Thursday, April 29, 2010

Embrace Your Extremism!

Sean Fenley has an article on Dandelion Salad, a wonderful compilation of progressive views. He wrote about how values consistent with a civilization with a social contract would be considered extreme now. How even Jesus Christ preaching to help the sick, poor and vulnerable would be called "radical" and "Marxist".

We have to embrace (or stand up to the extremist label) and push the discourse further to the left. Or even the center, circa 1970. Nixon would be a radical in these times. My reply to his piece:

Sean, you are so right. Civilized values and the societal good are held to be extreme left-wing views in the MSM. During the health care reform debate, Bill Moyers of PBS’ Journal program (sadly canceled) had knowledgeable professionals speak about Medicare-for-all and single payer plans. Maureen Dowd called such discussion that of “the left wing fringe.”

Armed militia men marching on DC on the anniversary of Tim McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing are not referred to as extremists but merely as “exercising their first and second amendment rights.”

In certain states which allow the carrying of unconcealed weapons, armed people are testing their rights by entering such common areas as Starbucks stores. I should say, “armed white people” because I could not imagine any other race getting away with such privilege.

Propaganda by the corporate state is funding information now.

Today the NYT is running an op-ed piece written by Kris Kobach, one of the constructors of the Arizona “guilty until proven innocent” bill, who was an adviser to AG Ashcroft. There is no opposing view to pick apart the constitutional holes in his logic, unless you count Linda Greenhouse's article a few days before, "Breathing While Illegal"

I’m glad I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon.

Because I’m not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into.

What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?

Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and has covered SCOTUS for years. She is afraid that the current court will not strike down such law as unconstitutional. With good reason. In 1982, a similar law in Texas was struck down. At that time, a young John Roberts was an assistant to Texas Attorney General William French Smith. He wrote that such an action was "judicial activism." He is now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Repugs Say to Dems-Hands Off!-Save Wall Street So It Can Kill Again

If you ever wondered whether the Wall Street Journal's news coverage had been slanted by Rupert Murdoch's grip on the paper (of course, the editorial pages were always virulently conservative but the news used to be untainted), all you have to do is look at the front page story , "Banks Falter In Rules Fight".

The story presents the banksters as poor elderly widows deprived of food and shelter by the evil Obama empire rather than as greedy pirates who almost brought the world economy down (and still might) then begged to be bailed out by the taxpayers. The story decries the Democrats' efforts to regulate the financial sector as a means of:

[S]queezing the banks' lucrative derivatives-trading business.

Derivatives (like mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps--CDS) are ways for traders to sell worthless paper then insure themselves against losses by having the taxpayer take the fall. That's what happened to your housing equity and 401K. Often the traders don't own the very bond or obligation that they're betting will fail. It's like betting that your neighbor's house will burn down and collecting if it does. There are legitimate uses for derivatives, to hedge against price and interest rate fluctuations, but those have paled next to the skyrocketing CDS casino.

AIG was the entity that took all these bets against the subprime mortgage market but had no money to pay out if the market tanked, which of course it did. The only rationale for CDS is to make gobs of money while producing nothing of value and maybe helping burn down your neighbor's house. But the story doesn't present regulation against these opaque contracts made in the dark as at all beneficial. Now that Obama appears to be succeeding in fighting against weakening regulation against CDS abuse:

That's drawing Republican complaints that the pending rewrite of the rules of finance will put the economy at risk.

If that isn't Orwellian, dunno what is. The derivatives put the economy at risk.

The funniest part of the story is the description of derivatives.

Derivatives are financial instruments that derive their value from the movement of something else--for instance, the price of wheat or other commodities, or the level of interest rates. In recent years, a strain of derivatives known as credit default swaps (in effect, a bet on a borrower's ability to repay a debt) has exploded. Derivatives figured in the global financial crisis, though their precise role is a subject of debate

There ain't no debate. Goldman Sachs et al sold toxic instruments to pension funds then bet against them because they knew they would fail. Put someone in jail, folks. And if there's any socialism going on, it's socialism for the rich.