Monthly Archives: March 2009

How to Bail GM Out

Extended Medicare/VA/Federal Employee healthcare (pick one) to GM employees and pensioners.

This is something that can be done without any sanctions under the WTO or NAFTA since other countries already provide these subsidies. Everything else might result in tariffs! Plus, this is a huge foot in the door for universal health care.

No Bonuses This Year…

With the Great Economic Collapse and a host of other uncontrollable factors forcing the organization I am associated with to raise the price of our service by at least ~10% we have already been told that the relatively modest bonuses (~2k per year before taxes) we normally receive for achieving organizational objectives will not be forthcoming in 2009. Indeed, sensing this possibility management already did not give itself any bonuses for 2008.

To the Bailout Corporate Welfare Queens: this is what is known as leadership, you venal Demon Piglets!

Dumb Reporters

As much as I understand the pressure to report good economic news, I don’t understand why the reports of new home purchases going up are taken as a sign of recovery. There are a bunch of reasons why that’s not the case.

First, there is no symmetry to this particular reaction. Simply returning housing prices to their peak levels will not fix anything at this point.

Second, with such a precipitous decline in prices, you don’t have to be an expert to realize that demand would increase. So many people were shut out of the market during the bubble (this is why more and more creative loans had to be created—income wasn’t going up) can now get a house and they are going for it, if they can get a loan. A friend of mine who has no kids and together with her husband probably make over $300k claims she can’t get a loan to buy a house where she lives. If she could, with that income, she could have a palace on a 5 year mortgage.

Third, there are still a lot of people out there. Anyone who expected the housing market to more or less cease to exist wasn’t looking at the fundamentals. Those who thought the old prices were sustainable were erroneously ONLY looking at that fundamental and not cross-comparing it to the fact that real wages have been more or less flat for everyone not in the top 1% for almost 40 years. Even with 10% unemployment, we still have 90% of people at work, many of whom can now afford a house for the first time in their working life.

But point #1 is really the critical one. Even if the prices went back up to their peak levels (which I believe would not only just not reverse this crisis, but create a whole new one) it wouldn’t reopen closed banks, it wouldn’t do anything. It might help to clean up some of these “toxic assets” a little bit, but it wouldn’t unbanktupt Iceland, etc. etc.

The only way out of this is to clean up the banks and repair demand. More construction jobs would be nice.

Catholic Church One-Upping Evangelicals

I don’t think I can believe this. Apparently, officials in the Catholic Church have decided to stomp their feet about Obama giving the inaugural address at Notre Dame because he’s pro-choice. (Is it me or does that bishop look like the drunk irishman from central casting?)

I guess they can get past speakers who violate all kinds of other alleged life priorities of the Church, like the death penalty. (Obama nominally supports that too, so, why aren’t they protesting on that ground?) Why not refuse any official from the U.S. Government, which has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands or Iraqis for a war sold on a pack of lies?

Because they don’t care. They only care about oppressing gays and women. (Abortion is just a step toward eliminating birth control, it’s not just that “one thing.”)

They are in a race with the Evangelicals to capture the support of the delirious and angry right wing of religious practitioners.

Something tells me Obama wouldn’t be turned away at Brandeis, or even Yeshiva U. Maybe he should take sides with a religion that has chosen to grown its affiliated ranks my moving to the left.

Post Office FAIL

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090325/ap_on_go_ot/postal_woes

The Post Office didn’t used to be one of these Fannie/Freddie like pseudo-non-governmental “corporations” that were going to demonstrate the virtues of privatization. It used to just be part of the government.

Anyway, “privatizing” is just conservative code for “killing” because they know most essential government services are not viable in the market because they are part of a commons. (This even puts aside the question of whether it’s right or not.) See, if these “businesses” were profitable, then the government could just use the surplus without taxing. But not everything is profitable. They know it, so they spin it off to kill it. Think school vouchers.

Some things are about creating channels for the market to function, like roads, highways…and the post office.

The reverse of this is nationalizing generally profitable businesses when they fail or cause systemic failure. Interesting isn’t it? There again commerce’s general function would be improved first by nationalization then privatization but they’re against it because… gravy train over.

I’m starting to see myself as someone who is pro-business but anti “free” market. To some this sounds ridiculous, but honestly, I think laissez-faire is bad for business.

Waaaaahhhhhh! I Want My Bonus! Waaaahhhhh! Bonus!

Some cheese with you whine, Mr. DeSantis?

Is it fair that a good employee, the proverbial .350 batting average and 44 home run superstar on the last place team, should be harried and harassed and heckled into handing back his AIG bonus? No. But guess what? Life isn’t fair! Even for bright and able bloviators like Mr. DeSantis. “‘Shit happens!’ It’s not Just for the Bottom 99% Anymore!” Now, shit happens to plutocrats too!

Boo-fucking-hoo.

It’s really not that complicated. The American Street is not  trying to claw back the lip smacking kills of successful business Cenetaurs along with the weasel gains of the Credit Default Swappers willy-nilly. Rather, America does not want to see AIG, the Mothership holding both these heroes and villains, pay extra compensation to any of its employees when the scope of its overall failures are threatening to deep six the economy.The 742K Mr. DeSantis is sniffing about is money we gave AIG to fix its problems, not award its “Team.” The super star on the last place roster does not get to participate in the playoffs.

How can anyone not understand that they themselves should not be getting a bonus from their employer the year that their employer lost the most money in corporate history? The ham-handed outrageousness is almost too consuming to comprehend.

I’m sorry that life sucks and you are not be rewarding for your hard work the way you thought you’d be, Mr. DeSantis. But you were a well-equipped player in a free market, and that’s the risk you took when you signed on with AIG, whether you knew it or not. Lets be clear as a glacial lake here: The American people did not fail you. Nor did it’s polity. Nor even did its goofus politicos. AIG failed you. AIG’s Credit Default Swappers failed you by being venal; AIG’s management failed you by fanning and facilitating their venality.

So please, return to your domicile and appreciate your rich fortune in being able to ride out the Great Economic Collapse in relative comfort. I’m sure there is a  well-equipped bright and able person anxious to do your job for 150K a year and no bonus.

Time for Geithner to go

You know, I’m such a hypocrite sometimes. I was—and I basically still am—firmly in the “give Obama some room to operate” crowd that was trying to calm people down during the transition when Obama, who was not yet president, was “fucking up.”

We’re not done with the proverbial 100 days, and, well, the man deserves an extension because the goddamn Republicans have given him no grace period. Remember when Bush “won” by 537 votes and we were all supposed to just give him free reign for a while? Obama kicked the snot out of McCain and the GOP’s been putting his balls in a vice since Election day.

So, how can I believe all of that and still think it’s time for Geithner to be gone? Well, I’m not convinced that a year ago Obama sat in bed dreaming of a cabinet including Geither. My guess would be that he had someone else in mind. When the giant shitpile fell started stinking, Geithner, Bernanke, and O’Neill Paulson were really the point men. And they fucked up like they were Viceroy of Iraq or something.

But, hey, it was a big problem and they needed time, right? Well, from the beginning, I always scoffed at this kind of populist urge to see the whole thing burn, because I think people say that and they aren’t serious, or if they are, they wouldn’t be if they knew what that meant. There were tough decisions to be made. But, as with Iraq, little old me of no particular expertise and a decent education in tangentially related subjects was able to predict better what should have been done. Iraq: no threat to us, no nukes. How’d I know? Shit, I can’t even remember anymore.

So, here, it’s been clear to me that the solution has been to take these banks into receivership and spin them back off. No big deal. Just like United Airlines. And I guess I bought it that, at least during Bush, this was going to be very tough to achieve politically. That kind of intervention was just anathema to these guys.

Well, it’s anathema all right, but not because they believe in the free market. It’s because this bubble (shit pile, as opposed to the dot com) has never been about anything except making financiers rich personally. The 90s were about making investors rich and creating a lot of innovative corporations.

So, here we are in 2009. Infrastructure is crumbling, unemployment is skyrocketing, we’re the only major industrial power without a decent health care system and I’m forced to take the side of *corporations* and *old(er) money* against these thieving banker class pricks who think they are smarter than God and aren’t really in the business of anything except skimming off the top.

They actually impede corporations. Get this: the corporations need the wealth to fucking trickle down to them! It’s true. If the salaries (not even the profits of the financial companies) of these folks were called what it was—a tax—and there was a “tax cut” corporations would have more capital to operate and… trickle down to us. I guess we take a trickle number.

And so Geithner is all about using the federal government to prop up this system and make sure all of these folks get recapitalized… it’s not about making the companies work, or recapitalizing them. That’s so simple it could be done in a day. Here, I’ll show you:

“The treasury of the United States hereby guarantees with its full faith and credit to pay obligations of AIG.

Signed,

Timmeh.”

(Ideally there’s another sentence on another piece of paper that says everyone who works there is fired and shareholders are out.)

Take AIG. Big deal. Hire some people, have them run the company and guarantee their losses and try to clean it up ASAP. Or the banks. What’s the fucking mystery here? The claim is that these douchebags that fucked up the whole economy are entitled to a second chance to pad their wallets one more time before fnord regulation fnord comes in and cleans it up.

The financial system has totally abstracted away from what it’s supposed to be. See, a stock is supposed to mean you get a piece of the profits. But secondary to that is guesses on what the profits will be, what people think other people think the profits will be, what games people will play with that company in public (like on CNBC!) etc. All of this secondary manipulation doesn’t produce anything except salaries for these pricks.

I am here, a social democrat of a Canadian or European flavor pining for a return to the sensible world of J.P. Morgan serving as the banker for industrialists who ACTUALLY FUCKING MADE THINGS so that commerce would happen and someone could make $5 a day somewhere in the middle.

Anyway, Geithner must have a small dick that too many of these ass holes have seen in the sauna at the Harvard club or something and he’s too worried about what they think. Fuck that shit. If I’m Obama, you’re fired and we tried it the bankers way.

America Fail!

If our country cannot stop AIG from giving bonuses to their employees after receiving an astronomical bailout, and if America cannot claw back those bonuses once they have been given, and, if indeed our Government is either unable or unwilling to reprimand these demon piglets in any way then our system doesn’t work.

If the *fnord* populist *fnord* impulse to stay on hold on the phone until you can speak to an actual hominid and shriek “I want my fucking money back!” or to throw rocks at the AIG building, or to drag one of their executives out of his platinum tower and mug him and send him to the Bowery with a broken femur and missing teeth make more self-evident sense the empty huffing and puffing from Congress and Team Obama, then President Obama is more in danger of having his salutary Presidency swallowed by a Jacobian spirit than our institutional polity realizes.

Nationalize them! Liquidate them! Fire the venal nitwits and advertise their jobs for 150K a year and healthy benefits and no bonuses!

It’s time to act! It’s the cerebral thing to do.

Brodeur's White Album Moment

There are one hit wonders. There are those who earn intrepid followings.

And then there are those that add to the normal.

In their more Lennonist turnings the Beattles were a revolutionary band, and no song subverted the dominant paradigm more than Birthday from the White album. This ditty has no ideology, but it was conceived for the purpose of setting itself aside the indelible Happy Birthday to You, which is probably the most ubiquitous song in the English language. It succeeded.

With his 552nd record breaking win Martin Brodeur made his own Birthday. Cutting the Net will be the new momentous goalie celebration evermore.

Kings vs. Lost

Despite my initial allergy to its previews, I watched and liked the first episide of Kings—it’s got the guy from Deadwood FTW! I described it to my wife as a cross between Starship Troopers and the Bible. Except it’s a little bit too precisely like the Bible.

The King, named “Silas Benjamin” has a son named “Jack” and a daughter named “Michelle.” Jack’s life is saved by David Shepherd who blows up a “Goliath” tank fighting for the enemy, the nation of Gath. David is feted, he starts liking Michelle, and Silas gets a little worried that David is too popular with the hoipolloi.Oh, and there’s a guy named Reverend Samuel who apparently helped Silas come to power, who had a chance encounter with David at his mom Jesse’s house. When Silas bows to the corporate man’s power and declares war on Gath after achieving peace, Samuel says he’s not king, just a man, etc. The episode ends with a crown of butterflies annointing David. Silas is kind of Gilboa in its capital Shiloh.

So, for those who’ve been out of Sunday school for a while, let’s review.

King Saul (I think they thought Silas was a Greek version of Saul) of the tribe of Benjamin becomes King of Israel after a bunch of people pester the prophet Samuel to “give us a king!” during their fighting with the Philistines, one of whose main cities was Gath, where Goliath was from. (According not to the Bible but to Jewish legend, Goliath and David were distantly related, with David descending from Ruth, and Goliath descending from her sister Orpah.) Saul was a douchebag and lost the blessing of THE LORD (I like typing it that way, it’s so, like bold) according to Shmuel (er, Samual) and before all this, David, the son of Jesse (here a man, not a mom) was annointed by Samuel. David was a shepherd, but of the tribe of Judah. (Is ever TV character named Shepherd? see, e.g., Jack Shepherd of Lost, Derek Shepherd from Glame Anatomy.) David pwns Goliath and becomes popular, and Saul lets him marry his daughter Michal (sounds like Michelle, no?) who is nice to him at first (and again not in the Bible but in the Midrash is a pretty cool chick) but then makes shitty comments about his naked dancing into Jerusalem.

Gilboa is where Saul fought the Philistines, and Shiloh is the pre-monarchy capital of Israel (not Judah: Hebron was it’s original tribal burg.) In Christian interpretations, Shiloh is also a name for Jesus, whose arrival signals the time when the “scepter will depart” from Judah—in other words, when King David’s line will no longer have any claim to the throne. (As an aside: David’s living descnedants

So all of these names kind of make the plot predictable. I mean, David’s going to bang Michal/Michelle, he’s going to be sad when Jack/Jonathan dies and make a overly big deal about it and he’s probably going to eventually get into a fight with Silas/Saul and become King over some new city (Jerusalem!!!), and then maybe get a differnt wife (or institute polygamy) and give birth to Shlomo/Solomon the wise.

Anyway, it’s good stuff. But all of the direct references make it awful predictable, whereas Lost, where there are a ton of veiled references to things–people’s names like John Locke, references to novels, just give you a shadow of a clue. They don’t determine the whole plot.

Too Big To Fail.

What does too big to fail mean?

This could be explained at length, but the endgame is that it would do so much harm to the economy that people simply wouldn’t know what to do. Unemployment could skyrocket and the problems we face could only get worse.

This is especially the case in the United States where we have no significan social safety net. Public housing, the emergency room, and even our relatively limited bankruptcy laws don’t cut it. If everyone could rely on some kind of soft landing, we could let the “free market” do its worst.

The irony here is that market capitalism works best when there’s a safety net to ensure that risk taking doesn’t result in homelessness or other forms of utter poverty.

I also submit that this lack of a safety net stifles innovation. Wanna start that new company? Oh yeah, what are you going to do about health care? Got kids?

GM

I’m not sure this would actually save the company, but one thing to consider would be to make all GM employees and pensioners eligible for VA/Medicare/whatever federal single payer program you want to pick, and make that their bailout.

This is also immune from potential NAFTA/WTO problems because every other country does it. Other subsidies might ultimately create a permission for tarrifs.

I strongly urged Congress to give the automakers money in December, but if they can’t make a go of it, they can’t make a go of it.

Forgive Me Rush

http://www.dccc.org/content/sorry

An Act of Contrition:

O my Radio God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins
because I dread the loss of Congress
and the pains of being in the minority,
but most of all because they offend Thee, my Oxycontin Lord,
Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace
to confess my sins, to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Amen.

Conservatives vs. GOP

There hasn’t been much daylight between the Conservative movement and the GOP in a long, long time. The difference is probably most embodied in Bush father and son. Father was willing to use Conservatives, but he wasn’t one of them. Reagan was. Nixon wasn’t, but was also more than happy to use them. Bush II, well, to the extent he thought at all, that monkey fuck, he was one of them.

The reason for this was simple: conservatism put the GOP into power. Sure, there are some freaks of nature that were actually liberal in many ways, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or who were “none of the above” like Ron Paul, but for the most part, there are about as many liberal Republicans today as there were anti-New Deal Democrats in 1934.

But that’s not the case anymore. Not only is conservatism losing elections, it’s being exposed as a delirous fantasy that seems to benefit a certain class. Laffer/Voodoo/Trickle Down/Supply Side economics was nothing more than a cleverly concocted bunch of shit to give dough-faced geeks the intellectual hauteur to excuse their disdain for the mainstreamers who kicked their asses in high school, a matching accessory to Bill Buckley’s royalist accent and George Will’s pseudo-bookish bowtie. Liberals, you see, were bleeding hearts. Serious thinking men were conservatives.

The dishonesty of the argument is built in. If the whole point is for it to “trickle down” then ostensibly the measure of the theory is its ability to provide for the “down.” If it had ever demonstrated one non spurious instance of working, that would have been one thing. It didn’t. This was something that failed in 1873 if not in 1929. Fool us five times, shame on us?

Another Orwellian load of pseudointellectual bullshit propounded by Conservatives is Constitution as Commandment. It’s not enough for things to be Constitutional. It must be Constitutional exactly as was intended in 1789. Of course, this conveniently ignores that (as anyone who’d ever read about the Convention would know) there was never one single opinion about any of it. For all of their supposed reverence for the Founders and the Constitution, Originalism has done nothing but drastically and haphazardly water down our civil liberties. It is a failed philosophy, just like trickle down.

Conservatives attempt to claim credit for the downfall of the USSR as a permanent patent on foreign policy and military strength. This is purely an artifact of the Vietnam generation. Democrats presided over every major war in the 20th century (Iraq I—puh leeze), and Republicans ended two of them. There is documentary proof that Reagan’s buildup did actually contribute to the downfall of communism. But somehow that means that only Republicans know how to deal with Islamic terrorism?

Of course, Republican foreign policy as propounded by Neoconservatives, movement Conservatives, and the Christian Right essential involves imperial domination of the rest of the world, regardless of whether war is required. For the Neocons, it’s about controlling the oil reserves in Asia. For movement conservatives it’s quite frankly about killing Muslims. For the Christian Right it’s partly about killing muslims, partly about hasting the eschaton.

Most Americans don’t want that. Oil isn’t a priority for us because we pay for it, we don’t profit from it. Therefore, we’d love to replace it instead of spending trillions to horde it. And, it goes without saying, that most of us do not want to live to see the eschaton.

In social policy, it turns out most people don’t want to told what to do if it doesn’t bother others. Making your whole life about hating gay people or abortions is a concern of a dying time. Also, people generally don’t want smog and most people like science and believe in evolution, global warming, and gravity.

Conservatism is tired out. It’s extraordinary claims about perfect endings have been falsified, and that falsification has finally been internalized by the voters.

There’s a famous social psychology experiment where the researchers penetrated a cult. The aliens were supposed to show up at midnight. Everything they believed focussed on that. Before that night, the group was insular and did not proselytize and avoided the media. A few hours after midnight, the group suddenly began to preach actively and prsoelytize through the media.

Midnight has come and gone and the hysterical screeches from these fanatics is the result of their denial about being wrong, and, worse, about everyone else knowing it. It must be something wasn’t executed right. It was Bush. He did it wrong.

No, he did it right. He was the conservative par excellence.

Conservatism grew into its present form by starting with sound bases. Punishing cheaters. Fiscal discipline. Refusal to reject religion in a knee jerk manner. Renewing our commitment to the original vision of the country.

All of these are great ideas and should be reinterpreted in a way that doesn’t destroy the economy, the world’s environment, the country’s education system and infrastructure, make us an international pariah, and destroy our liberties in the furtherance of a false war, all while claiming to make everyone richer, the world freer, and denying the problem with the environment.

The GOP as a party of elected officials is starting to think maybe it’s time to rethink itself. The Conservatives are dead enders. It’s their loss, not all of ours anymore.