[ a fully caused & embodied blog ] [ Good Sense Without God ]
It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Required Reading

  • Dean Baker on the gall of the Washington Post
    Yes, I'm talking about the Washington Post, which had the gall today to run a column by Jim Hoagland complaining about how "we" are passing on a bad world to our children. The "we" in the column is meant to refer to the generations currently in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who he claims are leaving huge problems to our children.

    . . .

    The reality is that the Washington Post and the elite clique for which it is a mouth piece have badly failed us and our children. The housing bubble was easily recognizable. The economic disaster that we are now facing could have been easily avoided if the Washington Post and its elite friends (e.g. Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Henry Paulson) were not too incompetent or corrupt to see the evidence of problems everywhere. Needless to say, those of us who did try to issue warnings were ignored by this elite crew.

  • Louder than Bombs: Andrew Exum considers the paradox of deterrence.
    All signs point toward another war – just as disastrous as the last one. For despite Hizbollah’s claims of victory, there was no winner in 2006. Hizbollah’s followers in the south were punished to a degree that exceeded previous Israeli bombing campaigns in 1993 and 1996; one million Lebanese were driven out of the country or internally displaced; and more than 1000 civilians were killed. One horrific massacre in the Biblical town of Qana left some 30 dead – half of them children – in an echo of a similar slaughter there 10 years earlier. If the war really was a “victory from God” as Hassan Nasrallah claims, then consider me a convert to atheism.

    On the Israeli side, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands were either displaced or driven into shelters, a traumatic experience for a population which thought it had turned a page on Lebanon by withdrawing its occupation forces in 2000. Worse, the vaunted IDF – rightly hailed as the region’s finest military machine – was upstaged by its Lebanese adversaries, even as many of the villages that put up such ferocious resistance were defended in large part not by Hizbollah regulars but by residents who functioned as a kind of “national guard”.

  • Philosophers on God: Boston Review
    The traditional arguments for God’s existence are very much worth our attention, though, for at least three reasons: they are of great intrinsic interest; popular discussions of them often fail to pin down their defects; and one argument, the “design argument,” has had a new lease on life as the intellectual underpinning of the intelligent design movement.

  • Our Excellent Strategy in Afghanistan
    The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

    Four blue pills. Viagra.

    "Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

    The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

  • We have no words left: Palestinians are at a loss to describe this latest catastrophe. International civil society must act now
    "I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those chilling words were spoken on al-Jazeera on Saturday by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defence official in the Sderot area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. For days Israeli planes have bombed Gaza. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed and a thousand injured, the majority civilians, including women and children. Israel claims most of the dead were Hamas "terrorists". In fact, the targets were police stations in dense residential areas, and the dead included many police officers and other civilians. Under international law, police officers are civilians, and targeting them is no less a war crime than aiming at other civilians.

  • Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood
    2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.

    Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire.

    Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only eighty have been allowed in - with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70% of the time. Throughout the supposed 'cease-fire' Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with a total of 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

    Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel who refuses to re-enter talks over a cease-fire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change - whatever the cost.

  • Has Global Stag-Deflation Arrived? by Nouriel Roubini
    The latest macroeconomic news from the United States, other advanced economies, and emerging markets confirms that the global economy will face a severe recession in 2009. In the US, recession started in December 2007, and will last at least until December 2009 – the longest and deepest US recession since World War II, with the cumulative fall in GDP possibly exceeding 5%.

    . . .

    With a global recession a near certainty, deflation – rather than inflation – will become the main concern for policymakers. The fall in aggregate demand while potential aggregate supply has been rising because of overinvestment by China and other emerging markets will sharply reduce inflation. Slack labor markets with rising unemployment rates will cap wage and labor costs. Further falls in commodity prices – already down 30% from their summer peak – will add to these deflationary pressures.

    Policymakers will have to worry about a strange beast called “stag-deflation” (a combination of economic stagnation/recession and deflation); about liquidity traps (when official interest rates become so close to zero that traditional monetary policy loses effectiveness); and about debt deflation (the rise in the real value of nominal debts, increasing the risk of bankruptcy for distressed households, firms, financial institutions, and governments).

  • From the Haaretz: The neighborhood bully strikes again By Gideon Levy
    Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"

    Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama and Rick

Glenn Greenwald provides two links to -- in his opinion -- the two strongest pro/con pieces regarding Obama's choice of Rich Warren to give his inaugural speech:

Pro: Juan Cole says:
What Obama has done in elected office in the past and what he does after the inauguration are the things we should focus on, not a small nod to the evangelical right in the spirit of inclusiveness.
That is the stupidest thing I have heard of. Does he really believe anyone is convinced? Actually, this type of thing is what continues to encourage me in my decision to vote for McKinney: This action by Obama is pure politics. It convinces no one in any real power and allows at best something to point to in the 30sec sound-bite world of TV.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The 56, 5 Book Meme

' thought themselves bound in conscience to the public justice

The Century of Revolution: 1603 - 1714
Christopher Hill

Pass it on:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open it to page 56.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these # instructions.

5. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

[ h/t: http://devlishgenius.blogspot.com/2008/11/56-5-book-meme.html ]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Required Reading: Writing the posts I wish I could

I assume you all are constantly and consistently reading Silber? No?

Get to it (hope you -- Arthur -- do not mind me fully quoting this one!?)

Can't We All Just Get Along?, or: Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill:
I'll have much more on the necessarily unchanging changiness of the soon to be upon us Obama Administration in my new series, "Clinging to the Wreckage" (briefly described in the intro here). With much more to come on this topic, I emphasize that you must always keep in mind Silber's Iron Law:
Any individual who rises to the national political level is, of necessity and by definition, committed to the authoritarian-corporatist state. The current system will not allow anyone to be elected from either of the two major parties who is determined to dismantle even one part of that system.
As I discussed in the earlier piece, there are a few minor exceptions to this law, but they are only that: very minor exceptions, allowed precisely to convince you that you are availing yourself of a meaningful method of opposition. You are being allowed nothing of the kind.

Before I get to my own longer analysis of the issues involved, I want to note a few recent blog posts that I came across in my recent travels attempting to bring myself up to date on blogospheric happenings. I should have added this site to the blogroll some time ago, just for the name alone: Stop Me Before I Vote Again. I have a fantasy of my own along those lines. Too many of you ruined it. I dunno what you people were thinking. Nothing at all, certain testimony would indicate. I suppose a self-induced coma helps. And yet many of you still wonder how horrors happen on this earth. You shouldn't (see the last half of that essay in particular, and apply the lessons as you are able, which for certain people obviously isn't much). And always ask yourself what you are supporting (see here, too).

As is true of more than a few entries there, a recent post at Stop Me Before... offers a certain mordant humor:
My liberal, Obamaphile friends are rapidly losing their sense of humor.

Oddly enough, it was more or less OK for me to be a Grinch before the election. Now, however, it seems to be in very poor taste. I'm getting a lot of sour looks and testy emails, when I chortle about Rahm Emanuel, and Tom Daschle, and Larry Summers, and Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.

My friends fell in love, it seems; and the love-object is, well, dumping them -- dumping them with almost indecent haste.

Oh yeah, sure, it's kinder to dump an ex-lover quickly and briskly, instead of drawing it out. But there's something creepy about a person whose heart is so much under his control that he can act on this undoubtedly sound principle, and never turn a hair.
And this comment to the post is worthy of note, providing more of that gallows amusement that provides so many opportunities for dying laughter ("dying" being the operative word there):
Ever since Bubba's first term, I've gotten an up-close-and-personal look at [how] the Donkeycratic Party treats its "Left", and it's a classic spousal abuse pattern. He beats her and fucks up her head, and tells her shit like how nobody cares and how she's got noplace else to go; she eventually despairs to the point of actually believing him, and just hoping that he'd change, but of course he doesn't and -- as I understand, in many cases -- eventually beats her to death some night.

This first hit me early in the '96 campaign, just after Ralph Nader had announced for the Greens and there was this small but noticeable rippling of scoffing and dissing -- which barely disguised the smell of fear -- coming from the Donkeycrats' general direction, most specifically in the form of a quote in a Washington Post article from some high-level White House flack whose name escapes me, saying the the DP Left "had noplace to go" in terms of how to vote in '96. This, of course, after Somalia, Waco, NAFTA, an attempt to pass a version of the Patriot Act, an attempt to impose direct state censorship of the Internet, oh, I could go on, but, anyway...

I've often wished that the DP leadership would just grow a goddamn' pair, already, and just go on TV together and look us all -- us all, being those of us on the Desperately Hopeful Pwogwessive "Left" -- right in the eye, and tell us to go fuck ourselves...and in those exact words, too. Get 'em a goddamn' exemption from the FCC for the half-hour it should take that whole crew to get up in front of the the camera and tell us that they never cared about us and never will, and that we should just kiss their rosy-red asses, take a goddamn' hike and go fuck ourselves...just so perhaps we'll know a hundred percent where we stand regarding the Donkeycratic Party, get off our asses, and move on.

(heh, heh, I said 'MoveOn')
This is a scenario thoroughly admirable in its conception. But as I'm sure its author realizes himself, it wouldn't have anything remotely approaching the desired effect. Can't you see the responsive posts from Atrios, HuffPo, Daily Cosset, et al. before your eyes at this very moment?
Oh, well, they have to say that. But they don't actually mean it. Their hearts are in the right place, because...well...um...ah...oh, shit, because they're Democrats! If they could do what they really want to do, peace and liberty would break out all over the wurld, we'd have the bestest health care system the plannet ever, ever seed, and everyone would get a puppy or a kittycat. And a rainbow! A rainbow called Obama!

They have to say those mean things about us, 'cuz of the effect it would have if they didn't on the election in Flat Ass, Alabama in...um...well...2356!

See? SEE??? If you don't, you're no better than those evil Republicans!!!! Now STFU!!!!!

You can bank on all of it, including the "asshole" part. That reminds me: I'm also planning an upcoming essay (or two) about the moral and psychological intimidation -- or should I say, terrorism -- that is becoming so popular these days. This time, on the left.

And you had thought only rightwing bloggers and conservatives were greasy apologists for the ruling class, and for authoritarianism, corporatism and endless war. Aren't you the silliest goose.

Meanwhile, even people who lost the election feel as if they didn't: "HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Leaving the Bush tax cuts alone. Putting Iraq-war supporters in as Vice President and Secretary of State. And now keeping Bush's Defense Secretary on. I'm beginning to feel like I won this election!"

And the Democrats did win! So, especially since what Obama stood for (and didn't) has been entirely clear to any chunk of rock for well over a year, I think all those liberals and progressives should STFU themselves!


Shucks, I'm sorry. Honest, I am. It's about The Unity, baby. I'm all about The Unity. Love, sweetheart. That's all we've got. We've changed and hoped and transcended! Woweee shazam hot damn jumpin' gee whillikers and gadzooks!

We gotta sink or swim together. Or swim and then sink. Or just drown.


P.S. And I see that Michael J. Smith has saved me a brief post I had on the drawing board. Thank you, sir! Dems say no gay marriage in New York for us pathetic faggots. Thanks, Dems! It's immensely comforting to know that you still think we're freaks. But someday, someday we may not be -- just in time for that election in Flat Ass several centuries hence! I luvs me the Dems. Is there anything more worthless than the Democratic Party? No, not the Republicans. In certain respects, the Democrats are worse: see here, here, here and here (and lots of other essays too, but those will give you the idea).

"Two percent less shitty than Pure Evil" is still evil. Many people expend untold energy to avoid that very simple, indisputable fact.

Someday, they might consider stopping that. Then, perhaps, we might begin to make some genuine progress, and start to extricate ourselves from this morass of suffering and death.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coffee Klatch Research: Why Tom Friedman is an Asshat


Tom Friedman was much an Iraq war critic as I have been a Barack Obama critic. I have been critical of Obama many times, but I still wanted him to win this election. Even though I was a supporter of Obama, I am not a child. I recognize that the Obama Presidency will not be the fantasy Atrios presidency. He will do what he does, and I will have little to no influence on that. Still, if Obama fucks everything up, I will have some responsibility for that. I raised money for him, I voted for him, and used my mighty blog to encourage others to do so.

Tom Friedman was a supporter of the Iraq war. He encouraged it, and even as it went bad, kept telling us to hang in there for another 6 months. Perpetually. He has criticized how the war has unfolded, but he has about as much influence on that as I have on President Obama. He is war supporter and critic, as I am Obama supporter and critic. And when hundreds of thousands of people died, a consequence with nontrivial probability in a war zone, Tom Friedman had some responsibility for that no matter how critical he was of those who engineered the war he wanted.

Uh oh! Here comes Obama!


Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Pay the fuck attention!

Michael Winship: The Republican ACORN Hoax
You see, the ACORN “election fraud” story is one of those urban legends, like fake moon landings and alligators in the sewers, and it appears three or four weeks before every recent national election with the regularity of the swallows returning to Capistrano

The New Yorker: Hendrik Hertzberg Blog: Voter-Fraud Fraud
During this election cycle, the Times reported today, ACORN has deployed thirteen thousand mostly paid workers, who have registered 1.3 million new voters. One or two per cent of these workers turned in sheaves of forms that they filled out themselves with fake names and bogus addresses, and, even though at least a hundred of these workers have already been fired, the forged forms have been submitted to election boards.

Sounds suspicious—unless you know that groups like ACORN are required by law to submit them, even if they’re obvious fakes.

 . . .

Sounds suspicious—unless you know that even if one of these fake forms results in a nonexistent person actually being registered, now under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, “any voter who has not previously voted in a federal election” must provide identification in order to actually cast a ballot.

 . . .

And on and on...

F*ck All Y'all

Dividing America:

Viva la Mashup!




Political Catch Up

People for the American Way: Hate You Can Believe In: ACORN Deluged with Threatening and Racist Voicemails and Emails

Rolling Stone: Make-Believe Maverick: A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty by Tim Dickinson

New York Mag: Is John McCain Bob Dole? By John Heilemann

The recommendation of Colin Powell is a dubious distinction IMHO. And this.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More financial meltdown links

Matt Taibbi and Byron York Butt Heads Over Whether McCain Deserves Blame for the Wall Street Meltdown
M.T.: Oh, come on. Tell me you're not ashamed to put this gigantic international financial Krakatoa at the feet of a bunch of poor black people who missed their mortgage payments. The CDS market, this market for credit default swaps that was created in 2000 by Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act, this is now a $62 trillion market, up from $900 billion in 2000. That's like five times the size of the holdings in the NYSE. And it's all speculation by Wall Street traders. It's a classic bubble/Ponzi scheme. The effort of people like you to pin this whole thing on minorities, when in fact this whole thing has been caused by greedy traders dealing in unregulated markets, is despicable.

Chris Floyd
  • Cronytopia: What the World Knows -- and Americans Don't -- About the Bailout
    Readers of The Guardian were greeted with this leading story -- front-page, up top -- on Saturday morning:
    Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout
    Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package
    Having laid out the thrust of the story very plainly in the headline and sub-head, the paper then detailed the way that the Bush-Obama bailout (the most apt moniker for a scheme devised by the top echelons of the bipartisan elite) is yet another inside job by the Beltway bandits who move in and out of the revolving door between "public service" and vast feeding troughs of Cronytopia.
  • Not Enough Money in the World: The Real Monster in the Meltdown Closet
    What has struck mortal fear in the heart of markets and governments is not bad mortgages, but the almost incomprehensibly huge and complex market for "derivatives," based in part on mortgage debt -- but also on a vast array of other sources that were "securitized," turned into tradable if ghostly commodities then sold off in a bewildering variety of increasingly arcane forms. This was accompanied by the expansion of yet another vast market in insurance mechanisms designed to protect these derivatives -- mechanisms which themselves became "securitized."
Mike Whitney: No More Investment Banks
It is 100 percent certain now that Paulson’s plan to use the $700 billion bailout to buy-back the non-performing loans and bad mortgage-backed securities from the banks would have failed and led to disaster. Paulson stuck by his wacko plan even though more than 200 economists opposed him and the stock market tumbled 8 straight days in a row losing more than 15 percent of its value. Paulson's Wall Street bias is so great that he would have driven the country off the cliff just to reward his dodgy friends with lavish cash giveaways from the US taxpayer.

In fact, right after the European plan was announced, Paulson convened a meeting of the country's largest banks so he could hand out $125 billion of freshly-minted, taxpayer-generated loot to shore up their flimsy balance sheets. Citigroup got $25 Billion, as did JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley both netted $10 Billion each. None of these banks had to submit to any type of regulatory investigation to see how much of their asset-base was held in worthless mortgage-backed slop or other structured garbage. Paulson never even tried to find out if they are even solvent! On top of that, taxpayer gets no voting rights, no position on the board of directors, and no limits on executive compensation for the $125 billion contribution to Wall Street's biggest white-collar criminals. On Thursday, all of the aforementioned banks reported horrendous quarterly losses, multi-billion dollar write-downs, and more grim warnings on future profits. It's clear that Paulson wanted to deliver the bailout money before the public discovered the extent of the carnage
Pam Martens: How the Banksters are Making a Killing Off the Bailout
The bulk of the $125 billion will be dispersed among Uncle Sam’s own brokers, or in street parlance, Primary Dealers. Primary dealers are those financial firms anointed by the Federal Reserve to participate in the Fed’s open market activities and are required to participate to a significant degree in buying up Treasury securities at every Treasury auction. In other words, without these firms, the U.S. Government would have no means of financing its own funding needs.

. . .

In 1988 there were 46 primary dealers. That number had shrunk to 30 by 1999. In June 2008 there were 20, in no small part as a result of the mergers facilitated by Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett. In rapid succession since July, three more have disappeared from bad bets: Countrywide Securities (shotgun marriage with Bank of America); Lehman Brothers, bankrupt; Bear, Stearns (shotgun marriage with J.P. Morgan Securities). That currently leaves 17 and that number will drop to 16 when Merrill Lynch is folded into Bank of America. (The rest of the 16 primary dealers that are not getting part of the $125 billion are foreign banks.)

Catching Up with Afghanistan

Chris Floyd
  • Road to Perdition: Yet Another Atrocity in Afghanistan, More to Come
    No doubt the "NATO-led" investigation of the Helmland "incident" will find that yet another magnificent feat of arms has produced an unfortunate by-product: i.e, the corpses of at least 15 innocent children, including a six-month old baby. But as Seamus Milne points out in the Guardian, the mounting death toll of Afghan civilians is the result of deliberate policy, not "regrettable" accident or the mischance of war:
  • The Wounded Shark: 'Good War' Lost, But the Imperial Project Goes On
    Don't tell Obama and McCain, but the war they are both counting on to make their bones as commander-in-chief -- the "good war" in Afghanistan, which both men have pledged to expand -- is already lost. Their joint strategy of pouring more troops, tanks, missiles and planes into the roaring fire -- not to mention their intention to spread the war into Pakistan -- will only lead to disaster.

    Who says so? America's biggest ally in the Afghan adventure: Great Britain. This week, two top figures in the British effort in Afghanistan -- Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, UK ambassador to Kabul, and Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the senior British military commander in Afghanistan -- both said that the war was "unwinnable," and that continuing the current level of military operations there, much less expanding it, was a strategy "doomed to fail."

Notorious MSG!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

That said...

So, McCain is nastier, but it is just politics and such right?


I personally think the objection that McCain is not somewhat accountable for his supporters' behavior given his own campaign (as documented below) is absurd and dangerous: Plainly he and the Right are looking the other way to actively encouraging such behavior/belief.

Coffee Klatch Research: McCain / Obama Equally Nasty?

Game Over: There is no equivalence

McCain's Ad regarding Ayers:

"Too Risky"

McCain / Palin interview by Sean Hannity on Fox: Part 3


Obama's 13 minute Keating Video

"Seven" Houses of McCain

McCain "Same" as Bush

( If you think there is a much worse Obama ad on McCain please tell me. )

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coffee Klatch Research

A data dump of Iran and Israel modern fighter aircraft:

  • 40 MiG-29A
  • 104 F-16A/B "Netz"
  • 121 F-16C/D "Barak"
  • 101 F-16I "Sufa"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And now for something a bit lighter...


Financial meltdown links cont.

Peter Morici:
The Dow Tanks as Bank Bailout Fails to Restore Confidence
It’s official! The bank bailout has not worked.

Global stock prices are in a panic rush to the bottom.

The bank bailout cannot fulfill its primary mission to restore investor confidence, because it does only half the job.

The bank bailout will provide banks with much needed liquidity but it does not address the compensation and management practices on Wall Street that drove irresponsible decisions and gave rise to the crisis. It does not address the void of sound leadership at the top of major financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch.
Dean Baker: The Fed Can Buy Commercial Paper Directly From Corporations: Who Knew?
Remember way back to last week when it was going to be the end of the world if Congress didn't pass the bailout package? Remember the Washington Post's account in which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told President Bush, "there is no Plan B."

Well, it looks like the Fed has discovered a Plan B. It turns out that the Fed can buy commercial paper directly from non-financial corporations needing credit to maintain operations. This will keep the credit markets working even if the zombie banks aren't up to the task. In other words, the threat of a complete meltdown in the absence of a bailout was nonsense and the media once again got taken for a ride by the Bush administration.
Paul Krugman: The International Finance Multiplier

Finally, if you think Obama is going to be any better, then you really do not understand that our system of government is actually corporatism. See opensecrets.org:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Speaking of Michael

Now Michael Berube is a good guy. So I interpret him as such. I am sure he only wants to kill the bad guys (could not find something more recent via the great Google, sorry):
The anti-imperialist left correctly believes, for instance, that the American bombing of Kakrak in early July (a massive "intelligence failure" that killed about 50 Afghans attending a wedding party) was an atrocity; but it cannot admit that, on balance, the routing of the Taliban might have struck a blow, however ambiguous and poorly executed, for human freedom.
Now we could interpret him as being not too terribly worried about this bombing as it has "struck a blow ... for human freedom". But then so have each additional bombing since. But that would be wrong: Michael is a good guy and means well. I wish he would be a bit more charitable towards others though.

Here is what I have taken away from my reading of Chomsky, Zinn, et al:
War is almost always a net negative thing for everyone involved; and especially the innocent and those on whos behalf the war is being fought.
[ And of course it should be pointed out that we, eg. US, are the ones doing the deciding who the war is for: Particularly galling for the "anti-imperialists". ]

Finally this by Chris Floyd is required reading.

Arthur Silber post to remember

In Praise of Contextual Libertarianism

Not So Fast, Please: Contextual Libertarianism, One More Time

More financial meltdown links

Mike Whitney: Still on the Edge of the Abyss
Now we're in a terrible fix. People are scared and removing their money from the banks and money markets. This is intensifying the freeze in the credit markets and driving stocks into the ground like a tent stake. Meanwhile, our leaders are caught in the headlights, still believing they can finesse their way through the biggest economic cataclysm since the Great Depression.

If something is not done to increase the flow of credit immediately, the stock market will tumble, unemployment will spike, and many businesses will grind to a standstill. We could be just days away from a severe shock to the system. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson's $700 billion bailout does not focus on the fundamental problems and is likely to fail. At best, it puts off the day of reckoning for a few weeks or months. Contingency plans should be put in place so the country does not have to undergo post-Katrina bedlam.
Paul Craig Roberts: A Futile Bailout as Darkness Falls on America
The deregulation of the financial sector was achieved by the Democratic Clinton Administration and by the current Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, with the acquiescence of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Paulson bailout saves his firm, Goldman Sachs. The Paulson bailout transfers the troubled financial instruments that the financial sector created from the books of the financial sector to the books of the taxpayers at the US Treasury.

This is all the bailout does. It rescues the guilty.

The Paulson bailout does not address the problem, which is the defaulting home mortgages.

The defaults will continue, because the economy is sinking into recession. Homeowners are losing their jobs, and homeowners are being hit with rising mortgage payments resulting from adjustable rate mortgages and escalator interest rate clauses in their mortgages that make homeowners unable to service their debt.

Shifting the troubled assets from the financial sectors’ books to the taxpayers’ books absolves the people who caused the problem from responsibility. As the economy declines and mortgage default rates rise, the US Treasury and the American taxpayers could end up with a $700 billion loss.
Nouriel Roubini: The Fed keeps on wasting time while the mother of all bank runs is underway
The only way to stop this liquidity panic is a blanket guarantee of financial sector liabilities and direct public provision of liquidity to the parts of the financial system and the corporate system that are now at risk of a meltdown driven by a liquidity run on their short term liabilities. So it is time for the Fed to stop wasting time and start the actions that will make a difference. We are now at risk of a systemic financial meltdown of the financial system and the corporate sector too.
Finally, I called Wu and told him I was very unhappy about him changing his vote. Here is his explanation for why he voted for the "new" bill on Friday. I requested a reply from Wu to my call. I will post what he says when I get it.

[ On this note, here is Barbra Boxer's justification for changing her vote. ]

Financial duh

The bailout failing:

Market plummets

Google's interactive market graph

Always seems to end up justifying the dismissal of animal interests

this post by Michael Berube over there at Crooked Timber, he is displeased with Peter Singer:
Anyway, I won’t post my entire text, not because it would break the Internets again (this post will do that handily enough on its own) but because the conference proceedings are going to be published someday, and I think I’m supposed to save the Whole Thing for the dead-tree edition. But I will put up one of the challenges I issued to one of the conference’s more controversial speakers, a guy named Peter Singer:
In his 1994 book, Rethinking Life and Death, Peter Singer famously claimed that “To have a child with Down syndrome is to have a very different experience from having a normal child. It can still be a warm and loving experience, but we must have lowered expectations of our child’s ability. We cannot expect a child with Down syndrome to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player” (213). Back in 1994, when Jamie was only three, I might have fallen for this; I once believed—and wrote—that Jamie would not be able to distinguish early Beatles from late Beatles or John’s songs from Paul’s, and now he knows more about the Beatles’ oeuvre than most of the people in this room. His interest in Star Wars and Galaxy Quest has given him an appreciation of science fiction, just as his fascination with Harry Potter has led him to ask questions about innocence and guilt. He is learning a foreign language, having mastered the “est-ce que tu” question form in French and being able to charm young women at the cheese counters of French supermarkets by saying “je voudrais du fromage de chèvre, s’il vous plait.” I confess that neither of us has the least interest in chatting about the latest Woody Allen movie; but perhaps Professor Singer will be interested to learn that Jamie and I have had a running conversation over the past five years about the film Babe, which introduced Jamie not only to the question of whether it is right to eat animals but also to the fact that there are various theories out there as to why humans eat some animals and not others.
Alas, I said all this on Thursday evening, and Professor Singer was not in the room at the time. But I have to give him his due for sticking around for all of the Friday and Saturday sessions in a largely hostile environment.
A commenter then writes:
now he knows more about the Beatles’ oeuvre than most of the people in this room. His interest in Star Wars and Galaxy Quest has given him an appreciation of science fiction, just as his fascination with Harry Potter has led him to ask questions about innocence and guilt. He is learning a foreign language, having mastered the “est-ce que tu” question form in French and being able to charm young women at the cheese counters of French supermarkets by saying “je voudrais du fromage de chèvre, s’il vous plait.” I confess that neither of us has the least interest in chatting about the latest Woody Allen movie; but perhaps Professor Singer will be interested to learn that Jamie and I have had a running conversation over the past five years about the film Babe, which introduced Jamie not only to the question of whether it is right to eat animals but also to the fact that there are various theories out there as to why humans eat some animals and not others.

Michael, it sounds as though you’re arguing here that not all people with Down’s Syndrome are what Singer (or most of us, anyway) would call severely cognitively impaired rather than against the claim that “it is less wrong, all other things being equal, to kill someone with severe cognitive impairments than to kill you or me.”

Also, what if Singer had set the bar lower and instead of “to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player” had said “to use language at all, to play a sport at any level, to watch a movie or distinguish between music and noise”?

I know you’ve written a lot about this, probably on CT as well, so feel free just to refer me somewhere else.
To which Michael responds:
I’m just not buying the utilitarian calculus at all, no matter where Singer sets the bar. The fact that he underestimated the potential of some people (and did so with considerable certainty, I might add, pointing to the “we cannot expect” line) is in itself, for me, reason enough to resist any moral calculus that involves a performance criterion for being human.

All this is quite fascinating but I never understand this criticism of Singer:
Singer is comparing babies, mentally deficient, the brain damaged with animals. He says they are similar in "personhood" so we can treat them alike. Fuck Singer! Killer!
Instead the much more obvious interpretation and certainly the more charitable one is:
Singer is comparing babies, mentally deficient, the brain damaged with animals. He says they are similar in "personhood" so we can treat them alike. Fuck me! Killer!
There are two ways of interpreting Singer when he says something like:
For on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure and pain, and so on, the calf, the pig and the much derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy -- which if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish, or even a prawn would show more signs of consciousness. (Practical Ethics, 118)
We can read him as saying:
  • Hey! Babies are like pigs. We treat pigs like shit. Let's treat babies like shit.; OR
  • Hey! Babies are like pigs. We treat babies nicely. Let's treat pigs nicely.
Why interpret Singer as encourage or advocating any sort of mistreatment of any organism? Even animals that he would consider much lower on the "personhood" scale he would never advocate mistreating.

So, returning to Michael Berube's quote of Singer: To have a child with Down syndrome is to have a very different experience from having a normal child. It can still be a warm and loving experience, but we must have lowered expectations of our child’s ability. we ought not interpret Singer as suggesting mistreating these people, but as he advocates for animals, we should interpret him as advocating for taking their interests into consideration.

Then a commenter recommends this paper by Jeremy Waldron. This paper is quite interesting and here is its own summary:
The idea of basic equality connotes that, for normative purposes, the range of humans is not subject to any fundamental differentiation along the lines of the differentiation that some people maintain between humans and animals. We humans are all basically alike.
What is with the desire to separate humans and animals? It all really seems like a rationalization not for better treatment of different sorts of humans, but a defense of not taking animal's interests into consideration.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A philosophy link: Equality

Do not want to forget this:
Jeremy Waldron: Basic Equality

Thanking Wyden!! Have you?

I never got through to Wyden either via the capital switchboard or direct: Busy or put on hold.

But, Wyden
voted no!! Yay!

Just called him and thanked him. Will also
send a nice email. Grin!

Of course "small government" Smith voted yes. Honestly, I need someone to tell my why they are Republican or why they vote Republican!??

Now I need to contact
Wu and tell him to stay strong!

My understanding cont.

my good friend corrects me, we should not be bailing out the banks at all.

I came up with the "dollar-for-dollar" solution mostly because I thought it was reasonably pragmatic: I just can not imagine Congress not paying off the bankers and financiers that they whore to. But as it says right here on this blog: Everything revolutionary is impractical: I should have been more revolutionary! I will endeavor to be next time.

And little did I realize that the solution is not completely stupid:
Glenn Greenwald documents a number of "real" economists suggest simply buying the "toxic" mortgages: A bailout for the little guy. Glenn also provides a number of links to other solutions.

Glenn's post is not really about solutions though. It is about the media -- specifically one award winning journalist: Steven Pearlstein -- who just can not stand the little people having their say. You should read it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Capital switchboard has been busy!

Tried to call my (Dem) Senator but the switchboard was busy both times!! Yay! I hope Congress is getting an earful.

I guess I will try calling direct...

UPDATE 11am: Put on hold with Wyden.

My understanding of the financial meltdown

In answer to my good friend, I believe this is being called a "credit" crisis because right now the biggest problem is that the "shadow banking system" is near collapse: Banks are afraid to lend to each other. If this happens, the US and global economy will pretty much halt: 60 - 0 in nanoseconds. That is definitely not good.

But this is just a symptom of the real cause: sub-prime mortgages (
again, as my good friend points out ).

I am no economist, but I certainly have my opinion. I am quite happy that the bailout was rejected in the House. But the probable effects on "average" people -- those outside Wall Street -- is real. So, my suggestion is a dollar-for-dollar bailout: For each dollar given to "write-off" a "toxic" mortgage/asset, a dollar goes to write-down the mortgage of a needy home owner; eg. one of those "toxic" mortgages. $350billion in funds for the "shadow banking system" and $350billion in mortgage write-downs.

Now I am not really happy with any sort of equal treatment between "Wall Street" and "Main Street" -- I would prefer the whole $700billion to write-off the mortgages -- but this seems reasonable: To me, not an economist.

Anyone with comments?

More links on the market/credit meltdown

Chris Floyd:
The Shadow of the Pitchfork: Elite Panic Attack as Bailout Goes Bust

Pam Martens: What Wall Street Hoped to Win

Nouriel Roubini: The US and global financial crisis is becoming much more severe in spite of the Treasury rescue plan. The risk of a total systemic meltdown is now as high as ever ( free reg req )
Let me explain now in more detail why we are now back to the risk of a total systemic financial meltdown…

It is no surprise as financial institutions in the US and around advanced economies are going bust: in the US the latest victims were WaMu (the largest US S&L) and today Wachovia (the sixth largest US bank); in the UK after Northern Rock and the acquisition of HBOS by Lloyds TSB you now have the bust and rescue of B&B; in Belgium you had Fortis going bust and being rescued over the weekend; in German HRE, a major financial institution is also near bust and in need of a government rescue. So this is not just a US financial crisis; it is a global financial crisis hitting institutions in the US, UK, Eurozone and other advanced economies (Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.).

And the strains in financial markets – especially short term interbank markets - are becoming more severe in spite of the Fed and other central banks having literally injected about $300 billion of liquidity in the financial system last week alone including massive liquidity lending to Morgan and Goldman. In a solvency crisis and credit crisis that goes well beyond illiquidity no one is lending to counterparties as no one trusts any counterparty (even the safest ones) and everyone is hoarding the liquidity that is injected by central banks. And since this liquidity goes only to banks and major broker dealers the rest of the shadow banking system has not access to this liquidity as the credit transmission mechanisms is blocked.
Blog to watch: http://calculatedrisk.blogspot.com/: Fed's Lockhart on Financial Crisis
Credit markets remain quite strained. This is particularly the case in interbank markets in the United States and abroad. The interbank markets are a fundamental element of the plumbing of the financial world. Banks with excess balances put them to work by lending to other banks that have clients—companies and individuals—who need the funds.

The loan portfolios of U.S. banks and financial institutions are, as you would expect, mostly dollar-denominated. But foreign banks in recent years have also built sizeable "books of business" in dollars. The dollar interbank credit contraction is a worldwide problem that affects not only our banks here but banks overseas, particularly in Europe.

When banks lend or take on other forms of exposure to each other, they gauge the counterparty risk. In recent weeks, there has been a widespread withdrawal of confidence in counterparties that has resulted in efforts to reduce exposure.
Thom Hartmann: How Wall Street Can Bail Itself Out Without Destroying The Dollar

Peter Morici: The Bailout and the Economy

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Required Viewing

My favorite image so far:

Some link from the Oregonian!

Majority of Oregon's House members vote against bailout: Yay! I am glad our reps voted as they did! I will be calling Wu and thanking him and asking him to stick to it.

DeFazio offers alternative to $700 billion bailout: Go DeFazio!

Financial markets regain much of the ground lost yesterday: Heard on NPR some other Congressperson's scare tactic that the 750+ pt loss in the market wiped out something like $1.5 trillion dollars! And so now "much" of that "loss" is "regained"? Talk about Monopoly money.

Required Learning

Dean Baker:
Why Bail? The Banks Have a Gun Pointed at Their Head and Are Threatening to Pull the Trigger

Matt Taibbi:
The Chicken Doves ( why the Dems suck too )

Kucinich on the bailout plan:

McCain as Nostradamus:

Republican Politicians Suck

Matt Taibbi: The Worst Congress Ever
"I remember one incident very clearly -- I think it was 2001," says Winslow Wheeler, who served for twenty-two years as a Republican staffer in the Senate. "I was working for [New Mexico Republican] Pete Domenici at the time. We were in a Budget Committee hearing and the Democrats were debating what the final result would be. And my boss gets up and he says, 'Why are you saying this? You're not even going to be in the room when the decisions are made.' Just said it right out in the open."

. . .

The GOP's "take that, bitch" approach to governing has been taken to the greatest heights by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.

"Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when Congress wasn't in session, hoping that no one would show," recalls a Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. "But we got a pretty good turnout anyway."

Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out.

"He was like a kid at the playground," the staffer says. And just in case anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the microphones on his way out of the room.

. . .

In 1977, when Democrats held a majority in the House, eighty-five percent of all bills were open to amendment. But by 1994, the last year Democrats ran the House, that number had dropped to thirty percent -- and Republicans were seriously pissed. "You know what the closed rule means," Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida thundered on the House floor. "It means no discussion, no amendments. That is profoundly undemocratic." When Republicans took control of the House, they vowed to throw off the gag rules imposed by Democrats. On opening day of the 104th Congress, then-Rules Committee chairman Gerald Solomon announced his intention to institute free debate on the floor. "Instead of having seventy percent closed rules," he declared, "we are going to have seventy percent open and unrestricted rules."

How has Solomon fared? Of the 111 rules introduced in the first session of this Congress, only twelve were open. Of those, eleven were appropriations bills, which are traditionally open. That left just one open vote -- H. Res. 255, the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005.

In the second session of this Congress? Not a single open rule, outside of appropriation votes. Under the Republicans, amendable bills have been a genuine Washington rarity, the upside-down eight-leafed clover of legislative politics.

. . .

And the cost? Republicans in the Clinton years spent more than $35 million investigating the administration. The total amount of taxpayer funds spent, when independent counsels are taken into account, was more than $150 million. Included in that number was $2.2 million to investigate former HUD secretary Henry Cisneros for lying about improper payments he made to a mistress. In contrast, today's Congress spent barely half a million dollars investigating the outright fraud and government bungling that followed Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in American history.

. . .

Sensenbrenner has done his bit to squelch any debate over Iraq. He refused a request by John Conyers and more than fifty other Democrats for hearings on the famed "Downing Street Memo," the internal British document that stated that Bush had "fixed" the intelligence about the war, and he was one of three committee chairs who rejected requests for hearings on the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Despite an international uproar over Abu Ghraib, Congress spent only twelve hours on hearings on the issue. During the Clinton administration, by contrast, the Republican Congress spent 140 hours investigating the president's alleged misuse of his Christmas-card greeting list.

. . .

When one considers that Congress has forsaken hearings and debate, conspired to work only three months a year, completely ditched its constitutional mandate to provide oversight and passed very little in the way of meaningful legislation, the question arises: What do they do?

The answer is easy: They spend. When Bill Clinton left office, the nation had a budget surplus of $236 billion. Today, thanks to Congress, the budget is $296 billion in the hole. This year, more than sixty-five percent of all the money borrowed in the entire world will be borrowed by America, a statistic fueled by the speed-junkie spending habits of our supposedly "fiscally conservative" Congress. It took forty-two presidents before George W. Bush to borrow $1 trillion; under Bush, Congress has more than doubled that number in six years. And more often than not, we are borrowing from countries the sane among us would prefer not to be indebted to: The U.S. shells out $77 billion a year in interest to foreign creditors, including payment on the $300 billion we currently owe China.

. . .

Favors for campaign contributors, exemptions for polluters, shifting the costs of private projects on to the public -- these are the specialties of this Congress. They seldom miss an opportunity to impoverish the states we live in and up the bottom line of their campaign contributors. All this time -- while Congress did nothing about Iraq, Katrina, wiretapping, Mark Foley's boy-madness or anything else of import -- it has been all about pork, all about political favors, all about budget "earmarks" set aside for expensive and often useless projects in their own districts. In 2000, Congress passed 6,073 earmarks; by 2005, that number had risen to 15,877. They got better at it every year. It's the one thing they're good at.

Even worse, this may well be the first Congress ever to lose control of the government's finances. For the past six years, it has essentially been writing checks without keeping an eye on its balance. When you do that, unpleasant notices eventually start appearing in the mail. In 2003, the inspector general of the Defense Department reported to Congress that the military's financial-management systems did not comply with "generally accepted accounting principles" and that the department "cannot currently provide adequate evidence supporting various material amounts on the financial statements."