Wednesday, November 26, 2008

About face?

By announcing that Robert Gates will keep his job and by allegedly placing Hillary Clinton at Secretary of State and by smooching political favors to Joe Lieberman I'd say Barak Obama has no intention of getting us out of Iraq.

Why would he place sincere neocons and hawks in his own way if he intends to follow through on his campaign promises?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That sucking sound

If George W. Bush were a traitor or a spy you'd have to admire his competence, especially in light of the current financial consequences of republican rule.

Citigroup seems destined to become the latest recipient of treasury secretay Henry Paulson's public-purse pick-pocketing, while Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid attend dutifully.

What we are seeing, in essence, is the robber baron class taking America's electoral hopes (which require public funds) and sending them down the cash-to-crony crapper.

Paul Krugman said this about the Citigroup "plan":

"a lousy deal for the taxpayers, no accountability for management, and just to make things perfect, quite possibly inadequate, so that Citi will be back for more."


Is there a credible reason why Congress can't shut off the money press until Obama and his team are in charge?

Why is the American taxpayer bailing out United Arab Emirates Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Government Investment Corp. of Singapore (who own large stakes in Citibank)?

Shouldn't Nancy Pelosi, who allegedly has some type of Congressional "purse-string" authority, seek to attach strings to purse disbursements?

I think that to fail as much as George W. Bush unintentionally requires an implausible measure of bad fortune, but perhaps I fail to pay proper respect to ignorance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking on the bright side...

One of the inspirations for this blog was the Monty Python skit, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", from the movie Life of Brian. The other major influences were Charlie Chaplin's final speech in the Great Dictator, and the sad life and times of George W. Bush.

There is now a Monty Phython Channel on YouTube and that allows me to provide you with the following inspirational music video:

If you have a favorite Monty Python clip, you can likely find it here.

May you spend the rest of the day whistling.

My Holy Politics

It occurs to me this morning that conservative republicans want to privatize the public interest and take the private interest public. After having that thought it seemed right to state the obvious on a bumper-sticker.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cough. Cough.

What Alan Greenspan told us then:

"In today's context, where tax reduction appears required in any event over the next several years to assist in forestalling the accumulation of private assets, starting that process sooner rather than later likely would help smooth the transition to longer-term fiscal balance. And should current economic weakness spread beyond what now appears likely, having a tax cut in place may, in fact, do noticeable good."

Testimony of Alan Greenspan
Before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. Senate
January 25, 2001

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aggressive coercion

How did we go from this?:

"Military necessity does not admit of cruelty"
Abraham Lincoln

To this?:

"[Guantanamo Bay detainee] Al-Qahtani was interrogated for and I'm illustrating now, not the exact, something like 48 out of 52 days, often for stretches exceeding 12 to 14 or even 16 hours a day. He was kept in cold rooms such that he was shivering uncontrollably, his heart rate would drop; he was provided fluids intravenously without the opportunity to go to the bathroom. He was sexually humiliated by female US guards and other treatments of this sort."

- US Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora -

Have you reflected on the level of planning that went into Mr. Mora's depiction? It is a strong argument against the "few bad apples" defense.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

La-la-la Lieberman

Lily Tomlin once said, and I paraphrase, "No matter how cynical I get, I find I can't keep up."

I am reminded of those time-tested words as I see Democratic legislators ready to give the dishonorable senator from Connecticut, Traitor Joe Lieberman, the cherished gift of chairmanship of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

I was repeatedly told that Barak Obama made the bulk of his money from small on-line contributors, and this was going to allow him to be less beholden to the corporate interests that routinely squelch the will of the majority (particularly the one that elected him). Well, nothing says "business interests first" like letting Holy Joe Lieberman keep his Power in the face of the election of 2008, which repudiated the ideas he championed throatfully.

This shouldn't be a surprise, since democrats usually find a quick way to turn hope into disgust when they win. Nancy Pelosi's Justice-crucifying pronouncements about tables did the trick in 2006. This loathsome Lieberman love-fest now taking place is likewise a let-down.

I grew up in Nixon's shadow and have never learned to trust politicians the way some people do, so I look for sincerity in deeds. It doesn't make any sense to be against "business as usual" and for Joe Lieberman. By your actions do you choose.

Let us give thanks

They say the best way to ridicule a fool is to hand them a microphone. Let's see what happens when we review the recent utterances of Sarah Palin:

"Sitting here in these chairs that I'm going to be proposing but in working with these governors who again on the front lines are forced to and it's our privileged obligation to find solutions to the challenges facing our own states every day being held accountable, not being just one of many just casting votes or voting present every once in a while, we don't get away with that. We have to balance budgets and we're dealing with multibillion dollar budgets and tens of thousands of employees in our organizations.

That executive experience that every governor has and must have being put to good use now as we work together as governors to help reach out to Barack Obama's administration, being able to help him make good decisions based on the solutions that we already seek. For me specifically of course, energy independence that is doable here in this country, we have the domestic solutions because we have the domestic supply."

I find that I am grateful all over again for Obama's victory.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Terrific article

If you want to read a well written article about the Financial mess Wall Street created for itself, you could do worse than to read this article:

The End

It is chock full of straight talk and interesting tidbits like this one:

In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.

and this one:

Eisman knew subprime lenders could be scumbags. What he underestimated was the total unabashed complicity of the upper class of American capitalism. For instance, he knew that the big Wall Street investment banks took huge piles of loans that in and of themselves might be rated BBB, threw them into a trust, carved the trust into tranches, and wound up with 60 percent of the new total being rated AAA.

I think it is behavior like this that has led Robert A.G. Monks to believe that credit reporting agencies are a salvation to the market, along with participation by owners (investors). Here is a recent post incorporating a suggestion for the new administration:

Third Way

I think that his suggestions are wise, but suspect they require regulatory muscle to implement. His life might even make my case. He, even paired with a Rockefeller, has had little success modifying the behavior of Exxon/Mobil. There is a thick layer of institutional arrogance that meets investors with stage-managed contempt.

Part of the problem is that shareholders don't want to rock the boat when the bubble is inflating, or even believe the Truth when that involves understanding a threat to their profits, and that makes it hard to organize enough resistance to avoid a catastrophe when it matters.

This is how a wise regulator can have a positive impact on the economy. Suppose the SEC head realized it is systemically risky to allow a CEO to serve as CFO, and then suppose he created and enforced a rule forbidding the practice? Or, alternatively, suppose he simply did his all-out best to use his bully pulpit to warn shareholders of the practice, thereby helping to organize them against such practices?

Wouldn't that safeguard some of Exxon/Mobil's extraordinary gains?

In the second case, the unregulated case, I expect the SEC head would need to be widely respected by investors (because of a successful track-record). Someone like Warren Buffet commands enough respect to be heard when the gravy train is rolling along. In the current crisis someone like Steve Eisman might be a great choice, but I don't know if he has the name recognition for the unregulated sage. Certainly he knows where our regulators are failing (i.e. converting BBB bonds to AAA bonds by spending unwarranted trust).

Many choices in life are false choices, especially those presented as mutually exclusive. I think we need a president that picks good financial people that puts marketplace stability first, working in conjunction with the shareholders and regulators to keep the market fundamentally sound, and by fundamentally sound I mean fundamentally honest.

Even a crook wants an honest man to count his money, and I think that forces which act to keep the market honest are beneficial whether corporate, shareholder, press, or governmental. It might even be better to have a multi-directional assault.

My disclaimer is this, I say this all as a checked-out investor. I don't find accounting exciting and can find little pleasure watching the contents of my egg basket. Perhaps I have some faith in regulation because I have little in myself?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crazy time in nutsville

Watching conservatives implode is one thing, but watching them endanger the life of president-elect Barak Obama is another.

According to Newsweek:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied.

So the narrative is that Sarah Palin attacks Obama's patriotism, then her followers begin to threaten him.

Now we have a Georgia Congressman publicly warning of an Obama dictatorship.

My first reaction is to laugh at crazy time in nutsville, but not without asking, "How much of this is acceptable from legislators?"

Obama hasn't spent one day in office and already he's managed to become a socialist dictator and Hitler imitator?

I wonder if a white man from Georgia says "socialist" when he feels he can't say "nigger"?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To be clear...

To argue that Lieberman should keep his chairs, particularly Homeland Security and Governmental Oversight, is to also argue that a member of the democratic party is unworthy of them.

I cannot think of why democrats wish to punish their own deserving members to placate the back-stabbing, media diva, and unpopular Senator from Connecticut. To keep him is to belittle his incompetence and will only embolden his intransigence.

Whether you are dealing with a wolf in sheep's clothing or a wolf naturally attired matters little at the jaws.

ADDENDUM: I just found out about a fun place on the web called Dickipedia. It is a Wikipedia-like encyclopedia of dicks. They have, of course, an entry for Joe Lieberman.

Sifting the Wreckage

The current economic crisis seems to teach the following:

The only thing worse than financial-market regulations is the absence of financial-market regulations.

When corporations are allowed to get so large that they "can't be allowed to fail", then they might have to be socialized at great public expense. A preventative measure is trust-busting.

When a political ideology like "ownership society" replaces the due diligence of creditors, then bankruptcy and default will be the natural response of debtors. On a small scale this cannot be avoided, but on a large scale it harms Main Street and Wall Street.

Bailout money dispensed without strings or compensation encourages waste. For example, a scant week after pocketing an $85-billion bailout from taxpayers on Sept. 16, AIG employees stayed at a West Coast resort and spent $440,000, including $23,380 at the spa. Most people would not call that belt tightening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jumpin' Joe

I hate to fixate on Joe Lieberman because I know that is exactly the type of thing he would enjoy, but while the matter of his committee chairs hangs in the air like a cloud of stink, grievances should be aired.

Joe's position seems this: "Let me keep my chairs, or else I'll not caucus with the democrats".

If that is his position then he offers blackmail and makes an empty threat while exhibiting an ambulance-chasers ethic. So, Lieberman should be left to lie in the bed he made.

Why shouldn't that nice new Senator from Virginia get some of that Power? Let's make Virginia nice and happy, nice and happy...

It is counterproductive to place an unrepentant hawk in a position to obstruct an Iraqi withdrawal with Clinton-like investigations and budget threats.

This is so transparently obvious I will interpret such a development as a signal to corporate elites that Barak is signed, sealed, delivered, and theirs.

I wants my change, me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Outflanking themselves

Joe Lieberman has been happily screwing democrats for 8 years, did a shitty job investigating the Bush administration (0 Senate-lead investigations), and is very unpopular with democrats nationwide (he grabbed about 1% of the vote in 2004).

So why is Bill Clinton stumping for him?

There are worthier candidates than Joe Lieberman to trust with Power.

Fool me once, right?

ADDENDUM: A spokesman for Bill Clinton sez it ain't so that Bill is stumping for Lieberman. Story here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Acceptance Speech

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Happy Days are Here Again

Last night Barak Obama won and won big. He won Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. I got to go to be at a reasonable hour knowing even before results came in from California, Oregon, Washingon, or Hawaii that Obama sealed the deal.

The one question remaining is, just how many Senate seats will democrats wind up with?

Down in Georgia the question remains unanswered due to a slow job of counting early ballots. Here is a link with more details:

Details down in Georgia

While 60 seats, as opposed to 59 seats, would be nice I am not going to let a slow tally ruin a perfectly good day. The truth is, that as long as democratic leaders in the Senate are silly enough to let Liebermann hang onto his chairmanships, a veto-proof majority is a small potato point. The lesson of the past eight years is you don't trust the untrustworthy with Power.

I am curious to find out if Al Franken will win his race in Minnesota. I want him to win because, gosh darn it, I like him.

Perhaps Alaskan voters should have themselves examined? To pick Sarah Palin, Ted Stevens (a felon), and Don Young (a Constitution violator) to represent you takes a galling lack of respect for America.

I imagine that black Americans feel even stranger than I felt when the Red Sox won the World Series. When the unbelievable happens you realize nothing has changed but your perception of the world around you.

After barely squeaking into the whitehouse the first word out of George W. Bush's mouth was "mandate". I knew then it would be a long four years.

Colin Powell famously said about Iraq, "If we break it we bought it." Well, the truth is, George W. Bush broke Iraq alright and now he is slinking out of the store and leaving the mess for someone else to pick up. It is what he has done all of his life. The question now is, is he all done "shopping"?

Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I agree

I like this piece by Rachel Maddow for pointing out the obvious in Katrina-like fashion. Those long lines of voters in places like Philadelphia in 2004 made me proud to be American, but they are disenfranchising voters in poor communities. She calls them a new form of poll tax, a time tax.

Most Americans are fair-minded and law-abiding and they deserve an election process that respects the inherent nobility of the vote. I certainly think we can do better than a 6 hour wait in Florida after having 4 years of preparation.

No political victory should be worth more than the life's blood of our democracy.

Nil magnum nisi bonum

I think the above saying ought to be president Bush's epitaph. It means, no greatness without goodness. Does anything sum up George W. Bush more succinctly or better than that?

As I think about the way Barak Obama has run his campaign and the way he has carried himself under pressure, I conclude that he will change more than the skin-color of the US president. I think he will restore dignity to the office in a way someone who chose Sarah Palin as their running mate cannot.

I hope today turns out to be an historic election and the closing of an ugly chapter in American history.

Monday, November 03, 2008

R.I.P. Studs Terkell

When someone like Studs Terkel dies I find myself missing him, although we never met. I read one of his recent works, "And They All Sang" not too long ago and really enjoyed it. Here was a man that knew how to listen, how to ask intelligent questions, and how to indulge his curiosity.

I also liked his cantankerous attitude, which was a challenging forthrightness as opposed to a prankster's delight at being a spoiler. Here is a recent interview he did, where the focus was on Barak Obama:

I wish he was more progressive

It struck me recently that just as Studs democratized historical accounts by recording the voices of outsiders, so has blogging to a degree. But, Studs would take all these stories and sew them together into a narrative and maybe that is what blogging could use.

Here is an interview with Studs in 2005 that you might like:

2005 Democracy Now

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin