Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Tuesday Morning Comments

To the New York Times:

The world has not ended. The bill as voted on, much improved from the original proposal, was still flawed, perhaps at its root. Make it better, or replace it with something better.

— Leo Wong, Albany

Ideology — left and right — defeated this bill, but something like it will eventually pass, or — miracle of miracles — events will show it to have been unnecessary. Let's stop the house on fire metaphor. If we keep the house, let's say it seemed about to collapse. The bill was to prop it up. This morning it still has not fallen. No time for recriminations. Once again, Senator McCain has it wrong, and Senator Obama has it right.

— Leo Wong, Albany

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Gambler and the Gunslinger

What true conservative wants a Maverick (or is it a Gambler?) and a Tenderfoot (or is it a Gunslinger?) in the White House when America requires a steady hand, and yes, community?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Experience and Judgment

At last night's debate, Senator McCain's accounts of his foreign affairs experience were very impressive. All the more reason to be dismayed at his judgment in choosing Governor Palin to be the person who would replace him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Will the Real Obama Please Stand Up?

Don't be too hard on Senator McCain, who is doing what he is told to do to give him the best shot at being elected. He could not lead the nation out of a paper bag. Senator Obama, a better man, is the more interesting case. He is naturally conservative and a compromiser. He does not want to overreact, nor does he ever wish to impose his particular plan to solve a problem. So he naturally lets others take the lead. He would do this as president if he could. But President Obama will find that, as they say, "the buck stops here." Then we will know what he is really made of.

On the possibly of postponing the debate, after 9/11, we were told to live life normally. Senator McCain does have his priorities wrong. Deciding who our President should be is more important than an economic fix that, after all the whole nation, including Congress and the Administration, is arguing. Senator McCain and Senator Obama are not needed in Washington until their votes are called for.
— Leo Wong, Albany, Comment, to "Absent Leader", New York Times, September 25, 2008

When it seemed that a bipartisan compromise would become law, all that Senator Obama needed to do was to show bipartisan support. Now that it appears that the compromise will not pass, Senator Obama needs to recognize that the matter is political as well as economic. Senator Obama must show that he can lead and present a plan that Congress and the people can support and the President will sign. Surely an Obama administration would not have proposed the deeply unpopular Paulson plan. Senator Obama need not invent a plan; he must choose a plan he believes in and successfully advocate for it. Senator McCain is a stone in his path. Senator Obama has called the nation to greatness. He must show some greatness himself. Senator Obama has said that now is a defining moment for the country. Now is a defining moment for him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's Lacking in Obama

Society has a moral basis. McCain and Palin, immoral though they are, get this and exploit it. Obama, moral though he is, does not.

See also God Bless America.

Uncle Sam, Investor

This is the time when the federal government should be The Intelligent Investor and not automatically listen to Mr. Market. The references are of course to Benjamin Graham's great book. The American people might themselves have a look at Fred Schwed's Where Are the Customers' Yachts? or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street, about the folly and hypocrisy of the financial industry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The House is Burning!

The "burning house" is not the economy but the banking industry. Since we all depend on it we all suffer from its destruction. Paradoxically, the country becomes less bankrupt, since a lot of debt goes up in smoke. Another benefit is that there are fewer rich. Instead of trying to save this House of Ill Repute, Congress should work to save the rest of the community from its flames.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Government Should Lend Not Bail Out

Instead of buying junk, government should lend money at interest to companies that are likely to act responsibly in the future.


What happened on September 18-19 took years of preparation, capped by a faux ideology crafted by public-relations think tanks to be broadcast under emergency conditions to panic Congress – and voters – right before the presidential election. This seems to be our September election surprise.

— Michael Hudson, America's Own Kleptocracy, CounterPunch, September 20/21, 2008.


I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

Since the housing bubble continues a series of bubbles, the answer to our problems cannot be at saving the bubble machine but eliminating it. Everybody is thinking about pumping more air, and nobody is thinking about how to build an economy without bubbles.

Checks without Balances

The Paulson Plan. A revolution is occurring, and we are not near the end of it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Paulson Plan

Faith-based economics trying to save a Ponzi scheme.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Brief Campaign

How was it possible that Senator McCain has lost the election in a few, all be it traumatic, days? For one thing, his support was never deep. Most people who will vote for McCain in November will not be voting for Senator McCain but for the Republican Party or Governor Palin or against Senator Obama or the Democratic Party. Senator McCain is not loved by any of the Republican constituencies, except perhaps the military. They will not vote for the Other, but fewer will vote in 2008 than in 2004. The financial panic forced Senator McCain to assume a posture. He assumed several, but seems to have settled on being a Populist. This is an honorable but losing stance. Senator McCain is between a rock and a hard place as regards the Paulson proposal. He loses votes whichever way he turns. But most important, Americans sensing economic danger will not take a chance on a Maverick in the White House.

Governor Palin can no longer make a difference, though she will continue to help McCain's numbers. A Hockey Mom or Pit Bull with Lipstick is not someone Americans will bet on to save an economy threatened by "investment instruments whose value changes in response to the changes in underlying variables," a.k.a. "financial weapons of mass destruction." A "Palin-McCain administration" is not so attractive to a nation no longer irrationally exuberant. Still, Governor Palin will be a McCain "asset" as long as the country learns no more about her. Her main job for the next seven weeks is to maintain the current fiction.

Letter to the Albany Times Union

Don't know if they'll publish it.

About the economy, the American people are not stupid but lack essential knowledge. For example, few know that most of our money is created not by Uncle Sam but by banks, starting with the apparently public but actually private Federal Reserve. Because the banks create our money, American economic policy favors the banks, and the current efforts by the Fed and the Treasury, necessary as they are in the current crisis, are essentially banks saving banks at the expense of American citizens now and into the future.

But according to the U.S. Constitution, the Congress should "coin Money [and] regulate the Value thereof." Near Albany, NY, is an organization that has a plan to return money-creating power back to public, not private, purposes. The place is Valatie, NY, the organization is The American Monetary Institute, and the plan is The American Monetary Act. The American people should demand that our elected officials seriously consider The American Monetary Act. The alternative is a continuing series of desperate maneuvers that the previous day were considered unthinkable and that in the long run are bound to fail. Revolutions have come from less.

See also Hossein Askari and Noureddine Krichene, Dust off the Chicago Plan, Asia Times, September 17, 2008.

Goldwater and Kucinich

Senator Obama says Senator McCain can't decide if he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich, but in this economic crisis both Obama and McCain would accept bankers' solutions that further burden the taxpayer and put an already bankrupt country in greater debt. Senator Obama should heed the radicalism of Goldwater and Kucinich and seek a solution that addresses the root causes of the crisis: the banking system itself. He should seriously consider if The American Monetary Act, which puts monetary power into the hands of the people and its representatives instead of the bankers, is the best chance for America's future.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Real McCain?

Not even John McCain could believe everything he is saying to win the election. Possibly the best person to tell us what is in John McCain's head right now is John Edwards, who also lived a lie while running for president. But I'll guess: John McCain knows that the majority of his party, and especially the people who are working hardest to get him elected, don't really want him to be President, but prefer Another. They can do what he can't: win the election. If that's what it takes he'll be their puppet until November, and then the real John McCain will reappear. This is also hard to believe.

Thinking and Acting Anew

Abraham Lincoln said in 1862: "As our case is new, we must think and act anew." A good place to start is the American Monetary Act.

Here is a fuller quotation from Lincoln's speech:

We can succeed only by concert. It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
– Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 1, 1862


"Since the Great Depression"

This phrase may soon seem inadequate.

The Race Is Over

Obama has won. Time for Americans to start joining together.

Why Bad Ideas Matter

Read Henry C. K. Liu, Friedman's misplaced monument, Asia Times, September 4, 2008.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To Someone Who Knows John McCain

Please say to the current Republican nominee for president: "Senator, I worked with John McCain; I knew John McCain. Senator, you're no John McCain."

Greed! Corruption!

If Senator McCain believes that "reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed" are at the bottom of Wall Street's woes, then he could do no better to bolster his avowals of change and eagerness to work with Democrats than by announcing that his administration's Attorney General will be the fomer Governor of New York and Sheriff of Wall Street — Eliot Spitzer!

But more likely he is aware that greed is always in plentiful supply, that corruption has its home in Washington, D.C., and that reckless conduct produced colossal rewards for competitive people (corporate hockey moms) who knew the game and played it for all that it was worth, and he does not mean what he says at all.

Believing Lies

People easily believe that politicians lie. They have a hard time believing that they have been taken in.

President Palin

Many people, including some conservatives, criticize Senator McCain for choosing a person ignorant of national and international affairs to be "a heartbeat away from the Presidency." They do not see that by his very choice of Governor Palin, Senator McCain has made himself a captive of the ideological wing of his party. Not only that, but his chances of election now depend on that ideology. Make no mistake about it: a Republican victory in November would mean a Palin Presidency from Day 1.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

America's Hope for the Election

After attending a large rally today in Carson City, NV. where Gov. Palin spoke for about 15 minutes, I am convinced that it is a waste of time trying to educate her supporters. They do not read the NYT and would, anyway, say "so what?." More basic, they will never vote for a black president. The Obama field workers and volunteers are on the right track here: seek out independent and newly registered voters to make the difference. A few thousand new blue votes and the state become blue.

— David, Nevada, Comment, New York Times, September 14, 2008

This seems true. It is said that in the American war for independence, one-third were for, one-third against, and one-third undecided. America still has a choice.

Women in Sarah Palin

If women see themselves in Sarah Palin, then it is not a pretty picture. But they may come to know in the next weeks that Sarah Palin is a distorted mirror.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quiet Clinton

BTW. Hillary should be saying that Palin is wrong for the job, and that there are many more, more qualified women. Also that Palin has lied about reform and earmarks.
— From an e-mail, Sept. 13, 2008

Maybe she will, eventually. Senator Clinton is very cautious and will not say anything that might hurt her standing among women. If more revelations come out of Alaska, especially if some Alaskan women speak out against Governor Palin, Senator Clinton would be able to say, "From what I hear about Sarah Palin from women who know her . . ." Probably Senator Clinton could appear right now on The View (is that what it's called?), and say, "Sarah Palin is an amazing women, but you know, she's for this, and she's against that, I'd be scared for would happen to what women have achieved if McCain and Palin get into the White House." But no hard blows yet from Senator Clinton, if ever (perhaps if she runs against Palin in 2012!).

Yet Senator Clinton could surprise us and put country first. And what about prominent Republicans, some of whom must be appalled by their party's choice of candidates? But this has been a low dishonest decade.

The Irrelevance of Truth to McCain-Palin

The old saw, from Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer goes: "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." The McCain-Palin We-Cannot-Stoop-Too-Low version is simpler: "Don't question our lies."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Not Senator Clinton for Vice President

Senator Clinton is a polarizing figure. Like Governor Palin, her primary instinct is not to unite but to divide. Governor Palin fits into the Republican scheme, because the Republicans rule when Americans are divided.

Many say that Obama will rue not having asked Senator Clinton to be his running mate; but whatever happens in the election, Obama chose better for his country by asking another to run with him.

Lies, Damned Lies, and John McCain

How a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern. . . . The Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

— Paul Krugman, A Blizzard of Lies, New York Times, September 12, 2008

John McCain would lose his country to win an election.

After Sex, Marriage

As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.
— Abraham Lincoln, 1962

Neither McCain or Obama has answers to the challenges America will face in the next years. Obama is more likely to understand the questions.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God Bless America

Like the Old Testament Jews, Americans have faults that try the patience of God, but we are a religious people. If Obama would always begin with "God bless America," always continue in that spirit, and always end with "God bless America," he would win the election. The difference between Obama and McCain-Palin is that he loves all Americans, whereas McCain-Palin love some, hate some, and ignore the rest. He can unite; they will divide.

"after the meal comes the digestion period"

Winston Churchill, quoted in John Lukacs, Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian, 2002, 14. And after the high comes the hangover.

September 11, 2001

Americans have still not grasped that incompetence kills. September 11 was the first of a series of "wake-up calls" that have yet to wake up America. The wake-up calls were just snooze alarms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig

Does not refer to Governor Palin, who is a pig in a poke. Caveat emptor.

Give 'em Hell, Barry!

That is: Tell the truth! Tell the truth! Tell the truth!

The Governmental-Commercial Complex

Misgovernment in the United States is an incident in the history of commerce.
— John Jay Chapman, Causes and Consequences, 1898, 3.

If this is true, privatizing is the solution of out of frying pan into fire.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

President Cleveland

We have had little experience recently in the utility of large appeals. We forget their power. Yet we are not without examples. Grover Cleveland dealt directly with the people on a great scale. He established a personal relation that was stronger than party bonds. This made him President, preserved his character and gave reality to politics.

— John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900, 69.


A One-Term Senator

What gave Lincoln his enormous strength in relation to others was that he had learned early in life to accept himself. He knew that he was ugly, ungainly, awkward in society, untaught except by himself, and as a Congressman for one term unsuccessful. The great point was that he did not resent these deficiencies; he neither tried to cover them up nor referred to them continually from embarrassment. They were part of him and (as I have said) he accepted all of himself as inevitable, as a fact of nature. By this act of will, his mind and soul grew freely to their full stature, and he was able to attend to the task in hand with none of the crippling insecurity of the self-made man.

— Jacques Barzun, Lincoln's Philosophic Vision, 1982, 19.

Accept, grow, attend to the task in hand.

Pro Choice

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do lessless whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

— Abraham Lincoln (1962), quoted in Jacques Barzun, Lincoln's Philosophic Vision, 1982, 11.

Who could speak similiarly today and be heard by either party, or by self-styled "independents"? What is the paramount object of either candidate?

Counterfeit Change

In using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
— Abraham Lincoln (1864), quoted in Jacques Barzun, Lincoln's Philosophic Vision, 21st Fortenbaugh Lecture, Gettysburg College, 1982, 10.

American politics are an instance of Gresham's Law: bad sense drives out good.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Maverick in the White House?

maverick n. [after Samuel Maverick (1803–70), Texas rancher who did not brand his cattle] 1. an unbranded animal, esp. a strayed calf, formerly the legitimate property of the first person who branded it. 2. [Colloq.] a person who takes an independent stand, as in politics, refusing to conform to that of his party or group.

leader, n. 1. a person or thing that leads; directing, commanding, or guiding head, as of a group or activity. . . .

Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd College Edition, 1979.

A maverick makes a poor leader. How would a maverick work with Congress on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

"McCain would be inclined toward a more radical solution, though Obama might have a better chance at a less radical solution," said Gerald O'Driscoll, a former vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and now a scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington. "But both of them face a Democratic Congress that is very wedded to these two firms as they exist."

McCain May Privatize Fannie, Freddie; Obama Sees Federal Role, Bloomberg.com, September 9, 2008.



Courage is the ability to overcome one's fear, someone said: and that is something every combat soldier knows in the marrow of his bones.
— John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, 2005, 206.

An election is not the greatest difficulty the President will face.

Can Obama Overcome?

McCain will win in November, and by a landslide, barring some unforeseen event. Obama is the most talented and persuasive politician of his generation, the intellectual superior of all his competitors, but a fatally insecure personality. American voters are not intellectual, but they are shrewd, like animals. They can smell insecurity, and the convention stank of it. Obama's prospective defeat is entirely of its own making [because he did not choose Clinton as his running mate].
Spengler, Asia Times Online, Sept. 3, 2008.

Obama may not be the right person in 2008. McCain may not be the right person in 2009. Suffering is certain.

There are plenty of people to whom the crucial problems of their own lives never get presented in terms that they can understand.
— John Jay Chapman, William Lloyd Garrison, 1931.

May this not also be true of nations?



Senator McCain says: I will change Washington. The implication is: America need not change. This is a delusion.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Sin to Avoid

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

— Matthew 12:31–32

The Republican Menagerie

The elephant will not cut off its trunk. The pit bull with lipstick will not evoke the better angels of our nature.

To David, On Elitism

Dear David,

The charges of elitism are cant. In sports, Americans want winners, from grade school to high school to college to professional sports, to the Olympics. This requires a commitment to elitism. In war, we want elite troops. In politics, we elect people with money; our representative government is hardly of, by, or for the people.

Nevertheless, Americans want to think well of themselves, not only of their surrogates, and feel threatened by superior character. Imagine Jesus speaking at this week's convention in Minnesota, and watch him being forceably escorted out of the arena.

I use Jesus as an example because he is the superior person who teaches me most, and whose real presence is rejected by many Christians who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or visit him in prison.

The Republicans are very good at winning Presidential elections, less good at defending the proposition that all men are created equal. William James wrote that "Real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and disdains; under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly on the human core." All of us are equal as children of God, and all Americans should be treated equally under the law, presumed to be innocent, and read their rights. As for the rest, let us have more sympathy and admiration, less dislike and disdain, and above all, let us pounce on the human core.


Moses and Pharaoh

It is telling that the Republicans tried to make fun of Obama as "Moses". Given the present evil administration, McCain runs as a Reform Pharaoh. If the McCain-Palin ticket gains the White House, more plagues are in store for our country.

In Touch with America

Who is closer to America - a community organizer or a man who can't count his houses?