Friday, March 21, 2008

The Times That Try (Hu)Men's Souls

That Frenchman, Phil Donahue, has a movie coming out called "Body of War" about Iraq veteran Tomas Young. Phil and his partner, Ellen Spiro, were on Bill Moyers last nite. Try to catch the rerun if you can, and see more here. It's quite good. Moving. Very non- POTUS '08. Phil has even excerpted portions of the Senate/House "debate" of October '02. I can't wait to see this in it's entirety.
Also, this past week, Democracy Now! has played portions of the current Winter Soldier hearings in Washington DC. You can also see them at the Iraq Veterans Against the War site, here. There's some patriotism for ya.

"These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

Published on 23 December 1776, Thomas Paine

Friday Music Blogging

U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Lord, this one's for you.

May this Good Friday find you blessed with Our Lord's presence, and brighter days to come.

Even if you don't believe, if only because I do.

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well, yes, I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

"Typical White Person"

Excuse me?

“She is extremely proud, and the point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, you know, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, there is a reaction that has been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way…

“That’s the nature of race in our society,’’ Obama added in the call to the radio station, “and we have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling a little less like that, and that’s pretty powerful stuff.’’

Excuse me, again? "Typical white person," Mr. "There is no black America, there is no white America, there is only the United States of America"?

EXCUSE ME?????????????

Look, pal, I was a liberal with interracial friends when you were still sitting in madrassah classes in Indonesia. I consider myself a white person and I'd like to think of myself as fairly typical.

I grew up in Manhattan. My dentist was on 125th Street, a few blocks away from where Bill Clinton's office is now. I've played in the fucking Rucker Basketball Tournament in Harlem. Don't lecture me about being afraid of black men, you sanctimonious son of a bitch! I walked down the streets of Harlem alone in the dark when most New Yorkers, white AND black, were afraid to step out their front doors! Even Jesse Jackson said he would be afraid when he heard footsteps behind him and turned around and saw a black man!

It's nice to know so many of us "progressives" are backing a bigot!

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Wow, pretty exciting Thursday night, huh? Obama's international travels were reviewed, not once, not twice, but three times! And Scary Black Pastorrrrrrrrrrr attended a White House function in 1998! OMG! He stains Hillary too!


1) So three separate people on three separate occasions looked at Obama's passport records. Ironically, this monitoring system was put in place after it had been revealed that the Karl Rove-led Bush re-election team had misused White House authority to investigate then-Presidential hopeful Bill Clinton's travels in Russia.

2) I'm tending to chalk this up to three knuckleheads trying to impress their dates or friends or something. I think the Obama camp reaction is a bit over the top: yes, investigate the incidents, yes, blame the State Department and the White House, but I think it stops there. Bill Burton and Eric Holder ought to get a grip. Stupid people do stupid things, and it got compounded by even stupider people (like the independent contractor overseeing this matter) doing even stupider things (like not notifying State in a timely fashion in an attempt to keep their contract).

3) Which raises the ugly spectre of Obama's tendency towards overreaction to even the slightest hint of impropriety. A levelheaded leader would give some thought to the fact that there's a process, and that an investigation will show what the facts are. This reeks of the Republican congress in 1996, versus the Clinton White House.

4) One unintended consequence of the Fed rate cut. As usual, the little guy gets squeezed for the big guy's profit. Community-based initiatives for economic growth should be a prominently featured package of any Presidential candidates bid. So far, I've only heard Hillary talk about this.

5) Everybody who read this story probably thought about Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, and figured the ray was defending itself. I didn't. Neither did many divers. We know that a 500 lb eagle ray can breach the water (sometimes they get startled, sometimes they leap to clear some parasites). This was an unlucky woman in an unlucky place.

6) Oh...the scary black pastor story. Some asshole set up a blog, anonymously, to defend Trinity Church and Rev. Wright, posting a bunch of stories and pictures about him. Fair enough. Rev. Wright led a congregation of 3,000 and if I'm a black Chicago ambitious politician, I'm a member too. You're not going to find a better place to network on the South Side, I'm sure. That he met with the Clintons is no surprise either. Big Dog was the first black President, after all. Bill also met with Jesse Jackson, not precisely a moderate-speaking pastor all his life, as well as Billy Graham, who also has said some bizarre stuff.

So what?

7) Presumably this is a VP signal from Obama. Presumably, this is a VP signal from Hillary. So long, dream ticket!

8) It looks like the trouble in Tibet is flaring up again, now that winter is ending. China is desperate to keep this tamped down ahead of the Olympics without taking drastic measures. Tibetans must know this.

9) 2,200 prisoners face death in prison in this country, all of them under the age of 18.

10) Too much weird let's pile on more! I know how this guy feels. OK, not quite as bad, but I was married!

11) Holographic television just took one step closer.

12) I don't know how you did on your brackets last night, but I got clobbered. Baylor? UGA? What was I thinking????

13) Finally...Moral turpitude? They still have that????

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why The World Is Topsy-Turvy

You get the impression that there is a distinct disconnect between the real world, the world of people living in the reality of life, and what goes on in the news.

You wouldn't be far off. Exhibit A is this item from the Associated Press:
NEW YORK (AP) -- A rise in jobless claims and a drop in a key forecasting gauge provided the latest evidence that the U.S. economy is faltering and may be slipping into recession.

The Conference Board, a business-backed research group, said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators fell in February for the fifth consecutive month. The index, which is designed to forecast where the nation's economy is headed in the next three to six months, dipped 0.3 percent to 135.0 in February after slumping 0.4 percent the month before.

In Washington, meanwhile, the Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits totaled 378,000 last week. That was an increase of 22,000 from the previous week and the highest level in nearly two months.

The four-week average for new claims rose to 365,250, which was the highest level since a flood of claims caused by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes.
That's pretty sucky news, to be sure. Those are leading economic indicators, "leading" in this instance, meaning "forecasting".

The stock market is generally a lagging indicator, or one that confirms what we've all known all along about the economy:
In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 158.02, or 1.3 percent, to 12,257.68. Other indexes also were up.
Admittedly, this week the market has been up and down more times than a cheap date in a poolroom bar.

And despite the recent anomaly of Bear Stearns, investment banks have been losing money less rapidly than analysts expected, which has buoyed the market.

Yes, losing money is considered a positive on the Street. It doesn't matter that you've lost money. What matters is that you beat the analysts at their own game.

Kinda silly. It's a lot like the Jets losing to New England by two touchdowns, but hey, the spread was three touchdowns, so hurrah!

And there's the clue: money lives in a different world than you or I do. Money, like power, live in lofty regions that if we're lucky, we'll glimpse.

See, this is why even the debate over race v. gender, Republican v. Democrat, black v. white, even to a large degree, poor v. rich pales in my mind. None of this matters.

Indeed, about the only way it matters is that these divisions can be used by a certain stratum of society that wants us to keep fighting amongst ourselves. Maybe not every single member of that stratum-- indeed, many of these folks work for the good of the planet-- but there is a general momentum towards keeping the lid on things.

Think about this for a moment: Bill Gates has more in common with Bono of U2 than he does with Bob, the guy who mows his lawn.

Bob and he live in the same neighborhood. Bob and he breathe the same air, drive the same roads, see the same sun each day.

But who can call Gates at the drop of a hat?

I specifically used Gates and Bono, because, folks, these are the good guys! Now imagine, if Gates has so little in common with the lawn guy, what would we expect from, say, Dick Cheney?

I was tempted to use George Bush, but this elite "social order" tends to be pretty choosy as to whom they make long-term members. My suspicion is, once he's left the White House, there will be no more deals except for whatever crumbs his daddy can bestow upon him and I'm not sure Poppy is much for that anymore.

I say all this, because I wanted to make a larger point: the Internet.

See, you have more in common, right now, with someone sitting at his computer in Lahore, Pakistan or Birmingham, England, or Vladivostok, Russia, than you do with your Senator, possibly even your Congresscritter.

Re-read that. You have more in common with someone sitting at his computer in a hovel in Pakistan than you do with the guy who's supposedly voting your interests in Washington, DC.

(This dynamic is also why I firmly believe Hillary will win the nomination, since it has to go to the superdelegates: more skin in the game for her.)

And this, too, is partly why stock markets don't really feel your pain. They would rather support the guy who's firing you and paying them a higher dividend, than mourn with you.

Truthfully, looking down the road, I don't see a whole lot that we can do to turn this thing around, short of blood in the streets. We could, I suppose, start interacting with people across the ponds. That would be a good thing, of course, Information should be traded, and this would help others as well as ourselves.

Maybe in so doing, we can start to wake up to the fact that the earth and everything in it is ultimately a zero sum game. There's only one earth with limited-if-substantive resources, which means that as one person gains, another must by definition lose, or more correctly, one person, plus the earth and its resources.

David Suzuki likes to tell a story about a bacterium, placed in a beaker with all the food it could possibly want. The bacterium begins to reproduce, doubling it's population every second, so that after 60 seconds, it will have used up all its resources and the entire colony will die off.

After 59 seconds, the beaker would only be half full. At fifty eight seconds, a quarter full, and so on.

If, at fifty five seconds, one of the colony spoke up and said "Hey, we're going to die in five seconds!" the other would have laughed him off.

"How can you say that? We still have 98% of the beaker left to go!"

When we speak upwards, truth to power, we have to overcome the numbnuts in our midsts who would say something like "98%!" back to us. What we need to do is to foment the belief amongst ourselves and our peers that we have to stop this, from the ground up.

By "this", I mean the segregation of people along strata and class lines delineated by power. It's not enough that we dismantle the power structure in America anymore, the Eisenhower "military-industrial complex" is too simplistic to describe a world where the President of the United States and the head of Al Qaeda, as well as a B-list shlub blogger in New York City, all profit from the same investment firm's trough.

A fundamental change in society, and I'm not just talking political change and I'm not just talking America, is on the horizon.

A "New World Order" was a good idea, in theory, until you start to realize that the people who are putting it together are more beholden to the megacorporate entities that foot their campaigns political and military than they are to the people who they chew up and spit out in those campaigns.

Change from the bottom up, like democracy, cannot be forced on people. It has to be coaxed in order for it to be effective and it has to start with one voice, speaking to another voice. There's precious little time left, so we have to start now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Medical Update

OK, yes, it's been three weeks and believe it or not, there hasn't been news on this front since then.

You may recall that another tumor was taken out of the inside of my nostril and tested malignant.

Well, two confirming tests in the interim have come back non-malignant, so all that's left is to close up my nose...or install a gill.

That's now scheduled for April 1. No joke.

Oppression Impressions

I'd like to expand on my thoughts regarding Obama's speech yesterday, and why I think there's an enormous gap in his thinking.

If Obama had spoken truthfully, and he touched upon this in his speech, he would have said the following:

I repudiate and denounce Rev. Wright's specific comments, and make no apologies or defense for them. Further, I apologize to Senator Clinton, because his comments make it sound as though she has never been discriminated against. They were wrong-headed and stupid.

However, some of the issues he raises, about inequality, are issues we Democrats have been trying to address for decades. We've been trying to level the playing field, to make opportunity possible for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or orientation. That the issues coalesce around race is a function of the simple ability to identify a black man or woman by sight.

And gone on from there. There's a speech that truly speaks to unity, to making people understand that it's not about black or white, female or male, poor or rich.

It's about equality. Fairness. Justice.

Go read his speech. Not once, NOT ONCE, does he mention being a woman in America, or being gay, or being anything else but African American (he does have one instance of talking about the working classes, in passing).

Rev. Wright's hideous comments deserved to be repudiated, and then expanded upon to mine the kernel of truth within. People are hurting in George Bush's America. People are hurting a LOT more in George Bush's America than they were in Bill Clinton's America, despite Obama's attempts to rewrite history to suit his purposes.

If your campaign is based solely on words, and those words themselves are found lacking and half-hearted, then what's to be made of your candidacy and your heart?

Imagine John Edwards making this same speech. He would not have limited himself to describing the "black experience" but would have correctly pointed out that this describes Two Americas. It was the one big reason I voted for Edwards in 2004 and the one big reason he remained in my considerations going into the primary season this year.

He gets it. I see this all around me. America is supposed to be about opportunity, but America is slipping away from those who have had a hard time keeping up.

Indeed, I'd make the case that America is turning its back on those who can't keep up.

It's not about minorities, because in truth, any equality program would begin with the majority who suffer degradations in this society: women.

African Americans make up, what? Less than a quarter of America's population?

Women make up 51%, and you can look that up. By addressing only the "black experience," Obama foolishly leaves out an entire group of Americans that can speak bigger volumes about repression, degradations, discrimination, even physical and mental abuse.

It's about levelling the playing field. Again, Bill Clinton's legacy. Instead of spending so much time defending the indefensible, he could have easily done 26 minutes on how the poor and working class see their jobs lost, with no hope of a better future even for their children through education and training.

How in this country, the quiet shame is that the largest group of poverty stricken Americans is not blacks or whites, but single mothers. Women. How economic "opportunity" for them usually means choosing between losing a job or taking care of a sick child.

He squandered a golden moment in American history to speak about how race is no longer codified in law, but in money, and how to break those chains requires an intensive effort to move the country forward in economics, not in some ethereal dialogue regarding "scary black men," as one commenter at my blog put it.

But what really got my knickers in a twist was how he so off-handedly claimed the mantle of repression as the "black experience" when in truth, women have had it far worse, for far longer, and have only recently made up some of the grounds that African Americans have taken from American white male hegemony.

How many women can sit alone in a bar reading a book and not worry about how many eyes are mentally undressing her? Or walk down a street, for that matter?

How many women can run for President without being called a "bitch" or "Hitlery" or "cunt"? How many women can attain an executive office in a corporation without having smears of "sleeping her way up" being launched?

Why does a woman have to act "like a man" to be taken seriously?

Hell, we even joke about how long it takes for a woman to pee in a public place, which by all rights should be an insult to anyone! If blacks had to queue up for the few toilets while whites had a few dozen, there'd be marching in the street.

Even Obama himself, blinded by the log in his eye even as he speaks about the mote in mine, has poopooed and denigrated Hillary Clinton, speaking of her "periodic outbursts," with little note in the popular press.

Why is that, do you think, that he's allowed to remind people that she has a menstruating vagina with all its entanglements like PMS with that kind of code, when if someone mentions, say, his "articulation" like Joe Biden did, the world goes crazy with charges of racism? Or why is it that Obama's minions go nuts if Bill Clinton calls him on his "fairy tale," assuming the Big Dog meant his candidacy, when he was very clear he was talking about the fallacy of his war opposition?

And the Obombers aren't bothered one bit by this hypocrisy on the part of their candidate?

They aren't bothered by the fact that Geraldine Ferraro said effectively the same thing that Rev. Wright did, that there's a "black experience" in America that differs from the white experience, and they screamed bloody murder, while shooing away any criticism of Wright as being "irrelevant"?

Why do they give Obama a pass to be a white man in black skin on this stuff?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eeb Plebneesta!

Barack Obama's speech today is a watershed event in this campaign. Some notes:

1) Usually, when a candidate has to give a single issue speech during the primaries that doesn't deal with the general populace, you can write him off. Think about Mitt Romeny and the Mormon address.

If this speech had happened even a month ago, I'd say that was a possible, even probable, outcome, but despite the fact that NBC news polling indicates that roughly six percent of voters who have voted already would switch votes from Obama to Hillary (page 17 of this document), it may be too late in the race for this speech to have much impact, positive or negative.

2) “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” Whenever you start a speech of with that phrase, you run the risk of turning off your audience, as it is without a doubt the most overused phrase in American speechifying today. You can't stop at a campaign rally for dogcatcher in Bumshmuck, Idaho without hearing "more perfect union" intoned as if it was the call-and-response in a church.

Granted, he probably wrote this speech on the fly at 3AM in a fit of pique, but come one, Senator. You're a man of words and little else! Use your own!

3) Even before the speech was given, moderate Democrats I had spoken to had already decided this was just one more speech, that nothing would change their opinions regarding him or the pastor much.

4) In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

While true, that was also the last Southern state he carried with that kind of coalition, and was also the last state that John Edwards was a factor in, which appears to have hurt Hillary more than Obama.

Sorry, this comes dangerously close to a lie, but forgivable as a rhetorical flourish.

5) The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

I agree. It's a pity Obama didn't factor this stuff in when he decided to be ambitious, rather than constructive. America doesn't like change rammed down its throat, or have we learned nothing from the neo-conservative movement, which rose as a backlash against the progressive changes we liberals sought in the 60s and 70s?

We had people peeking out of corners, looking up instead of down, listening, instead of hearing. Now, admittedly, this was a Christmas day sermon. I'm sure that you weren't in attendance.

After all, you had the Iowa caucuses to run for the following week.

Too, Rev. Wright is his own man and speaks his own mind and doesn't speak for you, I'm sure.

Senator, when I was a kid growing up, I attended an Evnaglical church, until a fateful day: I remember it clearly.

It was during catechism classes. The pastor was discussing Revelations, and leaned into us, and whispered, "You do know who the Anti-Christ is, don't you? It's the Pope."

Which is in keeping with conservative Evangelical Protestant thought, but it also drove me away once I was confirmed. I could not tolerate that kind of hate-mongering from a man of the cloth.

When I think back on the hundreds of sermons and discussions and pastorings I had been party to in that church (my parents were both high lay officials), I see the seeds of that hate sewn all around, like birdseed dropped for the flock to peck at.

I find it hard to believe that, in 20 years, you had no other clue that this hatred of white people existed in your congregation. Of white women, in particular, and in particular, this white woman.

To say that Hillary has never heard the word "nigger" is ludicrous. Yoko Ono said it best: "Woman is the nigger of the world."

6) In case you need a refresher:
We make her paint her
face and dance
If she won't be slave, we
say that she don't love us
If she's real, we say she's
trying to be a man
While putting her down we
pretend that she is above us
Senator, you could have, should have, repudiated these kinds of hateful remarks a long time ago. I can't imagine why you haven't.

7) Everything you said in your speech about race in America can just as easily be said about gender. Period. If you were truly interested in uniting, you'd recognize the struggles that women, white and black, have had to overcome in this country. Is it any wonder that women, especially white women of a certain age and understanding and wisdom, haven't heeded your call?

8) At least the black experience finds its voice in the pews and pulpits of church on Sunday morning. Women do not have that option, generally, because most churches still have this quaint notion that women in church should cook and clean, tend to the hearth but not the heart.

9) Dammit, Senator, how could you be so blind and so deaf? How could you be so blind and so deaf to the plight of women who are black? You speak to half their problem only. That's like curing half a cancer or mending half a limb!

10) You speak lovingly and liltingly and sweepingly about things you know, and that's fine. That's great.

But Presidents have to fathom that which they are NOT experienced at, and for someone who's running a race based pretty much solely on not being experienced, of still having that "new pol" smell, you ought to have realized that long before you filed for this goddamned race in the first place! If anything, with this speech, you reveal the precise reasons why Hillary should be the nominee.

At least SHE feels YOUR pain! But I guess it's hard to keep that in focus while you admit you lied about how much Tony Rezko gave you to run.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Olly Olly Ox Unfree!

The dynamic of the American economy is a quasi-free market.

Or rather, it was.

The underlying mechanism of a free market goes something like this: I have a need, say, food. Company A determines there's money to be made in supplying me with food, but only at a price a) I'm willing to pay and b) they can actually make some profit at.

If Company A is the only game in town, they can charge pretty much whatever they want, because they know I need to buy food. Company B realizes there's a boatload of money to be made in food, so it opens up a store and competes with Company A. This drives down the price, since Company B and Company A will now engage in a war for my business. It's not a profit until someone actually earns it.

The rational consumer, of course, will pay the least amount of money he possibly can for food, so long as the quality is comparable from Company A to Company B. Meanwhile, Company A and B will try to maximize their profits, either by charging as much as possible or by cutting their costs to produce food by as much as possible, or both. Again, this is rational.

Supply competes to fulfill demand, and if there's not enough demand, Company A or B goes out of business or tries to create more demand for their product by expanding markets or finding some other advantage for their product.

This scenario assumes a few things that may not always be true, and indeed, one basic assumption has not been true for some time now, ever since the late 80s, early 90s.

This scenario assumes a limited amount of money for the consumer. So long as personal credit markets were tight, this was how free markets worked: people had limited income, so voted for products based on whether they could afford them or not.

The twin barrel gun that shot huge holes in the capitalist system were mortgages and credit cards.

Now, both serve a purpose, when used wisely. After all, if it takes 30 years to pay off a mortgage with a reasonable cushion for your day to day living expenses, then it stands to reason it would take about 30 years to save enough to put down cash on a house, perhaps longer, since you'd be paying rent.

Likewise, credit cards allow us to buy things that we need, but can't afford to pay for right now that would take an awful lot of time to save up for, like kitchen appliances or TVs.

All this posits that eventually you'll earn enough money to pay these bills back.

Right now, that's not the case, and we're at the tail end of a cycle that could be devastating to the global economy, not to mention American independence.

Consumer debt, including mortgages, is higher than it has ever been, rivaling the national debt in magnitude.

That's unheard of, but here's the kicker: not only is it higher than the current savings level for Americans, but there's speculation now that, at present income levels, there is no way America (as a whole) will ever earn enough money to pay down their personal debt.

What happened over the past twenty odd years is probably going to go down in history as mankind's greatest economic folly.

First, let's look in the mortgage market. People started borrowing more and more of their purchase price (you used to have to put down 20%, then 10, and then five, and now, nothing), because banks were having a hard time lending money to people after the recession of the early 80s.

The housing market had collapsed, you see.

By lending more and more money, banks were setting up a vicious cycle, where people had little to no equity to lose in their houses. Rather than homestead and be satisfied with the house they had, they would trade up.

Why? It really didn't cost them anything. What this triggered was a housing market that slowly caught fire, as prices scaled upwards when people started to trade up in house size and price. This attracted more and more buyers, who were offered easier and easier credit as banks were forced to compete with cutthroat lending policies.

All this was fine, so long as housing prices continued to spiral upwards. Sure, we'd had adjustments in housing prices, but over the long run, a house was the best investment anyone could make. You were guaranteed to make money.

Over the long term, however. What we started seeing was people taking advantage of some of these teaser loans that banks felt compelled out of greed to offer: five year adjustable rate mortgages with ultralow interest-only payments until the five year adjustment period had passed.

By then, people moved on and bought a new house with, you guessed it!-- a five year adjustable rate mortgage.

In other words, they kept playing a shell game with the bank's equity.

But notice what else happens here: as people spend less and less income and provide less and less equity in their houses, they are free to spend more and more disposable income on other things: Nike sneakers, iPods, computers, flat screen TVs.

All paid by with credit cards. So long as a consumer was able to make the minimum monthly payment, no one would deny them more credit, despite the fact that not only did they have no real equity to look to in case things fell apart, but they're incomes weren't keeping pace with even the minimal inflation that the economy was suffering.

So people stretched a rubber band in two directions at the same time, and it's only now those bands are breaking. There are a combination of factors, to be sure, as to why the rubber bands chose now to break, but underneath it all, they had to break sometime, so why not now as opposed to two years ago, or two years from now?

The solutions for this are not pretty. It's a little like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle when thirty percent of the pieces are missing. Bottom line is, there ain't no going back to a time when this nation was healthy, not anytime soon, and certainly, business will never been "usual" again.

First and foremost, don't buy any solution that says we can "spend" our way out of this with lower taxes and more economic activity. People can't afford the debt they have already, and they've been conditioned to spend more using debt. They probably don't even remember how to save a buck or two!

Second, keep in mind that bankruptcy laws were changed, with the support of McCain and Obama, to limit individual bankruptcies even further. So that debt relief tap has been turned off, for now. Any attempt to revisit that issue will be met with very stiff resistance by banks.

Third, and most important, keep in mind that with no disposable income, as people try to repay their mortgage balances that weren't covered in the sale of their houses, and have to pay real money to have a roof over their heads and food on the table, there's going to be precious little economic boost to be had. Too, rising gas, food and health care costs will sponge up quickly any left over money.

If we hadn't squandered a few trillion in Iraq, there's a chance we might have the funds in place to have some effective solutions that could speed up and perhaps bolster the recovery, as anemic as it will be. You'll hear a lot of short term hype, but fundamentally, the consumer is ruined.

We owed our children better than we've given them. We've ruined their environment, endangered them with our hubris over global warming, and had until this administration passed along a manageable but difficult economic timebomb.

Which just exploded. In our faces.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Friday Kitten Blogging

Mah peepz!

Es hard werk negotiatin a noo contrack!

Wen I herd dat de Riter's Gild gawt a noo contrack for dey stoff onna web, I tole dadby I wanna noo contrack too, sence I bringed lotsa peepz to hems blawg.

Hem an I argoo lots an den I tole hem I DO NOT WANT mah pitcher onna blawg wifout I get moah foah et.

So hem greed dat I cud git fud twice as often ebery day! Dass two tiems as mush fud!

Hem was worried dat I git fat, so I sed et wuz ok to gib me haff as mush fud at each feedin, but hem such a stoopid hoomin, hem don' reelyze dat I still get too times moah fud cuz I git fud two tiems moah offen!

Yay foah me!

Indiana Wants Me

With Pennsylvania seemingly stuck solidly in Clinton's column (no real movement in the polls, but it's way too early to add it to her delegate total), the key states remaining in the Democratic primary process are Indiana, North Carolina, and Oregon.

I think Indiana is the most interesting case, and certainly the one "must win" Obama has left on his schedule. He's doing well in North Carolina and should win that with a small delegate plurality in the urban and university counties, with Clinton eating up large parts of the suburban and rural vote. Oregon could be a hotly contested state, as it's sandwiched between California (strongly Clinton, with some Obama strength up north) and Washington (one of the few states that Obama won clearly across the board), but it should ultimately fall to Obama.

I call Indiana a "must win" for Obama, because should he fail to win Indiana, he will have failed to win any Ohio valley state (Kentucky and West Virginia look to be strongly Clinton), and Clinton will have a delegate map that stretches in one continuous line across the heart of America, from sea to shining sea, which will be her motto heading into the superdelegate courtship.

Should Clinton win Indiana, she can make the case that Obama wins in states that aren't going to vote Democratic anyway (deep South and Plains states), while she captured states that are crucial to a Democratic win. You've heard her test this strategy after Ohio, and it's among her strongest cases for the nomination.

Much has been made regarding recent statements from superdelegates about respecting the "will of the people."

Two observations to made here: First, this is one of the clearest examples of what I like to call "Polispeak." You say one thing that can be understood in several ways, and you leave it to the recipient to hear what they want.

Charles Degaulle was a master of this. I suspect Obama might even be better at it, but since he's never had to put his money where his mouth is, we may never know.

The question hangs on the meaning of "the people". Do you count the popular vote? Well, yes, Obama should win, except his totals include large numbers of Republicans and Independents, as well as the lion's share of caucus votes, which are cast over a number of hours, hours that "the people" can't really spare from the business of paying the mortgage. Whittle it down to registered Democrats who voted in know, the people who cast one vote each, the American way...and Clinton wins in a walk.

Delegates pledged? True, Obama has a lead here, but not enough to put him over the top. The people have spoken and neither Clinton nor Obama has won enough of their support to engage the nomination on the stump, meaning "the people" don't have a clear preference.

Second, superdelegates were put in place precisely to thwart the will of the people. The perverse logic that might drive many superdelegates (mostly elected Democratic officials) is that, since they represent their "people," as with legislating, they are chooising for the people.

My suspicion is superdelegates are leaning towards Clinton (they prefer insiders) but are looking for a compelling reason to vote for Obama. Indiana might give them that reason.