Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Right kind of Hypocrisy

So much for those "frugal" Republicans that want to reduce taxes and otherwise spend our money wisely.

According to campaign finance reports for the first half of this month, the campaign paid $22,800 to a celebrity makeup artist who has been Palin's traveling stylist.

By comparison, McCain's foreign policy adviser was paid $12,500.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Free-Market Evangelizer comes to Jesus...

I do fault Clinton for signing the damn legislation in 1999 -- but this blind faith in "free-markets" mentality (a la Phil Gramm, et al) is at the heart of this problem.

Apparently even Greenspan - the evangelizer-n-chief - realizes it now...
The former Fed chair said that a securitization system that stimulated appetite for loans made to borrowers with spotty credit histories, was at the heart of the breakdown of credit markets.

"Without the excess demand from securitizers, subprime mortgage originators -- undeniably the original source of crisis -- would have been far smaller and defaults, accordingly, far fewer," he said.

A surge in demand for U.S. subprime securities, supported by unrealistically positive ratings by credit agencies, was the core of the problem, he added.
Where did that demand come from? The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
Title III, ensured the "Legal Certainty for Swap Agreements," which successfully divorced the granters of subprime mortgage loans from any obligation to ever collect on them. The law prohibited regulation of any of the new financial instruments permitted after the financial industry mergers.

Fannie/Fredie, Country-wide, etc. etc. were all facilitators for sure ... they were pressured to feed the beast. But why should an investment guy worry when you don't have to collect on the loan! Just create more "investments" and sell them off quickly -- who cares if they can't pay them back -- I sold it and made my profits!!

Now we'll all be paying for this debacle ... My 401k (likely like yours) is down more than 30% ... my financial adviser is recommending I sell most all of the mutual funds I have and buy blue-chips with high-dividend yields... and hold them for the next several years. At least I'll make a few percent on my money...

But I'm sure the faithful out there will somehow pin this on "liberal policies"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today's "right"

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Founder's quote for the day...

Thomas Jefferson quotes
Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.

-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Loosing control

This is what happens when you are backed by a propaganda machine that's willing to propagate anything to whip up the base...

McCain Faces Backlash Over Rabid Crowds
John McCain was booed by his own supporters during a rally on Friday after he described Barack Obama as a "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

McCain was responding to a town hall attendee who claimed he was concerned about raising a child under a president who "cohorts with domestic terrorists such as [Bill] Ayers." Despite the fact that McCain and his campaign have repeatedly used Ayers to hammer Obama in recent days, the Arizona Senator tried to calm the man.

"[Senator Obama] is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared about as President of the United States," he said, before adding: "If I didn't think I would be one heck of a better president I wouldn't be running."

The crowd groaned with disapproval.

Later, McCain was again pressed about Obama's "other-ness" and again he refused to play ball. "I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

"No, ma'am," McCain said several times, shaking his head in disagreement. "He's a decent, family man, [a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

I, like many progressives, disagree with many of McCain's policies -- and his history as a "deregulator" ... But everything I read takes issue with those policies and/or positions. Yet the right continually attacks Obama's "associations" -- or "otherness" ... tapping into that well-spring of xenophobia and other brain-stem emotions.

Such non-sense makes you wonder if our political system can survive another decade: let alone another 200 years.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The myth of the free market

This is why we need regulation...

Lehman Managers Portrayed as Irresponsible - NYTimes.com
Even as the investment bank Lehman Brothers pleaded for a federal bailout to save it from bankruptcy protection, it approved millions of dollars in bonuses for departing executives, a Congressional committee was told Monday.Another document showed that executives were warned in a January 2008 meeting that the company was facing liquidity problems. Yet the firm moved forward with capital outlays, including $5 billion in bonuses, $4 billion in shares and $750,000 in dividend payments between 2007 and the firm’s bankruptcy filing on Sept. 15.

One Lehman document among thousands reviewed by the House committee showed that four days before the bank filed for bankruptcy protection, Lehman’s compensation committee was asked to grant $20 million in “special payments” for three executives who were leaving,
But maybe these "smart folks" really earned their money - right? Well, for tens-of-millions in salary alone you'd hope at least the boss knew what was going on at his own company...
Testifying before the committee, Lehman’s chief executive, Richard S. Fuld Jr., said that he took full responsibility for the decisions he made while at the helm. But he also told lawmakers that it was unreasonable to expect that he should have seen the financial crisis coming.
In other words: he's supposedly worth the incredible salary he made, but he really couldn't be expected to actually know what his company was really doing and was really worth... Can you actually believe he had the gall to make that statement?

Free-markets are great when the market is open... when people with new ideas and better ways of doing something can easily enter (and leave) the marketplace. This is why software development and web entrepreneurship is vibrant: thousands of companies and individuals enter the marketplace with new ideas -- almost every day. You can start a software company in your den-- with little more than a $600 PC and dedication and a few good ideas.

And if you fail, your out: no government bail-outs.

But ask yourself how easy it would be to create the "better investment bank" (even if you had the most innovative idea in banking to come along in the last century)... And what are the consequences if a large one fails? Apparently, we can't just let them die.

The two industries present a completely different picture. But we're told (by conservatives who can't think past the phrase "free markets are good!") that free-market capitalism always provides the best solutions...

Why do so many Americans buy into this garbage? Why - because the Republican machine has been spewing the message for the last 30 years...

The only good to come out of this mess is the hope that people may learn a lesson... that ideology and the "purity of your economic theory" doesn't solve problems -- pragmatic thinking solves problems.