The party leaders will probably try again. I doubt they have the energy or courage to renegotiate the terms in any serious way. A majority of Democrats voted for the measure, but most Republicans took a walk. They will be scolded -- and pounded by captains of industry and finance -- for being "irresponsible." But I doubt the public will agree.
In all of elected Washington, representatives are closest to the people and they know a vote for this outrageous measure is going to end the careers of some colleagues -- maybe many of them. This time, the dissenters can claim principle and say they are voting with the folks, while also voting to save their own hides.
It adds another deep shock to the system, both in politics and economics, but what an invigorating moment for democracy.
The financial bloodbath will continue, but unless the deal on the table changes significantly, Henry Paulson gets to decide who lives and who dies. The former investment banker from Goldman Sachs would be empowered as treasury secretary to play savior or grim reaper, the liquidator who essentially pulls the plug on some banks and financial firms or the man who rescues them from ruin. Of course, Paulson would consult with other government officials. But you can be sure that, behind closed doors, he will ask former brethren in Wall Street to help decide which club members are worthy of saving. This power to pick winners and losers would remain in Paulson's hands until a new president arrives in January.
This the essence of "the deal" Congress worked out over the weekend and was stymied... Some bells and whistles were added to make the transaction less obnoxious to public opinion, voters and taxpayers. They are not meaningless, but both parties lacked the nerve to tamper with Paulson's basic proposal. This is still a massive bailout of imploding Wall Street, financed with the public's money. And it is still a massive crap shoot for the American people. [snip]
Too much destruction lies ahead, both in the financial system and in the real economy where people live and work. Too much bitterness and rage will be attached to the White Knight at Treasury when he dooms one pension fund or bank, but rescues others. Too much deceptive sleight-of-hand is already embedded in Paulson's approach for ordinary mortals to even recognize what Paulson intends to accomplish.
The essential political failure, in my view, is that Congress did not step up and assert the full emergency powers of government in this epic crisis, that is, take temporary control of the entire financial and banking system so regulators and policy makers can steer the US economy to safer ground, compelling the private institutions to follow their lead. This rescue plan remains essentially voluntary. Yes, the Treasury Secretary would be awarded gargantuan personal powers, but there is not much in writing to compel the banking behavior of private interests he chooses to rescue them. One assumes Paulson will demand some private deals and use his enormous leverage to squeeze anyone who resists. But there is nothing to guarantee this path is taken. The bailout will belong to the club and the club will manage it. [snip]
Republicans, as usual, are playing their own political game -- trying to evade the blame, now and later. Their proposal for an insurance program that financial firms must pay for is ludicrous. It's like trying to buy hurricane insurance on your house after the storm has already blown it away. But the GOP already is in ruin, so its members are thinking long-term survival and creating a predicate for revival. Blame the government, blame Wall Street, blame the go-along Democrats -- maybe people will start liking Republicans again.
Democrats are still in recovery from twenty-five years of deferring impotently to the wise men of Wall Street and retreating tactically from conservative initiatives. I see this crisis as the Democrats' hesitant first step toward rediscovering their nerve and abandoned convictions. They are not there yet. But this crisis is not over. I predict they will get another opportunity to stand up for something and rather soon.
Rachel Maddow, 9/29/08: Who's the Leader of the Club?
Shut up already. Obviously very few people care what you think. You and your cronies have looted two countries in eight years, engineered a worldwide money crisis and don't deserve to be bailed out because you overestimated the time that your Ponzi schemes would last before crashing. It just so happens that it is the little man, the guy on the street not the Wall Street "geniuses", that deserves a bailout. Forcing the taxpayers to rescue people who were gambling with other people's money is as fiscally foolish as it is to keep paying CEOs big bonuses while the workers on the bottom get pink slips.
Americans are tired of being taken for granted. We are tired of being mistaken for stupid. We are tired of being pissed on and told that it's raining. And we are most certainly tired of looking for a pony in a pile of bullsh*t.
"Our economy is depending on decisive action from the government," Bush said. "The sooner we address the problem, the sooner we can get back on the path of growth and job creation. This is what elected leaders owe the American people, and I am confident that we'll deliver."
The only jobs you have created were overseas or pay so low that the average American can no longer afford to live in his own home. You let a whole American city drown, destroyed the hopes, dreams and lives of thousands of people both here and abroad and now the chickens have come home to roost.
In your arrogance you have forgotten that it is the House's responsibility to propose financial bills. Not the Treasury Secretary, not the head of the Federal Reserve and most certainly not you. For you to speak of your disappointment that your cronies didn't get more taxpayer money to play with doesn't bother me at all. What did you expect? That people who were running for reelection would go against their constituents wishes one more time? Like true politicians they don't want to give up their way of life and hearing from the people that they are supposed to represent that if Wall Street was bailed out that they would have to find a new line of work, well you saw the results. They may be stupid and greedy but they aren't so stupid and greedy that they don't recognize the anger of the people in their districts.
You helped to create this situation and just like every company you have ever run, we're going bankrupt. A few years ago it was made difficult (and impossible for some) for individuals to declare bankruptcy and now the taxpayer is supposed to save the companies who stabbed them in the wallet? I don't think so. The only bailout the American people want at this point is for Main Street, not Wall Street. If only I really believed you were going away for good in a few months, but you are like a bad penny.
No Deal: Senator McCain and his advisers, who last Wednesday had warned that this nation would be in the midst of another Great Depression by today unless Congress passed bailout legislation...This morning, claiming credit for building a winning coalition of votes in the House to pass that bailout bill and, thus, save the American economy. Only one problem: The bailout bill failing in the House when 67% of Republicans voted against it... And the stock market promptly losing seven percent of its value. Senator McCain -- in our fifth story on the Countdown -- having led his party and his country... to Congressional chaos and an economy in crisis. Mission Accomplished!
Krugman is here: Writing on his blog for the New York Times this afternoon, columnist Paul Krugman awarded the top headline to Market-Watch's Rex Nutting: "House To Wall Street: Drop Dead." But he also re-submitted his own writing after the first bailout deal collapsed last Thursday: "What we now have is non-functional government in the face of a major crisis, because Congress includes a quorum of crazies and nobody trusts the White House an inch. As a friend said last night, we've become a banana republic with nukes." Our fourth story on the Countdown... what the quorum of crazies and the banana republic with nukes means for you...
Anatomy of a Bailout Failure
NBC’s Mike Viqueira updates Countdown’s Keith Olbermann with the latest news on bailout options for Congress and discusses the reasons today's bill failed.
There was news Sunday afternoon of a congressional deal to bailout Wall Street fat cats with $700 billion of taxpayer cash (you can read the draft legislation here). Though the deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the White House is better than what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson originally proposed early last week, it remains an insulting atrocity, having omitted even basic aid to homeowners, bankruptcy reforms and any modicum of future financial industry regulation. Now, the New York Times reports that the Democratic leadership may not have the votes to pass this bailout. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons (in no order) why every single member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican -- should vote this sucker down. Please feel free to copy and paste this post into an email to your congressperson. They are deciding right now -- let them hear your voice.
1.This Bailout's Inherent Fiscal Insanity Could Make Problem Worse
When an individual consumer uses a new credit card to pay off astounding debt from an old credit card, it's akin to check kiting, which is is illegal. Apparently, though, when the government does it, it's billed as Serious Public Policy. Because that's what this supposedly prudent bailout bill would do: Force taxpayers to borrow $700 billion from foreign banks to pay off the bad debt of Wall Street banks. [snip]
2. Experts on both the left and right say this bailout could make things worse
Primum non nocere is the latin phrase for "first do no harm" -- the priority principle for any EMT working on a sick patient. It should be the same priority for Congress at this moment -- and a growing group of esteemed experts on both the Right and Left are insisting that this bailout bill could make things worse. [snip]
3. There are clearly better and safer alternatives
The mantra throughout the week has been that America has "no choice" but to pass Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion giveaway -- that, in effect, there are no alternatives. But that's an out-and-out lie -- one with a motive: Making it seem as if the only thing we can do is hand the keys to the federal treasury over to both parties' corporate campaign contributors.
The truth is, there are a number of alternatives. [snip]
4. Any Incumbent Voting for This Puts Themselves At Risk of Being Thrown Out of Office
As a preface, let me state that I think we live in a country where politicians too often listen to their donors and to the Establishment rather than their constituents, not the other way around. America is a country where our leaders dishonestly invoke the concepts of "Statesmanship" and "Seriousness" and their supposed hatred of "pandering" to justify ignoring what the public wants (as if giving the public what it wants is somehow not the objective of a democratic republic). So, in short, I don't think there's anything wrong with this bill being "politicized" by coming down the pike right before an election -- in fact, I think it's a good thing because the election -- and the fear of being thrown out of office forces our politicians to at least consider what the public wants. I mean, really -- would we rather have this decision made after the election, when the public can be completely ignored? [snip]
5. Corruption and Sleaze Are Swirling Around These Bailouts -- and America Knows It
The amount of brazen corruption and conflicts of interest swirling around this deal is odious, even by Washington's standards -- and polls suggest the public inherently understands that. [snip]
Add to this the fact that the negotiations over this bill have been largely conducted in secret, and you have one of the most sleazy heists in American history.
If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America. That -- and that alone -- would be the only thing an objective observer could take away from the whole thing.
Money will have compelled politicians to not only vote for substantively dangerous policy, but vote for that policy even at their own clear electoral peril. Such a vote will confirm that the only people these politicians believe they are responsible for representing are are the fat-cat recipients of the $700 billion -- the same fat cats who underwrite their political campaigns, the same fat-cats who engineered this crisis, and want to keep profiteering off it. Any lawmaker who takes that position is selling out the country, as is any issue-based political non-profit group -- liberal or conservative -- that uses its resources to defend a "yes" vote rather than demand a "no" vote. This is a bill that forces taxpayers to absorb all of the pain, and Wall Street executives to reap all of the gain. It doesn't even force the corporate executives (much less the government leaders) culpable in this free fall to step down -- it lets them stay fat and happy in their corner office suites in Manhattan.
Even if they believe that something must be done right now, lawmakers should still vote no on this specific bill, and force one of the very prudent alternatives to the forefront. They shouldn't just vote no on Paulson's proposal -- they should vote hell no. Our economy's future depends on it.
What does it take to get you to listen? The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to the bailout of the financial services industry, yet you are now in the final stages of preparing legislation precisely to the effect of rescuing the reckless from the consequences of their unmitigated, unregulated, unconscionable greed.
You're falling for a ruse. You were suckered once before. It was called Iraq; this time, it's the financial services industry. You're being told, once again, that disaster is right around the corner if you do not give the President and his people the authority to act right away.
You're still thinking that the wording of your legislation will somehow put reins on how the "crisis" is managed. This was what you thought the last time, when you handed President George W. Bush what he interpreted as the authority to wage a full-scale war that has now lasted more than five long, costly years. The disaster of your thinking, both then and now, is swallowing the predicate assumption that the Administration is telling you what the real crisis is.
You have grave, important, reputable people within the Administration not only telling you the crisis is real, but also telling you what constitutes the crisis. You have outside experts telling you the crisis is real. You have news media outlets telling you the crisis is real.
That's exactly what happened the last time; and just like last time, you'll eventually find out what you probably already know: it isn't any more real this time than it was when then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice threatened a "mushroom cloud," Vice President Dick Cheney misrepresented aluminum rocket tubes as uranium centrifuge parts, and George W. Bush used a forged document as evidence that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. It isn't any more real this time than it was when Colin Powell disgraced himself before the United Nations by repeating lies and Rice famously claimed "Nobody could have imagined" crazed jihadists would use planes to ram buildings when she and Bush were told exactly that this kind of attack was imminent.
It isn't any more real this time than it was when we committed ourselves to a war in a nation that had not hurt us but would, over the next five-and-a-half years, drink the blood of over four thousand of our soldiers and suck the life from our credibility among the nations of the world.
Now, five-and-a-half years later, we are still mired in an occupation that cannot be brought to a close. Even the Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama, who once talked about something close to immediate withdrawal, now describes a 16-month timetable. Moreover, whenever we leave, the cost of the war will continue. By the estimate of Nobel Prize-winning economist Alfred Stiglitz, the final tab will be as much as three trillion dollars, of which the U.S. has spent to date less than a fourth.
With all that, the terror network that actually, successfully attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, still exists; and in the theatre of war where we are engaging that enemy and its allies, we are losing. The forces of the Taliban allies of al-Qa'ida control the majority of the physical territory of Afghanistan, they have turned the country into a vertical opium monopoly larger than any other on earth, and they are using the neighboring nation of Pakistan as a staging ground for recruitment, training, and the projection of power into battle theatres of their choosing inside Afghanistan.
And just like last time, as you commit this nation to a war against a false crisis, the war that should be foughtthe only war that should be fought right nowfor American families losing their homes, their creditworthiness, their jobs, their opportunities, and their futures will be addressed like an ugly stepchild while the false threat will just keep billowing into a black hole gorging on the treasure of this nation.
Last time, Iraq was the battleground that caused us to ignore the theatre of engagement where the jihadists actually were; this time, the financial services industry will be the theatre of engagement that will cause us to ignore the crisis of American citizens losing their homes, their jobs, and their futures.
Banks, investment houses, and all manner of other top-notch institutions had a veritable cornucopia of risks on which they could build an intangible asset empire of derivatives against which they could offer hedges on the very mortgages and other loans they were making to everyday people trying to hold onto their lifestyles and their pursuit of the American dream. There was nothing wrong with Americans doing this: that was the great promise of the last half of the 20th Century, a country where people could become prosperous, live in their own homes, and see to it that their children grew up to have the same and maybe even better.
Look hard at what the reality is. Do you really think that dream is still attainable for tens of millions of Americans? How do you think those kids whose parents have lost their homes are going to grow up?
And then there's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was at one time, himself, a part of that very industry he now demands of you that the American taxpayers bail out. This is the Secretary of the Treasury for an Administration that took the country from growing budget surpluses at the end of the Clinton Administration to year after year of staggering federal budget deficits, which made the United States of America a massive borrower in global credit markets, finally creating a severe squeeze that first crowded out borrowing for private investment and is now doing the same to household consumption. (This was shown in Part Four of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage": the numbers are right there. Go look at them if you think any long-term good came out of a government that had no sense whatsoever of fiscal discipline.)
This bailout, just like the war in Iraq, will end up costing huge multiples of what you think right now it will, and that's because you have no idea what's going to come out of the woodwork once the program is underway. Just like in Iraq, where forces of mayhem long held at bay became everyday nightmares for American troops, bad investments, bad paper, and bad decisions long held in the background of financial statements will all of a sudden start billowing forth, and your $700 billion bailout will become a running nightmare of one round of extra funding after another, with a few of your colleagues finally demanding an immediate end to it while the rest of you know very well that it cannot end until it's all over and the United States is simply burned out. Just like Iraq.
And here you are, preening yourselves before the media, wiping the sweat off your brow, proudly displaying your "compromise" bailout bill for which the majority in Congress will vote in favor and the crisis monger in the White House will approve.
Good for you.
Now, stop. You've let everyone know you can be whipped into hysteria. You've let everyone know that you learned nothing from the Iraq debacle.
Now, let everyone know there's some reason not to throw you out of Congress. Show the citizens of this countrythe real citizens, not the corporationsthat you have a modicum of fear in you for their wrath.
Stop now. For the sake of this nation, just walk away from this bailout. For once in your collective lives as representatives of We the People, stand up to the fear mongering from those who know no other means by which to govern.
For once in your collective lives as the co-equal, legislative branch of the federal government, seize the moment and take back this country from those who would once again gut it of treasure for the benefit of the few.
Vote no on the bailout legislation, and tell the Bush Administration and its financial services industry beggars to stand down and go quietly into the bleak night of their failures.
Another cringe-inducing performance by Sarah Palin in part II of her interview with Katie Couric.
In the segment below, Couric presses Palin to explain why Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience. Palin doesn't seem to have improved her answer since she was asked the same question by Charlie Gibson.
It is probably unfair to use the GED or General Equivalency Diploma as an example of something so easy an idiot (caveman?) could pass it, but in keeping with my opening theme of looking at Palin as if Chris Rock was doing the commentary, I'll just have to ask everyone's forgiveness.
Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric didn't ask Palin difficult, misleading or gotcha questions. To paraphrase Chris Rock regarding Michael Jackson, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric tried their best, they asked Sarah Palin the easiest questions in the world, the easist GED questions in the world and Governor Palin could not pass the test. Katie Couric was like, "Governor Palin, do you really think that being able to see Russia on a clear day from your house means that you have foreign policy experience". And Sarah Palin said 'Yes!'. Couric said "Let me rephrase the question, "Have you ever been in any negotiations with Russians". To which Palin replied "It's very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where-where do they go? It's Alaska."
As good as she is at trying to hide her reactions, Couric had this look on her face like she was thinking, "Are you CRAZY????"
Fareed Zakaria's latest article in Newsweek is even more critical of Palin's abilities than I am. It's titled "Palin Is Ready? Please." Zakaria comes right out and asks "Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, "to spend more time with her family"?
Zakaria characterizes a Palin answer to Couric on the economy as "a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN's Campbell Brown, have argued that it's sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that's causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb."
Come on Fareed, tell us what you really think! (p.s. I agree)
Couric asked her a smart question about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the American financial sector. It was designed to see if Palin understood that the problem in this crisis is that credit and liquidity in the financial system has dried up, and that that's why, in the estimation of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the government needs to step in to buy up Wall Street's most toxic liabilities. Here's the entire exchange:
COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were 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 health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care 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, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
This is nonsense — a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head.
. . . . .
Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president.
Jack Cafferty, how you feel about that? Don't hold back:
"If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old's heartbeat away from being president of the United States. And if that doesn't scare the Hell out of you, it should."
I've been pretty depressed as well as stressed to post lately. First let me say thank you to Missouri Mule, a beautiful person who helped me through my darkening times. You pack one heckuva kick and I was glad to be on the receiving end. Thank you and may you be repaid in kind for the rest of your life. There are good people on the planet and you are one of the best. The same goes for the Omnipotent Poobah, Ponzo and my other anonymous donor. Thank you all for your efforts. I'm still drowning, but several people have thrown lifelines to delay the inevitable and I don't feel completely alone.
Speaking of the inevitable, the campaigning or the false suspension of campaigning (the poor widdle baby), the mudslinging and the avoidance of reality continues. If there is going to be a $700 billion bailout, couldn't we try the trickle up effect? Please. Just once to see what it's like? You know the one where you give every man, woman and child $2500 and they spend it on things they need to. Like paying the mortgage, going to the doctor instead of the emergency room, catching up on late credit card payments, putting food on the table and buying kids stuff for the next school year. Maybe a few companies could start building things in America so we aren't constantly buying things from the international discount store. Because the trickle down effect doesn't seem to have trickled down far enough.
A tropical storm watch in Maine, what a concept. Somehow when I think of the tropics, Maine doesn't spring to mind. Tell that to Hurricane Kyle.
Did you know that 2 x 43,112,609 -1 is important? No it's not how many voters there are for McCain or Obama, it's the new Mersenne prime number. Thirteen million digits. Now if they could only find Osama bin Laden.
As much as Jehovah's Witnesses are despised, this is one thing that you will never catch them doing. And for two reasons. One, they don't participate in politics and two, they believe that you have to live by laws of the country you reside in. Or as it was explained to me by one of the elders many years ago, that includes even little things like driving the speed limit or cheating on your taxes. Pastors are supposed to be preaching the word of God, not their interpretation of it and most certainly not to use his name to support a candidate. It's against the law in this country and then there are those pesky Ten Commandments. Republicans have gotten so used to breaking the thou shalt not kill, steal, bear false witness or commit adultery commandments, that breaking a few more is no big deal. Sort of like our former Bill of Rights. False idols and no other god before me, how quaint. And we see how they honor their fathers and mothers by reducing any benefits and treating them like parasites because they are living longer than previous generations. Methuselah would be in a world of hurt if he was alive today.
The Google is at it again. On the good side they have come out against Proposition 8 and on the dark side they are supporting a bill that removes the copyright protections for cartoonists, songwriters, artists and photographers. It's called the Orphan Works bill and it is being hotlined behind the closed doors of Congress and will likely be tacked on to the bailout bill with little notice or discussion from the public.
"The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man's dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet -- it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars -- that's the Biblical view... Bush will give us a free market in oil so we can afford to keep the lights on. ... Cardigan sweaters or SUVs? Over to you, America."~Ann Coulter
Ann, of course, considers non-Americans, especially Muslims, anyone who has what she wants, the lower species.
BILL MOYERS: You say, "U.S. troops in battle dress and body armor, whom Americans profess to admire and support, pay the price for the nation's refusal to confront our domestic dysfunction." What are we not confronting?
ANDREW BACEVICH: The most obvious, the blindingly obviously question, is energy. It's oil. I think historians a hundred years from now will puzzle over how it could be that the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world, as far back as the early 1970s, came to recognize that dependence on foreign oil was a problem, posed a threat, comprised our freedom of action.
How every President from Richard Nixon down to the present one, President Bush, declared, "We're gonna fix this problem." None of them did. And the reason we are in Iraq today is because the Persian Gulf is at the center of the world's oil reserves. I don't mean that we invaded Iraq on behalf of big oil, but the Persian Gulf region would have zero strategic significance, were it not for the fact that that's where the oil is.
Back in 1980, I think, President Carter, in many respects when he declared the Carter Doctrine, and said that henceforth, the Persian Gulf had enormous strategic significance to the United States and the United States is not going to permit any other country to control that region of the world.
And that set in motion a set of actions that has produced the militarization of U.S. policy, ever deeper U.S. military involvement in the region, and in essence, has postponed that day of reckoning when we need to understand the imperative of having an energy policy, and trying to restore some semblance of energy independence.
BILL MOYERS: And this is connected, as you say in the book, in your first chapters, of what you call "the crisis of profligacy."
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, we don't live within our means. I mean, the nation doesn't, and increasingly, individual Americans don't. Our saving - the individual savings rate in this country is below zero. The personal debt, national debt, however you want to measure it, as individuals and as a government, and as a nation we assume an endless line of credit.
As individuals, the line of credit is not endless, that's one of the reasons why we're having this current problem with the housing crisis, and so on. And my view would be that the nation's assumption, that its line of credit is endless, is also going to be shown to be false. And when that day occurs it's going to be a black day, indeed.
BILL MOYERS: You call us an "empire of consumption."
ANDREW BACEVICH: I didn't create that phrase. It's a phrase drawn from a book by a wonderful historian at Harvard University, Charles Maier, and the point he makes in his very important book is that, if we think of the United States at the apex of American power, which I would say would be the immediate post World War Two period, through the Eisenhower years, into the Kennedy years. We made what the world wanted. They wanted our cars. We exported our television sets, our refrigerators - we were the world's manufacturing base. He called it an "empire of production."
BILL MOYERS: Right.
ANDREW BACEVICH: Sometime around the 1960s there was a tipping point, when the "empire of production" began to become the "empire of consumption." When the cars started to be produced elsewhere, and the television sets, and the socks, and everything else. And what we ended up with was the American people becoming consumers rather than producers.
BILL MOYERS: And you say this has produced a condition of profound dependency, to the extent, and I'm quoting you, "Americans are no longer masters of their own fate."
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, they're not. I mean, the current debt to the Chinese government grows day by day. Why? Well, because of the negative trade balance. Our negative trade balance with the world is something in the order of $800 billion per year. That's $800 billion of stuff that we buy, so that we can consume, that is $800 billion greater than the amount of stuff that we sell to them. That's a big number. I mean, it's a big number even relative to the size of our economy.
BILL MOYERS: And you use this metaphor that is intriguing. American policy makers, quote, "have been engaged in a de facto Ponzi scheme, intended to extend indefinitely, the American line of credit." What's going on that resembles a Ponzi scheme?
ANDREW BACEVICH: This continuing tendency to borrow and to assume that the bills are never going to come due. I testified before a House committee six weeks ago now, on the future of U.S grand strategy. I was struck by the questions coming from members that showed an awareness, a sensitivity, and a deep concern, about some of the issues that I tried to raise in the book.
"How are we gonna pay the bills? How are we gonna pay for the commitment of entitlements that is going to increase year by year for the next couple of decades, especially as baby boomers retire?" Nobody has answers to those questions. So, I was pleased that these members of Congress understood the problem. I was absolutely taken aback when they said, "Professor, what can we do about this?" And their candid admission that they didn't have any answers, that they were perplexed, that this problem of learning to live within our means seemed to have no politically plausible solution. ...
"The light that you think you emanate is not necessarily the light that other people see. You think of yourself as a shy, retiring whatever it is, and some other people will see you in an entirely different way. ... You have to constantly learn. Obviously, you have to start with some kind of gift, but people don't understand that. ... I don't have a gift for anything. I've only had a gift of pursuit." — 1990.
"Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say." — AP
Various people explain the current financial crisis as a result of “greed.” There is, however, no indication of a change in the degree or extent of greed on Wall Street (or anywhere else) in the last several years. Greed is a constant. If greed were the cause of the financial crisis, we would be in financial crisis pretty much all the time. [snip]
So what changed? The answer is relatively simple: the extent of regulation changed.
As a formal matter, the change in regulation is most clearly marked by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, passed by the Republican-dominated Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton. This 1999 act in large part repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had imposed various regulations on the financial industry after the debacle of 1929. Among other things, Glass-Steagall prohibited a firm from being engaged in different sorts of financial services. One firm could not be both an investment bank (organizing the funding of firms’ investment activities) and a commercial bank (handling the checking and savings accounts of individuals and firms and making loans); nor could it be one of these types of banks and an insurance firm.
However, the replacement of Glass-Steagall by Gramm-Leach-Bliley was only the formal part of the change that took place in recent decades. Informally, the relation between the government and the financial sector has increasingly become one of reduced regulation. In particular, as the financial sector evolved new forms of operation—hedge funds and private equity funds, for example—there was no attempt on the part of Washington to develop regulations for these activities. Also, even where regulations existed, the regulators became increasing lax in enforcement.
The movement away from regulation might be seen as a consequence of “free market” ideology, the belief as propounded by its advocates that government should leave the private sector alone. But to see the problem simply as ideology run amok is to ignore the question of where the ideology comes from. Put simply, the ideology is generated by firms themselves because they want to be as free as possible to pursue profit-making activity. So they push the idea of the “free market” and deregulation any way they can. But let me leave aside for now the ways in which ideas come to dominate Washington and the society in general; enough to recognize that deregulation became increasingly the dominant idea from the early 1980s onward. [snip]
When financial firms are not regulated, they tend to take on more and more risky activities. When markets are rising, risk does not seem to be very much of a problem; all—or virtually all—investments seem to be making money. So why not take some chances? Furthermore, if one firm doesn’t take a particular risk—put money into a chancy operation—then one of its competitors will. So competition pushes them into more and more risky operations.
The danger of risk is not simply that one investment—one loan, for example—made by a financial firm will turn out badly, or even that a group of loans will turn out badly. The danger arises in the relation between its loans (obligations to the firm), the money it borrows form others (the firm’s obligations to its creditors) and its capital (the funds put in by investors, the stockholders). If some of the loans it has made go bad (i.e., if the debtors default), it can still meet its obligations to its creditors with its capital. But if the firm is unregulated, it will tend to make more and more loans and take on more and more debt. The ratio of debt to capital can become very high, and, then, if trouble with the loans develops, the bank cannot meet its obligations with its capital.
Economic Fascism Coming to America
Smell a rat if Congress approves the Paulson plan without major modifications that might help Main Street as well as Wall Street.
Does it really matter which party is in charge when it comes to bailing out the Wall Street hustlers whose shenanigans have bankrupted so many ordinary folks? Not if the Democrats roll over and cede power to the former head of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank at the center of our economic meltdown.
What arrogance for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson -- who the year before President Bush appointed him Treasury secretary was paid $16.4 million for heading the company that did as much as any to engineer this financial travesty -- to now insist we must blindly trust him to solve the problem. Paulson is demanding the power to act with "absolute impunity," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who admonished the Treasury chief: "After reading this proposal, it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution as well."
Clearly, it's a vast improvement to have Dodd in the chairman's seat of the Senate Banking Committee, asking the right questions, rather than his predecessor, Texas Republican Phil Gramm, who presided over the committee in the years when the American economy, long the envy of the world, was viciously sabotaged by radical deregulation legislation.
Gramm, whom Sen. John McCain backed for president in 1996, pushed through the financial market deregulation that has brought the U.S. economy to its knees. Maybe this time Congress won't give the financial moguls everything they want, including a bailout for foreign-owned banks like Swiss-based UBS, where Gramm now hangs out as a very well-paid executive when he's not advising the presidential campaign of McCain, his old buddy and partner in crime. Oops, sorry, no crimes were committed because the deregulation laws Gramm pursued and McCain faithfully supported decriminalized the financial scams that have proved so costly.
Just check out the language of Gramm's pet projects, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. By preventing mergers between the various branches of Wall Street, the former act reversed basic Depression-era legislation passed to prevent the sort of collapse we are now experiencing.
The latter legitimized the "swap agreements" and other "hybrid instruments" that are at the core of the current crisis.
The legislation's "Legal Certainty for Bank Products Act of 2000," Title IV of the law -- a law that Gramm sneaked in without hearings hours before the Christmas recess -- provided Wall Street with an unbridled license to steal. It made certain that financiers could legally get away with a whole new array of financial rip-off schemes.
One of those provisions, summarized by the heading of Title III, ensured the "Legal Certainty for Swap Agreements," which successfully divorced the granters of subprime mortgage loans from any obligation to ever collect on them. That provision of Gramm's law is at the very heart of the problem. But the law went even further, prohibiting regulation of any of the new financial instruments permitted after the financial industry mergers: "No provision of the Commodity Exchange Act shall apply to, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission shall not exercise regulatory authority with respect to, an identified banking product which had not been commonly offered, entered into, or provided in the United States by any bank on or before December 5, 2000."
Even some Republicans on the Senate committee expressed exasperation Monday with the swindles that they had voted for with such enthusiasm in the past, as well as with giving Wall Street yet another blank check.
McCain and GOP Pals' One-Page Plan To Save His Campaign ... er, the Economy
If you believe this one I've got a bridge to sell you in Alaska.
The SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLAR bailout deal is cratering? No worries mate. Conservative Republican Superheroes in Congress have a new improved plan to solve all our financial woes. And I'll just bet you can't guess what they propose to do to save the day. Okay, you're right. I'd lose that bet.
A group of conservative Republicans in the House on Thursday proposed a financial rescue package of tax breaks and a new government-sponsored insurance program for mortgage-backed securities as an alternative to President Bush's proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.
Instead of the government buying the toxic mortgage securities, banks, financial firms and other investors holding them would pay premiums to the Treasury to finance the insurance coverage. [...]
Their plan also includes "temporary tax cuts and regulatory relief for businesses" Which has worked so well in the past to fix our economy. Not.
And guess who's behind this ludicrous alternative plan as a means of sabotaging the negotiations between Congress and the President? Can you say Johnny "POW" McCain? I knew you could:
Senior Democrats said they came away from the afternoon White House session with the impression that McCain was backing an entirely new Wall Street rescue plan, one differing markedly from a Bush administration proposal under discussion for days.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee and a participant in the White House gathering, said negotiations could be set back by the confusion.
"House Republicans, in some kind of arrangement with McCain, went off to wherever. I don't know whether they're ready to negotiate this. Their thing was some totally different mortgage insurance plan ... that would clearly delay this for a week or more," Frank told reporters. [...]
...It's cynical, its a non-starter with the Bush administration and it has no basis in reality much less any chance of successfully stopping the financial sector bleeding even if it could be passed. Just one example of how ridiculous this approach is: how do you know how much to charge a bank for this insurance program when you can't evaluate the value of the asset because you don't know the default risk of that asset? The answer: you can't.
10 Ways to Bail Out Wall Street (and Main Street) Without Soaking Taxpayers in Debt
Once details of a final plan have been completed and disclosed, a subsequent article will address the economic consequences of that proposal; for the time being, however, because the alternative from the Republican Study Committee is apparently creating a roadblock to a swift conclusion to negotiations among legislators, a summary analysis of several key provisions of the Republican alternative, as 7QB20080925" title="Go to the story at Reuters" rel="external">reported by Reuters, is herewith presented.
The following are quoted provisions of the GOP alternative from the Reuters article, followed by commentary on each point:
"The conservative group called for the U.S. government to offer insurance coverage for the roughly half of all mortgage-backed securities that it does not already insure."
This is a bailout by another name. Actuarial soundness of private insurance requires, quite simply, that premiums exceed payouts. The GOP's proposed "insurance" fund, run by the U.S. government and therefore implicitly or explicitly backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, would immediately be processing claims but would not immediately be receiving premiums even close to the necessarily timely payouts. If this is, indeed, a crisis, payouts would have to be occurring quite literally within a matter of days, so premiums could not possibly catch up with payouts, certainly not for a long time. The U.S. government would have to front the payout pool, and it would have to do so to the extent of hundreds of billions of dollars to ensure that all possible, and very likely, claims could be covered before the insurees went under.
Moreover, the premiums would have to be staggering because of the near certainty of losses, which would mean one of two things: either every financial services company in the insurance pool would be paying very high premiums, thereby exacting punitive assessments on firms that had prudently managed their portfolios, or there would have to be tiered premiums, with higher risk companies bearing the brunt of very high premiums. The problem with the former solution is that conservatively managed firms would want to avoid such an insurance program and, if forced to participate, would suffer costs they simply should not bear. The problem with the latter solution is that exacting draconian premiums on high-risk companies would exacerbate their already precarious financial situations.
Unless the government is willing to heavily subsidize this insurance plan for a time long enough for the accumulated premiums net of payouts to catch up with claims, it would distort incentives of low-risk financial services companies (why should they pursue low-risk investment patterns if they are being charged for high-risk activities?), or it would serve to further weaken the cash flow situation of companies already in trouble.
"[The Republican Study Committee] also called for temporary tax cuts and regulatory relief..."
Cutting taxes is the age-old dinner bell of so-called "conservative Republicans": ring it every day, three times a day, and the voters will come running to the trough of less government and more money in the pants pocket. President Dwight Eisenhower faced down the chorus of such demands from the legislators of his own party at the end of the 1950s and even went so far as to call them out for their unrelenting refrain in his last State of the Union address. He balanced the federal budget, oversaw conservative governance, and stood like a strict school marm over the rabble of congressmen bawling for their favorite candy.
It works. It's called responsible leadership. It's easily distinguishable from craven pandering.
As demonstrated in Part 4 of the series, "The Economics of Wreckage," published here at online properties Dark Wraith Publishing, the Republican majority in Congress, with the full support of newly elected President George W. Bush, used the excuse of a "recession" in 2001 to institute "temporary" tax cuts that were nearly a decade in duration, even though no recession by technical measures was in progress. The result of the unnecessary tax cuts was a swift drop of federal tax revenues to a level below expenditures, and the growing budget surpluses that had hallmarked the final years of the Clinton Administration evaporated into huge, year-over-year budget deficits from which the federal budget has never recovered and probably will not for the foreseeable future, as seen in the graphic immediately below, which does not include the deficit of $407 billion projected for the current fiscal year.
While raising taxes in the current economic environment would be foolhardy, cutting taxes would make the extraordinary, debilitating federal budget deficits even worse, which is exactly what the $700 billion bailout plan initially proposed would do, so the Republican plan offers no clear advantage in terms of impact on the year-over-year deficits and quite transparently uses the current crisis as just another excuse to blow the urgent siren for tax cuts that have always, in good times and in bad times, been the mantra of Republicans appealing to what they perceive is an essential desire among Americans to get tax money back in their own pockets at the expense of sound fiscal management of a large, complex government.
"[F]inancial institutions participating in their proposed program would have to disclose more about their mortgage asset holdings."
In principle, thorough, exhaustive, timely disclosures of information by financial services companies about the structure and details of their asset portfolios would allow outside investors to better assess risks and therefore more accurately assign market values to the companies. Enterprises with greater portfolio risks would suffer consequential equity value discounting as investors sold off the firms' stock until the expected returns to investment were commensurate with the risks being borne. In practice, the complexity and variety of exotic financial instruments being constructed, held, and traded by financial services companies make risk assessment far less accurate even for the most astute of investors. This, in and of itself, creates risk that markets should, at least theoretically, impound in prices, but that is unlikely to hold true when the instruments in firms' portfolios have subtle features that can be difficult to describe even for a firm striving for full and complete disclosure of each and every one of its assets. Beyond this, many of the complex instruments in firms' portfolios are, or can be, very short in duration, meaning that they could come into existence and then expire within a single reporting period; overall, then, firms involved in complex, short-lived derivatives could have a flow of high-risk assets as an enduring portfolio feature, but the presence of identifiable examples would elude reporting standards.
On a more practical level, the Republican Study Committee wants "regulatory relief," again a long-standing demand of pro-business conservatives. The problem is that eliminating regulatory requirements would likely have as one facet the removal of detailed, timely, and admittedly costly reporting requirements, which is inconsistent with the stated goal of the Republican Study Committee that participating institutions "would have to disclose more about their asset holdings." It cannot be both ways: either the firms must face a greater reporting burden, which has historically been at the center of regulatory oversight of financial institutions, or they must be relieved of the burden of such reporting requirements.
More broadly, the consensus emerging is that the current crisis is the very epitome of what is wrong with the entire drive toward deregulation that has been going on for years. Rejecting this determination, as the Republican Study Committee seems to be doing, is an attempt to continue the application of a theory of public policy in government oversight of business enterprise that has failed on a massive, macroeconomic scale. To insist that the federal government remain dedicated to a largely laissez-faire treatment of companies so big that their individual failures can create cascading, economy-wide effects is to persist in ignoring the legitimate and now quite obvious role the government should have in ensuring economic stability.
In summary, the Republican Study Committee alternative is unimaginative, recidivist, and petulantly defiant; that is to say, it is most decidedly the product of a committee of Republicans.
The Dark Wraith will take a similarly dim view of the bailout proposal that emerges from the less obtuse congressional negotiators.
John McCain canceled an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, explaining to the venerable talk show host that the rescue of the national economy took precedence over a TV appearance: McCain simply had to return to Washington to participate in crafting a bailout plan to stem the widening economic crisis being fueled by the collapsing values of mortgage-backed assets that comprise large percentages of many financial services companies' portfolios.
Letterman says that he did, indeed, understand McCain's need to cancel the appearance to get to the nation's capitol. The GOP nominee for President said that he was, in fact, suspending his campaign because of the urgency of the crisis: election politics simply must take a back seat to the larger needs of the country in a time of peril.
Unfortunately, despite McCain's claim that he was headed to Washington, he was not: he was only five blocks away preparing to be interviewed by Katie Couric for the evening newscast on CBS. Letterman went so far as to show the live feed from the CBS studio where McCain was being prepped with makeup for the interview with Couric.
Below is the video of David Letterman, who got MSNBC über-liberal commentator Keith Olbermann as a last-minute replacement, spending no fewer than nine minutes of his show, first in the monologue, then with Olbermann, ripping McCain up one side and down the other and even going so far as to take a few hurtful jabs at McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Did Letterman go too far? DId he waste nine minutes of his show? Was he just being childish because he got dumped by the Republican nominee? Does John McCain think the studios of CBS are in Washington, D.C.?
You decide. You be the judge.
No doubt about it: Letterman was hurt. Indignant, even.
But was he being too fragile? After all, we're talking about the rescue of the United States of America. President Bush said in his speech of September 24, 2008, "Our entire economy is in danger."
Who better than John McCain to come to the rescue? Remember, he is on record as asserting, "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." Hammering home his credentials, he has also said, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should."
Clearly, John McCain is ready to take control of this crisis.
Obviously, David Letterman just doesn't get it.
And undoubtedly, this nation is safer tonight because John McCain got to our nation's capitol... via CBS studios in New York.
The Dark Wraith wishes every candidate for President knew how to suspend campaigning, save the nation, and get a free makeup job from CBS.
There is another similar regulatory hole that must be immediately addressed to avoid similar consequences. The $58 trillion national market in credit default swaps — double the amount outstanding in 2006 — is regulated by no one. Neither the SEC nor any regulator has authority over the CDS market, even to require minimal disclosure to the market.
It’s rather ironic that Cox is now calling for regulation of the credit swap market. After all, trading in the credit swap market was what sunk insurance giant AIG. Once AIG had “sold large quantities of credit-default swaps to financial institutions around the world,” it required an $85 billion federal bailout to keep its failure from affecting the wider financial system.
Just six months ago the Bush administration found the credit crisis so manageable that it “unveiled a widely discussed blueprint for U.S. financial regulatory reform that called for less supervision of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
In the latest edition of American Academy of Actuaries, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) makes his case for “deregulating the health insurance industry by extolling the benefits of the last decade of deregulation in the banking sector:
[Individuals] need to be in charge of their health care dollars… I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health insurance across state lines…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.
In fact, deregulation of the banking industry “offers a cautionary tale about a little-understood provision at the center of John McCain’s health care plan.”
Following a pair of Supreme Court decisions which deregulated the banking industry, credit card companies relocated to states with no interest rate caps and charged “what they wanted” to borrowers in states with interest rate limits. This deregulated environment allows credit card companies to “use pricing practices, like teaser rates, to attract cash-strapped families and then… double or triple those rates without notice.”
In an interview on Tuesday with WCAU in Philadelphia, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) backed away from his Sept. 16 claim that he believes in “excess government regulation,” saying that Americans actually want deregulation:
WELKER: It sounds like you’re calling for more regulation. Yet throughout your career you’ve advocated deregulation. Do you now see that as a failed economic policy — deregulation?
MCCAIN: Oh no. People don’t want regulation. They want to live as freely as they can. It’s smart regulation. Look, I’ve called for fixing Fannie and Freddie a long time ago.
A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll doesn’t bear McCain’s claims out, however. It finds that Americans are actually blaming the financial crisis on a lack of government regulation:
The FBI has opened investigations into Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG, looking into whether “fraud helped cause some of the troubles” at these financial institutions. According to the FBI, these probes “are part of an effort to pursue allegations of higher-level fraud more sweeping than the retail-level infractions that have been at the center of most cases brought so far.”
McCain is suspending campaign (whatever that means) and going to Washington so he can have pictures taken of him looking like he's doing something. Asks that Obama do the same, and wants Friday's debate to be postponed, because he can't possibly do 2 things at once.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks John McCain should keep campaigning and show up for the scheduled debate Friday instead of offering his financial expertise - honed in the Keating 5 scandal - to the Senate he has so assiduously avoided the past six months:
...I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.
If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.
C'mon, John. Nobody in the Senate will recognize you anyway you've been gone so long. And we've already bought our popcorn.
Update: Senator Schumer on CNN: Well, I thought what Sen. McCain did was just weird.
The prodigal son returns. John McCain has announced that America is finally confronting a crisis that he doesn't feel he can be absent for.
Some fun facts about John McCain: Of all Senators, John McCain has been the most absent. There have been 643 votes taken in the current Senate session: McCain has missed 412 of them.
McCain has not voted in the Senate since April 8th. Since March, he has missed 109 of the last 110 votes.
He missed votes on the GI Bill, energy policy, and in 2007 he missed "all 15 critical environmental votes in the Senate" -- giving him a 2007 rating of 0% from the League of Conservation Voters. Zero percent? I don't think that's fair. I think they should have given him an "incomplete", and told him that he had to stay for summer session if he wants to graduate from the Senate.
Went down to Peppers yesterday to try and help DoD with his new pruning saw and also to see it the electric utility had corrected their problem on the pole that prevents the place from having 220V AC.
The saw seemed OK, well made in fact. But he wants to prune some really huge limbs off an ancient pecan that are themselves as big as trees. And I have to agree, a controlled fall is better than an uncontrolled one, but damn, then you really have a large mess to clean up. Thankfully it was in the afternoon and DoD likes to accomplish his major moments in the morning.
So I went to the bedroom where the 220V outlet is and checked it out with my toung and wet finger, not really, with a meter and it still showed L1-G, 120V, L2-G, 120V, L1-L2, nada. So the power company is still sitting on it's ass doing not too much.
So then we retired to the porch to just watch the world go by, no political bullshit, just reminiscing and telling stories back and forth. The summer birds are still at the feeders, but I bet it's only a week or two before they have to go through TSA to migrate south. An Aunt and Uncle and two Cousins showed up to do their yard across the road and it was fun to talk with them for awhile.
DoD and I went to the Bluff for a pizza, surprising that a town of 700 souls has such a good pizza joint, also one of the best BBQ joints in the land. We chowed down on that and continued to watch the world go by. I had fed the Woof well and watered him at home so I decided to spend the night.
Amazing how quickly the sun goes down now, the equinox is always a special time for me. DoD sets with the sun, but it takes a bit longer for me, so I sat out on the porch and just listened to the night critters come out. The Great Horned Ones started cackling and growling first, then a Screech Owl made an appearance. The skeeters were still pretty bad outside, so stay on the porch. Every once in awhile you could hear a splash down on the lake.
Went to bed, and being a blackdog I sleep on the couch. No bed to make. The doors were open, no fans on being as it's cool so all the sounds are available. About 3:00AM some sort of night bird woke me up, making a noise I am not familiar with anymore. So I got up and went back to the porch. The last quarter moon was rising, bright enough to read by.
It was kinda calm, frogs and bugs of the true summer now are somewhat inhibited, not like in July. Orion rising with the moon, it was beautiful.
A blissful 16 hours or so with nothing, well almost nothing political, then back to the real world. The idiot shrub is to announce some crap or other tonight, and hopefully I can be spared until tomorrow about the details. I ain't in the mood.
Our national financial crisis is readily understood by anyone who has seen greed and hypocrisy. But we are now witnessing them on a profound, monumental scale. [snip]
Conservative Republicans always want the government to stay out of business and avoid regulation as long as they are making lots of money. When their greed, however, gets them into a fix, they are the first to cry out for rules and laws and taxpayer money to bail out their businesses. Obviously, Republicans are socialists. The Bush administration has decided to socialize the debt of the big Wall Street Firms. Taxpayers didn't get to enjoy any of the big money profits on the phony financial instruments like derivatives or bundled sub-prime paper, but we get the privilege of paying for their debt and failures. [snip]
How did we get here?
That's pretty easy to answer, too. His name is Phil Gramm. A few days after the Supreme Court made George W. Bush president in 2000, Gramm stuck something called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act into the budget bill. Nobody knew that the Texas senator was slipping America a 262 page poison pill. The Gramm Guts America Act was designed to keep regulators from controlling new financial tools described as credit "swaps." These are instruments like sub-prime mortgages bundled up and sold as securities. Under the Gramm law, neither the SEC nor the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) were able to examine financial institutions like hedge funds or investment banks to guarantee they had the assets necessary to cover losses they were guaranteeing. [snip]
And Senator Phil Gramm wanted it completely unregulated. So did Alan Greenspan, who supported the legislation and is now running around to the talk shows jabbering about the horror of it all. Before the highly paid lobbyists were done slinging their gold card guts about the halls of congress, every one from hedge funds to banks were playing with fire for fun and profit.
Gramm didn't just make a fairy tale world for Wall Street, though. He included in his bill a provision that prevented the regulation of energy trading markets, which led us to the Enron collapse. There was no collapse of the house of Gramm, however, because his wife Wendy, who once headed up the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, took a job on the Enron board that provided almost $2 million to their household kitty. And why not? Wendy got a CFTC rule passed that kept the federal government from regulating energy futures contracts at Enron.
If John McCain gets elected and chooses Phil Gramm as his Treasury Secretary, which many politico types see as likely, they will be able to talk about the good old days when Gramm was in congress and McCain was in the senate and they were in the midst of the Savings and Loan crisis.
The S and L scandal, which may look precious when compared to our present cascade of problems, isn't hard to understand, either. But it is impossible to take John McCain seriously on our current financial Armageddon since he was dabbling in the historic collapse of 747 S&Ls that occurred during Ronald Reagan's era. [snip]
The guy who was going the wildest with financial freedom was Charles Keating, who headed up Lincoln Savings and Loan of California. [snip]
The life savings of more than 20,000 elderly investors disappeared with the failure of Lincoln. Keating went to prison for five years.
Charles Keating was John McCain's pal. [snip]
McCain wasn't found guilty of anything but bad judgment, which is an historic understatement. [snip]
And now the Republicans who engineered our present crisis and got us into the S&L debacle of the 80s are before us saying the markets need regulation. [snip] Why don't you Republican capitalists who believe in the free markets get out of the damned way and let them work and allow these various financial nuthouses be crushed by the weight of their own stupidity? When it is all over, we'll have sane and sober people create laws to make sure it doesn't happen again, assuming we survive this chaos. [snip]
John McCain isn't just one of them. [snip] And he tells us to trust him.
"He was the first thing I ever knew I loved." That's what my mom-in-law said about her little brother Johnny B. He had Down Syndrome. Always smiling, doted on by his three older sisters and happily-married parents, he grew up in comfort in Washington DC. He learned to dress himself, to speak and function on the level of an 18-month-old.
It's amazing, what you can teach and 18-month-old in 56 years if you're devoted, if you have the time and resources.
Outliving his own mother by a quarter century, he was subsequently cared for by my mom-in-law, whose husband had a high-level job in the government, with the good health benefits and all the trimmings that go along with such a position. Johnny B loved red, loved dressing in that color, and she made sure he had plenty of red; he loved collecting all colors of paper, stacks and stacks of it, that she bought for him and helped him keep organized on his shelf.
His joy itself was a blessing to know.
In the end, he had bladder troubles and a great deal of pain, which he suffered like any human suffers, except that he had no understanding of what was happening to him. She suffered that with him, all the way to the end. Johnny B had the best of care.
His mother didn't choose to abort him; choice wasn't available to her. At his birth, she was told to put him in an institution and forget him, which is what often happened to Down babies. But she chose to take him home, to raise him. And the fact that she could do so within her large extended family -- that she had the resources and support -- had a great deal to do with her choice. Else, she would have been considered irresponsible.
Now, for me to even hear what O'Reilly has to say about women like myself hating Sarah Palin for her beautiful baby boy moves me to tears -- hurts me to the very heart -- that I can't begin to put in words all that I feel. Except -- what a hateful presumption on his part. Except -- how little he knows. How little he knows about any of this, what I might feel or why I might be worried, even terrified, at the thought that someone as ill-prepared and narrow -- yes, narrow -- as Palin might be given power over so much life and death in this world. What an irresponsible choice for VP.
And what a projection of their own hated it is, those who use abortion as a galvanizing political tool. The pain of the woman who can't care for her child, who is faced with knowing how he will suffer and not understand his suffering; how he will outlive her, how she won't be able to protect him... Imagine facing that, a common plight in this world.
But I suppose that's the woman's fault.
Her fault, that she might be poor, without health care, childcare, family. Without a decent job. She must be lazy, stupid, certainly liberal. Promiscuous. All that.
Perhaps god is punishing her. It seems likely.
Who knows god's way?
O'Reilly does. FOX News. Palin. They know. They are awarded with His ABUNDANCE!
(Pompous, thoughtless, holier than thou. There but for the grace of god, etc.)
It's part of the deal, their strategy, to knock the wind from us, to shock us, to demoralize us. I know that. But it still hurts.
Bill O'Reilly continued discussing his theory that the abortion issue is driving the "hate" for Sarah Palin.. In the first discussion with Monica Crowley and Margaret Hoover he used the word "dislike" but in the second installment with Laura Ingraham it became "hate, I mean hate with a capitol H". Ingraham responded with, "They hate the fact that she exists, not just her positions, that she exists because she lives her pro-life stance." Then they were on a roll telling viewers with certainty what American women are feeling as if they actually know.
Ingraham went to say that women are desperate to hide the fact that 90% abort their down syndrome babies adding that when Palin hold up her baby and people see " this is a living, breathing, beautiful baby boy" they start thinking. BOR asked, " Do you think there's any guilt?"
Ingraham softened her response by saying she doesn't know what's in these women's hearts but seeing Sarah Palin's choice must make them think about their own decision to have an abortion. She expressed hope that women carrying a child with diagnosed problems would see Sarah Palin and decide against terminating the pregnancy.
Ingraham suggested that the women who choose to terminate their pregnancies are doing something wrong and selfish while Sarah Palin's choice is noble and bound to make them ashamed. However, Ingraham ignored the fact that women make this difficult choice after learning about the difficult problems, especially physical, that children with Down Syndrome endure throughout their lifetimes. Laura Ingraham's assumptions are not only unfair but ignore the fact that each woman faced with this situation makes an informed and careful choice. The important point here is that as women we have the choice and we must respect and honor each other's personal roads. Laura Ingraham's exploitation of Sarah Palin's very personal decision is shameful, cruel and totally disrespectful to every woman who has faced this agonizing situation.
This is the updated first part of a four-part series on macroeconomic effects of the Presidency of George W. Bush. First published on March 3, 2007, this updated version of Part One is the latest in a continuing program of index portfolio analyses that has been an on-going project here at online properties of Dark Wraith Publishing. Readers who have followed previous installments may recall that negative or miserably weak, positive returns on equity index investments have been the typical outcome of these calculations in the past. Only in the January 21, 2007 review of index portfolio performance, published just after the sixth anniversary of President Bush's inauguration in 2001, did even one of the major indices, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, register a barely positive annualized real rate of return over the prior six years. Subsequent performance of all three of the averages surveyed here has been back in line with broadly consistent negative real returns. The crisis now spreading through the financial services sector will make this worse, but the negative real rates of return on well-balanced equity portfolios were being experienced long before the recent problems became noticeable. Indeed, this Republican Administration has been consistently unfavorable, to put it diplomatically, to average equity investors.
This revised first part of "The Economics of Wreckage" series, then, is a reminder to all who would offer even a modicum of praise for the Bush Administration's stewardship of the American economy. Financial markets do not lie. They do not fabricate numbers, nor do they manipulate quantitative outcomes to suit the public relations purposes of the neo-conservatives, social conservatives, and religious Right who have controlled the levers of administrative and regulatory power in the United States since the beginning of the 21st Century. The inflation-adjusted returns on investment in the three major stock indices of the United States calculated and presented below deliver the stark, objective assessment generated from trillions of trades involving nearly incomprehensible amounts of money: the Bush Administration has been an engine of financial depletion of the value of claims on ownership in American companies publicly listed by the three largest, most comprehensive stock indices.
The three parts of this series that will follow show other aspects of the macroeconomic problems caused by the Bush Administration. Basic principles of economics will be explained and then used to demonstrate that in one arena after another of economic policy, the seeds of the current economic crisis were being sown; more importantly, because warning signs were evident along the way, the debilitating combination of recession and inflation now unavoidable could have been averted if not for the imprudence, incompetence, and ideological blindness of the leaders in Washington.
George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001. Until January 4, 2007, when the Democrats took control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republicans had controlled both the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, save for a brief period in mid- to late-2001 when a Republican-turned-Independent caused an even split in the Senate. For the first six years of the Bush Administration, then, the financial house of this country was in the virtually uninterrupted hands of the GOP, during which time the federal government went from running growing budget surpluses in the last years of the Clinton Administration to bleeding hundreds of billions of dollars in red ink every year under President George W. Bush and his congressional allies. Since the Democrats took full control of the House of Representatives and nominal control of the Senate (by virtue of two Independents caucusing with them), little has changed: the government is projecting a federal budget deficit of $407 billion for the current fiscal year, and President Bush's recent request for $700 in spending authority to buy bad mortgage-based assets from financial institutions will cause future budget deficits of even greater magnitude.
The Republican Party, through its legislators in Congress and its President in the White House, has overseen the abysmal performance of the U.S. stock markets, which represent the overwhelming bulk of the value of all public ownership of American corporations. It is in the stocks traded on these exchanges that much of the wealth of the nation is invested by everything from huge pension and mutual funds to individual investors.
The GOP has no one but its own elected representatives to blame, notwithstanding any possible obfuscation by its elected representatives or their apologists in the mainstream media or among the tap-dancing ranks of the Right-wing punditry brigade. Republican economics has been a failure: it is based upon budget deficit-driven fiscal stimulus financed by trade deficits that have had the effect of causing the sell-off of the American capital base, which America's trading partners have then lent back to the United States government to finance its budget shortfalls. The irresponsible policy pursued by Mr. Bush, the Republicans in Congress, and their neo-conservative pseudo-intellectual backers is a twist on neo-Keynesian economic policy prescriptions, but true Keynesians would never have abided fiscal health-draining deficits for more than a short period of time, and they never would have even so much as suggested hocking the American economy to an enormous, mercantilist-Communist country like China that has cynically, systematically distorted exchange rates to draw U.S. dollars and jobs from America's shores.
Index Portfolio Performance during the Bush Administration to Date
As of (and including) Friday, September 19, 2008, George W. Bush had been President of the United States 2,798 days. As pointed out above, responsibility for the huge federal budget deficits year after year that have hallmarked the rule of the Republicans rests squarely with their party, its legislators in Congress, and the policy-makers in the White House, including George W. Bush, himself. Similarly, the Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for what is shown below to have been an unconscionable erosion of the purchasing power of dollars invested in the three largest U.S. stock indices over the seven-and-a-half years that George W. Bush has been President of the United States.
From the first day of trading, January 22, 2001, after President Bush became the 43rd President of the United States, until the last trading day, September 19, 2008, before the publication date of the updated version of this article, the performance of the major stock marketsmeasured by the index portfolios of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor's 500, and the NASDAQ Compositehas been abysmal: all three indices have delivered negative real returns on investment over the term of the past seven-and-a-half years.
January 22, 2001, was the first day of trading after Mr. Bush became President. The three major stock market indices stood at the following levels at the close of trading on that day:
January 22, 2001, Index Closing Values
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
At the close of trading on Friday, September 19, 2008, these same three averages stood at the following levels:
September 19, 2008, Index Closing Values
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
If an investor were to have formed a portfolio based upon each of these three indices and managed each portfolio in terms of composition and balance to mirror the relevant index, the investor would have earned the following total nominal returns on investment over the 2,798 days from January 22, 2001, to September 19, 2008:
Total Nominal Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 9/19/2008
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
Expressing these returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the nominal results just presented are as follows:
Annualized Nominal Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 9/19/2008
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
The above are nominal (that is, "not corrected for inflation") results. Taking into account the erosion of purchasing power (that is, "the effect of inflation") on portfolio values over the holding period requires adjusting each of the current values to its equivalent purchasing power value on January 22, 2001. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index data for January 2001, the CPI stood at 175.1, and for August 2008, the CPI stood at 219.1. The September 2008 CPI can be estimated by various methods; here, a conservative projection of 220.3 is derived from the average of the annualized inflation rates for the previous six months, which provides anannualized inflation rate figure for September 2008 of 6.9 percent.
Expressing the closing index portfolio values as of Friday, September 19, 2008, in terms of their January 2001 purchasing power equivalents provides the following results:
September 19, 2008, Index Values in January 2001 Purchasing Power Value
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
The total real return on investment for each portfolio is then the quotient of the January 2001 index value when divided into the adjusted September 19, 2008, value:
Total Real Portfolio Returns from 1/22/2001 to 9/19/2008
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
Finally, expressing these real returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the total real return results just presented are as follows:
Annualized Real Portfolio Returns from January 22, 2001, to September 19, 2008
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Standard & Poor's 500
The annualized and total real returns to the selected portfolios are presented below in graphical form:
As is plainly evident, real returns on investment in three large U.S. stock indices, representing as they do the majority of ownership value in publicly traded U.S. corporations, have been negative. Investing in even the very largest, presumably safest public corporations would have led to an actual loss of money in real terms, and that loss would have been worse by investing in smaller-cap public companies through the NASDAQ Composite.
In practical terms, the numbers above mean this: an investor putting $100 on January 20, 2001, into a portfolio of the Dow Jones 30 Industrials and maintaining the index balance until September 19, 2008, would now have the purchasing power of $85.57; an investor doing the same but investing in the Standard & Poor's 500 would now have the purchasing power of $74.28; and an investor doing the same but investing in the NASDAQ Composite index would now have the purchasing power of $65.53.
Investing in stocks, particularly in well-balanced portfolios, is supposed to create capital appreciation in real terms over a long holding period; instead, over the course of the Bush Administration, investments in well-balanced, standard index portfolios have resulted in real purchasing power erosion of dollars invested.
This is objective evidence, accumulating over more than seven-and-a-half years, of fiscal mismanagement on a scale that will be felt for generations to come. This, then, foreshadows a degraded future for the United States, whose citizens will labor mightily under the after-effects of economic degradation caused by men and women in Washington who posed as prudent, fiscal conservatives, but instead pursued reckless economic policies that have resulted in actual purchasing power losses from long-term equity investments in well-balance, well-recognized portfolios.
This series will continue in the next installment with a survey of Keynesian economics in theory, application, and performance over the past half century. The model will be used to explain the way in which successive Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, used monetary policy to stimulate, and ultimately propel, the American economy, largely by virtue of the real return to labor remaining almost unchanged for decades. Inappropriate reliance upon monetary policy rather than disciplined fiscal policy ultimately led to several long cycles in which the United States central bank became involved in macroeconomic management rather than aggregate price stability, with disastrous results by the end of the 1970s and similar, if magnified, problems now unfolding for a new President to face.
The Dark Wraith trusts that readers now, near the end of the Bush Administration, are receptive to the story of what this Administration has done to the American economy, prudent investors, and the good workers of this country.
In the wake of last week’s financial meltdown, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been calling for more regulation and criticizing lax oversight of Wall Street, despite the fact that he and former senator Phil Gramm passed much of the deregulatory reforms that led to the current crisis.
Yesterday, President Bush announced his $700 billion plan to buy out troubled financial institutions. Demanding enormous faith in his administration’s stewardship, the plan “would place no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress, granting the Treasury secretary unprecedented power to buy and resell mortgage debt,” and to hire outside firms “to help manage its purchases.” Further, the proposal provides no oversight mechanism:
Sec. 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Bush is demanding unprecedented control over billions of dollars — with no oversight. His history of mismanaging taxpayer dollars should make Americans skeptical of his buyout plan:
Many of the same economists and opinion-makers who'd provided a bipartisan sheen of consensus to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's previous moves have quickly begun casting doubts on the wisdom of a policy that would allow Treasury to purchase without oversight hundreds of billions of dollars of difficult-to-price assets from financial institutions.
Under the proposal, Paulson would not have to report to Congress until December, and the only safeguard for taxpayers was a provision that the “Secretary shall take into consideration means for — (1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and (2) protecting the taxpayer.” [snip]
President Bush is “asking for a huge amount of power,” said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University who was among the first to predict the crisis. “He's saying, ‘Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.'
Europeans on left and right ridicule U.S. money meltdown
They list greed and Greenspan among the culprits, and there are comparisons to . . . Albania. But amid the gloating, there is fear for financial systems in Britain, Spain, Italy and elsewhere.
It's a rare day when finance officials, leftist intellectuals and ordinary salespeople can agree on something. But the economic meltdown that wrought its wrath from Rome to Madrid to Berlin this week brought Europeans together in a harsh chorus of condemnation of the excess and disarray on Wall Street.
The finance minister of Italy's conservative and pro-U.S. government warned of nothing less than a systemic breakdown. Giulio Tremonti excoriated the "voracious selfishness" of speculators and "stupid sluggishness" of regulators. And he singled out Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with startling scorn.
"Greenspan was considered a master," Tremonti declared. "Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most. ... It is clear that what is happening is a disease. It is not the failure of a bank, but the failure of a system. Until a few days ago, very few were willing to realize the intensity and the dramatic nature of the crisis." [snip]
The spectacle across the ocean has left a lasting impression on many Europeans. Hanna Evers of Berlin, a cellphone retailer interviewed in the shopping district of Wilmersdorfer Street, said she was angry about the amount of money that had been "burned" in recent days.
"And I'm furious when I see the pictures of Americans who thought they were on the sunny side of life and now have lost their homes and have to live in their cars," Evers said. "I definitely do not feel sorry for the bankers who lost their jobs in the last couple of days. I can't believe that a country like the U.S.A. could have been so careless on a money issue!"
"I was taught that the U.S.A. is the motherland of moneymaking," she added. "And now all I can see is a herd of headless chickens running around on Wall Street."
Is it acceptable for failed CEOs Prince, Mozilo, Cayne and O'Neal to keep their millions?
The failed CEO's of Citi, Countrywide, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch all walked away from sinking ships with tens and hundreds of dollars. It was all built upon bad business that eventually humbled or completely ruined their respective companies. The US taxpayers have been forced to cover their billions in corporate losses but besides a few embarrassing sessions in front of Congress, they're all just fine. As Nouriel Roubini has said, it's a system of "privatized profits and socialized losses." None of those former CEOs feel an ounce of pain for the economic ruin that is taking down the US economy and eventually the world economy. They are sitting on a gold mine that never should have happened. Even without the gamble, they all could have lived a comfortable retirement but now they are living beyond our wildest dreams.
So Lehman collapsed but "key players" to get $2.5 BILLION in bonuses
This is yet another example of why we should let all of these bastards rot on the vine and go penniless, without any direct or indirect help. Not until the taxpayers get their profit from stepping up to save Wall Street. [snip]
Wall Street invested hundreds of millions over years, lobbying Republicans and Washington for a supposed "free market" economy. They got what they wanted, so let them live with the goddamn results of it. None of them ought to profit one penny - not one - from this mess. If anyone deserves to profit, it ought to be the American public, who is getting shafted here.
John McCain may be confused about the need to keep companies like AIG solvent. But as DevilsTower laid out in his spectacular post, Three Times is Enemy Action, there is no doubt it was the intentional actions of people like John McCain and his economic advisor Phil Gramm over the years that created and nurtured the intricate web of shortsighted stupidity that directly enabled this enormous mess:
This is a bullet deliberately fired into the economy by men willing to exercise their ideology regardless of the cost to taxpayers. John McCain may not have had his finger directly on the trigger, but he was there. He assisted. He not only cheered them on, but claimed until last month that he was also "primarily a deregulator." These were his personal friends and philosophical comrades.
We can’t say exactly what went through McCain's mind and led him to a 180 degree flip flop on the AIG bailout in 24 hours flat. His grasp of the economy is obviously pathetic on a good day, and what little we know of his dominionist sidekick is downright terrifying. But just to illustrate the scope of Republican economic ignorance, if we connect a single faint line of dots, without a bailout, we could start from archconservative economic fundamentalism and end up at a place conservatives certainly never intended. Shall we?
Meltdown and Bailout: Why Our Economic System Is on the Verge of Collapse
Bush wants to fleece us for hundreds of billions in the financial crisis, but that's just the first layer of a more fundamental economic problem.
The immediate cause of our financial meltdown is unchecked, unbridled greed. Mainstream newspapers and the business press are doing a fairly good job of explaining how the lack of regulatory oversight led us into this nightmare.
But you have to dig down one layer to find the cause of that situation. Under cover of the ideological euphemism known as the "free market" and with enormous cash investments over the past four decades, business elites have captured the regulatory organs of powerful democratic states -- nowhere more so than the United States -- and promoted their own narrow economic agendas for short-term gain.
There's an enormous amount of discussion about that in the independent media. But to drill down a layer deeper, to the bedrock of the crisis, you have to go to some deep thinkers who don't get much play in our mainstream economic discourse.
As foreign policy analyst Mark Engler notes in his new book, How to Rule the World, declining returns on traditional investments in manufacturing and industry since the 1970s go a long way toward explaining today's highly speculative economy -- pushing capital into developing countries and into bubble after speculative bubble in search of a better profit margin.
It's important to understand what's going on at all three levels, because we may have come to a fork in the road, a point at which the decisions made now may determine the future of the global economy.
In my last post, "The Echo of Now," I wrote this: "Once you are finished listening to the person who wants your soul and the person who wants your vote, spend time here at Big Brass Blog. Here, no one is trying to get your vote; and you can be most certain no one is going to offer you salvation."
In response at The Dark Wraith Forums, the commenter zipperhead quoted that line, then wrote the following: "But isn't educating a form of salvation? Salvation from ignorance. Isn't your writing here part of your effort to 'save' people from ignorance? Whatever your beliefs may be, you believe it is important for people to know truth. And you try to give such truth as you can."
What began as an answer to that question quickly billowed into a large, complex thought worthy of a post, perhaps something more along the lines of a statement of intentions about what I do here at Dark Wraith Publishing online properties; but even that description of my train of thought is wanting: I need to convey something a bit larger, now.
In my last article, I provided a relatively short list of articles I have published over the past four years warning of the consequences of the bad economic policies that have been pursued by the Bush Administration. Those pieces, along with hundreds of others, are important markers of my claim to credibility. In a time when adversaries on both the Right and the Left are willing to simply dismiss anyone with whom they disagree, I can use my documented record as proof positive that detractors are wrong and, more importantly, that my future predictions should not be taken as merely another sponsored voice shilling a dubious product for some special interest.
However, were this project to have been about nothing more than getting a few predictions right, I would have been finished by now. I would have concluded that I was making no money from this endeavor, and it would have become painfully obvious that no publisher wanted to put my work into the form of a book. I would have figured out that no well-endowed think tank wanted my expertise, and it would have dawned upon me that it's really not a good idea to keep writing when what I have to say sets off crazy people who write comments about me and send me e-mail messages that are positively frightful.
I am still writing, though, which means commenter zipperhead is probably on the right track, although I must decline the invitation to extraordinary potential.
I cannot say that knowledge offers salvation, and I am certainly not in the business of delivering truth. Jesus saves, and government officials tell the truth. I do not work for the young rabbi from Nazareth, nor do I work for the old goats in Washington. Truth be told, I'm not into self-destruction. It's one thing for Jesus to irritate the Sadducees and Pharisees, but it's quite another to get the Romans dragged into the family feud. Similarly, it's one thing to do business as usual in Washington, but it's a whole different ball game when the brutal laws of macroeconomics get triggered. In either case, someone's likely to get killed, and I prefer to be at home enjoying the quiet company of my cats and my computer until the noise outside dies down.
Hence, I shy from the promises of salvation offered by messiahs and the pronouncements of truth promulgated by sovereigns.
Short of grandiose claims, I used to believe that, at the very least, I could teach my students well enough that their material lives would be improved. I learned over the years that this is not the case, so I found myself somewhere along the way falling back to the position that I could improve something within them more important than their career prospects, their job marketability, or their general economic welfare.
That belief, too, has not been borne out by the evidence, but I have achieved something, and it is not trivial.
By the end of the two-course sequence in microeconomics and macroeconomics, most of my students "get it," and by that I mean that they have a comprehensive, relatively thorough model of how economies work at both the micro level (the level of the firm and the consumer) and the macro level (the level of nations and other spheres of large influence). Many of them even understand my concept of "mesoeconomics," the level of activity where entities that are traditionally addressed in microeconomics begin to have characteristics of macro-level agents.
I am not so sure I am doing good, though, by teaching students how to model economic reality. Many come to understand the chasm that exists between what they learn in class and what they see all around them. That can be maddening, and I have had students, especially recently, express their frustration in knowing what can be shared neither with those in their social spheres nor with those in the political realm.
The Two-Storied Wall
In microeconomics, in the course of teaching about the theory of the firm, I must lead students to an understanding that the beauty and purity of Adam Smith's paradigm of free markets simply does not apply to most situations because the very force of greed that makes capitalism such a powerful engine of innovation and efficiency is also, concomitantly, the force that ultimately wrecks the "atomistic" model of competitive forces that allow prices to form by a natural process not under the control of any one agent or group of agents.
On the consumer side, I mince no words about the difference between need and want: the former could be satisfied by fungible, ubiquitous products, but those kinds of goods and services offer no prospect for economic rents (that is, for profits above the return that would be available in the next best alternative use of the employed factors of production). Indeed, to gain advantageto earn "economic rent" or "economic quasi-rent"the firm must transform need into want, thereby constructing the predicate absolutely necessary for product differentiation so consumers will pay a higher price, not because a product is better (it might or might not be), but only because the consumer believes it is better. To the end of emphasizing this point, I have students read the chapter entitled, "The Inherent Need to Create Need," from the 1978 book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, by Jerry Mander, a former advertising executive whose work remains stunningly timely despite having first been published 30 years ago.
I assume that not one of my students will ever be a titan of industry; not one will ever be the CEO of a major corporation; and not one will ever be earning more than 90 percent of the rest of the working population. Perhaps some will, but that is irrelevant: I am teaching a legion of citizens to be deeply informed and deeply cynical. As I have put it on occasion, "I cannot protect you. That's your job. Find things to believe in, find things to love; but never, ever let your guard down. The world does not care about you. Neither do corporations; neither do most people. And neither does your government, its President, its Congress, or its courts."
As harsh as that sounds to students, from that point forward, they know I will not lie to them.
In macroeconomics, in one semester I can take students from essential principles all the way to an understanding of what happened in the United States over the past century. It is an arc that requires knowledge of a handful of basic concepts and the ability to put chains of logic together with historical data and facts. These days, that is a daunting challenge because students coming from high school (and from many prior college courses) are not accustomed to rigorous thinking. On the bright side, my students these days, although no better prepared, are noticeably and remarkably more willing to face the challenge. That is a turnaround from the way it had been for quite a few years, but it is not the result of idiotic palliatives like No Child Left Behind and other such "assessment and evaluation" rot. On the contrary, these students are sick of the paradigm: they want to know that they've been misled, ill-informed, and psychologically stunted by incompetents from top to bottom in their society. For many of them, once they figure out that they are learning about something that does not have a happy ending with their adult lives, grasping the details and reasoning of the macroeconomic story of this country is part of an intellectual rebellion. As I began to suspect several years ago, and about which I wrote in my article, "Fire and Seeds," this is a genuinely new generation of young people. They want to know, and they want to understand.
Here at Dark Wraith Publishing online properties, I have been drawing out pretty much the same story of macroeconomics. Sometimes, the principles are relatively easy to grasp; sometimes, a little math gets involved. Occasionally, the chains of reasoning get complicated because several principles have to be brought to bear all at once.
I consider this online property my proving ground: if I can teach the macroeconomics story here, I can teach it in the classroom. More importantly, if I can present not just the results, but the reasoning, too, I am being magnificently successful. Just a few days ago, the commenter Weaseldog, wondering why I had not already gone into rant overdrive about the way the current financial crisis is being handled, wrote on a thread, "I'm a little surprised that we haven't heard a diatribe from you, concerning our Gov's efforts at hyperinflating our way to prosperity."
That was simply amazing. Weaseldog understands, at least to some important extent, that printing money at a rate in excess of the real (inflation-adjusted) growth rate of the economy will have no long-run effect other than inflation. I have been harping on that unyielding point for years, here, but I had no idea readers were actually getting this.
On the comment thread to the article just before that, commenter Minstrel Boy wrote, "[T]he chinese have cut interest rates, which means that more pretend money will flood the unstable markets which are already weakened by the presence of pretend money..."
Good Lord! He understands that interest rates are the price of money, so if Chinese interest rates are going down, that must mean they're flooding the market with more of their currency, which is already headed for disaster because, for years, they've been printing their yuan at a ridiculous rate and then buying dollars with them to make the greenback strong and the yuan weak, thereby making their imports to the United States artificially cheap and our exports to China artificially expensive.
Okay, maybe he wouldn't have said it in so many words, but he gets it, for Heaven's sake. He gets it.
So do others, here, especially the long-termers. Some of them send me e-mail messages noting this or that piece of economic news and asking if they're interpreting its consequences correctly. In most cases, they are. I intend no facetiousness when I describe this as "almost disturbing": a long time ago, I thought economics was so arcane that it could never be understood at the level of applicability by other than a relatively rare breed. Indeed, in my early years of teaching the subject, I saw each semester as a long corridor down which I must drag students to a finish line where my standard for passing them was low and condescending.
I no longer think that way. I am finally realizingmost fortunately, before being on my deathbedthat this is an endeavor that has a rolling, continually improving, good ending. Quite aside from the awful situation of our time, the understanding of what is happening, why it is happening, and how we came to be here is important in and of itself. A growing body of informed citizens is a threat to those who rely for their positions, power, and influence upon the ignorance of those around them. If there is any hope at all to save this new American century from forces of authoritarianism on the Right and the Left, it lies in a citizenry that will not be cowed into submission by lies about the past and fears about the future.
The Story Proceeds
Because I am finally grasping a certain robustness in what the reading audience here is willing and able to learn at a good, strong level, I shall push more and diverse economics principles across the table for consideration. Aside from the principles of macroeconomics necessary to launch into wholesale rants about what the Bush Administration has done wrong, I will offer occasional posts on useful microeconomics principles. Although I tend to avoid mathematical and graphical modeling when possible, there are occasions when those tools are useful. Even though I am a mathematician, I am a teacher of mathematics, too, and I know that the ritualistic use of arcane symbolics so common among the mathematically trained can make the ordinary non-mathematician simply turn off the lesson. Any normal person who read Part 3 and Part 4 of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage," should have been grimacing at those graphs, equations, and algebraic manipulations. However, the end results, especially those in Part 4, were hugely telling about the warning signs of what was coming at us in terms of economic wreckage. It was right there in the numbers, but the numbers had to be distilled through economic modeling for the flashing red lights to be visible.
The Power of Enlightenment
Now, more red lights are flashing. In fact, every time our government officials open their pie holes about their "solutions" to the economic crisis bearing down on us, flashing red lights beam out of their throats. With just a little background in economics, it is not hard to ask the right questions of these officials, knowing very well they would not dream of paying attention to the kinds of people who would know enough to make such inconvenient queries.
"Gee, George. You've just declared that you want Congress to give you $700 billion in spending authority to buy the bad mortgage assets from financial services companies. Okay, where is Congress going to get that $700 billion?"
Tax revenues? No, we're going to run a federal budget deficit of more than $400 billion this year. That means, as it is, we are already taking in about $400 billion less in tax revenue than we are spending, and that's because you and your fellow Republicans passed tax cuts lasting a decade on the pretext of anti-recession stimulus when, in fact, there was not even a recession by technical metrics in 2001.
So that leaves us with only two alternatives.
On the one hand, we can borrow the money. From whom will we do this? Oh, yes: we'll borrow most of it from all those countries that hold greenbacks in their foreign reserves. How did they get those? Ah, yes: we traded our dollars for their stuff. In the case of China, we got cheap stuff because they were pegging the yuan-dollar exchange rate at a wildly out-of-whack level, and they did this for so many years that they wiped out tens of millions of American jobs and sucked the life out of our manufacturing capital base. So now we should go and beg them for hundreds of billions of our own dollars that you (and, to some extent, Clinton, too) let them cheat us out of.
Okay, where will Congress get the rest of the $700 billion you want for play money? Well, we can just have the Federal Reserve print some. After all, it has been doing that for years, now, to prop up the economy you and your fellow Republicans were sucking dry with your incompetent fiscal policies and worthless wars. Yes, Fed Chairman Bernanke has been a darned good friend to you and the top end of the financial services sector: while the Fed was holding the growth rate of M1the kind of money that normal people useat about zero, it was blowing the growth rate of M3the kind of money that only the giants of Wall Street can see, much less usethrough the roof at a progressively faster and faster rate.
What is that growth rate of M3 right about now? (It's kind of hard to tell, considering the Fed stopped publishing the number back in early 2006). Is M3 really growing at close to 20 percent?! But if the real economy is growing at no better than maybe one percent (if that), the differential growth rate of the money supply over the real growth rate of the economy would have to eventually end up as inflation.
Let's see... twenty percent minus one percent... what's that come out to be?
Oh, my! Nineteen percent inflation.
And that's if your ever-credit-friendly personal banker, Ben Bernanke, hasn't ramped up the growth rate of the money supply even higher, which he and his fellow Governors at the Fed probably already have and most definitely will even more as the Fed cranks the money engine to keep the economic apocalypse from slamming into your sorry backside before you leave town for good next January.
So there's where we stand: George W. Bush wants $700 billion to spend as he sees fit to save America's financial idiots from the consequences of their own actions. We'll borrow it from foreigners, and what we can't get from them (what with the dollar being in the toilet, these days), we'll just print.
Bad news all around.
Turning on, Tuning in, Rocking on
Good readers, do you know what? If you understood that little narrative above, you are smarter than the overwhelming majority of Americans, who have not the slightest clue about just how limited and grim our options are right now for getting out of this economic mess.
Does it matter that you understand?
Yes. The more certain you become in your understanding, the more dangerous you become to those who want you not to understand. Furthermore, the greater the number of people who understand, the less the relevance of the mainstream media that cannot extricate itself from its incestuous relationship with those who want you to be dumb, barefoot, and pregnant with gullibility.
The downside is this: an immediate sense of frustrating powerlessness. When you know damn well what should be done, when you are awfully sure that the powers in Washington are doing exactly what they should not do, and when you know that erroneous solutions are going to be the strategies pursued in spite of what you know will be dire consequences, you will be so frustrated that you'll want to just throw up your hands and walk away.
That, or you'll want to scream your bloody, fool head off.
Not to worry, though; keep in mind that brutal cynicism is not the same as giving up. False hope is worthless, but keep in mind that, while miracles rarely happen, history has a way of vindicating the sane. Absent that somewhat satisfying outcome, at the very least, the mendacious eventually die. Once dead and in their sullen graves, occasional opportunities may arise to water their dirt blankets with bodily fluids.
Back on point, spreading the gospel of sound economics is a process. Small seeds, like the ones I have been sowing for nearly three decades in colleges and for nearly four years here, have a way of growing. Whether or not they grow to become the dominant flora of the forest is unimportant. What matters is that they did not allow themselves to be destroyed, and for that perseverance they become successful, spreading competitors in the forest of ideas.
Eventually, come Hell or high water, the first book of articles I have written will be published. Even if I have to self-publish in the absence of any literary agent who wants to come within reading distance of my writings, there will be a book; and while that process is on-going, there will be more articles, graphics, and timely information published here.
Big Brass Blog might very well be nothing more than an all-night diner on the skid-row frontier of the 21st Century, but the lights are always on in here. The coffee is hot, the sandwiches are filling, and what you learn is worth at least as much as the admission price.
Out there, night has fallen, and it's getting darker, just like I said it would.
I am really really REALLY trying to put aside my tendencies toward conspiracy theories here folks. After watching the recent Jon Stewart/Tony Blair Interview I felt that maybe, just maybe, the idea of a "global society" might be what we need. We ALL occupy this earth - so let's ALL get along. Mr. Blair sounds most reasonable when he expresses the need for people of ALL faiths to come together. ( I do wonder why he recently picked Catholicism as his religion of choice though.) After watching the interview, I fell asleep - quite peacefully - and had very nice, vivid dreams of a world where we ALL get along.
When I woke up this morning, all of those "conspiracy theories" came rushing back when I picked up the morning paper and read the front page headlines:
VALUING FAITH -- BRITAIN'S EX-LEADER ASSUMES NEW ROLE IN WORLD, AT YALE
The near trillion dollar bailout did manage to get a portion of the front page, but since that's old news, it only got 1/3 of the page while Blair's "VALUING FAITH" took up 2/3 of the page.
Here's the online story (The online headline is worded a bit differently: Tony Blair Assumes New Role As Yale Teacher)
I couldn't just let well enough alone. I found myself searching for Globalization = New World Order and just finished reading a well written, and what I believe a very rational piece on the subject: Globalization = New World Order = Globalization
In this day and age, globalization is synonymous with New World Order, and we all know what that means, unless you have been living under a rock for the last decade. New World Order means the end of any sort of freedom, right or liberty, it means, in the best conspiracy theory fashion, the end of the world as we know it. You lose your own culture, your own language, your own religion, your own beliefs, your own identity.
Most people still laugh at the idea, I almost do myself, especially after taking such topic as globalization so lightly. I read a few books, and I thought, could it be true, is it possible, or is it just conspiracy theories? But when the new Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, makes a first speech after taking power, with no less than 17 references to New World Order and Globalization, I have to wonder, who is he really working for? Consider this:
At times like these, I feel so lost, desperate, that even new elections, new Prime Ministers, new Presidents, do not give me hope. They are all on the same war path, they are all about globalization and New World Order, and ultimately, not many of us really understand what this is all about and where it will lead us.
We can only see the state of the world today, multiple cases of genocide, a nuclear Third World War around the corner, the greatest stock market crash in history awaiting us at the bank; we are all now Americans and our world leader is the American President. It is the End of the World, as my grandfather would say, after blaming it all on the Communists.
Now, I don't even know what a communist is; the concept has been eradicated from my education, as I am from one of the new generations, the ignorant one without a purpose in this world. Not the Baby Boomers Generation, not even Generation X, not even the new youngest generation, Generation Kill. I am from a lost generation in between Generation X and Generation Kill, as I said, a lost meaningless generation without an identity. For a while we were called Generation Y (why), it came after X. As I said, an insignificant and utterly powerless generation. That's mine!
For those who might have missed the warning signs of the galloping disaster of the U.S. economy, they were at The Dark Wraith Forums and, in many cases, republished here at Big Brass Blog. Over the past nearly four years, I have been laying out the broad and narrow issues that were leading to the economic catastrophe that is now evident to all but the dullest of Republicans. Some of the articles were almost entirely educational; they were written to provide readers with basic principles of economics. Other articles were a combination of education in economics principles, policy analysis, and predictions. Still other articles were, at least on the surface, purely editorial, but even those pieces were tangents from the arc of reasoning constructed by the entire body of writing I have offered: rock-solid economics principles have no business being held at bay merely to avoid noticing that politicians really are, quite objectively, as stupid as stupid gets.
The body of articles I have written and published here stands as my claim to have been far better at predicting what was to come than the vast majority of politicians, pundits, and even other economists; and, to the extent that events have proven the pessimism of my outlook accurate, the condemnation I have laid upon the Bush Administration has not been driven by ideology; instead, it has been motivated by the unbiased, unflinching application of economics free of the blinders that have been voluntarily worn for far too long by far too many of our nations leaders, media personalities, and academics, both liberal and conservative.
In the weeks and months to come, I will walk back through key principles of economics and finance, and I shall write about the severity of the current situation and what would have to be done to get this nation out of the roiling catastrophe. I shall also write about what will happen in the likely event that the political leaders and chief bureaucrats of this country, both those in office now and those who will soon take the reins of power, do other than what should be done.
No, you as a dedicated reader here will not be able to redirect this nation away from the path of tribulation to come. The situation will get worse before it does not get any better. It is out of your hands. It is out of mine, too.
Read some of the articles below, anyway; if you already have, read them again. As a point of caution, however, they will not save anyone from economic misery, nor will they offer you any personal advice to make your circumstances any better.
If you want salvation, go to church and listen to the preacher. If you want promises, turn on the television and listen to the politicians. If you want disappointment, believe what the preachers and politicians tell you. (Trust a preacher somewhat more, though; unlike our government, he's probably not treating your constitutional rights like some toy he has the right to take away.)
Once you are finished listening to the person who wants your soul and the person who wants your vote, spend time at The Dark Wraith Forums and here at Big Brass Blog. At online properties of Dark Wraith Publishing, I will not try to get your vote; and you can be most certain I am not going to offer you salvation.
This morning in Wisconsin, John McCain confused the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) which "enforces the federal securities laws and regulates the securities industry/stock market" with the FEC (Federal Election Commission) which oversees elections:
Saw the PBS "is palin qualified?" poll, which is currently pretty much tied. Insane, yes. And it's because the poll is being "Freeped" -- that is, skewed by the far right group of self-appointed bullies.
These "citizens" spend most of their time organizing attacks, personal defamation, harassing, trolling. They think that's what a citizen does in a Democracy: distort and bully. Issues? Pulling together as a people to make the world better? Justice? Have a look. These aren't part of their paradigm, apparently. Yet they so want to inflict their peculiar brand of "Democracy" on the world.
Palin's email has been leaked on the net by wikileaks. And who do you think it is behind that? Palin's handlers. The ones who want to bring down wikileaks. Here's the fallout.
I remember watching the Bush / Gore debates as I sat at my computer, also watching the polls about them. Ten minutes into the thing, Bush had a ten point lead -- 60% -- that he kept to the end. Insane: Gore obviously beat him -- yet the polls said otherwise. So I had a google and perused the FreeRepublic at work. This is how it's done:
Somebody should call the real John McCain -- you know the John McCain of the Straight Talk Express -- and tell him there's a guy out there running for president who's using his name and lying like hell.
It's the biggest case of identity theft in recent political history.
. . . . .
Many voters really want to be lied to, especially if the lies pander to their prejudices or protect them from unpleasant truths. Many would deny that, of course, but the evidence is all too available.
The real McCain, the honest John who, like a latter-day George Washington, couldn't tell a lie and was greatly beloved -- especially by the press -- got beaten to a pulp by George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries.
. . . . .
Honest John had guts; more important, he had principles. Naturally, and in keeping with the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, the real John McCain got shellacked in 2000. And he hasn't been seen or heard from since.
So where did this ersatz John McCain now running for president come from? I think I've got it figured out.
The wise guys around Bush, knowing that his time (and theirs) was running out, needed a new front man if they were to hang on to the Oval Office. There wasn't much left in the Republican cupboard that wasn't totally tarnished except one thing -- the magnificent McCain reputation. Honest John's lofty rep was their lifeboat.
Of course they couldn't run the real McCain; he'd spill the beans on every mistake the GOP and George W. Bush had made in mismanaging the country these last eight years. But they hit on a masterful scam, a sure-enough winner: "We'll run Bush for a third term," they reasoned, "but we'll call him John McCain. And nobody will be the wiser."
. . . . .
The risk in running Bush as McCain is that, every now and then, the Bush side might slip out, as indeed it did the other day when the candidate voiced the opinion that "the fundamentals of the economy are sound." Blood pressure indicators and heart monitors all over the Bush-McCain campaign went off the charts.
The real George W. Bush couldn't have said it with any less of a grasp of economic reality.
Palin can dress a moose but she can't hide her true self
Here's a short list: It easily can be proven that she did not lead the fight against "the bridge to nowhere"; that she is not opposed to pork-barrel earmarks and has actually fought for them; that she seems to believe as much or more in a Christian theocracy than in American democracy. And in one of the most well-received moments in her Republican National Convention speech, Palin made it quite clear: Terrorism is a good-enough reason to destroy or ignore the Constitution.
. . . . .
She might be pretty enough for Rush Limbaugh to call "a babe"; she might shoot well enough to be nicknamed "Annie Oakley" and she may even have squeaky-clean but gritty charm. But, when the sun goes down and nobody else is around, Sarah Palin kneels to and bows low before the language that can prepare the way to totalitarianism. Always a dangerous thing.
She does not seem to realize -- though all of our friends and every last one of our enemies do -- that the constitutional rights at which she sneers are what separate this nation from the totalitarian regimes in most of the world.
Changing from what we are into one of those kinds of regimes is not what I believe the American people want, and that is what I believe will save us from embracing a self-described pit bull with lipstick.
For all of the indications to the contrary, I think that Barack Obama is right when he says that the American people are not stupid. They might not be able to dress a moose, but they can usually recognize a pig in a poke. With or without lipstick.
Wouldn't it be absurd if we had a two party system where one party supported reality and the other opposed it? Sound like a Monty Python sketch or a sequel to the movie "Idiocracy"? Well, "Now for something completely different. It's...John McCain's Freaking Circus!"
Let's talk a little reality first, the financial crisis that flared up savagely this week has been burning furiously for some time. It really shouldn't have come as a surprise. Remember the collapse of the housing market? The ongoing mortgage/foreclosure crisis? Merrill Lynch? Bear Stearns? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
Publicity of this economic meltdown started well over a year ago, yet because the story wasn't "sexy" enough it didn't stay in the news ...
. . . . .
Corporately financed, controlled and corrupted politicians have made the corporate world's wet dreams come true through widespread deregulation, allowing them to loot and plunder as they choose under the guise of "the free market". Meanwhile, their losses or collapses are bailed out by us taxpayers, all upside and no downside...for them, not us.
That blaze has grown into an inferno that's typically out of view from the nation it threatens. However, its undermining of the ground beneath our feet has continued unabated and has and will continue to cause one collapse after another until it is brought under control...or runs out of fuel ("fuel", AKA the redistribution of the public's assets).
Interestingly, one could simultaneously find a very encouraging allegory in this as well. The majority's simmering desire for change to this corporately dominated nation may have been kept contained underground for some time but has eventually worked its way up to the surface to crumble away the ground beneath what has been the status quo.
Which brings me back to my initial proposition, Democrats have become the party of reality, and the Republicans are the party opposed to reality.
. . . . .
John McCain and Sarah Palin have run the most dishonest Presidential campaign in memory, the plethora of lies is so unprecedented that the mainstream media has actually had to come off the fence to become unwilling partisans in support of truth.
McCain has repeatedly divorced himself from reality like it was a first wife who was permanently disabled in a car accident. I don't recall the word "Republican" mentioned once at the Republican convention. Our current president does not appear to be connected to McCain's or any party. Nearly 30 years of Republican-loyal positions on issues in the Senate and voting 90% of the time to support Bush are irrelevant to the "fact" that McCain is an anti-Republican "maverick for change".
Unfortunately, this is nothing new.
. . . . .
The pundits today say that a campaign about the issues helps Obama and hurts McCain. In other words, when people are able to think about what really affects their lives, they vote for Democrats. When people are distracted from thinking about the issues that affect their lives, they vote Republican.
One clear example that should concern voters is McCain's election promise to appoint more federal court judges like those appointed by George W. Bush.
When McCain and his right-wing pundit supporters preach against judges for their "common and systematic abuse of our federal courts," they overlook an increasingly inconvenient truth: A solid majority of the "unelected judges" whom Republican politicians love to attack are appointees of Republican politicians. Nowhere is this truer than on the Supreme Court, where seven of the current nine justices owe their lifetime seats to Republican presidents.
Of course, the reality that the federal courts are now largely Republican courts does not worry a Republican Party and a president bent on recreating the judiciary in their own far-right image. But it should make a difference to the more moderate general public -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- who may agree with the political bromide that "judicial activism" is bad, but who reject right-wing as well as left-wing judicial extremism.
For that reason, it is critical to highlight just how far right the Supreme Court has moved over the past decades and why McCain's promise should strike most Americans as profoundly unsound.
. . . . .
McCain's determination to move the Supreme Court even further to the right should be of concern to all Americans.
. . . . .
Unfortunately, a court with a critical mass of conservative justices is not merely a matter of academic interest. It is one that already has discarded prior court precedents in areas as different as abortion, antitrust, school integration and campaign finance.
Equally important, this new breed of conservatives is anything but "conservative" when it comes to "judicial activism."
. . . . .
That's a story that needs to be told this election year, one that so far has been eclipsed by more rhetoric over substance. Our federal judges should be selected and appointed because they have a solid track record of intelligence, hard work and common sense, not because they will support the political and social agenda of the radical right.
In this 2008 presidential season, Republicans are the masters of victimhood.
Clearly, Republicans are more masterful at the politics of victimhood than the Democrats, the Independents and the parties-too-small-to-be-presently named. And, because all victims need a boogeyman, fall guy and scapegoat to hang their victimhood on, they have designated this election season's evildoers as none other than that group of people who belong to what is called the Fourth Estate: journalists.
. . . . .
To hear the Republicans tell it, my kind — the journalist kind, not teachers (the latter are "safe" for the moment) — are bad folks whose sole purpose on this planet is to serve as persecutors of the otherwise glorious and noble candidates of the Grand Old Party, of which every candidate is glorious, noble and above questioning.
Accordingly, any tough questions of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin become a left-wing, liberal, journalistic plot by my brother and sister journalists to attack McCain and Palin because we can't stand the way of life that a McCain and Palin presidency would bring.
. . . . .
The masters of victimhood, however, would blanket every journalist as a liberal, which is absurd when considering the number of folks in the news business who supported the Bush administration and now back McCain.
. . . . .
As journalists, we are not perfect. Yet, at a time in history when candidates are able to fire off political ads and messages, misinformation and disinformation with the touch of a button that can reach millions of people around the world, journalists provide an invaluable service to America's democracy. In this campaign season, journalists are fact-checking statements, ads and arguments and providing quick analyses and reports that can help the American public become better informed.
Without a news media, the country would be in chaos. Rumors and innuendoes would go unchallenged — including those by the Republicans sounding the alarm of fear as they rant about how the liberal media is out to get them.
. . . . .
We must not cease unless we are willing to accept an increase in the number of true victims in the days, weeks and years following November's presidential election — the American people.
A thousand points of lies
The Republican war on truth threatens the future of America
Every day, the news chronicles the sad aftermath of another attack. Civilians are constantly caught in the crossfire during the daily assaults, to the end that many have vowed not to get involved until an end to the struggle is in sight. With each new day’s barrages, an entire nation is more at risk.
. . . . .
Serial prevarication has become the order of the day for the honorable senator as well. McCain, extolling the virtue of his veep, declared that Palin had never requested earmarks for Alaska, when in fact she’d asked for 52 earmarks totaling $256 million last year and 31 for $197 million this year. Then he claimed Palin had vetoed earmarks totaling $500 million, when actually the governor has no power to do any such thing.
McCain has given his approval to one TV ad after another misrepresenting or falsifying the remarks of his opponent. One ad claims Obama’s pushed to raise taxes on everybody, another that he voted against funding troops; still another took quotations out of context to paint the Obama campaign as sexist. Each of these ads has been debunked by impartial fact-checking organizations, but still the lies, approved by the candidate, keep on comin’.
It is as though the McCain’s camp has decided to jettison accountability and integrity in favor of saying anything they think will garner votes. Online, the campaign’s mendacity is succinctly, if indelicately, summed up in what is called Atrios’s Law, after the blogger who coined it: “Even the Republicans all know it’s full of shit, but they don’t care! It pisses off liberals, and that’s all they really care about.”
All Americans should be disquieted by this immoral approach to campaigning for the highest office in the land. Propagandist Josef Goebbels theorized that any lie told often enough would eventually be believed. The corollary this election year posits that any lie put into general circulation can never be adequately disproved. Thus many voters will go to the polls in November still thinking that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that Iraq was involved in 9/11, or that John McCain is an honorable man.
But shouldn't the citizens be the ones getting the "loans" instead of the automakers, bankers and mortgage companies? Isn't the crisis because people can't pay their bills and therefore they can't buy the cars or make the house payments? Or could it be that the automakers didn't make products that consumers needed?
Meanwhile the babbling Bush keeps making promises to help out the guys who didn't plan for anything except themselves making a profit off of the average consumer. Bush says he's working hard on economic turmoil. Well, he's succeeded. It almost cracks me up how short-sighted people have been for the last twenty eight years. Nobody is propping me up except for a few people with big hearts. If you offshore jobs to countries outside of the United States, eventually there won't be enough people with jobs inside the United States to be able to pay their bills. So, they relaxed the credit rules and the economy was humming along nicely for a little while. Now, just like falling off a building, the sudden stop at the end is a real killer.
If there is no such thing as a safe tan, how come people didn't have skin cancers throughout the ages? If they weren't hunting for food, they were planting it. People used to be outside from sun up to sundown. Yes they died of cancer, but rarely was it a skin cancer. Usually it was something that people couldn't see that killed them, like TB, stomach, colon or liver cancer. You don't suppose that we've done something to the environment that caused the explosion of cancer in our lifetimes, do you?
Good grief! I thought our representatives in Congress were lapdogs, but they have nothing on California's legislature. This idea that taxes aren't needed for the public good is foolish. For those of us who grew up here in the sixties and seventies and had one of the best school systems in the country to now not want to pay taxes so that today's children have the same opportunities as their parents, isn't foolish, it's stupid. We have had wildfires burning out of control because there was neither the manpower, money or equipment to fight them quickly and at the same time reduced services to those who need it just so millionaires don't have to pay their fair share for enjoying all the benefits this state had to offer. No wonder the cities are dividing into the rich and poor sides of town. And this time it is without the railroad tracks showing the demarcation line.
On a personal note, thank you to those who donated to help my mom and myself. Every dime is greatly appreciated. Mom is aware that we are in trouble and it seems to have accelerated some aspects of her dementia along with making her even more stubborn. If we become homeless we lose all of the programs that are helping to keep her out of a convalescent home where they send you to die and she loses any illusion of autonomy. I would like to keep her away from that option as long as possible. In other words, until she no longer recognizes me or the dogs, or dies at home as peacefully as possible.
On Sunday, the online edition of the St. Petersburg Times published an article entitle, " Cousin John, where did you go?" by a relative of Republican presidential candidate John McCain. This cousin, although a Democrat in a Democratic leaning side of the extended McCain clan, said that he, his father, and other relatives had long been admirers of John McCain, both during his service as a pilot and as a prisoner of war, and then after as a Senator. Even though McCain was a dyed-in-the-wool member of the GOP, his willingness to openly speak in opposition to typical Republican positions earned him great respect among his more liberal kin: examples by the writer of the article, Adam Vaulx Boles, included McCain's assertion in the year 2000 that repealing Roe v. Wade would result in "...thousands of young women... performing illegal and dangerous operations" and his statement that political parties should not "...be defined by pandering to the outer-reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance."
Mr. Boles then expressed great disappointment that this same John McCain, who had been so at odds with his own Republican Party on at least several major issues, had changed in such a remarkable way between the years 2000 and 2008. The Senator who had previously supported Roe v. Wade now says, "It should be overturned"; and that same Senator, who had challenged his own party's deep affiliation with radical Right-wing Christian groups and their leaders has now chosen Sarah Palin, who has been affiliated with churches so extreme in their apocalyptic views that even more mainstream Pentecostal denominations have repudiated their teachings.
Although I am certainly not a Democrat, the dismay in Mr. Boles' article about what has become of John McCain resonates with me. My kind of conservatism, which I have described previously in such articles as "An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly" and "Conservatism My Way, Blunt and Hard," is shared by few who would use the term "conservative" to describe themselves; but in men like John McCain I occasionallynot always, but occasionallysaw the version of conservatism I like: a kind of toughness that is more willing to turn its hard edge toward the big, mean, and nasty than toward the weak, needy, and put-upon. I might not like a whole lot of air-headed Leftist tripe, and I most decidedly have no use for some grown-up rich kid trying to be the working people's hero the way Barack Obama does with his vapid, messianic drivel about Hope-'n-Change, but all that aggravation is a whole universe away from the loathing disgust I have for what has become the Republican mishmash cobble of racists, anti-intellectuals, hypocritical homophobes, and especially Right-wing religious freaks like Sarah Palin and her deranged crowd of tongue-speaking, twitching, hopping-up-and-down loons.
What became of the John McCain I had studied, respected, and, at least on some issues, agreed with? This was a man who was a crazy, if not particularly high-powered, young cadet who broke curfews, got in trouble, and had a good time at the U.S. Naval Academy. This was a fellow who experienced the utterly mind-blowing terror of getting blasted out of the sky while flying a fighter jet. This was a man who suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of sub-human torturers masquerading as "liberators" of their miserable toilet of a country. This was a guy who came out of that Hell-hole, mended his broken body, got his act back together, and plunged into high-powered national politics to take names and kick pork-barrel politicians up and down the Beltway. This was a conservative who "got it" enough to understand what dismantling Roe v. Wade would do at the street level to the flesh-and-blood bodies of young women.
I feel like declaring that I am completely mystified by what has become of McCain, but I am not. On the other hand, I could get some high-fives by waving a dismissive hand while making some simplistic assertion that would invite a round of "Yeah, man, McLame sucks!" from my Leftist friends (what remains of them, anyway), but I cannot bring myself to trivialize a man who was once more than he is now.
I think I know what became of John. Maybe I'm wrong: maybe what seems so apparent to me is nothing more than an excuse, a way by which I can rationalize that which defies reason, or a means by which I can write the end of a story that I got wrong all along.
Without going into detail that would unduly burden a thought better expressed parsimoniously, I fear that what became of John McCain is this:
John gave up.
You see, soldiers do that sometimes: they just give up.
When a war never ends, when a cause is lost, when putting your weapon down is so fabulously better than spending the rest of your life in a miserable trench, a soldier just might realize that it's time to stop being there.
This is especially possible when your own side thinks of you as a traitor, and the people for whom you fight hate you for the flag under which you've chosen to do battle.
Why keep fighting? Whose hero are you going to be when you lie down to breathe your last?
John McCain's own fellow Republican, George W. Bush, kicked him into the dirt with filthy tactics in the 2000 Presidential race. John McCain's opposition party is full of weaklings who spent the entire decade of the 1990s getting the snot kicked out of them by the Right-wing Republicans on Capitol Hill, and they did nothing whatsoever to slow down, much less stop, the neo-con engine of destructive lies that has ultimately run this Republic into the ground for the past nearly eight years.
Sometime during this opus of the 21st Century, John McCain gave up; and once a man gives up, it's awfully hard to really give a damn about much of anything.
For the battles John McCain fought on my side, particularly those in his political life, I must thank him.
For his surrender years ago after he was shot down and then for his surrender again in this era when he was shot down, I cannot bring myself to hate him.
But for the man he has become, I cannot possibly want him to be the President.
Soon enough, John McCain will pass from this life. In the end, the bravest of hearts meets the very same fate as the weakest. Unlike a coward, though, a great man may live long enough to feel the bravery within him ebb away into silence before his heart beats its last.
Only the brave can suffer that final defeat; cowards who live in the perpetual night of wasted lives will never know the tragedy of stillness before nightfall.
The Dark Wraith wishes John McCain nothing other than a quiet journey home.
As many of you know, I am short on money. I fell behind in my rent and last month the owner served me with a three day pay or quit notice. By a miracle I was able to come up with every penny and then on the first I had enough money to pay the rent, but not the utilities. My landlady had told me that as long as I paid the rent on time (which I did), I could pay the utilities when I got my next check.
Yesterday, the owner forced her to give me a Notice of Termination of Tenancy. It was done after five o'clock and I had nowhere to turn. I called my brother for help and was turned down. Cold. There were some good reasons (such as he is losing his house), but none of them will prevent the fact that thirty days from now our mother and myself will be living in my car with our two dogs. At the moment I have no job and feel like I have no family.
I have no idea why we are being evicted since there are many troublemakers in our park, sex offenders and other people with police records. There are people who are in trouble every month and we weren't one of them. We never play our music too loud or break any of the park rules. I feel that this is personal and I'm waiting for callbacks from legal aid societies to see if I have any recourse. We have lived in this park for over two years which should mean that I should have received a 60 day notice, but when we renegotiated the rent last March after Peter decided not to offer me the assistant manager job, I noticed that Carol had typed in the thirty day written notice of termination (which I don't know if it is legal or not) and had the suspicion that Carol would try something underhanded to get us out of the property so it could be rented for more money. There was no deposit required for this space but I had a $300 deposit from when I originally moved into the park and it wasn't mentioned anywhere.
I honestly do not know what to do. No matter how many people I have helped, my situation continues to deteriorate. Mom can't handle another move and my brother suggested abandoning her to strangers and after everything I've done, I can't do that. I barely got any sleep last night and I feel like I'm spinning around and chasing my own tail. I have absolutely no idea what I did wrong or why this is happening. More than half the people in the park still haven't paid their rent and they aren't being harassed or threatened with eviction. I can't afford a lawyer, I can't afford to move and my credit is so bad that nobody would take me anyway. I don't even have a real job since mom can't be left alone that long.
Is there anyone in the San Jose area that could help? Even though it will completely discombobulate mom to move, I am even willing to move out of state. Actually, I'm ready to move out of the country if it would help at all. I have no idea what to do except sit in a corner and whimper, but that isn't really my style. I don't know how much more I can take, but I suspect it isn't much. I am being stripped of all that I hold dear and being left with trauma and drama. I am at the bottom of my reserves.
Richard Wright of Pink Floyd has passed away from cancer at the age of 65. I am so bummed. Rest in peace and thank you for being a member of of my favorite band of all time and I'm grateful that I had the chance to see you play. Little did we know how prescient this song would be.
May you find friends in your afterlife, this fan will never forget you. You will be missed.
...Chris Wallace asked, "All right, for fair game, what does McCain do that goes one step too far?"
Rove responded, "McCain has similarly gone one step too far, attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100% truth test."
"In case anyone was still wondering whether John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest campaign in history, today Karl Rove -- the man who held the previous record -- said McCain's ads have gone too far."
At the 2008 Values Voter Summit, held September 12 through 14 at the Hilton Washington in Washington, D.C., guests and speakers were able to purchase "Obama Waffles" mix in boxes that featured stereotype caricatures of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama sporting big lips and bulging eyes on the front of the box and wearing what appears to be a Muslim or Arab headdress on the top.
The 2008 Values Voter Summit is sponsored by FRCAction, the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council; in fact, Web browsers trying to access the 2008 Values Voter Summit domain, valuesvotersummit.org, will be redirected to a site within frcaction.org, the Website complex of the lobbying wing of the Family Research Council, which has the domain frc.org.
Depicting Obama on the box front in a caricature strikingly similar to the old Aunt Jemima stereotype of African-Americans shown at right, the Obama Waffles are the brainchild of Bob DeMoss and Mark Whitlock, both of Franklin, Tennessee. Whitlock's links to Focus on the Family are described in the sidebar of his blog, along with a narrative of his other links to commercial Christianity. Bob DeMoss is featured at the Website of Nelson Ministry Services, where he is claimed to have been "...a youth culture specialist for Focus on the Family for seven years" and is described as "...one of America's leading authorities on pop culture."
Although Republican presidential candidate John McCain opted not to attend the 2008 Values Voter Summit, his picture and name are displayed on the main page of the conference Website, as seen in the screen capture below.
The "Confirmed Speakers" Web page features a veritable Who's Who of extremist conservatives and assorted Right-wing luminaries, including Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Bill Bennett, Ken Blackwell, Chuck Colson, Tom DeLay, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Gov. Mitt Romney, Phyllis Schlafly, and many others. At the bottom of that page, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin are shown as "Invited Speakers."
Media inquiries about the racist implications of the imagery on the boxes of Obama Waffles seem to have been behind Summit organizers' decision to finally halt sales of the product at the convention, but Whitlock and DeMoss are still selling the item via the Website of their company, West Wing Waffles, LLC. At the site, they claim that the Obama Waffles mix is "selling... like hot cakes!"
Despite ending sales of the Obama Waffles at the 2008 Values Voter Conference, the Family Research Council has not publicly and categorically apologized for having the West Wing Waffles booth open at the conference from Thursday until sometime on Saturday, nor have Whitlock and DeMoss been compelled to remove from their personal online profiles their past and current relations with Focus on the Family, which was once the parent organization of the Family Research Council.
Of course, it is to be hoped that the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family will move in a timely manner to resolutely distance the two Christian organizations from West Wing Waffles, LLC, and its owners. Although that hope will likely not be fulfilled, the good news is that the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family will, by their lack of clear, public repudiation of racist, anti-Obama imagery, unambiguously establish where two major voices of religious extremism stand on bigotry as a Christian family value.
The Dark Wraith encourages the Right-wing of the Republican Party to be sure it has sufficient voter support to carry a national election on a platform of intolerance tethered to Dominionist apostasy.
This Afternoon...Breezy. Showers likely and scattered thunderstorms. Some thunderstorms may be severe. Highs in the upper 80s. Southeast winds 15 to 20 mph...with gusts to around 30 mph. The chance of precipitation 60 percent. Average rainfall less than 1/10 inch.
Tonight...Very windy. Showers and scattered thunderstorms. Some thunderstorms may be severe in the evening. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Lows in the mid 70s. Southeast winds 20 to 25 mph in the evening...becoming south and...increasing to 25 to 30 mph after midnight. Gusts up to 45 mph. The chance of precipitation near 100 percent. Average rainfall 1 to 2 inches.
Sunday...Very windy. Scattered thunderstorms in the morning. Showers likely during the day. Highs in the lower 80s. Southwest winds 25 to 30 mph...with gusts to around 45 mph in the morning... Becoming northwest and...decreasing to 15 to 20 mph...with gusts to around 30 mph in the afternoon. The chance of precipitation 70 percent. Average rainfall 1/2 inch.
I can only hope those in Texas made out OK, but I bet they didn't.
Sunday Night...Mostly cloudy. Cooler. Lows in the lower 60s. North winds 5 to 10 mph.
It might be time to go get a burger and share with the Woof, we may have an indoor event shaping up. Nothing like what the Texicans had though, I hope they made it. I also hope I have electricity tonight and tomorrow.
Hell, I watched "The Alamo" in Texarkana TX back when it first came out, you would have thought the world was ending. It was great, my deceased cousin Keithie was there.
He could throw a fastball that made you want to hit the dirt. He pitched for the U of A back when they whooped ass in NCAA baseball, Julie would be proud. And I miss her so.
Shit, I really miss her, she was fine. Can you imagine this little lady beating your ass between bases and hustling balls? She was just a blast. Almost sorry that I keep bringing her up but she was different. A lispy, somewhat nasal voice, well spoken, with a sense of humor that could keep you laughing all the time.We were never more than friends, and maybe that is why it is so difficult, she really was a friend.
So this is for Lana and Judy, his sisters, and his mom,Aunt Fay. My Uncle Keith has been gone for a long time. Judy used to rule the roost with all us kids down at Peppers so long ago.
Had nothing on this afternoon's hijinks. My landlady, someone else and I were getting ready to play Gin Rummy. As we were getting everything ready, I heard a speeding car and then a very loud crash. As in the fall doesn't kill you, it's the sudden stop at the end. I raced to the door, saw that the accident was really bad and started telling people to call 911. Nobody responded instantly so I went inside and used the landlady's landline and spoke to the second dumbest operator I've ever had the misfortune to interact with.
I told her about the accident, that we needed an ambulance ASAP, gave her the address and tried to get off the phone so I could go help. She told me to calm down, give her my name and wanted to ask me more questions. I gave her my name, spelled it for her and then told her I had to go because I was the only one around with medical training and the driver probably didn't have time to wait and then I hung up on her.
I ran across the street just in time to stop some guys from moving the injured person from his seat. The airbag had deployed and there was blood everywhere. The windshield was shattered and the rear end of a parked flatbed truck was occupying the aforementioned space and it had just grazed the driver. Probably because he had his head down and to the right looking for something instead of driving. Like the first paramedic said, it was a miracle the driver wasn't killed.
I asked the driver some questions and determined that he had hurt his neck and I was pretty sure he had a compound fracture of the leg. He kept mumbling something about he shouldn't be here and that wasn't supposed to happen. I told him that's why they call them accidents. I held him in place and had him concentrate on his breathing to calm him down. And yes, his legs had sustained some damage, they stripped him bare before strapping him to a board to put him on the gurney.
After the cops had most of the stuff under control (it took almost an hour to pry the Ford mini SUV from the truck) we went back to our game. One of the ladies was having hot flashes and had turned on the ceiling fan. The landlady put up with it for a while and asked her to turn it off. Menopause Patty yanked on the chain so hard that she broke it and it was stuck in fast mode. Even though I'm terrified of heights I climbed on the table, turned off the fan at the source and reconnected the chain.
We managed to play almost a round and then the electricity went off in the neighborhood. For about an hour and a half. We kept on playing and when we were almost done, in comes another tow truck for the Vietnamese lady from down the street. Her car was missing the right front end. Her husband drinks too much and takes it out on her, so we all knew it couldn't be a good thing.
The electricity came on and we wrapped up the game, but then I had to go do a Mystery Shopping job at the movies. I completed the task and came home and relaxed at L's house for about an hour and then went home. I was getting ready for bed and heard a diesel engine. Being the nosy curious type I looked out the window to see the firetruck leave and one of our drama queens was in the back of the ambulance.
What a wild night, I just heard a group of motorcyclists blaze past a little faster than the speed limit just like all the people did after they passed the accident. Wouldn't you want to drive slower so that you don't make the same kind of mistake?
Mom is asleep and has missed all the excitement. This day has kicked my ass, I think I'll take myself off to bed and hope that the bedbugs don't bite. Or that we don't have an earthquake.
Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.
They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”
Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.
One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern. [snip]
I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.
I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. [snip]
What does that say about how that team would run the country?
What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.
Despite fears to the contraryalthough it goes without saying considering you're reading this articlethe universe did not vanish in a cascade of monopoles or a goo of stranglets, nor did the Earth get swallowed into a rapidly expanding mini-black hole.
Back to the oars, people.
The Dark Wraith was expecting so much more from science.
On Tuesday, while criticizing McCain's policies, and comparing them as being similar to those of President Bush, Obama said: "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."
Anyone with half a brain understands that Obama was referring to McSame's running on a platform of more of the same failed Bushco policies, and that dressing it up as something other than what it is does not change those facts. Yet, some of those in the Swift Frauds And Lies Purple Band-aid Mud-slinging Smear Boat pretend not to get it and feign outrage. They'd rather slam personalities than face up to the real issues affecting our country, problems that they played a big role in helping create.
And on Wednesday, it was still more of the same old pigswill.
“Enough!” Mr. Obama said, interrupting a speech on education to address the latest controversy in the heated presidential campaign. “I don’t care what they say about me, but I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift boat politics. Enough is enough.” [snip]
“What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country. They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw out an outrageous ad because they know it’s catnip for the news media,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m assuming you guys heard this watching the news. I’m talking about John McCain’s economic policies and I said here’s more of the same, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Suddenly, they say, Oh you must be talking about the governor of Alaska!’”
As the audience applauded, he added: “See it would be funny, it would be funny except, of course the news media decided that was the lead story yesterday. The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future.”[snip]
“Spare me the phony outrage. Spare me the phony talk about change,” Mr. Obama said. “We have real problems in this country right now and the American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, no diversions, not manipulations.”
Hillary Weighs In On Lipstick-Gate, Doesn't Attack Palin
Hillary defended Obama from the GOP lipstick brigade at a D.C. news conference today, saying that Obama's comment was "in no way meant as an affront" and accusing McCain's campaign of trying to "divert attention away from challenges facing Americans."
But Hillary, apparently, refused to attack or criticize Palin...
Asked about Palin and her candidacy, Clinton responded only that the campaign should be about the issues. "What I see as critical in this election ... are the differences over issues." She added, "What happens in people's lives is what really counts... That's what it should be about."
A quick word on this. Lots of you have written in to ask where Hillary is or why Hillary hasn't savaged Palin or why she hasn't been more visible at this moment.
Here's the deal. The Obama campaign is in the driver's seat on this kind of stuff. [snip]
Both Obama and Hillary advisers were in agreement that having Hillary personally attack Palin would result in a distraction and media circus that would create more problems than it would solve and would take the focus off McCain and the issues.
I haven't found any evidence yet that Obama's people wanted any more from Hillary on the Palin front than she's delivered.
Let's face it. Lipstick on a pig is a classic American phrase. And there's just no better way to describe the McCain-Palin ticket. The 'Reformer' whose whole campaign and senate office is run by a crew of high-rolling DC lobbyists? The earmark slayer whose state this year got ten times more earmarks than any other state in the country? Whose city when she was mayor got twenty times as many? The whole operation is just one big bamboozling lie. And lipstick on a pig is just using good American English to explain it. If McCain and Palin don't like it they should have thought of that before they decided to run as frauds.
TPM reader and film director James Mangold scripts what he wishes Obama had said today:
...For weeks we've all watched their low-ball ads and listened to their lies and twisted innuendo, attacks on my family and our values, community service and patriotism, all of it wrapped in our flag-- and last night I thought to myself, Barack, CHANGE isn't letting someone kick you over and over again. CHANGE doesn't mean that the only response to blatant lies, extremism and intolerance is thoughtfulness.
Maybe the reason they think they'll get away with this is they think I'm such a big lofty "celebrity" that I can't get down on the ground and fight like a man. Well, they are wrong. Lies are lies. Not untruths. Not misstatements. Not "questionable" facts. Lies. And lies dishonor our nation.
A great country, the world's greatest country, should not waste its time with trivialities -- but a wise leader cannot pretend the world is as he wishes it was. If this is the kind of fight they want, then I will give it back to them.
So let me be clear what I meant yesterday.
McCain and Palin, their policies and their demeaning campaign are A PIG IN LIPSTICK.
They are OLD FISH IN A NEW WRAPPER.
They are a threat to our future. Because they are the past, masquerading as the future.
Sarah Palin was not quite as conservative as she claims in her requests for earmarks. And here's a great example from just this year.
According to Alaska's 2009 catalog of earmark requests the state's sea life are in great need of federal money. As Politico points out, Palin's office requested $2 million in federal monies to study crab mating habits; $494,900 for the recreational halibut harvest and $3.2 million for seal genetics research.
Those requests for the study of wildlife genetics and mating habits seems pretty antithetical to the long-standig views of Palin's running mate, John McCain.
Monday I may have pushed things a bit, moving a 27" TV from my house down to me Dear 'ol Dad at Peppers Lake. I had forgotten just how damned heavy that fairly massive picture tube was, in the process of moving it I just might have determined a better value for the higgs boson. Might have busted something loose in my last surgery as well, time will tell.
Mass sucks on occasion.
So I got back home with the majority of entrails still within me and took care of the real blackdog, slept fitfully (thanks Wraith), got up and felt somewhat disgruntled. What bugged me the most was a dish my DoD had fixed up, scalloped taters with pork chops.
Now I will admit, I am a pork chop whore. Give me meth, cocaine, whatever, but you will get your way with me with pork chops. The rest these days I tend to snort at, not on. So a big part of me wanted to get back there and spend some time with DoD and chomp down some more decent chow. Plus I haven't spent the night down there much lately and it is a really cool place, up on a bluff above an oxbow lake off a meandering river that has more than it's fair share of all kinds of critters, you can lose yourself there for a few and feel good about it. Which is what I did yesterday.
Got down there about 4:00 pm and proceeded to sit on the porch with DoD, doing nasty things like smoking cigarettes and drinking green tea (!) while watching all the birds, an incredible assortment, 4 hummingbirds, ruby throated I believe, competing for the feeder, and an incredible cast of songbirds not usually seen in towns going after the seed.
Pretty cool way to spend the afternoon.
No current events, just lots of memories shared and stories told, DoD has much more than I, just a decent place to relax and be. As the sun sets, so does DoD, he is 84 after all, so I command the skipper's chair on the porch, the mosquitoes are out in force, stay inside, and the Great horned ones start howling. Beautiful. Cackling and growling like a bunch of banshees, they dominate the early evening.
I truly love it there, so does DoD. You would too. I wish I had pictures.
Somehow, someway I'll dig some up. But it will take awhile.
Everyone is invited, November is maybe the best, the bugs are beginning to sleep and the brim are still out there. And I can fry up a damn big batch of brim.
All needed now is some music, nothing too loud, to complement the owls.
Good conversation and good company, the world ain't so bad after all, at least tonight.
BRINKLEY – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists confirmed a breeding population of northern snakehead, an invasive species from Asia, in Lee County on April 28.
The population was discovered when a farmer found an unusual fish wiggling along a gravel farm road near a ditch and contacted the AGFC regional office in Brinkley. AGFC Fisheries Management Biologist Lee Holt identified the fish as the invasive species that recently made national headlines. Since the confirmation, fisheries biologists have worked to establish how far the population has spread and to control the population.
“The northern snakehead is used as a food species in Asia, and we know some were brought to fish farms in the U.S. before 2002,” said AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries Mark Oliver. “Fish farmers in Arkansas realized the potential danger the species posed and tried to eradicate them even before bans were imposed.”
That thar northern snakehead better look out, I swing a mean assed cypress paddle made out of a single piece of wood, and Mr. snakehead just may get introduced to possibly an even nastier predator, our native cypress trout, grinnel or bowfin, depending on your local dialect, or mah dinner table. Never seen a cypress trout less than 6# and they get much bigger.
Other names - grinnel, brindle, blackfish, mudfish, dogfish, shoepike, cypress bass, cypress trout, choupique, scaly cat, buglemouth bass, German bass, brindlefish
Funny thing, I used to work in a geotechnical lab with Mark Oliver. He was a pretty decent fellow.
Fossil remains of the ancestors of this fish are found in the rocks of Europe and the United States. The present day form is a voracious, hardy individual with a determination to live under any circumstances it may encounter. It prefers large quiet waters and is abundant in the boundary rivers and overflow backwaters. As in the gars, the swim bladder serves as a lung, giving the bowfin air breathing capability.
Snakehead, meet Grinnel. You may want to go back to Asia.
Seven years and two wars later and they are going to try new efforts to find the forgotten one. I will be almost amazed when they find Osama bin Laden just before the election. There will be celebrations, ticker tape confetti and dancing in the street. News anchors will have tears of joy in their eyes and all but a few of us will realize that this could have been accomplished seven years ago, but they didn't need the political capital then. The American people are easily mesmerized by shiny objects and artificial intelligence, aren't they?
Speaking of War Games, mom and I were watching War Games: The Dead Code and I wondered why they didn't bring back John Wood as the original Dr. Stephen Falken. John was responsible for uttering one of my favorite lines as the Bishop of Aquila (there were a few) in one of my favorite movies. Ladyhawke, one of the most romantic action movies ever made. I heartily recommend it. Alfred Molina has a bit part, one just a little bigger than his part in Raiders of the Lost Ark. These lines came straight from the Bishop's mouth right after he watches his mistress dance and Marquet gives his report.
We live in difficult times Marquet. The famine has prevented the people from paying their proper tribute to the Church. I raise their taxes only to be told there is nothing left for me to tax. Imagine.
Gee, that sounds just like today except the church has been traded for corporations.
Wow, I just found out I could watch a movie and blog at the same time. I really should explore more of the capabilities of my Mac. Speaking of which, even though I can't pay for rent or gas, I want the new iTouch.
Or how about this one of our ignominious President?
Why do Republicans always want things both ways? Oh yeah, I forgot. It's okay if you are a Republican. Otherwise known as IOKIYAR for short. What a bunch of crybabies. And McCain is way too old to be playing these infantile games.
On the other hand, people do regress into childhood as their brains deteriorate and dementia sets in.
You see, I make less than $28,000 gross income in a whole year. I'm just a college teacher. Actually, that's only partially true; in fact, I'm an award-winning college teacher with almost 30 years of experience teaching across the curriculum, especially in subject areas like math, economics, finance, and even English grammar disciplines where not all that many competent teachers are available. The ticket price for your meet-the-candidate night is out of my price range because what I contribute to this society is far less than the gate price for spending a few hours close to you and Barbra. That's how it works, of course: you get your rewards, I get mine; it's just that yours are better because you're a better person who knows better people who have better things to give you.
Still, you might be thinking that I could surely borrow the money to pay for a seat at your fundraiser, but that option probably isn't available to me. Last year, I wasn't even approved for a loan to get a tooth pulled; the high-risk loan company the dentist uses turned me down. Lord! but that was embarrassing: I was lying in the chair in the dentist's office when the office manager came in with the bad news. Geez, you can probably imagine how red my face was. I had to get up and leave. Fortunately, I maintained my decorum: I mean, just because the infection in my jaw was going all systemic, and I was probably not very far from the point of no return, I couldn't make a fuss about it. I am most certain that you wouldn't have made a scene, either.
Oh, that's right. You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you? You're rich.
In fact, from where I stand, you're not just rich, you're filthy rich. Putting it bluntly, sir, in terms of class warfare, you belong to the tribe on the other side of the battlefield.
So does your rival, John McCain. You say he "doesn't get it," but neither do you. Rich people don't get it because rich people can't get it. None of you rich people get it; and don't tell me that you, sir, are somehow so special, so enlightened, that you understand something that is entirely, completely, and utterly outside your world experience. It doesn't work that way. It cannot, so please spare me your phony empathy and get yourself to that $28,000-a-seat fundraiser with all those rich and famous people who share your cluelessness.
I mustn't spend much time on this letter to you because I have to get back to the task of preparing the Mother of All Head Ripping Letters to that loathsome Alaskan crab, Sarah Palin. It's taking me some time to get my hard-core paleo-conservative into full gear for that one, and I'm going to miss a lot of my liberal friends who will, once and for all, abandon me for the angle of attack I'm going to take on her, considering I'm going to blame them as much as the conservatives for what she and her family are. I'll probably lose a few more of my liberal friends openly publishing this letter to you, too. It seems some of your supporters have become the very beasts they so despised from the George W. Bush era: menacing, threatening, harassing, blind followers of their guy. That's okay. President Bush's trolls helped me get ready for yours. Your thugs might not be as meaty in the hind quarters, but they more than make up for it with the blood-curdling screams of self-righteous enlightenment they emit during mating season.
Anyway, before I get down and serious with the glad work of laying into that wretched excuse for a mess called Sarah Palin (and her husband, too), I did need to let you know that I won't be at your big-ticket fundraiser. I owe you that much, considering you might want to have a few low-lives around to show the liberal elite living in the exurbs of Hollywood and Vine just how in-touch with the little people you are. I am truly disappointed that I won't be there for you, but it's important for you to know that I'm okay with it, and you should be, too.
I'm nothing like you, Senator, and we wouldn't get along. Aside from the fact that you and your staff ignored me on several occasions when I sought constituent service, and aside from the fact that you and I both know that you're cut from the cloth of corrupt Illinois politics I condemn, we wouldn't get along just because you and I come from completely different worlds; and even though you pretend to "get it," I know you don't, and I consider people who pretend to get it wildly uninteresting to be around. In turn, you would be bothered by the mere fact that I had been able to get close to you after all the times you and your congressional staff had been so successful in putting me down, spinning me around, and turning me away. You'd also be annoyed by the way I would keep rolling my eyes every time you put on your self-important airs. You'd probably just hate it when I burst out laughing as you told the audience that a "light" was going to shine down from "somewhere" inspiring them to vote for you.
I swear, I'd try to keep a straight face, but I'm afraid there's no way. Politicians using corny lines I can handle; politicians rehashing corny lines I used to hear at Baptist revivals is too much. I wish you'd leave the religious whacko stuff to Sarah Palin; it accessorizes better with her vicious persona and church-lady pumps.
Look, sir, here's the thing. That $28,000-a-seat gig you're doing is where you belong. It's who you really are: you're a rich guy who grew up rich. You never knew unfulfilled needs, much less unprovided wants. Beyond basics like food, shelter, and safety, you got what you got because you were from a well-to-do family. Kudos to your mom for being choosy: that second one of hers, Lulu Soetoro, was a stroke of genius. It's no wonder where you learned how to work the circuit.
You got your food, you got your shelter, you got your safety, you got your sense of place in the world, you got your road to self-actualization. Even academically, guys like you just about always finish on top: somehow, it's you rich kids who always seem to be full of talents, just bursting with potential, regardless of how mediocre you really are. The Kennedys, the Bushes, the McCains, and thousands of other kids from fancy families: you all get the gate pass to specialness that regular kids rarely even know exists. I'm a college teacher, and when I teach at the private schools, I know better than to give students like you anything but the "gentlemen's grades" lest I suffer unspeakable, if behind-the-back, vengeance from administration. You're like the star athletes I've taught at the big public university, except that I could get away with flunking one or two of those dumbbells every decade. Not your kind, though: rich kids have rich parents who pour the money into the swollen coffers of the alumni fund. Daring to do anything other than join the parade tossing high grades, honors, awards, and top praise to kids from rich, powerful families is an invitation to career suicide.
So it goes. The poor live their lives at the behest of economic, social, intergenerational, and cultural forces that are only infrequently, randomly surmountable; rich kids like you, on the other hand, get to choose your adversities. John McCain, a rich but mediocre man, walked in Hell for five-and-a-half years. That does not qualify him for President; neither, of course, does it speak to a trivial man and a trifling life. You, a rich but mediocre man, have placed yourself in the same path of the great harm for which men like Martin Luther King, Jr. paid with their lives. That does not qualify you for President; but, again, neither does it speak to a trivial man and a trifling life.
However, neither your own risks at the hands of maniacal racists nor John McCain's suffering at the hands of sub-human torturers has much to do with what this country needs. Whether it be John McCain's thorough absence of understanding of how badly injured this nation is right now or your disingenuous pretense of knowing what it's like to be a common citizen of that hurting nation, it is simply unconscionable that your respective parties want us to believe that you two are the best America can offer its electorate. You are not.
At the very least, I hope to God you are not. If you are, then this republic is at its end. While it might grovel forward of its sheer size and residual power for another century or more, as the Roman Empire did in its decline, if you two are the best hope we have for leadership, then I shall be able to lie down to my eternal sleep knowing with certainty that America will be at the burning pyre of the dead not long after my ashes have gone cold.
I wish that either you or John McCain would step aside for greatness; unfortunately, you were both raised to believe it is you bearing greatness when, in fact, your mutual claim to the estate of fine destiny was bought and paid for long before you stepped up to the podium of public power.
I won't be at your $28,000-per-seat gala event, Senator. You go, though. Bask in the fawning light of the many others whose greatness is the pre-paid gift that blinds them to their own mediocrity, even as it causes them to labor under the illusion that they possess that which cannot be bought. For most of the attendees, the folly of their delusion means nothing, for they will never be more than confetti at the circuses their handlers hold for the commoners. For you, the folly of the lie that you somehow "get it" will be the continued parade to the grave of this nation even as you vow to deal with the misery being visited upon this country's backbone of citizens. That vow of yours comes from a place of irreparable detachment; as such, it is every bit as hollow as the promises uttered by the corrupted, addled man who stands as your opponent.
Go to that big-bucks event, Senator. Have your fill of the shallow people who gladly pay more than I make in a whole year just to be close to you. When you're finished with being in the midst of your kind, hurry back out to wade for a while into the masses of people who will listen to you tell them that you "get it." People are gullible, and they're particularly gullible when they have so few reasons to hold onto hope. Walk among the lower classes, sir. Tell them you "get it." Lie to them.
Who knows? Despite all your efforts to deal only in photo ops, showpiece programs, and staged platforms for your own advancement, maybe someday you'll run into me. I'll be the person who tells you to your face that you're nothing but a mediocre rich kid all grown up and ready to pretend you're not clueless.
That, or I'll just start laughing. It's a bad habit I have when I get too close to mediocre messiahs.
And by the way, Sen. Obama, if you have the chance while you're at that $28,000-a-seat party, could you get Barbra Streisand's autograph for me? I have no use for it, myself, but I can sell something like that on eBay for enough money to get another tooth pulled before the infection underneath it kills me. I might even have some left over so I can buy gas to get to work.
During a recent interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Marie Claire magazine noted that McCain has run ads comparing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and asked, “Which celebrity would like to be compared to?” McCain’s answer — Jack Bauer. When the magazine noted that Bauer “is a torturer,” McCain backed off: “That’s where Jack and I disagree.” [...]
In June, when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addressed the graduating class of commission students at her one-time church, Wasilla Assembly of God, she “painted the current war in Iraq as a messianic affair in which the United States could act out the will of the Lord.” [snip]
In a statement to the New York Sun yesterday, McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb endorsed Palin’s comments “100%”:
“This is an incredibly humble statement, a statement that this campaign stands by 100%, and a sentiment that any religious American will share — the hope that our country’s actions are indeed righteous,” a campaign spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, said.
Today at a rally with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in Ohio, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) once again repeated the lie that she opposed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska:
You’re going to hear a lot about the abusive practice of earmarks in Congress from our good senator here. We championed, in Alaska, the reform of the old earmark process. We told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere up in Alaska.” If our state wanted a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) write today in the Wall Street Journal that the “bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is another outrageous, but sadly necessary, step for these two institutions.” [snip]
The feigned outrage of McCain and Palin at the inaction of Congress and the influence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lobbyists is ironic considering the fact that “at least 20 McCain fundraisers have lobbied on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” in recent years.
More troubling is the fact that McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, “served as president of an advocacy group led by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” that worked to cripple regulatory initiatives in Congress because the two institutions feared that “Congressional meddling would lower their healthy profits. As the Politico reported in July:
“Davis headed the Homeownership Alliance, a lobbying association that included Fannie, Freddie, nonprofit groups, real estate agents, homebuilders and consumer advocates. … [The group] worked to oppose congressional efforts to tighten controls on Fannie and Freddie.
GOP operative: Rove has ‘consistent, medium-sized role with the McCain campaign.’
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, one reason Rove may be reluctant to admit his ties to the McCain campaign is the fact that he is also reported to be “developing outside groups” to help Republicans and John McCain in November. It is illegal for outside groups to coordinate with campaigns.
I have lost my interest in what passes for politics in this country. It's the same old thing everyday, except worse. Issues are passe. Logical thinking has gone out the window and all that is left are lies, innuendo, cover-ups, stupidity, name calling, and downright bullshit. We are going to have four more years of the same old shit, except that the country will be in worse shape than it is now.
In another four years, this country will be so unrecognizable that they will probably change the name, just like they do with any other product that has lost its market share and the crew without a clue will think that the citizenry will fall for anything pretty and shiny. Which we do. Our country will effectively be the New Coke. And we all know how well that didn't turn out.
While Fannie, Freddie, and Bear Stearns get bailouts for playing with the country's future and making tons of money for their executives, the rest of us are quickly sinking in quicksand. I'm down to my nose at this point, which has the advantage of blocking the smell of the crap flying through the air, but breathing is becoming difficult and eating is out of the question.
Freedom isn't the last thing you lose, hope is. I always thought I would be immune since I come from stock that was either ruled by one of the world's worst dictators (Hitler), and on the other side trampled underfoot by a country that disregards the achievements of those who are not considered white. I was wrong. I'm drowning in a Depression (like a good portion of America) that was specifically engineered to make those at the top rich and happy while creating a stable bottom of an uneducated underclass that will toil for the rest of their short lives (due to poor medical care they can't afford and schooling that consists of a book of fiction handed down for generations under the guise of religion) until they are replaced by younger versions of themselves with even less thinking ability.
Many years ago my father asked me if the blacks in Africa were smarter than the blacks in America. I, being a true blue American, answered the blacks in America were smarter because we had education and opportunities that Africans lacked. His response was that any slaves in America that showed initiative or intelligence were culled from the herd so their genes wouldn't be passed down. It's now forty years later and the proof is in the pudding. Even without the nose ring we are being led down the path of our destruction, placing the stones so the next generation will have an easier slide downhill. And the sad part? You don't have to be black to be considered one of the untouchables.
The Republicans got what they wanted, a black candidate to run against. They didn't want to run against Hillary because there was nothing they could throw at her that hadn't already been thrown. For the last eight years what passes for news has been preoccupied with pretty white women who have disappeared and now they have a candidate who fits all their criteria for newsworthiness except that she isn't missing and is being touted as a savior from the black Messiah. And guess who's falling for it, the average television watcher who hasn't had an original thought in the last eight years that wasn't spoon fed to them from some pundit that was being paid by the administration.
I've watched my life go up in flames while I was busy doing all the things (getting my Masters with a school loan I can't repay) they said would give me a good career and enable me to be part of the ownership society. Little did I know that what they really wanted was for me to be so far in debt ($99K and counting for a skill that I can't use) that slavery would look good by comparison and that I would be the one who was owned, not an owner. It says a lot about the loss of the American dream when one hopes that their mother passes before she has to spend the end of her life under the same conditions in which she came into the world. A major Depression, a nutjob for a leader and a country that has lost its way so badly that it couldn't find the way back to the American dream with a map, two hands and a flashlight.
Am I depressed? You betcha. Will drugs help? No, but they might prevent me from caring so much. But that is all beside the point, with no job, no health insurance and no prospects, I wouldn't be able to afford them anyway. All I have that lets me know I'm alive are the incessant phone calls from creditors (those will stop soon, once the phone is turned off), the bills beseeching threatening me with dire consequences to pay them when my bank balance is negative ($-37.46 at the moment and for the next few weeks), no gas in the car (it's just below E and I don't think that means enough) and watching my passive aggressive mother slip deeper into dementia. If I'm gone longer than an hour or two, the mischief she creates undoes any relaxation I might have found. You know your life is teetering on the edge of a precipice when you consider grocery shopping to be relaxation and the tons of email you get consist of thousands of payday loan applications. And you read them hoping they will help. No wonder loan sharks are going out of business. Even they think 200% interest is a little high.
Was my life better off eight years ago? Yes, yes, yes. I was doing so well that I was able to afford the $857 a month to pay off my school loan. Now, I don't even make $857 a month. Maybe in another state I could afford to live on so little, but California isn't one of them. And it isn't wise to upset a person with dementia (at the moment that would be mom, but something tells me I'm not going to be far behind) with a new environment.
Change is definitely coming, but people have forgotten that change isn't always good. And that getting what you think you want, isn't always as good for you as you think it is.
What I wouldn't give to have a good laugh, one that isn't at anybody's expense and truly comes from the heart.
"The fact is that Gov. Palin learned that earmarks are bad and she did say, we don't need our bridge to nowhere, and we will pay for it ourselves if we need it. I mean, that is just a fact."
Meanwhile, McCain adviser Tucker Bounds appeared today on MSNBC, where he acknowledged that Palin used to favor the bridge, but said she turned against it for good reasons.
"But as it became more wasteful, the budget ballooned, it became a staple for wasteful spending, she said No," Bounds said. "And she was the one that drove the nail in the coffin that killed the bridge to nowhere."
Bottom line: Palin did not tell Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks," on the bridge. It was Congress who cut off the money to Alaska. Oh, and she didn't Say No To Pork, either -- when Congress wouldn't spend that money on the Bridge, Congress did allow her to keep it for other projects. And she did.
We've now had a week of blaring headlines and one-liners about Sarah Palin as the mavericky, pork-busting reformer from Alaska. But we seem to be witnessing the first stirrings of a backlash and a dawning realization that the 'Sarah Palin' we've heard so much about over the last few days is a fraud of truly comical dimensions.
Palin is all for accountability, but only when the finger is pointing at somebody else it seems.
The Palin administration won't release hundreds of emails from her office, claiming they cover confidential policy matters. Then why do the subject lines refer to a political foe, a journalist, and non-policy topics?
Seriously. Just what is Todd Palin's role in the governance of Alaska, anyway? And what might we expect it to be in a McCain/Palin administration? So far, all of the stories that have emerged have been about Todd weighing in on using the levers of state power to punish his personal enemies. Surely the Palin team will want to enlighten us about all the wonderful and life-affirming things Todd has contributed along the way, no?
In the meantime, mull it over in your mind that in the US Attorneys firings, the Bush White House is claiming the same executive and deliberative process privileges even for conversations they claim the President had no part in. If you can make both that claim and the claim that conversations the executive freely shares with people outside of government, what's not subject to "executive privilege?"
Palin’s first gaffe: Claims Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac are taxpayer-funded.
Speaking in Colorado this weekend, Gov. Sarah Palin tried to explain the recent federal bailout by claiming that lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” The companies, however, “aren’t taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in a taxpayer bailout during reorganization,” McClatchy noted.
Welcome to the fray Mrs. Super-Hockey Mom. After tonight the friendly crowds go away and then you will be left to defend your positions and your past. You will have to explain why you fired that guy who refused to deliver your payback to your brother in law. You will have to explain how a “reformer” raises taxes 38% and saddled her home town with a 22 million dollar debt. Maybe you bought the GOP talking points they made up for you. You know, all that malarkey about having “steel in your spine” and what not. Plays well with the red meat crowd you had in front of you last night giving you a five minute standing ovation for having done nothing. Here is the problem though. You don’t have to convince them Sarah. They were voting for John McCain even if a moose were on the ticket with him.
No Sarah, it is those pesky independents you need to convince, or maybe even some disaffected Hillary followers. [snip] You will have to convince them what you bring to the table besides those sharp teeth of yours. You see Sarah, while you were busy being an “executive” of a town smaller than your average corporation, the rest of the country was going through the worst eight years in recent memory. Unemployment has skyrocketed. Wages are declining. Healthcare is unaffordable. Gas has gone from $11 a barrel to $140. Milk and electricity are through the roof. We are in a war that has now been proven to be based on lies and thousands of our kids are dead because of it. Our infrastructure is collapsing and our dollar is devalued. Despite the delusions of our current First Lady, education is an unmitigated disaster. These are not subtleties to the American people Sarah and they are not wiped away by clever sound bites spoken by people who have no clue what they are actually talking about. You see Sarah these problems are all the result of the failed policies of George W. Bush and the GOP controlled Congress. Your boy John McCain was not only part of that congress but in his own words, no one has supported President Bush more than he has. That is why people call him McBush and they are painfully aware that he represents nothing but McSame. He has embraced the Bush economic policies and war policies. He has now even flip-flopped on torture.
This is your platform Sarah. I understand that you really couldn’t talk much about it last night because you can’t sell it to the American people. That is why they wrote your speech the way they did. They trotted out the Super-Hockey-Mom in moose clothing and hoped that people wouldn’t notice the wolf within. So you can pout all you like and draw your little faux lines in the sand. The media will continue to treat you as they should; as someone who is claiming to be something they are not. You get no special privileges Sarah. You can belittle and mock people and talk off the script that they give you but it will not fool the people you need to fool. They will see you for what you are.
It's legit; and widely posted. On Sept. 1st, Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny wrote to about 40 family members and friends who kept asking about Sarah Palin. This is her six-page response which brought Kilkenny global attention. She's been interviewed by ABC, NBC and CNN, as well as NPR and mainstream newspapers from around the globe. Because this email is widely posted, it's reproduced here. I've left any misspellings intact, but bolded the headings.
From: Anne Kilkenny (email address redacted)
Date: September 1, 2008 12:20:01 AM PDT
Subject: re: SARAH PALIN
So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Tell the truth anyway." ~Rady Ananda
I have once mentioned and quoted the feedback of one of my former classmates who lives in Alaska, and his thoughts on Sarah Palin. Well this email if from one of his friends, who is a school Principal and has experience working with and advising Governors and others in Alaska. This is the email he sent to those who were asking him about SarahPalin.
It's enlightening for sure.
Please enjoy and share!
My brother sent this note regarding his impressions about Sarah Palin
(McCain's baffling VP choice). I thought it was interesting coming from
his inside-Alaska perspective, and worth passing along. For those who
don't know my brother, he is a principal of a school up in Alaska,
where he and his wife also teach. THey've been Alaskan transplants for
about 10 years.
From: Peter Date: August 29, 2008 11:58:15 PM PDT
Good evening, lots of friends and relatives have been asking me (as an
Alaskan) what I think of Sarah Palin, our Governor, and new choice for
McCain as a VP candidate.
Here it goes:
This pick floored me. Sarah Palin is a nice person. I've met her, I've
even talked to her for a few minutes at a principal's conference a
couple of years ago. She has lots going for her superficially. She
speaks from the heart, like a spitfire mother; she can even be sort of
funny sometimes. She is quite beautiful; athletic, and has that
radiant glow of someone who actually spends time doing things outside.
Unlike many politicians, she has lived a 'real life' and done things
that few living and working in DC could ever do....like dipnettin' fish,
shootin' stuff and eating it out on the tundra, and havin' 5 kids.
Personally, I'd never vote for her. She has an extremely simple view of
the world. I don't even think she has ever been abroad. As governor
she has repeatedly shown us that she is unable to grasp the demands of
leadership. She is very prone to cronyism of the worst kind. Every
cabinet level political appointment she has made she has over-ridden
suggestions of our state advisory boards, and instead promoted those who
had granted her direct political favors. Not that other politicians
don't do this, they do, but most of them are able to balance their
appointments to ensure that at least a few people with real skill and
experience are running big state agencies.
She also has been unable to pay attention to her Alaskan constituency.
Personally, I've written several of our previous gov's and been asked to
comment publicly on education policy. All the previous gov's have
always acknowledged that contribution, criticism or comment; sometimes
by direct reply, or at least by that of a staff member. Palin's office
has been a zone of silence. Not I, nor one person I know commenting has
ever gotten any sort of reply. Her claim of running an open or
transparent government is totally false; the public simply has no role
in her administration.
Her previous claim to fame was being mayor of Wasilla, a growing town
about 40 minutes from Anchorage of about 15,000 people. Wasilla is a
hellhole, even by Alaskan standards, where there are plenty of hellhole
towns and villages. Wasilla is an ugly place that shows a complete
absence of planning, design, or sense of public vision. Gov't agencies
and services are completely overrun in this town; things are so bad that
they can't even track their population or build schools in the right
place, because most parts of the town don't require building permits, so
the only clue about where people are settling are utility receipts.
Imagine trying to be an emergency responder in this kind of place:
Houses don't just catch on fire in Wasilla, they burn to the ground,
because by the time the fire department has figured out which road to
take (no signs) or whose house it is (no directory), the place is done
for. Palin was mayor this town for at least 2 terms
before being elected gov. a year and a half ago.
Her moral sense is simplistic and not inclusive. She is the sort of
person who is used to using their 'faith' to divide and isolate minority
groups of human beings instead of uniting them. To her credit as Gov.
she has kept out of this arena pretty well, but when in comfortable
company (i.e the Matanuska Valley Republican Women's Club), she lets her
moral cat out of the bag.
I will do what I can to ensure her defeat and that of her running mate
as well. Please share this information with those who can use it
On what may have been the most brilliant first 15 minutes of "The Daily Show" ever (Wednesday night, September 3), Jon Stewart did one of his "X vs. X"/point-counterpoint segments that nailed how this works.
First he had Karl Rove claiming Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia had too thin a resume to be Obama's Vice President, but, of course, now Rove is saying that Sarah Palin is eminently qualified to be a vice presidential candidate.
You had Bill O'Reilly saying that with the Jamie Spears pregnancy the fault lies with the parents. Of course, with the Bristol Palin pregnancy, it's a private family matter and the fault does not lie with the parents.
You had Dick Morris saying that Hillary Clinton used charges of sexism to "hide behind her apron strings." And, right on cue, you had Morris claiming that Palin is the victim of liberal media sexism.
You had a top level female McCain advisor charging, like Morris, that Clinton was not the victim of sexism and needed to stand on her record and policies; and then the same person declare that Palin is being pilloried by a sexist press.
And as the closing "X vs. X," you had a video of Sarah Palin accusing Hillary Clinton of whining when she claimed that some of the media (Chris Matthews, for instance) had used sexist language. Of course, this is the candidate that the McCain campaign is trying to protect from an Alaskan avalanche of revelations by charging that the reporting of her record and hypocrisy is due to sexism in the media.
It was a knock-out finish to 15 minutes of the best "reporting" on the Republican convention, with Stewart and his staff at the top of their ironic truth-revealing form.
There are many reasons why most Americans should be turned off by Republican presidential candidate John McCain's last-minute choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. [snip]
But the real reason Palin, the former mayor of little Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 5,000 when she was there) and two-year governor of Alaska, is a disastrous pick for the vice presidency on a ticket headed by an ailing 72-year-old presidential candidate who has suffered two bouts of melanoma and who is showing early signs of dementia, is the evidence that she has abused power as governor.
We've had eight years of a president and vice president who have abused their executive power, using the awesome capabilities of the state to spy on Americans, inserting fake news in the media, pressuring news organizations not to run important stories, silencing protests by penning in all critics in remote "free speech" zones, attacking individual critics with White House-directed campaigns that border on treason, as in the case of the outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame, whose husband had criticized a Bush argument for invading Iraq, and threatening government scientists who wanted to report their legitimate findings on climate change.
We have seen over these past eight years just what abuse of power can do to destroy democratic government and a free society. [snip]
One thing is clear: Whatever Palin's troglodyte social and political views, Americans don't need another vice president who views public office as an opportunity to abuse his or her power for personal or political vendettas.
When Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain's Vice Presidential pick, I found it a little disturbing that she told the public that her oldest son, Track, would be deploying to Iraq on September 11. Generally, disclosing the date of deployment is against Operational Security (OPSEC) and illegal.
Calling around to a couple of Public Affairs Officers (PAO) who would be handling the flow of information about Track and his unit, VoteVets.org found out that, first, Track is not deploying on September 11. He may be part of a deployment ceremony that day, before going to Kuwait, though one Public Affairs Officer said that any details of the upcoming ceremony hadn't been made public yet by the military.
Governor Palin may have spilled the beans on that one, while showing she doesn't know the difference between a soldier deploying to Iraq vs. one preparing to deploy to Iraq. And while not illegal, if she really did believe that's when he's deploying to Iraq, then she didn't know enough to keep quiet about that to keep from violating OPSEC - something a potential Commander in Chief should know.
But, more disturbing, and definitely in violation of security, are an explosion of stories that say specifically where in Iraq Track is deploying to, which have been dutifully eaten up by right wing websites, and reprinted. I will not reprint it here, because I would only be compounding the issue. [snip]
It is simply impossible that any reporter could figure this out on their own. [snip]
Did the Pentagon release that information to the press?
No, according to another PAO that VoteVets.org talked with. In fact, this PAO said, the military was actively trying to quash this story, and keep reporters from repeating all these details, because it was a clear OPSEC violation. The PAO was adamant that the military has no idea how these details got out there and doesn't want them out there.
So where is this information coming from, if not the military? [snip]
Whoever that is, is in it deep.
Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview
Three months before she was thrust into the national political spotlight, Gov. Sarah Palin was asked to handle a much smaller task: addressing the graduating class of commission students at her one-time church, Wasilla Assembly of God.
Her speech in June provides as much insight into her policy leanings as anything uncovered since she was asked to be John McCain's running mate.
Speaking before the Pentecostal church, Palin painted the current war in Iraq as a messianic affair in which the United States could act out the will of the Lord.
"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God," she exhorted the congregants. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."
Religion, however, was not strictly a thread in Palin's foreign policy. It was part of her energy proposals as well.
Since the McCain campaign apparently didn't even bother Googling Sarah Palin before picking her to join the Republican ticket, we've taken it upon ourselves to compile some important -- and terrifying -- revelations about Palin.
Welcome to the People's Republic of Alaska, where every resident this year will get a $3,200 payout, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Sarah Palin, the state's Republican governor. That's $22,400 for a family of seven, like Palin's. Since 1982, the Alaska Permanent Fund, which invests oil revenues from state lands, has paid out a dividend on invested oil loot to everyone who has been in the state for a year. But Palin upped the ante by joining with Democrats and some recalcitrant Republican state legislators to share in oil company windfall profits, further fattening state tax revenue and permitting an additional payout in tax funds to residents.
No wonder she is popular with voters in a state whose residents pay no income or sales taxes but are blessed with state coffers rolling in cash at a time when all other states are suffering. Indeed, when the oil companies pay more taxes to the state of Alaska, they get to write that off against their federal tax obligation, leaving the rest of us to make up the shortfall.
The state of Alaska owns most of the oil-producing land and was getting upward of 85 percent of its budget from the oil companies that lease the fields, even before Palin helped increase the state's cut. [snip]
Why is it a good thing for the folks up in Alaska to get a cut of exorbitant oil company profits, but not the rest of us, if we are all part of one nation? Didn't taxpayers from across the U.S. buy the place from the Russians? Isn't it our federally collected tax dollars that have been subsidizing Alaska more lavishly than any other state, both before and after the bonanza of oil?
Just witness the success of Palin, who, as mayor of the hamlet of Wasilla, hired a big-time lobbying firm intimately connected with the state's now-indicted Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and thus obtained $27 million in federal earmarks during her tenure. As The Washington Post calculated in a devastating report on Mayor Palin's assault on the federal treasury, her home town of Wasilla (with about 6,000 inhabitants in 2002 when she was mayor) received $6.1 million, or $1,000 per resident in earmarks, almost as much as Boise, Idaho, got this year with a population that is 30 times larger.
It obviously helped to have Alaska's now-indicted senator as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. And despite McCain's claims that Palin distinguished herself by breaking with Alaska's discredited Republican establishment in February, the governor sent Stevens a request for $200 million to support various state projects. With representatives like that, it's no wonder that Alaska, despite its oil boom, is still at the top of states subsidized by federal dollars, receiving $1.84 back from Washington for every $1 that Alaskans pay in federal taxes. (California receives 78 cents for every $1.)
Obstruction: McCain tries to delay Troopergate report
ABC News is reporting that the McCain campaign is using stall tactics in order to delay the release of the report, currently slated to be handed down at the end of October. [snip]
Palin’s attorney has decided to pursue a rather bizarre line of defense, arguing against the probe on the following grounds:
“Our concern is that Hollis French [the Anchorage Democrat and former state prosecutor who is project director for the legislative investigation] turns into Ken Starr and uses public money to pursue a political vendetta rather than truly pursue an honest inquiry into an alleged ethics issue,” Van Flein said in an interview.
You heard right: Palin’s attorney is admitting that Ken Starr’s investigation into former President Clinton wasn’t an honest inquiry, but rather a politically-motivated vendetta. I certainly have sympathy for the victims of poltically-motivated vendettas, but in this case Sarah Palin isn’t the victim; the upstanding public safety commissioner she fired, Walt Monegan, is.
As if we needed another sign that Sarah Palin has decided to stonewall the Trooper-Gate investigation, ABC News reports this afternoon that lawyers for her aide Frank Bailey have cancelled Bailey's scheduled deposition in the investigation.
Bailey is central to the case. In phone recordings released last month as part of a parallel probe by the state Attorney General, Bailey suggested that Palin and her husband wanted trooper Mike Wooten -- who has been embroiled in a messy family dispute with the Palins -- removed from his job.
Since there is widespread agreement that the children of candidates should not become topics of campaign debate, it behooves us to note that the McCain campaign has almost singlehandedly made Sarah Palin's daughter a central figure in the Republican convention. [snip]
And now the McCain campaign has staged a ceremonial laying-on-of-hands on the tarmac in St. Paul in which Sen. McCain has given his official blessing to the young couple and embrace of Bristol's boyfriend Levi.
You can see brief video of the event here... [ 0:44 ]
Let's be clear about what's happening here. Overwhelmingly, reporters are pressing eminently reasonable questions -- her role in troopergate, her lack of experience, her connections to the AIP, her history of earmarking and lobbyists, etc. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is going absolutely non-stop about Palin's daughter. It is unmistakable.
And if you're interested, here's the transcript...
Chuck Todd: Mike Murphy, lots of free advice, we'll see if Steve Schmidt and the boys were watching. We'll find out on your blackberry. Tonight voters will get their chance to hear from Sarah Palin and she will get the chance to show voters she's the right woman for the job Up next, one man who's already convinced and he'll us why Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Peggy Noonan: Yeah.
Mike Murphy: You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor world: Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. I mean, these guys -- this is how you win a Texas race, just run it up. And it's not gonna work. And --
PN: It's over.
MM: Still McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good.
CT: I also think the Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too.
PN: Saw Kay this morning.
CT: Yeah, she's never looked comfortable about this --
MM: They're all bummed out.
CT: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?
PN: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me-- political bullshit about narratives --
CT: Yeah they went to a narrative.
MM: I totally agree.
PN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.
MM: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.
CT: This is cynical, and as you called it, gimmicky.
TIME's Joe Klein rips the McCain camp, calls them 'angry amateurs'
The story of the day out here in Minneapolis is the McCain campaign's war against the press....
So what's going on here? Two things. McCain is just plain angry at us. By the evidence presented in the utterly revealing Time interview, he's ballistic. This is a politician who needs to see himself as the man on the white horse, boldly traversing a muddy field...any intimations that he's gotten muddied in the process, or has decided to throw mud, are intolerable.
The second thing is more insidious: Steve Schmidt has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press. He wants the public to believe that there is an unfair--sexist (you gotta love it)--personal assault going on against Palin and her family. This is a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from the very real and responsible vetting that is taking place in the media--about the substance of Palin's record as mayor and governor....
There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is "a task from God." The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.
Keep in mind, McCain now thinks the NYT, TIME and CNN are all out to get him, he can't stand Tom Brokaw, and doesn't trust CBS. At some point, it all starts to sound a bit unhinged.
Sarah's sister, Molly, married a guy named Mike Wooten who is an Alaska State Trooper. Mike and Molly had a rocky marriage. When the marriage broke up, there was a bitter custody fight that is still ongoing. During the custody investigation, all sorts of things were brought up about Wooten including the fact that he had illegally shot a moose (yes folks this is Alaska), driven drunk, and used a taser (on the test setting, he reminds us) on his 11-year old stepson, who supposedly had asked to see what it felt like. While Wooten has turned out to be a less than stellar figure, the fact that Palin’s father accompanied him on the infamous moose hunt, and that many of the dozens of charges brought up by the Palin family happened long before they were ever reported smacked of desperate custody fight. Wooten’s story is that he was basically stalked by the family.
After all this, Wooten was investigated and disciplined on two counts and allowed to kept his position with the troopers. Enter Walt Monegan, Palin’s appointed new chief of the Department of Public Safety and head of the troopers. Monegan was beloved by the troopers, did a bang-up job with minimal funding and suddenly got axed. Palin was out of town and Monegan got “offered another job” (aka fired) with no explanation to Alaskans. Pressure was put on the governor to give details, because rumors started to swirl around the fact that the highly respected Monegan was fired because he refused to fire the aforementioned Mike Wooten. Palin vehemently denied ever talking to Monegan or pressuring Monegan in any way to fire Wooten, or that anyone on her staff did. Over the weeks it has come out that not only was pressure applied, there were literally dozens of conversations in which pressure was applied to fire him. Monegan has testified to this fact, spurring an ongoing investigation by the Alaska state legislature. But, beforethis investigation got underway, Palin sent the Alaska State Attorney General out to do some investigative work of his own so she could find out in advance what the real investigation was going to find. (No, I’m not making this up). The AG interviewed several people, unbeknownst to the actual appointed investigator or the Legislature! Palin’s investigation of herself uncovered a recorded phone call retained by the Alaska State Troopers from Frank Bailey, a Palin underling, putting pressure on a trooper about the Wooten non-firing. Todd Palin (governor’s husband) even talked to Monegan himself in Palin’s office while she was away. Bailey is now on paid administrative leave.
As if this weren’t enough, Monegan’s appointed replacement Chuck Kopp, turns out to have been the center of his own little scandal. He received a letter of reprimand and was reassigned after sexual harassment allegations by a former coworker who didn’t like all the unwanted kissing and hugging in the office. Was he vetted? Obviously not. When he was questioned about all this, his comment was that no one had asked him and he thought they all knew. Kopp, defiant, still claimed to have done nothing wrong and said to the press that there was no way he was stepping down from his new position. Twenty four hours later, he stepped down. Later it was uncovered that he received a $10,000 severance package for his two weeks on the job from Palin. Monegan got nothing.
Gov. Sarah Palin thinks the Founding Fathers wrote the Pledge of Allegiance — including the phrase ‘under God’. No, really. The Christian Right has made this a huge talking point for their cause, but they never tell you that it was never part of the original pledge. I’ve had this clip of the pledge from the 1945 movie The Bells of St Mary’s sitting on my servers for a long time and finally found a good use for it. Notice — there is no “under God” in it.
Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to quietly have her daughter Bristol get married before news of her pregnancy leaked out, the NATIONAL ENQUIRER is reporting exclusively in its new issue.
Palin planned for the wedding to take place right after the Republican National Convention and then she was going to announce the pregnancy.
But Bristol, 17, refused to go along with the plan and that sparked a mother-daughter showdown over the failed coverup.
The ultra-conservative governor’s announcement about her daughter’s pregnancy came hours after The ENQUIRER informed her representatives and family members of Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol’s child, that we were aware of the pregnancy and were going to break the news.
In a preemptive strike Palin released the news, creating political shockwaves.
The ENQUIRER has also learned that Palin’s family is embroiled in a vicious war that is now exposing her darkest secrets, threatening to destroy her political career.
Palin’s ongoing war with her ex brother-in-law Mike Wooten, a state trooper, has caused multiple sources to come forward with shocking allegations about the governor.
Details of those allegations, the family feud, and Palin’s attempt to cover up her teen daughter’s pregnancy are in the new issue of The ENQUIRER.
"If you're sitting here today, you're not economically illiterate and you're not a whiner, so I'm not worried about who you're going to vote for," Gramm told supporters of McCain at a Financial Services Roundtable event in Minneapolis on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.
So Americans who aren't at the convention are whiners? Nice. Remember, Phil Gramm is up for a cabinet post in the John McCain/Sarah Palin administration.
Top Ten Most Disturbing Facts and Impressions of Sarah Palin
AlterNet editors have collected a list some of the major issues that are bubbling up about Palin. Here are our top 10 most disturbing facts, rumors and impressions of Sarah Palin, gathered in the past two days:
1: Palin supports gunning down wolves from planes
2: Palin doesn't believe global warming is man-made
3: Palin is the candidate of powerful far right-wing cabal; her nomination seals their support for the little-wanted McCain
4: Palin staunchly opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest
5: Palin takes unnecessary risks with the health of her own child, supports failed abstinence-only programs
6: Palin is under investigation for allegedly abusing her power as governor to help her sister in a messy divorce
7: Palin lied about her plans for the "Bridge to Nowhere"
8: A so-called political reformer, Palin has big money ties to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has been indicted for political corruption
9: Palin exploits her son's Iraq service for political gain
10: During her time as mayor, Palin drove a town deep into debt
You have to admire the Republican chutzpah. Still confronting a national scandal about packing the Justice Department with “loyal Bushies,” they pick a vice presidential candidate who – in her two executive jobs in Alaska – ousted top law-enforcement officials because they were insufficiently loyal or not malleable enough.
One of those firings has put Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of an ongoing legislative investigation that presumably will require her to testify about whether she was behind efforts by her husband and senior staff to pressure the state’s public safety commissioner to fire her ex-brother-in-law from the state troopers.
When the commissioner, former Anchorage police chief Walter Monegan, refused to go along, he was summarily ousted by Palin without much explanation. [snip]
However, if Palin admits that she did use her government office to punish a personal enemy – or that she fired the public safety commissioner because he refused to join in her family feud – the Republicans may have trouble continuing to sell Palin as a reform-minded governor.
Instead, Palin would appear to fit more neatly with Bush administration operatives who engineered the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and who employed ideological litmus tests in deciding who to hire for career jobs at the Justice Department. [snip]
On Aug. 2, the state legislature launched its own investigation into whether Palin “used her public office to settle a private score.” A bipartisan panel appointed special prosecutor Steve Branchflower to investigate and report back in a few months.
After Palin learned of Branchflower’s appointment, she questioned whether the investigation would be fair and objected to a comment from Democratic state Sen. Hollis French about the possibility that the case might lead to the governor’s impeachment.
Palin’s spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said, "Publicly elevating this to 'impeachment' raises doubts as to how fair a process some senators may intend for this to be." [ Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 2, 2008 ] [snip]
Still, there is a risk to McCain’s campaign that a deposition will either draw out from Palin an admission that she abused her office to pursue a personal vendetta or she will put herself at risk of having a sworn statement contradicted by others.
In the short-hand of the last presidential election, you might say that Sarah Palin was for the “bridge to nowhere” before she was against it.
Yet, when John McCain unveiled the Alaska governor as his running mate last Friday, the campaign was very successful in getting the U.S. press to frame Palin as the great reformer who killed the $233 million bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, to an airport on Gravina Island.
Woah! Did you hear that? CNN asked a vice presidential nominee, a person who may very likely be asked to fill John McCain's shoes should he die or be incapacitated in office, someone who very may well become our next commander in chief during wartime - CNN asked a McCain spokesman what national security experience Sarah Palin has? How DARE they? Clearly CNN hates America. I mean, what kind of moron cares what kind of national security experience our president has? Well, okay sure, John McCain has made national security experience the center piece of his entire campaign, so yeah, I mean, McCain thinks everything depends on the candidate's national security experience. But still, what kind of sick, depraved reporter would ask about something so personal, something so off-limits, so base as the foreign policy experience, national security experience, of a presidential candidate? Have you no shame, Campbell Brown?
All kidding aside, McCain is entering very dangerous territory here. He's already on the verge of losing his maverick brand - based in large part on his free-wheeling willingness to talk to the media whenever they wanted, and large part on his previous unwillingness to adopt the very Karl Rove-ian negative campaigning he's now adopted. And now McCain is throwing a temper tantrum, when one of McCain's biggest negatives is his over-the-top temper, that even numerous Republican Senators say is a big problem, and not very presidential (or safe). [snip]
And as an aside, McCain knows he screwed up. He's now trying to shift the story over to the "big bad media" beating up his wonderful vice presidential pick. It's the only way they know how to save themselves, shift the blame, shift the story. That's what's going on with McCain canceling the interview. They're trying to scapegoat the media, and at the same time force networks like CNN to be nicer to McCain or he won't invite them to any more barbeques.
Watch the CNN interview that so upset the McCain campaign that they're now boycotting CNN. In it, McCain's spokesman makes the preposterous claim that Sarah Palin is ready to lead our armed forces because she's "the commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard." And let's not forget, as Mrs. McCain reminded us, Alaska is close to Russia, so that means, um, it's not clear what it means. Here's the video. See for yourself what a cry-baby John McCain is.
Does anyone remember the 1993 Rush Limbaugh incident involving Chelsea Clinton, who was 13 years old at the time? Limbaugh was on TV, and he said, "Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?" He then held up a picture of Chelsea.
Welcome to 2008. The difference is obvious: in 1993, Chelsea Clinton did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing.
However, now that it's Bristol Palina 16-year-old who had pre-marital sex, got pregnant, maybe posed in some nice party pictures, and now has the full support of her Fundamentalist Christian familythe media should "back off." That is the magnanimous dictate of the junior Senator from Illinois, a man whose own birth certificate, name, and citizenship issues might still explode into the mainstream media before he is anointed the heir to the throne of failed Empire sure to erode even further under the detached, self-contained, inexperienced leadership of a politician who does not shy from messianic undertones in his campaign rhetoric.
Senator Obama apparently believes the time has come for some modicum of moderation. As President of the United States, he will learn otherwise.
This is the 21st Century. The center of moderationdegraded, dismissed, and finally crushed during the ascendance in the 1990s of the Republican Rightis now dead.
I've been thinking about Bristol Palin a lot over the past day or three. Seriously. Whether or not she had a baby who's being raised by her own mother - and no, her mother has very little to do with what I've been thinking about - she is, supposedly, now 5 months pregnant. I question whether or not raising her child herself and marriage at the ripe old age of 17 is, in fact, her free choice.
I've known some 17-year-old mothers in my time. Let me tell you about them.
The first one was fooling around with her boyfriend down in rural Florida. The girl wound up pregnant; she herself didn't have a father (he died during WWII shortly before she was born) and the boy was the oldest in a family also headed by a one-time teenage mother. They were "encouraged" to get married, and the boy began what became a career in the USAF. They wound up having two children, 51 weeks apart.
The second one was from Colorado. She found herself pregnant at 17, gave birth at 18, and surrendered her child to an adoptive family 6 weeks later. It's not clear that she consented to the adoption willingly or reluctantly. It was true, however, that she changed her mind at least 4 times in the 6 weeks between her daughter's birth and the final Total Parental Relinquishment (TPR) hearing in court. She was, I believe, also "encouraged" to choose adoption for her daughter. How much coercion went on we'll never know. Her daughter might hear that story someday. Or not. For both of their sakes, I hope she does.
Yes, I know both of these women personally. No, sadly (or maybe not so sadly), they aren't me. But that's not important. The important parts are:
1. They were both 17. In the US, they are not legally able to sign contracts without their parents either co-signing or otherwise giving their approval.
2. There is the little matter of their being able to choose what happened to them, and to their children.
In Bristol Palin's case, it's a little more complicated. Her mother would happily, cheerfully, take away the right of every woman in the US to choose for themselves what happens when they get pregnant. Or even if they get pregnant in the first place. Gov. Palin is a fan of "abstinence-only" sex education in the public schools. By definition, the only form of birth control that ever gets mentioned in an abstinence-only class is...well, you know.
Bristol Palin's story is, really, none of our business. But her mother's stance on the availability of abortion and other reproductive health services here is, and should be. Especially since she would be the VP of the oldest man ever to run for President.
Ah, yes, the messengers. (Rules?) Yes, of course, being informed by anonymity is problematical, yet the voting booth of what one chooses to believe is ultimately private and chosen -- isn't it? Ultimately, that’s the standard. (And once again why that old good liberal arts education is so essential for democracy.) As for our vaunted "media personalities" -- those (sexy!) friends for shut-ins celebrity newscasters who read and reveal the proscribed corporate network talking points -- what leg-up on credibility is that?
Thank you, Media Matters -- because, Media Matters!
part the second
Are these the internet "controls" Joe was talking about? Controls over public airways, implemented without public discussion or even knowledge?
"Copyrighted files." As in NEWS. Information.
Global treaty promises hard times for file sharers
03 July 2008
From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues
IT SOUNDS much like any other yawn-inducing cross-border treaty. But the nascent Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that's on the table at this week's G8 meeting in Japan may have far-reaching consequences. If it becomes international law, anyone who offers copyrighted files over the internet or downloads them may be labelled a criminal and forcibly disconnected from the net.
This is where ACTA comes in. ACTA would make it illegal not just to share copyrighted material, but to operate websites that index the locations of such material that people can download. It would also outlaw systems like BitTorrent or Gnutella that help users find files on "peer-to-peer" (P2P) networks of computers.
"ACTA is a Pirate Bay killer," says the team behind the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, referring to the Swedish website that claims to be the world's largest BitTorrent site. Pirate Bay has so far defied prosecution under Swedish law, but ACTA could open the door to legal claims similar to the US actions that shut down TorrentSpy, another popular BitTorrent site, in May. Wikileaks, which first hosted the leaked ACTA discussion paper, itself has a stake in the outcome: its stance that it publishes sensitive, often copyrighted documents in the public interest may not be tenable if ACTA becomes law. When Wikileaks' US-hosted site was closed by a court earlier this year, its Belgian and Australian sites stayed online. But ACTA's international scope could allow disgruntled companies or governments to shut down its mirror sites around the world.
Others are also worried about ACTA's consequences. The Free Software Foundation believes ACTA will induce internet service providers (ISPs) to block P2P file-sharing communications - killing off the legitimate applications of such systems. "Without file-sharing and P2P technologies like BitTorrent, distributing large amounts of free software will become much harder, and more expensive," the foundation says.
This article in summary is also being added as an update to "The Rumor about Sarah," published here at Big Brass Blog on August 31, 2008.
In what might be characterized as a remarkable coincidence, Sarah Palin, GOP nominee John McCain's running mate, has announced that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant. Rumors had been swirling in the Blogosphere that Gov. Palin had faked her last pregnancy to cover for her daughter, who was absent from school for almost five months with what the family claimed was a case of mononucleosis (see "The Rumor about Sarah," for details). Now, however, with the announcement that the unmarried Bristol was pregnant in April of this year, it would be highly unlikely, but not impossible, for Palin's latest child, Trig, who was born April 18, 2008, to have been Bristol's.
The Palin family is not releasing information about the individual who impregnated Bristol, other than that his first name is "Levi," and that he is going to marry Bristol. While the family's discretion in protecting the young man is admirable given that Gov. Palin is now making her daughter a public figure to kill a rumor, the question of his age is a matter of concern, given that Bristol might have been 16 years old at the time he impregnated her.
While not serving as a ringing validation of Gov. Palin's firm stance in favor of abstinence-only education, the announcement of Bristol's pregnancy, as stunningly convenient as the situation is, should nevertheless pretty much end any questions about who gave birth to Trig.
At least for the time being.
The Dark Wraith will take his shotgun to the wedding in case Levi plans to accessorize his tux with running shoes.
Yep, those pesky Europeans are up to no good again, this time making an attempt to steal the Gawd particle from its rightful owners, us righteous sorts right here in the good ol' USA.
I just knew we should have finished the Supercollider in the great state of Texas, then we could have had the Gawd particle first, and kept it on high and worshiped it for what it is, but some mighty thinkers at the time such as Ronald the Ray-gun believed that the money would be better spent in faith-based initiatives, whereby the most righteous sorts could Lard it over their less righteous brethren and show them in no uncertain terms which way was up. I think that implies that you don't know their speed.
And after all, it's about how much you invoke the name of the supreme being over your foes that truly makes you worthy. The Gawd particle would be as worthy a weapon against those that hate us for our freedoms as the Holly Hand-Grenade of Antioch.
All you secular and atheist sorts better stay away from here; I personally have been elected by Gawd to defend us from the heathen masses that could gain more mass if the Gawd particle was misused with the application of the mini-blackhole.
Just mind that nobody goes poking around back there without righteous supervision. And maybe a roll of TP.
The straight and narrow path is not the easy one. It ain't no yellow brick road.
I feared the day this would happen: theoretical physicists and technicians doing rap. It's not pretty.
It is, however, informative. It goes fast, but if you follow it closely (or listen to it a dozen times), you'll get what they're saying.
One big goal of the Large Hadron Collider is to finally find the much-speculated Higgs intermediate boson, a particle that must exist if the so-called Standard Model of quantum mechanics is to stay together. If they cannot find the Higgs, all bets are off.
Another goal is to get insight into why there's more matter than anti-matter in our universe. You'll hear in this video a reference to "dark matter," the Q-mech world's equivalent of fairies that explain the otherwise inexplicable.
Something else they mention is the possibility of getting some confirmation or evidence of "small" dimensions that don't operate at the large level, but allow very small, quantum-sized things to scoot around through avenues we would not expect.
Another little thing they mention is very cool. Gravity is one of the four known forces of the universe, operating along side the electromagnetic, strong, and weak forces. Traditionally, gravity has been known as a very weak force: the actual "weak" force is stronger! (Jump off a building: yes, the gravity is going to drag you to the ground, but the forces holding the atoms and molecules together at ground level are going to stop you in your flight.) As it turns out, though, it might not be the case that gravity is weak everywhere; it might be the case that it's bound in such a way that, in our dimensional experiences, we see a weak end of what is really a tube that is thick and strong at other places we do not experience in everyday (and even everyday quantum) events.
Yes, theoretically, this new, large Hadron accelerator that's just been built is going to answer some key questions about the universe; but those answers are going to come at a small but theoretically very impressive risk.
The accelerator could create a miniature black hole. The probability is incredibly small, but the consequences would be sort of a combination of "Holy COW!" and "oops." The black hole wouldn't swallow everything right away, but it would cause a whole lot of excitement. Starting at a virtual quantum size, it would slowly grow as it pulled in matter and energy. As it grew linearly in diameter, its event horizon would grow at the cubic power of that diameter. Within a few years, if not by some means teased out into space in the electromagnetic containment field equivalent of a high-quality Tupperware product, the thing would be big enough to suck a whole lot of turf into its growing, hungry maw. Eventually, if left to its own devices, the black hole would swallow the Earth and then the solar system.
Could this happen? Yes.
Is it likely? Not at all.
So we should all relax, right?
Not quite yet. There's one other thing the collider could spawn: instantaneous annihilation of everything.
The bad news? It's theoretically possible.
The good news? We wouldn't be around long enough to know it was happening.
The Dark Wraith was just passing through on a quiet Sunday evening.