The Talking Dog

August 21, 2011, Malaise

We'll note that Bloomberg is reporting that amidst the last financial crisis, Wall Street's financial elite received over $1.2 trillion in sweetheart loans (ultimately backed by the taxpayer) via the Federal Reserve. That's around the face amount of all of the "bad" loans then held, btw. Just part of the "back story" going into the current financial crisis-- presaged by last week's nearly thousand-point drop in the DJIA, and various announcements of probable insolvency among European banks that will presuably slam American banks as the "sovereign debt crisis" rolls along.

Anyway, back to the $1.2 trillion thing. This, of course ["this" being the diversion of most of our GDP to the totally parasitic and unproductive financial sector by one means or another], is why we're told that there's supposedly just no money left for anyone or anything else-- nothing-- no pensions, no health care, no food aid, no housing, no education, no nothing... (except of course for our nation's simultaneous twin industries-- besides enriching rentiers and the rest of the financial sector-- those being (1) imposing unnaturally early deaths on people abroad, and (2) unnaturally belaying deaths of unhealthy, usually elderly people here.) I'd say we were a sick society with our priorities up our asses... but then... you already know that.

You also know that the supposed right/left dichotomy is a kabuki designed to divert attention from the have/have not dichotomy, in which pretty much anyone holding anything less than a home owned free and clear with at least a million dollars in liquid assets or cash equivalents, is in the "have nots"... and such people [as, well, over 99% of us, anyway] can expect to have our real incomes decline just as our real expenses increase... for the foreseeable future (certainly and without doubt as long as Barack Obama is in office; I love "the quiz" that opens the interview contained in this piece, to wit, "Is Barack Obama (a) a Marxist, (b) a Communist, (c) a Socialist or (d) a Nazi... the correct answer: Barack Obama IS A REPUBLICAN!" In any event-- he has delivered for his campaign donors on Wall Street, just as any other Republican, whether bearing an "R" or a "D," would have done).

So... stop wasting time doing things like reading blogs! Go stock up on precious metals, ETFs specializing in things like food and water... and for that matter... stock up on food and water! Learn to grow food-- I'm at least on that arc, albeit barely-- and go learn to preserve food (something I've got to learn, and fast). See above re: "we are a sick society with our priorities up our asses"... you don't want to try to change such a society-- you want to try to escape it, but, given the realities that only a few of us will be able to pull that off, you want to endure it and survive it.

Concluding that the left/right thing is entirely nugatory has, of course, made blogging less fun for me [Barack's seamless continuation of the whole GTMO and "war on terror by different nomenclature but identical policy" should have been the giveaway... but then, you know that too.] Which is why there's less here, of course, and why I expect you'll see less for, well... I can't say exactly, but, you know, what with gardening, cooking and trying to stay in shape and hold down the job and spend quality time with wife and child and all... well, you know... not as much time or energy, and quite frankly... not as much fun. Such is the nature of malaise... be it macro or micro (the reader may select which).

Oh... looks like Qaddafi-- however you spell it-- is toast... or might be any minute now... maybe. Doubtless well worth whatever trillions of American taxpayer dollars (and all of the lost opportunity to invest in anything productive) were expended to achieve that result, mere decades after Pan Am 103 and only 8 years after Qaddafi was George W. Bush's poster child for the success of the Iraq War.

This has been "Malaise." No telling when it will let up, either.

August 10, 2011, Donut hole at the top

"Wow!" is all I can say about this Drew Westin takedown of my college classmate, Barack (he was "Barry" then) Obama. The money paragraphs come way at the end of the long piece, but more or less re-state what I have said occasionally:

As a practicing psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I will resist the temptation to diagnose at a distance, but as a scientist and strategic consultant I will venture some hypotheses.

The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.

Or perhaps, like so many politicians who come to Washington, he has already been consciously or unconsciously corrupted by a system that tests the souls even of people of tremendous integrity, by forcing them to dial for dollars — in the case of the modern presidency, for hundreds of millions of dollars. When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors that today cripples both parties’ ability to govern and threatens our democracy, or both, is unclear.

A final explanation is that he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.

But the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise. It does not bend when 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans. It does not bend when the average middle-class family has seen its income stagnate over the last 30 years while the richest 1 percent has seen its income rise astronomically. It does not bend when we cut the fixed incomes of our parents and grandparents so hedge fund managers can keep their 15 percent tax rates. It does not bend when only one side in negotiations between workers and their bosses is allowed representation. And it does not bend when, as political scientists have shown, it is not public opinion but the opinions of the wealthy that predict the votes of the Senate. The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks.

Alrightie then. The stock market has tanked. The bond market has tanked. London is agrip with riots, and mass protests have broken out from Madrid to Tel Aviv, as conditions of insane wealth and income disparity and ever more pressure on working people continue to mount. Here, we are about to enter the second dip of a recession [that most people believe hasn't ended] with over 9% official (and over 16% real) unemployment, virtually zero interest rates, and thanks to Barack "I'll capitulate to extend the Bush tax cuts without a pre-set debt-ceiling agreement BECAUSE IN MY HEART I KNOW MY NOOSE CARRYING AND HOOD WEARING COUNTERPARTS WILL BE REASONABLE TO THE BLACK MAN JUST AS SOON AS THEY HAVE MORE CONTROL" Obama, the government is officially dysfunctional and increased government spending in the midst of a depression deep recession is now against the law. We are now engaged in big-time hot shootin' wars in at least six different countries (for the record, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pock-ee-ston, Yemen, Libya and Somalia). We've hit peak oil, peak credit and thanks to industrialization-caused climate change, declining arable land and fresh water and massive droughts and storms domestically, just as pressures on food and energy prices were hitting anyway.

And in charge of the world's most powerful nation is a man who was a mediocrity-at-best back in college, who ain't done much since beyond self-promotion, who, if anything, has not only not grown into the job of President, but as noted by Drew Westin above, seems to have receded even from what he was.

Having uncritically accepted the advice of his backers in the "FIRE" [finance, insurance and real estate] sector that "just go with us kid and you'll get that second term," because, of course, he has no actual life experience that would lead him to believe that fundamentally dishonest and ruthless people who made their fortunes by being dishonest and ruthless might sell HIM out too, the President now finds himself sitting atop a smoldering wreck of a nation, trying a bit of happy talk as if that's going to work... even though, the smart-money of reality says that "the tea-party" is just a sight-gag set up by the real money to force their real interests, and if they want, the real money is going to put up a REAL candidate against him... I leave it as an exercise for the reader [and given my current traffic levels, that's about right!] to tell me how "Obama-Biden" (or even "Obama-Clinton") can defeat, say, "Huntsman-Rubio" in 2012.

My advice to you'all remains the same. America-the empire's best days are, of course, behind it, though the people within the country's borders can, at least, make ourselves fine, fulfilling lives even amidst the declining imperium (if not BECAUSE of it). My own grandparents (whom God saw fit to keep around long enough to let them attend my college graduation from Columbia, at which, of course, Barry Obama and presumably his grandparents also attended) happened to live to ripe old ages in a modest house in Yonkers, NY with one old-but-reliable vehicle, with a minimum of tchotchkes (and none of it made in China!), always surrounded by family and friends, financially comfortable but never remotely "rich"... but they led happy, satisfying, until the very end, HEALTHY, FULFILLING LIVES. DO YOU GET IT, PEOPLE?

Alrightie then. Eat-- and grow-- your vegetables, damn it. You don't need the freaking i-phone or the SUV.