Monday, September 29, 2008

I don't know about anyone else but this whole financial mess scares me a bit.  I feel like I am on a train about to run off the edge of a wrecked bridge.  I can't do a damn thing about it.  Worse, I am the engineer, the breaks failed about ten miles back and I can't cut the power.  If the producers at '60 Minutes' thought the piece they did on Treasury Secretary Paulson last night would infuse some confidence, they failed.  What about it spiked my apprehension?  The part of the segment where he was asked what would happen if the bailout failed.  His answer: it HAS to work.  Mr. Paulson, Nothing has to work.  But you apparently have no plan B.  He has no contingencies.

Did anyone notice that the Big Three auto makers got their bail out, oops make that 'loan guarantees.'  Another however many billions gone to hell.  Also the new defense appropriations bill for some $612B.  And the budget, if you want to dignify this mess as a budget, has a massive $450+B deficit (the largest in history and the second record setting budget of the Bush Administration).  

Tom Englehardt is always good as are his guest writers.  This time it is is Chalmers Johnson.  Between them they make some interesting points that should scare people.  One that has completely escaped the mainstream media is that negotiations with the Al Maliki government on a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal compromised with the date postponed from the original 2010 into 2011.  The  determining factor was not the conditions on the ground but the American political environment, specifically the needs of the McCain campaign.  Since the ultimate source of that tidbit is an interview Al Maliki gave on Iraqi TV perhaps he was shifting the blame for an extended time table to the Americans.  Second, we seem to be funding two black holes at the same time.  I am frightened because I wonder how much will be sucked into these black holes.  How can we expect to stabilize our economy when we have the open-ended demands created by an ill-conceived and ill-executed war (I am trying to be polite here) on the one hand and the rapacious and irresponsible actions in the financial industry (I really am trying not to swear) on the other?  

Barbara Ehrenreich has a nice post on the exuberant behavior of Wall Street and how the culture of positive thinking has helped create the crisis.  She is always entertaining.  But the mind set she describes sounds much too much like Paulson's notion that the bail out will work because it has to.  

James Kunstler has another interesting post on his blog.  Reading it this morning brought back to mind Sec. Paulson's remark during the '60 Minutes' interview  that the various securities and derivatives had become so complex that no one really understood them or how to value them.  He said that these instruments had actually been constructed by physicists and theoretical mathematicians not bankers and investment mavins.  I suspect that the bankers and investment brokers understood the instruments (the math and the assumptions underlying the math) they were dealing about as well as I understand particle physics.  The comparison of our entire economy as a gigantic ponzi scheme is entirely accurate.

Wondering why I haven't said much about the debates?  Yes, I did watch.  There isn't really much to say.  McCain declared victory before the debate even began and had prepared the appropriate campaign literature to brag on that.  Obama was downplaying the end result since foreign affairs was supposedly McCain's strong suit.  I figured that if Obama held his own he would be ahead of the game and that, in fact, is how things turned out.  I don't think anything happened to sway committed voters away from their original choices.  Some articles and bloggers give McCain the edge on points.  One said that, had this been a Harvard debate, McCain would have won on points.  Well, I don't care much for style or other fluff.  On my scale Obama won, though not by a landslide.  Mr. McCain, I am sorry to say that you are one rude idiot.  A debate means that both of you speak.  Loudly running over your opponent, especially when you have no argument to make, doesn't cut it.  Also the cute anecdotes don't work.  It is nice that you wear the fallen soldier's bracelet but his mother was easily trumped by the mother of whom Obama spoke.  Also, your worshipful attitude toward General Petreus doesn't really cut the mustard.  Appeals to authority doesn't work when you are running for the job of being the authority.  Also Obama was quite right to call you out on your notion that if the economic bail-out was not passed that main street 'will' be affected.  As you opponent said Main Street has been hurting for some time.  It has just taken a bit more time for the effects to get up the hill to Wall Street.

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