Saturday, November 8, 2008

Losing the Republican Scapegoat - Retiring the Innocent Bystander fable

In Salon, David Sirota exhorts President-elect Obama to think big and take advantage of a mandate to govern more progressively.

Only a few years ago, Democrats were almost relegated to permanent minority status by a Mission Accomplished sign and a flight suit. But since President Bush's 2004 reelection, they gained at least 50 House seats, 12 Senate seats, seven state legislatures and seven governorships. As Republicans used "socialism" attacks to make the election a referendum on conservatism, Democrats also registered their biggest presidential triumph since 1964.

What the party gains in strength, it loses in a Republican scapegoat that previously justified inaction. On huge issues -- whether re-regulating Wall Street, reforming trade, solving the healthcare emergency, or ending the Iraq war -- America envisages enormous progress in the months ahead, and Democrats will have no one to blame for failure but themselves. After all, with more than 360 electoral votes, President Obama cannot credibly claim he lacks the political capital to legislatively steamroll a humiliated GOP and its remaining senators.

To meet the challenge, Democrats have to abandon their worst habits.

They must, for instance, acknowledge their progressive mandate, rather than denying it as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did on Tuesday. "This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology," he fearfully told reporters.

They should also retire the Innocent Bystander fable about being powerless onlookers. Democrats first cited this myth as reason the Iraq war continued during their congressional majority -- expecting the country to forget that Congress can halt war funding.

Democrats need to discard other lies, too -- especially those about Bill Clinton. To hear the pundits tell it, Clinton's first-term pitfalls underscore why the next administration should avoid "governing in a way that is, or seems, skewed to the left," as the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus most recently asserted. History, of course, proves the opposite. Recounting Clinton's early years to Politico, a lobbyist correctly noted that the new president didn't move left -- he pushed conservative policies like NAFTA, thereby demoralizing his base and helping Republicans take Congress.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Forgive and deliver us

A dear friend forwarded a prayer to me, portions of which I excerpt below.

Forgive us for choosing the patterns of empire.
Thank you for using the weak to shame the strong
and the foolish to confound the wise.
Protect us from becoming too strong or too wise.
Protect us from ourselves.

Forgive us…
for the groaning of creation
for the millions who die of hunger and curable diseases
for warehousing people in prisons and using them for labor
for the scandal of billions wasted in war
for worrying about tomorrow and storing up more than this day our daily bread
for an economy that mirrors the seven deadly sins
for our Caesars and our Herods
for the violence and greed in our own hearts
Save us from ourselves.

Deliver us…
from the arrogance of power
from the myth of redemptive violence
from the tyranny of greed
from the ugliness of racism
from false hope and counterfeit change
from the cancer of hatred
from the seduction of wealth
from the idolatry of nationalism
from the paralysis of cynicism
from the ghettoes of poverty
from the ghettoes of wealth
from the blood-stained pages of history
and from the legacy of slavery.
Deliver us oh God.

Give us the courage…
to bless the poor in a world that blesses the middle class.
to bless the meek in a world that admires aggression.
to bless the hungry in a world that feeds the already fed.
to bless the merciful in a world that shows no mercy on evildoers.
to bless the pure in heart in a world of clutter and noise.
to bless the peacemakers in a world that baptizes bombs.

Give us imagination…
that we might not conform to the patterns of this world.
that we might shatter indifference and interrupt injustice with grace
that we might be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves
that we might consider the lillies and sparrows as they shame Wall Street’s splendor
that we might choose the dream of God over the dreams of nations

Everybody responsible for our post-Soviet era goat grope deserves to be horse whipped

Jeff Huber provides another of his always lucid, candid, compelling and well-reasoned assessments, this one regarding Obama in the foreign policy arena. Jeff's not bothered by the lack of experience but has serious concerns about who is advising him and what some of his advisers have already done. Huber continues to hammer home his points on the Iranian "threat" to the U.S. (non-existent in the absence of some stupid military or political move on that country) and how Iran has helped to reduce the violence in Iraq.

Obama's much-publicized lack of foreign policy experience didn't bother me. In fact, I consider it more of an asset than a limitation. In the main, Americans can be proud of the influence their country has had on humanity. We save the world three times in the 20th century, winning two world wars and the Cold War. But anybody who claims credit for the last 15 years or so of U.S. foreign policy is an idiot because everybody responsible for our post-Soviet era goat grope deserves to be horse whipped.

Obama didn’t draw his brain trust from the same tree that McCain plucked his off of, but apple and orange and pachyderm and ass alike, all those foreign policy wonks move in the same orbits.

One of their social functions this past year was thrown by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The occasion of this particular gala was a meeting of something WINEP calls the Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations. The Task Force released a report in August titled "How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge." Among the more alarming assertions of the report is that Israel and the U.S. should discuss taking "preventative military action" against Iran.

It's downright alarming, in fact, that Obama let two of his advisers endorse a policy statement drawn up by proxies of any foreign country, much less Israel. The change the Obama administration needs to make first and foremost is to stop letting Israel lead us around by the foreign policy tool. If the Israelis insist that we guarantee to keep them absolutely, positively safe from the Muslim world then let them move to Utah and pay our taxes. I'm sure they'll find a way to handle the Mormons all on their own.

Obama needs an adviser who will remind him that Iran's defense budget is less than one percent of ours, and that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and that Iran's conventional forces cannot possibly project power across the distance that separates it and Israel, and that by brokering a cease fire between Muqtada al Sadr and Nuri al Maliki, Iran is as responsible as General David Petraeus, if not more so, for the reduced levels of violence in Iraq. Obama also needs an adviser who will point out that General Petraeus's "brilliant job" in Iraq amounted to doing what Petraeus consistently accused the Iranians of doing: handing out money and weapons to Iraqi militants.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, somehow

The Sacrament Bee prominently featured a front page story of a Folsom, California Mormon family that contributed $50,000 towards the passage of California Proposition Hate.

Pam and Rick Patterson have always followed teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and tried to live within their means.

He drives a 10-year-old Honda Civic to his job at Intel. She is a stay-at home mom who makes most of the family meals and bakes her own bread. The couple, who have five sons between the ages of 3 and 12, live in a comfortable but modest three-bedroom home in Folsom.

It's a traditional lifestyle they believe is now at risk. That's why the Pattersons recently made a huge financial sacrifice – they withdrew $50,000 from their savings and donated it to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, the ballot measure that seeks to ban same-sex marriage.

"It was a decision we made very prayerfully and carefully," said Pam Patterson, 48. "Was it an easy decision? No. But it was a clear decision, one that had so much potential to benefit our children and their children."

I keep re-reading this article, desperately hoping to find just how this $50,000 decision is going to benefit their children and grand-children.

Mormon officials contend that this "is not a Mormon issue. And it shouldn't be portrayed that way," said Lisa West, spokesperson for the church in the Sacramento region.

West said church members have given generously to this issue because it strikes at the core of their beliefs – that marriage is between a man and a woman and lasts for eternity.

"The No. 1 reason members are donating and working toward this cause is the preservation of the traditional family," she said.

That's why Auburn resident David Nielson, 55, is giving. He said the church has not pressured him to contribute.

"Absolutely not," said Nielson, a retired insurance executive. He and his wife, Susan, live on a budget. The couple donated $35,000, he said, "because some things are worth fighting for."

If ever evidence was needed that insurance executives make too much money - this ought to be it. (a) Mr. Nielson is retired at age 55, and (b) This living-on-a-budget couple has $35,000 to give to a political cause. Oh, there WILL be sacrifices.

The couple will forgo a vacation for the next two years and make other sacrifices to pay for their donation, he said.

"If it doesn't pass, then at least I can tell my grandchildren I gave everything I could," Nielson said.

The article concludes with some more about the Patterson family:

The Pattersons, who have been married 14 years, say [they] were thinking about their children's future when they decided to tap into their savings to contribute. And they also said no one pressured them into giving.

They were reluctant to talk about their donation – not even their families knew how much they contributed – and agreed to do so only because it is listed on public campaign documents.

"The amount may surprise people," said Rick Patterson. "But people who know us, know how much the family means to us."

Will they regret donating so much of their savings if the ballot proposition fails?

"No. I feel totally at peace about it," Pam Patterson said. She said they will continue to live frugally. "We have done what we feel is right."

A decision that had so much potential to benefit their children and grand children. How exactly is this? By increasing the pool of potential wives from "merely" heterosexual females to heterosexual and lesbian females? Not so sure that will work out well. Or do they feel/fear that one of their own boys is homosexual and want to impress upon them an overwhelming sense of guilt?

Especially when, as Mormon officials contend, this is NOT a Mormon issue. (Just an issue with which some Mormons have taken a very significant financial stand on.)

The preservation of the traditional family. Well, many of the families with which I am familiar include one or both parents who have been divorced(or had marriages annulled at least once, and many other families where there has been no divorce have produced zero or one offspring.

None of the married gay couples I know would ever wish to deprive the rights of a Mormon family (nor any other family) to marry and create as many children as their hearts desire; to remain married forever. More to the point, the married gay couples I know would want, almost as much as anything, for those condemning their unions to come and spend some time in their houses. To see how they live their lives, sharing in the companionship of each other, and other members of the gay AND straight communities. Preparing meals, discussing the events of the day, their triumphs and disappointments in the work place, their dreams and aspirations for themselves, their hopes for the world, and especially for their children. Yes, married gay couples have children, loving, accepting children.

My sister's wife's daughter at age seven had this profound insight: “A family is a bunch of people, or not so many, who love each other.”

Those who feel their own marriage is somehow threatened by permitting same sex couples to marry probably have some underlying issues within the framework of their own marriage that need to be addressed. Your marriage is what YOU make it. Shouldn't being able to show the strength and commitment of your marriage to your children and your grandchildren be sufficient to prove its sanctity?

Let this not be a vain boast for the sake of posturing and political correctness

In a Pakistan Daily Times editorial, Farish A Noor makes an impassioned plea for President-elect Obama to truly oversee change in America vis-a-vis foreign raising fundamental questions and setting objective standards that will remove the oratorical promises of change from mere generalities to concrete deeds revoking the policies of the last four administrations.

note: URL error message keeps popping up when i try to link to this piece. Not sure what the problem is. URL =\11\07\story_7-11-2008_pg3_3

Obama’s campaign was, from the outset, driven by a simple message that nonetheless resonated with a vast cross-section of American society: The time has come for change. The old crumbling power structures that has for so long been dominated by the same incestuous community of white, upper middle class, elite men whose genealogies date back to the founding fathers of America, seems to have been opened up for a while, allowing for this rupture in the collective imaginary of the American people and forcing all of us to question some of the settled assumptions that have guided our understanding of America for perhaps too long.

Those of us who reside in Asia would have our own set of questions that ought to be put before the latest resident of the White House, and there are lingering dilemmas and quandaries that need to be laid to rest before we herald the coming of a new order.

For a start, let us begin with the claim that the victory of Obama will lead to a new America, one that is confident and strong. Obama’s promise was to restore, to America and Americans, the sense of pride that was severely compromised during the Bush years and to recover much of the credibility and standing that America has lost since the fateful invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

If America’s pride and dignity are indeed to be restored, then how? A strong America is not necessarily a bad thing, and even worse would be the prospect of an America falling apart at the seams and sending debris all over the world.

But for too long, America’s political elite have understood this grand project in terms that were decidedly militarist and hegemonic. A strong America need not and should not be understood as a license for greater American hegemonic influence, and certainly not greater military clout and belligerent prowess. This was precisely the fatal error of successive American governments beginning with the Reagan administration that sought to restore American pride following the country’s graceless exit from Vietnam in 1975.

Yes, we welcome a strong America that is grounded in Universalist principles, but no, we do not welcome a strong America that arrives on our shores with Humvees, stinger missiles and B-52s. (And lest we forget, B-52s do not make good ambassadors of goodwill.)

Related to this is the question of America’s moral standing and its moral credibility today, which is at an all time low. Mr Obama has reiterated his claim that he will seek to restore the image and moral credibility of the United States in the eyes of the world, but let this not be a vain boast for the sake of posturing and political correctness.

America has been using human rights and the promotion of democracy as a bargaining chip since the time of the Helsinki accord at the peak of the Cold War, and the Carter administration was keen to highlight the human rights abuses of other countries then, provided they were all in the Soviet bloc or showed signs of harbouring pro-leftist sympathies. During this period, both Democratic and Republican administrations paid scant attention to the horrendous human rights abuses that were taking place in countries that were firmly allied to American interests, ranging from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel to Indonesia and the Philippines.

No, Mr Obama, we will not take seriously your claims to defend fundamental liberties unless and until you personally see to it that institutions such as the prison at Guantanamo Bay are shut down during your watch. And don’t wait four years to do it, or you may end up like the incumbent leader of Malaysia who was also known to have waited too long before attempting his reforms.

Only then can America preach human rights with confidence and credibility, and when doing so please focus your attention on those countries most closely allied to your own American concerns too.

Mr Obama would also do well to relieve us Asians of the blight and burden of being designated as the ‘second front in the War on Terror’. During the Cold War, Southeast Asia was likewise called the second front in the ‘war on communism’, and the net result of this was the promotion of military dictatorships, the use of draconian laws, the wanton murder, torture and incarceration of millions of innocent Asians deemed dangerous due to their leftist sympathies, and the annexation of East Timor that took place under the nose of Washington.

Mr Obama should realise that the War on Terror has been nothing more than a blanket excuse used by the governments of Southeast Asia to curry favour with Washington, and to build a vast network of anti-terror centres, prisons, detention facilities and to further perpetuate antiquated colonial laws used to detain even more Asians, ostensibly to protect Americans and American foreign interests.

To expose the anti-terror scam for what it is — nothing more than an elaborate fiction and a lie that serves the economic interests of repressive regimes, arms manufacturers and the security industry — would not only raise the image of the America that Mr Obama wants to save, but also prove to us that America may still be able to redeem itself.

Thus for all these reasons, we hope and pray that America under its new president will prosper; but let it prosper with the world and not against it. American strength and pride should never be at the cost of the weakness and humiliation of other nations.

Why aren't people who got it right on the list?

At FiredogLake, Ian Welsh dismisses the present list of favorites for the Secretary of the Treasury as being pretty awful. Speculation apparently involves the names of Larry Summers, Tim Geithner of the NY Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Volcker, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, Laura Tyson who was chair of Clinton's council of economic advisers and Jon Corzine.

Ian then proposes some suggestions of his own (all of which sound quite good to me):

Here's the question—why aren't people like Roubini, Krugman and Stiglitz on it? Why aren't people who got it right, early, and who are actually reasonably progressive, on the list? Or even Robert Reich, who called it in 2005?

Damn fine question Ian.

A vote for peace abroad, social and economic justice at home

Black Agenda Report's managing editor Bruce Dixon takes a clear-eyed look at what Barack Obama brings to the Oval Office. Dixon sees many warning signs, alarm clocks sounding loudly, suggesting that while the faces will change, the policies are quite likely to remain the same. Unless, WE THE PEOPLE, take steps to hold the incoming administration and congress accountable, to change the things they have been elected to change.

The vote for the First Black President wasn't just about race and racism. For tens of millions, it was a vote for peace abroad, for economic and social justice at home. Barack Obama sold himself to the American people as a transformative political figure.

Despite those who now urge Americans to tone down their expectations, many are prepared to collect on the hopes that swept Obama into office. Those hopes and expectations are what we call the Obama Check.

The question is, can we cash it?

The First Black President carries with him into the Oval Office the hopes and dreams and aspirations of many people he will never meet, but who imagine they know his heart and intentions. Although these things were not on the ballot, and were kept largely out of the discussions by the media and the candidates themselves, the tens of millions who voted for Obama did so because in the main, they want an end to the war. They want to see the military budget and the prison population reduced. They want single payer national health care. They want a more just economy and they objected strenuously to Bush's --- and Obama's bailout of Wall Street.

The day Obama takes office, there will be an incredible 1.1 million African Americans behind bars, a proportion eight times that of whites. Before the mortgage market meltdown the wealth of black families was about one eleventh that of whites. Since then, it's fallen off a cliff. Whether we look at education, at wages, at morbidity, mortality, unemployment or mass incarceration the gaps between whites and blacks in the US are wide and still growing. With the nation's First Black President installed, many whites will solemnly assure us that the US is not now, if it ever was, a racist society. The First Black President-elect seems to agree with them, having told us all a year before electing him that we were “90% of the way” to a non-racist society.

The day the First Black President is sworn in the US economy will still be, in the words of economist Michael Hudson a polite fiction, based on phantom assets, phony profits, inflated valuations, and outright fraud, a house of marked cards where even the bankers know not to trust each other. Millions of families will still face foreclosure, eviction and bankruptcy. Tens of millions more are in debt up to their necks, afflicted with ever-rising interest rates thanks to the tireless efforts of Obama's running mate Joe Biden, sometimes known as the Senator from MasterCard.

Dr. King told us more than forty years ago that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." On the day the First Black President, supposedly the fulfillment of King's dream, takes office, the US will be spending more on arms and the military than the rest of the planet combined. But by declaring that he would increase the Pentagon's budget even over what Cheney and Bush spent at the expense of housing, education and whatever else, the First Black President has already stopped payment on this part of the check.

The day after the election, and the day the First Black President takes office, at least 44 million Americans will have no health insurance at all, and tens of millions more are underinsured. One third of every health care dollar spent in the US goes to maintain private insurance companies, indisputable parasites on the process of health care delivery, making the US health care system the most expensive in the world, even though it takes care of a smaller percentage of its population than any other advanced industrial country.

The day the First Black President takes office there will be over 800 US military bases spanning the globe, more troops in Iraq than were there in 2005 or 2006, US fleets menacing Iran and intermittently bombing Somalia, and a war in Afghanistan. The First Black President will draw down troops in Iraq to send them to Afghanistan, his threats to Iran are identical to those of George Bush ... and he does not speak of the ongoing US military involvement in the Horn of Africa. Our First Black President, every but as much as Dick Cheney, has embraced the phony “war on terror” as the organizing principle of American life.

Drop our illusions and start organizing

Like Chuck Spinney, Joshua Frank writes in Counterpunch about what Obama's choices for Secretaries of Treasury and Defense will be very telling about HOW the Obama administration will govern. Frank is not comforted by the selection of Rham Emanuel for Chief of Staff.

While the election of Barack Obama is a blow to George W. Bush-Republicanism and a gain for racial equality in this country, it is in many ways only a symbolic victory. The future of the U.S.’s foreign and economic agenda will continue to be saturated with ideologies and individuals that are directly responsible for our current predicament, both in the Middle East and domestically.

Celebrating the end of the ugly Bush era is one thing. Celebrating the continuation of their policies with a different administration in the White House is quite another. With these prospective appointments, Obama seems to be moving backwards to Clintontime. This may be sufficient change for some, but it far from a progressive push toward social, economic, and environmental justice.

For significant change to happen, the kind that is needed in order to mend the wounds of the Bush years, we have to put down our Obama signs and force Congress and the new administration to end the wars in the Middle East, and push for regulating the financial industry while providing true universal health-care and economic safety-nets for all Americans.

Given the make up of his potential advisors, we're in for a long uphill battle. So let's drop our illusions and start organizing, beginning with a discussion of what “organizing” even means in today’s political climate.

An early indicator of Obama's real intentions will be

Writing in Counterpunch, Chuck Spinney presents a compelling analysis of President-elect Obama's campaign strategy in terms of military theory advanced by Col. John R. Boyd.

Spinney notes, as have others, that as splendid and soaring as Obama's oratory almost always was, there's not too much "there" there. Both Senators Clinton and McCain failed to exploit the lack of specificity about how change would be accomplished. Instead they tried to wear the Obama "change agent" cloak hoping it would better fit them when clearly both were deeply embedded establishment figures - both were more of the same.

The M&M or Motherhood and Mismatch Strategy was conceived by the American strategist, Col. John R. Boyd. The basic goal of an M&M strategy is to build support for and attract the uncommitted to your cause by framing a "motherhood" position -- i.e., a position no one can object to, like the mythical "motherhood, apple pie, and the American way" -- and then inviting your opponent in to repeatedly attack it and, in so doing, smash himself to pieces at the mental and the even more decisive moral level of conflict. Self-destruction will happen inevitably, if you can successfully induce your adversary into attacking your motherhood position in a way that exposes mismatches among the three poles of his moral triangle, defined by (1) What your opponent says he is; (2) What he really is as defined by his actions; and (3) the World he has to deal with. Whether consciously or not, I believe Obama has an intuitive feel for the moral leverage inherent in the M&M strategy and this enabled him to outmaneuver McCain and his campaign and bring them to the verge of mental and moral collapse. That Obama also did this to Hillary Clinton suggests it is no accident.

The key to setting up a successful M&M strategy is building the Motherhood position, then making it into a moral fortress. This is easier said than done, because it involves defining your cause nontrivially in self-evidently positive terms and then shaping the environment as well as your self-definition in a way that always reinforces that motherhood position. Mr. Obama defined himself initially as a unifier and a change agent for a divided country in which a clear majority of people believed their nation was on the wrong pathway into the future. Who can argue with that definition? To be sure, it is an empty vessel, but it is pure motherhood, and it works like a charm if you can maneuver your adversary into playing by your rules.

Clearly, Obama can talk the talk. But, how will he choose to walk the walk? Spinney suggests that certain political appointments will indicate just how much of an agent for unity and change Obama will be.

But a larger question remains: Does Obama really intend to deliver on his twin promise of unity and change. Neither of his main adversaries in the race for President had the strategic sense or the ability to smoke out how Obama actually intends to fulfill the soaring hopes and dreams that his M&M strategy unleashed. An early indicator of his real intentions will become clear when he name his Treasury Secretary and Defense Secretary. If he picks one of the democratic apparatchiks or ex-Clintonites who magnified existing problems that Bush made worse, Obama's presidency will become just another step down the slippery slope that got its first real greasing by the guns and butter decision-making style of the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Waiting for new voices

Here are some excerpts from a year-old Robert Chalmers interview with Studs Terkel

"... How does it feel when you're 95 and almost every ideal you ever cherished is under threat; when your nation's government has become less peaceful and more bloodthirsty; less equitable and more shamelessly driven by greed? What's it like, towards the end of a lifetime devoted to civil-rights activism, to find your country led by a president more right-wing and nakedly acquisitive than any other in your memory?"

I once wrote a book called Hope Dies Last. I believe that. I might feel hopelessness, except for one thing: the young. I don't mean the young as they're portrayed in TV commercials: whores, bimbos and dummies. There are many who do not fall into those categories. The big problem is that there's no memory of the past. Our hero is the free market. People forget how the free market fell on its face way back in the Depression. And how the nation pleaded with its government and got help. Today, all these fat CEOs say we don't need government. And these fat boys get away with it, because of our collective Alzheimer's, and the power of Rupert Murdoch and CNN. There is despair in this country, sure. At the same time, we are waiting."

"For what?"

"For new voices."

"Do you see any good ending to Bush's war in Iraq?"

"You say 'Bush's war'... I believe he is just an idiot. It's more a matter of those who advised him, looking for oil."

"Is there a politician who could make a difference, at this point?"

"That's the big question. Hillary Clinton won't. Al Gore I think could – if he ran. Barack Obama might. And I mean, might."

"So where is the hope that you talked about going to spring from?"

"From young people, like I said. From their ability to organise. I believe the internet may have an even stronger influence than people have realised. Albert Einstein said that when you join an organisation – and that could be anti-war, anti-pollution, or pro the rights of lesbians and homosexuals – Einstein said that, once you join, you have more individuality, not less. Because you are another person who wants to count."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Obama Speech

From Grant Park in Chicago - watched in on ABC. Inspiring rhetoric. The Grant Park witnesses, reacted completely differently from their republican counterparts when Obama mentioned John McCain: In Grant Park, the witnesses applauded (politely).

The announcer declared it the best Obama speech he had ever heard, adding, "and that's really saying something. It was passion, power,
politics, poetry."

And now, the real work begins.

I wish you well Mr. President.

Andrew Young at Ebenezer Baptist Church

In a CBS interview with Ambassador Andrew Young at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia, upon hearing that the state of Pennsylvania has been called for Obama describes this as:

"A victory for
"faith over fear
"Grace over greed
"Vision over violence"

Let us all so pray.

New Hampshire's moved WAY left

WTTW's Tonight in Chicago show host Phil Ponce interviewing James Durkin, national legislative co-chairman for McCain, discussing New Hampshire. "New Hampshire's moved WAY left."

Former Illinois Governor James Edgar - the Republican party in Illinois my remain moderate to be viable.

Robert Starks, professor from Northeastern Illinois University: the reason for the tsunami of African American voters was to overcome to dirty tricks the other party would play. Phil Ponce asked no follow up question, and asked for no clarification. James Durkin said not a word.

Later on, Durkin blames the media, especially the New York Times more than the economy for the "swing" towards Obama. Professor Starks counters, "What about Fox News?" Durkin says, "just one small TV station."

Can you see me at all?

Watching PPS - WTTW in Chicago. Ray Suarez interviewing Tucker Bounds at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Tucker's chin is resting on his chest. There is no smile on his face.

And in the background, the Beatles are singing - Nowhere Man.

How deliciously ironic and appropriate.

He's a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, please listen,
You don't know what you're missin',
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command.

(lead guitar)

He's as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?

Nowhere Man, don't worry,
Take your time, don't hurry,
Leave it all 'till somebody else
lends you a hand.

Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere man please listen,
you don't know what your missin'
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command

He's a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

This is democratic malpractice

At Digby's Hullaballoo, Tristero makes an impassioned plea to all Americans to vote.

The fight for 2012 began a long time ago. Assuming we are lucky enough to have an Obama victory tomorrow, the fight to destroy his presidency will begin immediately - in fact, it's already begun. The single best thing all Americans can do to prevent that from happening is to vote, no matter how long the lines, no matter how the election is called before all the polls are closed, no matter what.

Tristero also weighs in on networks "calling" the election early. How early? Before the polls in New York.

People, this is democratic malpractice, voter suppression. Senate and House races will be affected by this, as will the tally to defeat odious ballot initiatives like Prop Hate in California.

By way of analogy, Digby points out:

if the networks call the election early they will not only run the risk of being wrong, they will likely lower turnout in the west. That will affect our congressional and senate races as well as important ballot initiatives.

There is no reason for this ... They tease the results of the news for hours including the all important sporting events... There is no reason that they can't hold off calling the election until the polls are closed. None. Considering their egregious performance just eight years ago, I find it mind-boggling that they are talking about doing this.

Is there prestige (to the networks) in being the first to call the election correctly? Perhaps. We all should remember how the pundits hovered like vultures trying to scoop the Obama campaign's announcement of the democratic party Vice Presidential pick before it would be text messaged to Obama supporters. Is there political favor to be gained by potentially mucking up the works and offering premature calls as to the winner?

To impute motive is not helpful. The facts are these:

1. TV "News" Programs typically tease the viewer in order to keep watching, talking about WHAT they are going to talk about later on. Rather than offer an inducement for viewers to keep watching, calling the election early gives viewers a reason to turn off the tube.

2. Presidential elections are covered as "horse races" (sporting events) because that's a simpler story than going all substantive on issues (which are nuanced and detailed), or looking at the records of the candidates (which might look like negative reporting - ESPECIALLY in the case of McCain). If sports results were reported first thing on the news, viewership would quite likely decline thereafter.

3. Calling an election early tends to stifle voter turnout (Mayor Richard Daley the first was credited with no small amount of political genius for having the Chicago votes reported as quickly as possible, to make it look as if Kennedy had clinched Illinois, when in fact, Kennedy's Illinois margin was less than 10,000 votes).

Perhaps the networks should be deluged with phone calls saying please do not call the elections before the polls close. I'll call. Will you?

Monday, November 3, 2008

You have to think about the cost benefit ratio

Today's Washington Post contained an article entitledSeeking Shelter in Business Schools which was not about a place where the homeless might congregate but rather about a place to "hide out" from the present day realities in the world of high finance.

The article concludes with these paragraphs:

For those on the outside looking in, business school, with its cachet in the job market, is an enticing reprieve. But not just any reprieve will do, according to Elliott, who said his 401(k) investments lost 20 percent of their value since the market collapsed.

A lower-tier business school, he said, may not be worth the tuition. "You have to think about the cost-benefit ratio," he said.

Can't help but thinking, don't we presently have an MBA President? And didn't he get that MBA from Hahvahd?

And aren't the banking, brokerage and insurance industries in whole whale of a lot money woes from low cash flows the over-valuation of credit default swaps and deregulation of a raft of financial product weapons of mass destruction?

And weren't many of those money woes self-inflicted ... by ... gasp ... MBA's from such prestigious institutions as "The Chicago School", Hahvahd, Yale, Stanford, etc etc

Would the curriculum at one of the "low-tiered" business schools be much different from what inferentially would be a high-tiered business school?

Might one entertain the possibility that all these MBA factories have contributed and mightily so to the present financial meltdown? The Enron scandal? Long-Term Capital Management?

Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) was a hedge fund located in Greenwich, Connecticut. The founders included two Nobel Prize-winning economists, Myron Scholes and Robert C. Merton. Scholes and Merton, among other things, developed along with the late Fischer Black, the Black-Scholes formula for option pricing. LTCM also included as guiding spirit John Meriwether, a former vice chairman of Salomon Brothers and famous bond trader. David Mullins, a former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System was also part of the LTCM team. Also several important arbitrage analysts from Salomon Brothers joined LTCM. Eric Rosenfeld left Harvard University to join LTCM. It was a very elite group.

The idea behind LTCM was quite simple to articulate but not necessarily that easy to implement. LTCM was to look for arbitrage opportunities in markets using computers, massive databases and the insights of top level theorists. These opportunities arose when markets deviated from normal patterns and [were] likely to re-adjust to the normal patterns. By creating hedged portfolios the risks could be reduced to low levels. According to the model developed by Merton the risk could be reduced to zero, but in practice some of the crucial assumptions of Merton's model did not hold so the risk of the hedged portfolios was not really zero, as subsequent events proved...

Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) was the management arm of a hedge fund that operated from its founding in 1993 to its liquidation in early 2000. It went through a period of spectacular success from 1994 to early 1998. In August of 1998 Russia defaulted on its debt and the financial markets came unraveled. Historical regularities that had prevailed failed to hold and LTCM which had bet on those regularities nearly went bankrupt. It was saved only by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York sponsoring a bailout of LTCM by its creditor banks. The Fed justified its intervention on the basis of the potential of the failure of LTCM precipitating a financial crisis and the creditor banks were enticed into extending credit to LTCM because their financial losses in a general financial crisis could well be more than what they stood to lose if LTCM defaulted on its loans.

An old actuarial joke says:

That's all very well in practice.
But, will it work in theory?

Okay, so the supposedly best and brightest minds of the times thought they could "function like a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up nickles that everyone else had overlooked."

It worked spectacularly, for a while. And then, it almost all came undone. The conclusion that THE RISK COULD BE REDUCED TO ZERO was valid only under flawed and eventually failing assumptions.

Did anyone ever take note?

Yes indeed. In 1997, Molly Ivins was NOT bedazzled by Allan Greenspan.

[O]ur economy is in the hands of Greenspan, a former member of that fat-head Ayn Rand's inner circle and a man who believes that S&Ls, banks and Wall Street should be free from all regulation. You will not read this in the Establishment press, which (in Robert Sherrill's phrase) "slobbers" on Greenspan, but based on his record, the man is a fool. Starting with the infamously idiotic "Whip Inflation Now" campaign of the 1970s, Greenspan has contributed to almost every economic unpleasantness of the past 24 years.

He helped defeat Jerry Ford by advising the poor man to reduce government spending in the middle of a recession. With unemployment at 8 percent and the economy in the worst recession in 14 years, Greenspan blithely denied that there was a recession. He helped defeat Jerry Ford by advising the poor man to reduce government spending in the middle of a recession. With unemployment at 8 percent and the economy in the worst recession in 14 years, Greenspan blithely denied that there was a recession.

Both Kevin Phillips and William Greider have dissected Greenspan's performance as the Reagan-appointed head of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1981. And what a performance that was: a $200 billion tax increase, which was was hopelessly regressive and (in Phillips' words) "a slick use of Social Security dollars to reduce pressures for a higher top income tax rate." Following his pattern of the 1970s, Greenspan again took us into a recession in 1990 and then ignored it, causing untold damage.

He has continued his winning ways in the Clinton administration. In 1992, the deal was that if Clinton lowered the deficit, Greenspan would lower interest rates. Clinton lowered the deficit significantly, and Greenspan proceeded to raise interest rates seven times (per The Nation, March 11, 1996). He was back to his old tricks last week, bumping interest rates to benefit banks and bondholders.

Whatever honchos is learning in business school, the results have ultimately proven to be disastrous.