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October 2008 Archives

October 1, 2008

Wonderful life

Scenes from the Great Depression; or, economics according to Frank Capra:
"Once a bank in a given town shut its doors, all the knowledge accumulated by the bank officers there effectively disappeared. Other banks weren’t nearly as willing to lend money to local businesses and residents because the loan officers at those banks didn’t know which borrowers were less reliable than they looked. Credit dried up."

And just who's this particular idiot? Some virtual cat burglar from the business pages of the New York Times. Behold his electrified hair act as he, like his other "fellow worriers.... connect[s] the dots... to teach a little lesson on the economics of a credit crisis — how A can lead to B, B to C and C to Depression".

Ahh comrades, he's but one idiot in a chorus of idiots -- a chorus of idiots headed up by a string of distinguished lead soloists, including double-domed faux-Nobel laureates and eminent tycoons and tower sharks -- all peddling the purest brand of hooey.

These days we're getting fed nothing but a steady diet of bull goose feathers -- policy as the illusion of the impossible. What we need is a Huey Long manic boast -- a kingfisher, a dealer in miracle loaves. But we get what? We get who? Why none other than Gentle Ben Bernanke -- our livid-faced soul-sapped fed chair from old Nassau itself.

Seems Ben is in fact a former scholar of the great depression:

"As a young academic economist in the 1980s, Mr. Bernanke largely developed the theory that the loan officers’ lost knowledge was a crucial cause of the Depression. He referred to this lost knowledge as “informational capital.” In plain English, it means that trust vanished from the banking sector."
Listen, fellow saps and suckers: the Fed could loan it all -- and directly to the guys and gals that make the real wheels turn, not the hi-fi mugglers -- and at zero real cost.

If you want to think it through, try starting with this notion: activating idle resources has zero opportunity cost. If the Gub runs a big enough deficit, spends enough money, extends enough easy business credit -- well, why not? Credit costs nothing to produce, and credit is the elixir, when it flows, even indiscriminately, into our mazelike thicket of real tangible product businesses, our outfits that hire folks and put 'em to work producing actual consumable shit.

Yes they do it for for a profit and through exploitation -- but ain't it a cold existential fact that a job, any job, is better then no job at all?

Is it all a big waste? Wasting what? A bridge to anywhere built out of otherwise idle resources, no matter where it's going, no matter how marginal its additional social value -- it's better then ten thousand pairs of thumbs twiddling away on La-Z-Boys.

Fuck the fine structure, fuck "all the knowledge accumulated" by the Mr Potters everywhere. So what if "banks are hoarding capital"? We the weebles don't need their stinking capital. We got plenty of capital, social capital, capital of Uncle, from Uncle and by Uncle, and it can get spread out free of charge.

So gang, tell Uncle to start doling out the credit lines all up and down Main Street. Fuck the Rubins and the Reeds.

Fuck the Potters. Pass 'em by. Pass all of 'em.

Go to the source and fill all those greedy little hands out there ready to rumble the marketplace -- fill 'em with cash. Let America's eager grasping legion of petty for-profit outfits seek their petty fortunes out in the forum battling for orders against each others grain. Let 'em sell more I-phones. Let 'em build more sundecks and cut more blue hair. Let 'em rip and swindle and and serve more restaurant meals. Let 'em -- even if they're only in it for the money -- half-assedly care for more elders and raw kids. Let the markets roar. Let a zillion firms contend. Let's try some of this guy's snake oil for once:

October 3, 2008

Back to business -- as usual

My uncharacteristic pride in the US House of Representatives was unsurprisingly short-lived. As everyone knows, the poor saps today reversed their earlier rejection of the Busted Speculators' Relief Act of 2008, and handed over a cool trillion or so of the public's money to the grotesque clowns who got us into this jam in the first place -- and who lived mighty high on the hog while they did it.

Once again the Democrats -- those dedicated fans of hedge-fun genius -- led the charge. Monday's rejection of the bill saw a Dem vote of 140-95 in favor. Calls from Barack (among other things) boosted this margin, today, to 172-63. The Republicans, who opposed the bill on Monday by a quite lopsided margin, experienced some erosion due to relentless pressure, but still honorably gave a majority "nay" -- 108-91.

The professional thumbsuckers have pondered this development, of course. Here's the Washington Post:

[T]he change from Monday's vote to today's tally is clear: The number of Republicans voting for the bill went from 65 to 91, and the number of Democrats in favor from 140 to 172. Those increases are attributable to four main factors: 1) Monday's 778-point plunge in the Dow, which spooked many lawmakers; 2) The apparent swing in public opinion after the initial defeat; 3) The addition by the Senate of several expensive goodies, including business tax breaks, an increase in FDIC insurance on bank deposits, and mental health parity legislation; and 4) The hard work of leaders on both sides of the aisle to coax more members into the "aye" column.
Some interesting points here. The stock market threatened to hold its breath on Monday -- and its parents, like the parents of spoiled children everywhere, caved.

The "apparent swing in public opinion" has no link in the WaPo item -- because of course there was no such swing. Earlier today Steny Hoyer optimistically observed that phone calls to his office were now only 3-1 against the bailout -- as contrasted with 6-1 a few days earlier. Always look on the sunny side, Steny. And ignore your constituents -- 3-1, 6-1, schmix-to-one, this is Wall Street we're talkin' about here.

The WaPo piece interestingly continues:

Vulnerable lawmakers, with very few exceptions, did not switch their positions, still voting overwhelmingly against the bill....

[T]here are 44 incumbent House members who face notable challenges in the November, ranging from contests that are potentially competitive to those that are very tight. Of those 44, nine voted in favor of the rescue bill on Monday. Today, 12 vulnerable lawmakers voted aye, meaning that just three switched their votes -- GOP Reps. Randy Kuhl (N.Y.), Joe Knollenberg (Mich.) and Jean Schmidt (Ohio).

All the other vulnerable members stayed in the "no" column.... [W]hile 60 percent of the House backed the rescue today, just 27 percent of the members worried about the November election did.

Poor devils -- caught between their "leadership" and their constituents. Oh to be a purveyor of tranquilizing gin to the Lower House this week. One could invest the proceeds in gold, or something -- and retire.

October 4, 2008

Choose your Hunger Chancellor

We'll be paying for the big bailout in more ways than one.

The whole corporate limited liability elite has a nice long high-unemployment program awaiting us. No matter how we turn at the polls -- we mere job smurfing rubes are in for a shit slide.

Both the Orthrian mastheads take Wall Street's dacoit state $700 bill whale of a bail to be a fiscal contraint of titanic(*) proportions -- one that will stymie spending well into whatever next administration we the weebles choose.

Policy translation: no full employment deficit for Uncle Sam next year -- no plunging dollar, no trade rebalancing, no forced march toward green production, no come-home-kids world peace crusade. Instead: misery on Main Street, stagnation in the trade gap, and old glory spilling (and dripping) blood somewhere or else -- "over there".

This earth-rounding financial blight will bite us all and bite deep. Our choice come November? The next Herbert Hoover or the next Grover Cleveland.


*Double meaning intended.

October 8, 2008

Welcome to Hooverville

The great American job class has a nice choice ahead of 'em this election day: let their 401K -- if they got one -- largely evaporate, along with the stock mutual funds, AND probably lose their job or -- or -- or -- ummmm -- on second thought, they've got no choice at all, have they?

Sometimes you know whats comin' and you just gotta brace yourself:

October 9, 2008

Pwogs just wanna have funds

Tentative cheer: Paulson may have been dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing to rescue the financial system.
Thus Paul Krugman -- and the right thing by his lights? "Taking ownership stakes in many United States banks."

So now Uncle's goin' partners with the mugs -- and the people's elite friends are delighted. In greater deeper pwog-space it's all about properly managing the bail. Like in this case using the "Swedish model" -- where Uncle makes an equity play and gets a little upside potential on his dime.

Okay, so that's better than just transferring the toxic shit onto Uncle's books, and full-face dollars to the Street creeps. But look, gang, whatever the form here, the headline still reads: WALL STREET HEGEMONY SAVED! Orthrian two-headed rule means any real bypass operation shall not pass.

Oh, and that "Swedish model"?

The original equity bail in Sweden circa 92-93 was a pure lemonade maker. Only sick-ass banks got bought into, and run from the gubmint corner office.

Jacob Wallenberg, the curly-topped super-saurian in the silk suit above, a man of means and global connections, got to keep his private bank all to himself.

* * * * *

Here's another nice turn, from another pwog who has ideas about "managing" the crisis. The Mephisto-like Greg Mankiw sez, in effect, that yup, equity from Uncle is the only way:

"Other economists have suggested that the government inject capital itself. That raises several questions. First, which firms? The government does not want to put taxpayer money into “zombie” firms that are in fact deeply insolvent but have not yet recognized it. Second, at what price should the government buy in? Third, isn’t this, kind of, like socialism? That is, do we really want the government to start playing a large, continuing role running Wall Street and allocating capital resources? I certainly don't.

Here is an idea that might deal with these problems: The government can stand ready to be a silent partner to future Warren Buffetts.... Whenever any financial institution attracts new private capital in an arms-length transaction, it can access an equal amount of public capital. The taxpayer would get the same terms as the private investor. The only difference is that government’s shares would be nonvoting until the government sold the shares at a later date.

This plan would solve the three problems. The private sector rather than the government would weed out the zombie firms. The private sector rather than the government would set the price. And the private sector rather than the government would exercise corporate control."

What a miracle -- an Immaculate Injection!

October 11, 2008

Another one bites the dust?

The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Obama campaign said it was a mistake for an outreach coordinator to join a meeting last month attended by leaders of two controversial Muslim groups....

Minha Husaini, newly named as head of the campaign's outreach coordinator to Muslims, attended a discussion session Sept. 15 with about 30 Muslim leaders and community members in suburban Washington.... Participants included leaders of the Council of American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Muslim American Society, which have been cited by the government in the past for ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

In August, the campaign's previous coordinator, Mazen Asbahi, resigned.... after questions arose about his brief tenure on the board of an Islamic investment fund along with a controversial Illinois imam....

Thursday, campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, responding to questions about the September session in Springfield, Va., said Ms. Husaini wouldn't have attended had she known that Council of American-Islamic Relations and Muslim American Society leaders were going to be there....

One attendee at the Springfield meeting was Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation. The Justice Department has asserted in court proceedings that the society's organizers were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a global group promoting political Islam.

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, also attended the session, as did the group's legislative director. The government named CAIR an unindicted coconspirator in the Justice Department's racketeering prosecution last year of alleged Hamas fund-raisers.

It would be fun, wouldn't it, to see how this three-degrees-of-separation anxiety about "controversial" groups would work out if it were applied to other religious contexts -- Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu -- or hell, Buddhist, if it comes to that.

October 13, 2008

Obama: the boating crowd's verdict

During my recent Maine to New York sailing odyssey, I experienced a small political epiphany. I had brought my boat in to a yard in Pocasset, Massachusetts, a pleasant little place more or less in the armpit of Cape Cod, and at the very cul of the sac that is Buzzards Bay:

As I fussed and fretted trying to replace a broken navigation light, I overheard a conversation, conducted in the characteristic Massachusetts nasal dialect, between two leathery old boater gents hanging out on the dock. They were discussing the presidential election.

Now boaters, though they are usually quite amiable, are seldom Pwogwessives. And increasing age doesn't usually turn them in that direction. So the conversation took some fairly predictable turns -- bitching about taxes, waste, incompetence, and so on. The current incumbent was roundly abused, the Democrats deplored in turn. Finally one of the old boys came right out and asked: "So -- who yah gonna vote fooah?

His friend paused a moment, sighed, then replied, "Ah hell, the niggah, I guess."

Up to this point in my trip, I had been starting to wonder -- after the marvelous initial Palin moment, and Barack's rather lackluster performance as nominee -- whether the Illinois wunderkind might actually snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and put the sacrificial goat McCain improbably into the White House. I was starting to get the sense that Barack's charm really didn't travel well beyond his core demographic.

I still think that's true. My dockside philosopher in Pocasset hadn't caught the Beatlemania, and wasn't likely to. "Change" and "hope" and "belief" and all that misty feelgood Obablather left him, clearly, as cold as a mackerel. But it was also clearly his sense that the current gang had thoroughly screwed the pooch, to the extent that he was willing to vote, not just for a Democrat, but for a "niggah."

My grandmother used to say, of a certain type of pre-Nixon Southerner, that they'd vote for a hound dog if he was a Democrat. It really does seem that much of the public is in the same mood this year. It wouldn't have taken an individual with Barack's undoubtedly exceptional personal gifts to inherit the truckload of sewage that the Republicans are -- gleefully, I'm sure -- going to unload on the Hunger Chancellors next month.

I daresay Barack will be a disappointment. He's taking on a Roosevelt-sized mess. It's possible that he'll want to, and try to, and perhaps be able to, come up with a Roosevelt-sized response. But I'm sure not holding my breath.

Well, look on the bright side. At least we'll have set a gratifying benchmark when the "niggah" takes the oath of office. It's purely symbolic, but symbols have their value.

No sex please, we're revolutionaries

Mr Pecksniff

All sorts of fun tidbits float past on my lefty mailing lists. For example:



The ENQUIRER exclusively reports a "sex pervert" was Sen. Barack Obama's longtime mentor and "father figure".

For seven years, the presidential candidate had a "father-son" relationship with Frank Marshall Davis, who has confessed to having sex with children, sadomasochism, bondage and practicing a wide array of deviant sexual activities.

This item in itself isn't terribly interesting. What was delightful was the response of one of the other list members -- let's call him Eumetheus:

Our concern should be following and countering the reactionary uses to which this latest crap-pile will be put, not publicizing it ourselves or adding our own tidbits....

[I]f the revolutionary left ever "needs" its own "Der Sturmer," [the original poster of the Enquirer piece to the list] is clearly the one to provide it. The times may yet find the man.

That's it from me on this political pornography, at least until consequences, if any, start coming in.

Here we see a number of the deformations professionnelles that are, alas, all too common among what passes for the "revolutionary left" in the US:
  • Phatocracy: The obsession with controlling discourse. Eumetheus thinks if he can stop people talking about this Davis business, it will go away.
  • Grandiosity: The overestimation of our importance and power. The thing has appeared in the Inquirer; but Eumetheus thinks that a reference on a lefty mailing list with maybe three hundred members is going to do some additional damage.
  • Bipolarity: The Enquirer is "reactionary", or at least providing matter for "reactionary use." Therefore we must defend Barack from its attacks.
  • Ubiquitlerism: Behind every contralocutor lurks a Hitler.
  • Disindifference: The inability to understand, or act on the understanding, that American elections don't matter.

October 14, 2008

The hell with standards

A recent comment on an earlier post raises some questions that deserve above-the-fold treatment. I had written about the silliness of lefties getting worked up about The National Enquirer throwing muck (think of that!) at Frank Marshall Davis, an early mentor of Obama's. Djur replied, in part:

... The question of whether "the Left" should promote this attack on Frank Marshall Davis is completely distinct from whether Obama deserves to be protected (which he doesn't).

For one thing, regardless of whether the allegations are true, the idea that Obama's youthful association with this man can be used to attack him is odious. I don't consider myself squeamish about politics, but expanding guilt by association to that point has dire consequences....

This evokes a number of thoughts. First among them: opposing the National Enquirer -- or treating it as anything but a louche carnival attraction -- falls into the category of futile acts that an Irish friend of mine warned me against years ago: "Nivir wrrestle with a pig. Yez both get dirrty, but the pig enjoys it."

All right, this is a little frivolous, and Djur is being serious. Let me try a different tack.

The Enquirer is prominent among the ancestral enemies of well-meaning, high-minded, intelligent, educated liberal folks. I have a kind of instinctive reluctance to join in any tut-tutting against these bogeymen. It's too much like joining forces with the liberals -- in defense of standards, or objectivity, or civil society, or good taste, or something else at least as illusory as the space aliens who populate the Enquirer's pages.

One grants too much, I think, to the bien-pensanterie, in deigning even to deplore the Enquirer.

The high-minded need a low-life to despise. But personally, I despise the whole sick symbiotic mutually self-serving charade: faux-populist Bronx cheers from the Enquirer, and expressions of pious horror from folks with more educated tastes. Everybody comes away smiling from these encounters: the Enquirer because it has sold papers, and the noblesse de robe because they have shown what superior souls they are.

Then there's the question of consequences. Djur writes: "expanding guilt by association to that point has dire consequences."

No doubt. But we've been living with these "dire consequences" for generations. Guilt by association is how American politics works. Just a couple of days ago I put up a post about the Obama campaign's guilt-by association approach to Muslim organizations. In this context, the Enquirer's mudslinging looked a lot to me like poetic justice.

And granted that the consequences are "dire" -- granted that we all wish our society ran on a different basis -- what are we Lefties supposed to do about it? Well, we might reason, the Day of Jubilo appears to be some ways off, so perhaps in the meantime we should tidy up our cell and try to step on some of the biggest roaches. Like the National Enquirer.

The problems with this argument, to my mind, are two. First, I don't believe in tidying up the cell. I'm kinda with those IRA lads at Long Kesh who decorated their cells with their feces. (At least in principle -- I'm fairly cleanly in private life.)

Second, though, and perhaps less controversial: who, after all, are the biggest roaches? I would argue that the National Enquirer is a roach so diminutive that you need a microscope to see it -- unless you're on board with the liberals and their dictatorship of standards.

Naah, if you ask me, the New York Times is the biggest roach. That's the one to take a whack at, whenever you get the chance. The Times knows the secret of misinforming and deluding people who think, by virtue of their superior qualities of mind and their expensive first-class educations, that they can't be hoodwinked. Compared to the damage the Times does, the National Enquirer is very small beer indeed.

October 15, 2008

The free market set his compensation

Remember the story a week or so ago about Richard Fuld, the helmsman who ran Lehman Brothers on the rocks, getting punched out in the company gym by a disgruntled employee? J Alva Scruggs sent in the following reflection:


If that URL breaks, I've got a custom one that works well for this.


This offers a classic proof of Nozick's theory on entitlement. The punch was freely transfered and justly acquired. The punchor delivered the punchee's compensation without any coercion from the state. He mixed his labor with it -- and it was a resource that previously had no owners. Indeed, before the punchor clenched his fist and swung, the punch did not exist. Immaculate, pure and wholly free of liens. Therefore it was his to give. The punchee demonstrated his acceptance by assuming a recumbent position, again without coercion from the state.

The sword and shield of Hollywood

NPR yesterday had a rather tartly-worded story on the new intellectual-property KGB, overwhelmingly approved by our boughten Congress last month:

While Congress was embroiled in the battle over the financial bailout bill, both houses somehow managed to overwhelmingly approve legislation backed by the entertainment industry. The bill will help step up enforcement efforts against intellectual property theft....

One of the most notable provisions is the creation of an intellectual property coordinator. This is a White House-level position to be appointed by the president; some people are calling the new post the IP czar....

The bill also has a forfeiture provision that will allow law enforcement to seize assets from anyone accused of intellectual-property theft — even before they are proven guilty.

This remarkable expansion in secret-police power -- for the transcendently important purpose of protecting trademarks and song residuals, forsooth -- was sponsored by that white knight, Patrick Leahy, and cosponsored in the Senate by 21 other stooges, including some of our old favorites: Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, "Up" Chuck Schumer. The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House 381-41, and really, it's only surprising that that wasn't unanimous too.

Apparently the Nays tend to be in the pockets of technology providers rather than "content" providers; the former find their style rather cramped by the extravagant excesses of IP enforcement demanded by the latter. It's easy enough to see who has the Injun sign on Congress, though: it's not the people who have put that laptop in your lap -- it's the people who claim ownership, and want to exert control, of the bits on your disk.

These trolls would like to send armed men to break down the door of any Billy Goats Gruff they suspect of evading their bridge tolls; and the Democratic Congress it was so important to elect two years ago -- in the name of all that's good and decent -- has been, predictably, very happy to oblige.

Among the immortals

Our fearless pwog terrier, Paul Krugman, has won the Swedish bank's pseudo-Nobel prize for "economic science." This rigorous friend of all things small-fry and Bush-battered, champion of long-gone well-hung safety nets, and well-versed anal-solonic regulators, and... and... oh Christ, blah blah blah.

Why him? Well, before he became the relentless tribune of the naked truth, the master of bright-line, gotcha! political arithmetic, over there on the op-ed pages of the Times of Laputa -- before all that, he was an innovative breakthroughish academic econ-conner; in fact, a paragon in his field. It's a field which for the last 60 years or so has required its heros and saints to boldly go where no academic mind has gone before, and formally, simply, and crisply, model some chunk of obvious everyday marketplace reality that has stared us all in the face since Columbus cheated Chief Nugawana at cards, and yet, until the publication of this particular paper, has evaded algebraic capture. Yes, trap it in Greek letters and render it in the toonish galaxy-far-far-away terms that please the rarefied minds of ivydom's Dismalians.

In Paul's case, he took an earlier breakthrough model by Dixit Stiglitz and frigged it around some, and used it, after suitable relabeling, to prove something -- well -- obvious: Toyota and General Motors might rationally choose to sell and produce in each others' home markets -- and profit maximally.

Sound impressive? No? Well, it got him overnight to the top tier of young Turks in trade theory.

But wait! There's more! Not satisfied with his initial earthshaking achievement, about a decade later, Paul built a model of optimal human civilization -- the genesis of urban habitat, those nodes of folks that pimple the market plain, swelling to the point where the economies of agglomeration just nicely balance the costs of transportation. As a lover of such toy train-set worlds, I could go on and on -- but I won't.

Street value of this body of work that won him the Swedish bankers' prize? Somewhere between the value of six mice and one large pumpkin, down at the local cab stand.

October 16, 2008

Driving the money-changers

The great lambkins of econ-con is savaging the credit lords again.


Seems according to cousin Joe Stiglitz, Paulson and posse are short-sheeting the "taxpayers":

"For all the show of toughness, the details suggest the US taxpayer got a raw deal. There is no comparison with the terms that Warren Buffett secured when he provided capital to Goldman Sachs. Buffett got a warrant-the right to buy in the future at a price that was even below the depressed price at the time. Paulson got for the US a warrant to buy in the future-at whatever the prevailing price at the time. The whole point of the warrant is so we participate in some of the upside, as the economy recovers from the crisis, and as the financial system starts to work."

Aaah we need a new broom in Washington eh? A broom to sweep away these Street creepers:

But here, I'm afraid, is what we're likely to get instead --

Enter Obama on an ass indeed, and to loud hosannas -- from the money-changers.

Stoop labor in the groves of Academe

I was amused by the following, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, on one of my lefty mailing lists:


Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, long criticized for its workplace policies, is a “more-honest employer” of part-time workers than colleges that employ thousands of adjunct faculty members. That was the harsh message delivered to a group of college human-resources officials here on Monday by one of their own: Angelo-Gene Monaco, associate vice president for human resources and employee relations at the University of Akron.

“We helped create a highly educated part of the working poor, and it’s starting to get attention from outsiders,” he said, noting that unions are trying to organize part-timers....

Yet another of the unlovely realities of academic life, so sharply at odds with the "profession's" exalted self-representation -- you know, the life of the mind and all that.

Note well that Monaco's concern was anything but humanitarian:

If colleges don't improve conditions for part-time instructors, they risk increased unionization efforts, and not just from the groups that have traditionally organized professors, said Mr. Monaco. He mentioned the United Auto Workers and Teamsters as potential organizers of adjuncts. "I'm worried about them. They don't care about the full-time faculty," he said.
A good many of us don't, Gene -- and there should be more.

October 23, 2008

More bilge from Code Weak

I have to admit, it's been hard to write about the campaign. It's all so hideously depressing. In my neighborhood, the upper west side of Manhattan, you now see all these obviously intelligent, spry old people wearing Obama gear -- gimme caps, sweatshirts, buttons -- and looking self-consciously self-satisfied about it. Like they're doing their bit for humankind. One wonders how they can have reached such venerable years without figuring out what Democrats are all about.

The stalwart and irrepressible Mike Flugennock rescued me from my megrims just now with the following:

Oh, God, if you exist, please kill me now. Please call me home. I promise I haven't stolen or murdered or made war or been a moneychanger or any of that shit. I can't stand another day of this. Please, oh please, God, call me home. I promise not to play my bootleg Dead tapes too loud.
CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Dear Friend,

Four years ago, Americans were swindled by a stolen election that allowed Bush to lead us deeper into disastrous war. Nearly half of the six million American voters living abroad never received their ballots. Registrations were shredded. Faulty voting equipment destroyed about one million ballots--roughly one for every 100 cast.

We have less than two weeks left before this historic election, an enormous opportunity to push to end the war in Iraq and prevent future wars, and we must be prepared to ACT in case it's determined by fraud, not the will of the people. The polls may be looking positive for peace voters, but we can't let ourselves get complacent, and we certainly cannot let history repeat itself!

There's a lot of this stuff going around just now -- moral panic about the possible theft of a meaningless vote. Since it appears that Obama is a shoo-in, and it's gotten pretty difficult to be excited in a positive way about the victor apparent, presumably people need something to get excited about.

Salvation through fanship

In an earlier post, I marveled at the apparent thick-headedness of some of my neighbors -- elderly upper-west-siders who have seen more of history than I have, and who are certainly no dumber than I am. Yet these alter-kakers are all suddenly decked out in Obamawear -- the hats, the shirts, you've seen it -- and looking very smug.

This in New York, where their efforts -- such as they may be -- are obviously nugatory. The only way Obama could fail to carry this state is to be found in bed with a live boy, a dead woman, Jesse Jackson, and Osama bin Laden, all at the same time.

Part of it, of course, is that many of my neighbors are celebrating, perhaps slightly over-celebrating, a personal moral victory. Yeah, the guy's a schwartzer, but hey, he's a Democrat -- so he's my man. I'm not prejudiced, you know.

But that just pushes the question back a step, doesn't it? Whence arises the psychic income of voting -- even working -- for a Democrat, schwartzer though he may be?

Most of these folks don't appear to be hurting. They can, it seems, afford their exorbitant Manhattan rents or co-op maintenance payments. The Bush years, bad as they may have been for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Dearborn, and other areas of the Third World, haven't taken too much wind out of my neighbors' sails. But their animus against the current Chief Executive is very intense, and their enthusiasm for the schwartzer correspondingly keen.

There is, of course, the culture thing. They can't stand a hick, my neighbors -- either a halfway real hick, like Sarah Palin, or a totally faux hick, like G W Bush. Those voices, those accents -- vade retro!

But I think the bottom line is that my neighbors believe, like the folks who bought Johann Tetzel's indulgences back in the day, in salvation by works -- where the works in question are inconsequential piaculative acts: a copper coin in the poorbox, a quick little circuit of the Stations in the parish church.

In fact, the inconsequence of supporting Obama is part -- a very important part -- of its charm. These folks don't really want anything to change very much. Why should they? They're not hurting.

But they like to feel righteous, my neighbors. They like to believe they're on the side of the angels. They want their ticket punched: This is to certify that the bearer has done his or her bit for enlightenment, humane values, and peace -- once those pesky terrorists are taken care of. In the meantime, of course, war is fine -- as long as it's smart war, not stupid hick war.

Bush and Co. are obviously bad people. My neighbors think of themselves as good people. And yet one would not really want to turn the world upside down, would one? Surely the badness of our nation can't be... structural? Surely it's just because bad stupid hick-like people are running the show?

Comes now Mr Obama, with his un-hick-like demeanor, his manifest intelligence, and his soothingly obvious determination to keep the world right side up. What could be better? Obamaphilia registers your commitment to intelligence, un-hickery -- and the world as it is.

October 25, 2008

Don't say you weren't warned

Somehow I missed Joe Biden being more candid than he intended last weekend. For those who haven't already read his insiderish chat with a group of fund-raisers in Seattle:
We talk about Iran getting a nuclear weapon and threatening Israel and us. Let me tell ya something, Pakistan already is bristling with nuclear weapons, all of which can hit Israel right now, all of which can strike the Mediterranean and well into the Indian Ocean....

It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.... we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur.... he's gonna need you, not financially to help him, we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him.

Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they're made if they work, then they weren't viewed as a crisis. If they don't work, it's viewed as you didn't make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn't have to lose lives....

[Y]ou all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going 'oh my God, why are they there in the polls, why is the polling so down, why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point... remember St. Peter denied Christ thrice, you know?

...There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go 'whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision.' Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made.... they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound.

I probably shouldn't have said all this because it dawned on me that the press is here.

Apparently the audience of Obamaphiles ate it all up enthusiastically.

Rats. Sinking ship. Proverbial result...

The UK Guardian observes:

Big names join defections from Republican camp

Joel Haugen, a Republican fighting a tough congressional race against the Democrats in Oregon, has fallen out with his party. The reason: his surprise endorsement of Barack Obama for the presidency....

Haugen is just one of many Republican politicians, dubbed Obamicans, who have defected to Obama. The latest high-profile desertions include Scott McClellan, President George Bush's former press secretary, who endorses Obama in a CNN programme to be broadcast this weekend, and William Weld, the one-time Republican governor of Massachusetts....

Last weekend, Bush's former secretary of state Colin Powell publicly backed the Democratic candidate in Obama's biggest Republican catch so far.

Some of my lefty mailing list colleagues find this all pretty significant -- including the defections of Christophers Hitchens and Buckley, animalculae whom the Guardian didn't deign to notice. Here's Comrade F.:
[R]emember this is just the latest wave of defections, leaving aside Powell, Buckley, Hitchens, and the rest. Worth remembering that almost all of these people were FOR Bush in 2000.
And a response:
[Comrade F.] makes a very good point about the changing political climate in the U.S.
Changing political climate? Really? What reason do we have to think that any of these folks has changed his or her views? Is it not plain that they are simply betting on the favorite horse? And is it not equally plain that in the light of their unchanged views, they're perfectly OK with Obama?

What does this tell us about Obama?

October 30, 2008

There is figures in all things

The stuffed shirt shown above, Ramsay Macdonald, played the false progressive job-class face of Anglo-Saxon reaction in the inter-war years -- and played the bigger fool right up to his deathbed.

Leader of a Labor Party that thrived at the polls on Tory bankers' intrigues, he never was his own man, even as prime minister, and come the crash -- why, he was as tight-assed and at-sea as any City banker: a prisoner of misapplied Calvinist virtues and the received banalities of Victorian political economy.

Ponder this: Oby One as another such face of prudential folly.

P.S. :

This goo-goo prig, Philip Snowden, played Bobby Rubin to Mac-Ram's working man's Hoover.

Hey! I'm walkin' here!

The evil hillbilly mage behind this blogsham (pictured above) had an initial instinctual reaction to the house lot bubble bust: "If yer under water -- if yer upside down -- stop paying and walk away."

The stop-payments walk-off war is well into its third or fourth round now, and Uncle is preparing a remedy: "restructured mortgages".

Yes, Mr and Mrs Delinquent, before you morph into Joe and Jane Commonlaw Squatter, Uncle wants to help you stay in your home and own it too. Legally, like. Not by raising your cash flow to meet your payments, but by hammering down your payments to swim more easily through your cash flow.

Well, rangers, this oughta be fun. Imagine ole Snidely Whiplash caringly easing your burden -- voluntarily?

Sure -- if Uncle uses the national credit to insure the principal.

They're talkin' millions of mortgages here, and of course hundreds of billions of "face value". Not that much money, really -- though we'd all like to have a substantial piece of it. More importantly, imagine the interclass ruckus this would induce: Hey, why them layabout louts, and not us upstanding job-holding toil critters? Wedge politics at its finest.

Sum-uppin's: it's the N birds with one stone department. Stop the walk-away freight train to nowhere that credit grinders can getcha. (Freedom's just another word for no credit left to lose.) And for that, you get as bonus: one, the above venerable wedge amidst the exploitables; and two, you prop the collateral that is the lodestone of job loss fear Oh, and, err, three: you save America for exploitations yet unfound.

Nature's aristocracy

Sometimes it's the small things that keep us going.

During this endless, and unspeakably tedious, Presidential campaign -- which seems to have been going on since the Devil was a small boy -- a certain ennui creeps upon one, like the symptoms of hemlock ingestion as described by Socrates' jailer: first your feet get cold, then the sensation moves upwards, and when it gets to your heart....

About the time the chill reaches to my navel, I find that it helps to pay a visit to Daily Kos. Laughter, you know, is the best medicine -- as the Reader's Digest used to say.

A completely unrelated search there turned up a comment by "bob zimway". Bob seems to live somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, and his observations are as earnest and tedious as you might expect. What caught my eye was the tagline of his comments:

The Best finally have conviction.
Veterans of freshman English will recognize this as a reference to Yeats' most-quoted poem -- at least, I hope it's the most; God forbid the Lake Isle of Innisfree should hold that distinction:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Ole Bill at his most muddled -- though eloquent and evocative, with it, as always. Sometimes the poor man, like Peggy Noonan, was Ovid's vox et praeterea nihil -- a voice and nothing more. But what a voice.

Bill's aristocratic pretensions were silly enough, lord knows, but Kosnik Bob's are a godsend -- funny enough to drive that hemlock chill back down to my lower thighs. The "Best" -- note the capital letter -- now have conviction! (Presumably this miracle, unachievable by Yeats himself, has now at last been wrought by the Obama magic.)

Aristo-Bob apparently thinks he's one of the "Best" -- and so, I dare say, do many of his fellow Obamaphiles. Here we see the inmost secret self-warming flame of the core Obama demographic: these folks think they're smarter, more moral, more sensitive, more enlightened, more "progressive" -- in a word, better -- than the average bear. They're the real believers -- not a huge group; not the people who will really put the man over; but the people who get that inexplicable psychic income from their fanship.

Poor devils. If they weren't so odious, I'd feel sorry for 'em.

About October 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in October 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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