Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Links I Think You Should Follow

There are a number of articles that I read and some I think should be discussed more broadly; toward that, I submit the following headline links:
I firmly believe that copyright law in the U.S. is going to hold a primary role in the economic and political power development of the United States in the world in the next century
This is a decent introduction to Data Mining and the increasing importance the U.S. and other governments are giving this form of spying. I'd suggest that data mining and copyright are going to become inextricably intertwined in the future.
This Q&A gives some flavor of the Japanese Labor Market today and suggests rising domestic tensions, particularly in the young. This seems an important demographic to keep in mind: unemployment is up, the family model is shifting (largely because young people aren't getting married), the food supply is regularly seen as vulnerable, and the economy just won't pick up after over a decade of slow growth.
I mention this because it reminds me of Norway's Global Crop Diversity Trust
Did you know that the largest reserve of methane (more dangerous than CO2 in the Global Warming crisis) is in the Arctic? Did you know that there are techniques such as introducing seawater into low-lying marine clouds that could reduce the amount of sunlight entering the lower atmosphere? I didn't, interesting read.
Brad Setser is putting forward in this lil' ditty and in the comments a lot of trash about why it's the Chinese that are at the root of our economic policy problems we are facing.

If I've got Setser right, we should blame China for the mess we're in because they were buying lots of agnency bonds during what we now call the housing boom and so interest rates were made lower than they should have been.

But that's absurd: it's because deregulation in how American investment banks that individuals were told to sell more loans to more potential consumers. Why were there so many potential consumers? Not because we experienced some kind of population boom of people in need of houses, but because wages in the U.S. have continued to sag during the last ten years.

We've had an unsustainable economy operating for nearly 15 years and I'd say it's probably more like 20 years. Works like NAFTA created this situation, where what is important about America in the world economy is not the strength of its innovation nor its production, but its good name. The recently rejected bailout was intended to restore America's good name, and so get lending occurring again, not to actually address the problem: that America has too much debt at every level, micro and macro.

Can Sarah Palin Really See Alaska From Her House?

This is a pretty hilarious blog posting about hyperbole

The Peterson Institute's History Lesson

The Peterson Institute, in their new "blog" sketch out a brief history for how we got into this mess and then go on to discuss what is coming next.

Read it all here

This is much more than a housing crisis……….

Problems in the US housing market triggered a global crisis of confidence in global financial institutions, but the housing problems themselves were not big enough to generate the current financial collapse....

…and it is not about too much leverage

But, conventional wisdom continues, this fall in housing prices was magnified by leverage, causing financial institutions to collapse. But this is also not a compelling argument. First, what does it mean to be too leveraged? Economic theory provides no concrete answer, because it depends on the way you use leverage, and on the other tools available to mitigate risk...."

The authors then see the events leading to our imminent economic collapse unfolding in several stages:

1) Investors no longer believing that subprime mortgages were safe investment vehicles (that is, ways to make good money with little risk of losing money)

2) Bear Sterns' Fails: "As investment banks evolved into proprietary trading houses with large blocks of illiquid securities on their books, they became dependent on the ability to roll over their short-term loans, regardless of the quality of their assets. In other words, they became like emerging market economies in 1997.... However, while the Federal Reserve and Treasury made sure that Bear Stearns equity holders were penalized, they also made sure that creditors were made whole—a pattern they would follow with Fannie and Freddie. In effect, the government sent the message that creditors could safely keep their counterparty risk with large financial institutions—implicitly encouraging banks to continue lending to each other."

3) Policy Change: "The third stage, beginning two weeks ago with the failure of Lehman and the "rescue" of AIG, marked a dramatic and damaging reversal of policy—something which is underappreciated in Washington today....This decisive change in policy probably reflects a growing political movement in Washington to protect taxpayer funds after the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac actions and the headlines that US taxpayers were now taking on $6 trillion of debt. In any case, though, the implications for creditors and bond investors are clear: RUN from all entities that might fail. Even organizations that are too big to fail, even if they appear solvent apart from the liquidity crisis, are no longer safe. As in the emerging markets crisis of a decade ago, anyone who needs access to the credit markets to survive might lose access at any time, and hence might fail....

There is no doubt the genie is now out of the bottle. There is general fear around the world that any leveraged institution might fail....There is a second ominous aspect of these collapses. When companies fall, the survivors benefit....While the conventional wisdom views this as healthy, in reality this is a cost of extreme lack of trust in credit markets. The acquirers have an incentive to wait, let a company fall, and then scoop up the assets. Treasury and the Fed are each time relieved that someone can "come to the rescue." America's financial system is quickly becoming dominated by a few players who will naturally strategize to get assets as cheaply as they can. This is standard market behavior, without any collusion or conspiracy, but quite far from generating efficient market pricing.

In this context, there are two critical questions. First, what happens next? And second, what can we do about it?"

Krugman: The 3 A.M. Call

I think Krugman has done a fine job of pointing out what needs to be heard: McCain's people are woefully underprepared to help us next year when the economy tanks:

"It’s 3 a.m., a few months into 2009, and the phone in the White House rings. Several big hedge funds are about to fail, says the voice on the line, and there’s likely to be chaos when the market opens. Whom do you trust to take that call?

I’m not being melodramatic. The bailout plan released yesterday is a lot better than the proposal Henry Paulson first put out — sufficiently so to be worth passing. But it’s not what you’d actually call a good plan, and it won’t end the crisis. The odds are that the next president will have to deal with some major financial emergencies.

So what do we know about the readiness of the two men most likely to end up taking that call? Well, Barack Obama seems well informed and sensible about matters economic and financial. John McCain, on the other hand, scares me.

About Mr. Obama: it’s a shame that he didn’t show more leadership in the debate over the bailout bill, choosing instead to leave the issue in the hands of Congressional Democrats, especially Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. But both Mr. Obama and the Congressional Democrats are surrounded by very knowledgeable, clear-headed advisers, with experienced crisis managers like Paul Volcker and Robert Rubin always close at hand.

Then there’s the frightening Mr. McCain — more frightening now than he was a few weeks ago.

We’ve known for a long time, of course, that Mr. McCain doesn’t know much about economics — he’s said so himself, although he’s also denied having said it. That wouldn’t matter too much if he had good taste in advisers — but he doesn’t.

Remember, his chief mentor on economics is Phil Gramm, the arch-deregulator, who took special care in his Senate days to prevent oversight of financial derivatives — the very instruments that sank Lehman and A.I.G., and brought the credit markets to the edge of collapse. Mr. Gramm hasn’t had an official role in the McCain campaign since he pronounced America a “nation of whiners,” but he’s still considered a likely choice as Treasury secretary.

And last year, when the McCain campaign announced that the candidate had assembled “an impressive collection of economists, professors, and prominent conservative policy leaders” to advise him on economic policy, who was prominently featured? Kevin Hassett, the co-author of “Dow 36,000.” Enough said.

Now, to a large extent the poor quality of Mr. McCain’s advisers reflects the tattered intellectual state of his party. Has there ever been a more pathetic economic proposal than the suggestion of House Republicans that we try to solve the financial crisis by eliminating capital gains taxes? (Troubled financial institutions, by definition, don’t have capital gains to tax.)

But even President Bush has, in the twilight of his administration, turned to relatively sensible people to make economic decisions: I’m not a fan of Mr. Paulson, but he’s a vast improvement over his predecessor. At this point, one has the suspicion that a McCain administration would have us longing for Bush-era competence.

The real revelation of the last few weeks, however, has been just how erratic Mr. McCain’s views on economics are. At any given moment, he seems to have very strong opinions — but a few days later, he goes off in a completely different direction.

Thus on Sept. 15 he declared — for at least the 18th time this year — that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” This was the day after Lehman failed and Merrill Lynch was taken over, and the financial crisis entered a new, even more dangerous stage.

But three days later he declared that America’s financial markets have become a “casino,” and said that he’d fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission — which, by the way, isn’t in the president’s power.

And then he found a new set of villains — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders. (Despite some real scandals at Fannie and Freddie, they played little role in causing the crisis: most of the really bad lending came from private loan originators.) And he moralistically accused other politicians, including Mr. Obama, of being under Fannie’s and Freddie’s financial influence; it turns out that a firm owned by his own campaign manager was being paid by Freddie until just last month.

Then Mr. Paulson released his plan, and Mr. McCain weighed vehemently into the debate. But he admitted, several days after the Paulson plan was released, that he hadn’t actually read the plan, which was only three pages long.

O.K., I think you get the picture.

The modern economy, it turns out, is a dangerous place — and it’s not the kind of danger you can deal with by talking tough and denouncing evildoers. Does Mr. McCain have the judgment and temperament to deal with that part of the job he seeks"

Friday, September 26, 2008

In Response to Joe’s Question

Joe asked,
"I feel like this is a bad time to know as little as I do about economics, credit, and Wall Street. One expert I heard (not that I trust experts) believes that the problem necessitating a bailout is that with all the bad debt out there losing money, lenders will be less likely to loan to even solvent businesses and citizens, thus slowing progress to a halt.

What are your thoughts on the bailout? I can't quite tell if you're entirely against it or not."

To the first question, "what the hell happened to get us here?" I would refer y'all to Barry Ritholtz's recent post on The Big Picture. Basically, what got us here is that banks were allowed to deregulate (because a certain "free market's always good"-kind of Ayn Rand-loving faction of those in power began working overtime during the past decade) in such a way that banks were allowed to lend and sell credit as an asset.

Now, credit is simply a promise to be repaid. An asset is something of value that can stand in the place of credit that is not repaid; it's also known as collateral. Many, many, many a loan officer was encouraged to make loans to people that simply should not have been considered for mortgage loans.

Why were they so encouraged? Because of the new deregulation one firm could bundle up a bunch of these loans and sell them to investment groups (like hedge funds) and say that these were assets. Why was it considered an asset? Because there was real property backing up the loan (the physical house). But here's the thing. With this deregulation it was possible to sell shares in these mortgages. So it wasn't the case that you had one bad loan that went into foreclosure, and one investment firm. It was more like, this investment firm is entitled to the windows on this foreclosed house.

The problem with the foreclosure is that you gotta pay all these people to do all the paper work to get the house back, for one. But then, when the bank that forecloses tries to sell that property, everyone wants a deal. No one wants to pay what the newly-foreclosed paid. Why? 'Cause they know that the bank is taking a loss already, now they want to know how much of a loss the bank is willing to take.

This is the fundamental assumption of our economic theory, right? People will always try to maximize profit rationally.

So, let's use the old mantra, "as above, so below," and discuss what's happening at the macro level.

Imagine that you're an investment bank, or a regular bank like WaMu. You, like your peers at firms that have been mythologized over the past 30 years as "too big to fail." Given that mindset, during the housing boom of the past 10 years or so (fueled by the deregulation because now people weren't buying one house, they were buying two or three and "flipping" them), your bank became exposed (that is, took ownership) of a lot of these kinds of loans where people put little money down because they were borrowing on the anticipated value of their home in the future. Everyone's been telling each other for years (hell, it's the American dream) that owning a home is always the way to go because homes always increase in value (and they do, but it takes generations, not tens of months).

So your this exposed bank, with loans that no one wants to buy for the amount the banks originally said they were worth. Say you had a loan for $1.00 and had been doing all your accounting assuming that the loan would either be paid on time or that you could sell that loan to someone else for at least $1.00 if not $1.30.

Problem is now everyone knows that these hot potato loans are no good, so now people are making offers to buy what the bank thought was worth $1.00 for maybe $0.30. That's called current value.

The bailout that's been proposed until today, when McCain came in and screwed the pooch by insisting he had answers to the problem (this is the same man who a week ago said the American economy is fundamentally strong and we had nothing to worry about; his economic adviser even had the chutzpah to say that all this economic recession/meltdown talk was due to America being a country of whiners).... Anyways, the problem with the bailout is two fold:
1) it doesn't give a realistic value for the value of these loans its about to take on (so the Fed will buy those loans for $1.00 and then hopes to sell them; but will likely only be able to sell them for at most $0.60; so tax payers lose a lot and the people who sold those loans to the Fed will just swoop in and buy them back for $0.60 thereby making a killing)
2) it has as its goal reintroducing credit into the economy, trying to get banks to lend money to each other again (which is like giving Isaac Mendez heroin so that he can paint the future for Mr. Bennet).
So, I think that America has a choice: either go ahead and let the economy spill out into a depression by allowing that wave of deregulation go full circle or go ahead and bail out these banks.

I think the bailout as it's structured now will lead to at least a recession and probably won't allow us to avoid a global depression anyways. I think a depression is a given. I think the further problem with the bailout as it's set up, though, is that it creates a system that in the future is going to do more to harm the American people than help them.

I think not offering a bailout that emphasizes that the tax payers become the primary beneficiary of whatever "assets" they acquire by purchasing all these loans will not only lead to recession at least but also is a $700bn slap in the American face.

McCain’s Lies Just Keep Comin’

So McCain's announced he will stop campaigning so that he can save our economy by going to Washington and - get this - stop the rescue effort that was nearly agreed upon.

He even dropped his appearance on David Letterman, the place where he announced his candidacy, so that he could get to saving the economy. And naturally, to save the world economy (by following the same policies of the very people that got us into this mess)... No seriously, to save the world economy McCain had to cancel his appearance with Letterman so that he could meet with whom? Well Katie Couric, of course!

The McCain Campaign Sputters on

Here's something scary to imagine: Sarah Palin having any sort of role in the White House. This is from her interview with Katie Couric (by way of the LA Times) -

"That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in . . . where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

What the hell is she talking about? She's sitting there with the chick from Good Morning America, y'know? This is the slow and easy pitch if ever there is one. How can anyone have faith in the leadership decisions of someone that would choose her as a running mate?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bush’s Speech Last Night

How do you know that he's lying? Yeah, his lips are moving.

Bush said the $700bn Paulson-Bernanke Proposal would "buy troubled mortgages at current low prices and hold them until the prices rise." But the truth is (as every economist on the interweb seems to agree, for once) the complete opposite will occur.

The problem that no bank is willing to sell the garbage that deregulators (like McCain's Economic Advisor, Phil Gramm) allowed to be called assets for what the free market believes is the accurate price: it's garbage and deserves garbage prices.

McCain, also lying, said that the reason he won't go to the Presidential debates is because he should go help the discussion in Washington. How's that a lie? As Obama pointed out, "President's have to be able to do more than one thing at once." Obama also pointed out that both of them have big, expensive, fast jets that could get them from Point A to Point B. One Congressman commented, "What's McCain think? We're gonna be sitting in here debating at 9 o'clock that night?"

McCain's such a terrible liar. He stated in the Wall Street Journal:
"America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system," Sen. McCain said. "We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy." [emphasis mine]

The issue with the economy is not a lack of credit (credit's what got us to this point), it's a lack of liquidity. No one can get rid of what the deregulation crew (such as McCain's economic adviser, Phil Gramm) allowed to be called assets. These "assets" were simply credit extended.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

America’s Anti-Intellectualism

I got this post from Economist's View and I think it's a great post to share.

From Jeffrey D. Sachs in Today's Zaman:

"In recent years, the United States has been more a source of global instability than a source of global problem-solving.

Examples include the war in Iraq, launched by the US on false premises, obstructionism on efforts to curb climate change, meager development assistance and the violation of international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions. While many factors contributed to America's destabilizing actions, a powerful one is anti-intellectualism, exemplified recently by Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's surging popularity.

By anti-intellectualism, I mean especially an aggressively anti-scientific perspective, backed by disdain for those who adhere to science and evidence. The challenges faced by a major power like the US require rigorous analysis of information according to the best scientific principles."

I believe that the author is pretty spot on, really: America's deliberately steered itself away from "book learning" and really embraced "street smarts." Am I taking it too far to say that this is why gangsta rap and gangster movies and jackass-type movies are so popular? Don't get me wrong: I like gangsta rap and I really enjoyed American Gangster (although I laughed really hard at the part where the Fed agent yelled at Russell Crowe, "No black person in the history of America has come close to what the Italians have done," how was that for race-baiting?)

And here's where I feel Philosophy, once again, is overlooked. In 1979 Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote "The Postmodern Condition - A Report on Knowledge" addressing the rise of just this way of thinking. Lyotard sees this world view shifting during the 1950s in the wake of the rebuilding of Europe's devastation during WWII. Of course, ultimately Lyotard would probably see this as the inexorable result of the pursuit of Enlightenment Ideals, and I have to agree.

Earlier, at the University of Memphis, I had discussed some of what this conflict over Enlightenment Ideals looked like and I owe a great deal to Zizek and Roger T. Ames for how I would situate this problem.

Perhaps I will skip the juicy parts and leave it bluntly like this: all rational discourse in the West are suspect today because at the core of this discourse are the seeds of their own demise and these core assumptions must be overcome, as Nietzsche said, or we will forever be caught in this fatal tail-spin between rationalism and spiritualism, as Thomas Mann describes in his novel, The Magic Mountain.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vote for the Mumps or the Measles

I got a great email from mi cumpanero, Trente Centavos today and it was a perfect segue between my blogs this week and what I want to write about today. Thanks, Thirty Cent!

So, what are we supposed to do? We know that the government in office and that which is to come sucks. Vote or don't vote, you still have to choose between two people that don't represent you. So why vote? One thing that America, thus far, has yet to be at its core is fatalistic. As a nation, we still tend to act as though we are always just moments away from being a hero to someone. You can see it in the wake of every tragedy that has befallen Americans in America: there is always a glut of people trying to do good.

And of course, as was the case in response to Katrina, there are plenty of "leaders" that create a situation where those capable of giving help are actually denied access to providing that resource.

So what are we to do? I'm going to share a link hereand I want you to really ruminate on this one. It's a story about a Green Beret that leads military school cadets to the Himalayas to meet the Dalai Lama.


I'm sure there are many who will read just the headline and have a cynical response, like, "Why? So they can be better killers?" Or, "Just goes to show what an opportunist that Dalai Lama guy is," as though everyone understands already that being the world's most visible Actively-Engaged Buddhist means being so anti-military that the two are antithetical.

It reminds me of a story my wife, Karen, related to me after she went to last year's Mind and Life Conference. There was a woman representing the Military present who was interested in sharing mindfulness and meditation techniques with people in the military. Once this was identified, people began raising a stink saying things like, "Why? So they can be better killers?!" And it's sad to hear that. If you think that teaching people in the military about how to be more mindful of the interconnectedness of all things and that we ourselves are the roots of all suffering in this world is a bad thing, then you, are missing the point.

We are all equally capable of making the world a better place, and so we are all equally culpable. To the largest extent, that change in the world will not come from changing what is "out there," but rather changing from within. I'm not advocating self-abnegation (one more source of illusion and suffering in this world), I am instead putting forward a notion of hyperbolic responsibility for the situations we find ourselves in. We must be the change we want to see in the world.

I am saying that the lesser of two evils is less evil. We must move forward from somewhere, and it will always be from the point at which we find ourselves aware of the need to change. I do think that McCain is a worse choice at this moment in American history. I am fairly confident that his administration will make America weaker, not stronger. I would suggest to those of you that care, that you amplify that message. Do I think that Obama's going to underwhelm those people that think he will change politics in America? Yes I do.

But I do believe that it is time that America had an articulate leader. I think that the virtue of the Obama campaign has been precisely because it has activated so many people. The supporters of Obama's campaign made it clear that today, America will seriously consider a Woman and a Black man for President.

That's mind-blowing. It wasn't only by force of personality, or a gazillion dollars, or that his dad was the head of the CIA, Vice President, and former President, that Obama was put into this position. He was put there by the hard work of campaigners that had never been involved in a political campaign before.

Let me tell you something: I worked under a guy who was the SAME AGE as me and was not only the Executive Director of the Georgia Region office of the largest microlender in the United States, he was also the Commissioner of Clayton County in Atlanta. He was 29 years old.

I asked him how he decided to run for office and he said it was because he helped with one campaign. From that he learned how to assist in another campaign. And from that he realized that he, himself, could be that guy running for office. And now he's out there making the changes he believes in.

That's what Obama's come to represent - people saying that they want to be a part of the solution. There are so many problems with how America is running right now that it if you are not getting involved, it's more than a shame.

Yes: you can and will change how things work in this country if you are willing to learn about how it's happening and are willing to engage those people that are critical to changing how it is done. It's that simple. You simply have to be the hands and feet: walk the talk and do the work.

If you think that you have a better way of making that change then please, join the Americorps*VISTA program or the Peace Corps because those are two of the best ways to begin walking that talk.

I trust you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This Is Where I Want To Work

I've been looking for a few years now for a job that would require my researching love and satisfy my desires to both teach and effect policy change or allow me to make policy changes. I've so far envisioned that career path to simply include me teaching at a university and then maybe, one day, through lots of publishing I'd be a noted public intellectual. Like Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky, or maybe Ralph Nader (but, you know, without the angry suburbanites at rallies making out and acting like it's a rock concert).

Then today I discovered Public Diplomacy.

This is a new, uh, bureau? Section? Under the Department of State and promotes overcoming ideologies that valorize terrorism by winning the hearts and minds of publics around the world. The ultimate goal is to create a world where terrorism is an untenable option for people trying to affect change. And I support that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creating Immunity for Domestic Spying

I know that if I email one of you back in the US that my email will be intercepted and read by the U.S. government. Why? Because of what's called the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Anytime someone from overseas communicates with someone in the U.S. the Fed has a program for intercepting and reading said communications.

Now the Attorney General, Mukasey, has announced that the telecommunications companies (AT&T, Comcast, and so on) will be immune from prosecution for this secret spying. Senator Obama, that change you obey (I mean, believe in), and the rest of our terrible Congress, voted for passage this July of the new bill that makes this domestic spying program totally legal. Read more here.

I wanted to make more substantial some of what I said in my last post about how failed America has become. I know, each generation says their government fails them, but, seriously, our government is torturing innocent people (sometimes even children from Canada), because our government has been on this deregulation kick we are entering world wide economic meltdown (not my words, but the words of our government), because of our precedent for "Pre-emptive Strikes" the world order is even more fragile than it was 50 years ago (this is from a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General who resigned to expose the genocidal policies in Iraq).

What are you going to do to make this world better?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain Will Destroy America

If you think John McCain is someone that should be trusted with making decisions on your behalf or in your best interest, beyond - maybe - whether to order that sandwich or that soup and salad set, please read the following:

(I got this from Paul Krugman's blog)

"Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation." (emphasis added by me)

Do note that it is exactly this deregulation of the banking industry that has put us, as Henry Paulson (the guy running the Federal Reserve) warned Congress today, within days of complete economic meltdown. The meltdown caused by the "innovative products" that McCain refers to are more commonly understood as subprime loans.

He cannot campaign saying he will be the scourge of Wall Street and then praise Wall Street for doing the very thing that has placed the world economy on the brink of collapse. He's a liar, and you are killing your country and your future if you support John McCain's presidency.

I can't believe that Americans believe that there is any merit to the McCain campaign's assertion that what seperates him from Obama is experience, this absurd comment that Obama is too inexperienced. Here are some other "inexperienced" president's that we've been served by:

John Adams, who had no "executive" experience
Abraham Lincoln, Congressman for one term
Harry Truman, who was a Senator for two terms
And that was just off the top of my head.

John McCain is lying everyday, and he will ruin our country. How? By continuing to put his head in the sand and trust the same pack of wolves that have eroded our rights to lawful search and seizure, who have decided that America is a country that willfully and unashamedly tortures the innocent, that have bankrupted our economy by protecting their primary donors, and who have created the foreign policy that has lead our allies to not-so-quietly discuss how to move into the next century without us.

This has been the Party that destroyed America.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Wall Street Is Melting Down

Lots of posts today, lots on my mind...
This is a truly historic moment in the history of the United States, we usually think "business will go on as usual" but that clearly can't be the case anymore.

The argument from the American Conservative Reich (and I include Clinton in this since he was, "more Reagan than Reagan," to quote Matt Benard) has been to get smaller government and by that they meant less social services and less regulation in the economy. The swindle has been sold along these lines, "the gubment should git out of providing these services, American people know what they want, not the gubmint. If we git the gubmint outta these services then honest 'Mericans will start their own service providing cumpnies."

Well, today we see what I've always said: that those small-government/libertarian/neocons (McCain-Palin are just, simply, lying, to you all) have never had the sac big enough to back up that talk. We're nationalizing Wall Street, folks. Why? Because we ought to. That same ought that conservatives are so resistant to (remember that D Magazine article I shared yesterday?), has won the day. Let's face it, the conservative worldview that we've been force fed and withered under for nearly 30 years now has been one of deep distrust (this is from the Secretary of Labor) and ugly, naked greed. And now that the whole thing's spinning outta control, those that are supposed to be public servants are reaching down deep, like the Grinch in the cartoon, and trying to find a way to minimize the bloodbath.

Slavoj Zizek said in an interview last month that Communism was going to win. Fess-up, comrades.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ugly Things Happening to Ugly People

Or, Instant Karma's Gonna Getcha...
from the always helpful ARTNEWSlistserv I'm going to simply share the whole story from Twincities.com

My favorite bit has to be this:

"Asked by the interviewer how America would pay for a military confrontation with Iran, he said the U.S. should take the country's resources.
"We should plant a flag. Take the oil, take the money," he said. "We deserve reimbursement." A few hours after the interview, an unknown woman helped herself to Schwartz's resources."

GOP delegate's hotel tryst goes bad when he wakes up with $120,000 missing

.. -->date-->
He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed.

And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered.

When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings.

The thief's take stunned cops.

"It's very, very, very rare," Minneapolis Police Sgt. William Palmer said. "I can think of a couple of burglaries where we had that much stolen, but it's the first time I've heard of this kind of deal."

In a statement released today, Gabriel Nathan Schwartz, 29, of Denver, put the figure at much less.

"It's embarrassing to admit that I was a target of a crime. I was drugged and had about $50,000 of personal items stolen, not the inflated number that the media is reporting from an inaccurate police report," he said.

"As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment."

Contacted by the Denver Post Monday, Schwartz declined to speak on the record. In the statement released today, Schwartz said he would decline further interview requests.

The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said.

Schwartz is a single attorney and a fixture in Colorado Republican politics. He was one of the state's delegates to the convention this month in St. Paul.

Reached by phone at his law office Monday, Schwartz said that because the case still was under investigation, "I think at this point, I don't want to make a comment on it."

During the convention, Schwarz wasn't shy about talking to the media. In an Associated Press article about Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech, Schwartz was quoted as saying that as far as oratorical skills go, McCain "has more experience in his little pinkie" than Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

In an interview filmed the afternoon of Sept. 3 and posted on the Web site LinkTV.org, Schwartz was candid about how he envisioned change under a McCain presidency.

"Less taxes and more war," he said, smiling. He said the U.S. should "bomb the hell" out of Iran because the country threatens Israel.

Asked by the interviewer how America would pay for a military confrontation with Iran, he said the U.S. should take the country's resources.

"We should plant a flag. Take the oil, take the money," he said. "We deserve reimbursement."

A few hours after the interview, an unknown woman helped herself to Schwartz's resources.

The theft happened at the Hotel Ivy, a luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis. (The Colorado delegation was housed at the Four Points Sheraton, several miles away on Industrial Boulevard Northeast.)

The theft occurred early on Sept. 4, hours after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave her speech accepting her party's vice presidential nomination. A police report said Schwartz told officers he met a woman at the bar and took her to his $319-a-night room.

"Victim reported suspect made victim drinks, told him to get undressed, which is the last thing he remembers," a police narrative said. "Upon waking, victim discovered money, jewelry gone; total loss over $120K."

A police report notes the crime occurred between 4:22 and 5:46 a.m., and Palmer said investigators believe Schwartz was drugged, although he declined to discuss details.

Aside from the watch, ring, necklace, earrings and belt, Schwartz also reported a $1,000 purse or wallet, a $1,500 cell phone, $500 in cash and a couple of rings worth $50 had been taken.

Alister Glen, general manager of the Hotel Ivy, called the theft an isolated incident and said no hotel personnel were involved.

"I don't know if I'm at liberty to discuss it," he said. "It's still under police investigation."

Schwartz was a supporter of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, donating $2,300 — the maximum individual donation allowed by law — to his presidential campaign last year, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.

After Giuliani dropped out, Schwartz switched his allegiance to McCain, and records show he donated $2,300 to the Arizona senator's campaign in April.

In biographical sketches of Colorado's delegates published in the Rocky Mountain News, Schwartz said he was single, didn't have any pets and most admired Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, "as he has served our party for many years and has served in the military."

He said his idea of a "dream ticket" was McCain and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

On the Web site for his Denver law practice, Sandomire & Schwartz, the lawyer describes his experience as a civil and criminal lawyer and points out he is a regular guest on "Colorado State of Mind," a public affairs program produced by Rocky Mountain PBS. The show, according to its Web site, says it gathers "opinionated and passionate people from across the state" to discuss a wide range of issues.

In his interview on LinkTV, Schwartz seemed opinionated and passionate.

He said an attack on Iran was needed to protect Israel, and he offered how it could be accomplished through "strategical airstrikes."

"Hopefully, just bomb the hell out of them from the sky. No troops," he said.

Schwartz was asked if he had a message to the protesters who filled the streets of downtown St. Paul.

"Get a job," he replied.

David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516

Conservatives for Obama?

I got the heads-up from an econ blog I like to scan, Angry Bear.

The author of the following is now the publisher of The National Review (long-time champion of the conservative movement) and the whole thing is available at D Magazine
THE MORE I LISTEN TO AND READ ABOUT "the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate," the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan. To explain why, I need to explain why I am a conservative and what it means to me.
....I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don't matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama's books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

I'm glad to read this because it confirms what I'd been saying all along: Obama's not even liberal. Beyond even the semantic argument that will come up about Neocons and Neoliberal politics, I'm saying this: America's fallen asleep, it's hand in the bag of Doritos, cigarette still smoldering, "5 minute Abs" DVD playing on the TV... Those in a position to do so have nationalized AIG and are using taxpayer dollars to bail out the scoundrels that have brought down the American economy over the past 20 years - meanwhile teachers are having to pay for their own school supplies (Roper and my sister included).

I was reading today that the American economy is going to need 1 to 2 trillion dollars to get out of the muck it's in now. That's almost as much as the deficit Dubya put us into when he cut taxes and began this unwinable war.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Isn’t Someone in This Election Yelling?

Seriously: the election strategy of McCain-Palin has been one out-right lie on top of another in a b.s.-Dagwood-sandwich.

Why isn't this being pointed out?

It has, seriously, become a situation where if a commenter in the media points-out the facts, that commenter has a partisan (read: Liberal) bias. Look at how Paul Krugman got shrugged-off on Larry King the other night:

"KING: Paul Krugman, do you agree with Andy Serwer that neither one of these candidates are hitting the mark?

KRUGMAN: You know, there's a little -- that's a little bit of false symmetry there. I mean, Obama has been calling for increased financial regulation. He has some pretty decent-sounding proposals there. I have no idea what McCain's talking about. He's saying we're going to stop the executives from getting outsized bonuses. How are we going to do that?

SERWER: It sounds kind of partisan frankly, I mean right?"

Nothing partisan about what he said, it just so happens that McCain's economic adviser, Phil Gramm, is one of the primary midwives of this economic meltdown.

But here's more for you to chew on when thinking of McCain's trail of tears and lies:

Am I a Futurist?

The University of Hawai'i offers an MA in Future Studies and I found that out through synchronicity (our vacation to the US seems to have been one big synchronicity).

Anywho, I've been catching up on the whole Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merril Lynch thing and one of the articles I got was through the artnews listserv. So far the article is interesting but then I was struck by this:

"Back on December 21, 2007, I interviewed Gerald Celente, Editor and Publisher of The Trends Journal based in Rhinebeck, New York. Mr. Celente has been interviewed by network newscasters for years and his trend predictions are generally correct....Are we facing depression greater than the "Great Depression of 1929?" I took that question to Gerald Celente and began by asking him how he was so accurate back in December 2007?"

Now, of course, Mr. Celente is much better at doing this kind of predictive work and I would continue to look to him and his organization for trend forecasting. But I do want to set the record straight about who else saw this economic 9/11 coming: yours truly:

"I'd also like to just say that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession and the real estate market has only just begun to experience the first of several waves of "adjustments" as they called the dotcom bubble bursting.

Expect that the price of a home will decline for the next 5 to 7 years and in about 10 years the next housing boom will start again..."[sic]

That was from my blog posted on November 7, 2007. I also wrote a subprime reader for ACCION USA during that fall, but I can't seem to find a post of it.

Anyways, Celente actually knows how to do this trend forecasting stuff, not me and I simply went reading the economics blogs that made the most compelling arguments with the best data available.

We told you so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Me in the Japan Times

I didn't realize that the Japan Times already published my letter to the editor last week.

For those of you interested, it can be found at this link or below:

Strength in cultural differences


Debito Arudou's assertion in his Sept. 2 article, "The 'gaijin' debate: Arudou responds," that there is any sort of comparison between the words "n--ger" and "gaijin" are strained, pathetic, and causes more harm than good because, at the root, his argument is tawdry and facile.

Arudou's stated desired outcome is to have his Japanese status acknowledged. What would that look like? At a social event, would a recent acquaintance mistakenly call him "Taro" instead of "Debito"? He has been issued a passport and a health-care card, and is entitled to all the benefits the nation offers. The state has given him what he wants. What does Arudou want from me and the readers of this newspaper?

I appreciate that he plays at fighting the good fight, but in this instance he has seriously offended me. Because, let's face it, Arudou doesn't speak for the "n--gers" living in Japan. He is not a champion of the rights of Filipina sex workers who are brutalized here in Okinawa. He is not the defender of Chinese students or third-generation Koreans who still aren't "Japanese."

He wants to champion the cause of newcomers to Japan. But instead of ham-fisted and ugly similes, we need words that can nourish the imagination of the reader -- words that speak to every human being's basic need to be a part of a community predicated on mutual benefit.

In the American tradition, we can look to the poet Robert Frost for these kinds of words. In "The Mending Wall," we read that good fences make good neighbors. It is in our supposed boundaries -- our cultural differences -- that we find the very source of our mutual strength. That we are the inheritors of rich cultural traditions means that we are better able to meet the needs of our communities.