The Talking Dog

March 22, 2009, Sunday pot pourri

Ah, basking in the glow of a sleepy Sunday morning (made all the more sleepy after this morning's surprisingly difficult Colon Cancer 15K in Central Park, caused by a cold morning and a late start which combined for an early breathing problem... ending in a rare "negative split" of finishing the second half faster than the first half... on this blog, it's always about me, people...)

And so... where to begin... why not with our friend (and interview subject) Terry Holdbrooks, and his big interview in Newsweek?

And since we're on the subject of how America treats its guests held beyond law, let's go for this Grey Lady editorial on the Obama Administration's rather mixed and muddled message on adherence to "the rule of law," which sadly, we have to put in quotation marks.

The Grey Lady will be our segue into Professor Krugman's piece there, quite critical of "the Geithner plan," the latest proposed central planning measure to purportedly cure what ails our financial system (albeit at obscene cost). Put Krugman down as a strong "no". James K. Galbraith also votes "no" (unless some transparency in the form of the Government actually reviewing and determining the value of the underlying loan portfolios of the supposed "toxic assets" to determine if the government is paying anything remotely like "fair value" for the taxpayers money, rather than doing what the Bush Administration told us for so long..., i.e. "trust us"). Taking the cautious "Yea" position is Professor Brad DeLong, with an informative Q&A, and an even more informative comment thread of very skeptical commenters.

We'll go back to the Grey Lady to finish up with Frank Rich's general comment that we would like to see... less flippancy coming out of the Obama Administration, particularly on the key economic issues. A truly cynical observer might wonder if the Obamas don't know something with their plans to grow their own food.

Where does it stop? You got me. The bottom line is that the President is clearly in over his head on both signature issues of the nation... the body (economy) and soul (adherence to laws and principles) that have been dealt such severe blows by our prior President and his minions. Not to say anyone wouldn't be, btw; Bush left us with a mess that I'm not certain we can clean up.

Would the President's college classmate (that would be me, your talking dog, who, unlike the President, used his college daze to take a lot of economics courses, though both Barack and I were international politics concentrators in the political science major...) do things any better? Well... I'll just say I would do things a bit differently. Frankly, I would be actively seeking the advice of both Republican Congressional leadership and former Bush Administration officials, who have an uncanny ability to be 100% wrong, all the time, on everything... that would at least tell me what won't work, ever.

Then, I might want to solicit a survey of "best practices" in other countries on everything from bank bailouts to health care to whether we should save our auto industry and replace it with horses and buggies (I'm not kidding) of course, best agricultural practices, to best practices on criminal justice. And best practices both global warming alleviation... and preparation (we're going to have some consequences)... someone in the world has better answers than we do... or perhaps, we have the best answers, and it would be good to know. On "rule of law," (I'm certain I'm right, btw) I suspect that I, as a working lawyer of 22 plus years experience in both public and private practice, has more practical working answers in this than the Constitutional law professor lecturer and [state and federal] senator (senator, as we know, isnt a real job). Actually, that's a big problem with the President: like his predecessor (far too much like his predecessor), President appears to be one of his first real jobs, and surprise, surprise... it's freaking hard. We value the ability to get elected (i.e. salesmanship, the premier American value) over the ability to do the job (sadly, for other than incumbents, we don't have much to go on but "experience"... which was most misused in the last election cycle, because candidate Hillary Clinton failed to tout her own actual most relevant experience-- her over 20 years as a working lawyer, preferring instead to rely on Bill's experience, grossly overstating the popularity of and goodwill toward a guy who never got more than 44% of the vote, and grossly underselling her own unique and valuable experience... hint: it didn't include being a Senator [that goes for you too, McCain]... or First Lady, so much). But I digress...

Anyway... all water under the bridge. The President is now the man in the big chair, for most of the next four years, at least. On matters economic... see above. On matters GTMO, of course, the reason I am convinced that I have the answers is because of the efforts I have undertaken to study as many aspects of the situation as can be studied, reading whatever's out there, asking whoever would talk to me about it. Some might say I'm not adequately "fair and balanced" because I have so few "pro'" Bush policy interviews... but this is because so few would talk to me (I did try to get such sources). In any event-- that's what is needed on just about everything: careful study of what is actually happening, and of "best practices" to fix it... from all sources. Not merely the usual Washington policy of relying on vested insiders (which is what is happening now... btw... as a novelty, if these packages of toxic assets are "so good" that we are allowing hedge funds to have "skin in the game"... why not invite members of the public... taxpayers both as individuals and as an amorphous blob via the government... I mean... why not?... But I digress...) Certainly, solutions will involve not relying on ideology-- of any kind... Thinking "out of the box" has been alarmingly lacking... but it was what we probably most need right about now.

The President can give us change we voted for... but will he? As I keep saying (and as he says, frankly)... we're going to have to make him, because, sadly, the default is "business as usual." And there you have it. This has been... Sunday pot pourri.


In order to "make him" our fellow alum must be listening. I'm not certain anymore that he is.

Posted by Michael L at March 23, 2009 12:04 PM

Case in point: the bank bailout plan as leaked over the weekend was an absolutely horrible proposal, involving a sweetheart deal with the hedge funds who would have most of their risk covered by the taxpayer for their lousy three per cent stake; now the proposal is much, much better: a five per cent stake, with no sweetheart guarantees, thereby ensuring the hedge funds will be more careful with their own money (giving the taxpayer far more assurances that this is not just yet another boondoggle).

This Administration is indeed listening, at least on some things. The question is whether it will "get it" other than occasionally where there is a universal consensus. For that, at just over two months in, we will have to see... but not "wait and see..." Keep organizing and pressuring, and see.

Posted by the talking dog at March 23, 2009 1:09 PM

Are you saying they've gone back on the idea of "non-recourse loans" which I would call sweetheart deals? I haven't seen that.

I agree about 2 months point and about organizing and pressuring.

Posted by Michael L at March 24, 2009 10:43 AM

No, Michael, it does appear you're correct and I am incorrect... they do plan on those God damned 85% non-recourse loans...

Well... time to keep up the pressure! Hell no, we won't "Go" as in "Goldman Sacks"!

Posted by the talking dog at March 24, 2009 1:14 PM