[ 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, 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."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Required Video: Does your philosophy cover this?


Honestly, how does this not discredit all "market" ideologies?

Michael Hudson: America's Own Kleptocracy
A kleptocratic class has taken over the economy to replace industrial capitalism. Franklin Roosevelt’s term “banksters” says it all in a nutshell. The economy has been captured – by an alien power, but not the usual suspects. Not socialism, workers or “big government,” nor by industrial monopolists or even by the great banking families. Certainly not by Freemasons and Illuminati. (It would be wonderful if there were indeed some group operating with centuries of wisdom behind them, so at least someone had a plan.) Rather, the banksters have made a compact with an alien power –not Communists, Russians, Asians or Arabs. Not humans at all. The group’s cadre is a new breed of machine. It may sound like the Terminator movies, but computerized Machines have indeed taken over the world – at least, the White House’s world.

Here is how they did it. A.I.G. wrote insurance policies of all sorts of that people and businesses need: home and property insurance, livestock insurance, even aircraft leasing. These highly profitable businesses were not the problem. (They therefore will probably be sold off to pay the company’s bad gambles.) A.I.G.’s downfall came from the $450 billion – almost half a trillion – dollars it was on the hook for as a result of guaranteeing hedge-fund counterparty insurance. In other words, if two parties played the zero-sum game of betting against each other as to whether the dollar would rise or fall against sterling or the euro, or if they insured a mortgage portfolio of junk mortgages to make sure that they would get paid, they would pay a teeny tiny commission to A.I.G. for a policy promising to pay if, say, the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market should “stumble” or if losers placing trillions of dollars in bets on foreign exchange derivatives, stock or bond derivatives should somehow find themselves in a position that so many Las Vegas patrons are in, and be unable to come up with the cash to cover their losses.

A.I.G. collected billions of dollars on such policies. And thanks to the fact that insurance companies are a Milton Friedman paradise – not regulated by the Federal Reserve or any other nation-wide agency, and hence able to get the proverbial free lunch without government oversight – writing such policies was done by computer printouts, and the company collected massive fees and commissions without putting in much capital of its own. This is what is called “self-regulation.” It is how the Invisible Hand is supposed to work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Expecting Obama to be different on the Economy

Obviously you are not paying attention:

SectorTotalTo DemsTo Repubs
Energy & Natural Resources$8,955,401$3,348,737$5,601,614
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate$114,465,564$59,847,674$54,548,348
Lawyers & Lobbyists$75,555,649$56,936,901$18,583,593
Misc Business$60,335,832$35,476,723$24,754,609

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A History of God

Karen Armstrong: A History of God:

Required Viewing

Read why this is all according to plan:

Of course Republicans want full participation!


Alabama GOP pressure ends prisoner registration drive

Alabama Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen stopped a voter registration drive for inmates Thursday under pressure from the Alabama Republican Party.

In a letter to state Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, Allen said individuals conducting the program "were not doing anything for the inmates that they could not do themselves by simply contacting the Secretary of State's Office for the voter registration postcard."

. . .

"Furthermore, I have concerns about potential issues with how this effort is being monitored to ensure no form of voter fraud occurs," wrote Hubbard, who is also minority leader of the Alabama House, which votes on the prison system's budget.
"Voter fraud" is my favorite part! Like what? The person gives a false name or address? Or perhaps the person is not who they and everyone thinks they are ( and therefore innocently incarcerated! ) ? Duh!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Required Reading

Sarah Palin: Show Mom

Steve Fuller: ID Idiot

Glenn Greenwald's comments on the finanical meltdown

First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don't say "no" to anything. They say "yes" to everything. That's what they're for.

. . .

Third, what's probably most amazing of all is the contrast between how gargantuan all of this is and the complete absence of debate or disagreement over what's taking place. It's not just that, as usual, Democrats and Republicans are embracing the same core premises ("this is regrettable but necessary"). It's that there's almost no real discussion of what happened, who is responsible, and what the consequences are. It's basically as though the elite class is getting together and discussing this all in whispers, coordinating their views, and releasing just enough information to keep the stupid masses content and calm.

. . .

UPDATE: Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's elegantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "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" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.
But remember somehow this is not because of Bush, or Republican(s/ism), or economic conservatism, or capitalism. The terrorists did it; Wall Street are not "true" Republicans or conservatives; its Clinton's fault; and of course everyone's favorite: Liberals liberalized American into liberally liberal liberals.

Liberal Media

Only an idiot would believe in a "liberal media". Please comment as to whether or not you are an idiot.

Right Wing Attacks


More Market/Finance Commentary

Mike Whitney: The Point of No Return

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sub-Prime Humor

At this point, an oldie but goodie:

Obama insults Kucinich

What a tool:
"All of a sudden, he's has become a populist," Obama said. "Now he's unleashed an angry tirade against all the insiders and lobbyists who happened to have supported him for the last twenty-six years – the same folks who are running his campaign right now."

Obama's criticisms were entirely focused on McCain's positions on the economy, with the Democrat portraying his GOP rival as a flip-flopping poseur.

"John McCain can't decide whether he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich," Obama said, referring to the libertarian free-market conservative Republican and the left-wing Democrat who opposes free trade. "He's not clear about what he thinks or what he believes."

Big Ten Poll: McCain Even with Obama


McCain is pretty much even with Obama!
Obama and McCain in tight race in inaugural Big Ten Battleground Poll ( Sept. 18, 2008 )

In the inaugural Big Ten Battleground Poll taken as the nation’s financial crisis worsened this week, John McCain and Barack Obama were in a statistical dead heat in seven of the eight Midwest states included in the survey.

The individual surveys of 600 randomly selected registered voters in each of the states were conducted by phone from Sept. 14-17 and were co-directed by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientists Charles Franklin and Ken Goldstein and colleagues from participating universities. The polls each have a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The states included in the poll were Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
But, but! How is that possible when public opinion on say the Iraq war is so poor?

Could it be that we are not comparing apples-to-apples? It is hardly the case that sampling the American public and registered voters gives similar samples because of course only half of eligible voters are registered voters (to say nothing of actually voting)! Duh!

I have commented on this before:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Required Reading on the Financial Crisis

Here are some interesting links I have found recently:

Why the working class might not be ecstatic for Obama

Paul Street writes:
Whatever his motives, if Obama loses to the arch-reactionary McCain-Palin ticket, it won't be only because of racism. Among other things, it will also be because he and his campaign were unwilling or unable to make an aggressively populist case for voting Democratic to the American working class.
. . .
This was the deeper elitism that "mainstream" (corporate) media coverage deleted when Obama helped provoked charges of class and cultural snobbery with some revealing comments to an elite gathering of fundraisers in San Francisco prior to the April 22nd Democratic primary - won decisively by Hillary Clinton with large support from white working-class voters - in Pennsylvania. "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone for 25 years and nothing's replace them...And it's not surprising," Obama told his wine-sipping West Coast listeners, "they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them." Later, in clarifying his comments, Obama said that poor white small town Americans simply "don't vote on economic issues," turning instead to things like guns, gay marriage, abortion and religion [14].

Why I am not voting for Obama (w/o citations)

Here is why I am not voting for Obama:
  1. Rev. Wright: He chicken-shitted out on Rev. Wright. Wright spoke (more) truth about America but the Right and Fox screamed 'un-American' and corporate media just loves a good headline, so Obama 'distanced' and "denounced" Rev. Wright.
  2. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan: Would Obama really kill many fewer people around the world than McCain? Hard to tell when he says he wants to move the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan/Pakistan, all options are on the table w/r/t Iran and he sucks up to the Israeli lobby like all US politicians.
  3. Health Care: Obama is for universal health care right? Hmm, think not. Yes, his plan is better than McCain's. But as I recall, his plan will only insure around 49% of the currently uninsured. Hardly 'universal'. ( For the record, as I recall McCain's plan will insure around 7% of the currently uninsured. )

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

McCain continues to suck


( But I have spoken to too many "Dems", "liberals", etc about Obama and in the end the argument always becomes the "lesser-of-two-evils". Perhaps I will get to a post on it, but I will not be voting for evil. )

McCain sucks

I am not voting for Obama, but that does not mean McCain does not suck:
( I post these mostly so I can point people to them when they make idiotic statements during our discussions; eg. "If Hillary were the nominee I would vote for McCain." That is a big pack of the stupid right there. )

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why are you a Republican again?

Lose your house, lose your vote
The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses," party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign "election challengers" to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they "have a good reason to believe" that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a "true resident of the city or township."

. . .
Isn't the committment to the rule of law heart-warming? The only thing missing is commentary from Oliver North, John Poindexter, G. Gordon Liddy ( damn, you gotta love the montage of head-shots of Liddy throughout his life ), etc.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Required Viewing

Martial Law at the Republican National Convention:

How TV Frames the Working Class:

Daily Show on Sarah Palin:


The Media by Glenn Greenwald

Of course Chomsky explained it all long ago, but here is Glenn's version.

Thursday, September 4, 2008