Monthly Archives: September 2008

Call Their Bluff?

With the Conservatrons blaming Pelosi for the failure of the bill to pass, should Democrats write their own “bailout” bill? Tightening credit should be real to people shortly. Wall Street needs this done. Why not write a bill that is designed to pass with just Democrats? Tax executive pay, bail out actual homeowners, reregulate the industry, revive Glass-Steagal, let the taxpayers have ownsership of these banks’ best assets, and include a broad stimulus package to boot… and other items that people who know more about this than I do say are sage and progressive. Perhaps Congressman DeFazio’s ..25% per financial trade tax?

It’s a political risk, but I think people will go along with this if they get bailed out along with Wall Street.

Good for Congress.

There’s simply no way that such an “emergency bailout” was needed this minute. Either it was needed when investment bank Bear Stearns failed or when commercial bank IndyMac failed, months ago, or it is simply not a problem right now.

Economists I respect like Brad de Long and Paul Krugman were willing to go along with this, but not me. First of all, there are non-economic reasons for letting this fail.

First, there is a moral hazard not just to the billionaires but to us as well. If the government is in the business of saving but not taking over failed institutions, there is no limit to what the next generation of sharks might do with other people’s money. Second, and this is not a politically smart point to make, but Americans have permitted the cleptocrats to rule, and for that they should have to live with the consequences as well. They should have to see how hard it will be to buy a house or a car now, even one where they can afford the payment. They should have to see how hard it will be to retire now with their 401ks destroyed and learn the hard way what their grandparents already did: old age pensions should not be left to the whim of markets.

On a more positive political note, the solution should not be mandated by the people who got us in this mess. It should simply never have been allowed to go that way. Quite the contrary, President Obama and the leaders of the next Congress should address this in a package like a New New Deal that includes a “bail out” for main street first.

Why Obama Won the First Debate

Bush Patsy “Diva” McCain’s silly histrionics scuttled a substantial amount of the usual expectations setting pre-game. Because of this I think that the punditocracy forgot that most undecideds or persuadables, at this point, are people that have not paid a lot of attention to the campaign yet. For these folks, Obama is, reasonably, far newer and ill-defined than he is for the rest of us who have been following the campaign intently for 20 months.

To win then, Obama had to hold his own with Bush Patsy McCain on foreign policy and withstand the “seems presidential” test. He did this, and scored on the economy where Bush Patsy McCain’s war on spending is not as relevant to people struggling with their mortgages as Obama’s note that it is the Conservatron ideology, which Bush Patsy McCain supports, that largely got us into this mess in the first place.

Obama was crisp and confident. McCain was witty and intelligent, but seemed a little grouchy and didactic. I’d have liked Obama to have called Bush Patsy McCain out on his Diva behavior. I think that could have been a knock out blow, but he still got done what he needed to get done: he seems more plausible as President by the hour; the weirder Bush Patsy McCain acts the less plausible he seems — to say nothing of “Brain to Nowhere” Nilap.

VP debate expectations game

Of course no matter what happens, the spin will be that Palin wasn’t that bad. If she manages not to self destruct it still may not change the narrative of her as an idiot and an extremist.

But will it change the polls? I doubt it. Her negatives might go down, but it wont have a lasting effect past the next presidential debate.

Palin Deathwatch 6

Bob Herbert at NYT.

The McCain people have shown themselves predictably unpredictable. Pushing hard from all sides to remove Sarah Palin under normal circumstances would be a superb attack on McCain. The problem is, he might do it. I understand all the arguments for why he wouldn’t do that.

But I only want to hear that from people who successfully predicted he would pick her in the first place, and/or that predicted that he would “suspend” his campaign to try and wriggle out of a debate and then go to the debate anyway.

There are two basic scenarios, basically flip-sides of each other, that would make this occur. One: the upside becomes greater than the downside politically. Two: McCain starts falling behind significantly and calls an audible just to shake things up, again.

I don’t see anyway for it to work at all if it’s not done in time for the debate next week. That means that it has to be soon. 

But we’re not quite there yet. She needs one or two more major gaffes, or a scandal. Say, Trig is really Bristol’s after all, or the affair rumors get proved. Barring that, I don’t see her leaving. But, again, I didn’t predict many of McCain’s stunts, and these “scandals” could be fabricated to get her out.

It would also let McCain pick Liebermann, who he wanted in the first place. He would do this, I think, because the Rove-base based strategy isn’t working for him. This is not a base election—it’s a swing voter election, and Liebermann would fix that deficiency, even if he is just as unpopular among Dems as Palin.

Oh, and Liebermann would have a chance in a debate against Biden.

Just because he might do it doesn’t mean I think it will work. It probably won’t.

Debate Donation Drinking Game

The best result for Obama tonight is a McCain implosion and no spin possible, followed by a big bump in the polls. The polls are really what matters. But Obama is the only one that can control that. And he will.

For us, we can raise money.

#1 Every time Obama answers a question well, donate $5, and take a drink.

#2 Every time John McCain says “my friends,” donate $5, and take a drink.

#3 Every time the moderator asks McCain an easy question after asking Obama a harder one, donate $10!

Let’s MAKE THEM PAY!

I will update based on commenters suggestions below

Please rec this up, and let’s play. I’ll match the first $100 (after pay day).

Palin Deathwatch 4

It’s becoming fairly clear to me that McCain’s high-risk stunt this week was all about trying to delay Palin’s debate. It’s not even a question of a Bush/Gore/Kerry “expectations” game. She’s bound to just completely fuck up—and Biden can just answer and be polite, not attack, chuckle, do a Gore groan or anything.

At this point, it’s time to drop her and bring in Vinegar Joe Liebermann. Of course, that might actually help him, so never mind. Lol.

Go For the Jugular, Barack!

Dear Mr. Obama:

I have a biked home from work on my lunch hour to shoot these thoughts out into the ether.

For many of us loyal Democrats, the best part of your campaign was in your acceptance speech when you declared “enough!” to the last eight years of Conservatron nightmares and promised to debate Bush Patsy McCain on who has the “judgment” and “temperment” to lead.

The last ten days have exposed that Bush Patsy McCain does not have a leader’s judgment, wisdom or temperment, and that he is a lying, immature child who just upsets the board when he doesn’t know what to do and hopes that the pieces land in a manner that is more favorable to him. His “non-partisan” campaign “suspension” was an obvious lie and partisan ploy.  He has done nothing creative or interesting since coming to DC. Bush Patsy McCain is as dumbfounded and useless as a ten-year old boy staring at his first erection.

Bush Patsy McCain and Generlaissimo Bush dirty tricked you into the pointless photo-op. You looked bored and annoyed, because you knew it was horeshit. Regardless of whether the debate is about foreign policy or the financial situation, it should be easy to pivot any question into a comment on Bush Patsy McCain’s outrageous, rash, weird, random judgment that he has recently and continuously demonstrated.

Please don’t expect the neutered barnacles in the media to do this for you. Please be that person in your acceptance speech and the one who sat through the Conservatrons’ meaningless photo-op yesterday. Attack! Expose Bush Patsy McCain for the canard he has shown himself to be.

Please!

America is counting on you.

Bush Patsy McCain: Diva

Perhaps “Randomizer” should Bush Patsy McCain’s nickname, or even better, “Diva.”

After careening from miscellaneous position to meaningless statement about the financial crisis, Bush Patsy McCain dropped out of the first debate. He “suspended” his campaign to be non-partisan in DC even if doing so was an obvious partisan ploy.

Bush Patsy McCain’s actions in DC are reminiscent of the old Seinfeld stand up bit about men who really like to be around hard work like changing the pick up’s oil, but don’t do any of the work. After waiting a day to actually get to DC he participated silently, in a photo-op, dumb as a cow. He hasn’t led. He hasn’t brainstormed. All he has done is soak up the attention of where the most cameras are located. It’s the political equivalent of a starlet vag flash or nipple slip.

So, having injected partisan politics into the financial talks through his “non-partisan” campaign “suspension” Bush Patsy McCain has now changed his mind and is going to debate after all. Drama Queen!

In the process he has lied to and infuriated David Letterman of all people. This matters not just because Dave’s curt dissection of Bush Patsy McCain will hurt him in Middle America; it is important because needlessly infuriating people like Letterman is an obvious result of the ad hoc, do whatever manner that Bush Patsy McCain has handled his response to the financial melt down. Imagine if Letterman were a key Senator, Congressman or head of state. Blowing off such a person and lying to them is precisely what will make it difficult to get things done. It is exactly what makes for an ineffective leader.

I have always been against Bush Patsy McCain for his being well, a Bush Patsy. Now I am terrified at the prospect of his Presidency. He is too rash and childish to contend with a crisis situation. When he doesn’t know what to do, he just does something to throw as many variables into the air as possible. America may not survive his impudence; at least, not as a first world country.

UPDATE: To help solve the financial crisis Bush Patsy McCain has just announced that he will mount an alpaca and bandy about town throwing empty Budweiser cans at neighborhood house cats and passing squirrels.

Personal.

Politics for me are mostly philosophical. My life is privileged and untouched by the concerns of most people for many reasons: the benign place where I live, the color of my skin, my profession, my education level, and my gender, and my heterosexuality.

As much as I would like to say otherwise, and as much time and effort as I put into it, the environment doesn’t keep me awake at night. It concerns me deeply, but I don’t stare at my clock wondering what I’m going to do about it, because I know that other than advocate, vote, and give time, and alter my practices, there’s really not much I can do.

But this mortgage situation. It does cause me to lose sleep. I make a ton of money, yet I’m paying too much of it into a house that isn’t worth what it was when I bought it, and I might lose it anyway. It’s emasculating, humiliating, and frustrating. I’ve played the game. I got the education, got the job, did what you’re supposed to do, but I’m not going to get rewarded for my mistakes. I’m going to get punished.

I’m going to possibly lose my house, not be able to afford children, or go on a vacation for a long long time. I’d love a bailout. I’d even love a bankruptcy that I could qualify for. But I’m not asking for one. I’m just saying that people who screwed everyone else and are still sitting on the deck at their house in the Hamptons—they shouldn’t be rewarded. That’s all.

The bailout should be paid for by a spike in capital gains and marginal tax rates. 50% of all income over $500k 2008 dollars, including capital gains. You don’t need more money than that to live, so fuck you.

The Polemic® Financial Assistance Act

This Bill Shall Be Known As The Economic Patriot Act of 2008

BE IT ENACTED:

§1 The Secretary of the Treasury (“Secretary”) is hereby directed to purchase the primary home mortgage or deed of trust for any U.S. citizen or legal resident that applies for protection with the Secretary.

§2 The Secretary shall administer the mortgage or deed of trust for any qualified applicant at a fixed rate of 2%. A “qualified applicant” is one whose total net worth is less than the amount equal to the 99th percentile of Americans as determined by the Secretary and who makes application within the next 18 months.

§3 The Secretary is hereby directed to issue a warrant in the amount of $3,000.00 to each person who does not own a residence or who does not apply for relief hereunder.

§ $1,000,000,000.00 is appropriated for the purposes of section 1-3 herein.

§10 The Secretary of Health and Human Services (“Secretary”) is hereby directed to extend Medicare benefits to any U.S. citizen or legal resident that requests them.

§11 The Medicare Modernization Act is repealed.

§12 It is the intent of Congress to reform the health care services of the United States. In the interim, the Secretary is directed to charge any Medicare benefit recipient the sum of $10 for any drug prescription.

Deal? Ha.

Five days ago:

This Congress has no record of showing any backbone. The media has already bought the notion that there must be a bailout, and will criticize the Dems for “playing politics” with this and they will buckle not only losing the fight but again looking weak.

No Deal? Haha. They’ll give them everything they want.

So, Bush’s threats of an economic 9/11 once again scared the Dems into capitulation. According to the news, there’s “oversight” in the bill and curbs on executive pay.

But apparently, there’s absolutely nothing in there for you and me. No repeal of the draconian bankruptcy reforms of 2005, no mortgage cram-down provision, nothing.

I guess I’m glad there’s “oversight” in the bill, but with a Congress like this, it might as well not be there anyway.

I agree that this is just an attempt to run out the clock before we get more bad news. This kind of bailout didn’t work for Hoover in 1931, and did not work for the Japanese in the 90s. So, the Republicans made this up so that if the Dems said no, the fallout would be their fault; if they say yes, things might calm down enough for McCain to win.

We’ve been had.

2 years of capitulation are all for naught if Obama doesn’t win.

When Bush Patsy McCain Has No Clue, He Goes Random

Since 9/15/08 Bush Patsy McCain has: Called the fundamentals of the economy strong, then said he meant the American workers, been against the AIG bailout, been for the AIG bailout, called for a commission to study the economic free fall, thrown some innuendo sleaze balls about Obama and “connections” to Freedie Mae and Fannie Mac (only to have it bommerang), and most bizarrely called for the Chairman of the SEC to be fired. Of course, the President cannot fire the SEC Chairman, proving that this was not a well considered stratagem.

This demonstrates that when Bush Patsy McCain is contending with areas he does not care about he will try any old idea just to survive a news cycle. Activity must not be confused with execution. Consider the “fire the SEC Chairman!” gambit. Even if it were readily doable, it is a stupid idea. The current meltdown is not due to illegal trading that the SEC missed; it is result of the legal financial servicing of debt owed on rotten assets of the sort Bush Patsy McCain and the Conservatrons have long championed. Or, as the legendary economic soothsayer and sometimes rock star Roger Waters foresaw: “when the great economic collapse happens; it’s gonna’ happen, right across the board.” All that firing the SEC Chairman would do is put someone new into a job that is important for economic stewardship in the midst of a cataclysm. Even the most able person would still be getting their bearings and be less that optimal in their vital position for crucial hours, days and weeks.

This isn’t judgment. This isn’t leadership. It’s cantankerous randomness for no purpose but to run out the clock and hope the subject changes.

To that end Bush Patsy McCain and the Conservatrons are replaying one of their greatest hits: crying about the media.

Pathetic.

Blacks Tuned In to the Election

Interesting breakdown of the viewership of the conventions: blacks were more likely that any other ethnic group to watch both conventions.

This appears a bit odd at first glance. There is an obvious reason for blacks to be especially interested in the Democratic Convention this year, but why the intent viewership of the Conservatron convention? There are barely any black Conservatrons to speak of — nary a black Senator, Congressperson or Governor amongst them. Why the viewing pleasure of a party whose electoral base in the South is the direct result of a backlash against the Civil Rights movement?

As is so often the case, the answer lies in an ice hockey allegory. During the playoffs, so long as my Devils are in it, I am intent on “other” hockey. The instant the Devils get eliminated — ahem, if they get eliminated — I could care less about the rest of the tournament. Even watching it makes me mildly ill. With the Devils still kicking, watching “other” hockey isn’t entertainment. It’s data collection. It’s hoping for triple overtimes and twisted ankles. It’s analyzing how the Devils will stack up to the other teams.

I suspect that this is what viewing the Conservatron Convention was for the overwhelming majority of blacks that will vote for Obama. They wanted to view what the opposition was bringing to the showdown to better understand their guy’s chances.

Even with Democratic registration gains Obama will probably lose some Kerry votes. Some of this may be racism. Some of it may be moronic PUMAism. Some of it is random. The key to an Obama victory is expanding the electoral pool to include more blacks, young people, and independents, to go along with workhorse liberals, Unionists, and the rest of the Democratic Base. The strong interest of blacks in both Conventions is a sign that this key demographic is concentrated on the race and will get itself out to vote.

Kerry lost Florida by about 380,000 votes. According to David Plouffe there are 600,000 registered blacks in Florida that did not vote in 2004….

No Deal? Yeah Right

Josh Marshall and Paul Krugman (Update: and Brad DeLong) say no deal on the bailout. Josh points out that the lobbyists are already pushing for no strings attached.

This Congress has no record of showing any backbone. The media has already bought the notion that there must be a bailout, and will criticize the Dems for “playing politics” with this and they will buckle not only losing the fight but again looking weak.

No Deal? Haha. They’ll give them everything they want.

Deep Thought

I’m scared of Irvine the same way I’m afraid of Compton, except it’s the Republican ghetto.

Bonus deep thought: it appears to acceptable, nay, fashionable to have a Bluetooth Borg piece on your ear here.

They start asking…

…about why they aren’t just bailing out the homeowners.

A kind of post-cynical answer is, the homeowners are subject to shame and have no concerted power in Washington, whereas the banks have no shame and have almost all the power.

If Congress is just going to swallow this and ask for nothing in return—one TRILLION—they suck. At least a repeal of the bankruptcy laws to let people get a fresh start after being irresponsible peon idiots with their mortgages. You know, a “restructuring.” Works for the irresponsible patrician idiots at the banks.

Sarah Palin and Women With Too Many Kids


Shmuley:

This is one of the worst analogies I’ve ever seen in my life. Something happens to Jews sometimes (or at least to Orthodox Jews) so we shouldn’t do it to anti-Semite Sarah Palin. Great. I suppose that means that no one should have killed a Nazi, too.

Sarah Palin having 5 kids is one of the most minor criticisms she is facing, and one of the fewest in the “redneck” mix. Corruption, abuse of power, and vindictiveness are. Are those Torah values?

And McCain. We shouldn’t disrespect him because he’s old? So if he thinks Spain is in Latin America that shouldn’t affect our thinking about him because it would be ageist? Fine, I won’t judge him as a person, but it makes him unfit to be the President.

Instead of making ridiculous invalid and unsound arguments trying to mask your right wing values in shades of compassionate sounding tropes, why don’t you just come out and say it: you support McCain and Palin because their evangelical Christian base has more in common with your values than your values do with 90% of American Jews.

Let me ask you this: should Sarah Palin sit behind a mechitzah when she presides over the Senate?
More on Sarah Palin
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Catholic Church Supports Evolution

The Catholic Church never banned the teaching of evolution, and it made that clear today. The Church has also never, ever, ever supported a literal interpretation of the Bible—and hey, the Church even holds to the idea that Jews don’t go to hell! The Church’s general reputation as part of conservative America stems from its disapproval of abortion and contraception, and some of it positions on women.

But to lump it in a league with the cultish nightmare groups like those Sarah Palin belongs to is a big mistake. 

The Church has been around long enough to make a lot of mistakes, and I’m not making excuses for it. I simply do not share too many of its core beliefs to do that (and my rabbi wouldn’t approve). 

But I don’t live in Bush’s world. I don’t believe that everyone is either for us or against us. I believe everyone is pretty much a free agent interested in their own interests. So, knowing the different kinds of faith groups can help explain some of their behavior. One handy thing about the Church is, there’s no official diversity of views. What the Church says is it. If you don’t like it, see you at the Anglican church. 

Anyway, in political rhetoric this is why I try to remember to use the term evangelical right—because I don’t see any benefit in alienating Catholics on issues that we can agree on (poverty!).

The Nilap Bubble Is Starting To Burst

What seems like two years ago, but was really a bit over two weeks ago I wrote this:

“A nice getting to know you might have sufficed had Nilap’s supposed claim to reformer fame not been contradicted by past actions, like being for the Bridge To Nowhere before she was against it. To earn America’s respect after this goopy soap opera, Nilap needs to have something meaningful to say about jobs, the economy, and even foreign policy. The “normalness” of Prego seventeen year olds, “The Fuckin’ Redneck,” DUIs, Jews for Jesus, petty small town hatreds, hunting wildlife from helicopters, firing librarians, denying global warming, fighting weird in-law rivalries through firing public servants, and playing footsie with half-baked secessionist parties just won’t cut the mustard.”

And:

“The Conservatrons don’t care about Nilap’s petty small-town rivalries, the hypocrisy embedded in her daughter’s tummy by a “fucking redneck,” or the rest because her goof city stances on creationism and abortion etc. are important to them. I suspect the rest of America is not concerned with how well they can relate to Nilap. Her “normalness” does not put food on the table or help pay the mortgage. Most importantly, it does not demonstrate that she can be president.”

If Obama was just a “celebrity” he never would have beaten the formidable Clinton Machine and the rest of the deep Democratic field. Beyond the rousing speeches there were articulate and relevant ideas. Obama was right about the Iraq war. He was right about a time line to remove our troops from Iraq. He had a meaningful set of ideas to address the budding financial crisis six months ago. Nilap has one well-delivered speech, stuffed like Twinkie with gooey lies, that she has repeated over and over and over while hiding from the media.

The Conservatrons also misundrestood the Clintonian sexism angst. I suspect that in their Tin Pot craniums, Conseravtrons who have lambasted feminists for eons thought they were unleashing a Feminist Boogeywoman that would reap the same imagined havoc on the Democrats as it had on them. The Clinton feminist backlash was organic outrage based on the frustration with characterizations by bloviators like Chris Matthews. At it’s core was the fact that a serious candidate was, at times, being marginalized by her gender. Pretending that a mental rice cake like Nilap is being discriminated against by imagining that the cliche “lipstick on a pig” is a slight just to her is obvious nonsense.

In the immortal out-of-context words of Kevin Devine, the rush has worn off and we’re left with this busted person. The MSM is beginning to report on Nilap’s lies. The latest NY Times/CBS poll has Obama leading by 5 after being down 2 a week ago, and Nilap’s unfavorables are increasing..

The Conservatrons will stay with Nilap because they care about her retrograde social stances, but as I said two weeks ago, for everyone else there is no there there.

Sun Times on St. McCain's Adultery

Sun Times:

Suppose Barack Obama had dumped a crippled wife and married a beer heiress one month after the divorce.

Do you really think he wouldn’t have been tripped up by such a scandalous past?

The Republicans would have had a field day mocking his character.

But John McCain’s tawdry personal history is rarely mentioned.

Indeed. Where is the commercial on this? I hope it comes out November 1.

Laissez-faire, rinse repeat.

Americans believe that the arc of history points towards better times. Built into that belief is a seemingly contradictory pride in learning from the past and a conceit that things were less advanced or less intelligent in the past.

Here’s a great example. After Reconstruction, the Republican party became the de facto governing party of the nation from 1868-1912, with only limited interruption, and a restoration from 1918-1932. In that time, the Republican party enforced a non-legal, non-moral, non-constitutional doctrine with more strength than it did the rights of the people it purportedly fought to liberate in the Civil War.

That doctrine was laissez-faire capitalism. The rapid industrialization of those times came with built-in justifications for letting the “money power” (as they more accurately called it then) do what was in its interest. People, especially people in the South and the Mid-west, didn’t buy it. But the farmers and the nascent unions simply couldn’t match up to the robber barons.

Not realizing that the laissez-faire doctrine was a post-hoc rationalization for greed, people who took the doctrine seriously began to see that there had to be at least some fairness for the God of Markets to work. The Progressive movement of about 100 years ago was thus able to get some laws through, like the Antitrust laws (which actually benefit the economy and business) and child labor laws. That’s about as far as it went. 

After the “Great War,” the money power was back in charge. The economy seemed to be doing wonderfully. The US had taken a huge share of the world’s gold at Versailles, but had managed to stay out of the League of Nations and otherwise remain mostly protectionist enough to keep out of the Global Markets that existed before the “Great War.” There was a boom.

People forgot the troubled times. People forgot the Panic of 1907, where America’s economy was saved by J.P. Morgan’s good will (the worry that he might not do it again led to the creation of the Fed).

Blinded by the good times, contemptuous of the old bad times, the rules got lighter and lighter. You could borrow more and more money with less and less collateral (what’s the risk? the market only goes UP!)

Then came the crash. The market plummeted. People’s savings were wiped out in bank failures. The Great Depression. The Great Depression not only was a direct cause of economic misery here, but of the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini, and the conflict and murder they brought with them.

In the US, the money power considered an abortive putsch against FDR (never in the history books, but led to the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee, created to resist fascism, but mostly identified with Red scares) but simply didn’t have the steam anymore. Most of FDR’s reform’s passed.

One of them was Glass-Steagall. One of the provisions barred investment banks and commercial banks from being part of the same enterprise. This split the House of Morgan into J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley. Numerous other banking requirements were created, including reserve requirements. The commercial bank’s deposits were insured by the FDIC; the investment banks took risks on their own.

New bank-style entities called savings and loans were created, and helped create the middle class suburbia by offering passbook savings accounts and home mortgages. They had reserve requirements as well.

We won World War II. We put men on the moon. America was moving ahead. We had saved the world and reached for the stars. The west had been subdued. An honest working man could own a home, live the American dream. Times were good.

The memories of the bad times drifted, and the whispering voice of the money power was revived. In the Reagan-era, silly reserve requirements on S&Ls were lifted, allowing them to invest their deposits in riskier investments—it just lowered rates for borrowers and raised them for depositors, right? Remember the Michael Keating? Lincoln Savings & Loan? That was John McCain’s second big tour on the national stage.

The S&Ls collapsed after all of them turned out to have been investing in stuff that was too risky. It was a big part of the down economy of the early 90s that led to Bush I’s ouster. President Clinton sold off the assets of the S&Ls quickly, (The Resolution Trust), but the damage was done.

But memory faded even faster that time. The Cold War was now over. The Peace Dividend. A well-managed economy. A boom! Now if only more of these silly regulations could be lifted, we would truly reach Dow 36,000, just as one book predicted.

By now, average folks’ retirement was at least in part linked to the stock market with 401ks and IRAs. A school-voucheresque poison pill designed to kill another New Deal provision, Social Security.

So, of course we want the market to keep going up—and Robert Rubin, Clinton’s treasury secretary wanted to create the Voltron of finance companies: behold! CITIGROUP! A bank, an insurance company, and an investment bank! Genius—like, that’s never been done before, right? 

Led by Phil Gramm, John McCain’s economic policy advisor who told us all to quit whining because his bill has destroyed the economy, the Republican congress passed a repeal of Glass-Steagall. Clinton, in his worst act as president, signed it.

The first fallout of this law breaking down was the Enron-era. With one firm underwriting IPOs and bonds, and also selling them, a conflict of interest was sure to develop. How can we diss a stock? We need the investment banking business! Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, the California power crisis. 

But the reserve requirements were still non-existent. There was still plenty of money out there, and so, let’s put it in the one thing no one can say no to: a house. The American dream. The aim of the old S&L. 

Everyone went all in. Real estate. It’s finite. Market will always go up, right? Can’t lose. Who needs safeties? Zero-down. It will always go up.

Nope. Not when people’s wages—wages that have never trickled down, wages that, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were 30 years ago for most people—can’t support the buying anymore. It all started in places with lower than average wages. Fresno and Stockton and San Bernardino, California. Those places. No one can afford a $500,000 home there, certainly not.

And it all came down. Everyone had atomic pieces of these houses. The creators of these securities did such a good job at spreading risk that it spread everywhere. Banks in Germany failed because of it. No more Lehman Brothers. No more Merril Lynch.

We forgot the past because we didn’t believe that the same rules applied now as they did in those silly old times, when people thought the government could help them.

But they do. That rule is: there is no such thing as the free market. There is no such thing as the invisible hand. What may work at a Turkish bazaar to set prices has nothing to do with how a $12 Trillion dollar economy should be run.

So, is this the logical end of the repeal of Glass-Steagall? Enron and Bear Sterns? or is there more?

There’s more. The wages and the benefits don’t trickle down, but the pain will.

The next phase is huge job losses.

S&P Lowers WaMu To Junk Status

Still no deal on AIG, WaMu now on the brink.

But John McCain says the economy is sound, so don’t worry.

 

UPDATE: Maybe someone who’s got a degree in economics and is ordained in the pseudo-faith of the free market can explain this to me, since I don’t get it.

Couldn’t this whole mess been averted by simply bailing out the people who owned the houses? Work out a system where they can pay what they can pay and then cover the difference.

No lost homes… but, erm, more importantly (snark) there would be less defaults and then less bad debt, then less bank failures, and you know, not all this mess.

I mean, ok. Explain it to me without telling me it’s communist or something. Tell me why, in actual practice, it wouldn’t work, without moralizing (ha).

Can We Be Reconciled?

I think John Edwards was right. There are two Americas. Rich and poor is one way of looking at it, but there are cross-class differences that are more important in politics right now. My personal opinion is that our political solutions lie in class-based reconciliation, but right now it just isn’t set up that way.

Liberals can write books like What’s The Matter With Kansas until we’re blue in the face, but the reality is that not all people vote on the basis of their best interest as defined by others, or in their economic best interest. People who are struggling want to feel that their struggle is meaningful. Is it just a matter of voting for who lines your pocketbook? It is for some people, not for others. I don’t vote that way. If I did, I would be more or less agnostic in this election because my tax cut would be just about the same from either of them.

Sure, some people want to believe that they’re going to become rich. I don’t think that’s all of it, either. I also am not surprised that people who struggle don’t automatically empathize with others. The first reaction of most people is to wish the same fate on others, isn’t it?

I think it’s coming to a point where the cleavages are getting too strong to easily heal. People like Sarah Palin don’t believe in global warming, don’t think that there’s any value or ethic decisions to be made about animals, think that the world is going to end and a magical man from the sky is going to come and judge everyone.

Take a guy like Dennis Prager for example. As a Jew, he thinks that the problem in America is that we don’t have enough Christianity, we have too many “secular” values, and that Christianity is to be credited with our Constitution. He thinks if we had *more* Christianity than a 12 year Congressional majority, 8 years of Bush, and 5 years of religiously conservative Supreme Court justices leaves us with a too much “secular” America.

I on the other had think that there is far too much religion in the public sphere. I think that secular values have been destroyed in favor of the pseudo-religion of consumerism and the free market. I think that the Christian power in this country has been instrumental in the establishment of those pseudo-religions, and, as such has no moral authority.

How can he and I sit down and come together? What, that we should wear seatbelts?

And everything is getting political. My wife and her colleagues were told last Friday that they couldn’t teach anything that was a “controversial issue.” This means at first that she shouldn’t get up there and tell her kids she loves Obama. But what’s not “controversial” these days? Can she teach global warming? evolution? the big bang? about dinosaurs?

There are two Americas. There is the Bush/Palin America and the remnant of old America, that includes liberals, centrists, libertarians, and some conservatives. Barry Goldwater would not support Sarah Palin or George Bush.

The other America is winning because they are saying you’re either “with us” or you’re a “liberal.” You’re either for tax cuts for the rich and for oil companies, or you’re a communist. You’re either for the Iraq war or you’re a terrorist. You’re either for Jesus or you’re a child molesting immoral sex pervert.

By taking away the middle ground and making the other extreme seem as alien to the majority as it probably is while assuaging the alienness of other majority, they are winning.

There is no better proof than the fact that Barack Obama is tied or losing this election to John McCain. The proverbial yellow dog should be winning by 20 points, and is in the Old America. And Obama is no yellow dog. He’s a pretty damn good candidate. It’s the other side that has the “yellow dog.”

At some point, we will reach a tipping point. I think that tipping point will come when/if John McCain is elected and Justice Stevens, or whichever other justice, dies or resigns first. The slow boil will accelerate, and the Old America will die.

It all sounds so morbid, so hyperbolic, so unreal, so extreme. But tell me you would have thought in 1998 this would be 2008, that a major terrorist attack would unwind our national psyche,  that we would be on the edge this? I didn’t. 

Obama or Canada.

Lois Capps (D-CA) Says Go To Nevada.

I just got back from an Obama event in Cambria, California. Our Congresswoman Lois Capps told us to get our asses to Nevada. She was confident we could turn it blue. I’m not so sure about that, but it’s better than sitting on our asses in Ultraviolet-deep blue California.

I may go to Virginia.

Conservatrons Show Their True Colors

By selling “Obama Waffles” at the Family Research Council value voters summit. I actually think that the purveyors of this Klazy Klarody Kloduct are actually telling the truth when they say that it is meant to poke fun at Obama’s policy positions, rather than being overt racism. Think about it.

Oh, and check out the Sarah Palin special from their website! Is racism one of those superior small town values?

You Might Be An Elitist If…

You realize that education and practice make opinions pertinent to those experiences more informed, not less informed

You know what the Bush Doctrine is… or at least think that your Vice-President should

You do not think that having the ability to peruse the land mass of a foreign nation from America makes you qualified to be Vice-President

You understand what the Bruce Springsteen songs “Glory Days” and “Born In The USA” are actually about

Rather than being ashamed of sex you celebrate it to the point that you are actually good at it

You are a man and you are able to both locate and stimulate your girlfriend’s clitoris

You do not mistake ignorance for instinct

You realized that Bush was a criminally terrible President before the year 2006

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, who, I strongly suspect is an *fnord* Elitist *fnord* by these standards.

Anyone got anything to add to the list?

September 11, 2008

It’s a brushfire spreading, feeding as it moves
It’s a disappeared glacier, it’s an airborne flu
It’s your disbelieving eyes locked in concrete miles
It’s your yawning conscious and your lawyer’s smile
It’s an occupied country, foaming at the mouth
No smoking gun, no mushroom cloud
It’s a military mother with a boy in hell
And it’s a flag draped casket down an oil well
It’s an Argentina school girl, gagged and bound
It’s a torture camp, it’s a long way down
It’s the constant bracing shock of now
It’s the whole damn world turned inside out, all right

It’s a march to extinction with your god in step
It’s his name in your mouth, it’s his cross on your neck
It’s a farm boy sprinting over desert dirt
And he’s panting the ‘Our Father’ in staccato spurts
now that’s his automatic rifle and it tells no lies
That’s his truth in your stomach, it’s no alibi
But the trouble lies on the other side
With an equal truth prepping for his holy night
He sees his crescent and the star blink in the virgin sky
He hears the call of milk and honey from the afterlife
And as he eases to the check point, he is calm and sure
It’s collateral damage, it’s the cost of war
It’s another bag of bones for the gods to sort
It’s just another bag of bones for the gods to sort

It’s the species disappearing, all the birds fly south
In a January heat wave and a pulsing crowd
It’s an African militia, kids with sub machines
It’s a conflict diamond on your bride to be
It’s the dispossessed lining up at every gate
It’s the facts worth facing, faced way too late
It’s the mission of modernity, ‘go get what’s yours’
’Til there’s nothing leftover to go get no more
And it’s not what we’re owed but it’s what we’ve earned
And it’s closer than we realized, and it’s time now to burn
It’s time now to burn
Oh, it’s time now to burn

– Kevin Devine, “Another Bag of Bones”

Turn Around Jumpshot?

Obama won Faux-Outrage Lipstickgate. Moreover, he seemed to find a constant line of attack that counters the Conservatron silliness: They make up X, because they do not want you to think about Y. Nonsense. Enough.

Simple and clear, with the benefit of being true.

Meanwhile, the Nilap repetition of the same phrase speech is getting boring and her daughter is just getting more pregnant; which, if you think about it, is really not that interesting. The Conservatrons will never leave Nilap, but the trail of slime lingers on.

We shall see what we shall see; but for now, this is why I am an Obamacrat: