Monday, July 14, 2008
"McCain stood up against Bush and Rumsfeld in the prosecution of the Iraq war for many years... To say that McCain was aligned with Bush on the prosecution of the war in Iraq is to change history."
- Carly Fiorina: Link
"The fact is that I have agreed with Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of Bush."
- John McCain: Link
By E.J. Dionne
The biggest political story of 2008 is getting little coverage. It involves the collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economic debate for three decades.
Since the Reagan years, free-market clichés have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing.
You know the talking points: Regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution. The distribution of income and wealth doesn't matter. Providing incentives for the investors of capital to "grow the pie" is the only policy that counts. Free trade produces well-distributed economic growth, and any dissent from this orthodoxy is "protectionism."
The old script is in rewrite. "We are in a worldwide crisis now because of excessive deregulation," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview.
He notes that in 1999 when Congress replaced the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act with a looser set of banking rules, "we let investment banks get into a much wider range of activities without regulation." This helped create the subprime mortgage mess and the cascading calamity in banking.
While Frank is a liberal, the same cannot be said of Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Yet in a speech on Tuesday, Bernanke sounded like a born-again New Dealer in calling for "a more robust framework for the prudential supervision of investment banks and other large securities dealers."
Bernanke said the Fed needed more authority to get inside "the structure and workings of financial markets" because "recent experience has clearly illustrated the importance, for the purpose of promoting financial stability, of having detailed information about money markets and the activities of borrowers and lenders in those markets." Sure sounds like Big Government to me.
This is the third time in 100 years that support for taken-for-granted economic ideas has crumbled.
National Security Policy
1. McCain thought Bush's warrantless wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.
2. McCain insisted that everyone, even "terrible killers," "the worst kind of scum of humanity," and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, "deserve to have some adjudication of their cases," even if that means "releasing some of them." McCain now believes the opposite.
3. He opposed indefinite detention of terrorist suspects. When the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion, he called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."
4. In February, McCain reversed course on prohibiting waterboarding.
5. McCain favored closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before he was against it.
6. When Barack Obama talked about going after terrorists in Pakistani mountains with Predators, McCain criticized him for it. He's since come to the opposite conclusion.
Update: Conyers gives Rove 5 days to comply before pursuing 'all available options'
Former White House adviser Karl Rove has ignored a subpoena from congressional Democrats to testify about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department and his alleged role in the prosecution of a former governor of Alabama.
A House subcommittee voted 7-1 Thursday to reject Rove's claim that executive privilege freed him from an obligation to testify, leaving open the possibility the Republican political guru will be held in contempt.
During the hearing, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) revealed that Rove was out of the country. According to the liberal blog ThinkProgress, Rove's lawyer's confirmed that Rove was out of the country on a trip scheduled long before the subpoena was sent.
Karl Rove failed to appear before the House Judiciary subcommittee. His lawyer revealed that he was out of the country.
This video is from U.S. House, broadcast July 10, 2008.
In his effort to distance himself from top economic adviser Phil Gramm's contention that America is a "nation of whiners" complaining about a "mental recession," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared in Michigan today that he "strongly disagrees" with Gramm. "Phil Gramm does not speak for me," said McCain. Watch it:
But as Politico's Jonathan Martin points out, McCain's claim that Gramm doesn't speak for him is contradicted by the fact that Gramm spoke to the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board on behalf of McCain today. The Washington Post reports:
Speaking today from New York, where he was meeting with the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board on McCain's economic policies, Gramm said the nation's economy was initially thought to have grown by an anemic 0.6 percent in the first three months of the year. That was revised up to 0.9 percent, and again to 1.0 percent.
Additionally, McCain has frequently praised Gramm — who Fortune Magazine has labeled "McCain's econ brain" — as a central beacon for his economic thinking.
By Andre Damon and Barry Grey
In speeches delivered Tuesday, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson outlined the ruthless class policy being carried out to place the burden for the financial and housing crisis on the backs of working people.
Bernanke indicated that the Fed would extend its policy of offering unlimited loans to major Wall Street investment banks. The provision of Fed funds to non-commercial banks and brokerage firms, a departure from the Fed's legal mandate without precedent since the Great Depression, is part of a policy of bailing out the banking system to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The Fed announced its loan program for investment banks last March when it dispensed $29 billion to JPMorgan Chase as part of a rescue operation to prevent the collapse of Bear Stearns.
In his speech, Treasury Secretary Paulson acknowledged that home foreclosures in 2007 reached 1.5 million and predicted another 2.5 million homes would be foreclosed in 2008. But he made clear that nothing would be done to save the vast majority of distressed homeowners from being thrown onto the street.
Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, said that "many of today's unusually high number of foreclosures are not preventable." With a callous indifference reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake," he went on to say that "some people took out mortgages they can't possibly afford and they will lose their homes. There is little public policymakers can, or should, do to compensate for untenable financial decisions."
In other words, low-income home owners who were lured into high-interest mortgages by predatory mortgage companies and banks are getting their just deserts!
What, if anything, about this benighted moment of American life will anyone in the future look back on with nostalgia? Well, those of us who have cable are experiencing a golden age of sarcasm (from the Greek sarkazein, "to chew the lips in rage"). Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann are digging into our direst forebodings so adroitly and intensely that we may want to cry, "Stop tickling!" Forget earnest punditry. In a world of hollow White House pronouncements, evaporating mainstream media and metastasizing bloggery, it's the mocking heads who make something like sense.
Let not those heads swell, however. News in the form of edgy drollery may seem a brave new thing, but it can all be traced back to one source, the man Ernest Hemingway said all of modern American literature could be traced back to: Mark Twain. Oh, that old cracker-barrel guy, you may say. White suit, cigar, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated--but he died back in 1910, no? White, male, and didn't he write in dialect? What does he have to do with the issues of our day?
As it happens, many of these were also the issues of his day, and he addressed them as eloquently as anyone has since. The idea that America is a Christian nation? Andrew Carnegie brought that up to him once. "Why, Carnegie," Twain answered, "so is Hell."
What about those Abu Ghraib photographs? In "King Leopold's Soliloquy," a fulminating essay he published in 1905, when he was a very cantankerous 70, Twain imagines the ruler of Belgium pitying himself for the inconvenience of photos showing natives of the Congo whose hands have been cut off by Belgian exploiters. In the good old days, Leopold complains, he could deny atrocities and be believed. "Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible Kodak--and all the harmony went to hell! The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I couldn't bribe."
Waterboarding? In 1902, American soldiers were involved in a war to suppress rebels in the Philippines, which the U.S. had taken from Spain in the Spanish-American War, then decided to keep for itself instead of granting the Filipinos the independence they thought they had been promised. That outcome enraged Twain. So did "the torturing of Filipinos by the awful 'water-cure.'"
"To make them confess--what?" Twain asked. "Truth? Or lies? How can one know which it is they are telling? For under unendurable pain a man confesses anything that is required of him, true or false, and his evidence is worthless."
By Terry Smith
What do a small newspaper in southeast Ohio, an uninhabitable island in Greece, a college-town legal-aid attorney, a pet-rescue organization in London, and a family of mixed-breed dogs have in common?
They all had roles in an adventure that transpired in the Corinth Gulf of Greece last weekend, and perhaps more importantly, they're the latest proof of why the phrase "the power of the Internet" is much more than just a cliché.
Through the Worldwide Web, the locally focused Athens NEWS and an Athens legal-aid attorney had roles in triggering an international rescue operation that plucked six abandoned mutts off a deserted Greek island last Saturday.
The simplest way to tell this story is chronologically, so let's start at the beginning.
June 26: The Athens NEWS received a letter to the editor via e-mail from Tim Munton, a South African who lives on Evia Island off Greece's east coast. He had been sailing in the Corinth Gulf. (This body of water is located between Greece's mainland and the Pelloponnese to the south, and is the main shipping channel between Athens and the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean.) In his letter, Munton said that while sailing, he and his companion(s) came across five abandoned dogs on a tiny group of uninhabited islands called Nisoi Alkonidhes. Munton wrote that the island where he found the dogs, Dhaskalio, has no fresh water, and that in spite of this, the dogs seemed in reasonable condition. They apparently had been eating sea gulls and their eggs, as well as fish.
Munton said he left 25 liters of water in a large plastic container and painted a sign on a wall to ask visiting boats to please give the dogs more water. Munton requested that The Athens News publish his letter, as a way of generating some help for the abandoned, waterless dogs.
"Look, do I have to draw you a DIAPHRAGM? It's obvious my mind is not a SPONGE, and I need a PLAN B to act as a PROPHYLACTIC against my blowing up like an IED, and causing my eventual WITHDRAWAL. Excuse me, I just watched my LIMP PERFORMANCE, and I feel a case of MORNING SICKNESS COMING ON."
Has the Internet killed the joys of sitting down with a good book?
The pile is waiting. The pile is getting higher. The pile looks impressive, probably isn't, still feels slightly overwhelming, vaguely threatening, even as it sighs, waits, drums its fingers on the inside of my skull, promising all manner of wonder and insight and syntactical bliss if I'd just, please, maybe, right now, even for just an hour or three, pay it some serious, focused attention. Please?
It's a bit of a problem. More than that, it's a moral, ethical, personal issue, a deep indignity of the soul, a painful twist to the nipple of my id.
See, I love books. Admire and appreciate and adore. Was a lit major at Berkeley, read voraciously, still love to read, still like to consider myself a big consumer of books and deep thinker about bookish issues and ideas and authoralia.
And yet, if I'm painfully honest, I have to admit it: I barely read books anymore. Not nearly like I used to, anyway. Not for a long, long time. And chances are, if you're at all addicted to the new media vortex, neither do you.
It's become a social conundrum, a cultural sore spot, a morose sign of the times. The question has been posed by agents and writers and a confused, hyperconsolidating publishing industry: What happened to all the readers? What happened to the culture of books? And the hint of fatalism, just underneath: If few truly read anymore, what of the state of the American mind? How much more dumbing down can we possibly stand?