Saturday, September 20, 2008

Now, Sose Ver Some Vwadies

Who Elected Hank Paulson?

Nobody, that's who. Yet, suddenly, he's king.
Alan Davidson over at NPR's Planet Money blog takes a look at the bailout bill.
It's scary.
This graph really stands out:
"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
So, for the next three months, and then an additional six months after that, the Treasury Secretary can do anything he deems appropriate without anybody anywhere looking it over.
That seems like an awful lot of absolute power. Am I wrong? Is this typical bureaucratic langauge? Or is this as strange as it seems?

Pickering's Harem

In 1881, Edward Pickering, the director of the Harvard College Observatory, became so impatient with a male lab assistant’s work that he famously declared his maid could do a better job. Rather than take offense, his 24-year-old maid, Williamina Fleming, instead took him up on the offer. She ended up working at the Observatory for the next 30 years, supervising the tedious work of cataloging photographic plates, but also discovering variable stars and novae, helping to develop a classification system—and, perhaps even more importantly, hiring nearly 40 female assistants, many of whom went on to have distinguished scientific careers 
More over at MetaFilter

I Count on Jon Taplin

to tell me things I didn't know, haven't seen anywhere else. He never disappoints.
We now have returned to a world where the balance of power is real and in that reality is the hope for a new Hundred Years of Peace.
...The next American President is going to live in a multi-polar world. Unilateralism is dead. If we can steady the financial world, this balance of power could allow us to enter into a new phase of global cooperation and commerce. Our ability to navigate this world will not be determined by the size of our army, but by our diplomatic skills. I am convinced that John McCain does not grasp this reality. But it’s clear to me that Barack Obama does.

Huh, So It's About Trust

None of the robber barons trusts any of the others. Why is that, do you suppose?
Nobody understands who owes what to whom — or whether they have the ability to pay. Counterparties have become afraid to trade with each other. Sovereign wealth funds are no longer willing to supply badly needed capital because they no longer know what they are investing in. The crisis continues because nobody knows what anything is worth. You simply cannot have a functioning market under such circumstances.

Joe Nocera's cheery little analysis in the NYT basically says it's not going to be over soon and the government's measures may not work. But I guess we know that, don't we?

Namecalling 101

Snowjob Squareglasses. Bwahahahahaha.

This Joke Is So Wrong

How to say “I’m hungry” in South Carolinian: Find a Mormon, point yer shot gun at ‘im, then say “Gimme all yer food!”

So very, very wrong.

Friday, September 19, 2008

John McCain

on healthcare  banking:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
John McCain, "Better Health Care at Lower Cost for Every American," in the Sept./Oct. issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries.

Effective Obama Ad Aimed at Women

I'd Love to Just Blame Phil Gramm

but I've been around long enough to know it's usually "all of the above."

So, Taplin passes this along today:

Mark to Market-My friend Doug Newhouse sent me a essay by William Isaac, who ran the FDIC from 1980-1985. It explains why the new mark to market accounting rules helped cause this crisis. This clearly needs to be changed back to the way we did it in the 80’s.
The biggest culprit is a change in our accounting rules that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the SEC put into place over the past 15 years: Fair Value Accounting. Fair Value Accounting dictates that financial institutions holding financial instruments available for sale (such as mortgage-backed securities) must mark those assets to market. That sounds reasonable. But what do we do when the already thin market for those assets freezes up and only a handful of transactions occur at extremely depressed prices?
The answer to date from the SEC, FASB, bank regulators and the Treasury has been (more or less) “mark the assets to market even though there is no meaningful market.” The accounting profession, scarred by decades of costly litigation, just keeps marking down the assets as fast as it can.
This is contrary to everything we know about bank regulation. When there are temporary impairments of asset values due to economic and marketplace events, regulators must give institutions an opportunity to survive the temporary impairment. Assets should not be marked to unrealistic fire-sale prices. Regulators must evaluate the assets on the basis of their true economic value (a discounted cash-flow analysis).
If we had followed today’s approach during the 1980s, we would have nationalized all of the major banks in the country and thousands of additional banks and thrifts would have failed. I have little doubt that the country would have gone from a serious recession into a depression.

The Abortion Card

I really didn't expect to see this third rail out there this year. But what do I know?
Obama in response to the 527 that is running an ad accusing him of supporting infanticide.

Comment O' Teh Day

From Cleek over at Obsidian Wings:

i believe McCain/Palin is a clever attempt to get people who aren't stupid to feel that their intelligence is useless in today's world
The discussion surrounded this Palin statement to somebody named Hannity:
"Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first."
The woman McCain said knows more about energy than anyone in the United States. But apparently not much about molecules.

Behind the Curtain

I was looking at news stories all day yesterday. One that I saw early in the day went something like this:
"Reid, Pelosi say they're considering recessing Congress more than a week earlier than the sceduled hiatus and leave the financial crisis in the  administration's (fully capable) hands since no one knows what to do."
Also, even Republicans were complaining that the rescue measures so far had been taken without any discussion with Congress.
I also read a piece that alluded to the piecemeal nature of the measures so far.
Then, voila!, there's a hastily called meeting between Senators and  administration officials, Bernanke and Paulson, and there seems to be serious progress toward much more comprehensive measures involving FDIC like insurance for money market funds and government purchase of bad debts.
All of this today, and I can't help but think I got a peak behind the curtain. Maybe someone is writing about it. If you see anything, send me a link.
Who's in charge here? Who won and who lost?
And why aren't they telling McCain what's going on. That little threat to fire the head of the SEC was a desperate cry for help, I think. Neither he nor his people are in the loop.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

5 Reasons To Be Grateful For Black Monday

From Slate, I think.

3) Ordinary Americans get a lesson in low finance.
It's been expensive but, then, so is kindergarten.

Meltdown Day 4

Linked at Jon Taplin's blog:
The desperation was especially striking in the market for U.S. government debt, long considered the safest of investments. At one point during the day, investors were willing to pay more for one-month Treasurys than they could expect to get back when the bonds matured. Some investors, in essence, had decided that a small but known loss was better than the uncertainty connected to any other type of investment.
That’s never happened before. In a special government auction on Wednesday, demand ran so high that the Treasury Department sold $40 billion in bills, far beyond what it needed to cover the government’s obligations.

Comment O' Teh Day

Reader over at Steve Clemons' foreign policy blog reminds us just what is at stake in this election and how even the top concerns of only a few months ago seem like ancient history.

We seem to forget, because he has held the office for 8 years, just
how unqualified Bush is for the job of President.
Can anyone point out just one instance where he has shown a
strong command of the facts on any subject whatsoever?
As history unfolds, Iraq could be a distant fourth to the
reemergence of Russia, a nuclear Iran, and a decimated economy,
when we finally tally up this failure of a Presidency.

KKKKarl Rove: Time to Show Contempt

The Itertubes have made this sort of action item so easy that sometimes I'm still in disbelief.
You may have heard about Rove's alleged involvement in the highly questionable prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Seigelman.
60 Minutes has done two shows about it and Scott Horton at Harper's has been all over it.
Rove has ignored a Congressional subpoena, a judge has ruled he can't, and now it's time to hold him in contempt.
C'mon, you know you wanna see it.
Go here to sign the petition.

The Meltdown and You

A Conservative For Obama

Wick Allison, former editor of National Review:

Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Namecalling 101

Bible Spice. Bwahahahhahahaha!
Sorry, I think I said no more. But, Bible Spice!

And from tonight's interview with someone named Hannity:
“And in that cronyism — it’s symptomatic of the grade of problem that we see right now in Washington and that is just that acceptance of the status quo, the politics as usual, the cronyism that has been allowed to be accepted and then it leads us to a position like we are today with so much collapse on Wall Street.”

Jon Stewart said she probably got this far because she won a contest of some sort, probably a bakeoff because it couldn't have been an essay contest. Is that sexist? Maybe it was moose skinning.

Old Boy Network

There's the Wolf Thing

and the moose thing. Sarah with her daughter "field-dressing" a dead moose. Promoting hunting of wolves from airplanes to cut down on predation of moose, which some Alaskans depend on for food.
Anyway,  now this. Just. Wow.

Sarah Palin, painted for Women's Work, an online gallery exhibit of women's political art
©Zina Saunders 2008. All rights reserved.
Women's work, I love this the most.
Karl Marx
by Jerelle Kraus
Marx’s lifelong secret was the “illegitimate” child he had with the maid. The boy, given at birth to a working-class family, died in poverty at 78, never having seen his father nor known his paternity.

In Washington State

we expect the voters to choose Obama and worry more about Gregoire's chances.
Most of the working stiffs don't hear much about what's going on elsewhere and worry, worry, worry that racism or ignorance or low information voters will kill the chances for our candidate to take the presidency and turn the country around before it hits another iceberg.
So I offer you this from a discussion thread at TPM today over the Obama campaign's plans to throw $39 million at Florida and whether that's a good thing:
As someone who lives here in Florida, I can vouch for the amount of money, people and resources being put in play here by the Obama campaign. Here in Hillsborough County (Tampa) alone, we have four field offices and one central office. When I stopped by one yesterday to drop off some supplies, I was amazed at the number of volunteers there at 2pm on a work day. (The paid staff was off at training.)
These offices are located in key areas of the community, in pretty visible locations. The number of Obama tv ads has been steady for several months. The enthusiasm is palpable.
And the GOTV is extremely active, with groups doing neighborhood, house to house, canvassing every weekend.
On the flip side, with the exception of some tv ads that started running this past month, there is little visible activity coming from the McCain campaign at all. He has made a couple of appearances, and done some fundraising, but the turnout has been less than spectacular.
I am very optimistic.
And this:
Here is an one the ground view. I currently as I write this have a GOTV voter registration rally at my office. We started a little after noon today and have registered 150 new voters in the last two hours. Our goal was 50.
We have two campaign workers here but the effort is supported by folks here in the office... we have cold drinks and snacks we have been giving out. We can win Florida if we continue to work the ground game.
And this:
New CNN poll came out a little while ago with Florida at a 48/48 tie. McCain's campaign must be cleaning out their pants right about now.

Joke O' Teh Day

"McCain says he's gonna take on the old boys network. In the McCain campaign that is called a staff meeting."

Barack Obama, Sept. 17, 2008, Elko, Nevada

Thanks, Babs

Hollywood gave Obama his biggest single-night fundraiser of the campaign, $11 million worth of love.
In return, he admonished supporters to keep calm and cool and not get all wadded over the latest poll numbers, et al.
Barbra sang a bit.

“We always knew this was going to be hard – this is a leap for the American people...

“Don’t spend time reading blogs, don’t watch cable news. Just remember what this campaign is about.”

How Racism Works

How racism works

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class? What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said “I do” to? What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not  only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Obama were a member of the “Keating 5”? What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?
This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.
— Kelvin LaFond, Fort Worth

Tom Friedman

So, despite my contaminated impression of Mr. Friedman Unit (just six more months and we're okay in Iraq), a friend who's read his latest book is impressed and urging it upon the rest of us slackers.
I kind of liked this from his newest column, so I leave it to you to decide.
Friedman Units, indeed.
Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sisters, It Can't Get Any Easier

than this.
Obama is asking for your help, your participation, your time. Sign up here.

Laff O' Teh Week

George Saunders in The New Yorker:
Now, let us discuss the Élites. There are two kinds of folks: Élites and Regulars. Why people love Sarah Palin is, she is a Regular. That is also why they love me. She did not go to some Élite Ivy League college, which I also did not. Her and me, actually, did not go to the very same Ivy League school. Although she is younger than me, so therefore she didn’t go there slightly earlier than I didn’t go there. But, had I been younger, we possibly could have not graduated in the exact same class. That would have been fun. Sarah Palin is hot. Hot for a politician. Or someone you just see in a store. But, happily, I did not go to college at all, having not finished high school, due to I killed a man. But had I gone to college, trust me, it would not have been some Ivy League Élite-breeding factory but, rather, a community college in danger of losing its accreditation, built right on a fault zone, riddled with asbestos, and also, the crack-addicted professors are all dyslexic.

The Speech

Obama gave a barn burner in Colorado today.
Here's the 38 minutes.

And here's the transcript.

Sen. Obama Speaks In Golden, Col. on the Economy
CQ Transcriptwire
Tuesday, September 16, 2008; 1:38 PM

OBAMA: Over the last few days, we have seen clearly what's at stake in this election. The news from Wall Street has shaken the American people's faith in our economy. The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that have generated tremendous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.
Since this turmoil began over a year ago, the housing market has collapsed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be effectively taken over by the government. Three of America's five largest investment banks failed or have been sold off in distress. Yesterday, Wall Street suffered its worst losses since just after 9/11. We are in the most serious financial crisis in generations. Yet Senator McCain stood up yesterday and said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong
A few hours later, his campaign sent him back out to clean up his remarks, and he tried to explain himself again this morning by saying that what he meant was that American workers are strong. But we know that Senator McCain meant what he said the first time, because he has said it over and over again throughout this campaign -- no fewer than 16 times, according to one independent count.
Now I certainly don't fault Senator McCain for all of the problems we're facing, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. Because the truth is, what Senator McCain said yesterday fits with the same economic philosophy that he's had for 26 years. It's the philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down. It's the philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise. It's a philosophy that lets Washington lobbyists shred consumer protections and distort our economy so it works for the special interests instead of working people.
We've had this philosophy for eight years. We know the results. You feel it in your own lives. Jobs have disappeared, and peoples' life savings have been put at risk. Millions of families face foreclosure, and millions more have seen their home values plummet. The cost of everything from gas to groceries to health care has gone up, while the dream of a college education for our kids and a secure and dignified retirement for our seniors is slipping away. These are the struggles that Americans are facing. This is the pain that has now trickled up.
So let's be clear: what we've seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for President of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more. It's time to put an end to a broken system in Washington that is breaking the American economy. It's time for change that makes a real difference in your lives.
If you want to understand the difference between how Senator McCain and I would govern as President, you can start by taking a look at how we've responded to this crisis. Because Senator McCain's approach was the same as the Bush Administration's: support ideological policies that made the crisis more likely; do nothing as the crisis hits; and then scramble as the whole thing collapses. My approach has been to try to prevent this turmoil. In February of 2006, I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. A year later, before the crisis hit, I warned Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke about the risks of mounting foreclosures and urged them to bring together all the stakeholders to find solutions to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Senator McCain did nothing.
Last September, I stood up at NASDAQ and said it's time to realize that we are in this together -- that there is no dividing line between Wall Street and Main Street -- and warned of a growing loss of trust in our capital markets. Months later, Senator McCain told a newspaper that he'd love to give them a solution to the mortgage crisis, "but" -- he said -- "I don't know one."
In January, I outlined a plan to help revive our faltering economy, which formed the basis for a bipartisan stimulus package that passed the Congress. Senator McCain used the crisis as an excuse to push a so-called stimulus plan that offered another huge and permanent corporate tax cut, including $4 billion for the big oil companies, but no immediate help for workers.
This March, in the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout, I called for a new, 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets. Just a few weeks earlier, Senator McCain made it clear where he stands: "I'm always for less regulation," he said, and referred to himself as "fundamentally a deregulator."
This is what happens when you confuse the free market with a free license to let special interests take whatever they can get, however they can get it. This is what happens when you see seven years of incomes falling for the average worker while Wall Street is booming, and declare -- as Senator McCain did earlier this year -- that we've made great progress economically under George Bush. That is how you can reach the conclusion -- as late as yesterday -- that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.
Well, we have a different way of measuring the fundamentals of our economy. We know that the fundamentals that we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great --that America is a place where you can make it if you try.
Americans have always pursued our dreams within a free market that has been the engine of our progress. It's a market that has created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and rewarded the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon of science, and technology, and discovery. But the American economy has worked in large part because we have guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle -- that America prospers when all Americans can prosper. That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest.
Too often, over the last quarter century, we have lost this sense of shared prosperity. And this has not happened by accident. It's because of decisions made in boardrooms, on trading floors and in Washington. We failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both.
Let me be clear: the American economy does not stand still, and neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution of industries often warrants regulatory reform - to foster competition, lower prices, or replace outdated oversight structures. Old institutions cannot adequately oversee new practices. Old rules may not fit the roads where our economy is leading. But instead of sensible reform that rewarded success and freed the creative forces of the market, too often we've excused an ethic of greed, corner-cutting and inside dealing that threatens the long-term stability of our economic system.
It happened in the 1980s, when we loosened restrictions on Savings and Loans and appointed regulators who ignored even these weaker rules. Too many S&Ls took advantage of the lax rules set by Washington to gamble that they could make big money in speculative real estate. Confident of their clout in Washington, they made hundreds of billions in bad loans, knowing that if they lost money, the government would bail them out. And they were right. The gambles did not pay off, our economy went into recession, and the taxpayers ended up footing the bill. Sound familiar?
And it has happened again during this decade, in part because of how we deregulated the financial services sector. After we repealed outmoded rules instead of updating them, we were left overseeing 21st century innovation with 20th century regulations. When subprime mortgage lending took a reckless and unsustainable turn, a patchwork of regulators systematically and deliberately eliminated the regulations protecting the American people and failed to raise warning flags that could have protected investors and the pensions American workers count on.
This was not the invisible hand of the market at work. These cycles of bubble and bust were symptoms of the ideology that my opponent is running to continue. John McCain has spent decades in Washington supporting financial institutions instead of their customers. In fact, one of the biggest proponents of deregulation in the financial sector is Phil Gramm -- the same man who helped write John McCain's economic plan; the same man who said that we're going through a "mental recession"; and the same man who called the United States of America a "nation of whiners." So it's hard to understand how Senator McCain is going to get us out of this crisis by doing the same things with the same old players.
Make no mistake: my opponent is running for four more years of policies that will throw the economy further out of balance. His outrage at Wall Street would be more convincing if he wasn't offering them more tax cuts. His call for fiscal responsibility would be believable if he wasn't for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and more of a trillion dollar war in Iraq paid for with deficit spending and borrowing from foreign creditors like China. His newfound support for regulation bears no resemblance to his scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement. John McCain cannot be trusted to reestablish proper oversight of our financial markets for one simple reason: he has shown time and again that he does not believe in it.
What has happened these last eight years is not some historical anomaly, so we know what to expect if we try these policies for another four. When lobbyists run your campaign, the special interests end up gaming the system. When the White House is hostile to any kind of oversight, corporations cut corners and consumers pay the price. When regulators are chosen for their disdain for regulation and we gut their ability to enforce the law, then the interests of the American people are not protected. It's an ideology that intentionally breeds incompetence in Washington and irresponsibility on Wall Street, and it's time to turn the page.
Just today, Senator McCain offered up the oldest Washington stunt in the book -- you pass the buck to a commission to study the problem. But here's the thing -- this isn't 9/11. We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I'll provide it, John McCain won't, and that's the choice for the American people in this election.
History shows us that there is no substitute for presidential leadership in a time of economic crisis. FDR and Harry Truman didn't put their heads in the sand, or hand accountability over to a Commission. Bill Clinton didn't put off hard choices. They led, and that's what I will do. My priority as President will be the stability of the American economy and the prosperity of the American people. And I will make sure that our response focuses on middle class Americans -- not the companies that created the problem.
To get out of this crisis -- and to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat a cycle of bubble and bust again and again -- we must take immediate measures to create jobs and continue to address the housing crisis; we must build a 21st century regulatory framework, and we must pursue a bold opportunity agenda that creates new jobs and grows the American economy.
To jumpstart job creation, I have proposed a $50 billion Emergency Economic Plan that would save 1 million jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, repairing our schools, and helping our states and localities avoid damaging budget cuts.
I worked with leaders in Congress to create a new FHA Housing Security Program, which will help stabilize the housing market and allow Americans facing foreclosure to keep their homes at rates they can afford. Going forward, we need to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as we know them with a structure that is focused on helping people buy homes -- not engaging in market speculation. We can't have a situation like the old S&L scandal where its "heads" investors win, and "tails" taxpayers lose. That's going to take ending the lobbyist- driven dominance of these institutions that we've seen for far too long in Washington.
To prevent fraud in the mortgage market, I've proposed tough penalties on fraudulent lenders, and a Home Score system that will ensure consumers fully understand mortgage offers and whether they'll be able to make payments. To help low- and middle-income families, I will ease the burden on struggling homeowners through a universal homeowner's tax credit. This will add up to a 10 percent break off the mortgage interest rate for 10 million households. That's another $500 each year for many middle class families.
Unlike Senator McCain, I will change our bankruptcy laws to make it easier for families to stay in their homes. Right now, if you're a family that owns one house, bankruptcy judges are actually barred from helping you keep a roof over your head by writing down the value of your mortgage. If you own seven homes, the judge is free to write down any or all of the debt on your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh homes. Now that may be of comfort to Senator McCain, but that's the kind of out-of-touch Washington loophole that makes no sense. When I'm President, we'll make our laws work for working people.
But as we've seen the last few days, the crisis in our financial markets now reaches well beyond the housing market. That's why it's time to do what I called for last September and again this past March -- and it is only more overdue today.
Our capital markets cannot succeed without the public's trust. It's time to get serious about regulatory oversight, and that's what I will do as President. That starts with the core principles for reform that I discussed at Cooper Union.
First, if you're a financial institution that can borrow from the government, you should be subject to government oversight and supervision. When the Federal Reserve steps in as a lender of last resort, it is providing an insurance policy underwritten by the American taxpayer. In return, taxpayers have every right to expect that financial institutions with access to that credit are not taking excessive risks.
Second, we must reform requirements on all regulated financial institutions. We must strengthen capital requirements, particularly for complex financial instruments like some of the mortgage securities and other derivatives at the center of our current crisis. We must develop and rigorously manage liquidity risk. We must investigate rating agencies and potential conflicts of interest with the people they are rating. And we must establish transparency requirements that demand full disclosure by financial institutions to shareholders and counterparties. As we reform our regulatory system at home, we must address the same problems abroad so that financial institutions around the world are subject to similar rules of the road.
Third, we need to streamline our regulatory agencies. Our overlapping and competing regulatory agencies cannot oversee the large and complex institutions that dominate the financial landscape. Different institutions compete in multiple markets - Washington should not pretend otherwise. A streamlined system will provide better oversight and reduce costs.
Fourth, we need to regulate institutions for what they do, not what they are. Over the last few years, commercial banks and thrift institutions were subject to guidelines on subprime mortgages that did not apply to mortgage brokers and companies. This regulatory framework failed to protect homeowners, and made no sense for our financial system. When it comes to protecting the American people, it should make no difference what kind of institution they are dealing with.
Fifth, we must crack down on trading activity that crosses the line to market manipulation. The last six months have shown that this remains a serious problem in many markets and becomes especially problematic during moments of great financial turmoil. We cannot embrace the administration's vision of turning over the protection of investors to the industries themselves. We need regulators that actually enforce the rules instead of overlooking them. The SEC should investigate and punish market manipulation, and report its conclusions to Congress.
Sixth, we must establish a process that identifies systemic risks to the financial system like the crisis that has overtaken our economy. Too often, we end up where we are today: dealing with threats to the financial system that weren't anticipated by regulators. We need a standing financial market advisory group to meet regularly and provide advice to the President, Congress, and regulators on the state of our financial markets and the risks they face. It's time to anticipate risks before they erupt into a full-blown crisis.
These six principles should guide the legal reforms needed to establish a 21st century regulatory system. But the change we need goes beyond laws and regulation. Financial institutions must do a better job at managing risks. There is something wrong when boards of directors or senior managers don't understand the implications of the risks assumed by their own institutions. It's time to realign incentives and CEO compensation packages, so that both high level executives and employees better serve the interests of shareholders.
Finally, the American people must be able to trust that their government is looking out for all of us - not the special interests that have set the agenda in Washington for eight years, and the lobbyists who run John McCain's campaign.
I've spent my career taking on lobbyists and their money, and I've won. If you wanted a special favor in Illinois, there was actually a law that let you give campaign cash to politicians for their own personal use. In the State House, they called it business- as-usual. I called it legalized bribery, and while it didn't make me the most popular guy in Springfield, I put an end to it.
When I got to Washington, we saw some of the worst corruption since Watergate. I led the fight for reform in my party, and let me tell you -- not everyone in my party was too happy about it. When I proposed forcing lobbyists to disclose who they're raising money from and who in Congress they're funneling it to, I had a few choice words directed my way on the floor of the Senate. But we got it done, and we banned gifts from lobbyists, and free rides on their fancy jets. And I am the only candidate who can say that Washington lobbyists do not fund my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President of the United States. That's how we're going to end the outrage of special interests tipping the scales.
The most important thing we must do is restore opportunity for all Americans. To get our economy growing, we need to recapture that fundamental American promise. That if you work hard, you can pay the bills. That if you get sick, you won't go bankrupt. That your kids can get a good education, and that we can leave a legacy of greater opportunity to future generations.
That's the change the American people need. While Senator McCain likes to talk about change these days, his economic program offers nothing but more of the same. The American people need more than change as a slogan-- we need change that makes a real difference in your life.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups -- that's how we'll grow our economy and create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95% of all working families. My opponent doesn't want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime. In fact, I offer three times the tax relief for middle-class families as Senator McCain does -- because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
I will finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most
I will create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced
And now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. But in exchange, I will ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American -- if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
This is the change we need -- the kind of bottom up growth and innovation that will advance the American economy by advancing the dreams of all Americans.
Times are hard. I will not pretend that the changes we need will come without cost -- though I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly reform a broken economy and advance opportunity.
But I am running for President because we simply cannot afford four more years of an economic philosophy that works for Wall Street instead of Main Street, and ends up devastating both.
I don't want to wake up in four years to find that more Americans fell out of the middle-class, and more families lost their savings. I don't want to see that our country failed to invest in our ability to compete, our children's future was mortgaged on another mountain of debt, and our financial markets failed to find a firmer footing.
This time -- this election -- is our chance to stand up and say: enough is enough!
We can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again, we've battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth generator -- it's bound America together, it's created jobs, and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generation after generation of Americans.
Now it falls to us. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking just like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change -- if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education so that our kids can compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, and make some calls, and talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote on November 4th. And if you do, I promise you -- we will win Colorado, we will win this election, and we will change America together.

Econ Crashing, Let's Study That


P.S. Just in case you were worried, the post convention, post-Palin McCain bounce is fading. And so far there are 12 million new registered Democrats.


Nobody can run a major corporation — as I ran HP — because they're not willing to spy on their board members, as I was.

Obama Needs Women

so talk to your friends, your acquaintances, your cousins and sisters. Tell them why McCain is an asshole and Palin is The Joker.
Obama and his aides laid out their strategy during a conference call Monday with national women leaders: focus on McCain and the issues; forget Palin and the daily media flare-ups.

Quote O' Teh Week

Holy um, stuff! I go out to get a cup of tea and suddenly it’s Black Monday.
Paul Krugman

I Love My Intertubes

Scott Horton at Harper's had a painting by Artemisia illustrating something about Brecht. Looked like a woman's name to me, so I queried Wiki. Hence, a new "women worth noting." I am enlightened.

From Wikipedia:

Artemisia Gentileschi, July 8, 15931651/1653) was an Italian Early Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio (Caravaggisti). In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community, she was the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.
She was one of the first female artists to paint historical and religious paintings, at a time when such heroic themes were considered beyond a woman's reach.
 Self portrait.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I made no claims to inside stuff. I tried to give information which could be documented, so the reader could check it for himself... Reporters tend to be absorbed by the bureaucracies they cover; they take on the habits, attitudes, and even accents of the military or the diplomatic corps. Should a reporter resist the pressure, there are many ways to get rid of him... But a reporter covering the whole capital on his own — particularly if he is his own employer — is immune from these pressures.
         I.F. Stone

Battle In Seattle

opens Sept. 19.


is coming to Seattle Sept. 24 for a fundraiser in Hunts Point.
Locals are organizing a protest demonstration similar to the one that confronted her in Alaska a day or so ago.
Go here to sign up.

Women Take Hardest Unemployment Hit In 33 years

 If you only have time for one news source, it should be McClatchy.

Among single mothers and women with families, unemployment climbed to 9.6 percent in August — the highest level in 15 years.

Black Monday II

Phil Gramm, McCain's financial adviser, is the architect of the current financial crisis. Check out this passage from an article by Ed Lake of the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas:

Lay, DeLay, Gramm, Gramm & Clinton
"The late, infamous Enron head, Ken Lay, realized in the eighties that he could make more money bidding up energy in the futures market than by actually creating and selling energy. But, under then-current rules, how much you could make swapping paper was limited. Fortuitously, Lay had excellent Texas political connections; and in November of 1992, the head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission moved to exempt energy-derivative contracts and related swaps from any government oversight.
A vote was hurriedly put together before the Clinton White House would take over, and so Lay could finally start "dark" – unregulated – futures trading. The head of the CFTC was Wendy Gramm, wife of Texas Senator Phil Gramm; five weeks after she left, she became a board member of Enron in Houston.
Fast-forward to late 2000 and H.R. 5660, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, sponsored by Republican Congressman Thomas Ewing of Illinois. That bill went nowhere, even though Tom Delay’s wife Christine was then working for a Washington lobbying firm, Alexander Strategies – which Enron had paid $200,000 to push through legislation for permanent energy deregulation in these "dark" markets.
Six months later came Senate Bill 3283, also named the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. This time around the sponsor was Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, and now Phil Gramm was listed as one of the bill’s co-sponsors. Like it had in the House, this bill was destined to go nowhere until, late one night, it was attached as a rider to an 11,000-page appropriations bill – which was signed into law by President Clinton.
Now traders had an officially deregulated market for energy futures. Worse, that bill also deregulated many financial instruments – including the collateralized debt obligations that are at the center of today’s mortgage crisis, which may well cost us more than $1 trillion before it’s over."

Black Monday

and John McCain

McCain's Lies

The Democratic National Committee has a new web site with a lie counter and everything. It's a great source for those of us who may find ourselves challenged to prove McCain lies. I only with the counter could be embedded here. Maybe they'll make that happen in the next few days.

Hotel Rwanda

is one of Netflix's most popular rentals and, according to an amusing unscientific Slate survey, the least likely to be watched, most likely to sit untouched on top of the DVD player for months.
What to they suggest we do to break the habit of renting things we're never going to watch, no matter how well intentioned? Exactly what I did. Downgrade your membership. I can now only have two movies at a time. I'm thinking of switching to one, too.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Try not to eat any of it and, believe me, it's in everything. Read those ingredient labels.
Over the past 10 years alone, Congress has appropriated more than $50 billion to encourage farmers to grow the stuff. But people don't want to eat $50 billion in subsidized corn. And if the cobs just sat around developing mold, Congress would cut off the spigot. Enter high fructose corn syrup, which sucks up the subsidies and created a world in which calories from a sweet, highly caloric additive have become the cheapest of all energy sources. That's the primary way the syrup contributes to obesity: Not by being more fattening, but by being so heavily subsidized that it makes it far cheaper to sustain yourself on sweetened carbohydrates than on nutritious food. That might be fine if the sweetener were naturally cheap, but instead, taxpayers are funding a concerted effort to flood grocery stores with unnaturally cheap, utterly unhealthy, foods.

More here.

We're Mad As Hell

Even Andrew Sullivan is saying he's out for blood now.
McCain needs to be more than defeated. He needs to be exposed as the dishonest, despicable, desperate and dishonorable cynic he has become.

I'm trying to do my part. I sent this letter to the editor on Saturday. You should do something similar, with the main message being that McCain's choice of Palin shows his abysmal judgment and disqualifies him for the presidency. It's very easy to send letters to the editor now, just go to the newspapaper site and submit via email.

Last week Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin told ABC interviewer Charlie Gibson that Americans don't want "somebody's big fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state."
Huh. Instead of a longtime domestic and foreign policy hand — like maybe her opponent Joe Biden or her running mate John McCain — we also were told that we should accept her readiness to take over as Commander in Chief if needed because from some part of her state she can see Russia.
John McCain must think we are too stupid to notice that he has made the most blatantly cynical decision of his career by choosing a completely unprepared running mate who is totally out of her depth merely because she's an attractive mother of five who can cement his party's evangelical base.
His choice of Palin tells us all we need to know about how he would govern if elected.
He would show the same irresponsible, immoral and dangerous tendencies he showed with this first presidential decision.
"Country last, McCain first."

Or as a great commenter over at TPM put it:
The only issue that matters now is the nihilistic monstrosity that is McCain's campaign. If it wins, this election is all too likely to be the place where future historians draw the line and say "this is where the American experiment in democracy ended."

We simply don't have the luxury anymore of ironic detachment, or arguing about the past or about tactics, or even about whether the MSM will wake up in time to the fact that if the McCain campaign wins, it means the end of journalism. The reason we no longer have that luxary is not because we're a little behind in the polls, but because gambling addict John McCain just went all in--his soul plus everything we hold dear, and he put it all on black.

McCain Lies

although it's more politic to call it deception. New Obama ad out today, in case you were getting antsy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bedwetters and Handwringers

was what Obama campaign manager David Plouffe called the nervous nellies worried that their candidate wasn't hitting McCain hard enough, that fundraising was becoming anemic, that polls were looking shaky, that Palin was a game changer.
Either you recognize that Obama has the best political campaign in decades, maybe ever, or you don't. Meanwhile, the media need something new to say every day, several times a day, and all this stuff floats out there so they can fill white space and air space.
Today Obama announced he raised $66 million in August, beating his old record of $55 million in February.
And that doesn't include the $10 million that came in early this month after Palin was announced.
He also gained 500,000 new donors, bringing the total to 2.5 million.
Send him some love.
For this.
And this.

The Girls!

Sarah and Hillary on SNL, because contrariennes don't stay up that late.