And so, as we enter this Jewish New Year, (5769) which commenced last evening (when it was also Mrs. TD's and my 17th wedding anniversary), and as of now (around 13 30 on 30 September 2008), I see the stock markets have rallied a bit to recover around 300 points of the nearly 800 point drop in the Dow yesterday, though inter-bank interest rates have risen somewhat alarmingly... it's time to take a bit of "stock" (perhaps a poor choice of words!) BTW... via Bruce the Veep, here is a Gallup poll showing most Americans favor a different bailout plan-- a much more progressive, populist one that, as Barack puts it, recognizes the suffering on Main Street as much as on Wall Street. Not that any of us will hold our breaths.
But first... before discussing the depressing news of the world, I'll just talk about myself. I note that it's cross-country season again... last week's season opener at the 83rd running of Yonkers (America's second oldest marathon) had me crash through a surprisingly fast (given that I was deliberately walking a fair amount in the first half) 2:18 or so opening lap, only to give it all back in the second half to finish in around 5:19, an unfortunate time as it put me in at "108," a technically unscored finish, but as they gave me a medal, I count it anyway as marathon 19. Because there's no rest for the weary, and it looked like the only way I could sneak New Hampshire in without an overnight stay, I got up around 2 am on Sunday, and drove over 200 miles to Keene, NH (where Obama signs slightly outnumbered McCain signs, though Sununu signs dominated Shaheen signs of which I did not see any) for the 31st running of the Clarence DeMar. [Here's a bloggy perspective from someone at the other end of the field... you know, the front of it.] Anyway, back to me... as in Yonkers, around a deliberately conservative 2:18 first half, after which, alas, the inevitable was succumbed to on a course even hillier than Yonkers' legendarily hilly course, and I brought it in around 5 minutes slower than Yonkers, but still alive, and more importantly, with 20 marathons (and 10 states!) safely in hand. The season's schedule has three more of these-- Chicago on 12 October, Marine Corps in our nation's capital on 26 October and the traditional season closeout at home in NYC, each of which promises field hundreds of times larger than the last two.
Meanwhile, it seems that John McCain's grumpy old man act does not appear to be playing well, while the economic meltdown would, one would think, intriniscally help the party out of power. FWIW.
Does any of this really matter in the big picture? Honestly, I'm almost of the view that the machinations of this election cycle are about damage control; the heart and soul of the nation and its future as anything like the pinnacle of civilization and moral authority and economic might that we enjoyed since the Second World War had, in my view, seem to have been irreversibly flushed away with the reelection of the Bush Administration in 2004. A Democratic Congress in 2006 did little or nothing to reverse this fact, possibly because it is, in fact, irreversible. Not that Barack can't take us to being a better country-- for what we will be-- than McCain (or God forbid, Palin) would lead us to be... I have no doubt he will, and I have no doubt that he's the man for the job: thoughtful, careful, gentlemanly, as opposed to the sniveling old grumpy ex-abused POW who nonetheless sold us out on torture. I'm just saying for those who believe that the unique greatness of post-WW II America--our recent past-- can be retrieved for our recent future... I just have grave doubts this is possible. We are a country that let fear (and, as always, racism and bigotry) get us to this point. We behaved as if we were somehow owed American exceptionalism from God, rather than had it because we earned it by behaving in an exemplary manner (as we really had done from George Washington's time until the moment that George W. Bush was sworn into office). Instead, we are now just another country... which is my point.
In other words, we as a nation limp and shuffle into the 2008 elections much the way I have limped and shuffled to the finish in Yonkers and Keene: still on our feet, but tired, and in huge need of a shower and a rest, inadequately trained and prepared for the missions we have taken on for ourselves. While the nature of my chosen sport is that, notwithstanding other competitors, I go it alone, being a nation is a team sport. And yet, we have chosen to go it alone when convenient to do so. And the results have spoken for themselves. While we can still destroy the planet (so can Russia and China, and Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea can probably destroy most of it as well)... can we even defeat an irregular insurgency? Can we even capture OBL... just one freaking man!? We can't even rebuild a thirteen acre hole in the ground, let alone a flooded historical city. Though we have the means, we don't have the will to pay for basic essentials, such as health care or education, for a huge portion of our citizens. And now, it seems, we have to question how much longer we will even have the means. And I don't even want to talk about potential environmental catastrophes (we are spewing out greenhouse gases at the high end of "worst case scenarios" even as massive Arctic and Antarctic melt-downs happen in front of us as fast as the financial meltdowns, with nary a peep about doing anything about it other than that there's "a controversy"... and Al Gore is fat).
So... the future... will happen, but it will not necessarily be that recognizable compared to the recent past. A lot of assets have been squandered-- and I'm talking about moral assets as well as financial/material ones. We have much fence-mending to do, and I have every confidence that we will be competently led to do so. But I really do think we have to start adjusting our expectations accordingly. The good old days are probably just that: old, and a fear, gone. I sincerely wish I was wrong-- that after the next 3-5 years of this banking crisis recession (and it's going to be at least that... hopefully not longer or worse)... that we'll have recovered enough to be back to rosy "morning in America" bulls*** just in time for yet another Republican charlatan to f*** it all up again.
I just no longer think that's how you bet.
Call it a political self-fulfilling prophesy, or economic reality, or call it macaroni, but today, after the bailout bill failed in the House the major financial markets expressed their concern by promptly collapsing: down 777 points in the Dow, down nearly 9% in the S&P 500, a mainstay of most retirement portfolios (including my own), and over 9% in the NASDAQ index.
The problems that led directly to this financial market meltdown were caused by years of shortsightedness by a group of
cartoon villains ideologues known as the Republican Party. Today, that party's House GOP Caucus had little or no problem undermining the current effort to "solve" the problem (or at least to head off disaster, however inefficiently); this is, in many ways, like last week redux, when House Republicans balked, only without any overlay of an attempt to forestall the Presidential debates. House Republicans did so again today despite the fact that their own "leadership" had signed on to a bailout package that looked, other than a little bit of Democratic lipstick, like the pig of a giveaway that Secretary of the Treasury Paulson presented. (Did you'all know he used to work for John Ehrlichman in the early 70's? Just saying.)
The rationale of these
cartoon villains was that it's socialism, which is an affront against God and His Holiness Saint Ronald Reagan they fully intend to demagogue Democrats as "tax and spend liberals," even when what the Democrats are doing is providing a bailout to Wall Street engineered by the Republican President's Administration. So... the House Republicans feel that their constituents didn't like the bailout package... so they would do "the popular thing" and both oppose and demagogue it.
I guess later in the week, we'll find out how much their constituents like the consequences of their political chicken game: an evaporation of 9% of their net worths overnight. Some, such as Big Tent Democrat at Talkleft, suggest that the Dems pass a party-line bill suited to the Democrats' vision on this, including much greater oversight over Treasury, insistence on equity purchases, massive regulatory reform, and while we're at it, national health care, and everything else Dems want, after which, the Republicans in the House can go f*** themselves, and we can then dare the Senate Republicans to filibuster it or Bush to veto it. In short: the Republicans (many of whom are McCain's friends, though they have probably just ended his chances for the Presidency in one fell swoop with their move, which after all, is only about their own seats) have proven for the umpteenth time that in today's Washington, bipartisanship = date rape.
Most likely, there will be some minor tweaks of basically the same package, and it will be passed by a slim margin later in the week. Don't get me wrong: it's a bad bill. But as bad as the bill is, I suspect that just today's market losses probably exceed $1 trillion, if not $2 trillion, making the $700 billion bailout look almost like a bargain. And that's just the beginning, before the bad economic cascade effects start (and they will). Not that this excuses Congress from writing the best bill possible (as if!)... but it is clear that inaction will likely be calamitous. So... I think some bill will be passed by the end of the week, at least in the House.
If not... I would suggest that available investment capital be used on such stand-bys as gold... petroleum... canned goods... bottled water... ammunition...
Somehow, "legend" isn't enough of a superlative for Newman, who succumbed to cancer at age 83. Perhaps it can best be summarized as that he proved that a great man... can also be a good man.
C/o Bruce the Veep, at least this CNN quick-poll of undecideds shows that although there is a disagreement on whether McCain won the debate on Iraq related points, Obama won the overall debate solidly.
Not exactly a "game-changer" when all the other fundamentals show serious "O-mentum" right now.
We're having a rare moment with the t.v. on here in Casa TD to watch "The Almost Diss to Ole Miss!"
First point (21:28 EDT): Lehrer has, as promised, has pretty much dispensed with the "foreign policy" thing and gone all bailout all the time. McCain has seized on [the irrelevance of... oh wait, that's me] $18 billion in earmarks... why hasn't Obama pointed out that in a federal budget of nearly $3 trillion (or $3,000 billion)... these earmarks-- not all of which "are waste"... are less than one per cent of federal spending? I mean... BIG FREAKING DEAL. THE. WAR. SPENDS THAT IN LESS THAN A MONTH. They seem cordial... expectations are going to matter... hard to say. McCain looks so darned reasonable, and Barack seems wedded to his stump speech. Just saying.
Point 2 (21:37): Again, McCain seems to be seizing the initiative on "cutting spending"... of course, he means "discretionary" spending... which, boys and girls, is only 20% of federal spending!!! The other iron quartet of 20% each (around $600 billion) are defense (how about Iraq?), debt interest (how about tax cuts for the reach and deficits?), social security (how about you, McCain who wants to privatize social security... what will that cost?) and Medicare/Medicaid (we pay for both socialized and private medicine and get the worst of both... with costs rising...)
Point 3 (21:40): McCain is finally throwing around the victory/defeat canard with Iraq and Petraeus, et al. Oy. Point: it is hopelessly complicated-- the surge has been tremendously costly, and the "gains" are illusory. THANK YOU BARACK-- mentioning OBL still out there and A.Q.'s greater strength and our weakness thanks to Iraq... THANK YOU!
Point 4 (21:45): McCain keeps playing the honor/victory canard. Obama looks a bit flustered (for him!) insofar as this is McC improvising (i.e. lying). Obama comes back with the timetables, and notes of course, that OBL is still out there. But O seems to be phoning it in... well...
Point 5 (21:50): McC notes "snatch defeat from jaws of victory?" Wow! Does anyone believe Iraq is not a complete Charlie Foxtrot? I guess McC wants to hold his base!!! And now... on to Afghanistan!!! Right... PETRAEUS! (21:55).
Note: both men look and sound reasonably presidential, though I don't get that light colored striped tie... maybe it's my t.v. set.
Point 6 (21:57): McCain noting the Hillary slander about Barack threatening to attack Pakistan (pronounce it Pack-i-stan, Barack...PLEASE!) But Barack sure sounds knowledgeable on the subject (he is correct, btw.) McCain JUST LIED TO EVERYONE ABOUT A VERIFIABLE FACT... failed state in Pakistan? PM Sharif wasn't popular or all that effective... but he was democratically elected and removed in a military coup... a FAILED STATE IN PAKISTAN? Military coups are good? Amazing.
Point 7 (21:59) McC finally brought up 'Nam! And the domestic sell-out (Jane Fonda everyone?) Amazing!!! Both are bringing up dead soldiers... Barack is handling it well, in my view.
[I love-- LOVE_- the format-- it's almost like Lehrer isn't even there! They are sniping at each other... some may not like it as much... but for these two guys anyway who are pretty civil superficially, this works well.]
Point 8 (22:02) McC again with the "O didn't go to Afgh?" WTF? Back to "defeat" in Iraq... Petraeus said we can't ever have anything "we understand as victory".
Point 9: (22:04) Iran is noted by McC as an existential threat to Israel. The issue, of course, is where it stands vis a vis us, rather than a cheap emotional appeal about "second holocaust" etc. Let's see what O does with this... but the Bush Admin. has utterly screwed up our relationship by dissing Iran time and time again for no reason... McC promises to "reduce the threat." O notes that the Iraq war has been great for Iranian strength and influence! O notes its support... that Bush policy fails. Notes we can't tolerate "a nuclear Iran"...not just threaten Israel, but could set off Mid-East arms race. "Tougher sanctions"... but with help from other countries. And O proposes "tough direct diplomacy." Not talking doesn't work. Back to McC-- Ahmadidjad will exterrrrrminate Isssssrael. Of course. Can't sit down "w/o preconditions". In short... as I predicted... McC is making this s*** up. Kissinger of course, favors "no preconditions."
Point 10: (22:13) Again from Mc the "Sen. O doesn't understand" that Ahmadidjad is eeeeevilllll and wants to wiiiiipe Israel off the maaaaappp... and the North Koreans are eeeeeevilllllll.... and Kissinger didn't say what he said!!!
It looks like both guys are preaching to their respective choirs... I just don't see much crossover appeal to either one. Back to Kissinger... Honestly... I like them sniping at each other! Maybe that's just me!!! But I LOVE Lehrer's non-presence!
Point 11: (22:16) O talks about Russia... resurgent aggressive Russia is a threat (from O). Pretty standard stuff from him... "we have to". We'll be supportive. Can't return to Cold War posture. McC... "Russian aggression toward George". Oh... naiivite... the young whippersnapper doesn't understand... it's a KGB apparatchik government. Excellent. How about the Bushmen greenlighting Georgia starting that conflict? Again... preaching to the choir here. Regain old Russian empire! Nyet!!! We support Georgia and Ukraine! Da! Walk loudly and swing your big dick!!! Charming! O basically agrees... we have to see this coming... and now... energy independence.
Not sure where McC's condescension is getting him... to me, it makes him look even smaller than the 5'6" he is against Obama's 6'2".
Point 12 (22:16): Odds of another 9-11... McC: lower than on 9-12. Mentioning his good buddy Lieberman! Working bipartisan... we must do better... and we're safer than we were on 9-11 (God I HOPE SO!!!) Largest reorganization of government... great job... O: Safer in some ways-- airports, securing targets-- but along way to go. We haven't done much re: ports, transit, chem plants. Cooperation from our allies... how we're perceived in world is important. Restore America's standing in the world.
Point 13 (22:31): McC: O doesn't get Iraq... AQ will establish a base there... he's naiiiiiiive.!!! Can't risk our "fragile success." (Hey, I thought the surge was a super-success!!!) O: Over last 8 years-- yup-- sole focus on Iraq, and OBL is still out there and A!Q is resurgent! Meanwhile... China is a challenge!!! We're spending money in Iraq that should be spent better... "broader strategic vision."
Point 14 (22:33) McC: I'm the experienced genius... O has no knowledge and experience... well, McC, you would say that. Back to The SurgeTM! SURGE! SURGE! Drill baby Drill!!!! Vets know I love and will take care of them!!! I need no on the job training!
Point 15 (22:36) McC: When I came home AND JANE FONDA AND BARACK OBAMA ABUSED VETERANS... Oh freaking MAN!
And so it ends!
Mostly a draw... I think on net, McC loses (but only barely) because of the condescension. Really, snide and unnecessary... on the whole, so much better than that piece of s*** Dubya conducted himself. The ABC spin calls it pretty even as well. Given the insane machinations McC went through to try to avoid this... one wonders why? He looked relaxed... he only had to lie through his teeth maybe 6, 7 times.
Given campaign momentum favoring O big-time going in-- no major gaffes either way, this was a pretty good night for Obama, as no basic momentum changed.
I just hope they let Biden and Palin slug it out!!!
And the games continue... McCain's campaign has cryptically declined to commit to attending tonight's debate in Oxford, MS while House Republicans decided to be the sticking point with respect to Bush's
last parting shot in his ongoing effort to destroy this country financial bailout package and said House Republicans refuse to go along with the agreement between the Administration and the (forever caving) Democratic caucus... it seems McCain, who refused to endorse the agreement, even as he "off-the-record" insists he generally agrees with it, insists he must remain in Washington as "Mr. Consensus Builder," quite a dubious proposition seeing as his performance has been kind of the opposite.
Meanwhile, outside of the palace gardens, the government was seizing Washington Mutual in the (by far) largest bank failure and government seizure in history, followed by selling the pieces to J.P. Morgan Chase for $1.9 billion (though up to $31 billion in potentially bad debt will be absorbed). Look for Wall Street to "not be pleased" at either the collapse of the bailout deal or the WaMu situation.
Congratulations, Sen. McCain. You have focused attention away from the debate and the collapsing momentum your campaign has suffered because of roiling economic news-- an area where polls show voters trust you less. So now everyone, largely thanks to you, will be talking about... the economy, stupid. Or is it, the economy, mentally ill? Either way, Senator, all I can say is... good one.
Candidates Obama and McCain will meet at the White House today
for hand-to-hand combat to the death to discuss the ongoing economic crisis.
All I can say is that this, the-greatest-campaign-ever, just keeps getting better, and better.
Update: As of Thursday 25 Sept. evening, no deal. But since his "brilliant bipartisan negotiating skills" appeared only to have queered an already done deal, does this qualify as a good enough excuse for McCain not to be in Oxford, MS tomorrow evening? Don't know, but that's sure not how you bet...
Another GTMO prosecutor quit, this one over the "war crimes" prosecution of Afghan national Mohammed Jawad (for throwing a grenade in combat... that's a "war crime"?) The reason: the prosecutor acknowledged that the prosecution deliberately withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from the defense.
Another day... another abuse of justice... for those who might have forgotten that GTMO was there... it's still there...
An amazing day of political posturing by Team McCain, which, ahead of collapsing poll numbers (both broad-based and in key swing states) and Friday night's first debate in Oxford, MS, to be hosted by the-not-brazenly-biased-like-Bob-George-W.-Bush's-Best-Friend-Forever-Shieffer-and-the-other-MSM-whores Jim Lehrer, attempted to cast himself as the savior of the nation by McCain's magnanimously insisting that he would "suspend his campaign" to return to Washington to concentrate on the Wall Street fat-cat-bailout... Al Giordano (who else) explains it all for you...
Team Obama, demonstrating the earlier mastery by which the O Team ultimately outlasted a diehard Hillary Clinton campaign hellbent on destroying its own party's candidate if it wasn't Hillary, handled this one brilliantly, basically calling McCain "a big fat whiner" and noting that Presidents must be able to do more than one thing at a time, that "the sky is not falling." and at a moment like this, the American people need to see their candidates. Even if Obama had swallowed the mickey offered by McCain... "it's still about the economy, stupid," is it not?
That shiny new penny named Sarah Palin is getting tarnished as the weeks wear on, and indeed, should be especially troubling as questions about McCain's health (and after today's events, we must seriously include his mental health) keep abounding. In short, in calling a hail mary pass on first down, just to try to avoid a potential knock-out-blow by Obama in the first debate in McCain's supposed strong area, McCain has signaled weakness after weakness, and his disingenuous intention to return to the legislative chamber from which he has absented himself since last April is nothing short of astounding.
Indeed, it seems, as noted by Al Giordano, even Fox News has just about had it with McCain for this debate fiasco, and for its inane handling of Sarah Palin, refusing to make her available even for friendly reporters' questions. This one could soon become the laugher that, by rights, it should have been all along. Cautionary note: THAT IS NOT HOW YOU BET. But it would still be nice.
Update: Honest Jon Swift humbly suggests that Honest John McCain is on to something here, and that Sen. Obama should just agree to suspend the entire election to give Sen. McCain the time he needs to solve all of the nation's problems; a few weeks should be enough.
Well, I continue to violate the first rule of Sarah Palin ("first rule of Sarah Palin is that we don't talk about Sarah Palin") because John McCain continues to refuse to release nearly 1,000 pages of medical records that, since he refuses to release them, may well justify us considering the very real possibility that his skin cancer is much farther along than feared, and hence, "President Sarah Palin" is not a contingency, but an inevitability should McCain-Palin prevail.
Just something else to consider.
Alas, the financial crisis has been diverting attention from the more "regular fare" here at TTD... our nation's complete and total moral collapse.
Fortunately, D-Day keeps us up to date with "this week in torture." Thanks, D-Day.
Apparently, there hasn't been universal regard for SecTreas Paulson's brilliant new idea to give away taxpayer money; a nice summary of the pushback is here at "Swamp Politics". At least one poll shows that the public opposes the Paulson bailout plan by a 37-28% plurality. And Krugman just gets to the nitty gritty of what's wrong with the bailout plan (hint: other than satisfying the need to "do something... anything," what's not wrong with it?).
Oh, does the unlimited discretion given to the Treasury Secretary beyond court or Congressional oversight... remind you of anything else that this Administration has pulled off, while waving the bloody shirt of 9-11? (I'm waiting for this to be called "the financial 9-11" by Bush himself.) Hey, stop whining, you damned whiners... if they can pull this off, that Treasury Secretary will soon be good old Phil Gramm himself.
No matter. The bad news is that markets today appeared chaotic, with an over 300 point drop in the (AIG-free!) Dow Jones Industrial Average... and good old oil went up by a record amount for one day of trading!
In short, the real problem that the insanely expensive and irresponsible "fix" is supposed to "fix," that being a potential collapse in stock prices and poll numbers for McCain-Palin, doesn't seem to be happening, even as negotiations continue on whether to take a dreadfully irresponsible giveaway to big business and finance and those who made abusive loans palatable by adding a dreadfully irresponsible giveaway to consumers many of whom deliberately took out loans they knew they couldn't repay (though at least, I'll say that predatory lending practices were rampant... and Congress, and I'm looking right at you Joe Biden, couldn't give a rat's ass about curtailing them.)
Oh well. I recall Bush saying, as he gleefully slashed taxes for the plutocrat class with the help of super-villain Alan Greenspan and a worthless Democratic "opposition"... "it's your money [my dear, beloved country club friends]." Well, no... it was all of our money, and the tax cuts ended up running up record deficits, which the rest of us will have to pay back in higher taxes and reduced government services. It's all of our money now... that "the bailout" will just go to running up deficits some more.
Giant blank checks to the Bush Administration anyone? What a great idea! It's always worked well before! Even though he says the world will end tomorrow if Congress doesn't give him what he wants, Treasury Secretary Paulson, ladies and gentlemen... he'll be here all week.
What a concept! Amidst the "need for speed" being touted by our new official national leaders (that would be SecTreas Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke), one might ask the musical question, "are these extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures of extra-legal power"? That is precisely the question asked by Sandy Levinson over at Balkinization, hearkening back to the wisdom of Carl Schmitt and noting, inter alia, the events of post Sept. 11 America and good old Article 30 of the Weimar Republic's Constitution (the clause that allowed Hitler to "legally" exercise "merely" dictatorial and eventually genocidal powers).
Because once again, boys and girls, as with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, we are being told only the potential-- and we should note it is potential-- cost of the government's not massively intervening further into the markets (in a brazen effort to give John McCain a fighting chance to win in Nov., btw; don't think for a minute that the election is not part of these Bush appointees' thinking, if not necessarily the sole driving force). What we are not told, of course, are the risks to doing so, the fact that "the problem" (in the case of the Iraq war, that was actual terrorists rather than Bush-family-bogeymen like Saddam) might not be solved by "the solution"... and that "the solution" was not free.
And I say it is not without irony that two of the senators quoted in the Grey Lady's report on these events are none other than Democrats Schumer and Dodd, both of whom seem to be falling for the current doom and gloom coming out of the Bush Administration-- only instead of Rumsfeld and Tenet being the messengers, it's Bernanke and Paulson; I say this, because you will recall that both Schumer and Dodd fell for the last "sky is falling" presentation from the Bush Administration and voted to go to war with Iraq.
Certainly, this is different from the Iraq situation, if for no other reason as "the threat" is so much more tangible and direct to so many Americans. It is hard to imagine most people seeing the earthquake that hit the financial markets this week (was it conceivable just a few months ago that by the end of September, Bear Sterns, Lehman Bros. and Merrill Lynch would be gone, and AIG nationalized? And the shocks to individuals' finances as the markets roller-coastered were disconcerting. And certainly, cascading credit collapses could result in economic slowdown, if not ruination. COULD. Not necessarily WILL.
And there's the rub. We were told incessantly of "the risk of not acting" with Iraq, that being that somehow Saddam would get together with people he despised (that would be al Qaeda) to give them something he didn't have (nuclear weapons) to attack us. We weren't told the cost, of course-- now over half a trillion dollars and counting, over 4,000 dead and tens of thousands wounded... with al Qaeda leadership still at large, and attacking American facilities as recently as last week-- and hundreds of thousands of troops still committed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with no clear sense of what "the mission" even is anymore.
And so here we are again. This time, at least, we probably have a better guess as to the cost-- another $500 billion to $1 trillion... short term, anyway, which will be piled on to the national tab (with interest). We can probably treat the high number there as optimistic. But at least, it's a range we can talk about. And we know that we will achieve a short term measure of market stability (the idea being to calm things at least until the election, of course, lest McCain have no chance to rely on vote caging, roll purging, Diebold machines and appeals to racism to pull this one out amidst a collapse that would get even the average American to willingly install a Black man as President as continue the current policies). But beyond that? The only thing we know is that we will have systemically imported an insane moral hazard: go ahead and earn those insane fees on whatever insane transactions you wish... make your fortune, and in the end, Uncle Sammy will stick it to the taxpayer.
And that's just it: the taxpayer is now someone who isn't in the gilded class that made all this money. While it would be hard, as a general matter, to go back and figure out "who was responsible" (such as the evil S&L operators of the 80's that led to the Bush I massive bank bailout called the Resolution Trust Corp.), there is a pretty good surrogate: the rich in general. Certainly, as costs go up while wages and now home values stay flat or go down, and seeing as virtually all the gains in the last 8 years (if not the last several decades) have gone to those at the top of the income and wealth strata, we might consider actual progressive taxation... not at confiscatory rates, but say, just a few points higher than now, broadly enforced on things that the super-wealthy benefit from... such as estates (the beauty of the phrase "the death tax" is its utter irrationality; inheritances are income to the beneficiaries; it should be treated as any other form of income), or luxury goods, or investment income (which, once again, should be treated as any other form of income).
Further, the minimum wage must be indexed to go up with social security cost of living increases-- MUST. And since we're nationalizing insurance companies, why don't we just nationalize health insurance companies, and remove all political obstacles to single-payer national care, once and for all.
I predict that Congress will do the most short-term-expedient and costly to the rest of us "fix" imaginable and in so sense address the fundamental unfairnesses in the system which got us to where we are. That is my prediction, and it is mine. Lather, rinse, repeat. We will hae put a trillion dollars more pressure on Congress to cut future social spending, a great excuse for Republicans to accuse Democrats of being "tax and spend," and our nation's road to becoming Argentina with ICBMs will go on, with the day of reckoning simply kicked back a while, thanks to "the fix," which will be as hastily done as the USA Patriot Act, the authorizations to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and much of what has passed for "law" these last 8 years or so.
Maybe Bernanke and Paulson have the right solution here. If so, a little-- just a LITTLE-- calm reflection to demonstrate that this is so, and to ensure that systemic structural problems that caused the current mess are better addressed than they are currently-- might make that solution actually be a solution. Just saying.
Arrrrr, as we continue with "talk like a pirate day," we give you Honest John McCain (the arrrrthritic avenger, maties!) tellin's us that... wait for it... Barack Obama probably singlehandedly caused the current financial meltdown because of his associations with various financial figures. Oh, I hear Obama lived next door to Tony Rezko. Honest John McCain must not be takin' his meds, or he'd remembered that old gem!
Arrr.... reminds me of the time Pink Pirate Palin was pretendin' to oppose a bridge to nowhere while she was actually supportin' it... but no matter what, Pink Pirate Palin still raided Uncle's treasury to build the road to the bridge to nowhere, even though the bridge to nowhere was nowhere, so the road went... nowhere (albeit at a cost of fewer dubloons!)
Ay, maties, I was so excited about "talk like a pirate day" that I completely forgot that yesterday, September 18th, marked seven years of blogging here at the talking dog. That makes us one of the greybeards o'bloggin'... arrrrrr!
As you were, maties!
Arrrrrr! Avast, me maties... it's only fittin' on this, "talk like a pirate day," that Beltway Buccanneer Ben Bernanke and Henry the Pirate Paulson managed to raid the halls of Congress to get the usual fatcats there in their slow moving vessels to hand over all the dubloons in the hold... by proposin' the largest act of public financial piracy in the history of the world.
In a move that the pirates from Wall Street will love, the publicly paid pirates decided who they would stick with the bar tab for the national drinking binge of the last nearly eight years, which resulted in quite the party for those few thousand mortgage-backed marauders, corporate raiders and hedge fund freebooters takin' home trillions in solid gold dubloons and other booty while the average land'lubber watched as his real earnings declined (while his productivity still went up higher than the mizzen mast), and only borrowin' on his home kept him from sinkin' to Davey Jones locker. Arrrrrr.
Now that the bill is due, o' course, one can't expect the plunderin' class to pay it... but, as always, the land'lubbers will be footin' the bill for being' stolen from. The Beltway Buccanneers tell us the tab will be between $500 billion and $1 trillion, dependin' on just how worthless that worthless paper they are holdin'might be... or if it really is a treasure map. If it be treasure, we can be sure that the corsairs of the capitol will merrily hand it over to their friends. If the chest be full o' sand, that's what the taxpayers be buyin'.
Ay, the Republican pirates keep be givin' us real pirates a bad name! Arrrr!
While John McCain, listening to advice from his economic advisors he'd be better served to ignore (if not take out and shoot) tells us "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" and other self-evident piffle... reality has set in, and the market has not accepted that the nationalization of insurance giant AIG will solve the financial market's woes... and the Dow Industrial Average fell nearly 450 points more today. Among other attributes of the 449 point decline is that Morgan Stanley (whose shares fell by around 25%) is talking about a merger with Wachovia, and other institutions are talking about buying up Washington Mutual.
When the dust settles, lenders will stop lending, businesses will stop expanding, people will lose their jobs and both individuals and businesses will default on their loans, causing further tightening in lending, lather, rinse, repeat. We are only at the front end of this cycle now, which will in turn impact other businesses, not to mention tax revenues for all levels of government at a time they are starting with budgetary problems (including already record federal deficits thanks to insanely stupid non-stimulative tax cuts for the super-rich).
All told, while the nearly 900 point drop this week (btw, the DJIA included AIG as a component stock, IIRC... that will have to change...) is spectacular, it's around 8% of market value, well below financial-bloodbaths-past. Of course, we're not done yet. And of course, the market started this decline at levels well under the level (Dow of around 11,700) when Dubya took office.
So... while there has been a massive shin-dig to which none of us were invited for which the bill just came due... the benefits of the party have gone neither to workers whose real wages have declined during the last eight years nor even to ordinary investors. Who in their right mind would continue the governance of any party that oversaw such miserable results?
Of course... Barack Obama is still Black. And did I mention that many men believe Sarah Palin is hot? I hear she can see Russia from her house...
In their continued acts of financial improvisation, after another Weekend at Bernanke's that I discussed here, Lehman Bros. was regarded as "not too big to fail", Merrill Lynch's management didn't need to wait and see if the Fed and Treasury felt that it was too big to fail and quickly accepted a shotgun wedding with Bank of America, and the behemoth world's-largest-insurer (I think they are, anyway) American International Group, better known as AIG, tried to remain afloat amidst the financial meltdown.
Today, after some market turmoil (the Dow was down over 500 points yesterday, but rebounded a bit, a little over 100 points today on news that the Fed was holding a key rate around 2%... as if it had a choice)... AIG's situation has convinced the improvising government officials that, like Bear Sterns before it, is, in fact, too big to fail, and hence, the Fed loaned AIG $85 billion (think of it as around 6-8 weeks months cost of the Iraq war), in exchange for, among other things, convertible warrants that it can use to take a 79.9% equity stake...
Assuming that the Fed manages to effectively manage AIG onward into continued solvency, expect it to dump the company at a humongous loss (to taxpayers), but a humongous gain to the happy insiders who get to eventually profit from it.
When the government is owned by business and corporate interests, we call that
Republicans' fondest hopes and dreams "fascism;" when, by contrast, business and corporate interests are owned by the government, we call that "socialism." Fascism is a misunderstood term with an unfortunate Italian connection; the fact is that Americans have enjoyed having their government dominated by business interests for decades now. Socialism, by contrast, is always evil...an affront to God. This makes Fed Chair Bernanke and SecTreas Paulson... apostates... if not outright traitors.
I'm at a loss for words. This is the first time I have ever been so ashamed of this country.
First, be sure and check out Al Giordano's take (who else?) on "Tanning-bed-gate" (try putting lipstick on that one)!
And check out the rest of Al's goodies, including the fact that Barack is now ahead in Virginia. Cause for panic? Maybe for McCain-Palin, there is...
And then, we compare and contrast the following:
... with ...
Is the health and well-being of people you care about. We wish godspeed and a speedy recovery to our friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
And so talks continue in the shadow of Ground Zero over at the New York Federal Reserve Bank over the fate of beleaguered financial giant Lehman Brothers. Apparently, the taxpayer-backstopped interventions to deal with Bear Sterns and of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have wiped out the U.S. Treasury's reserves to do similar deals involving taxpayer money (solution: lower taxes for the rich... more), and so the leading proposals involve a break-up, and a disposal of Lehman's "bad" assets to a consortium of banks, who would themselves absorb the risk.
Needless to say, some of those banks are balking, and the chicken game goes on as to whether SecTreas Paulson will make the appropriate phone calls (presumably to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul... and possibly Riyadh and Dubai) for the necessary infusion of capital to... get yet another taxpayer supported bailout here for Lehman, which will clearly not be the last such; if the line is drawn now, that "the market" must bail itself out from here on in, then we will start to see just how deep the current financial crisis is.
Thankfully, SecTreas Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have an attribute sorely lacking in the rest of the Bush Administration: competence. It's not hard to explain why, of course: in the area of money, stability in the system is "in sync" with the interests of the Bush Administration's "client," big business, in a way that, oh, environmental or workplace safety or other government involvement is not. Still, they can only work with what they have, and a sufficient hash has been made of government finance (which has spilled over to the economy writ large), that one wonders if they'll be able to prevent a broader financial meltdown.
Well, time will tell. We'd probably be looking at the stock market circuit breakers coming into effect pretty early tomorrow (from dramatic losses) should there be no resolution of the Lehman situation by tomorrow morning. As to the broader implications? Who knows. The economy is softening, unemployment and inflation are up, the sub-prime and mortgage-backed crises continue to roll on, Lehman's problems have spilled over to insurance giant AIG and to investment giant Merrill Lynch, and as it was clearly the party atmosphere of the Grand Old Party for the last nearly 8 years that has helped bring us to this moment.
Of course, Barack Obama is Black.
Update: The events of the day have led to this: Lehman Bros. will probably file for bankruptcy protection, and be ultimately liquidated, and Merrill Lynch will likely go the way of Bear Sterns and Lehman Bros., i.e., disappear, probably by being absorbed into Bank of America. Pressure mounts on insurance giants AIG, and Washington Mutual as well... and stock futures are already well down.
I understand that former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan was on ABC's "This Week," saying this is the worst crisis he's seen in his career. He should know, of course: he largely caused the current crisis, with his imprimatur on the Bush tax cuts coupled with his irresponsible money-management under both Clinton and Dubya alike, always stepping on the accelerator, never on the brakes. While in the annals of our time, Bush, Cheney at al. will get their just place as super-villains... but Greenspan surely deserves a special place there as well. Just saying.
Fortunately, Bernanke is in and Greenspan is out, but we got trouble right here in New York City and that starts with t and that rhymes with e, which stands for economic collapse. I understand that none of this is as important as Sarah Palin, of course, but... just saying.
Any decent sailor will tell you that a key way to get to where you're going (not to mention to avoid seasickness) is to focus on a point on the horizon, and keep heading for it--not to be thrown off course by the wind, or the waves, or other distractions... just as Al Giordano keeps telling us to banish "chicken littles" who keep insisting the electoral sky is falling. This piece is a case in point of why I check his site at least daily: Al knows what the f*** he is talking about.
Let me summarize: Sarah Palin? Distraction. Joe Biden? Distraction? Barack being Black? In the end... a distraction. The number crunching of what actually matters... state by state polling, of which Al is a master, backed up by Al actually opening his window and listening to what is happening on the ground... tells me the most comforting thing I have yet seen about this race: the map. The map is... wait for it... the same map that Gore and Kerry faced, with one humongous and all-critical exception. That being, Obama is ahead in Colorado... if he can add New Mexico-- a state Gore won-- Barack wins...
One state that isn't Ohio or Florida... and we win. And OH, VA, FL, NV, IN and maybe MO and a Congressional district in Omaha... are all in play and McCain must still defend them, or he can't win... and this time, the "House tie-breaker" in case of a 269=269 electoral vote tie favors Democrats.
In short, as grim as many people who (wrongly) believe that the 44-year old Governor Palin possesses electoral superpowers want to believe it is... Obama appears to be in better shape than either Kerry or Gore, having changed the board just enough to allow a possible win without having to win either FL or OH, which, for Democrats, are both the equivalent of that football Lucy is holding for Charlie Brown. And we have a path to win and tell both states to go f*** themselves if they insist on voting for McCain. If that's not encouraging... I don't know what is. To paraphrase the late John F. Kennedy, "my Dad told me that if he was going to be buying this election, he'd be damned if he paid for a landslide."
Well, if you're Dick Cheney, that is. And Rudy 91uliani has an entire second career because of today. For those roughly 95, 96% of Americans who don't live in a city targeted on 11 Sept. 2001, and the roughly 85-90% of Americans who don't live in a city likely to be targeted at all, we who live in those cities that were say "get the f*** over it already; God knows we have."
We have greater reason to fear the loss of loved ones from more mundane homicides... or illnesses... or accidents... than we do now, or ever really have, from terrorism. But it's so much more politically satisfying to have this bogeyman out there against whom we can launch our [kickback heavy] military forces. Of course, it's the wrong tool, insofar as OBL and AQ aren't and weren't going to launch columns of tanks at anyone or otherwise make themselves vulnerable to simple military attacks like naval or airstrikes; they will "fight dirty" using seemingly invisible saboteurs and murderers that are best combatted using intelligence (in every sense of the word), and those other dirty words, "law enforcement." So naturally, after seven years of military deployment, and seven years of improvising on our most fundamental values (that would be "torture")... the specific perps of 9-11 are, as far as we know, still out there. And even those such as KSM who may be in custody are actually beyond "justice" because, of course, they were tortured, and hence, cannot be tried, even in the kangaroo kourts we have set up to try them. Nuff said, I suppose.
In 9-11's past, I have highlighted some of the unsung heroes of 9-11; last year I added to my usual commemoration of volunteer paramedic Richie Pearlman (who heroically rushed into the WTC to assist people, despite not being paid to do it) with a commemoration of Morgan Stanley security director Rick Rescorla, who saved many Morgan Stanley employees with his good sense to train for a 9-11 type emergency and then on the day, get people the f*** out (while sadly, he and three others went back in to rescue unaccounted for personnel).
My own story is more mundane: my then-office was across the street, so I watched events through my window, until, at roughly 9:20 am, I headed to court for a trial scheduled that day (which, of course, did not happen that day), and then walked home, watching the North tower finally implode while walking in the automobile lanes of the upper deck of the Manhattan Bridge (something I did for the first time; I repeated that in the August 2003 blackout... on 9-11, as on other occasions, New Yorkers largely saved themselves, without thanks to "people" like Rudy 91u1iani). Later the same week, I learned that on top of that, I lost my job, as the law firm was displaced. The toxic pall in the air hung for months over not just lower Manhattan, but over our Brooklyn neighborhood. On "the day," a friend lost his brother in law in one of the planes; one of my law clients was a fireman; and someone with whom I rowed freshman crew was a Port Authority employee. All were killed in an instant, along with thousands of others.
And so here we are now... seven years later. I have every confidence that today, as usual, will be exploited for its political hay (even as the major candidates declare "truce for a day.") "Ground Zero," which both McCain and Obama will visit today, is still a hole in the ground (kind of like much of later-ravaged New Orleans). Our national can-do and get-up-and-go spirit has, of course, amidst the fantasy of unbridled capitalism, plain old gotten up and left. And at this point, I realize that our own national vigilante/revenge fantasy has been... pretty much pointless. Thousands of heroic Americans are dead or physically maimed or otherwise scarred for life from combat in irrelevant theaters (which these days include Afghanistan as well as Iraq). OBL and company have gotten us to overreact, just as they wanted, in a scale beyond their wildest fantasies. And, as we try to put yet more lipstick on the pig of our nation's never-ending stupid response lo these seven years later... I see every indication that, as with everything else, the American people have learned nothing.
Assuming New York City isn't a nuclear wasteland by this time tomorrow, here's hoping I'll see you here this same time next year.
Oddly enough, I am not referring to "pig gate," that asinine flap (or is it a kerfuffle?) developing between the two battling political camps over Barack's remark about the McCain program being "putting lipstick on a pig"... the Democrat apparently failing to recognize that Governor Sarah Palin using her
stupid mean-spirited adorable joke noting that the difference between a soccer security hockey mom and a pitbull was lipstick imbued the Republican Party with an all-time trademark on the word lipstick and its use in any subsequent joke, which will instantly be called a sexist attack on that nice young perty Governor Palin (did we mention she has five children, all of whom are off-limits even if Governor Palin herself issues a press release about them?)
Anyway, I realize I'm violating my own rule ("first rule about Sarah Palin is that we don't talk about Sarah Palin")... but Maureen Dowd suckers me in, as she wrote her column today "My Fair Veep," helping the Republicans as always (it seems to be Maureen's job) in a further attempt to lower expectations for the Governor's soft-ball interview this Friday with the soft-ball hurling Charlie Gibson of ABC News. The conceit of her piece is that, like Eliza Doolittle in Shaw's Pygmalion (later "My Fair Lady"), the otherwise inarticulate, illiterate charwoman Sarah must prepare to appear well-informed on issues of the day. Maureen appears to mock Palin, while reinforcing the lowered expectations. Thanks Maureen.
For Christ's sake, Governor Sarah Palin was elected governor of a state: she's been vetted by her opponents in that race. She has parlayed no apparent family connections and no money into high office, and has now managed to get herself in the national spotlight. In short: this is a smart cookie. Yes, I realize Barack and I both graduated Coumbia in 1983, which is, indeed an Ivy League college... but that doesn't make us any smarter than Sarah Palin (who, younger than I am, is governor of a state!) Enough of the lowered expectations: Sarah Palin is a competent politician. Ironic that the very party who made hay running ads that accused Barack of basking in celebrity worship are now wholly dependent on... Sarah Palin celebrity worship! But there you go.
Lookit: this election is going to be about one thing, and one thing only: race. The race of Barack Obama's Kenyan father, to be quite specific. The feckless media can pretend its about other things (NEVER, NEVER, EVER THE ISSUES, BY THE WAY)... but this one's about... RACE. Period. Because the Republican policies of deliberately failed governance have reached a high water mark right now: we have a government failing wonderfully both domestically and in international matters. Our deficit and debt are at record highs, our international prestige at record lows, unemployment and inflation are up, as are bank failures (including the largest federal takeover of financial instiutions in history just this week), and of course, we are bogged down in not one, but two pointless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, when the real enemies (that would be OBL and AQ) are in Pakistan, where we are not engaged. So naturally, we get to hear dueling accusations and denials that Barack Obama somehow insulted Sarah Palin by calling one of the best-looking women in American politics "a pig". Good one, there. But you get the idea.
Anyway, let's get down to it. If I were Barack (and Barack, man, I'd pay at least some attention to me, because if nothing else man, IIRC, I got a higher grade than you in the one class we had in common, back when you were to my left politically... we've since shifted places a bit, of course... but then, you got million dollar book advances and I didn't... but I digress...!) Anyway, I'd deliver a speech, or run an ad, or something, that went something like this:
I've gone around this great country, speaking directly to some of the many people who feel personally connected and involved in this campaign like no other, and who, like me, believe that it's time we changed the way we do things in Washington so that the government works for the benefit of people like you, and not only for people like me, who do quite well thanks to Washington, thank you very much.
And you've been very candid with me. So let me be candid with you. You told me things like "Barack, we're afraid you'll take our guns away," or "Barack, we're afraid you'll raise our taxes," or "Barack, we're afraid you're a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer" or "Barack, we're that afraid you'll appoint Al Sharpton as Secretary of Labor and Jesse Jackson as, well, anything and that all your other Black friends will get the good jobs."
This is a picture of my parents. And this is a picture of me with my beautiful wife and beautiful daughters. This is who I am, and where I come from. I couldn't be prouder of my heritage, and my family, than you are. I have an "only in America" story, how my mother, who gave birth to me when I was 18 and raised me herself, often with the help of programs like food-stamps, managed to send me to top schools, including ultimately with the help of student loans and scholarships to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. In case you haven't figured it out, my mother happened to be a White woman, from Kansas. My father happened to be a Black man, from Kenya. That's who they are. I carry each of them in me-- in every cell of my body. It's the year 2008, and yet, I have no doubt that there are still some of you that feel they cannot vote for me for that reason, and that reason alone. To you I say, I'm sorry you feel that way. Whether you support me or not, I wish you could move past that, and as a young preacher said, that you could judge others by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin, But this is a free country, and you have the right to your beliefs, whether I agree with them or not.
As for the rest of you, I suppose those of you who have already embraced my message of change and hope are probably already going to vote for me. To you, I say, thank you, and for those of you who doubt we can go all the way, I say "yes we can." Look how far we've already come! To those who still have doubts about me, but have moved past the point of not being able to listen and understand, it is to you this message is directed. As to why you should vote for me, you have heard my story-- an "only in America" story, really, where a man like me could stand on the cusp of the highest office in the land-- really the only time a person of color has ever been this close to the leadership position of a country as powerful as ours ever. And you know my policies and philosophy, which, basically, amount to "the government is here to help you" is not some kind a joke, to be derisively laughed at, but is a simple fact. It was programs like the New Deal, and the GI Bill, and the Great Society, that made this country as great as it is today. Simple as that.
So... if you're still listening, and you're not afraid of me because of who I am (which, you know, neither of us can change!), then it's time that I persuaded you about why you should be afraid of John McCain and Sarah Palin.
For one thing, "it's the Supreme Court, stupid." John McCain has promised to appoint what he calls "judges who support the Constitution," and when asked for specifics, he says "like Roberts and Alito." Yes, this certainly means that, given the ages of the current justices of the Supreme Court, there will almost certainly be at least one vacancy, and possibly several, in the next presidential term. More judges like Roberts and Alito will mean more decisions from the Supreme Court that undermine or ultimately eliminate women's rights to reproductive choice, that would undermine limits on the President's authority to do everything from spy on you to hold you (forever) without charges to torturing you (in the name of national security of course) to anything else the President can dream up, that undermine the government's (state, federal or local, by the way) abilities to protect the environment... and numerous other rulings, which would make this look like a very different country, one that I'm sure many of you would not be pleased to live in.
On foreign policy, John McCain has suggested that we may be in Iraq for 100 years or more. Even the Bush Administration is now talking of withdrawal within months, now that we have achieved our goals there, and it appears the Iraqi government, which unlike ours, is running over a $50 billion surplus, has achieved enough stability to handle its own sovereign affairs itself. But John McCain has always supported the Iraq war, even as our real enemies continue to mock us from their hiding places in Pakistan, now seven years since their massive crimes against us, while he throws around words like "victory" (to try, of course, to accuse me of wanting "defeat") without himself knowing the meaning of either in this context.
John McCain wants to privatize, that is to say, end, social security. He has similar feelings toward virtually every social program, from Medicaid and Medicare, to food-stamps, to education funding, to you name it. He probably would prefer we no longer had a minimum wage; he has certainly done his best not to raise it. I do not question that we have a legitimate policy disagreement on these, but it is so much more: it is a vision about what kind of a country we live in. Do we want a country where every man, woman and child has dignity, the ability to know that if they do a fair day's work they'll get a fair day's pay, that they are not one illness from destitution, that every child in America will have the same chance to advance himself or herself the way I have through world class educational opportunities widely available? Or do we want a country where everyone is at the mercy of whatever the free market can get away with paying them or doling out-- and if it's no more than a starvation wage, so be it? I stand for one vision... John McCain for a clearly different one. The choice couldn't be clearer.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, this is the challenge before us. You can elect the party that says it's for "change" because it has changed the gender of its vice-presidential candidate even as it touts the failed policies of its own party in the White House for the last 8 years and in Congress for 14 of the last 16, only because it nominated a bright articulate, attractive young woman as its vice-president (who also stands for the same failed policies), or you can vote for actual change. A man who was also once privileged enough to be a Democratic nominee for President once said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Well, I think he was wrong: I think we also have to fear an endless repetition of policies and approaches and philosophies that we know are just wrong and don't work. You can be afraid of me because of who God made me, or you can be afraid of what our opponents want to make of America. I think enough of you share my vision to know the kind of nation we can be. To you I say, yes, YES, WE CAN.
To all of you, whether you support me or not, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
On Saturday afternoon, I was driving down Atlantic Avenue, and turned onto Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn, intending to drive over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to pick up Mrs. TD. It became quite clear traffic wasn't moving at all because Adams Street had been taped off by the police. I turned around and found an alternate route, grumbling about it.
Today, to my horror, I learned why the street was blocked, and it had nothing to do with the tropical storm rolling on in. Instead, it concerned a special kind of tragedy: an 8-year old boy on a bicycle was struck and killed by a turning postal truck.
And Zander Toulouse happened to be an 8-year old boy and a member of a family that I and my family happened to know. A sweet boy: the pride and joy of his parents' lives. And just like that, he's gone in an instant. And for what? The immediate (and most meaningless and unsatisfying) answer, of course, is that traffic in New York City is just extraordinarily dangerous intrinsically, and many of us pretend otherwise. Some might find satisfaction in finding fault with someone, somewhere, but it seems this was an absolute freak accident: a truck driver, not moving all that fast, simply failed to see a child crossing a street. Just like that.
Immediate reactions from children are that they simply shouldn't ride their bikes in the streets of New York at all. And I wouldn't be so fast to dismiss this. Even by American standards of bicycle unfriendliness, New York is peculiarly unfriendly, especially given the volume of its traffic and limited accommodations given to bikes. Though over here in Brooklyn, despite this still being true (though there are bicycle lanes, they compete with a vast array of other traffic, and are certainly not set off or protected from traffic)... people still bicycle, and indeed, the site of a family arrayed on their bicycles in a line, from parents in front to children in back, is a common one most weekends.
But these are not the real questions one wants to, or needs to, wrestle with over this kind of pointless tragedy. As I asked about when I talked about the death of my friend Norman (just a few months after the birth of his young son), we know none of this is "fair," but just why is fair just not a concept with which this universe is familiar? Here was a sweet, bright child, just out for a God damned bike ride with his dad.
Those who believe in any kind of a just and merciful God, or in any kind of order in the universe other than the craziest of hazards and random occurrences, if you ask me, get the burden of explaining the reason for insanely horrible random tragedies like this and how they fit in their orders or schemes. Because I sure as hell can't fit it into any orderly or meaningful universal scheme.
This, of course, is because there really is no explanation: this just happens. All we can do-- or at least so we tell ourselves-- is shrug, pretend our lives are not hanging on the outcome of some cosmic dice roll, and go about our lives as if there were universal truths and orderliness and meaningful principles and that our quotidian toils and tribulations were not simply larger versions of hamsters spinning their exercise wheels in terms of cosmic significance... as if in the face of such a reality, politics, or economics, or culture, or religion, or anything at all has any weight compared to the simple reality that we live in a world where sweet, wonderful eight year old boys can be killed in the space of a heartbeat-- and not in the context of war in Iraq or Afghanistan, not in some far off neighborhood, and not perhaps nearby but involving some random kid I don't know... but right where you are, any time, maybe even right now. And it can be a friend, a loved one, a neighbor... or you.
The only thing I can suggest-- the only thing I suggest-- is that the only universal truth of relevance is that no act of kindness is without meaning or significance. It does not change the brute ultimate outcome or random horribleness of it all-- but maybe it's all we have.
Beyond that? Just damned if I know.
That S&G title sounds almost like a message right out of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, or the usual conundrum of how the interests of the rich and powerful, as embodied by their temporal representative on Earth, the Republican Party, are sold to the working stiffs of America who, though not forming a majority of the electorate, form a sufficiently strong plurality to keep voting for a party that has the interests of the few at heart...
Of course, it might also be a reminder to those wishing well to the Obama-Biden ticket to stop wasting time with the brilliant diversion otherwise known as Sarah Palin, and continue equating John McCain with what and who he has decided to be: a principal Congressional enabler of the Bush Administration, even after spending the first part of it opposing many of its signature dishes and the last few years propping up the Bush Administration.
And it might be an excellent time to trot out this key statistic: the "misery index" of adding unemployment (6%) plus inflation (5.7%) is, at 11.7, now at the highest level since 1991. Remember who was President then? Somebody named George Bush... a celebrated naval aviator, now that I think about it. That misery index statistic would be an excellent surrogate for demonstrating that economic times ain't good, and as the same party has controlled the presidency for the last eight years, and both houses of Congress and the White House for 6 of the last 8 years... John McCain has some kind of stones to be telling us he is running to shake things up. His laundry list last night, when parsed, included basically the usual Republican talking points including offshore drilling, school vouchers and ever-more-tax-cuts-for-the-rich... sure doesn't sound like shaking Washington up to me, unless you believe doing the same thing is "change".
In the end, while there are always plenty of people who will forgive their beloved Republican Party anything, fortunately, a healthy majority of Americans actually have expectations that their political parties might do something for them, and not merely for "their betters," and actually demand results. Or so I wishfully think. Anyway, it does seem incongruous that the electorate would vote for a party to retain power in the face of a rather miserable record, as demonstrated by "the misery index." Of course... Barack Obama is still Black.
We'll see which matters, ultimately in this, the greatest. election. ever!!!
Senator John McCain accepted the Republican party's nomination this evening, delivering a speech almost entirely out of place among Republicans for its near total lack of pettiness and hate and its expressing actual humility, making all of us wonder, once again, which side might ultimately receive the inevitable "pay-back" that will be the defining sentiment of any potential John McCain Administration should such come to pass.
Governor Palin's speech last night, written as it was by Rove's political team for any generic vice-presidential candidate, contained the usual red-meat falsehoods, hatred and incoherence we've come to expect from Republicans of the kind who mocked purple-heart winners with purple-heart band-aids at their New York based convention in 2004. Naturally, that sort of pettiness, hatefulness and incoherence... not to mention an amzing number of outright lies... is precisely what the overwhelmingly old, White, male, and I'm guessing, rich, crowd of Republican delegates wanted to hear. She was duly rewarded with ecstatic applause and overwhelming adulation.
While not at Obama's level of almost other-worldly-at-times rhetorical brilliance, McCain's speech appeared to be straightforward, from the heart, and reminded me of why he is the kind of decent, principled man who I have always admired (and still do, though I will not, of course, vote for him). Naturally, the crowd was polite, but hardly enthusiastic in its light clapping (and occasional incoherent chants of "U S A!") McCain made a reference to "some Republicans giving into corruption" and blaming Obama for passing a corporate welfare bill for oil companies! Even as McCain touted freaking offshore drilling! Amazing... but, of course, Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years imprisonment today.) McCain, of course, powerfully told of his own 5 1/2 years as an abused prisoner of war in Hanoi in a humble way that no one could question.
The cynic in me, of course, says that while Palin speaks to the base, McCain, with his pitch to his old bi-partisan efforts at reform, is pitching to independents and crossover Democrats-- precisely the people Palin's speech was designed to piss off. Don't know: McCain has always been someone who is better than the rest of his party, but has had to lower himself in order to secure its nomination... and having so sold out (just as he sold out on the ultimate core value of civilized human beings, torture) really isn't to be trusted. Well, who knows? [Of course, given McCain's age and health, we're probably talking about "President Sarah Palin" somewhere along the line... may as well admit it.]
Fortunately, we have a once-in-a-lifetime candidate in Barack Obama on our side who isn't tainted with having had to be part of the ruling party against whom McCain now seems to be running... and won't continue insane fiscal policies or hopefully our absurd foreign policy. But then, the Republicans may well still have a once in a lifetime candidate on their side as well, seemingly running against his own party, though in many ways, McCain reminds me of Bob "tax collector for the welfare state" Dole, another decent man and war hero whose own party never really got enthusiastically behind!
Oh well. The best election campaign ever (certainly that I'm aware of) just keeps rolling... and rolling! And we have two full months to go!!!
Another day, another Sarah Palin scandalette... today: Governor Palin attended a church service where David Brickner, the founder of "Jews for Jesus," a group that Jews certainly regard as at a minimum crackpot (some believe it is a hate-group) was the guest speaker, and during his talk, he suggested that Israeli Jews were suffering from Palestinian terrorist attacks in punishment for their failure to accept Jesus as their savior. For those wondering, the time frame is around two weeks ago, during the period, one would think, that she was being vetted for consideration for the vice-presidential nomination.
Most people won't give this another thought. However, for Jews, particularly in Florida for whom Israel (and the American government's relationship to Jews) is significant, some of whom may have bought the originally-Hillary-generated-claptrap about Obama being Muslim or otherwise hostile to interests of Israel, Governor Palin's attendance knowing that this speaker would even be there, smacks of the kind of poor judgment reminiscent of Tony Zirkle, a candidate for a Congressional seat in Indiana who attended a meeting of neo-Nazis. While there is no evidence that Governor Palin endorses any of Brickner's... controversial... views... there's no evidence that she doesn't either. That's the nature of tabulae rasae, is it not?
Anyway, I'm violating a key rule that Team Obama would like enforced: the first rule of Sarah Palin is that we don't TALK about Sarah Palin. This election is about John McCain and his selling out to George W. Bush and his misguided and destructive policies... period. To the extent that Gov. Palin's speech offered nothing of substance in a policy area to separate McCain-Palin from Bush-Cheney, by which, we can reasonably surmise that Obama-Biden are absolutely right: the Republicans have said this race is about "personality and not issues," so we can safely assume that they have no interest in "issues"... because they intend to continue what they regard as the successful policies of Bush-Cheney, that the base demands. In other words, McCain = Bush, and his choice of Sarah Palin only reinforces that.
Well, Jews in Florida, Governor Palin has done something about which you should all be remarkably offended, and come out and vote for that Obama guy about whom you have less enthusiasm than you should; McCain could have stuck to his guns and picked Lieberman... but Limbaugh and Dobson now control the GOP, and so, Palin it is. Just keep all of that in mind. McCain = Bush, and we don't talk about Sarah Palin. Good night, Shalom, and God bless us, every one. [Gov. Palin has been good for fundraising, though for Obama,who raised over $10,000,000 overnight.]
Another day, another Sarah Palin related scandal, today evidently the good old National Enquirer's reporting that Palin had an affair with her husband's business partner. All of this is, of course, infinitely more important than, say, the break-off of the giant Markham ice shelf in Northern Canada (around the size of Manhattan)... probably as a result of human-caused climate change, which Sen. McCain used to believe in until he secured his party's nomination.
None of this, of course, is as important as Sarah P.'s (1) unwed teenage daughter, and (2) possible own affair.
BTW, there is relevance to this in terms of the seriousness that McCain took his vetting process (i.e., not at all), or McCain's actual control of this process (having picked Rush Limbaugh's favorite candidate-- not his own.) McCain is, of course, famously a gambler... but can the rest of us afford to keep paying off losing bets made by Republicans who disrespect us by inflicting unqualified "leaders" on us?
I'd best stop now... I'm depressing myself.
And so, I listen to Governor Sarah Palin's speech, and try to live-blog this one, such as it is. We're starting to hear about the family... Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper... Track on his way to Iraq, let's not talk about the girls, and young Trig the baby boy. No, let's not talk about the girls. No. Let's not.
Well, I guess there's the bio-part. Soon, policy and attack, from the candidate for national office with the least quantitative experience in a serious position of any candidate for high national office that anyone I know can remember (Edwards and Dubya each had six years). It's just that after inflicting Dubya on us, haven't we had enough sick jokes from this party? Still more bio-stuff... soon, the policy, and the hit-pieces... Ah... Yes... hockey-mom who signed up for the PTA!!! YES! With a shocking resemblance to Bat Girl's secret identity...
Ah... the attacks on Barack's "community organizing" from the mayor of Wasilla, AK, and mocking Barack's "clinging to religion and guns" line. Jeez, Sarah, keep this up and we might forget he's Black.
Ah. Battling the "entrenched special interests" up in Alaska (doubtless such as her husband's employer, BP). Ah. She put the luxury jet on e-bay; we'll see if Air Force Two gets auctioned off. Ah... abuses of earmarks. And the great natural gas pipeline... because we can drill our way out of
all most of our problems... doesn't everyone know that?
[Liveblogging... I don't know...] Ah... back to attacking Barack... a man who authored two memoirs but not a single major law. Check. Mocking the stadium. Check. What is our opponent's plan... after turning back the waters and healing the planet... to make gov't bigger, reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world... ALASKA FIRST! Sorry... victory in Iraq in site he wants to fortune; terrorists seeking nuclear weapons... ALASKA FIRST! Sorry... terrorists won't have their rights read. (Those of us who went to law school tend to be sticklers on this... why is stupid so popular in the Republican party? Does former POW McCain really want to campaign on our military violating the laws of war? Charming, no?)
Big government; tax and spend...blah blah blah. Raise taxes... blah blah blah... Consistency makes this party... on message. It never gets old, even as poor people pay payroll taxes for the benefit of Blackwater and KBR...
Oh what's the point... I give up. I'll read about the rest in the Times or the Post!!!
Look: we were all hoping for a "fresh face"... this looked an awful like the good old Karl Rove attacks, delivered by "the hockey mom"... While her little joke (What's the difference between a hockey mom and a
pig pit bull? Lipstick.) Standard stuff; some might call it "juvenile". And the appeal is at the most awful, superficial level. If her job was to psyche up the base, she did so. If it's to secure crossover Democrats, independents, Hillary-folks, she has not changed the basic dynamic, and the fact is, a nice speech from her (and it was a small, mean-spirited speech of the kind we expect from her small, mean-spirited party) doesn't give her the necessary basic qualification... and the GOP is doing it to us again.
The basic dynamic remains the same: Barack is still Black, isn't he? THAT, boys and girls, is what this election is about. The Republican brand is sullied beyond the base; and Barack... is Black. How will this (greatest ever!) election campaign play out? We'll just have to see...
Good old Rudy 91u1iani addresses the
Fascist Party Republican Party convention tonight, on the attack, as I listen to him as I sort of live-blog it. The mantra, of course, is "Obama has never run anything." Obama is, sayeth Rudy, "the least experienced candidate"... "never led anything, nada".
Naturally, the only way to overlook the fact that Sarah Palin has even less experience is to praise her experience as mayor of a town around 1/1000 the size of NYC (Rudy's bailiwick). Anyway, poor Barack, it seems, never had the opportunity to order the police to brutalize citizens, or to try to suppress protest, or to have the police chauffeur around his girlfriend or announce his divorce in a press conference before telling his jilted wife or ultimately, to cause the needless deaths of hundreds of firefighters and countless others thanks to graft-driven equipment contracting and disorganization, and then pretend to be a national hero as a result of his own homicidal incompetence (and still have Bernie Kerik as your BFF). Poor Barack.
And Rudy raises the strawman that Palin is being attacked for "not having time to spend with her children-- a charge that wouldn't be leveled against a man." Well, Rudy, when you're own children don't talk to you, and at least one of whom supports Obama... what can you say?
Frankly, the one indispensible result in this cycle was to be sure that Rudy was eliminated from contention (a result thankfully achieved, with a great deal of strategic help from... Rudy Giuliani.) Why don't you do us all a favor, Rudy, and die very soon. Thank you, and God bless America.
Again with the Simon & Garfunkel titles, TD, even if they are downright mean? This is especially so in the context of 17-year old Bristol Palin's "decision" to bear the child (for which she is now 5-months pregnant)... a decision noted by Rob Farley of Lawyers, Guns & Money that her mother Sarah Palin and her running mate John McCain would prefer be made by the state, rather than by the Bristol Palins of our country.
Coupled with the politically conveeeenient choice of Bush and Cheney (who McCain would already like to disown as it is) to skip out on the RNC Convention in purported deference to victims of Hurricane Gustav, and the total coolness out of Camp Obama-Biden, it looks like McCain's crazy ass gamble to appease his most atavistic and troglodyte "base" rather than call it as he saw it with Joe Lieberman, is backfiring on him. Lieberman, while an apostate to activist liberals, is just regarded as"Al Gore's running mate" by most people, and would have actually made the McCain team quite formidable, with two arguably "immediately ready to lead" senators against only one on our side!!!
Instead, Karl vetoed the
Jew abortion-supporting Lieberman, and McCain (foolishly, it looks right now) went forRush Limbaugh's favorite candidate, Sarah Palin, the not quite midway into her first term Governor of Alaska.
I admit it: I was sold by the freshness and outright cojones of choosing the young, fresh-faced Palin, against the boring, albeit staid and competent Biden. I'll now admit I was wrong: Obama picked out of strength-- simply to reassure some that he was a conventional politician, recognizing the need for appearances of a strongly experienced man on the team, even though he didn't need to do that. Meanwhile, McCain desperately needed to hold together his own base, and felt the need to have a woman to try to play for Hillary supporters (I guess). Oh, and just as Obama is still Black, Lieberman is still a Jew. So, the Dems chose out of strength and conventionality, the Republicans out of desperation and gimmickry...
And don't you know it-- Gov. Palin has had two major scandals disclosed (her sister's ex-, and now her daughter) in three days... with God knows what coming?
Huh. All I can say is... huh.