith in textual inerrancy are not, despite what some might claim, articles of devotion to religion. And for the WWJD crowd: dontcha think that Jesus was most likely pro-choice? How else can you efectively translate the underpinnings of "Judge not, lest ye be judged"?
"Subsequent generations have built on Darwin's work but have not significantly undermined his fundamental theory of natural selection. There is nothing here that contradicts Christian teaching. Jesus himself invited people to observe the world around them and to reason from what they saw to an understanding of the nature of God (Matthew 6: 25-33)," Brown wrote.
"The anti-evolutionary fervour in some corners of the churches may be a kind of proxy issue for other discontents; and, perhaps most of all, an indictment of the churches' failure to tell their own story - Jesus's story - with conviction in a way which works with the grain of the world as God has revealed it to be, both through the Bible and in the work of scientists of Darwin's calibre."
and the Roberts court is discussed in the first half of this NYT
The gist? Over the last decade, foreign courts are significantly
reducing their US law citations:
"One of our great exports used to be constitutional law," said
Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public
and International Affairs at Princeton. "We are losing one of the
greatest bully pulpits we have ever had."
And so it goes.
half a brain should actually be voting for a Democratic presidential
candidate--no matter who they are.
"There is no secret about any of this. The figures below are all from
the annual Economic Report of the President, and the analysis is
primitive. Nevertheless, what these numbers show almost beyond doubt
is that Democrats are better at virtually every economic task that is
important to Republicans."
Check it out. Kinsley has even provided a "lag-time" analysis, to see
what would change if you assume that a president's impact is delayed
from their actual term. Even then, the dems beat out the republican in
5 out of 7 categories.
So, to all y'all fiscal conservatives out there: if you have any
sense, and a desire to put things back on track, vote for Obama! Fifty
years of history doesn't lie.
It seems that in America currently, the more accurate you are, the
more likely it will be that your mentioning facts will cause
"conservative" individual to double down on lies and misinformation.
"Let's assume for a minute that Palin, McCain and all of their collective cronies are right about the trooper-gate investigation being 100% a partisan witch hunt, notwithstanding the original vote. So freakin' what? In the US, congress and state legislatures are tasked with investigating actions of the executive offices. The executives can then present evidence to defend themselves, and their evidence can include displays of outright partisanship if they find it. They cannot legally, however, just ignore the legislative bodies. They are legally required to cooperate. This is theoretically what makes us different from countries like North Korea, Musharraf's Pakistan, Zimbabwe, etc.This is the issue. We again allow ourselves to be distracted from the forest by the trees. The fact is that whatever the issue being investigated, it doesn't matter: the law dictates that we play by certain rules to expose either the validity of the accusations, or their inaccuracy.
On a second point, how is McCain's campaign legally able to insert itself into an issue that is solely about Alaska? The investigation has nothing to do with anything outside of Alaska and it predates Palin's VP candidacy, so it seems to me like some kind of obstruction or interference from a legal point of view."
Subpoenas can't just be ignored.
The Governor can't just decide to not play along.
The McCain campaign cannot step in to a State government matter just because they don't like how it will reflect on their poorly chosen running mate.
These are things that really matter. Just as John Woo's defining away of torture matters. Just as Guantanamo matters. The very nature of this Republic depends on us continuing to believe that they matter.
White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while if you're black and believe in reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), you are a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn't fit to safeguard American institutions.Oh yeah. Read the whole thing. It's worth it. And if you're white, then think about it, dammit.
These things matter.
And McCain can't seem to grapple with the facts ("the economy is fundamentally sound" - oh, wait, no, I meant "we are in a crisis"), and has Palin by his side (who "knows more about energy than anyone else in the country" because her state produces 7.5% of US oil & gas --- only she claims it as 20% of all US energy reserves).
AIG collapse and takeover. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and HBOS considering mergers and buyouts to avoid collapse. The Ukraine government collapsed amid interparty bickering, opening a new opportunity for Russian pressure--as they step up their rhetoric against NATO. 16 dead from a car bomb at our embassy in Yemen. Skirmishes heating up with Pakistan along the Afghan border (5 dead). Sectarian gunbattles breaking out in Beirut.
Obama has a detailed grasp of international policy, a calm demeanor, a statesmanlike approach, and Joe Biden to help on particulars and with world leaders requiring first-name basis relationships. His responses to the economic meltdown may not be ideal, but at least they are relatively sensible, reality based, and pretty consistent with the events on the ground.
For decades, typical Americans have not been rewarded for their increasing productivity with comparably higher pay or better benefits. The disconnect between work and reward has been especially acute during the Bush years, as workers’ incomes fell while corporate profits, which flow to investors and company executives, ballooned. For workers, that is a fundamental flaw in today’s economy. It is grounded in policies like a chronically inadequate minimum wage and an increasingly unprogressive tax system, for which Mr. McCain offers no alternatives.Read the whole thing, and then think if this is really where you'd want to go.
As for Wall Street, Mr. McCain blamed the meltdown on “unbridled corruption and greed.” He called for a commission to find out what happened and propose solutions. His diagnosis and his cure are misguided. The crisis on Wall Street is fundamentally a failure to do the things that temper, detect and punish corruption and greed. It was a failure to police the markets, to enforce rules, to heed and sound warnings and expose questionable products and practices.
The regulatory failure is rooted in a markets-are-good-government-is-bad ideology that has been ascendant as long as Mr. McCain has been in Washington and championed by his own party. If Mr. McCain adheres to some other belief system, we would like to hear about it.
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Shares of Wall Street firms Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs plummeted on Wednesday and the UK's biggest mortgage lender, HBOS Plc, looked set to be bought in the latest signs of financial industry distress.When all is said and done, just how much of the independent money market will NOT be owned by government?
"WARREN, Ohio - Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a day after flatly rejecting the idea of a taxpayer bailout for American International Group Inc., said Wednesday that the government had been "forced" into proposing an $85 billion loan to the nation's largest insurer.
McCain said in an interview that he didn't want the government to bail out AIG. "But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investment, whose insurance were at risk here," he said in an interview with "Good Morning America" on ABC. "They were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption." Elaborating on the charge of corruption, McCain said that many Wall Street executives had claimed "everything's fine, not to worry" and that Congress and regulators had paid no attention. "All of them were asleep at the switch," he said, and went on to blame special interests and lobbyists as well.
Asked for specific examples of corruption regarding AIG, senior McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt offered none.
"Well, at this hour, when you look at the situation, it is still muddled and unclear," Schmidt told The Associated Press. "But it is clear that the system has been corrupted.""
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin promotes herself as a small-government conservative. But when Alaska government officials wanted to shut down a money-losing creamery, the governor overturned the decision after dairy farmers near her hometown complained the loss of subsidies would cripple them.
JUNEAU, Alaska -- Five Republican state lawmakers filed suit Tuesday to end the bipartisan investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of the public-safety commissioner even though the vice-presidential candidate once said she welcomed the probe into allegations of abuse of power.
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain's health-care plan would make only a small dent in the ranks of the uninsured, at best covering about five million more people, two new reports conclude.
Democratic nominee Barack Obama would cover more people -- eventually adding about 34 million, according to one of those reports, by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Sen. Obama's plan would be costly, the center concluded: $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Sen. McCain's would cost nearly as much: $1.3 trillion over the same span. The center doesn't give either campaign credit for initiatives to reduce the cost of health care.
Financial markets hinge on trust, and that trust has eroded. Lehman's collapse marks at the very least a powerful symbol of a new low in confidence, and the reverberations will continue.Read his whole piece here. The commentary is a good parable for the state of our government as a whole.
The crisis in trust extends beyond banks. In the global context, there is dwindling confidence in US policymakers. At July's G8 meeting in Hokkaido the US delivered assurances that things were turning around at last. The weeks since have done nothing but confirm any global mistrust of government experts.
I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.
And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence....
Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.
"If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week."--Bill Burton, spokesperson for the Obama campaign.
the American International Group appeared to be faltering on Tuesday,
as talks involving the Federal Reserve and several banks turned to the
possibility of using government money to shore up the ailing insurance
giant, people briefed on the negotiations said Tuesday morning.
Fed officials were still meeting with A.I.G., JPMorgan Chase, Goldman
Sachs, Morgan Stanley and others at the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York Tuesday morning to discuss possible options. It isn't clear that
any solution, including one involving government money, will emerge,
this person said."
"We're going to need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed," McCain said on the ABC's "Good Morning America" a day after the financial crisis slammed global markets.A 9/11 commission? He must be joking. Pretty much everyone knows why and how we wound up here: and it's similar to the situation which McCain should know intimately (cf. Keating Five and the Savings&Loan fiasco). What we need is a rapid response to the conditions which gave rise over the last 8 years to a sense that anything goes in the market, and that any regulation was antithetical to progress.
Is he joking? A 9/11 commission? How about a sensible process for government oversight of financial practice? McCain goes farther and farther into the dark halls of political cynicism. It's like watching a former teetotaler fall into rampant alcoholism. I wonder if addictive behavior runs in his family?
Pakistan's army spokesman has made clear that its forces have been ordered to open fire if US troops launch another raid across the Afghan border.This comes on the heels of our new and grudgingly spoken approach that we will no longer watch our so-called close ally in the war surreptitiously play both sides of the battle for their own gain, at the expense of our own blood and treasure. I hope that it does not set off any truly unpleasant themes. Remember that we are playing a delicate game of balancing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and that two of those three are now nuclear powers, with only a word between restraint and rogue status.
Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that "no incursion is to be tolerated".
His remarks come a day after Pakistani troops were reported to have fired shots into the air to stop US troops crossing into South Waziristan.
I remember almost six years ago, listening to a heated debate between the representatives of India and Pakistan in a forum on international terrorism, and being both amused and terrified when the Indian representative effectively defined terrorism as (and here I am significantly paraphrasing, but definitely capturing tone and intent) a Pakistani with a bomb. And I remember the outburst from the Pakistani representative in response.
We have waded into territory that contains wars that are not ours, and volatile relationships that predate us and our democracies. Caution, caution.
Sarah Palin is unlikely to testify in the Trooper-Gate investigation, according to a spokesman for the McCain campaign.Josh Marshall and his crew see it. Sullivan sees it. Even Richard Cohen now sees it.
Speaking at a press conference in Alaska last night, spokesman Ed O'Callaghan argued that the probe had become "tainted."
When will we wake up, America?
"Let me get this straight. John McCain's top economic advisor, former Sen. Phil Gramm, is the guy who authored the deregulation law that most agree is the ultimate cause of today's financial meltdown. Tomorrow's and probably next week's too. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. John Thain, CEO of Merrill Lynch, which swirled into brokerage oblivion today, is one of McCain's top economic advisors too. And now McCain says he's going to clean up the mess by putting in tighter regulations and oversight even though he's always supported lax oversight and his top economics guy is the one who loosened the rules in the first place."http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/217149.php
light that I do --- good lord, I'm agreeing with Arnold! --- and is
threatening a veto of last night's CA budget accord:
As the SF Chron says: "Schwarzenegger sent a letter to legislative
leaders Monday afternoon saying their plan for budget reform wasn't
"I have been very clear this entire year that I would be unable to
sign a budget without meaningful budget reform," the governor said in
the that was obtained by The Chronicle.
Schwarzenegger wants three changes to the lawmakers' proposal in how
the state creates and uses rainy-day funds that are saved during flush
years and used during tough fiscal years."
And from the peanut gallery of sane outsiders:
"Many Capitol observers bemoaned the compromise budget they said would
use accounting gimmicks to help paper over the giant budget gap and
would create a bigger mess next year.
"How long do you think we can go without reaching a point where there
are no more deferred payments, when there are no more early tax
payments and when there are no more ways to jury-rig the system?" said
Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State
With the entire global economic system teetering on the brink of a
meltdown, I really think that now is a bad time for the state
legislators to be standing on ideological principle. Perhaps a
"time-out" in the corner for them all will allow them a moment of
Monday, September 15, 2008
For my money, the best quote from any of it:
"Our global engagement cannot be defined by what we are against; it must be guided by a clear sense of what we stand for."Indeed.
-- Barack Obama.
"There is no question that creationism is growing," he says. "It is increasingly well funded, and well organised."On the bright side, there continue to be voices of reason, and no compunction about speaking with them:
"Creationism is anti-science," says Mr Porteous Wood. "Teaching it to children is a form of intellectual child abuse, because it gives them the wrong facts about life." His passionate views echo those of Prof Dawkins, who last month accused teachers of "bending over backwards" to respect "prejudices" that children have been brought up with at home.The bewildering need for folks to create a dialectic between Evolutionary theory and creationism is truly part of the problem: Evolution is a scientific theory: which means that it is the best explanation for existing phenomena, and is not "fact" nor "truth"---it is an idea which is living, growing, and capable of change in the face of new evidence. That is, in part, the beauty of science.
Creationism is faith---belief despite evidence.
No, they shouldn't be juxtaposed. Biblical literalism is an unpleasant addition to the cult of ignorance we are cultivating right now in the world.
It's more apropos for the wielders of terror (against whom we presumably struggle today) than for those who claim to be the vanguard of liberty.
pass. At last. And yet...Here according to the SF Chronicle, are the
Key cuts: K-12 and community colleges ($2.9 billion); 10 percent
reduction in Medi-Cal rates for first two months ($307 million);
University of California ($233 million); California State University
($215 million); suspend cost-of-living adjustment for CalWorks, state
and federal SSI payments ($542 million).
Key revenues: Elimination of net operating loss deductions for
businesses ($2 billion); accelerated tax payments ($1.3 billion);
earlier payment of fees on limited liability corporations ($360
So basically we are slash-and-burning through state education and
health care for our cost reductions (that will bite us in the ass soon
enough, eh?) And for revenues, we're engaging some speed-ups on
payments that will take until the next budget cycle for folks to find
ways to avoid--netting us a whole heap of nasty yet again come next
And worse: in what way is the elimination of a tax deduction NOT a tax
increase for those affected? Do the CA Republicans really buy that?
So much for the GOP (or the dems for that matter) standing on
principal. Looks like we wind up with (yet again) the worst of both
worlds---avoidance of real reform or restructuring, avoidance of our
infrastructure needs, and mendacious claims of tax reform where there
isn't any, and all without any positive impact beyond just clearing
the legislative impasse that was self-imposed in the first place.
"Mr. Paulson blamed past actions for the problems, pointing to a
depression era regulatory system. But he ducked an opportunity to
address whether decisions made in Washington during the Bush
administration played a role. "I'll leave history to the historians."
He also said the "long-term economic fundamentals" of the United
States were as good or better than any other large developed country's
fundamentals. There is a rule of thumb that when the government
proclaims the fundamentals are good, you should sell.
And if they praise only the "long-term" fundamentals, implying that
the short-term ones are not so great, that does not sound encouraging
it appears that the McCain team is at a loss for a reasonable
comeback, and are falling back on the Palin approach:
"Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, said the advertisement was
inappropriate "as Americans face economic uncertainty.""
That's right. Show some deference. Because otherwise you might show up
your opponent's crass opportunism at a moment when it does him no
Worthy of note: While Paulson is providing us with the palliative that
it's just a bit bumpy now "as we work off some of the past excesses",
we also have this sobering condensation of where we are right now:
"Bank of America's move to buy Merrill in a $50bn deal means that
three of the top five US investment banks have fallen prey to the
sub-prime crisis within six months."
Three out of five. In just six months.
To me, that doesn't parse as good odds for "fundamentally sound" nor
any other easing statement. That says that the majority of our
baseline structure is an very bad shape. 60% of the industry just said
It will be an interesting week. Let's wait and see what cards fall
next, and where AIG lands after that infusion from the governor of NY.
messaging, it's time to hunker down and wait for the explosion:
"During an appearance Friday on ABC's "The View," Sen. McCain said
Gov. Palin shared his views, and hasn't sought congressional earmarks.
"Not as governor she hasn't," he said.
In fact, in the current fiscal year, she is seeking $197 million for
31 projects, the records show. In the prior year, her first year in
office, she sought $256 million for dozens more projects ranging from
research on rockfish and harbor-seal genetics to rural sanitation and
obesity prevention. "
As I've said before, I don't have a problem really with state
Governor's seeking federal funds for their constituencies. It's sorta
their job. The problem here is that McCain has made a career of
combatting this type of fiscal favoritism, and now suddenly has become
not only dismissive of its inclusion on his ticket, but disingenuous
about it as well.
The stain is on McCain, and no one else.
critically important discussion. I am happy to find here some insight
from Fareed Zakaria----always a thinker of value.
"It's also worth noting that since World War II, the United States has
tended to make its strategic missteps by exaggerating dangers....
Since the end of the Cold War, similar alarms have been sounded several
times. In the 1990s, the Cox Commission argued that China was building a
military to rival ours, citing numbers that soon proved to be bogus. Then
there was Saddam Hussein, who was described as a powerful and imminent
threat to the United States. In fact, the greatest problem we have faced in
Iraq is its weakness, its utter dysfunction as a state and a nation."
Take a gander. On a day like today, if you are in doubt as to whose
world view might take into account more of the realities and
complexities of our lives----and thereby provide some more material
benefit to our country and its leadership in the world----you need to
"the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression" -- Barack Obama.
"Our economy, I think still -- the fundamentals of our economy are
strong." -- John McCain.
You've got to wonder.
After taking a deep look at the man way back when McCain still had
scruples, it's possible that the current display of Big Daddy-level
mendacity drove him to the noose.
And as Christopher Beam says over at Slate: "Authenticity is hard
enough to maintain when you're asserting your own commitment to truth
and fairness and integrity. When you're actively undermining it on a
daily basis—as McCain has been in recent weeks, with not just
distortions but reckless repetitions thereof—upkeep of authenticity
becomes all but impossible."
When even Karl Rove says ["McCain has gone in some of his ads --
similarly gone one step too far," he told Fox News, "and sort of
attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the '100
percent truth' test."] that a body has gone too far over that bridge,
what can a reasonable person think?
Ken Wattret, chief euro-zone economist at BNP Paribas said: "There is
the possibility of intensifying financial problems that will impact
the U.S. economy and then spill over into Europe and other markets."
"We've seen business confidence collapse and the likelihood is that
what happens will further enhance the downturn. The momentum downward
is building." (NYT:
"AIG was not a conceiveable bankruptcy in my mind. Sure I knew about
the fake accounting with finite insurance and the mortgage insurer. I
even knew they owned $20 billion in "super-senior" so they were
clearly stupid. But I never knew enough." (NYT:
The Lehman insolvency will be "larger and more complex" than similar
proceedings for Enron " (WSJ: http://blogs.wsj.com/wallstreetcrisis/)
This will be a long, slow and likely very painful downturn.
"Investors are uncertain about what it means for the U.S. Treasury and
the Federal Reserve to have drawn the line in the sand now and
reintroduced the concept of moral hazard," said Phil Orlando, chief
equity market strategist, at Federated Investors in New York. "Those
who have said we're at the bottom a thousand points ago are probably
"Adjustments in the final markets can be painful, both for people
concerned about their investments and for the employees of the
affected firms," the president said. "But in the long run I am
confident that our capital markets are flexible and resilient and can
deal with these adjustments."
So saith President Bush. And Sen. McCain is concurring. Personally, I
have to wonder if such a bland platitude is the best prescription at
the moment: the economy is in for a bad tumble, and rather than
reassuring us, perhaps we should be doubling down for protection. Some
other opinions from a few people with slightly more fiscal sense than
Bush---whose record includes our current deficit and collapse, a
failed oil company, a broke baseball team, and a trust fund.
"Confidence has really collapsed," said Yann Azuelos, fund manager at
Meeschaert, an asset manager in Paris. "With the rescue of Fannie and
Freddie, we thought the worst had passed. Now we know it hasn't."
"Perhaps a once-in-a-century event" - Alan Greenspan.
"One of the lessons we took from Japan was the hesitation and refusal
to own up to the problem was a disaster," says University of Chicago
Graduate School of Business economist Anil Kashyap.
U.S. financial firms, too, have struggled with owning up to the extent
of their credit losses, partly because those losses are a moving
target. A year ago, Bear Stearns Cos. was reluctant to sell
mortgage-related credit at a loss. That decision came back to haunt
the firm as declining home prices continued to pummel mortgages, and
Bear ended up in a government-backed fire sale to J.P. Morgan Chase &
Co. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch & Co. Chief Executive John Thain said in
a January interview that the firm's troubles were "for the most part
behind us" -- but in July the firm agreed to sell more than $30
billion in mortgage-related assets at a large loss.
"The denial strategy is harder to pull off -- it will catch up to you
in the accounting," says Mr. Shin. (from the WSJ)
Where is the realism necessary to address not just activity on Wall
Street, but for those impacted on Main Street? Where is our leadership
Sunday, September 14, 2008
An interesting article from AP on what's going on among the evangelicals right now:
When Jessica Stollings learned on Facebook that John McCain had named Sarah Palin as his running mate, the 26-year-old from Bristol, Tenn., took the day off and picked up some campaign yard signs. Just like that, she went from "just a voter" to a McCain evangelist.Yet again, I am horrified. I know that nearly a quarter of all US voters self-identify as part of this group --- evangelical Christian --- but by focusing on and courting them almost to the exclusion of all else, we are running quickly down the road to a government that looks more like an Israeli-style democracy, bound and owned by a religious minority, than the republic which the Constitution describes.
"He's a lot more visionary than I thought," said Stollings, a blooming evangelical activist for her generation who believes God has raised up Palin "for such a time as this."
Think about it. Do you really want a country that is governed by a particular religious point of view, a particular set of pastoral demands, a particular image of what God demands? Do you really want to drive down that road, here in America?
I link directly to Andrew Sullivan, since he's saying the same thing I've been saying the last few days, but he says it better and more succinctly:
All that matters to McCain is winning. By whatever means. By whatever lies. It's pure Rove. Which is why, if it works against a candidate like Obama, we will not have honest or rational discourse in American politics for a generation.Truth matters. the means matter. Winning the battle this way only pre-empts any possibility of winning the greater "war."
Obama's campaign gathered $66 million this month, and the Democratic Party another $17 million on top of that. This gives me hope that there are other people like me, and like Sullivan, out there, and that we aren't voices crying in the wilderness. Please, remember: this is the choice for a generation or longer that we are making in November. Don't give in to the cult of ignorance. Don't let this nation veer off into the world of Kinder, Kirche, Kuche. Hope matters.
And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor's career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant
to the governor on the line, she said. "You should be ashamed!" Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. "Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!"
(as reported in the NY Times).
Why yes, I do recall that First Amendment thingy.