Saturday, September 20, 2008

Learn To Play Ball

The drawing by Luis Quintanilla in Barcelona, 1938
Today's headline: Bush asks Congress for $700 billion for bailout
Butterfly listens
at the flowerpot:
true teaching.
And do not change. Do not divert your love from visible things. But go on loving what is good, simple and ordinary; animals and things and flowers, and keep the balance true.
---Rainer Maria Rilke
Old gnarled trees
darken the trail:
Where is the temple bell?
---Li Po
Growing up from boy to man: play some kind of ball and watch cowboys. Those were the keys to American success in my childhood. Eventually become fulfilled in business was what a guy was supposed to do, to be. I took one course in economics at Bates. The prof was young, bald and interesting, but I don't remember any of it. Not a word. It was a foreign language...without translation. There was a girl in the front row, beside his desk, I found fascinating...and so I spent the semester staring at her, until finally she noticed. I do remember Kay, from Springfield.
Baseball I liked and still do...sorta. I have to say when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, the very heart of the game cracked somehow. Now, I don't know how all the leagues work even, and I never liked pinch hitters to say nothing of these designated hitter dudes. The sound of an aluminum bat makes me sick. I never was very good at playing it, but I had some cherished moments doing so. I connect baseball more with jazz than selling cars, I guess because of the notion of teamwork...which seems to be for the support of the individual rather than the other way around---on top of which sits the owner. Or at least it used to SEEM to be like that, before football became America's preferred sport. Jazz players remain on the economic edge, but baseball stars make millions.
I went to the movies most Saturday afternoons, and usually one of the double features was a Western. Cowboys I got to know---oh, not the ones that actually herd cows: I mean the cleancut nice guys with a beautiful horse and powerful punch, who had to leave Melody Ranch (or whatever) to clean up the town and toss the rich saloonkeeper and his gang into the hoosegow. Or as we moved into the "adult Western," Shane alone and haunted keeping the open range safe from the greedy cattleman and available to the average guy like you and me and Brandon de Wilde. And Jean Arthur.
But Joe Biden said yesterday No more cowboys on Wall Street! Ronnie Reagan made Westerns and he was a favorite actor for me. I had his autographed photo on my wall. But he and his boy companion, George Bush, have ruined economics for cowboys I guess. McCain's got his maverick uniform on, six-shooter ready...and his pretty granddaughter back at the ranch...but Joe wants to send these cowboys off to the big roundup. And I believe he's probably right. We should have known it wouldn't work out, letting them ride roughshod.
Bill Moyers went after the new-time baseball zillion dollar contract guys last night, and he doesn't think Wall Street greed has trickled anything on us but waste product. Moyers looks at the facts and of course sees moral failing at the center, a betrayal of American values. Playing ball with the big boys means something entirely different on Wall Street than it did in the sandlot. So now what? Boys have it tough these days looking for a hero. It may be even more complicated for girls and their role models.
I was glad to receive an email from Bob Sheak yesterday, containing a new essay he's written and is offering up. Bob probably is the best-read fellow I know, besides being a highly decorated officer on the academic front. Professor Emeritus in both sociology and anthropology, he's got to understand statistics better than ever I could. I realize economics is another field, but here he doesn't attempt to analyze all the factors of this crisis. He's looking at what the 2 major candidates have to say and their plans thus far. Bob is good at that~~~
Different Approaches to the financial crisis:
Obama versus McCain
Bob Sheak
September 19, 2008
Through the last twenty years or so, McCain has continued in the Republican tradition of giving strong preference to powerful special interests in the corporate-dominated American economy on the assumption that profit and wealth will in time generate investments that create opportunities for other Americans. Small government, except when it comes to the interests of large corporations, Wall Street, and an increasingly privatized military, is the goal. It turns out that one recent consequence of this tradition is that there is a massive trickle-down debt that taxpayers and the next generations will have to live with for far into the future or as long as the economic system doesn't collapse.
McCain is enmeshed in this tradition. He has referred to himself as a "foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution," when during the 1970s the national debt began soaring. Far from being a "maverick," FactCheck found that, when voting in 2007, "McCain voted with his party 90% of the time," and "voted in support of President Bush's position on legislation 95% of the time."
As presidential candidate, McCain favors further tax cuts for the wealthiest and for corporations, and a continuation of the Bush administration's anti-labor stance. He also has consistently supported at least the partial privatization of Social Security, which would be a financial boon to Wall Street, cuts in spending on domestic programs, shifts in the sky-rocketing health care costs to individuals, and support for more corporate trade deals.
Along the way, Senator McCain has voted, as Robert Scheer reminds us, for the abolition of all "of the significant rules put in place at the time of the Great Depression." And, absurdly, until September 16 of this year, McCain was declaring that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong."
Modifying his free market positions on this past Tuesday, September 16, in the face of a spiraling financial crisis, McCain took the position that the government is now forced to take emergency measures, including the bail-out of large banks. He blamed the crisis on "reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed on Wall Street," not on a broken financial system, and offered a plan to set up a commission to study the problem and to make recommendations about it when he is president.
Then, on September 19, under pressures stemming from the turmoil in the financial sector, McCain offered a new plan to deal with the financial crisis. Departing from his previous positions, it is a plan that calls for more government regulation and a new government entity to identify "institutions that are weak and fix them before they become insolvent" (sounds close to a bailout). His plan also calls for new laws to ensure the transparency of financial firms, clarification of regulatory standards, protection for consumers and investors against "individuals who engage in fraud, break contracts, or lie to customers," consistent policies for guaranteeing loans, and the end to government bailouts. This amounts to some increased scrutiny by the federal government of the financial institutions
The problem is there is no systemic reform. There is nothing here to separate commercial banks from the myriad types of investment (often speculative, increasingly unregulated) banks. There is nothing in McCain's plan to deal with the anticipated four million foreclosures yet to come or the related economic calamities that will affect local governments. There is nothing on how the government will recover the taxpayers' money from hundreds of billions of dollars in bad debt it has assumed from the bailouts. There is nothing to prevent appointments of people from the financial sector (special interests) from heading up key government agencies, like the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.
What about Obama? He has espoused the position all along that there is a need to buttress, rather than further weaken, the government so that the public interest is not so increasingly subordinated to corporate- and wealth-interests. His position is reflected in his campaign tax proposals, which focus on eliminating tax breaks for families with incomes of $250,000 or more and additional corporate tax breaks. His concern about the fragility and recklessness of the financial sector is reflected in his recent efforts in the Senate. Two years ago, he introduced legislation to "stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk, or abuse." In 2007, Obama asked the Federal Reserve Chairman "to bring every stakeholder together and find a solution to the subprime mortgage meltdowns before it got worse." Then in March of this year, he advocated a "new, 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets." He stated, further, "It's time to get serious about regulatory oversight, and that's what I'll do as President." On September 19, he said that there should be a bipartisan effort to "find a systematic solution to our deepening crisis" based on four principles, and said that it should be based on the following four principles.
(1) "…we cannot lose sight that we are in the midst of a broad economic crisis that also requires immediate action to create jobs and help support distressed homeowners and communities….
(2) "any taxpayer-funded support must have as its focus protecting our nation's long-term interest in a stable financial market and a growing economy rather than rewarding particular companies or the imprudent decisions of borrowers or lenders…."
(3) "this plan must be temporary and coupled with tough new oversight and regulations of our financial institutions. There must be a clear process to wind down this plan and restore private sector assets into private sector hand after restoring the stability to the system. Taxpayers must share in any upside benefit that such stability brings."
(4) "this plan should be part of a globally coordinated effort with our partners in the G-20. We are facing a global financial crisis and the United States can take a leadership role in coordinating a global response to the present crisis, as well as greater regulatory cooperation and alignment to prevent future crises."
With respect to the first principle, Obama has already advanced proposals to assist people who are harmed by the reckless and unregulated pursuit of profit in the financial sector, but he has not specified how those facing foreclosures may be assisted. Nonetheless, in a speech given on September 17th, Obama proposed "a $50 billion Emergency Economic Plan that would save 1 million jobs by rebuilding infrastructure, repairing our schools, and helping our states and localities avoid damaging budget cuts." In the same speech, he made three proposals to help people stay in their homes. He proposes to change bankruptcy laws and "offer a tax credit to struggling families that will take 10% off your mortgage interest rate. He will "crack down on predatory lenders with tough new penalties that will treat mortgage fraud like the crime that it is."
The second of Obama's principles is unclear as to how the "national interest" would be defined. The third principle implies that corporations that caused the problem may in time be rewarded. The fourth principle, that goes beyond McCain's vision, goes in the right direction and calls for attempts to build a system of international cooperation in financial institutions. At the same time, however, US foreign policy may undermine the basis for such cooperation.
Overall, Obama's plan appears to be better than McCain's plan, but it doesn't go far enough to deal with the systemic problems of the financial sector and the people negatively affected by them. My fear is that, as long as profits are the overriding goal of financial corporations, the public interest will be at best secondary.
In the meantime, the principal solution offered so far by the Bush administration is to socialize the bad investments of Wall Street. Both McCain and Obama feel constrained to go along with the process. The upshot is taxpayers and future generations will be burdened with an enormous increase in the national debt, a debt that was already approaching $10 trillion and now is adding trillions.
As Michael Hudson said on the radio/TV program Democracy Now on Thursday (September 18), there are no "free markets" in the conventional sense of the term. Rather, what we have is a "guaranteed gamble for Wall Street against industry and against labor."


jazzolog said...

I'd like to preserve that Moyers essay~~~

September 19, 2008

BILL MOYERS: From our offices here in New York, we look out on the tall gleaming skyscrapers that are cathedrals of wealth and power — the Olympus ruled by the gods of finance, the temples of the mighty, the holy of holies, whose priests guard the sacred texts of salvation containing the secrets of sub-prime lending and derivatives as mysterious and elusive as the grail itself.

This last couple of weeks, ordinary mortals below could almost hear the ripcords of golden parachutes being pulled as the divinities on high prepared for soft, safe landings. All this while tossing their workers into the purgatory of unemployment, like sacrificial lambs. Yes, the billionaires who fed during the fat years of speculation are long gone, to their yachts and offshore islands.

During the last five years of his tenure as CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld's total take was $354 million. The current chairman of Merrill Lynch, who's been on the job just nine months, pocketed a $15 million signing bonus. His predecessor, Stan O'Neal, retired with a package valued at $161 million after the company reported an 8 billion dollar loss in a single quarter. And remember Bear Stearns chairman James Cayne? After the company collapsed and was up for sale at bargain prices, he sold his stake for more than $60 million. And the former heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the gods who failed, are fighting to keep severance packages of close to $24 million combined on top of the millions in salary each earned last year while slaughtering the golden calf. As it is written in the gospel according to me first, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But let's change our metaphor for a moment. Let's go to our sports desk. Because if religion is no longer the soul of capitalism, we have to look somewhere else to understand this new gilded age. And there it is, just a few miles north of Wall Street, the "House that Ruth Built". Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, who ruled Yankee Stadium and sired generations of princes after him: DiMaggio and Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, and Jackson. Yankee Stadium, as fabled a place to Americans as Ilium was to the Greeks.

But believe it or not, this Sunday — weather permitting — the Yankees will play their last game here. The stadium's being demolished, to be replaced next year with a brand new one. What a history to disappear down the memory hole.

On opening day, in 1923, New York Governor Al Smith threw out the first pitch and John Philip Sousa led a big brass band playing his famous marches. It was the roaring Twenties, when the money flowed like bootleg whiskey, the pride before the fall. The year after the market crashed, as the Great Depression began, Babe Ruth was taking home $80,000 a year, more than the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. "Why not?" Ruth asked "I had a better year than he did."

Yankee star Alex Rodriguez had a better year than both of them. This season, A-Rod is making $28 million. Just part of an annual Yankee payroll of $200 million-plus, the richest in baseball. Their owner, George Steinbrenner, is one of the country's richest tycoons, among the Forbes 400. But when it came to paying for the new pleasure dome costing $1.3 billion, the millionaires on the field and King Midas in the skybox came up with some razzle-dazzle plays to finance their wealth machine. Tax-free bonds, requiring ordinary citizens to subsidize the construction, and hundreds of millions more for new parking garages, a train station and parks. Those parks, by the way, will supposedly replace the ones seized by the city to make room for the new stadium. The little league games that used to flourish on sandlots just outside the old ball park have been moved miles away, sent down to the minors on a long road trip.

That's okay, you may think, there will be plenty of room for the tax-paying public to come root, root, root for the home team — even the coliseum in ancient Rome had bleachers, for the commoners. But in fact there will be 5,000 fewer seats in the new stands.

And while the Yankees reportedly have promised that half of what's left will cost $45 apiece or less, those seats that used to cost $250, right behind the dugout, will cost you $850. And if you want to be near home plate, you'll have to cough up $2,500...per game.

Meanwhile, there will be more luxury suites and party rooms where the fat cats gather, safely removed from the sweaty masses. Corporations and wealthy individuals will be able to rent the luxury suites for anywhere from $600,000 to $850,000 tax deductible dollars a year, assuming they haven't filed for bankruptcy this week.

GEORGE STEINBRENNER: "We are all here today to celebrate the new Yankee Stadium. It's a pleasure to give it to you people. That's what we're doing. This is for you people."

BILL MOYERS: Why aren't the fans and tax payers giving the Yankees a Bronx Cheer? They are. But city officials rolled over them while making sure local politicians stay in the line up. The pols are getting their own luxury suite at the new stadium for free and first shot at buying the best available seats.

And so this Sunday evening we will bid farewell to dear old Yankee Stadium, and await the new colossus to rise from its ruins. It will cast its majestic shadow across one of the country's poorest neighborhoods, whose residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of town respiratory disease is already so high they call it "asthma alley."

Not that the well-to-do in the infield seats will have to hear that wheezing. They'll have access to a private club, a private entrance and a private elevator. Totems of this Gilded Age. Let the games begin.

jazzolog said...

Four-thirty Monday morning. I awoke a bit after 2, and thought I should get up to see what analysts have made of Bush's Saturday sneak attack. Only the crappiest bosses save Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to give you weekend homework! The summaries were there and Democrats have responded appropriately. There are petitions to sign...and I did---but being an economics ignoramus, I was not prepared for the Big News~~~

"Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last big independent investment banks on Wall Street, will transform themselves into bank holding companies subject to far greater regulation, the Federal Reserve said Sunday night, a move that fundamentally reshapes an era of high finance that defined the modern Gilded Age."

I'm not sure what that means for Main Street, but at first glance it appears those investment banks either are not buying or going to wait for Bush's remodeling of the debt ceiling. The party's over. All the financial papers this morning read like sad obits: it was so much fun...and gee, wasn't he just a regular guy? Who knew that cancer was eating him up inside? Well, for their information, some of us decided 20 years ago we didn't want to be what-came-to-be-called "players." We do appreciate living in the United States of America, but we despise having constantly to clean up after the capitalists! Will they ever come to believe that competition also involves maintenance? Not everything in life is stuff going into your mouth. Neatness counts...especially with your elimination functions. Did their mothers teach them nothing?

Radical lefties responded immediately to Paulson's idea, even on Friday~~~

"Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying explosively because they think they have successfully stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street Journal solution to the crisis: dump it all on the taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around Congress. It would relieve the major banks and investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and make the public swallow their losses--many hundreds of billions, maybe much more."

Bob Sheak wrote some of his friends here in Athens yesterday morning, "Just a couple of weeks ago, maybe one week ago, I was - and have been - concerned about the national debt approaching $10 trillion by the end of the Bush administration. Notice in what (Glenn) Greenwald writes (at that without any fanfare the national debt ceiling has just been raised to $11.3 trillion. This more than doubles the debt we had when Bush first entered the White House - and 11-times more than when Carter left office back in 1980. The interest we'll pay on this debt will show up as the third largest line-item, well over $400 billion, on the federal budget. As I recall, only Social Security and money allocated for 'defense,' are larger. This will limit what Obama, if elected, will be able to do in the way of social, health, environmental, global warming, infrastructure, and other reforms, especially since Obama himself plans to increase military spending, send more troops to Afghanistan, and target (if not invade) Pakistan."

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich got after it too yesterday afternoon~~~

"The public doesn't like a blank check. They think this whole bailout idea is nuts. They see fat cats on Wall Street who have raked in zillions for years, now extorting in effect $2,000 to $5,000 from every American family to make up for their own nonfeasance, malfeasance, greed, and just plain stupidity. Wall Street's request for a blank check comes at the same time most of the public is worried about their jobs and declining wages, and having enough money to pay for gas and food and health insurance, meet their car payments and mortgage payments, and save for their retirement and childrens' college education. And so the public is asking: Why should Wall Street get bailed out by me when I'm getting screwed?"
A hundred and sixteen comments there so far.

Paul Krugman calls his column this morning Cash For Trash...and concludes like this~~~

"But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a 'clean' plan. 'Clean,' in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review 'by any court of law or any administrative agency,' and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

"I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

"But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future."

There's a very good petition to Congress you can sign at CREDO Action~~~

But let me suggest a couple things to do before you go. First of all, take a look at an excerpt from Molly Ivins' last book, on which Louis Dubose put the finishing touches, and which will show up in paperback next month. The book is called Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch’s Assault on America’s Fundamental Rights. The Texas Observer was kind enough to give us all this big boost, with a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of Molly, on Friday~~~

And finally, the English teacher in me vibrates inevitably with Garrison Keillor's poem for today~~~

Windows is Shutting Down
by Clive James

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must be meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

"Windows Is Shutting Down" by Clive James from Opal Sunset: Selected poems, 1958–2008. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Reprinted with permission.

jazzolog said...

Economists Urge Congress Not to Rush on Rescue Plan (Update1)
By Matthew Benjamin
Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- More than 150 U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.
In a Sept. 24 letter to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan because it's a ``subsidy'' for business, it's ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.
``It doesn't seem to me that a lot decisions that we're going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,'' said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the letter. ``The situation may get urgent, but it's not urgent right now. Right now it's a financial sector problem.''
The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.
Some lawmakers are already citing the letter as reason not to endorse Paulson's plan. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said yesterday he has ``five pages of the leading economists in America that wrote to me and the leadership saying the Paulson plan is a bad plan. It will not solve problems. It will create more problems.''
Negotiations over the plan stalled yesterday after Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives undercut the Bush administration and left it to congressional leaders to hammer out a compromise.
`How Capitalism Works'
The letter, initially conceived by economists at the University of Chicago, was signed by professors from dozens of American universities and several outside the U.S.
David I. Levine, a professor of economics at University of California-Berkeley, says the current plan being discussed has the wrong structure.
``The structure is designed for the Treasury to be the first line of defense,'' said Levine, who studies organizations and incentives. ``A whole lot of people made money supposedly by putting their capital at risk, and those are supposed to be the first line of defense, that's how capitalism works.''
Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University professor and self- described libertarian, objects to what he says is ``a stunningly broad, aggressive government intervention without appropriate precedents.''
He advocates allowing the normal process of business failure and bankruptcy to run its course. ``It's just nothing like the calamity the administration is making it out to be,'' he said.
Unprecedented Power
Erik Brynjolfsson, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School, said his main objection ``is the breathtaking amount of unchecked discretion it gives to the Secretary of the Treasury. It is unprecedented in a modern democracy.''
Advocates for a rescue plan this week point to a seizing up of credit markets, reflected in elevated inter-bank lending rates, as reason for action. Some economists are unconvinced.
``I suspect that part of what we're seeing in the freezing up of lending markets is strategic behavior on the part of big financial players who stand to benefit from the bailout,'' said David K. Levine, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies liquidity constraints and game theory.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Benjamin at

Last Updated: September 26, 2008 07:23 EDT

Nausicaa said...

Cassandra's curse? Observe the media's contemptuous treatment of Patrick Byrne when he predicted, years ago, what is happening now:

Economic warnings from Patrick Byrne

"Bigger than Enron?"

"House of cards?!"

The reporters on those clips are looking at him as they would some raving lunatic. Some of them can hardly keep the contempt off their face.

This must be yet another example, I guess, of the "the role of news gathering organizations in society as a check on the abuses of the powerful, and a provider of information needed to keep citizens informed." Unless, of course, the so-called "news gathering organization" are on the payroll of "the powerful," in which case the "news gathering" is done very selectively indeed and with extreme prejudices toward those who would disagree with the promoted narrative or try to raise the alarm over the way certain things are being done.

But then again, it could just simply be a case of incompetency and intellectual laziness, a thing that the MSM's "talking heads" (Can one, in good conscience, still call them "news anchors" or "reporters?") have been guilty of for a very long time already.

Anonymous said...

Corruption? Submission? Incompetency? Laziness? Hard to tell...

And the contenders are.......

The Big Media Hall of Shame

Who, among so many candidates are the most deserving? Who the most willing to sacrifice all dignity, ethics and morality to come out on top of the Big Media Hall of Shame?

Nausicaa said...

"It is a saying among our troops that there are no real Nazis in Germany, only “good Germans.” Every crime Germany committed against humanity seems to have been done by someone else."
---Daniell, Raymond, “At Our Knees — Or at Our Throats”, New York Times, 27 May 1945

"Good Germans" is a term that has come to be used since then to refer more generically to people in any country who observed reprehensible things taking place — whether done by a government or by another powerful institution — but remaint silent, neither raising objections nor taking steps to change the course of events.

"No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood".

jazzolog said...

Here are a few questions we would have liked answered~~~

The $700 billion bailout for Wall Street, is driven by fear not fact.
This is too much money in too a short a time going to too few people while too many questions remain unanswered.

Why aren't we having hearings on the plan we have just received?

Why aren't we questioning the underlying premise of the need for a bailout with taxpayers' money?

Why have we not considered any alternatives other than to give $700 billion to Wall Street?

Why aren't we asking Wall Street to clean up its own mess?

Why aren't we passing new laws to stop the speculation, which triggered this?

Why aren't we putting up new regulatory structures to protect investors?

How do we even value the $700 billion in toxic assets?

Why aren't we helping homeowners directly with their debt burden?

Why aren't we helping American families faced with bankruptcy?

Why aren't we reducing debt for Main Street instead of Wall Street?

Isn't it time for fundamental change in our debt based monetary system, so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks?

Is this the United States Congress or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?

Wall Street is a place of bears and bulls. It is not smart to force taxpayers to dance with bears or to follow closely behind the bulls.

Who composed these questions...and asked them on the floor of the House Sunday? Dennis Kucinich.

Anonymous said... anyone compose any answers?

Anonymous said...

Writing Raven, here, says:
With the economic apocalypse looming, I find myself in a strangely reflective mood. Could be that things are just so campaign-crazy I have checked out, but a lot of it has to do with witnessing a bunch of people thousands of miles away fighting like school children over my money. It is watching them try their darndest to afix blame, and I honest to goodness don't care if it was the Democrats, Republicans or the Easter Bunny - I'd just like them to talk it out.

Writing Raven goes on to relate how as she watched George Bush arguing his case on CNN, she couldn't help but think of the boy who cried wolf.

The moral of that well-known fable is that "even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed": "The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth."

And so when the boy in the fable was one day actually confronted by a real wolf, the villagers did not believe his cries for help and the wolf ate the flock.

Unfortunately, insofar as this President is concerned, Writing Raven says, "the wolf is not breathing down his neck so much as 99% of the rest of us":

"I think the top dogs, the ones who can afford to lose a few million, are going to be just fine. But I made the unfortunate mistake of looking at my 401(k) and confirmed that I'd lost about 10% of what I had. And it's not even "the worst" yet. The wolf is breathing down my neck, and it seems there's not a whole lot I can do about it but hope our elected representatives get a handle on things. Soon.

In the end of the fable about the boy and the wolf, it is not the boy who gets eaten by the wolf after all. It is the flock."

jazzolog said...

Jonathan Tasini wrote Tuesday at, the blog of the Labor Research Association, of which he is executive director~~~

There is a great economic emergency looming in our country. But, it seems to me that we—or at least our elected leaders—have only looked at one side of the crisis, that of the housing bubble-inspired financial credit crunch. By doing so, we’ve missed the bigger picture and the solutions needed. So, here is one person’s take on the Emergency Economic Bailout package that will heal the economy.

As quick background, let’s consider this:

24.5 all Americans earn poverty wages (9.60 or less)

10 percent of all Americans—15 million Americans—earn 6.79 or less

33.3 percent of African American works and 39.3 of Hispanic workers earn poverty wages.

The share of our entire national income hoarded by the top one percent is, as of 2005, 21.8 percent. The last time it was that high was in 1928 (23.9)—just as the Great Depression was about to hit with its full fury.

We accept poverty as a fact of life in this country—partly because workers have not gotten the fair share of their hard work over the past three decades (in Republican and Democratic Administrations). If productivity and wages had kept their historic link (meaning, as workers were more productive, that translated into higher paychecks), the MINIMUM WAGE in the country would be $19.12. Yes, $19.12.

At the recent new minimum wage of $6.55 an hour, if you worked every single day, 40 hours a week, with no vacations, no holidays, no health care and no pension, you would earn the grand sum of $13.624. The POVERTY LEVEL for a family of three is $17,600.

47 million Americans have no health care and tens of millions more have inadequate or costly health care that can bankrupt them.

Since 1978, the number of defined-benefit plans—that means, pensions that give retirees a promised monthly amount—plummeted from 128,041 plans covering some 41 percent of private-sector workers to only 26,000 today. It’s a Dog Food Retirement future for millions of people.

All those numbers above do relate to the more narrow crisis in a very specific way: without being able to rely on their paychecks to survive, a lot of people got sucked into the housing bubble mania as an economic coping mechanism. Home equity credit lines substituted for decent pay, retirement and affordable, quality health care. And we know the rest.

And Ray McGovern wrote an open letter to Joe Biden, also Tuesday, which gives him fair warning about attacks to expect tonight~~~

--For some reason, you were calling for an invasion of Iraq and making unsupported claims about its “weapons of mass destruction” even before President George W. Bush came into office.
Later, on Aug. 4, 2002, after it had become clear to many of us that Bush was intent on attacking Iraq, you declared that the U.S. was probably going to war. That was three weeks before Vice President Dick Cheney voiced his spurious “intelligence” and set the terms of reference for the war. And it was a month before the administration launched its marketing campaign for the new “product.”

--You became the administration’s most important congressional backer of Bush’s preemptive-with-nothing-to-preempt war advocated by neoconservatives and various oil-thirsty functionaries.

Former U.N. weapons inspector and ex-U.S. Marine Major Scott Ritter was correct in describing the hearings you chaired during the summer and fall of 2002, from which you were careful to exclude Ritter and other expert witnesses, as a “sham…to provide political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq.”

What the country needed was an appropriately skeptical Sen. William Fulbright who listened to dissenters after he got burned on Vietnam. Instead, you took unusual pains to ensure that those dissenting on Iraq would not get a fair hearing.

I can almost hear Palin already putting the bite on him. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Nausicaa said...

How the market really works.

jazzolog said...

As most of you know, and plainly can see straight and tall, I am in love with poetry. It is life itself. Consider these gems~~~

"This is an impressive crowd: the Have's and Have-more's. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base."

- George W. Bush

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."

- G. K. Chesterton

"Every 10 years or so, the US needs to pick up some small, crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

- Michael Ledeen

Not really poems, you say? We must keep up with the times! Therefore I am grateful to my good friend, composer Jason Hartz, for pointing out the revelatory nature of this lustrous individual~~~

The Poetry of Sarah Palin
Recent works by the Republican vice presidential candidate.
By Hart Seely
Posted Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008, at 1:25 PM ET

It's been barely six weeks since the arctic-fresh voice of Alaskan poet Sarah Heath Palin burst upon the lower 48. In campaign interviews, the governor, mother, and maverick GOP vice presidential candidate has chosen to bypass the media filter and speak directly to fans through her intensely personal verses, spoken poems that drill into the vagaries of modern life as if they were oil deposits beneath a government-protected tundra.

Thursday's nationally televised debate with Democrat Joe Biden could give Palin the chance to cement her reputation as one of the country's most innovative practitioners of what she calls "verbiage."

The poems collected here were compiled verbatim from only three brief interviews. So just imagine the work Sarah Palin could produce over the next four (or eight) years.


"On Good and Evil"

It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That's not a good guy.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

"You Can't Blink"

You can't blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we're on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can't blink.

So I didn't blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)


These corporations.
Today it was AIG,
Important call, there.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

"Befoulers of the Verbiage"

It was an unfair attack on the verbiage
That Senator McCain chose to use,
Because the fundamentals,
As he was having to explain afterwards,
He means our workforce.
He means the ingenuity of the American.
And of course that is strong,
And that is the foundation of our economy.
So that was an unfair attack there,
Again based on verbiage.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

"Secret Conversation"

I asked President Karzai:

"Is that what you are seeking, also?
"That strategy that has worked in Iraq?
"That John McCain had pushed for?
"More troops?
"A counterinsurgency strategy?"

And he said, "Yes."

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)


I am a Washington outsider.
I mean,
Look at where you are.
I'm a Washington outsider.

I do not have those allegiances
To the power brokers,
To the lobbyists.
We need someone like that.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

"On the Bailout"

What the bailout does
Is help those who are concerned
About the health care reform
That is needed
To help shore up our economy,
Helping the—
It's got to be all about job creation, too.

Shoring up our economy
And putting it back on the right track.
So health care reform
And reducing taxes
And reining in spending
Has got to accompany tax reductions
And tax relief for Americans.
And trade.

We've got to see trade
As opportunity
Not as a competitive, scary thing.
But one in five jobs
Being created in the trade sector today,
We've got to look at that
As more opportunity.
All those things.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

"Challenge to a Cynic"

You are a cynic.
Because show me where
I have ever said
That there's absolute proof
That nothing that man
Has ever conducted
Or engaged in,
Has had any effect,
Or no effect,
On climate change.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

"On Reporters"

It's funny that
A comment like that
Was kinda made to,
I don't know,
You know ...


(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

"Small Mayors"

You know,
Small mayors,
Mayors of small towns—
Quote, unquote—
They're on the front lines.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 19, 2008)

Anonymous said...


And so, to tie-up neatly this moving moment of poetry with the drawing by Luis Quintanilla at the beginning of this post, here is another piece of poetry that should fit nicely with the artistic mood of the moment:

(This one is by yolhanson on Sonnet Central)

Hitlers Childhood Portrait

An infants portrait, any time or place;
I find it hard, but know that I must look
to see the unspoiled beauty in your face,
and try to let that innocence erase
the millions dead, the awful path you took.
Despite the fateful ramblings in your book,
you once were pure, almost devoid of race.
I see your little hands - the fists that shook
with rage - and ask my God: What led to this,
where hatred germinates inside a child
and mutates? Does the picture hold the clue?
I hug my daughter, give a gentle kiss
and look back at the photo. Had you smiled,
Id never have believed that it was true.

I saw last night (Oct. 5) on the news a disturbing clip of Sarah Palin's campaign speech in Clearwater, Florida, and clearly heard a man yell "Kill him!"---it was in reference to Barack Obama and Governor Palin clearly heard and enjoyed the remark....the video is available in several places on the web. I don't know. It seems to me that anyone inciting hatred and violence, and certainly anyone running for higher office who instigates this type of hatred should be held accountable under federal law.

I am somewhat taken aback that a self-proclaimed "Christian" woman would incite a crowd to such hatred. But, then again, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who depicted himself as the defender of "Christian Europe" against "atheist Communism," also thought of himself as a Christian, didn't he?

I don't know if McCain and Palin think they are "Playing Ball," or what it is exactly they think that they are doing here, but they sure are playing with fire.

As a fellow blogosphere traveler recently put it:

"It is one thing to criticize your opponent, it is another thing entirely to goad audiences into thinking your opponent is the ENEMY.

The latter has no place in a civil democratic society. Of course some would argue that this nation is slowly abandoning the principles that make it a civil democratic nation.

White supremacy, Dominionist Christian theology, hatred/distrust of government....all the ingredients are there for something quite ugly."

Anonymous said...

Dana Milbank (The Washington Post) highlights another incident from Monday:

...Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."

In Mussolini's Italy, the fascists deployed "blackshirts" thugs to intimidate the Press and any opposition figures, and those who questioned the policy of their leader were denounced as as traitors.

Sounds familiar?

In the latest instance of inflammatory outbursts at McCain-Palin rallies, a crowd member screamed "treason!" during an event on Tuesday after Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of criticizing U.S. troops.

"[Obama] said, too, that our troops in Afghanistan are 'air raiding villages and killing civilians,'" Palin said, mischaracterizing a 2007 remark by Obama. "I hope Americans know that is not what our brave men and women in uniform are doing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is fighting terrorism and protecting us and protecting our freedom."

Shortly afterward, a male member of the crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, yelled "treason!" loudly enough to be picked up by television microphones.

jazzolog said...

Two extremely important comments Anonymous, thank you. I plan to post them widely at other sites. Here's another angle on the situation~~~

Flirting her way to victory
Sarah Palin's farcical debate performance lowered the standards for both female candidates and US political discourse
Michelle Goldberg, Friday October 03 2008 18:30 BST

At least three times last night, Sarah Palin, the adorable, preposterous vice-presidential candidate, winked at the audience. Had a male candidate with a similar reputation for attractive vapidity made such a brazen attempt to flirt his way into the good graces of the voting public, it would have universally noted, discussed and mocked. Palin, however, has single-handedly so lowered the standards both for female candidates and American political discourse that, with her newfound ability to speak in more-or-less full sentences, she is now deemed to have performed acceptably last night.

By any normal standard, including the ones applied to male presidential candidates of either party, she did not. Early on, she made the astonishing announcement that she had no intentions of actually answering the queries put to her. "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also," she said.

And so she preceded, with an almost surreal disregard for the subjects she was supposed to be discussing, to unleash fusillades of scripted attack lines, platitudes, lies, gibberish and grating references to her own pseudo-folksy authenticity.

It was an appalling display. The only reason it was not widely described as such is that too many American pundits don't even try to judge the truth, wisdom or reasonableness of the political rhetoric they are paid to pronounce upon. Instead, they imagine themselves as interpreters of a mythical mass of "average Americans" who they both venerate and despise.

In pronouncing upon a debate, they don't try and determine whether a candidate's responses correspond to existing reality, or whether he or she is capable of talking about subjects such as the deregulation of the financial markets or the devolution of the war in Afghanistan. The criteria are far more vaporous. In this case, it was whether Palin could avoid utterly humiliating herself for 90 minutes, and whether urbane commentators would believe that she had connected to a public that they see as ignorant and sentimental. For the Alaska governor, mission accomplished.

There is indeed something mesmerising about Palin, with her manic beaming and fulsome confidence in her own charm. The force of her personality managed to slightly obscure the insulting emptiness of her answers last night. It's worth reading the transcript of the encounter, where it becomes clearer how bizarre much of what she said was. Here, for example, is how she responded to Biden's comments about how the middle class has been short-changed during the Bush administration, and how McCain will continue Bush's policies:

Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education, and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? ... My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.

Evidently, Palin's pre-debate handlers judged her incapable of speaking on a fairly wide range of subjects, and so instructed to her to simply disregard questions that did not invite memorised talking points or cutesy filibustering. They probably told her to play up her spunky average-ness, which she did to the point of shtick - and dishonesty. Asked what her achilles heel is - a question she either didn't understand or chose to ignore - she started in on how McCain chose her because of her "connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills?"

None of Palin's children, it should be noted, is heading off to college. Her son is on the way to Iraq, and her pregnant 17-year-old daughter is engaged to be married to a high-school dropout and self-described "fuckin' redneck". Palin is a woman who can't even tell the truth about the most quotidian and public details of her own life, never mind about matters of major public import. In her only vice-presidential debate, she was shallow, mendacious and phoney. What kind of maverick, after all, keeps harping on what a maverick she is? That her performance was considered anything but a farce doesn't show how high Palin has risen, but how low we all have sunk. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

More and more blogs and media are picking up the incidents to which Anonymous refers. However, I have yet to find any video of the guy yelling "Kill him!" Surely everything Palin does in public gets recorded. I'm beginning to think the anecdote, which now the Secret Service is investigating, is apocryphal. However, this article provides links to the Clearwater rally~~~

jazzolog said...

Free marketeers everywhere probably would cheer this letter to the editor from the W.J. Cox CEO. According to its website, Cox provides "risk management services for forest industry clients". His letter in the current issue of Business Insurance defends entirely the $440,000 AIG junket to the spa~~~

TO THE EDITOR: It's easy to understand the public outrage over the American International Group Inc. "executive retreat" to the tune of $400,000, but it's not so easy to understand a like reaction within the insurance industry.

Firstly, it wasn't an executive retreat after all, but rather an incentive reward for top-producing agents in the life sector. Driven by our customers, those of us on the production side, whether life or property/casualty, are facing the question of whether to renew existing and/or place new accounts with AIG. A significant downturn in the flow of new business will undoubtedly sink any effort to stabilize the company. If I were in AIG's shoes and had an opportunity get in front of 100 of my top-producing agents to reassure them of our future, I would do so in a heartbeat—and at the reported cost, which frankly is miniscule for a company its size.

Certainly AIG could have done a better job explaining this to the public and their new government partners. This type of event is a common industry practice and has been analyzed from a cost/benefit stance ad infinitum.

In addition, the participants likely qualified contractually for this event last year. In my opinion, the event and the expenditure were not only justified but warranted.

Edward G. Wright, CPCU
President and Chief Executive Officer
W.J. Cox Associates Inc.

It's how you do business, folks. American International Group. I love corporate names like that! Faceless, apparently unassuming. Actually, according to the 2008 Forbes Global 2000 list, AIG was the 18th-largest company in the world. They sell insurance and have done so since 1919, when AIG's founder sold his first policy in Shanghai, thus becoming the first American to introduce insurance to the Chinese. The Federal Reserve Bank's rescue package of 85 billion dollars is the largest government bailout of a private company in U.S. history. On October 9, 2008, the company borrowed an additional $37.8 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

So how do I get cozy with this company I now own apparently, and which may hold my retirement pension---providing of course I ever can afford to retire? Since my problem with retirement has to do with paying for insurance, maybe I should get a job with them. And as Maureen Dowd shows us this morning, the perks still are terrific~~~

The New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist
After W., Le Deluge
Published: October 18, 2008

Just when we thought executives of A.I.G., the insurance giant bailed out by taxpayers for $123 billion, had been shamed into stopping their post-bailout Marie Antoinette spa treatments, luxury sports suites, Vegas and California posh resort retreats, we were dumbfounded to learn that some A.I.G. execs were cavorting at a lavish shooting party at a British country manor.

London’s News of the World sent undercover reporters to hunt down the feckless financiers on their $86,000 partridge hunt as they tromped through the countryside in tweed knickers, and then later as they “slurped fine wine” and feasted on pigeon breast and halibut.

The paper reported that the A.I.G. revelers stayed at Plumber Manor — not the ancestral home of Joe the Plumber, a 17th-century country house in Dorset — and spent $17,500 for food and rooms. The private jet to get there cost another $17,500, and the limos added up to $8,000 more.

In an astonishing let-them-eat-cake moment, the A.I.G. big shot Sebastian Preil held court at the bar and told an undercover reporter, “The recession will go on until about 2011, but the shooting was great today and we are relaxing fine.”

There were at least three New Yorkers bagging birds — Jeffrey Malkovsky, a senior director at A.I.G.’s Manhattan office, Hilary James, the general manager of the Bristol Plaza Hotel, and her friend, John Roberts, an A.I.G. adviser.

Who are these looters of our loot? The New York Times should follow up the excellent Portraits of Grief it did after 9/11 with Portraits of Greed.

Payback doesn’t have to go as far as the French Revolution. The grifters shafting us don’t have to shed blood, but they do have to give the money back. As far as these self-serving corporate con men and short-selling traders are concerned, off with their headsets.

John McCain wasted his last-chance debate Wednesday by trying to stir up faux class rage against Barack Obama with Joe the Unvetted Plumber instead of tapping into the real class rage the country feels over bailing out ungrateful financiers who gambled away the life savings of working people.

’Tis a far, far better thing that New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, did when he demanded that A.I.G.’s former executives who were trying to abscond with many millions in severance payments, bonuses and golden parachutes surrender the swag. He set a good example for the feds, who slapped Mr.(Richard)Fuld(Lehman Brothers C.E.O.)in the face with a subpoena.

Cuomo got A.I.G. to instantly reverse itself and cancel 160 conferences and other events that would have cost more than $8 million, as well as give up information on compensation, bonuses and other payments to determine whether they were fitting. (How could they be?)

“We stopped a $10 million severance payment to Stephen Bensinger, the chief financial officer,” Cuomo told me Friday. “Just look at the words chief financial officer. There’s a phenomenon when senior management sees the corporation deteriorating and they concoct a version of looting the company to take care of themselves.”

Even Cuomo, who has been locked in battle with A.I.G. for a long time, was stunned when he learned of the British hunting folly. At first he thought it could not be true.

“That was our partridge hunting trip,” he said. “The partridge paid the ultimate price, but the taxpayer came close.”

He is using a state “claw back” law, which he says allows him to recover contracts and rescind payments if there was unjust compensation.

Great. Now can he find the $123 billion lost by A.I.G. that we now have to plug with taxpayers’ money?

Let’s hope that if Barack Obama becomes president, the first thing he does is keep his promise to make the junketeers come to Washington (preferably by bus or carpooling) and write the U.S. Treasury a check, after which he will fire them on the spot.

Heads must roll.