Annals of traffic-stopping
If the embed doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOB1zOBr7IM
If the embed doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOB1zOBr7IM
YouTube URL, if the embed doesn't work:
Grayson digs in deeperQuite a makeover. Before, a Zorro among attack attorneys:
House Republicans wanted Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., to apologize for saying the GOP healthcare reform plan is "don't get sick," and if you do get sick, "die quickly." And Grayson did head back to the House floor on Wednesday to discuss his remarks -- but the apology the congressman made is probably not what his Republican colleagues had in mind.
"I would like to apologize -- I would like to apologize to the dead," Grayson said, citing a recent study that showed almost 45,000 Americans die each year in part because of a lack of health insurance.
After, a Rob Reiner among progs:
"In my view, if policymakers insist on waiting until the level of real activity has plainly and substantially returned to normal -- and the economy has returned to self-sustaining trend growth -- they will almost certainly have waited too long.
A complication is the large volume of banking system reserves created by the nontraditional policy responses. There is a risk, of much debated magnitude, that the unusually high level of reserves, along with substantial liquid assets of the banking system, could fuel an unanticipated, excessive surge in lending. Predicting the conversion of excess reserves into credit is more difficult to judge due to the changes in the credit channel."
A complication is the large volume of banking system reserves created by the nontraditional policy responses. There is a risk, of much debated magnitude, that the unusually high level of reserves, along with substantial liquid assets of the banking system, could fuel an unanticipated, excessive surge in lending.
Predicting the conversion of excess reserves into credit is more difficult to judge due to the changes in the credit channel."
Them's the words of black Irish Kevin Warsh, shown at left, Bush-appointed Fed governor, formerly among the boy emperor's council of economic witch doctors.
Admittedly, he's one of the more ghoulish brains among the credit flow federales -- here he is, for example, quoting the unspeakable Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But he's not the only ghoul. In fact the joint is full of 'em.
"A rapid exit from accommodative policy" -- oh, the pain, the pain, as Prof Smith was wont to say. This perma-hawk button-pushing bunch at the Fed -- credit doom hangs like a mushroom cloud over my daydreams. Is it to be our near tomorrow?
By the way -- before joining the Bush hose-and-close squadron, our mean Mr. Warsh was a decade-long member and leader of the Mergers & Acquisitions Department of -- Morgan Stanley & Co.
This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of my favorite human beings -- and believe me, this is said without the slightest irony or mental reservation.
I refer of course to the tortured giant shown above, Mr -- later Dr -- Samuel Johnson, the moody melancholy indolent ill-bred small-town boy from Lichfield who came practically barefoot to London and wrote the best essays anybody ever wrote, and the first and in some ways greatest of English dictionaries, and some damn good poems, oh and edited Shakespeare brilliantly, and became the subject of the greatest biography that ever was written, or I daresay ever will be written. Anybody who has read Boswell feels that he knows old Sam, which is partly because of Boswell's genius and partly because old Sam himself was, is, a personality of such intensity and force that the air we breathe is still reverberating with him.
I happened to be reading, today, a piece by Andrew O'Hagan in the New York Review discussing some recent additions to the extensive Johnson literature. It's a nice piece, by which I mean not just nicely written, though it is that, but also full of love for the mad old man -- love that recognizes what a monster he could be, but loves him anyway.
Now I enjoyed this piece so much that I hate to cavil. But there was one theme in it that seemed so glaringly wrong that I had to comment.
Everybody knows the story of Johnson's wonderful letter to Lord Chesterfield, spurning Chesterfield's patronage of the Dictionary. The conventions of literary history take this, not wrongly, as a marker of the end of the old era of patronage and the dawn of the era of commercial publishing.
Johnson ... freed subjectivity.... and brought both dignity and self-sufficiency to the writing game, allowing authors to be who they chose to be, unshackled from patronage and the requirement to please great men. We see it in his essays and we see it again in his Lives of the Poets : a writer's writer, beckoning individual creative power out of the mire of dependency, making the work answerable only to high standards of excellence stringently applied.This is our old friend the Whig Theory Of History -- which Johnson himself would, of course, have drubbed a lot more brutally than I can ever hope to do -- and it is also the voice of a successful and much-published and relatively young writer, who lives in the best of all possible worlds and has found a market for his "subjectivity" and his "individual creative power." And more power to him, of course.
Johnson professionalized authorship not only for England but for the world, making the individual conscience responsive only to its own capacities and its own engagements.
Those of us who have not been so fortunate find ourselves confronting gatekeepers at least as coldly indifferent as Lord Chesterfield could ever be. They are no longer lords, though they have nicer manners than most corporate apparatchiks, but it is easy enough, these days, to find oneself (in Dr Johnson's words) "waiting in their outward Rooms, or being repulsed from their Door"; and if by chance one should ever succeed, one will look back -- again, in Johnson's slightly altered words -- and ask, "Is not a Publisher, My Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a Man struggling for Life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?"
Grub Street was probably a livelier and more fluid place in Johnson's day: the booksellers were living as hand-to-mouth as the authors, or nearly so, and they had an insatiable thirst for material. Now, however, the publishers have either become lords in their own right, or been acquired by our brummagem equivalents -- the Rupert Murdochs, the Disneys. They still need material, of course, but there are only a very few of them, and there are so many who want to scribble that it's very much a buyer's market. What the gatekeepers want is to print and sell millions and millions of each title, and to the extent that this business model can be made to succeed, they don't need many titles -- or many writers. One Dan Brown, or Stephen King, asphyxiates ten thousand would-be Grub Streeters.
Back in the day of patronage, your fate was settled by some fatuous aristocrat's whim -- unless you could find another fatuous aristocrat who liked you better; and there were lots of fatuous aristocrats. Now it is settled by the publisher's internalized mental representation of the marketing department's spreadsheet. And there aren't lots of publishers, and they all have the same spreadsheet. Are we better off, or worse?
We might take a look at the bibliography.
The age of patronage gave us Chaucer and Shakespeare. In the world of music it gave us Handel and Bach and Mozart.
Now, after all this Whig progress that Andrew O'Hagan feels so good about, the likeliest authors to survive a cataclysm are the aforementioned Dan Brown and Stephen King, simply because there are so many copies of their work floating around. Ian McEwan or Nick Hornby or even Philip Roth would have the kind of prospects Tacitus had -- and what a miracle it is that we have anything of Tacitus.
As for music publishing -- two words: John Rutter.
I dunno, Andrew. I don't want to bring the Chesterfields back. But the narrative of progress needs a little revision.
Nice WSJ article on small-potato credit by billowy lass and bank analyst Meredith Whitney, shown above.
'Twould appear, between credit card contractions and a stagnating small biz credit pool, there's trouble on main street.
I suggest we supersize the SBA, crank it up like the Fanny and Freddie show. Yup, i'm talkin trillions here.
Here's Meredith W:
"Incentives should be provided to smaller banks to step up small-business loans on a greater scale. Smaller banks could not only bridge gaps created by the shut down in the securitization market but also gaps being created by a massive contraction in credit-card lines. Arguably credit would perform better with these types of loans as they would reintroduce and reinforce the most important rule in banking: "Know Your Customer."Yes yes yes, as Molly Bloom sez somewhere -- use the local Jimmy Stewart ops to pour out the SBA trillions, and "if you ain't local, we ain't repurchasing your loans," sez my bulked-up SBA
One Shylock rule only: the locals have to keep ten percent of their own flesh as hostage inside the repurchased bundles.
A few days ago I mentioned that my lefty mailing lists were consumed with parsing and re-parsing the Roman Polanski business.
It was, of course, inevitable, that sooner or later, someone would clear her throat emphatically and begin a contribution with the phrase, "As a woman...."
Was it Rosie O'Donnell who had a schtick about this? "As a lesbian, I'd just like to say ... pass the salt."
Ms As-A-Woman -- let's call her Laura Abbott -- went on rather predictably to suggest that the mostly male membership of the list was perhaps a bit "insensitive" to "women's issues."
Now the Polanski conversation, silly as it often was, actually covered a lot of ground. The question of moral panic was raised. The social construction of childhood -- innocent childhood! -- and adulthood, came in for some rather heavy-handed discussion. But at least somebody pointed out that these notions are in fact socially constructed. The grandstanding judge's political ambitions were mentioned. You got a sense that this story had some depth and complexity, and that more than one kind of "issue" was involved.
Of course, the Prosecutor's Friends were much in the majority. Call the cops! Extradite him! Throw the book at him! 'Nuff said!
It always surprises me when folks who think of themselves as Lefties show such a zeal for the bourgeois cops, and the bourgeois DA, and the bourgeois judge, and the bourgeois rules of engagement (a judge, one lawyerly contributor pointed out, is not obliged to abide by a plea bargain made by the DA. So there, you filthy pervert!)
But it happens all the time. In fact one of the most characteristic tics of the moralizing left is a display of indignation when some rich guy escapes the toils of the law, where a poor guy would have been immured deeper than Aida. One gets the impression that the escape is perhaps even more the casus irae than the inequality -- as if what we wanted was for the "justice system" to behave like it's "supposed to". As if we wanted a lie to become true.
All of which leads back to the depressing insight that many or most American lefties are just recovering liberals at best -- if they're even recovering at all.
Let's return to Ms Abbott, though. It wasn't enough to have most of the Trotskyite scribes and Pharisees on her side. She was furious, absolutely furious, that anybody might raise a doubt.
Does anybody care that this is pretty much a male only forum? Yes? No? This is a group of men discussing rape. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that because this list is called Marxist, a woman's perspective on women's issues would be welcome.Kinda strange line of reasoning there, about what you might expect of a "Marxist list". Would old Dr Marx himself have been interested in a "woman's perspective on women's issues"? It was my impression that he wasn't much interested in anybody's perspective but his own -- which as it turns out was a pretty insightful one, and one we keep going back to.
But of course the nub of the matter is the idea that the Polanski case falls under the rubric of "women's issues."
This is kind of a hard knot to untie. Who owns what "issue"? If Polanski had been interested in young boys rather than girls -- would it be a "gay issue"? Or a "men's issue"? Or a "children's issue"? Does the woman-ness or gay-ness or man-ness of the "issue" trump the interest some of us feel in the bloated condition of the enforcement state, the Pecksniffery of self-appointed advocates for supposedly innocent children, the sanctimonious hysteria of the media, and yes, the need that so many lefty Tartuffes feel to show themselves as righteous as the Right?
I guess this is one reason, among others, why I so dislike what we have come to call "identity politics" -- it's the turf-protection element, the idea that your discourse is privileged over mine because you're speaking "as a" woman, or "as a" lesbian, or "as a" whatever, and we own this topic -- it's a whatever's issue.
I think different. I think history and the social world and the res publica are the common property of us all. We all come to it with different histories and different perspectives, of course, and you'd be a fool not to listen attentively to what people with some immediate knowledge of a given matter have to say. But we all have to think for ourselves, and more to the point, no topic is ever just a whatever's issue.
We all have to deal with the cops. And they are not your friend -- even if you're a woman.
Or a child.
And here I've been trashing poor tubs-of-fun Chrissy Romer -- oh the shame of it all!
In fact the titmouse-voiced gentle mountain Chrissy had calculated it way closer to Vickrey standards, in the run-up to that final internal stimulus debate:
[Romer] had run simulations of the effects of stimulus packages of varying sizes: six hundred billion dollars, eight hundred billion dollars, and $1.2 trillion. The best estimate for the output gap was some two trillion dollars over 2009 and 2010. Because of the multiplier effect, filling that gap didn’t require two trillion dollars of government spending, but Romer’s analysis... suggested that the package should probably be more than $1.2 trillion.But the swinish blackhearted Larry Ziffle saw to it that didn't come close to happenin':
The memo to Obama -- detailed only two packages: a five-hundred-and-fifty-billion-dollar stimulus and an eight-hundred-and-ninety-billion-dollar stimulus. Summers did not include Romer’s $1.2-trillion projection. The memo argued that the stimulus should not be used to fill the entire output gap; rather, it was “an insurance package against catastrophic failure.That "memo to Obama" was ground zero for the planned stagnation. Rationalizations followed, of course, and mile-thick ignorance helped, as it always does.
Foremost among those providing sweet reasons for intentional misery was, of course, our Wall Street wizard, Lardass Larry:
"... a package that was too large could potentially shift fears from the current crisis to the long-term budget deficit.... which would have an unwelcome effect on the bond market."A complete recovery would be bad for.. the bond market?!?!
Care for a smoking gun, anyone?
Of course we could blame Larry, and that's good innocent fun, and quite right as far as it goes. But it's not the end of the story.
This is a guy with a track record -- a very consistent and well-known track record -- and he's the guy Obie chose to trust.
An earlier post, dealing tangentially with the Roman Polanski nine-days'-wonder, evoked some comments that deserve a bit more than an offhand answer.
Okay, so... if you're a Marxist you can't be against child molestation because of, uh, the cops. Or something.The response to this is obvious enough -- it's a false dichotomy. One might well dislike child molestation and still not want to become a cheerleader for the cops, as so many of my Lefty comrades have done in the Polanski case.
Speaking as an androgynous extra-terrestrial eggplant, I gotta say, that's fucked up.
It's as though they felt they had to take sides: Child molesters versus storm troopers. As if it would matter which side they took.
This is one of the luxuries of being utterly powerless: you have no responsibilities. Comrades, we don't have to answer questions of the form, "If you have no X, how do you do Y?" -- where X might be, for example, cops, and Y might be, "prevent child molestation." If we had power we would have choices to make, perhaps difficult ones. Right now we have no power, and we really don't have to backed into any corners: Truncheons or roofies? Polanski or LAPD? Take your pick! We're allowed to say "none of the above," and in fact that's just what we should say.
Perhaps you think I'm being evasive. You may be wondering, shouldn't we think these things through? Shouldn't we have answers ready? Shouldn't we have alternatives to propose? Shouldn't we be, well, prepared to rule?
Well, no, I'd say. It's absurdly grandiose. It reminds me of some old Maoist friends of mine, back in the late 70s when Three Mile Island blew up. They were a bit reluctant to make an opportunist alliance with the anti-nuke folks. Comrade Steve York, the ranking commissar in these parts, laid it all out for us: "When we take state power, we may have to operate these reactors." How different is that from us wondering what we would do about child molesters -- if we had any power or responsibility?
This Walter-Mittyish outlook betrays us into a kind of imaginative complicity with the enforcement state. Once we start sifting through its operations, trying to decide where it goes wrong and where it goes right, we've made a mental investment in it.
This, I believe, we need to avoid.
Personally, I'm a creature of my time, and I find the idea of an old guy having sex with a 13-year-old pretty repellent. I'm not filing a brief here for the child molesters -- though there is more than one kind of child molestation; as a culture we throw up our hands in horror at the sexual kind, while simultaneously piling on a dozen other kinds. Our collective righteousness about the Polanskis of the world serves to mask our ingrained and ingeniously-justified institutional brutality towards children in every sphere but the sexual.
But okay. Point taken. Polanski's a creep. Fair enough.
Still: from what I have seen of life, the cops are a much bigger problem than the child molesters. There are lots of cops. They are heavily armed. They are running around the streets with time on their hands and a hypertrophied sense of entitlement. A good many of them work out, and not a few take steroids. If they decide to fuck you up, the DA and the Mayor and the local newspaper will back them up.
The child molesters are not so numerous, and they enjoy none of these advantages. From where I'm sitting, twice as many child molesters and half as many cops would be, on balance, a change for the better.
Full disclosure: I personally was not an innocent child. I was a filthy-minded little bugger with an imagination whose eccentric prurience the Marquis de Sade would have admired. Readers who were more like the sweet creature pictured above will perhaps be kind enough to make allowance for this in reading what follows.
In a couple of previous posts -- here, and here -- I seem to have staked out a shall-we-say contrarian position on some rather sensitive topics. (Among other things, I asserted that cops, generally speaking, are as a matter of concrete present fact a bigger menace than child molesters.)
My colleague Owen Paine, in the comments, raised a rather interesting point: why do we treat rape and sexual assault in general differently from other types of assault?
Now this is a question that deserves an answer: where a distinction is made, we ought to be able to articulate the basis for it. I'm sorry to say, however, that no satisfactory answer was forthcoming from any of the enragé comrades who have exercised their eloquence on this topic. Samples:
Holy shit, I just saw where you equate rape and assault. That's awesome! Cause people are emotionally traumatized from forced sex as infrequently as they are from simple assault! You're goddamn brilliant OP!The second of these comments is more thoughtful than the first, but it still amounts simply to re-asserting a supposedly self-evident principle. Now I have always believed that anything which seems self-evident is almost certainly wrong, and in any case deserves a very critical sifting.
Tell me, which would you rather I do; stick a finger up your ass or punch you in the face?
* * *
... an equation of rape and simple assault only makes sense completely removed from the context of human history. Psychologically and socially it's completely different, and birth control doesn't make that go away. The effect on the victim, conditioned by society and by biological factors too, determines the meaning and impact of the crime, not the amount of momentum transferred from one body to another or the extent of the bruising. Only if neither the victim's state of mind nor ultimately society itself matters is rape just another kind of assault.
Sexual activity isn't just an unusual form of extended bodily contact. Genitals aren't just another body part, not in terms of our minds.
I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that this is a society which both sentimentalizes children and systematically brutalizes them, both physically and psychologically. We hocus up a sacred taboo around their genitals; then we subject the rest of their bodies to all kinds of ill-usage, and mangle their souls, or try to, in our feedlot schools.
And that's just American children. What our righteous institutions do to children elsewhere in the world is too grisly to contemplate.
One has to wonder whether these two things -- the sentimentality and the brutality -- are perhaps two sides of the same coin.
This would have the advantage of explaining the intense psychic energy that drives much discussion of child abuse and child molestation. We can talk quite calmly about the number of children run over by cars, or afflicted by juvenile diabetes, but the quaver creeps into our voice and the fire ignites in our eye when genital contact comes into the picture. Is sexual abuse the area where we compensate, or over-compensate, for all the other abuse we accept and even collude in(*)?
If so... why is sex the chosen area for our piaculative zeal?
If memory serves, moral panic about child abuse started to gather steam back in the 70s, and reached a wild peak of collective dementia in the day-care witch-hunts of the Reagan and Clinton years. One wonders if we didn't perhaps give ourselves something of a fright when we opened the sexual floodgates back in the 60s. Have we erected the adamantine wall of childhood innocence -- before 18, nothing; after 18, everything -- by way of locking the stable after the horse has escaped?
(*) I'm thinking here, among other things, of parents acting as homework enforcement agents for the schools.
Here's the loudest liberal mouth on economic policy east of the Mississippi and north of the South Pole -- Paul 'arf arf' Krooglemannn -- and surprise, surprise, he's ringing the school bell:
'If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be “education.” '
But but but... today after leading the world for 150 years in ever wider and deeper school saturation bombing, my God! We've slipped! -- Right down to mediocrity:
"We have a college graduation rate that’s slightly below the average across all advanced economies."Really? Really? Can this be true? If so -- is it too much for me to hope this trend might accelerate?
Imagine a tipping point -- bringing on a new dawn of the great American unwashed -- brain-wise, that is.
We've been arguing here recently about the authorities and how we should think about them.
Providentially -- at least from my point of view -- the Nobel Peace Prize has just been awarded to the latest imperial mass-murderer-in-chief, Mr Barack Obama, for... for... for not being George Bush, as far as I can tell.
Perhaps Obie's barking minatory schoolmarmish accent falls more kindly on the Norwegian ear than Georgie's faux-yahoo drawl. Or perhaps the Norwegians feel flattered by Obie's lip-service to diplomacy, and international institutions, and due process. Who knows, a parliamentarian from a small inconsequential country like Norway might hope some day to have a photo-op with this nice new well-educated Emperor. Oh Gunnar, believe me, you matter -- hard to imagine Georgie the Frat-Boy Emperor bothering to work up quite that level of pious hypocrisy.
I love this mad slavish stunt on the Norwegians' part. It tends to the general discreditation of authorities, a project dear to my heart.
Not that the Nobel folks had much credit to dis- ; I seem to recall that they gave this same Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres. Oh and Theodore Roosevelt, back in the day.
I just saw Michael Moore's latest effort. It's not really about capitalism as much as foreclosure, American style -- yup, good ole sheriffs-comin' foreclosure -- and, as we used to say, "the fightback".
Fightback ain't easy -- so is there a lighter way? Uncle offers hope these days -- right? A plan for us, even for the least of us.
Here's Liz Warren's update on Obie's mortgage mitigation program, and here's the delightful Miss Warren herself as talking head:
Her report gives us a sense of just how likely it will be that us 'good people' facing foreclosure ahead will be rescued by Uncle Sam:
"From July 2007 through August 2009, 1.8 million homes were lost to foreclosure and 5.2 million more foreclosures were started. One in eight mortgages is currently in foreclosure or default. Each month, an additional 250,000 foreclosures are initiated. [Current levels of funding] will support about 2 to 2.6 million modifications. But if foreclosure starts continue their push toward 10 to 12 million, as currently estimated, the remaining losses will be massive."Note, please: those are the plan's own estimates -- they don't come from outsiders. In other words, I'll lay ya 6 to 1, if yer headed into foreclosure, the program won't get to you in time.
As Warrens's posse sees it, there are three things that don't look promising about the setup:
"First is the problem of scope.... The second problem is scale.... The third problem is permanence"Ooops! Sounds like three strikes, you're out -- eh?
My squint on this: HAMP -- as this 7th cavalry program acronyms itself -- looks like the Katrina helicopter roof rescue so nicely folded into Moore's montage:
Bottom line: I suggest stick to 'fight back'. Unlike Uncle's doubletalk flimflam, plain old fightback scales up nicely, scopes out limitlessly, and permanence is its middle name.
(This one is for comrade Mike Flugennock, a great fan of the media-hog shown above.)
Medea Benjamin, the grinning face and pointed beak of Code Pink, has begun to take her responsibilities as a world leader seriously (what's next -- will she be dating Bono?)
'Code Pink' rethinks its call for Afghanistan pulloutHow great is this? She's even adopted that gabbling military-corporate doublespeak -- "parameters of an exit strategy" -- "timeline" -- "opened ourselves" (yuck, as my daughter would say).
Kabul, Afghanistan - When Medea Benjamin stood up in a Kabul meeting hall this weekend to ask Masooda Jalal if she would prefer more international troops or more development funds, the cofounder of US antiwar group Code Pink was hoping her fellow activist would support her call for US troop withdrawal.
She was disappointed.
Ms. Jalhal, the former Afghan minister of women, bluntly told her both were needed. "It is good for Afghanistan to have more troops – more troops committed with the aim of building peace and against war, terrorism, and security – along with other resources," she answered. "Coming together they will help with better reconstruction."
Code Pink, founded in 2002 to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, is one of the more high-profile women's antiwar groups being forced to rethink its position as Afghan women explain theirs: Without international troops, they say, armed groups could return with a vengeance – and that would leave women most vulnerable.
... During their weeklong visit here, in which they met with government officials, politicians, ministers, women activists, and civil society groups, the small team of Code Pink members had hoped to gather evidence to bolster their call for US troop withdrawal within two years, and capitalize on growing anxiety back home about the war.
While the group hasn't dropped its call for a pullout, the visit convinced them that setting a deadline isn't in Afghanistan's interests, say Ms. Benjamin and fellow cofounder Jodie Evans.
"We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline," says Benjamin. "That's where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, 'If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that."
And needless to say, it's doubly great that the Woman Question is what made the scales fall from Medea's formerly anti-imperial eyes. If the Afghan women -- or at least, the Afghan Ministry Of Women(*) -- want the legions there, then the legions must stay until Their Job Is Done.
(*) Why don't we have one of these? I would so apply for a government job in this outfit. Windows system administration, window-washer, you name it -- I'd take it.
Some foreign policy analysts say the Nobel prize may complicate his [Obama's] efforts to wind down the war in Iraq, his deliberations on whether to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, and other international issues.
There are times when something like that offers a dollop of solace. The sincerity and seriousness with which such deranged sentiments are delivered puts paid to any doubts that a bugfuck nuts system will produce anything but a political class that thinks entirely in crackpot, cretinous absurdities. One needn't feel obliged to play discursive, meliorist whack-a-mole with them or their partisans. If they were ever capable of being anything but crackpots, that capacity is long gone.
This doesn't negate the agency of the actors or absolve them. And the solace, ultimately, isn't that much comfort. What this does contribute is a perfectly valid, ad hominem dismissal of their rhetoric: they're full of shit, and will always be full of shit, because of who they are.
I happened to be listening to NPR this afternoon, and there was a discussion of whether Obie "deserved" the Nobel Peace Prize, with screened callers-in and emailers-in, the usual contrived corporate-media pantomime of conversation.
I would like to think that there were a few truth-tellers who were screened out; but really, who knows? At any rate, the range of post-screening opinion ran from enthusiasm (Obie will save -- no, has already saved us all) to timorous reservation (perhaps the prize was a bit premature, since Obie hasn't really, erm, done anything yet.)
Of course the fact is that the prize isn't premature at all: it's postmature. Obie's done plenty. He has plunged con brio into the management of one war, the expansion of another, and the threat of a third. He could lean on Israel, but he hasn't, and he won't.
He may very well be the least eligible human being on earth, right now, for a "peace prize", since he has the actual power to make a difference, and to the extent he has exercised that power, it has been in the wrong direction. And big-time, too; as a murderer, he makes John Gotti look like St Francis. Figures don't lie.
But NPR was able to find plenty of callers and emailers who have kept the faith. Some of them really seemed to think he had ended the Iraq occupation. Others were a bit better informed but opined that he deserves a lot of credit for making us feel "hopeful".
This hopefulness thing interests me. Does anybody else remember Laetrile? That gave people hope too -- while it poisoned them, and kept them from seeking other solutions to their problem.
Hope is not always a virtue. It depends on what you're hoping in -- and for. I hope to resell my house at a huge profit. I hope to win the lottery. I hope the slave-driving little startup where I toil for seventy ill-paid hours a week will go public.
Better no hope at all than hopes like these.
Hoping in Obama is not quite as vile as hoping in the real-estate lottery, of course. In fact it's not vile at all. But I am tempted to say that it's stupid.
The time for hope -- if there ever was such a time -- is past with this guy. He has shown us what and who he is.
Wake up, hope addicts, and find something better to hope for.
Get Off Obama's Back ...second thoughts from Michael MoorePerhaps that last observation is even true. Why, after all, shouldn't delusion be as globalized as every other commodity?
We are weary, weary of war. The trillions that will have gone to these two wars have helped to bankrupt us as a nation -- financially and morally. To think of all the good we could have done with all that money!...
We're the majority now -- the majority by a significant margin! We call the shots -- and we need to tell this wimpy Congress to get busy and do what we say -- or else.
All I ask of those who voted for Obama is to not pile on him too quickly..... don't abandon the best hope we've had in our lifetime for change.....
Let us celebrate what people elsewhere are celebrating -- that America now has a sane and smart man in the White House...
The simple fact that he was elected was reason enough for him to be the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
.... at precisely 11:00pm ET on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. ... Never before had the election of one man made every other nation feel like they had won, too.
"The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track pay cuts, but it suggests they are reflected in the steep decline of another statistic: total weekly pay for production workers, pilots among them, representing 80 percent of the work force. That index has fallen for nine consecutive months, an unprecedented string over the 44 years the bureau has calculated weekly pay, capturing the large number of people out of work, those working fewer hours and those whose wages have been cut. The old record was a two-month decline, during the 1981-1982 recession."Our intentional policy -- protected job famine and credit drought -- has its winners too, of course:
Here's the tale of one of private equity's little harlot shops, the 133-year-old Simmons mattress company, makers of the famous Beautyrest pocketed coil system.
They've been bounced from PE outfit to PE outfit for near on 25 years now, only in the end to pitch over into bankruptcy. Here's the NYT version of the sordid final sprint into default, but for those like Father Smiff allergic to straight biz-news, here's the final act in short:
2003: The last private equity outfit, THL, bought Simmons from the prior private equity outfit for, in round dollars, $1.1 billion -- 330 million of its own hard cash plus the lovely leverage of another $750 million in bonds serviceable by the mattress company's prospective revenues.
2004: New owners issue another $140 million in bonds on behalf of their recently aquired prize company.
2005-2006: Business booms at ye old bedding shop.
2007: My, my, yet another issue of bonds, this one for 300 million. Simmons now has $1.2 billion in bond debt. That's a lot of mattresses.
Now of course the $440 million in interim bond proceeds mostly wasn't used to build company capacity, but to pay a cash-out in two dividend hunks to the privateers upstairs at THL.
By the end of '07, the buckos are fully "cashed out" plus $45 million to the good.
2008: The market for mattresses begins to slide. The debt load proves too much. Bond payments are "suspended".
2009: Bankruptcy is declared.
Post mortem: okay not a killer bottom-line entry.for THL -- not like THL's star turn, buying Snapple for $130 million and selling it for $1.2 billion a couple years later -- but hey, not all strikes can be mother lodes, and even the Snapple caper was a mere sideshow by AIG standards -- right?
Lots of this paper shuffle stuff is done, well, just for the sport of it. After all, most of these buckos are already holden so considerable already -- why bother about any particular deal's bottom lines? Small potato stuff like Simmns isn't noticeably moving the dial one way or the other anyway.
It's about local conditions, novelty, and playing through no matter what -- like a good round of golf at an unfamiliar course.
Oh and by the way --
"From 2003 to 2007, 188 companies controlled by private equity firms issued more than $75 billion in debt... to pay dividends to the buyout firms."Peanuts! We gotta see trillions now, before we call the cops.
You can tack this one, from the Washington Post, up on the 'read it and then piss on it' board:
"Congressional leaders welcomed President Obama's proposal to make $250 payments to Social Security recipients Thursday, as a government report confirmed there will be no automatic cost-of-living adjustment for the program.... The $250 payments would cost a total of $13 billion under the White House's estimates, or $14 billion under congressional estimate."250 bucks! -- that's it? Why you -- you tight-ass fools -- no one, and I mean no one up for election next year dares say no to this golden-age dole-e-o.
So for heaven's sake, pile it on, gang. It's for the old timers -- the tattered and battered remnants of those august pioneers of modernity, the Greatest Gens, and the Dearth Gen too, those skipped-over pre-boomers.
I say, fill 'er up, uncle, for all of 'em -- make it not $250, not $500, not even a quibbler's thousand. Make it -- 12 thousand! That's right, 48 times larger -- make it as big as -- the original bank bail.
Code Pink's Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, shown above, really double-teamed old Obie recently in San Francisco, with a fiendish nutcracker strategy. Medea said nice things about him out on the street, while Jodie handed him a big check inside:
Benjamin said she was disappointed Obama wasn't being seen outside high-priced political events.Or maybe not ever, if Obie has anything to say about it.
"It would have been good for the president to hear from the Bay Area, and it would have helped to release his inner progressive," she said. "We know it's there somewhere...."
Jodie Evans, a co-founder of Code Pink, paid $30,400 for a pair of tickets to [a] VIP dinner, where she presented Obama with a petition from women in Afghanistan urging him not to send additional troops. Evans said she spent several minutes discussing the war there with the president and told him that the country's women "want a place at the table" in resolving the conflict....
"Iraq was hard. Afghanistan is harder," Obama told supporters. "Iran, seeking to develop nuclear weapons, is hard. The Middle East peace process, that's hard. These are not problems that are going to be solved overnight. They're not going to be solved in nine months. They're not going to be solved in 18 months" and "maybe not in 36 months...."
It's interesting that the Woman Question is getting deployed again in connection with Afghanistan (and, of course, Iran, during the recent Hipster Revolution). Not since Zionist loon A. M. Rosenthal fired up his one-man campaign to shield the clitorides of Muslim women have we seen such an efflorescence of what you might call Imperial Feminism.
Christ Jesus above, and Karl Marx below, now in their all-seeing glorified state, must know just how much I adore Fidel, but the Comandante's grasp of global capitalist economics is another story.
From his exquisite blog, carried at Monthly Reruns:
"One million of dollars today, when the price of gold — a metal whose value has been the most stable through centuries– exceeds one thousand dollars a troy ounce, is worth about 30 times its value when Nixon suspended the convertibility. Therefore, 200 billion dollars of 1971 amount to 6 trillion dollars of 2009. If this is not taken into account the new generations will not have an idea of the imperialist barbarity."As our spritely Father S is wont to quip -- 'where does one begin?' So I won't -- I'll just give you another passage to smoke on:
"The Treasury bonds and bills continued to circulate as convertible hard currencies. The states’ reserves continued feeding on that paper money that, on the one hand, could be used to buy raw material, properties, goods and services anywhere in the world while on the other favored American exports with respect to the rest of the economies of the world."He even quotes one of Great Satan Sam's master doubletalkers:
"An outstanding professor of Economics at Harvard University, Kenneth Rogoff, has said that the next big financial crisis will be that of the public deficits."Hey, there's even a gold bug moment, El Jefe has become so disoriented by recent earth wide financial gyrations:
"Once again the metal gold is becoming a significant international reserve currency."Cuba locuta, as the good Father might say. There you have it, folks, we're headed back to the gold standard.
One thing is certain: Fidel has provided ample evidence right here in his own blog post of the howling truth of his noble and righteously sweeping lede --
"The Empire has ruled the world through economy and deceit rather than force."If Uncle's "system" can confuse Fidel, of all people, who can't uncle deceive?
PS: Not a topper to his noble lede, but try this on for a final chord. It's apropos the Obama peace prize:
"Many will feel that he has yet to earn the right to receive such an award. Rather than a prize to the President of the United States, we choose to see that decision as a criticism of the genocidal policy pursued by more than a few presidents of that country who took that nation to the crossroads where it is today. That is, as a call for peace and for the pursuit of solutions conducive to the survival of the species."Viva Fidel! Viva Nobel! Viva -- the gold standard!
His unreleased sequel to cattle stampede hit "geek snarkonomics" takes on the green team's terminal climate menopause claims, and he's taking a vicious flock fuck of a pranging -- and well deserved, too.
Maybe you might start here:
From Owen's annals of Uncle Dollar's mighty easy trade-switch road toward a greener earthly production platform: call it simple import substitution.
Method: a savage process-specific carbon content tax. On imports only? No -- not necessary. Slap it on domestic production too. Just set the levy at the right point to close the import door with relative tax cost barriers. Uncle's domestic plants are already greener in steel production than the People's Republic -- so why not slap a diffrential carbon tax on Chinese browner steel?
"The U.S. steel industry has become 25% more energy efficient in the past 20 years. The Chinese steel industry now generates 50% of the carbon emitted by global steel production, but makes only 33% of the world’s steel, meaning that it generates much more carbon per ton than the global average. According to the International Iron and Steel Institute, Chinese steel production generates 2.5 tons of carbon per ton of steel, while U.S. steel production generates only 1.2 tons of carbon per ton of steel (Conway 2009; Bailey et al. 2009, 59). Thus, if Chinese steel is substituted for U.S.-made steel on a ton-for-ton basis, global carbon emissions would rise if domestic production were simply displaced by Chinese production."Now apply this to pulp and paper, basic chemicals, nonmetallic mineral products, petroleum refining, glass, clay, textiles, cement, aluminum etc etc -- these are industries we're still "in". Lets become self-sufficient again in industrial basics
Trade war? Well if it means a greener planet, why the hell not?
I've always had a great admiration for Dani Rodrik, but hell, did it recently get tested. Here comes Dani pulling behind him a massive stinker -- eggs on me, eh?
MYTH OF RISING PROTECTIONISMUgh! But hey, so far he's right -- despite the global contraction there's been no wave of illusory job-generating, trade-war-triggering, anti-cross-border trade restrictions and penalties, at least among the developed core nations of the earth's marketplaces.
"... the international trade regime has passed its greatest test since the Great Depression with flying colors."
But those flying colors seem to make cosmopolite and emerging south world fan Dr Rodrik very happy indeed. I can't share his enthusiasm.
Okay, nothing wrong per se with this:
"When everyone raises trade barriers, the volume of trade collapses. No one wins"But where's the rest of the story? where's the feasible compensatory macro policy, Dani boy? This is where my man makes his deft turn toward the limited liability dark side, by cleverly misappropriating the words of the founder and demigod of compensatory macro policy itself, Lord Keynes of Bloomsbury:
"As Keynes recognized, trade restrictions can protect or generate employment during economic recessions.It's a misappropriation because keynes was not in the least a true believer in open trade in an era of predominantly industrial development, nor particularly interested in the welfare of Dani's beloved emerging economies. And it's also clever because the foxy bastard introduces lord K only to silence him pre-emptively.
But what may be desirable under extreme conditions for a single country can be highly detrimental to the world economy."
Dan fails to note the present triumphant first world policy elite has only half heartedly (at best) implemented the slumptime universal national RX prescribed by the great fairy prince of hard-times improvident budgeteering.
We all know Keynes offered another way to restore production to a contracted "developed" economy, right? Besides beggar-thy-neighbor with higher and more comprehensive border walls, Keynes offered a brighter sunnier recovery by massive add-on spending in situ by the various creditworthy national gubmints -- funded entirely from the limitless borrowings that fiat moeny affords every legitimate and healthy state sovereign. By implication, Dani salutes the blind rump of Keynes, as embodied in the automatics of "the welfare state"
"Modern industrial societies now have a wide array of social protections ― unemployment compensation, adjustment assistance, and other labor-market tools, as well as health insurance and family support ― that mitigate demand for cruder forms of protection"But my dearest Dr Rodrik, though these automatics both ameliorate and contain any deep contraction -- why must we suffer a protracted doldrums at all? Why use Keynes to deliver us from the pending vortex only to becalm us in the Sargasso?
Maybe in Dani's next op-ed, rather than another hoorah for "the planetary social market system", he oughta debunk the myth of necessary misery.
Why must the developed world creep along at, what, 2/3 of capacity? You already know the answer: so the trans-nat outfits get their preferred pathway -- one that maintains a "strong imperial dollar"
See, "we" can rebalance global trade simply by slowing import demand here at home. And "we" do that by simply slowing household income recovery.
One cut cures all -- a few years of quiet time where we Norte midget amigos just can't buy imports, 'cause we're payless jobwise and 'nyet, buster' creditwise -- in short, on our calvinist backsides.
This great stagmnation rut is corporate kool precisely because it's NOT recovery and rebalancing by forex driven import substitution. That might be a societywide "better" pathway for reasons numerous enough for several more posts, but not to put too fine a point on all this (and Dani, I submit, is fully aware of this) -- "wage widgets of America, hear this: the job lamp is not lit."
Though it's crystal clear a planned and programed dollar drop might be combined with a rapid return to high production through, what else, the skillful use of -- Keynesian macro(*)! -- it's just not gonna happen. Not a preferred option in policy circles. Till further notice, all you bo-peeps get this straight: there'll be no recovery -- for you!
(*) Which by routes both circuitous and profoundly un-miraculous might also cut the special interest protectionists and anti-immigrants right off at the knees.
Doctor of Econology Gentle Ben Bernanke has again sounded the dismal goat's horn, not for the first time, reconfirming our fate: we norte-americano job groundlings are to suffer a dose of protracted class immiseration.
Because it's our planetary duty. Translation: it's Wall Street's preferred pathway to rebalance global commerce. A necessary midcourse correction, so to speak, and we're elected to take the correction right in the paybasket.
"As the global economy recovers and trade volumes rebound, however, global imbalances may reassert themselves. As national leaders have emphasized in recent meetings of the G-20, policymakers around the world must guard against such an outcome. We understand, at least in principle, how to do this. The United States must increase its national saving rate. Although we should deploy, as best we can, tools to increase private saving, the most effective way to accomplish this goal is by establishing a sustainable fiscal trajectory, anchored by a clear commitment to substantially reduce federal deficits over time"Yes, that's right, good people: instead of forcing currency zones in Asia and the Gulf region to allow the imperial dollar to seek its own far lower trade-balancing exchange rate, we the floorsweepers of empire are to be forced to live with massive job market slack and dismal household credit conditions for a long spell, or till Asian demand for our "output" catches up, depending on whichever hurts more and takes longer.
It's always a good first approximation to assume that worse for us is better for our plutonic superiors.
Oh and by the way: no, Ms Woodstock, this is not to aid the toiling masses of Asia. This is, as I too often point out here, them sacrificing us job goobers on the double cross of their phoney forex-fiddle-built, capital-export and product-import hegemonic dollar. Our homegrown multinational intermediaries need that steroidal dollar.
Hey, comrades -- you wouldn't want these earthwide bearers of brown technical progress, these missionaries for deep-dish commercial civilization, all crumpled up by a colossal dollar crash -- would you? I mean, really -- would you wanna see 'em rendered in one big compaction into an inky pile of useless trash bails?
Far better we geefers beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the blues.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi counted votes Thursday night and determined she could not pass a “robust public option” — the most aggressive of the three forms of a public option House Democrats have been considering as part of a national overhaul of health care.
Pelosi's decision—coupled with a significant turn of events yesterday during a private White House meeting—points to an increasingly likely compromise for a “trigger” option for a government plan.
Rank and file membership in the Democratic Party is very much like incarceration in a giant Skinner Box; one with no rewards for the test subjects. The "trigger" option is designed to get the poor things to run on the random electric shock treadmill again. I think they'd do it without the gratuitous, bad faith hope inducement, but that's included anyway. Maybe the Democratic Party grandees are bored, and get an extra little thrill from the empty spitefulness. Or, maybe, they simply don't know any better, having grown used to the same in their own elite Skinner Box environments. It really doesn't matter, however. The motivation for it, insofar as these empty suits are capable of motivation, is irrelevant. The beautiful losing is the same old schtick.
As an addendum to the previous, the constant admonitions from the party faithful—to fight fascism, to fight teabagging, to fight town hall disruptions, to stand strong against this, that and the other thing—would be less pathetically sinister if they were something other than invitations to a demented, corporate productivity-enhancement psychodrama.
Update on our nation's scattered fleets of submariner households. According to the Washington Post(*),
"A growing number of underwater borrowers are walking away from their homes even if they can afford the payments.... More than 25 percent of mortgage defaults [are] strategic defaults.... Housing experts say these borrowers are calculating that their homes are no longer a sound investment...."Walkaway gaining mojo! Father S must be pleased.
(*)Subscription only, it appears. But the whole article has been reproduced here.
File under "Sad Decline Of American Communism."
Michael Meeropol, as everybody knows, is the younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He grew up to become a professor of economics and an occasional commentator on an NPR affiliate in Albany. He wrote a book whose title (or subtitle, anyway) I kind of like (Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution), though I must confess I have not read the book. For his parents' sake, I feel that I ought to cut him some slack.
But he has been circulating a document recently -- it surfaced on one of my lefty mailing lists -- which is both so spectacularly silly, and such a perfect example of the un-idea'd self-hypnosis of the American left, that I can't help commenting on it:
DEAR FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, FELLOW-FRUSTRATED-FOLKS:The 6:30 AM timestamp is, of course, another reason to cut the poor guy some slack. But still.
About a year ago, a number of us met in New York City to see if we could agree upon a series of recommendations to the incoming Obama Administration.
... In the NEW DEAL, the Republicans were quickly marginalized and the decade became a fruitful dialogue within which the left – yes, the Communist and Socialist parties, for God’s sake!!—argued with the liberals....
I THINK IT’S TIME (and I know I’m not in a position to do even a tiny bit of the heavy lifting that it would involve) FOR THE CREATION OF A “TRULY LOYAL OPPOSITION”.... to the Obama Administration’s attempts to do what many of us warned it not to do....
That the Republican Party/Tea Baggers/Death Panel warners/Birthers/Right-Wing Talk Radio hosts are considered by the media the main opposition to the Obama Administration is an indication of the profound bankruptcy of part of the “establishment.” The institutions and corporations and individual rich men (some women?) who are funding and staffing the astro-turf organizations that have tapped into real fears of real people to move the US towards fascism (remember Huey Long, Father Coughlin, etc. ...) should not be the only people in “dialogue” with the Obama Administration....
INSTEAD --- someone (or group of people) reading this should be in a position to organize a conference of ORGANIZATIONS and INDIVIDUALS – Unions, organizations like URPE, publishers of newsletters and journals, think tanks....
Someone (or a group of people) should figure out how to get a million dollars ... out of some rich person... to staff an organization DEDICATED... to SHIFTING THE DIALOGUE on economic policy from the RIDICULOUS ONE that we observe on the tube and the internet every day [between the Obama Administration and the right-wing naysayers] to one that insists that the time for BOLD ACTION IS NOW....
Sorry for all the capital letters.
[6:30 AM, October 22]
Bold action? Helping Stalin get the atom bomb, like Meeropol's mom is supposed to have done -- now that was a bold action. I know, I know, she may not have really done very much, and whatever she did do probably didn't make that much difference -- all true, no doubt.
But if she could have handed Stalin the atom bomb on a silver platter, she would have; and she would have done a good thing, too, since the Sovs getting the atom bomb is very likely the only thing that kept our land-of-the-free Strangeloves from who knows what horrors.
Her boy's idea of "bold action" is nattering at Obama -- in an apparent attempt to counterbalance those pathetic "teabaggers", who seem to worry him a great deal.
Let Obama be Obama! If only he were talking to reasonable people instead of nutty teabaggers, reason would prevail, and we'd all get a pony.
From Reuters. No comment needed:
Foreclosed Couple Detain, Torture Loan-Modification Agents
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As Los Angeles housing advocates launched a campaign warning of mortgage rescue scams, a couple hit by foreclosure are charged with torturing two loan-modification agents they suspected of fraud, authorities said....
"The two allegedly sought loan modification assistance from the victims but believed that nothing was being done and wanted their money back," a statement from the district attorney's office said.
[DA mouthpiece Shiara] Davila-Morales added that the couple, according to investigators, believed they had been swindled.
Editor's note: And so they have, of course, like every other so-called "homeowner" of less than 40 years' standing in North America. Why, I wonder, aren't all the others responding in such an appropriate way?
An indefatigable commenter here has recently constructed a very flattering image of me as a frivolous Manhattan playboy. One feels a certain obligation to live up to a compliment. So I hereby serve notice that Nora and I are heading off to warmer climes for an impulsive three-day holiday. (Asta will be staying here in New York, with Henry the butler -- Asta can't stand air travel these days. The noise! And the people!)
I have a serious backlog of un-edited posts piled up in the inbox. Profuse and sincere apologies to the stalwarts who have sent them. But now that the dear old boat is out of the water for the winter, I feel kinda lost without something really self-indulgent to do.
Henry just crept into the study here, coughed discreetly, and intimated, without quite saying it, that Nora is waiting in the billiard room with a pitcher of Martinis.
Now if I know Nora, she's wearing a slinky silk peignoir and she's already well into the Martinis. So if you will excuse me....
Alternet paints a somewhat bleak picture of the Obama marriage -- though to be sure, they insist in the same breath that it's All Good:
When Barack told Michelle that he wanted to run for a Senate seat, when they lived in Chicago and had young kids, she wasn't pleased. They had friends and colleagues over at their house, and though he wanted her support, it was clear everyone was gung-ho except her.Gotta love that idyllic doctor-lawyer-MBA kibbutz, right? Isn't that just perfect?
" 'I married you because you're cute, and you're smart,' Michelle later said she told her husband, 'but this is the dumbest thing you could have ever asked me to do.' "
And she didn't keep quiet about her frustration. "Unlike the wife who smiles tightly and insists everything is fine, Michelle sent a clear series of distress signals not only to her husband but to everyone around her....
"I just needed the support. It didn't have to be Barack," she said.... The Obamas' closest friends -- doctors, lawyers, MBA types -- also faced the strains of two-full-time-careers-plus-kids marriage. Now they banded into a kind of intergenerational urban kibbutz....."
The Obamas have given us some encouraging firsts. Maybe they will leap another barrier and give us the first White House divorce.
Who will move out and sleep in the Executive Office Building? I bet it's Obie.
Will Michelle get custody, three days a week, of the nuclear launch codes? I can easily imagine those sinewy arms driving a stiff committed self-assured finger down onto the Big Red Button.