September 30, 2008
A vast number of sources
The stock market is way up.
Here a "go figure": Consumer confidence unexpectedly improves in Sept.
Can someone explain that to me? Is it ALL just about gas prices?
I know it is already confirmed, but I just wanted to say it again.
Worst. President. Ever.
September 29, 2008
And: any new bailout package must address the ROOTS of this problem. It is time to prohibit corporations from using money for anything except operating the company. Or more correctly, prohibit the executives from using corporate resources for anything except operating the company. This includes all forms of political influence including influencing public debate -- no lobbying "philanthropy," charities, etc. This means trade associations will have to be constituted differently.
OK, the problem is that there is "toxic debt" out there and no one knows who will be affected by it. The toxic debt consists of "packages" of mortgages or other debt bundled up together. So imagine buying a package of 500 mortgages. What you now own is this obligation on the part of the mortgage holders to pay you a certain amount each month for the next 30 years (or until the mortgage is paid off.) If ALL the mortgage holders continue to make their payments, it is easy to know what your monthly revenue is going to be. But when you just don't know how many people are going to stop paying, it is nearly impossible to know what this package is worth.
And that is what is causing the problem. No one knows what the revenue from these things will be, so no one knows if they themselves can make their own payments and certainly doesn't know if others can pay them. And since everyone owes everyone else so much money from so many loans, no one knows who will be paying and who won't and therefore who will go out of business or not.
And that means that you can't trust ANYone to make their payments, because the people who pay the people who pay the people who pay them... might not be able to pay. Figuring out all those relationships is called "unwinding" it. THAT is what the bailout was about -- buying that "toxic debt" so companies could say that they are free of it and still in business (or not) and therefore get or give loans (or not). That lets the situation unwind.
The root of it is the housing bubble. And the root of that was a credit bubble -- too much credit. And that CAN'T be solved. Because NO ONE should ever have bought a house for so much money, or taken out second mortgages to buy cars and stuff. And it is done so it is too late really to do anything there. Like the answer to Iraq: don't invade Iraq. Now it's too late to solve it.
The problem though is what happens to businesses that ARE doing OK, but can't get the money they need, because the whole banking system has f'ed itself up? (Why would a sound company need money? Well, when you sell something you don't usually get paid for a while. And if you are owed ten million next Tuesday and have a payroll to make tomorrow, you have to borrow a bit.)
Even sound banks can't lend because they need to keep a certain amount in reserve and have loaned out the limit of what they can loan. The Fed has been propping that up.
The Bush plan was basically to just give money to the firms that might loan them money, so they could make the loan, by buying toxic debt from them without really caring what it turned out to be worth. It is an OK idea, IF the public is protected and the process is transparent. But the Republicans would have none of that.
This bailout can be salvaged IF they really do stop executives from being paid ridiculous amounts across the board, really do get real equity in the firms so that the public gains if those firms gain from this, really do get (fair) deals in bankruptcy court for some of the holders of those mortgages so they can pay, and really do tax Wall Street firms and transaction enough to recover the money involved. That is a start and should be done right away, even though it doesn't address root causes.
But like I said, Republicans are not going to go for that and we have to wait until Bush is gone.
One solution might be to set up new banks, from scratch. But that takes a bit of time. Another might be to set up what I call a Red Flag/Green Flag system so companies that do not hold toxic debt themselves get a green flag, and then you can visualize the networks of debt that do NOT have toxic debt in the chain...
The Fear Bailout bill is being pushed through so fast, and in such secrecy, that you won't even have time to sign the Read the Bill First! petition before they vote.
In my morning paper,
Q How will the plan affect the housing market?This is just wrong. If you qualify for a mortgage you can get a mortgage. If you do not qualify you can't and this bailout makes no difference.
A If it works as intended (a caveat with all these answers) the $700 billion should help level off home prices. The huge infusion of money into the financial sector, designed to buy up the most toxic mortgage-related assets held by banks and others, should loosen up the mortgage market, making it easier for potential home buyers to secure a loan and get into the market.
That, in turn, should stabilize prices, as more buyers make bids for homes.
The problem happened because people who did not qualify were getting mortgages. They were offered low "teaser" or "qualifying" rates. This enabled people to pay much more for houses than they should have and could afford. So in the bubble frenzy this allowed houses to go way, way up in price. Later the mortgages "adjusted" to the real rate, dramatically increasing the monthly payments.
Now the old rules are back, requiring people to prove they could afford to make the payments. Those rules are not being changed by this bailout bill. So people will not be able to "bid the price up" way beyond what a house ought to sell for.
Prices are not going back up. Give that idea up.
Instead, ask yourself why this bailout is being sold to you with lies?
This bailout bill hands over the rest of our money to a few Wall Street firms. It does not address the causes of the financial problems. In fact it likely makes them worse yet leaves us nothing to fix the actual problems.
It is being rammed through before the people get a chance to weigh in. It is being rammed through using fear and confusion. We, the People are not being allowed to understand and debate this massive, massive transfer of our money. That by itself should be sufficient warning that a scam is underway.
Stirling Newberry: The Fate of the Union,
We must say no. And we must tell the people who work for us. This bill is not nothing else than the meaning of America itself. We have a choice of two Americas, one where enabling acts are rammed through under the cover of darkness and obscurity, with and in the shadow of fear, the other where there is, yet, some slim hope for our Democracy. The waves of the people's revolution must overwhelm the dike and dams of privilege on this day, or there will be no tomorrow.
[. . .] Paulson's plan was not conceived in a few hours, but planned and prepared for months, and only launched upon the public at a moment of perceived panic. The executive hid it in its dark recesses, waiting for a moment to launch it upon us. This alone should be enough for a legislature with any scrap of republican spirit, or democratic pride, or American honor, to reject it out of hand and demand that it be worked a new, from wholly different principles.
[. . .] Who has spoken for the people? With all the cameras and conferences, we have not had a voice. Locked out from a Byzantine process, we have been told to wait while others decide our fate. A curtain of night and fog surrounded the negotiations, with repeated declarations that deal was reached, taking for granted in the absolute the people's assent.
September 28, 2008
Earlier I wrote that Exec Pay IS NOT In This Bailout Bill.
I want to hilite the update. Go here to read about what else is not in the bill. This is a right-wing perspective celebrating that most of what we had been led to understand was good in the bill for the people of this country has been removed from the final bill, including sufficient oversight. And the supposed three-step funding is a trick because it requires a 2/3 vote to stop it all from being handed over to the Wall Street firms.
This bill must not pass.
OK, so the bailout bill is out. We have been talk all along that executive pay limits would be in a bailout bill. But it is NOT in the bill.
One of the ways this bailout was made somewhat palatable was that executives of firms bailed out would have their massive paychecks reduced. To me this meant:
1) They wouldn't be going for bailout money unless they really meant it
2) Bailout money wold be used to help pay their massive paychecks.
Instead there is a provision that limits tax deductions on executive pay for the top five executives. As if this means anything.
So with executive pay limits NOT in the bill, when we were told it would be, we need to find out why it this not in the bill, where it went, and why we are being told lies intended to sell us on the bill.
This is the kind of thing that sets us alarm bells for me.
Update - Here is what has happened to the bill, from a right-wing perspective. Interesting. Everything good appears to be out now.
Call your representative and DEMAND that they vote against the bill! It is JUST a handout of all the rest of our money, to rich Wall Street firms.
There are several letters-to-the-editor and TWO op-eds in my morning paper saying that the cause of the financial crisis was Democrats forcing Fannie and Freddie to give mortgages to minorities.
It's everywhere. All over the radio, right-wing blogs, etc. This is how they do it.
P.S. And while we are on the subject of how they do it, an e-mail I just received from the "Republican Majority Campaign" titled, "Truth is Spreading about Obama's Ties to Terrorist!"
A day of airplanes (Delta's a good airline) and now I am home. Jet-lagged, but home.
Did anything happen this week?
September 27, 2008
I keep hearing that there is a "credit crunch" and that people and companies can't get loans. That is not what is happening right now.
There is a TON of money out there to loan. If you can demonstrate an ability to pay it back you can get a loan. In fact there is so much money out there to loan, looking for a SAFE place to get a return that if you can show an ability to pay it back you can get a really good deal right now.
This is not a credit problem at all. It is a SOLVENCY problem. No one wants to loan money to a person or company that is about to go bankrupt.
Update - OK that was a bit too simple. If YOU want to buy a house and have the down payment and good credit and can afford to make the payments, you can get a loan. They're dying to find you to loan money to you. If you are a solvent manufacturer with cash flow and a good credit history and you need a lot of cash to build a new plant the problem is that many of the banks that you would normally get a loan from are in trouble and THEY can't borrow the money to then loan out to you.
September 26, 2008
I think both John McCain and Barack Obama did well representing their positions and showing what they would be like as President. So on that I would score this as a tie. (I also want to say that McCain did well yesterday when I saw him in person at the Clinton Global Initiative. In fact it was the best I have seen him in a very long time, not the clown we have been seeing this year.)
But I think that by doing this they have offered the American people a clear choice. They contrasted their philosophies very well. For example, McCain argued his position of tax cuts for corporations while Obama argued his position of bottom-up economic growth.
I think there is on more factor here. They also both offered stories. McCain offers the past. Obama offers the future. That is the clear story that was told here.
Wow. The RW blogs are over the edge, and it's still, what, about 40 days till the election? Take a look at this one:
... Barack Obama Attacked White People! ... Barack Obama was moved to tears when he heard his racist anti-American pastor blame whitey for all of the world's pain and ills. ... Here Barack Obama lashes out at the white man's greed ...Sigh...
this is interesting, Huckabee Calls McCain Debate Ploy a ‘Huge Mistake’,
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Thursday that Sen. John McCain made a “huge mistake” by even discussing canceling the presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama.
. . . Huckabee said Thursday in Mobile that the people need to hear both candidates. He said that’s “far better than heading to Washington” to huddle with senators.
He said the candidates should level with the people about the financial crisis and say the “heart of this is greed.”
. . . Huckabee also was critical of President Bush’s handling of the crisis.
He said to lay the $700 billion obligation on the nation “in 24 hours” amounts to “holding the country hostage.”
“I just think the American people ought to be screaming their lungs out, saying to Congress, not so fast. That’s our money you’re giving away,” Huckabee said.
September 25, 2008
At the Clinton Global Initiative I have been asking around, trying to get a sense of how the Wall Street financial crisis is affecting the funding of non-profits/NGOs attending this conference.
What I am hearing is that the economic crisis -- or at least fear of it -- is affecting funding and in some cases significantly. But here's the hitch: Almost every conversation I have had except one was about how the funders are afraid that the economy is getting worse and that is why they are cutting back. Only once was I told that the an organization's primary funder had cut back because of necessity from actual financial difficulties. So it appears that fear that the economy is turning down is causing many funders to cut back. (Perhaps this is to preserve capital? -- please discuss this in the comments.)
Of course, actual economic stress hits people at the lower end of the ladder or in poorer and less developed regions much harder than it hits the rest of the population. These are the people and organizations that the funding institutions and individuals are committed to serve. And it is the nature of philanthropy that even in the worst of downturns the funders will not suffer to the degree that to poorest will.
Since an economic downturn brings with it a much greater need on the part of the recipients of the world's philanthropy, shouldn't fears that this is coming trigger a greater committment of assistance rather than cutbacks? A metaphor might be helping purchase plywood and tape to cover store windows before a hurricane hits.
If this story, Deal said near on big financial bailout is correct I think I feel a bit better about the bailout. Not completely better, but a bit.
1) If executives are really limited in pay (and stock) by this deal they won't be involving their firms unless it is really necessary. They won't be in it for themselves.
2) If we get equity in the companies that get bailout money then WE profit if they do.
3) It is phased in, so we don't just dump all the rest of our money onto a few companies at once. Instead we can see if it is working - and a new President can change what is being done.
If we get these things, it's a start. I think we should get rid of many of the executives responsible. I also think we need to redesign the system from scratch, insist that ALL corporate money be removed from politics immediately, impost a 90% or higher top tax rate and several other things.
And about this meeting with McCain and Obama at the White house today... is it possible they're going to be injected with something, and then replaced by pod-people?
When we the taxpayers foot the bill for the excesses of the bubble, we are bailing out the lenders who enabled the behavior below:Note - at the asking price we ONLY lose $209K. But at the asking price the buyer has to come up with $90K AND have an income of $115K for a CONDOMINIUM.
* The house was purchased on 2/6/1998 for $183,000. There was a $173,500 first mortgage and a $9,500 downpayment.
* On 8/21/2002 they refinanced the first mortgage for $165,500. They actually paid down their debt.
* On 3/12/2003 they opened a HELOC for $50,000, just in case... Their first taste of kool aid.
* On 2/13/2004 they opened a HELOC for $226,000. The kool aid is flowing now.
* On 10/22/2004 they opened an Option ARM for $492,000.
* On 5/2/2005 they opened a HELOC for $75,100.
* On 10/21/2005 they opened a HELOC for $126,000.
* On 9/28/2006 they opened a HELOC for $150,000.
* Total debt on the property, $642,000 plus accumulated negative amortization.
* Total mortgage equity withdrawal, $468,500 including their tiny downpayment.
Basically, these people put $9,500 into the property and made $459,000 in 8 years.
. . . If this property sells for its asking price, and if a 6% commission is paid, the US taxpayer is going to lose $209,694.
The bailout's success depends on housing prices not dropping any more.
I have a post explaining what the Clinton Global initiative is about over at the Social Edge Blog.
But after McCain's moving speech this morning I am thinking about suspending my blogging.
September 24, 2008
Picture an evening drinking session a couple of months ago (2008), four or five top Bushies around a table.
"Hey, I’ve got an idea."
"What is it?"
"Oh, you’re going to like this one."
"So OK, what is it?"
"Let’s see if we can get the rest."
"The rest. Let’s get the rest of it before we go."
"Really? The rest? We already have about $4 trillion stashed. Why bother."
"Because it would be cool. Then we can say we got it all. No one has done that before. We’ve still got a few months. What the heck, let’s give it a try."
"Huh. How much is left?"
Calculator noises. … "I figure we could borrow another $700 billion if we do it right."
"What? That’s all that’s left?"
"Yeah. We were pretty thorough."
"Wow. That’s it? Pretty cool."
"So OK. OK. I like it. Let’s go with this. What’s the cover story? What do we say?"
…Silence. Fingers drumming on the table.
"Hey, I have an idea. Let’s tell them we really, really screwed up the economy. They’ll buy that for sure. And we need $700 billion immediately to fix it."
"Why do we need $700 billion to fix it?"
… "uh. No, never mind."
... "How about … no, that won’t work."
"Wait. Look, if we’re going to go for it, let’s do it right. We tell them that WE JUST DO! Tell them to just shut up and give it to us. We need $700 billion, and we need it in 48 hours, and no one is allowed to know what we're going to do with it and no court can review it or anything. In fact, we could throw in something about it being "non-reviewable by any court or any agency."
"Wow. That’s harsh. But you know, that might actually work. A lot of our guys love that kind of stuff."
"Yeah, they’ll eat that up. The more we make them look like absolute woosies, the more they like to give us."
"Hey, this is cooking. Heck I was wondering what I was going to do with myself until January. This will really put us in the history books for sure. ... Wow. ... The rest. All of it. We could actually get all of it. They’ll be writing about that for a thousand years. No one will ever top this."
This is a great blog post explaining what is really happening with this financial crisis.
Governor Palin says that America is not heading for a recession, it will be another Great Depression. Go see: Palin: America may be in for another Great Depression
I have two new posts from the CGI, over at the Social Edge blog.
At the Clinton Global Initiative Al Gore just called upon young people to engage in civil disobedience to prevent the construction of any new coal plants.
He also said that oil and coal companies funding the global warming deniers is a form of stock fraud.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
After months of playing "chicken" the yearly California budget compromise ritual once again passes the buck to the next year. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief that the "stalemate" is over.
But the problems aren't solved at all, they're worse. Next year this will happen again but because of this year and previous years' so-called "solutions" it will be that much harder to agree on a budget. So if you thought this year was bad...
Friday Dan Walters, in, Revised state budget is still a sham, wrote that the budget,
...remains a stopgap budget filled with accounting gimmicks and questionable "spending cuts" and "revenues" - and still leaves the state's fiscal house in great disorder. It makes little, if any, headway on closing what those in the Capitol call the "structural deficit" - the chronic gap between revenues and spending that was plaguing the state even before its economy went into the tank.
and wrote yesterday,
They violated every principle of fiscal responsibility by conjuring up billions of dollars in sham revenues -- basically money borrowed from corporate and personal taxpayers that would have to be paid back later -- to cover a huge deficit so they could blow town.Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said,
"I have agreed with the Governor to make some tweaks to the budget we sent him. I'm not proud of this budget - it just kicks the can down the road. But the reality is, Democrats agreed to nearly $10 billion in tough cuts while the Governor could not get a single Republican vote for the $5 billion in new revenue we need to close this gap and solve the problem."That's right, once again a small minority was able to get their way by refusing to participate in normal, civil,, give-and-take negotiation. They are able to do this because the public doesn't really know what is happening in Sacramento, only that no budget is passing. So therefore it must be everyone's fault equally -- even if it isn't.
Click through to Speak Out California
September 23, 2008
Since I am in New York I thought I would take a subway down to Wall Street this morning. Here it is, from behind the statue of George Washington, taken about 15 minutes ago. Now I am online from a Starbucks down the street.
Thinking about this financial crisis, I have an observation. Just a week ago there really wasn't that big of a problem as far as the Financial Elite were concerned. I mean, us out there in the hinterlands were feeling pain and trying to tell the Elite to pay attention. So we were "whiners." But the "fundamentals of the economy were found."
Now it is just ONE WEEK later and the entire world has collapsed and the Congress is working on a package to send ALL THE REST OF THE MONEY that the country can possibly borrow to Wall Street.
What happened? I think what happened is that something affected THEM, so it became IMPORTANT. This financial crisis is important because it affects the financial elite. And so we are presented with a "shut up and pay up" oackage to bail them out. Because THEY are important and we are NOT important, so the things that make them uncomfortable MUST be solved immediately.
But who is being asked to pay? We are. Not them, us. Have you once heard from Washington a suggestion that the rich and corporations start paying taxes again, to cover the costs of this massive bailout? Of course not.
They say that credit is drying up. My question is, according to the law of supply and demand is credit really drying up, or is the PRICE of credit rising to meet the cost of covering the risks of loaning to these clucks who screwed up the economy.
September 22, 2008
I'm flying across the country today. I don't know where and when I might have access to the Internets.
The reason Congress MUST pass this bailout bill NOW is because in a short time an Obama administration might be taking over. THAT is the reason it has to be done NOW and uses up all the rest of the money the United States might be able to borrow, ever, instead of passing something that covers the problem for a few months. Otherwise there would be a chance for a sensible approach that follows the principles of one-person-one-vote democracy instead of one-dollar-one-vote Republicanism.
Chris at Open Left writes,
Cut Bush out of the equation. Start negotiating with the candidates instead, thus forcing them to make this their first action as President. This will also have the positive result of making the election about the bailout and corporate malfeasance in general. Hell, it would also make every single congressional campaign about the same thing, since every candidate would be forced to work out the deal for two weeks before the next President is in office.
Remember the Seeing the Forest Rule: when a Republican is accusing it usually means it is something the Republican has been doing.
HERE is why the McCain campaign is falsely accusing Obama of somehow being involved with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Loan Titans Paid McCain Adviser Nearly $2 Million,
Senator John McCain’s campaign manager was paid more than $30,000 a month for five years as president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations, current and former officials say.
. . . “The value that he brought to the relationship was the closeness to Senator McCain and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again,” said Robert McCarson, a former spokesman for Fannie Mae, who said that while he worked there from 2000 to 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together paid Mr. Davis’s firm $35,000 a month. Mr. Davis “didn’t really do anything,” Mr. McCarson, a Democrat, said.
By shocking us with their Plan the Bush administration have once against defined the terms of the debate, and set all of the conditions. It all has to be immediate with no time to think it over and has to be done exactly the way we say or YOU will be responsible for killing the economy (and this kitten).
I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.Calculated Risk adds,
A better plan would be transparent (all deals would be publicized), involve a share in ownership for the taxpayers, and have substantial oversight. We can do better.Democracy can work. Give it a (last) chance.
September 21, 2008
Why are only U.S. taxpayers being asked to put up $700 billion to bail out the world's financial system?
The U.S. is $10 trillion in debt.
Europe's economy is the same size as ours.
China is sitting on hundreds of billions if not trillions of surplus funds.
Middle Eastern countries are sitting on hundreds of billions in oil profits.
So why is the AMERICAN taxpayer supposed to suddenly step in and save the world's financial system? Tell me that?
I suspect it is because we're the ones who are currently set up for harvesting, and our Congress can be stampeded to do this with 48 hours notice.
Everyone is talking about how to modify The Plan. Don't modify it, start from a new premise. The bailout plan bails out the crooks who caused the mess so throw them out don't bail them out.
The problem is that people can't pay their mortgages and credit card bills. The big financial firms are in trouble because they aren't getting their payments.
So what about attacking the ROOT CAUSES of not being able to pay mortgages and credit card bills.
Health care: People get foreclosed on when they are hit with big health care bills. This is because of our failed health care system. If we put some money into fixing our health care system we would have fewer foreclosures AND we'd all get health care.
Concentration of wealth: People can't pay their bills because most of the money in our economy goes to a few at the top of the food chain. The rest of us are the food. What about a 90% tax rate on incomes over maybe 2 million, and the money is applied to paying off mortgages and credit cards? That would bail out the financial system in a better way than just taxing everyone and giving the money to ... well, to the few at the top.
Energy costs: Paying energy bills is another cause of people not meeting their mortgages and credit card bills. So what about imposing a carbon tax and using the money to help people retrofit their houses to be energy efficient, maybe even buy solar panels, etc.? THIS would address a ROOT CAUSE of not just the financial mess, but out trade imbalance and climate change.
Taking a constructive approach to this problem would bring us long-term benefits. Don't just hand over all the rest of our money to a few at the top, let's instead use that money to fix the problems that CAUSED this mess.
ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES. Don't just give the Bush cronies authority to hand out checks to the rich.
Here is the justification for The Plan:
If the plan works, it will attack the central cause of American economic distress: the continued plunge in housing prices. If banks resumed lending more liberally, mortgages would become more readily available. That would give more people the wherewithal to buy homes, lifting housing prices or at least preventing them from falling further. This would prevent more mortgage-linked investments from going bad, further easing the strain on banks. As a result, the current downward spiral would end and start heading up.Sorry, if houses are overpriced because of the bubble, then they are overpriced. This idea that people are not buying houses that cost $300, $400, $500, $600,000 because banks can't lend them the money is just preposterous! Even if a bank can lend the money, they can't lend the money because TOO FEW PEOPLE MAKE ENOUGH TO QUALIFY. The other day I showed that you have to have an income of $12,000 a month to buy a low-end house in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The idea that you can stop housing prices from falling back to where they should be is like the idea that you could have stopped the stock of golfballs.com from falling after the dot com bubble. I worked at a company where the stock went up to $35 a share for no reason, and then after the crash the stock went back to WHAT IT WAS WORTH: five cents a share.
You CAN'T prop up the price of house ABOVE WHAT THEY ARE WORTH. This is why the bailout plan can not work.
September 20, 2008
Next week I will be in New York to blog from the Clinton Global Initiative, as I have done from two previous CGIs. I'll be blogging for Social Edge. Take a look at my first post there, and stop in there to see what's up. I will also be updating Seeing the Forest.
This will be a VERY interesting event, as it takes place with so many world and business leaders attending during the current turmoil in the financial world -- and at the same time as the annual United Nations General Assembly.
I received this in my email:
The following are among those who have confirmed their attendance at the 2008 CGI Annual Meeting: Queen Rania Al-Abdullah (Jordan), Prime Minister Gordon Brown (UK), President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (Mexico), President Leonel Fernández (Dominican Republic), President Armando Guebuza (Mozambique), President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), President Paul Kagame (Rwanda), President Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), President Shimon Peres (Israel), Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (Australia), President Jalal Talabani (Iraq), UN Secretary Genereal Ban Ki-moon, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (UK), former President Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), former Vice President Al Gore (United States), Senator John McCain (Arizona), Senator Barack Obama (Illinois), Mayor Bill White (Houston), former Senator Bill Frist (Tennessee), Jacques Aigrain (Swiss Re), Muhammad Ali (Athletes for Hope), Bradbury Anderson (Best Buy), Lance Armstrong (Lance Armstrong Foundation), Craig Barrett (Intel), Maria Bartiromo (CNBC), Bono (ONE), Tom Brokaw (NBC News), Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute), John Chambers (Cisco), Peter Chernin (News Corporation), Former Army General Wesley Clark (UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations; Emergya Wind Technologies, BV), Ian Davis (McKinsey & Company), Paul Farmer (Partners in Health), Bill Gates, Bob Geldof, David Gergen (Harvard University), Neville Isdell (The Coca-Cola Company), Wyclef Jean (Yéle Haiti), Ashley Judd, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Riverkeeper Alliance; NRDC), Anne Lauvergeon (Areva), Wangari Maathai (Green Belt Movement, Kenya), Amre Moussa (League of Arab States), Dikembe Mutombo (Dikembe Mutombo Foundation), R.K. Pachauri (TERI), T. Boone Pickens (BP Capital), Victor Pinchuk (The Victor Pinchuk Foundation), Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Judith Rodin (Rockefeller Foundation), Robert Rubin (Citi), Joseph Saunders (Visa Inc), Josette Sheeran (World Food Programme), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (IMF), Barbara Streisand (The Streisand Foundation), Myron Ullman (J.C. Penny’s), Ann Veneman (UNICEF), and Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank).
Both United States presidential candidates will have a role in the Annual Meeting. Senator John McCain will deliver the opening remarks live at the “Integrated Solutions: water, food and energy” plenary session. Senator Barack Obama will address meeting participants via satellite.
Everything I have read about this massive bailout proposal sounds like they're going to try to treat the symptoms of a sick and failed system instead of the causes and instead of reforming or replacing the failed system itself. Nothing I have heard addresses the CAUSES of the problems!
I say THROW the system out and start building one that WORKS for US, don't bail the failed, corrupt system out. A bailout just keeps in place a bad system that has bankrupted all of us in order to enrich a very, very few.
Example: The CAUSE of this was corporate corruption of our political system. The deregulation, bankruptcy bill, oil company favoritism, "free" trade agreements that caused massive trade and job deficits, cronyism, etc. happened because corporate money was used to buy the political system. SO a bailout should prohibit ANY use of corporate funds to influence the political system in ANY way. This includes giving money to organizations like Heritage Foundation, Cato, CEI, DLC and the hundreds of other corporate front groups that influence our politics and our thinking.
Example: Why bail out the very people who caused this mess? Any company receiving a dime of bailout money from the taxpayers should agree to certain terms that benefit the taxpayers. Their taxes on any profits should be doubled or tripled for ten or twenty years. Their management should not be allowed to receive pay that is above ten times the American average. They should agree to start retrofitting their companies to be carbon-neutral. I can think of a hundred other things they should have to agree to.
Example: Lots of people have run up debt and can't pay their credit card bills because wages have not been going up, jobs are being outsourced, etc., while a few people at the very top of the system are getting vast, vast income and wealth out of the current system. SO reforming the system and imposing very high taxes of 90% or more on high incomes above, maybe $2 million, and using this money FOR THE PEOPLE should be a part of a bailout. These high taxes remove the INCENTIVE to lie, cheat and steal. They remove the reason a few people have been gaming the system. And with a 90% top tax rate hedge fund managers would STILL bring in $300 million a year. Think about that.
Example: Lots of people can't pay their mortgages and credit card bills because of health care costs. Completely reforming the health care system to provide everyone with health care would cost VASTLY less than this trillion-dollar bailout. SO a national health care system should be ONE component of a bailout.
These are just a few ideas for approaching any bailout. I have more. ALL of us would have many, many more if we get the time to think about it. And THIS is why they are trying to force this to happen immediately - THIS WEEK. If we get a chance to take a breather and think about what we're doing -- giving them all the rest of the money the country has -- we might have time to see a better way to proceed. They DON'T want that.
Is this bailout by the American taxpayer going to be about helping the American people, or a few owners of big corporations -- the people who got us into this mess?
Someone I read somewhere (sorry, lost the link) suggested that any firm getting any bailout money not be allowed to pay executives more than 10 times the average American wage.
How about if any firm getting bailout money pay double tax rates on future profits for the next ten years?
How about if in exchange for the bailout we set the top tax rate for people making more than a million dollars a year back to 90% -- to eliminate the bad-behaviour incentive and start paying off the national debt?
The financial crisis happened because of too much borrowing. They say it necessitates that we cough up ONE TRILLION DOLLARS for a bailout of the financial firms.
This begs the question -- where are we going to get the money?
September 19, 2008
It occurs to me that this sudden bailout demand - on a Friday - that the Congress hand over $1 TRILLION dollars NEXT WEEK is based purely on fear.
It is not a RESPONSE to an existing problem, where we could see what was going on and see the affected businesses and workers and regions and gauge the seriousness and allocate according to demonstrated need. This is based entirely on a fear story -- of we DON'T do this, then TERRIBLE things will happen.
Where just a few days ago all the people at the top were saying "the fundamentals are sound," suddenly they are all saying in unison that the sky is FALLING, and they have this PLAN, where the taxpayers have to hand them a $TRILLION dollars, IMMEDIATELY, or the most TERRIBLE things that you can't even imagine will certainly happen to you. And we have to do it next week, before you all head home to campaign. And all the Republicans are saying in unison we can't be partisan with something this important, just take our plan and pass it now.
The timing is just too convenient. Just before an election. Just before the Congress heads home to campaign. The amount is just too large. The need is just not demonstrated -- this is not a RESPONSE it is anticipation and fear. (In fact, the stock market is UP about 800 points in just two days.)
We all need to take a breather, wait a while, and be sure this bailout is needed. A couple of weeks, a month, to see if this is for real or not.
It really looks to me like this is a pure shock doctrine fear play.
For decades we can't have a health care plan -- too expensive. Alternative energy? Too expensive. College paid for by the government? Too expensive. And Social Security was "in crisis" because it MIGHT come up a bit short in 40 years -- we have to raise the retirement age!
But THIS MORNING the Bush Administration announces a plan to spend $1 TRILLION (should put that as another trillion) bailing out the big financial firms and Congress will vote on it NEXT WEEK!
Suddenly, as with the Iraq war, there is a fast trillion to be had, with NO chance for anyone to think it over.
The Treasury Secretary wants the largest tax expenditure in history to be considered and passed IN A WEEK, just before an election. And then the BUSH ADMINISTRATION will manage how the bailout is handled.
Does this set off any alarm bells, people? The BUSH ADMINISTRATION is going to be in charge of deciding how trillions of our dollars are going to be allocated? The incompetent, "no bid contract," Halliburton, billions in cash disappearing in Iraq, Katrina, CORRUPT BUSH ADMINISTRATION allocating ALL THE REST OF THE MONEY IN THE TREASURY???
Hey, people, this is all of it. This is your retirement money, your hopes for a health care plan, your ability to buy food, all coming up in one massive spending bill IN A WEEK.
Tell me, what do you THINK is about to happen???
Treasury Secretary Paulson just used the words, "A significant investment of taxpayer dollars." That's OUR dollars. And where is the money going? The plan is for U.S. taxpayers to bail out Wall Street. Not just a few firms this time, but all of it. The financial markets are, of course, soaring on the new bailout plan.
Where did all this bad debt come from? In the last few years millions were talked into borrowing money from Wall Street using houses as collateral. Sometimes to buy those houses, other times to buy cars and ... stuff. This paid for Wall Street's multi-million-dollar salaries and bonuses for the past several years. The easy borrowing ran up the price of houses, but now the party is over and the bill comes due.
What does this bailout plan mean to regular Americans? First: It means no money for a health care plan.
Second: it means no money for retirement. It means no money to cover what the government borrowed from Social Security to give those tax cuts to the rich. (The corporations long ago quit providing pensions to the people who did the work. THAT scam -- 401Ks instead of pensions; money transferred from workers to shareholders -- is what started the big Wall Street runup.)
In summary, this plan means our standard of living will drop in order to cover the mess Wall Street made while handing out those multi-million dollar bonuses.
The plan will be presented to Congress in these last days of the Bush administration, and a climate of disaster emergency urgency will be used to get it passed before anyone has time to consider the ramifications of what is happening.
Alternative: instead use the money to retrofit the entire country to a green economy. Make every building energy efficient. Replace the oil and coal-based electricity generation with alternatives. Build efficient power lines to the new wind generation system we will build in the Plains states. This would give every unemployed person a job, create an efficient economy, and pay dividends forever. This would probably cost much less than the bailout.
September 18, 2008
If you don't then you don't know what I am talking about.
ALSO, take a few minutes to explore all the stuff in the left and right columns here. There's a lot of great stuff. And let me know about any dead blog links in the blogroll. Also about blogs that should be in the blogroll...
There is a rumor that the government will step in and take over ALL the bad debt like it did after the Savings and Loan crisis and put the bill to the taxpayers. Stocks are up 450 on the rumor.
Investors were cheered by the notion of a huge federal intervention like the establishment of RTC to acquire the real estate debt that has hobbled financial institutions and led to the intense volatility in the markets this week.
If there's an RTC-like entity, "it's going to take a lot of the bad debt off the balance sheets of these companies," said Scott Fullman, director of derivatives investment strategy for WJB Capital Group in New York. That would alleviate many of the pressures causing the credit crisis, he said, and open up the credit markets again.
The way the S&L bailout worked was, the government took over all the assets of the failed S&Ls. If you were a big Republican campaign contributor you got to buy all the good stuff for pennies on the dollar. Taxpayers put up all the money for the bailout.
September 17, 2008
If you know what Townhall.com is... Townhall.com :: Obama: Lucifer Is My Homeboy
So... do you think clean campaigner McCain will denounce this?
Baroness Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, wife of British banking scion Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, endorsed John McCain -- the guy with a private jet and seven houses -- for President today, calling Obama "an elitist."
As the saying goes, I am not making that up.
When not engaged in politics, de Rothschild -- whom the Wall Street Journal dubbed a "New York socialite" and Portfolio has described as "the flashiest hostess in London" -- has the run of a sprawling estate in Buckinghamshire, north of London, known as Ascott House. In the U.S., she summers on Martha's Vineyard. And she has not been shy with her feelings about Obama prior to today, telling CNN weeks ago -- and without any hint of irony -- that, "frankly, I don't like him. I feel like he is an elitist."Is there anything else to say about McCain and his claims that he is one of us regular people?
In the Seeing the Forest: Is Your Money Safe? post a few days ago I suggested that you make sure your money is in bank accounts that are insured by the FDIC.
Well, there is a possible hitch in that plan. As Atrios points out today, Washington Mutual is teetering and if they go under it could swamp the FDIC. Like so many other institutions FDIC doesn't have the necessary reserves to cover what is happening.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., whose insurance fund has slipped below the minimum target level set by Congress, could be forced to tap tax dollars through a Treasury Department loan if Washington Mutual Inc., the nation's largest thrift, or another struggling rival fails, economists and industry analysts said Tuesday.What does this mean to you? Well, it might be a good idea to have some cash literally under your mattress in case your bank goes under and it takes a while for Congress and the Treasury to bail out the FDIC. That contingency means it might take a while before you have access to your money.
I wouldn't worry that you are going to lose your money -- Congress just won't allow that. But it might be a little while before you can access it. So have enough cash at home to pay for things for a little while. I'm sure that checks will still be OK for paying the rent, etc...
I'm still having a problem with Firefox and Flash. I either can't play videos like YouTube, or there is no sound. If I reinstall Flash it works for a day or two then quits again. Everything works fine in Internet Explorer, except I hate IE.
Do you think the Firefox people will ever fix it?
The government just took over insurance giant AIG, at a cost of $85 billion to the taxpayers. They just finished bailing out Bear Sterns and Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. How many hundreds of billions of dollars have gone into other financial bailout efforts?
Since Reagan almost all of us are getting poorer, while a very few get vastly richer. Wages have largely stagnated since Reagan's election even as GDP and productivity have gone up. Pensions are a thing of the past. Health insurance is becoming a thing of the past as well.
As a result of the Reagan and now Bush tax cuts for the rich the government's debt is just about $10 TRILLION.
And corporations now rule us instead of democracy.
The conservative economic experiment failed a long time ago. When are we going to admit it and get things back on track? Will we wait until the United States declare bankruptcy? We're almost there now.
September 16, 2008
I'm hearing a lot of talk about plans to "stabilize" or "prop up" housing prices. Plans include cutting interest rates, providing tax credits, etc. in order to "keep prices from dropping too far."
Here is a news flash: after a speculative bubble prices always revert to the mean. You can't stabilize prices any other way except by letting them fall until they are back where they should be again.
Housing prices will "reach a bottom" and "stabilize" when the following occur:
Prices will revert to the mean. After a speculative bubble prices always revert to the mean. This is another way of saying they go back to where they should be. When there was a bubble in tulip bulbs prices went back to where they should be, which was not much above zero. Remember "dot com" stocks? They fell to reflect the actual value of the companies. Many of those companies weren't worth anything.
Prices will stabilize when supply does not exceed demand. Currently there is a HUGE inventory of unsold, foreclosed, newly-built, unfinished or whatever houses on the market. There are speculators still sitting on two, three and more houses. And there is another supply of people waiting for a "better time" to sell. At the same time there is almost no demand, because people understand that prices are falling, and they will lose their future if they buy a house at these inflated prices. AND lenders are starting to want to know if the buyer can pay back the loan, which means fewer loans for buying houses. (Especially if they start getting honest appraisals again!)
Prices will stabilize when the price of a house reflects the local rents people are paying. That is when it makes sense for a landlord to buy a property. when they can make money on the rent.
Prices will stabilize when the average-priced house in the area is affordable by the average-income person in the area.
Prices will fall to the point where houses are worth what they are worth when purchased for what they are meant for. This means that a psychological change has to occur and people stop thinking of a house as an "investment" or a savings account, and merely as a place to live.
A house is a place to live. That is what a house is. When everyone involved comes to understand a house as a place to live housing prices will stabilize. Part of that understanding involves understanding that people should never pay more than 25-28% of their income on housing expenses. (That's mortgage payment, insurance and property taxes added together. In some regions you should add heating and cooling costs to that.)
The bad news is that this means prices in many areas still have a long, long way to fall. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, two bedroom houses in bad neighborhoods are still being offered for $500,000. This means a $100,000 down payment, and monthly payments of $2400 PLUS insurance PLUS maybe $500 a month in property taxes. This means you have to have $100,000 in the bank and an income of more than $12,000 a MONTH to be able to buy a two bedroom house in a bad neighborhood. And this means that prices have a long, long way to fall.
Take a look at the Seeing The Forest store!
September 15, 2008
What do we do if we win?
I'll be writing soon about New Progressive Voices - Values and Policies for the 21st Century,
The members of the Progressive Ideas Network have come together at this auspicious moment to lay out a course for genuine progress in the government and governance of this country and all its people.This is a book of nine essays by progressive leaders, laying out a progressive vision for governance. You can download their document (56 pages PDF).
Go to the site to see the list of Progressive Ideas Network organizations that are participating.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Friday morning's San Francisco Chronicle story, Legislature's approval rating at a record low, illustrates why California's budget impasse continues. From the article,
"Democrats and the minority Republicans have hunkered down, with neither side willing to make the compromises needed to put together a budget plan that can garner the required two-thirds support."The budget problem is that reporting like this keeps the public from understanding what is happening in Sacramento.
Here is what is happening with the budget:
- The Democrats have offered plan after plan, accepting deep budget cuts, some borrowing and offering various ways to raise revenue.
- The Governor has offered a plan, with deep budget cuts, borrowing, and a temporarysales tax increase.
- The Republicans have refused to compromise, refusing any budget that raises any revenue at all, not even asking the extremely wealthy to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us have to pay.
It is just that simple. The Republicans have been blocking the budget and they are getting away with it because the press refuses to report that the Republicans are blocking the budget. If the press reported this simple fact public pressure would build and the Republicans would have to yield.
Update - A comment on the possible budget "compromise": It just kicks the can down the road by delaying dealing with our problems. It doesn't fix anything, and cuts essential services from the people who need government most. In fact it just makes it much, much harder to solve the problem in the next budget because it steals revenue from next year.
Click through to Speak Out California
He wants to invest it with Merrill Lynch or with Lehman Brothers, but he can't seem to find them right now. If you run into those guys, will you have them get in touch with him?
September 14, 2008
From the post below, a few emails came in that prompt me to post this: Is your money safe?
Click to see the FDIC rules for you bank deposits. Read these rules and make sure YOUR money is in bank accounts that are insured by the FDIC. You have no business having your money ANYwhere else right now unless you are a financial expert.
Single accounts, up to $100,000,
If a depositor's accounts at one FDIC-insured bank or savings association total $100,000 or less, the deposits are fully insured. A depositor can have more than $100,000 at one insured bank or savings association and still be fully insured provided the accounts meet certain requirements. In addition, federal law provides for insurance coverage of up to $250,000 for certain retirement accounts.
. . . All single accounts owned by the same person at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $100,000.
Certain retirement accounts up to $250,000,
. . . The following types of retirement plan deposits qualify for coverage as certain retirement accounts.Joint Accounts: Husband and wife joint account up to $200,000,
-- All types of IRAs, including:
• Traditional IRAs
• Roth IRAs
• Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs
• Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs
-- All Section 457 deferred compensation plan accounts, such as eligible deferred compensation plans provided by state and local governments, regardless of whether they are self-directed
-- Self-directed defined contribution plan accounts, such as self-directed 401(k) plans, self-directed SIMPLE IRAs held in the form of 401(k) plans, self-directed defined contribution money purchase plans, and self-directed defined contribution profit-sharing plans
-- Self-directed Keogh plan accounts (or H.R. 10 plan accounts) designed for self-employed individuals
All retirement accounts listed above owned by the same person in the same FDIC-insured bank are added together and the total is insured to $250,000.
(Meaning you are insured for $100K each, which totals $200K.)
1. All co-owners must be people. Legal entities such as corporations, trusts, estates, or partnerships are not eligible for joint account coverage.
2. All co-owners must have equal rights to withdraw funds from the account. For example, if one co-owner can withdraw funds on his or her signature alone but the other co-owner can withdraw deposits only with the signature of both co-owners, the co-owners do not have equal withdrawal rights.
3. All co-owners must sign the deposit account signature card unless the account is a CD or is established by an agent, nominee, guardian, custodian, executor or conservator.
If all of these requirements are met, each co-owner’s share of every account that is jointly held at the same insured bank is added together with the co-owner’s other shares, and the total is insured up to $100,000.
Those are the main items of interest. But study the entire PDF that is available at the page I linked.
If you have more than this in a single bank move the amount that is above this into another bank and do it Monday morning. If you own 7 houses -- or if you don't know how many houses you own -- you aren't reading Seeing the Forest anyway.
Hey turn on CNBC. Yes, this is Sunday afternoon/evening. Stuff is happening. Lehman Brothers is probably filing for bankruptcy because the Fed is not bailing them out. This means the stock market will realize that the Fed is not going to just bail everyone out, and they aren't going to like that. The AIG insurange giant is in trouble. Washington Mutual is in serious trouble. Bank of America is buying Merrill Lynch. All this on a Sunday.
Update - See new post: Is Your Money Safe?
The McCain campaign is being called out on some of the lies they have been telling. The campaign spokesman says that they are in this to win and don't care what the "media filter" says.
I think we will get a test of their theory that the "media filter" doesn't matter anymore. This is to a large degree about who controls the information channels now. The conservative movement has been building to this with their well-funded "liberal media" campaign. They have they're mouthpieces like Rush constantly telling his audience not to ever believe the media. The right has a very large following. The result is that most of the public believes that the major news media is a propaganda machine for liberals and should not be trusted.
And they have the advantage that repetition of messages does work. They are running ads that say Obama will raise your taxes, force sex talk on your kindergartners and all that stuff -- even one that says Obama is the anti-Christ. They have the money to run those ads over and over on shows that lots of people watch. And they have the wealthy and corporate-backed front groups running ads and robo-calls and smear campaigns, etc. against Obama. People don't necessarily watch or believe mainstream news, but they will see these ads again and again.
So do the authoritarian conservatives have the power to override facts and "create their own reality" as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq war? I really don't know the answer and wouldn't bet my house on it either way.
Remember, tobacco company marketing is able to get people to kill themselves, but to hand over much of their money in the process. Modern marketing methods can convince almost anyone to do or believe almost anything.
September 12, 2008
James Fallows - The Palin interview. Fallows points out that the interview showed not only that Palin didn't know what the Bush Doctrine is, she demonstrated that she doesn't care about these pesky issues that are important to people, and governing and stuff.
Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don't. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we're able to talk and think about it in a "rounded" way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I'd really like to hear answered is A.Interesting. But he's right.
Here's the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.
Mention a name or theme -- Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena -- and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.
People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names -- they've heard of Armstrong -- but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports -- and politics and tech and other topics -- so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics -- fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera -- I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.
What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues.
[. . .] How could she not know this? For the same reason I don't know anything about European football/soccer standings, player trades, or intrigue. I am not interested enough. And she evidently has not been interested enough even to follow the news of foreign affairs during the Bush era.
A whirlwind of lies, a massive PR campaign from all directions to create the impression of public support and inevitability -- along with intimidation of anyone who questions what is going on.
Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like how we ended up in the Iraq war? Or does this sound like the current selling of Sarah Palin?
Or are they the same thing, from the same crowd? And will it have the same bloody result?
From the emailbag:
I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....
* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'
* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.
* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.
* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.
* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
* If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.
* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
* If you're husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.
OK, much clearer now.
Sarah Palin, on the Bush Doctrine (the justification for war with Iraq):
FYI it comes from this:
And here is my response:
Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
September 11, 2008
I'm starting to think of getting an e-book reader like the Kindle. Does anyone have any experience or opinions on this?
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
California's elected Republicans continue to block any and all efforts to pass a budget, because any honest budget must ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. Even the Governor's extremely modest one cent sales tax increase was too much for them.
So let's talk about paying a fair share. David Sirota has a good column today at the Campaign for America's Future blog, The Aristocrats, Part II - Starring George Will. In the column Sirota writes about wealthy Republicans who complain when regular people get decent pay for performing services that benefit ... guess who ... wealthy Republicans. Sirota writes,
In a column about underfinanced municipal pension systems today, Will expresses deep anger that veteran police, firefighters and municipal workers eventually get paid well for their services. In one California town on San Francisco Bay, Will tells us that - gasp! - "after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits." The horror.Yes, there is a BARGAIN at work here. We, the People have built a system that has been working pretty darn well for the rich. We built a system of roads, schools, courts, police departments and firefighters. We built up a system of laws. We work in the factories and offices.
Such salaries and benefits, of course, are part of a bargain: Enticing people to turn down the high-paying private-sector job and instead run into burning buildings (firefighters), do the dangerous work of apprehending criminals (police), disposing of sewage (garbage collectors) and administrating all the other services that conservatives pretend aren't necessary (municipal workers) requires, well, an enticement - namely, the promise that making such a public-minded choice will result in decent and stable pay and benefits.
When you accept a public sector job, that's the bargain: In exchange for being willing to do a tough job and accepting that you won't have the chance to make hundreds of millions dollars like a corporate CEO, you are rewarded with the chance - if you play by the rules - to make a pretty good living.
So we built the system and the rules, and we enforce the rules, and it works out pretty darn well to make a few people really rich. But when we then ask for something BACK -- pensions, health care, even worker safety laws -- that is just too much. Never mind the bargain, the social compact that was in place. Asking for a penny sales tax increase or asking the wealthiest to pay the same sales taxes as the rest of us when they buy a yacht or jet, well NO that is just TOO much to ask! So they block the budget.
That is, conservatives want to renege on the bargain - forgetting the old adage that you get what you pay for, and you don't get what you don't pay for.So there you have it. California's elected Republicans want it all, but don't want us to ask the corporations and wealthy individuals who finance their campaigns to help PAY for it all.
The hypocrisy of this logic is obvious when you consider that the Right rarely - if ever - complains about, say, executives ripping off shareholders and harming companies' fiscal health.
P.S. Adding insult to injury, the column in which conservative George Will complains that firefighters don't deserve health insurance and pensions was written to run on September 11. Some of us remember the incredible bravery and sacrifice of New York's firefighters and how it demonstrated the importance of the physical, legal and services infrastructure that We, the People built.
Join the discussion at Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
September 10, 2008
Why are Republicans just saying so much stuff that is not true? Because it works. From April 2005, They Just Say Stuff,
They say what they need to say to make the sale. If the focus groups and polls tell them to say something, they say it. That's all t is. Truth is just not a part of the calculation.July, 2005: Seeing the Forest: Focus Group Phrases vs Reality
So here is how it works. The right-wingers hold focus groups and ask, "if we told you so-and-so, would you believe such-and-such?" And then they go out and spread the so-and-so, whatever it is, in their effort to persuade people to believe such-and-such. They find out that people don't like "activist judges," or at least react negatively to the phrase, and know that they are going to be appointing judges who are activist, so they repeat that Liberals appoint activist judges in order to get that fixed in the public's mind.
And they follow a strategy of first getting people to believe one thing, and then building on that by adding new elements that depend on the belief they previously established. This is a strategic narrative. It unfolds into a story. "Liberal activist judges" is part of an unfolding narrative of "liberals' meddling with people's daily lives. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth, but it is useful for persuading people to support right-wingers.
It's what they do. What they said an hour ago is not relevant - it's what they needed to say then, and that was then. When they need to do something else they willl. They'll just make stuff up, lie and smear people. They'll ask focus groups if they would be against Democrats if they learned that Democrats eat dog toenails on Yugoslavian yogurt at tea time, and if the focus groups said that would turn them against Democrats, we would start hearing that Democrats eat dog toenails on Yugoslavian yogurt at teatime, and we'll hear it on the radio, and in newspapers (incuding the one that published the story referred to above), and on TV and in magazines and in anonymous e-mails, and from friends, and soon "everyone knows" that Democrats do that. And it will work. It's what they do.So what are we expecting today -- different?
As long as We, the People let this stuff work there is no reason for them to stop.
Never mind the consequences: war, ten trillion dollars in debt, the financial system breaking down, the ice caps melting, people losing pensions and health care and houses and jobs... Look away! Never mind that! Obama tried to force kindergartners to take sex education --- even if he didn't.
Government officials in a program that collects royalties from firms drilling on federal land partied and had sexual relationships with employees of oil and gas companies; accepted lavish gifts including ski trips, sports tickets and golf outings; and steered contracts to favored firms, according to a two-year Interior Department investigation released today.Also, Wide-Ranging Ethics Scandal Emerges at Interior Dept. ,
Investigators said they "discovered a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" in the Colorado office of the program.
As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.
In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.
Reagan picked up where Nixon left off, with no apologies. Bush I picked up from there. And then George W. Bush was literally a corporate coup taking on democracy itself. But McCain? The campaign HE is running? The absolute lies? It's beyond even George W Bush!
Josh Marshall, Unfit for High Office,
It's easy to get twisted up in your head about strategy and message and optics. But what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let's stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It is undignified. What can we do? We've got a dangerously reckless contender for the presidency and a vice presidential candidate who distinguished her self by abuse of office even on the comparatively small political stage of Alaska. They've both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses. If Democrats can say at the end of this campaign that they made clear exactly how and why these two are unfit for high office they can be satisfied they served their country.Update - Andrew Sullivan:
In the end, his [McCain's] final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country's safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. ...
McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States.
September 9, 2008
"As we say in Wyoming, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," quipped Vice President Dick Cheney in a stump speech yesterday, with reference to John Kerry's claims he would be a credible war president.
Maybe I can be persuaded different, but working with Jonah Goldberg, the CEO of Pajamas Media and people who gave money to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is a tip-off that they are either another front group or too naive to understand how the right works and will be co-opted. They have immediately discredited themselves coming out the door.
Here is the new Obama ad.
Will it do any good?
The Republicans just say the "liberal media" are biased, so you shouldn't believe anything bad about them that you hea in the news. And Obama is a "liberal" and you don't want that.
Here is the difference in this race: Conservatives have been bombarding the public for forty years with propaganda and lies about "liberals" and "the liberal media." Liberals and progressive have been letting them get away with it. So after forty years much of the public has never heard the other side of the story and BELIEVES the propaganda.
Now, two months before the election, the Obama campaign is trying to put up ads in the face of forty years of unanswered propaganda. Good luck with that.
The real answer is to start TODAY building organizations to do the intellectual work, and channels to take that work to the general public. The far right has Fox and Rush etc. And the corporatists have the major TV networks. And they have Cato, Heritage, etc. doing the intellectual work, and there are all the pundits, etc. that these funded organizations employ. (And they pay very well.)
We haven't built progressive infrastructure organizations that make the intellectual case. In just the last few years we have built up a very few like Media Matters. And we saw how one funded person, Paul Waldman, just destroyed jerome Corsi and his smear book on Larry King the other day. Look at how effective that was. That was just ONE funded person, but we can't muster the support to employ hardly any more than that. We seem to be able to muster the money to run TV ads in the few weeks before an election, but not to employ people BETWEEN elections. Yet building progressive infrastructure costs so much less, and accmoplishes so much more.
Progressives still just focus on short-term election cycle work like Get Out The Vote efforts, TV ads. And they put all the effort into the short time just before the election. As if one candidate is going to come along and save us, so we don't have to do the work of reaching the public... All that effort just goes away after the election, leaving nothing behind. The tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of TV ads just literally go up in the air. They don't make a lasting case for supporting progressive policies, only the one candidate they are for and a few days later no one remembers. The campaign workers are left struggling to find jobs. The voters are left with no change.
Meanwhile the right and corporatists are working on the public year round, year in year out. Forty years of unanswered propaganda saying we have a "liberal media" that people shouldn't listen to and guess what - the public believes it.
Go read: Brandon Friedman: Alaska National Guard General Changes Story; Palin Promotes. Summary: Commander of Alaska Nat. Guard undercuts Palin's "experience" argument. Then the commander changes his story to support her and three days later gets a big promotion.
Another: McCain and Palin once again play 'Barracuda'. Summary: if a teenager downloads a tune, he is prosecuted. But if a Republican Presidential campaign steals tunes, refuses to get permission or pay royalties or stop using the tune when the artist demands -- too bad.
Another: Palin Again Recites Lie About Bridge To Nowhere. Summary: Candidate tells a big lie. Won't stop. Press refuses to make an issue of it.
This is a small sample of what's coming if McCain wins. If you think Bush was an incompetent, warmaking liar you will soon long for the days of Bush. Get ready for that. And watch your backs.
This is a Guest post, by Michelle Kraus.
Democrats it's time to come back from vacation. The "Rove-like" machine is on and running full force. It is almost a bitter sweet irony that it is August yet again before a Presidential election. Have we not learned anything from the lessons of '04?
1. War starts in a new part of the world: Georgia is attacked by Russia. Tanks roll.
2. Putin sits with our President at the Opening Ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics
3. Shake well with a little scandal - and remarkably former Senator John Edwards is caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar
4. The Democrats (and the entire Congress) go on vacation for recess to raise the all necessary campaign dollars for the November races
5. Rev up the media machine and oops we're onto the races. The polls are falling.
The election is in a dead heat.
How the heck did this happen after the brilliant international trip of Senator Barack Obama? Why did that eight point upsurge in Gallup go virtually unnoticed?
Now, if we were really smart we would have written this playbook and been prepared.
Zippers up (at least until November) gentlemen.
Reveal the missteps (if there were any) before the media machine nails you male or female.
Drop the tennis rackets.
Hold up the cell phones, wave them in the air, and show the country you are in charge.
Please don't go on vacation and wave from your catamaran.
This is a deadly street fight until November. Americans are losing their homes, their health care, and their children in Iraq. Think like gun slingers, wrestlers, or street fighters. Progressives get back in the Party and hunker down for the fight of your lives. We need to work together. Hillary supporters no more Talmudic discourse, at least not now in public. There will be time for it all. Obama campaign put on your roller skates, drop the entitlement, make nice to the Hillary folks, and be nimble and quick.
This is our race to win. Where is our playbook? Please don't let swift boating become a permanent entry into the lexicon of terms used to lose a presidential election. It's almost humorous to see the "tail wagging the dog" in our foreign policy arena. Didn't we see that movie?
September 8, 2008
So Sarah Palin FINALLY speaks. How many days has it been since she was selected as Republican Vice presidential candidate -- and still NO appearances before the press?
So what happens when she DOES speak? It turns out that she knows NOTHING about the biggest economic issue of our time, and gets it completely wrong.
Gov. Sarah Palin made her first potentially major gaffe during her time on the national scene while discussing the developments of the perilous housing market this past weekend.Go read the rest.
Speaking before voters in Colorado Springs, the Republican vice presidential nominee claimed that lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." The companies, as McClatchy reported, "aren't taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in a taxpayer bailout during reorganization."
Economists and analysts pounced on the misstatement, saying it demonstrated a lack of understanding about one of the key economic issues likely to face the next administration.
It was unkind to Sarah Palin and to the public for an old man -- who has had melanoma four times -- to select her as running mate and possibly the next President just a few months from now. It was inevitable that this would happen.
September 7, 2008
Question for web developers. Why is the Reddit submit button below putting the wrong title in? Try a few of the Reddit buttons on posts below this one to see what I mean.
Here is the script I am using. NOTE I am substituting left parenthesis here for left brackets so the blog software doesn't think I mean to put the code here:
WHY is it putting the title of the first post into every reddit button on this main page? Other buttons with similar code are NOT doing that and are putting the correct title in.
UPDATE - I have a clue. I changed the title of the Palin post, took out the hyphen, so it now reads "Palin Is Not Even On Fox or Rush". Yet several of the reddit buttons below still contain the OLD title. So this is a Reddit server-side error with their script I think.
Nine days since Palin was announced and she has not given a single interview to the press. Not Training Wheels We Can Believe In,
Sarah Palin could be the President of the United States in four and a half months. We tend to think of this as an abstraction; but it's true. And yet today she's so unprepared and knows so little about the challenges and tasks facing the country that she can't even give a softball interview.They don't even dare let her be interviewed on Fox or Rush. And she could be President of the United States in January.
That's really all we need to know.
These people have no respect for democracy.
September 6, 2008
You absolutely must watch this Daily Show with John Stewart segment on McCain's speech:
September 5, 2008
Note to Reddit users: This is a GREAT post, but Reddit screwed up and the post titled "Palin Is Not Even On Fox or Rush" is at http://www.seeingtheforest.com/archives/2008/09/palin_not_even.htm
We now continue with our What Is Obama's Story? post:
Almost every single thing Palin said in her speech the other night turns out to be just a lie -- and it doesn't matter. She now has 58% favorability among the public. And she has a story. Within a day of the Palin announcement a well-informed, liberal, Democratic, pro-choice friend told me that Palin is "a reformer" -- "just like McCain."
Here is what the Republicans understand: facts don't matter, stories do. So knowing this, they just lie and say anything they want as long as it reinforces the story. How do you fight this? Getting bogged down refuting the lies can never work because they'll just make up a ton more lies for you to refute and you can't keep up. Meanwhile, they keep reinforcing the story while you're mired in the refutation. This is why almost every single thing Palin said in her speech turns out to be just a lie. But look how her STORY has taken hold! The story overcomes all the lies, even though the entire story is based on the lies.
The Obama campaign was the beneficiary of just such a story during the primaries. Obama became the great progressive transformation that we all want, while Hillary came to represent the past. She became NAFTA and DLC and lobbyists. Once these stories took hold there was nothing at all Hillary could do about it. Everything started to reinforce it. "Experience" came to mean "Bill" which meant the past.
THAT is how a story works. Facts just get in the way. (NOTE I am not saying that Obama's story was based on lies, I am saying the power of a STORY took over and swamped Hillary.)
This is the power of - and the reason for - the "elite" storyline they are trying so hard to establish. If it can take hold there is nothing that can be done about it. So far it is just a little bit too unbelievable. But we have seen how they have tried to tell one story after another, to see if one sticks.
So what IS Obama's STORY today? The FISA swing and a few things like that got rid of the "great progressive transformation" story that won the primaries. What does he represent and how do we drive the new story? How do we establish a negative story about McCain that sticks?
Remember how at the end of the Kerry campaign people still were saying that they didn't understand what Kerry and the Democrats were about, were for, etc? They were saying that there was no story.
What is the Obama story, in a sentence? McCain is the maverick who will change Washington, and so is Palin-the-reformer. That is a story. It is a story because they said it is.
What is the Obama story?
Sarah Palin has singlehandedly dragged the image of the Republican party ahead forty years -- into the 1990s.
She comes straight out of Newt Gingrish's GOPAC, the right-wing candidate recruitment organization that introduced all the nasty insults and divisiveness that poisoned politics starting in the late 1980s and continued through the 1990s up to now. I mean literally. She IS from GOPAC and GOPAC is the organization that taught up and coming Republicans to use nasty, snide, hateful language to smear their opponents.
Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.That's right, the advice is to just say stuff that isn't true but sounds nasty. Follow the link to see more.
decay... failure (fail)... collapse(ing)... deeper... crisis... urgent(cy)... destructive... destroy... sick... pathetic... lie... liberal... they/them... unionized bureaucracy... "compassion" is not enough... betray... consequences... limit(s)... shallow... traitors... sensationalists...
September 4, 2008
When the Democrats had their convention ABC and CBS constantly cut away to give "analysis" by Republicans and a few Democrats. During the Republican convention ABC and CBS have analysis by ... Republicans only.
Neither ABC nor CBS aired analysis from Democrats, Democratic strategists, or progressive media figures during their live coverage of the second day of the Republican National Convention on September 2 (the first day of the networks' live coverage of the convention). By contrast, both networks aired analysis from Republicans and conservatives, as well as from Democrats and progressives, during coverage of the second day of the Democratic National Convention on August 26.
By the way, when was the last time you heard about the benefits of joining a union from ANY corporate media outlet?
September 3, 2008
I remember her from high school.
I keep hearing that "liberals" have been saying that a woman with five kids won't have time to also have a job.
Can anyone point me to anyone, anywhere who ever said that about Palin? Or are they just making it up, the way they do, to make their base feel picked on?
Sorry, I can't watch the Republican convention. It's psychological. I follow the right-wing blogs and Limbaugh, etc. to keep track of what is coming up, but this is just too much for me. Makes me physically ill, the lying, the smears... They really count on people being stupid.
Update - OK I tuned in. I guess I didn't know that Iraq had attacked up on 9/11. That changes everything!
September 2, 2008
As I wrote below, I have to agree with John McCain that Sarah Palin is absolutely the most qualified Republican to be Vice President.
Of all the Republicans in the entire United States, Sarah Palin is the most qualified Republican.
John McCain has suffered FOUR bouts of melanoma. So it is imperative that the Vice President be the most qualified possible person, ready to step into the leadership role on a moment's notice.
There is NO Republican more qualified than Sara Palin.
There is NO Republican less corrupt.
There is NO Republican that foreign leaders will respect more.
Of ALL the Republicans in the entire United States, including ALL of the candidates for President in this year's primaries, not a single one measures up to Sarah Palin. Not one.
Let them deny it.
Until choosing Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential pick McCain's attack on Obama used the slogan, "Is he ready to lead?"
John McCain has had four bouts of melanoma. If elected the 1-year governor and former mayor of Wasilla Alaska will become Vice President of the United States and takes over if McCain is incapacitated or dies.
P.S. I do agree with John McCain that she probably is the most qualified Republican to be President of the United States.
Bush was a (sort of) fighter pilot. McCain was a fighter pilot. Both have shown themselves to be foul-mouthed heavy drinkers, impulsive and nasty-tempered. McCain was/is a skirt-chaser.
Is there something about the macho mentality that goes into this kind of thing?
Except both came from prominent families and got into being fighter pilots through their dad's influence and not through the normal channels...
September 1, 2008
Two employees -- and friends -- of Sheriff Fletcher make their pleas on corruption charges.(Update: They've been convicted of theft.)
Star Tribune story: apparently an AP photographer and a Minnesota Daily (U of M) photographer have been pepper sprayed.
Hat tip to Ronebreak.
Glen Greenwald and FDL have the best coverage:
DNC - RNC - Troops Out Now (an activist group).
The Uptake Live video, recommended.
Minnesota Blue (a liberal Democratic site).
This woman isn't vice presidential material. She should be nominated for administrator to the creation museum in Kansas.PLEASE click through and read the whole thing.
In a new twist on the role of government a federal appeals court has ruled that the government can force companies to NOT test beef for mad cow disease.
The background is that some smaller meat packers wanted to test every cow, to ensure that citizens are safe from mad cow disease. Large meat packing companies felt this would lead consumers to buy from these companies that do the testing, and they don't want to spend any extra money to test their own beef. So they paid the Republicans to force the smaller companies to stop the testing. And there are enough Republican judges appointed now that they got this approved by a court.
The government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday, overturning a lower court ruling that would have allowed such testing.
Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wanted to test all of its cows. The government said it could not.
Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone performed the test and advertised its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday overturned a lower court ruling. The appeals court said restricting the test is within the scope of the government's authority.