24 Nov, 14 > 30 Nov, 14
7 Jul, 14 > 13 Jul, 14
27 Jan, 14 > 2 Feb, 14
13 Jan, 14 > 19 Jan, 14
11 Mar, 13 > 17 Mar, 13
21 Jan, 13 > 27 Jan, 13
23 Jan, 12 > 29 Jan, 12
5 Dec, 11 > 11 Dec, 11
24 Oct, 11 > 30 Oct, 11
17 Oct, 11 > 23 Oct, 11
3 Oct, 11 > 9 Oct, 11
15 Aug, 11 > 21 Aug, 11
28 Mar, 11 > 3 Apr, 11
7 Mar, 11 > 13 Mar, 11
21 Feb, 11 > 27 Feb, 11
17 Jan, 11 > 23 Jan, 11
10 Jan, 11 > 16 Jan, 11
20 Dec, 10 > 26 Dec, 10
13 Dec, 10 > 19 Dec, 10
6 Dec, 10 > 12 Dec, 10
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
22 Nov, 10 > 28 Nov, 10
15 Nov, 10 > 21 Nov, 10
1 Nov, 10 > 7 Nov, 10
25 Oct, 10 > 31 Oct, 10
11 Oct, 10 > 17 Oct, 10
4 Oct, 10 > 10 Oct, 10
27 Sep, 10 > 3 Oct, 10
13 Sep, 10 > 19 Sep, 10
6 Sep, 10 > 12 Sep, 10
30 Aug, 10 > 5 Sep, 10
9 Aug, 10 > 15 Aug, 10
5 Jul, 10 > 11 Jul, 10
24 May, 10 > 30 May, 10
26 Apr, 10 > 2 May, 10
19 Apr, 10 > 25 Apr, 10
29 Mar, 10 > 4 Apr, 10
4 Jan, 10 > 10 Jan, 10
28 Dec, 09 > 3 Jan, 10
23 Nov, 09 > 29 Nov, 09
24 Aug, 09 > 30 Aug, 09
16 Mar, 09 > 22 Mar, 09
2 Feb, 09 > 8 Feb, 09
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
25 Aug, 08 > 31 Aug, 08
28 Jul, 08 > 3 Aug, 08
9 Jun, 08 > 15 Jun, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
5 May, 08 > 11 May, 08
21 Apr, 08 > 27 Apr, 08
7 Apr, 08 > 13 Apr, 08
17 Mar, 08 > 23 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
18 Feb, 08 > 24 Feb, 08
11 Feb, 08 > 17 Feb, 08
21 Jan, 08 > 27 Jan, 08
7 Jan, 08 > 13 Jan, 08
31 Dec, 07 > 6 Jan, 08
17 Dec, 07 > 23 Dec, 07
10 Dec, 07 > 16 Dec, 07
3 Dec, 07 > 9 Dec, 07
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
22 Oct, 07 > 28 Oct, 07
20 Aug, 07 > 26 Aug, 07
23 Jul, 07 > 29 Jul, 07
30 Apr, 07 > 6 May, 07
2 Apr, 07 > 8 Apr, 07
19 Mar, 07 > 25 Mar, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
26 Feb, 07 > 4 Mar, 07
12 Feb, 07 > 18 Feb, 07
29 Jan, 07 > 4 Feb, 07
22 Jan, 07 > 28 Jan, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
23 Oct, 06 > 29 Oct, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
2 Oct, 06 > 8 Oct, 06
18 Sep, 06 > 24 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
21 Aug, 06 > 27 Aug, 06
3 Jul, 06 > 9 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
12 Jun, 06 > 18 Jun, 06
5 Jun, 06 > 11 Jun, 06
22 May, 06 > 28 May, 06
8 May, 06 > 14 May, 06
1 May, 06 > 7 May, 06
10 Apr, 06 > 16 Apr, 06
27 Mar, 06 > 2 Apr, 06
13 Mar, 06 > 19 Mar, 06
6 Mar, 06 > 12 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
6 Feb, 06 > 12 Feb, 06
30 Jan, 06 > 5 Feb, 06
23 Jan, 06 > 29 Jan, 06
9 Jan, 06 > 15 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
12 Dec, 05 > 18 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
31 Oct, 05 > 6 Nov, 05
17 Oct, 05 > 23 Oct, 05
26 Sep, 05 > 2 Oct, 05
12 Sep, 05 > 18 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
15 Aug, 05 > 21 Aug, 05
1 Aug, 05 > 7 Aug, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
20 Jun, 05 > 26 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
23 May, 05 > 29 May, 05
9 May, 05 > 15 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
18 Apr, 05 > 24 Apr, 05
4 Apr, 05 > 10 Apr, 05
21 Mar, 05 > 27 Mar, 05
14 Mar, 05 > 20 Mar, 05
7 Mar, 05 > 13 Mar, 05
28 Feb, 05 > 6 Mar, 05
21 Feb, 05 > 27 Feb, 05
31 Jan, 05 > 6 Feb, 05
10 Jan, 05 > 16 Jan, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
22 Nov, 04 > 28 Nov, 04
1 Nov, 04 > 7 Nov, 04
25 Oct, 04 > 31 Oct, 04
26 Jul, 04 > 1 Aug, 04
19 Jul, 04 > 25 Jul, 04
14 Jun, 04 > 20 Jun, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
22 Mar, 04 > 28 Mar, 04
8 Mar, 04 > 14 Mar, 04
23 Feb, 04 > 29 Feb, 04
26 Jan, 04 > 1 Feb, 04
17 Nov, 03 > 23 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
13 Oct, 03 > 19 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
8 Sep, 03 > 14 Sep, 03
28 Jul, 03 > 3 Aug, 03
28 Apr, 03 > 4 May, 03
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
 The Credit Crisis, Free Markets, Democracy, Change...

Topic: Commentary

We live in interesting times. NPR recently aired an excellent segment on the credit crisis, which touches on a number of issues, namely the issues of what unregulated "free markets" mean at this day, what it means to be informed in a global economy, and how global economic develop affects us in America.

I highly recommend that you listen to the entire program. You can listen to a short 12 minute version of the program on the NPR website here: NPR - Global Pool of Money Got Too Hungry

You can download the entire one hour program from This American Life here however: TAL - 355: The Giant Pool of Money

Here is what I took away from this segment. Even though our government and high level financial analysts had some understanding of what was happening around 2002-2007, they never passed that information on to the public. Secondly, even though there was some concept of what was going on at high levels, due to the lack of information sharing, very few people, even the high level financial analysts, understood the big picture. Why wasn't economic information being shared? Because in a free market capitalist system information is power, thus there was, on top of everything else, information hoarding. There was also an irrational faith in the power of unregulated "markets".

But what exactly are we talking about here? What we are talking about here is that between the year 2000 and the year 2006 the total amount of liquid assets in the world doubled. As the segment states, the "global pool of money" was about $36 trillion in 2000. This "global pool of money" took hundreds of years to be amassed. This is the pool of liquid assets that accrued throughout the world during basically the entire history of civilization. Between 2000 and 2006 that pool of money doubled. Why did it double so quickly? Largely because of increased economic development in emerging economies, namely China and India. Not only did emerging economies contribute to exponential global economic growth, but people in those developing countries were also big savers, often putting as much as 50% of their incomes into savings. These savings then became a part of the global pool of assets seeking investment.

So, while the American economy was on a slight downturn and while Americans were going deeper and deeper into debt, the rest of the world was rapidly accruing assets and banking huge levels of collective savings. As American savings dipped into the red, the rest of the world was going heavily into the black. As this happened, the rest of the world looked to America as a safe place to invest their savings. For the past 100 years America has been seen as one of the safest places in the world to invest your money. In order to meet the demand for American investments, American bankers and financial organizations basically started creating very "sophisticated" investment securities, bonds, to sell to these foreign investors. What were these bonds? These bonds were created out of American debt, largely home mortgage debt, but really all kinds of debt.

So, between 2000 and 2007 interest rates went very low and credit issuers were falling all over themselves to give Americans loans because they were then packaging these loans into bonds that they sold to foreign investors, who assumed that America was a safe place to invest. So here Americans, people living in the richest country in the world, were effectively borrowing from some of the poorest people in the world. Now, the thing about all of this is that none of this was ever really explained to Americans in the first place. The credit was flowing freely, loans were going out like water, people were spending like crazy and buying houses at every higher prices, and it was never explained exactly why this credit was flowing so freely. Furthermore, Americans were brainwashed by the American myth. In America people believed that this economic explosion in the middle of poor economic fundamentals was due to "American hard work", or "the power of the American economy," etc. In reality none of this really had anything to do with America, other than our reputation as a safe place to invest. But, in fact America was not a safe place to invest. In fact, the underlying economics were bad and getting worse every day. This huge infusion of cash, all borrowed from the "global pool of money" fed the America delusion of economic superiority.

Now, how did all of this happen? Two things contributed heavily to the problems. 1) Lack of regulation and government oversight. 2) Free market competition.

It's no surprise that there was lack of government oversight during the Bush administration. A number of crisises in America have occurred during the Bush years due to lack of oversight. The airline safety problems due to lack of FAA oversight, problems in the pharmaceutical industry due to lack of FDA oversight, problems with tainted beef due to lack of FDA oversight, problems in the military due to lack of oversight, and problems in credit, finance, and banking due to lack of oversight. Let's not forget that some of this also began on Clinton's watch, with lack of corporate oversight leading to the Enron and related scandals. So, what we have a is systemic pattern of lack of oversight with real, significant, and costly consequences.

But lack of oversight isn't the whole story. The other ingredient is free-market competition. Lack of oversight wasn't enough to drive thousands of businesses to make bad decisions. No, it required free-market capitalism to do that. A one point in the segment there is a discussion of how one lending company was "forced" to make loans that it didn't want to make and that it knew made no sense.

Why were they forced to make these loans? Because of market competition. Even though the owner of the company knew that the loans were a bad idea, he had to follow the market forces. If he didn't he would have been driven out of business right then and there. The story of the credit crisis is a story of herd mentality and the forces of competition pushing firms into greater and greater risk despite them not wanting to go there. New types of loans were devised in order to try and gain an edge on the competition, and as soon as a new type of loan, no matter how risky, was developed, everyone else had to follow suit or risk losing all of their business to others.

In fact it would be safe to say that many people in the business wanted government regulation, they were looking for someone to come in and bring sanity to the process, but that didn't happen. And that is the irony of this whole situation and the whole predicament of the American economy as a whole. Irrational "free-market" ideology is a religion that has overtaken the country and indeed the problems aren't even being driven by the people at the top. The irony is that many industries want government regulation, indeed historically industries have been leaders in bringing regulation upon themselves. The irony is that most real economists know that free-markets have pitfalls and need oversight. The irony is that it's not the wealthy who are most opposed to raising taxes on the rich.

The super-rich in America only makeup less than 1% of the population. The "well-off" makeup between 5% and 10% of the population depending on how you define it. It is impossible in an even remotely democratic country to arrive at the economic policies of the United States with only the support of the wealthy. It's not the wealthy who are voting for tax cuts for the rich and industry deregulation and corporate welfare, it has been the majority of Americans who have been voting for those things for the past 30 years. Many of America's wealthiest people have been campaigning for the past 10 years for increased taxation on the wealthy. That includes people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. A recent survey by Bloomberg found that the majority of investors say that increasing capital gains taxes would have no impact on their investing strategies.

See: Investors Say Tax Increase Wouldn't Alter Strategy

"Upper-income investors in the poll tend to side with the Democratic view."

There is a very strange irony in America, that is actually not so strange. Many of today's wealthy educated Americans want to make the economic system more fair and more level than many of the poorest Americans. Polls show that many wealthy Americans are very concerned about growing economic disparity in America. People talk about the fact that Barack Obama has a lot of support from well educated upper-income whites. Obama's economic polices are the most favorable toward the poor of any of the candidates, yet Obama's support is weakest among poor whites. It doesn't seem to make any sense. Obama's policies will certainly tax the wealthy more than any of the other candidates, yet he has the most support among the wealthy. Why is that? It's because the majority of wealthy people are well educated, and well educated people understand that we have some major fundamental problems in the American economic system right now and that the system is unbalanced and unfair and unsustainable and that the only way to fix it is to make the system more fair and to start investing more in our society and in our economy, and the only way to do that is to tax the people who can both afford to pay for it and who by definition receive the most benefits. Educated people understand this, and ironically it is uneducated poor people who are voting in large numbers in support of self-destructive economic policies that give more tax breaks to the rich and prevent necessary government regulation of industry.

The issues are obviously much more complex than this. There are social factors to take into consideration, and certainly there are wealthy well-educated people who are free-market advocates who push for lower taxes on the wealthy. But the point is that American economic policies wouldn't be what they are if they only had the support of the wealthy, because the wealthy really only make up about 5% of the population, and in fact many of those top 5% vote Democratic and favor higher taxes on the wealthy, higher taxes on capital gains, and more spending on social programs.

The problem in America is that the ideologies of the Cold War have become completely ingrained in the population and they permeate the thinking of people of all levels of education and all classes and of course the media. It is taken for granted that "free market capitalism" is good and that government regulation is bad, and these views are widely held even by those people which are hurt the most by these views. The average American citizen simply doesn't have any meaningful understanding of economics in general, much less the complexities of the changing global dynamics and how those changes impact America.

There is an interesting presentation that gives some idea of the changing dynamics of the world called Shift Happens. You can watch it below:

The website for the creators is here:

The point of all this I guess is that we are living in a highly complicated global economy. Most Americans today really have no concept of how this all works. The Cold War rhetoric about the "triumph of capitalism" and the virtue of "free-markets" really has no place in a meaningful discussion of economics anymore, yet that is still the propaganda that permeates American thinking, to our own demise.

Posted by at 9:05 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2008 9:24 AM EDT
Saturday, May 10, 2008
 The "Dream Ticket" a Nightmare

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts

With Obama clearly taking the lead in the Democratic primary and Hillary along with her supporters becoming more desperate every day, there has been increased talk of a so-called "dream ticket" with Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama's running mate. This idea is completely ridiculous and would not be a pleasant dream at all, but rather a total nightmare.

The negatives of such a ticket are so numerous and so grave that I'm surprised that anyone even entertains this notion. But just in case some people haven't thought this through, I'll take the time here to enumerate the many pitfalls of an Obama/Clinton ticket.

A ticket with two controversial figures simply amplifies the negatives. It is well known that many people strongly dislike Hillary Clinton. At the same time, Barack Obama has recently become more controversial due to the Reverend Wright business and there are issues because he is black. What Obama needs in a running mate is someone who is more conventional and non-controversial, someone who will bring stability to the ticket. Hillary certainly does not do that.

The main argument against Hillary Clinton as a nominee is that she would certainly mobilize the conservative base to come out to vote against her, even if they would not otherwise have come out to support McCain. Her being on the ticket with Obama would still have this effect. All of Hillary's baggage would become Obama's baggage.

With Hillary on the ticket Obama's message of change, the greatest message of his campaign, would be significantly undercut.

Hillary does not compliment Obama's weaknesses. Neither one have a military background. Neither one have meaningful foreign relations experience, though I think that Obama does have a significant understanding of foreign relations and would be excellent for America's foreign relations.

There is almost no doubt that Hillary would continue to campaign as if she were on top of the ticket if she were in the VP slot. She wouldn't respect Obama and it's certain that she would not stay on his message, she would go back to her own message. When the issue of healthcare comes up in a debate or discussion how would she answer? Would she tow Obama's line, or would she undercut his plan? Since she criticized his plan so heavily in the campaign she would have no credibility in supporting his plan and if she didn't support his plan she would be undermining him. It's a total no win situation. The same goes for negotiating with enemies, with tax reform, etc. She would have no credibility in towing the Obama line and if she didn't she would undermine him.

If we assume that these two would actually be able to win the election together, what would happen once they were in office? Obama and Hillary in office together would make the campaign look like child's play. Hillary would certainly undercut and hamper Obama. Not only Hillary, but Bill as well.

Having a former first lady as a vice president is arguably even worse than as a president. She would no doubt try to assert her experience over Obama in the White House and Oval Office. On top of that, Bill would be there second guessing him and try to give advice and trying to put pressure on him. Hillary would still try to peruse her agenda once in office.

Having a former president as the husband of the vice president would be a disaster under any circumstance, but especially in this case. It is virtually a given that if Hillary were VP to Obama that once in office Bill and Hillary would team up against him and undercut his authority. We all know how driven Bill and Hillary are, which is fine in some respects, but it wouldn't work for a VP slot. There is no doubt that they would try to take over the show, and there is no doubt that the press would go along. How could they not?

Having Hillary as VP for Obama would be an unmitigated disaster. There is absolutely no way that anything good could come of it.

So having said that, who should Obama pick as a running mate? Well, the best option would be General Wesley Clark. There are numerous advantages to having Clark as a running mate, the only problem is that Clark is a Clinton supporter so he may not do it. However, if he would do it the fact that he's a major Clinton backer would actually be a great benefit as it could be one of the means of bringing the Democratic Party back together. I have no doubt that Hillary planned all along to have Clark as her running mate. Clark has been campaigning with Hillary since the beginning, and I think that Clark wanted to take a VP slot and he teamed up with Hillary because he assumed that she would be the nominee. Now that it looks like Obama will be the nominee Clark may be willing to go with Obama. But, I don't know the details of the relationships between these three. I do know that Clark has had some heated exchanges with the Obama camp, but that's a part of politics. I would hope that for the good of country and the election that Obama would reach out to Clark and that Clark would accept the spot. I think that Clark is so far above the rest of the potential running mates in terms of the benefits that he bring to an Obama ticket and presidency that this really needs to be what the Democratic party leaders push for. I don't know if it will happen, but it's what should happen.

By the way, Hillary is charging her campaign interest on the loans she gave to herself.

See: Hillary's loan, with interest 

Posted by at 11:45 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
Monday, May 5, 2008
 Hillary: God Bless the Rich

Topic: Commentary

On April 30th Hillary Clinton went on the Bill O'Reilly show for an interview. During that interview she made perhaps one of the most outrageous comments of the entire campaign. I was waiting to see if the mainstream news media would jump all over this comment the way that they jumped on the out of context "bitter" remark made by Barack Obama, but alas it seems that the comment has yet to generate any attention in the mainstream media.

When asked by Bill O'Reilly about the prospect of her raising taxes on the wealthy, Hillary's response was this:

"Rich people, God bless us. We deserve all the opportunities to make sure our country and our blessings continue to the next generation."
See full transcript here:,2933,353759,00.html

The explanation came today that she didn't say "God bless us," she really said "God blessed us." I'm not sure what difference this really makes.

So we have two candidates with upper-middle-class white upbringings, one of which then married into a hugely wealthy family, the other of which lived as a first lady (in Arkansas and D.C.) much of her adult life, calling Barack Obama, who grew-up in villages in Indonesia and in rural Kansas, raised by a mother on food stamps and his grandparents, the out of touch "elitist". Yeah, that's it, the black man with the modest upbringing is the "elitist" and the white candidates who grew up with vacation homes and privilege are the "regular Joes". Yet the media is happy to go along with whatever narrative that seems in vogue.

So here we have Hillary Clinton talking about how the rich are "blessed" and deserve the opportunity to ensure that their "blessings" can be passed on to the next generation. There really isn't any way to explain this away without it being a highly elitist comment. Either Hillary is agreeing with O'Reilly that the rich should be able to pass on their wealth to the next generation, or she's saying that rich people are rich because God favored them, so now they have an obligation to economic justice. Hillary's campaign is trying to argue with the "blessed" explanation that she meant the later, but even if she did its still highly "elitist", quite insulting, and shows a completely delusional world view that has no understanding of economics.

Indeed even if you assume that Hillary meant the later, the comment would certainly demonstrate her own sense of economic justice as having grown out of her own comfortable upbringing and sense of guilt, not out of a sense of economic fairness. According to this explanation, its not that the economic system is inherently unfair, redistributing wealth from the working class to the wealthy, but rather the wealthy have been given gifts by God and so they should share those gifts in order to "be nice", i.e. it's not that the workers deserve more or that the wealthy are ripping them off, they are just people to feel sorry for.

Besides, I'm not even sure that she meant that anyway, from the full interview its sounds to me more like she was reassuring Bill O'Reilly that she agrees with him that the wealthy are a special breed who deserve to keep their wealth; she wants to raise taxes on the wealthy a little bit, but not enough to threaten them passing it on to the next generation.

Hillary's out of touch understanding of economics spills over into other areas as well. One of her new favorite claims is that the economy was working for the little guy during the Clinton years, but that it was only under George Bush that is became so heavily unbalanced towards the wealthy. A review of the facts shows that this is not the case. In fact Bill Clinton presided over the fastest growth in disparity between the poor and the wealthy since the 1920s. Wages were effectively flat for average American workers all through the 1990s, even while the stock market was soaring in bubbleville and unemployment was at record lows. Household incomes for average families went up slightly during the 1990s due to an increase in the number of workers per household and the continuing trend of moderately increasing female incomes.

The percentage of the national income received by the bottom 95% of the population went down during the Clinton years while the percentage of national income going to the top 1% increased dramatically during this time. I covered much of this material in my article on taxation and income: In Depth Analysis of American Income and Taxation

It seems that Hillary Clinton was living inside a bubble in the White House, where the performance of the economy was measured in numbers that looked good, despite the fact that in reality working class families were already falling behind throughout the Clinton administration.

A article from 1995, If the GDP is Up, Why is America Down?, proves particularly relevant today.
Throughout the tumult of the elections last year political commentators were perplexed by a stubborn fact. The economy was performing splendidly, at least according to the standard measurements. Productivity and employment were up; inflation was under control. The World Economic Forum, in Switzerland, declared that the United States had regained its position as the most competitive economy on earth, after years of Japanese dominance.

The Clinton Administration waited expectantly, but the applause never came. Voters didn't feel better, even though economists said they should. The economy as economists define it was booming, but the individuals who compose it--or a great many of them, at least--were not. President Bill Clinton actually sent his economic advisers on the road to persuade Americans that their experience was wrong and the indicators were right.
Typical Clinton approach, and it seems that today Hillary is still trying to do the same thing. It's true that things did pick up a bit between 1995 and 2000, but this was based largely on the stock market bubble that had stay-at-home-moms day-trading over the internet for about a year prior to everyone losing their shirts. Even during that time, however, there was well noted wage stagnation. During the time from 1998 to 2000 this wage stagnation was reported on with much glee as the stock market rose on the news that despite low unemployment, labor costs remained "in check". Besides, the rapid economic growth that did occur during the Clinton years was largely based on the rise of the internet and on the mass movement of American manufacturing overseas to China, which flooded America with cheap goods, contributing to the growing retail and services markets of the time. The things that people look back on as good during the Clinton years largely either had nothing to do with Clinton or are the very underpinnings of the problems that we see in the economy today.

As an example, listed to this piece on the economy on NPR from 1999: Wealth of the 90s

See also this report on unemployment that praised the lack of wage increases in 1999: Unemployment

The fact of the matter is that the Clinton years weren't all that Hillary touts them to have been, and in essence many of the economic problems of today were sown under the Clinton watch. Once again is it Hillary who proves that she is the one who is out of touch with the "America worker", and once again she falls back on deception and willfully promoting misconceptions to promote herself.

Posted by at 11:29 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, May 5, 2008 11:44 PM EDT
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
 The Swiftboating of Barack Obama

Topic: Commentary

Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, "bitter" - when will the nonsense attacks end? While there is some arguable legitimacy to the Reverend Wright controversy there is no legitimacy to either the Ayers or the "bitter" controversies. To make things worse, both the Ayers and the "bitter" controversies were launched into the media spotlights by Democrats, specifically by Hillary Clinton's campaign in the "bitter" case and by a former Clinton advisor, George Stephanopoulos, in the Ayers case.

It is not enough that the Clintons launched the attacks on a fellow Democrat however, the mainstream media has been happy to play along as well.

First let's address the "bitter" issue. What Hillary Clinton did, and what the rest of the mainstream media just went right along with, was take a small part of a long and complex answer way out of context and portray in a way that had a meaning completely opposite of what Obama was saying.

What Hillary Clinton, and following her John McCain, have accused Obama of is being "out of touch" and "elitist" because of his supposed "bitter" remarks. Now, the quote that you see going around and being repeated was a quote that was taken from a Huffington Post blog entry that contained both the full audio recording of his remarks, plus a hand typed transcript by the author of the "bitter" segment. What everyone is repeating is what the blog poster had hand written, but every single media outlet I have seen has failed to actually extend that out and put it into context, even though the audio is right there and accessible.

Here is the portion comment that has been quoted everywhere:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Here is the blog post that contains the full audio recording of that event:

Starting at about the 32 minute mark is where Obama starts talking on the subject. It is very clear from his answer that he in fact has a very in-depth knowledge of Pennsylvania and of small town America. Likewise, it is also clear that the theme he was working on was connecting with people who have become cynical of government, which is the whole basis of his message of hope. He was building on this idea that many voters have become cynical and bitter, which is why he has made hope the theme of his campaign.

His answer was very nuance, all of which was cut out from the quote. His answer, when you listen to the audio, displays no hint of being "elitist" whatsoever.

Ironically, there was another article on the Huffington Post from someone else who was at the event that also discusses totality of his comments. You can read that article here: I Was There: What Obama Really Said About Pennsylvania

From the article:

"Obama's response to the questioner was that there are many, many different sections in Pennsylvania comprised of a range of racial, geographic, class, and economic groupings from Appalachia to Philadelphia. So there was not one thing to say to such diverse constituencies in Pennsylvania. But having said that, Obama went on say that his campaign staff in Pennsylvania could provide the questioner (an imminent Pennsylvania volunteer) with all the talking points he needed. But Obama cautioned that such talking points were really not what should be stressed with Pennsylvania voters.

Instead he urged the volunteer to tell Pennsylvania voters he encountered that Obama's campaign is about something more than programs and talking points. It was at this point that Obama began to talk about addressing the bitter feelings that many in some rural communities in Pennsylvania have about being brushed aside in the wake of the global economy. Senator Obama appeared to theorize, perhaps improvidently given the coverage this week, that some of the people in those communities take refuge in political concerns about guns, religion and immigration. But what has not so far been reported is that those statements preceded and were joined with additional observations that black youth in urban areas are told they are no longer "relevant" in the global economy and, feeling marginalized, they engage in destructive behavior. Unlike the week's commentators who have seized upon the remarks about "bitter feelings" in some depressed communities in Pennsylvania, I gleaned a different meaning from the entire answer.

First, I noted immediately how dismissive his answer had been about "talking points" and ten point programs and how he used the question to urge the future volunteer to put forward a larger message central to his campaign. That pivot, I thought, was remarkable and unique. Rather than his seizing the opportunity to recite stump-worn talking points at that time to the audience -- as I believe Senator Clinton, Senator McCain and most other more conventional (or more disciplined) politicians at such an appearance might do -- Senator Obama took a different political course in that moment, one that symbolizes important differences about his candidacy."

So, this whole "bitter" business is literally a misrepresentation of the meaning of what he said and the views that expressed about Pennsylvanians and people in small towns. Now that is to be expected in politics, but it is certainly not to be expected to come from a member of your own party. In other words, the Clinton campaign didn't just attack Obama, they misrepresented him egregiously in the process. Its one thing for a Democrat to attack a fellow Democrat on the issues during a primary, but to smear the front running Democrat with falsehoods is really quite nasty and destructive. Ironically, in the same speech that the "bitter" remarks came from, Obama talks about the possibility of being "Swiftboated" by the Republicans in the general election, but little did he know that his remarks from that very speech were going to be used to Swiftboat him by a Democrat days later.

Now on to the "Bill Ayers connection". There is no Bill Ayers connection, and once again Hillary Clinton, followed up by the mainstream media and John McCain, has manufactured a controversy but in this case even more deceitfully.

There are several points here.

First of all, in every case that Barack Obama has been in the same room with Bill Ayers at the same time, at least as far as anyone knows, it has been due to the fact that both of them were invited to the same place by other people. Now, given that they both live in the same city and are both political figures this should be no surprise. The point is that none of this is even under the control of Barack Obama. I guess it would have been possible for Obama to refuse to be in the same room with Ayers and to have turned down invitations to events where Ayers was going to be present, but what good would that have done?

Secondly, the attempt to connect Bill Ayers comments about not regretting setting bombs with September 11th, which Hillary has repeated several times, is completely just outlandish, since his comments merely happened to have been published on September 11th, they weren't made on 9/11 and they weren't made in reference to 9/11. Hillary, John McCain, and the media, despite knowing that he didn't make those comments on 9/11 or in relation to 9/11, all called Ayers a terrorist and then followed that up immediately with the comment that on 9/11 he said that he didn't "regret setting bombs" (in the 1960s to protest the Vietnam War).

The point here is that while what Ayers did in the 1960s may rightly be viewed as horrible, what these comments do is try to associate Ayers with present day serious terrorism.

But lets look at the fact about Obama's "connections" to Ayers.

Obama served on the board of directors of a local Chicago charity that works to address issues of poverty and homelessness. Bill Ayers served on the board of that same charity. Given that Obama was a rising political figure and a community organizer working to address issues of poverty is makes sense that he would have been invited to serve with such an organization. Should he have turned this position down? Why would he have? Even if he didn't like Bill Ayers and thought he was a horrible person, why would he have turned the position down? By not serving on the board he wouldn't have been able to help the community as much and he wouldn't have been able to possibly exert influence to counteract any possible influence of Ayers. In other words, even if he thought Ayers was a "bad guy" he still would have been wise to join the board. Not joining would have accomplished nothing, and in realty just allowed Ayers to be more influential. Even if someone from the KKK were on the board he should have joined. Him serving on that board is not a relationship with Bill Ayers. Hillary knows that and John McCain knows that.

The next supposed evidence of a relationship with Bill Ayers is the fact that Obama attended a party in his honor at Bill Ayers house. This may sound kind of damning, but Obama had nothing to do with organizing this benefit and it wasn't the only such party. The party was organized by the incumbent state senator that Obama was campaigning to replace (she was leaving the state senate) Ayers was a friend of hers, not of Obama. Obama merely accepted the invitation. This was noted in an AP article on the subject:

"When Obama was organizing his first race for the state legislature, the incumbent lawmaker he hoped to replace introduced him to her supporters and urged them to back Obama. One introductory event took place at the home of Ayers and Dohrn."
- Fact check: Obama and former radical

The way that Hillary, McCain, and most of the mainstream media tell it, Obama was a friend of Ayers who decided to have a party at Ayers house, but that is not at all the case. Again, he could have turned down the invitation, but would it have been wise for a freshman political figure just getting into politics to tell his strongest supporter, a state senator, that he didn't want to attend the event she was throwing for him?

Lastly, there is the fact that Obama was a panel speaker at a few events where Ayers was also a panel speaker. Again, these are situations that arose due to the invitations of others. I've been a panel speaker with people whom I totally disagreed with before. Should he have not attended those presentations because Ayers was there? How would that have been of any benefit? Again, they were both at these types of events because they both live in the same area and both were involved with issues of addressing poverty and homelessness. What was Obama supposed to do, move to a different city or tell people that he refused to be in the same room with Ayers? It doesn't make any sense. Bill O'Reilly has attended several events that Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, has attended. Should O'Reilly now be condemned as an associate of Dawkins, thus labeling him the "friend" of an atheist, thus  ruining his conservative credentials? Again, this makes no sense, it is "gotcha" politics, and the bad thing is that a fellow Democrat is the main one pulling this nonsense against Obama and that the media is going right along for the ride. As we can see from the Pennsylvania elections, Hillary's deceptive slander has paid off for her.

Meanwhile, as Barack Obama is attacked for the most tenuous of "relationships" with people like Ayers and Rezko, John McCain's involvement in the Keating scandal is barely even mentioned in the news media at all. This is not to say that John McCain should be dragged through the mud over the Keating issue, but clearly his involvement with Charles Keating went far beyond that of Obama's ties to either Ayers or Rezko, and given that John McCain has said that the Keating investigation was worse than his time as a POW in Vietnam, I find it amazing that he is so eager to thrust such abuse onto someone else.

So far Barack Obama has not brought up the Keating issue, but if John McCain were to try and press Obama on things like Rezko or Ayers in the general election, he would certainly have to address the Keating issue once again. John McCain was not found guilty of any crime in the Keating trails, but it is certainly a fact that there was a very close and inappropriate relationship between John McCain and Charles Keating, certainly a relationship that went way beyond that of Obama and Rezko.

Keating was a corrupt land developer who became close friends with John McCain and raised hundred of thousand of dollars for him. John McCain even vacationed with Charles Keating, used Keating's private jet, and invested in Keating properties. Charles Keating was then involved in the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 1980s, and it was determined that John McCain did act inappropriately on behalf of Charles Keating prior to the break of the scandal to head off investigations of Keating's savings and loan.

More about the Keating scandal here:

The Keating Five

Keating Scandal Still Haunts McCain

Again, the point here is not to attack John McCain over this issue, but rather to show that the alleged relationships between Barack Obama and people like Ayers or Rezko are quite insignificant compared to similar types of issues of the other candidates. While neither McCain nor Clinton were found guilty of crimes in the relationship scandals that they were involved in (Clinton-Whitewater, McCain-Keating), both of them were much more heavily involved in inappropriate conduct and relationships.

Posted by at 8:57 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 9:01 AM EDT
Monday, April 21, 2008
 Billion dollar incomes

Topic: Commentary
With the deadline for filing taxes have past, we are now getting an idea of the incomes for 2007. It turns out that several hedge fund managers had individual incomes of over one billion dollars last year. Keep in mind as well that this income doesn't count as wage income and so they were taxed at a flat rate of only 15% on most of this income, far lower than the tax rate of most working class people.

The top five hedge fund managers all had incomes of over a billion dollars. The top was John Paulson who had an income of $3.7 billion last year.

The New York Times, using the typical lexicon, states that these men have "earned" this income, but have they actually earned it? They have certainly received it, what did they actually create this value? Certainly none of them created any of this value, they have not "earned" it, they have successfully used the legal instruments of the capitalist system to transfer ownership of value from the people who produced that value to themselves.

Doing this certainly required risk taking and also some effort on heir part and the part of their corporations, but the fact remains that none of these people actually created any value, what they did was use systems that have been designed to redistribute value from value producers to themselves as well as other property rights owners.

How is it possible for these individuals to receive over a billion dollars of income in a single year? Obviously they aren't doing it by working 100,000 times harder or contributing 100,000 times more to society than the average school teacher. They are able to amass this income through the exploitation of complex legal instruments that have been constructed by financial corporations to leverage capital ownership rights in ways that funnel massive amounts of the value that is produced by workers around the world unto themselves and their corporations and investors.

What exactly did these fund managers do to reap these rewards? Several of these fund managers, including John Paulson, received their income by betting against mortgage holding companies and mortgage backed instruments, much like short-selling a stock. When the mortgage industry went bust, they received windfall profits by having bet correctly that there would be major losses, so how exactly does that work. Other investors were betting against them and then of course lost even more money when things went bad, having to pay these hedge funds the original value of these mortgage securities from 2004 and 2005 while they were now worthless.

But in all of this, what value was created? How did any of that produce anything of value or produce any product that improved anyone's lives? It didn't. They produced no products and there is no benefit for anyone other than themselves for these transactions. So, where does that money really come from? How do these people actually receive the billion plus dollars of income since they produced nothing?

Ultimately that value comes from you and me and millions of other workers around the world. It is taken from us and handed to them.

What has to be acknowledged, understood, and accepted, is that the incomes of these people are not a product of the value of the "work" that they do. These incomes are the products of the exploitation of financial instruments and laws that have been developed which allow these people to effectively, and legally, steal from the economic system. These people are not adding value to the system, they are only taking value from it. Not only are these people taking without contributing, but they are taking massive amounts and to top it off they are paying very low taxes on the income.

The United States had a federal budget deficit of $162 billion in 2007. The top 50 hedge fund managers had a combined income of $29 billion. That's fifty people alone, who produced no product, whose combined income is equivalent to approximately 20% of the total budget deficit.

The fact is that the redistribution of value through financial instruments is not a means of creating value. What enables these massive incomes is not any contribution of the individual, it is the leverage of the financial system and the instruments of capital. That isn't to say that there isn't some skill of the financial manager involved, but this skill isn't used in a way that actually creates any value any more than the skill of someone at playing poker in a card game creates value. When one plays a card game the value is brought to the table by the participants. That value is created somewhere else by doing something else. During the playing of the game the value is redistributed, and based on the skill of those involved someone may be able to consistently acquire most of the value by playing the game, but playing the game doesn't create the value it is just a means of determining how the value changes hands.

For example, if the two card players are farmers, one may grow corn and the other cotton. They both work hard to produce tangible products that they sell to receive money. They both work to product $100 worth of product. That is value creation for which they were compensated. They then take that $100 to a card table to play against each other. One man wins and he takes home $200. Certainly the may have won due to his own card playing skills, but his card playing skills didn't produce the $100 that he won, the other farmer produced that value by growing a crop.

This is what is taking place with these hedge fund managers, except the value that they receive is coming from workers who are not voluntarily or knowingly giving it up. Through the financial laws massive redistribution of wealth is taking place to a small handful of capital owners who are amassing insane fortunes while actually not even contributing anything to society or creating any value themselves. (They may or may not use the money they receive to benefit society in other ways after the fact.)

That is the current state of the American economy and of global capitalism. This has always been the basis of capitalism, and it has always been inherently unfair, but over the past 20 years what has happened in America especially is that the level of unfairness and the power of the financial instruments has reached new heights and those issues are now very strongly undermining the very foundation of the American, and indeed global, economy.

Commentators often note that the last time the American economy was this unbalanced was the year before the beginning of the Great Depression. Actually, there are several factors that make the American economy even more unstable than it was in 1929. Today America is a "postindustrial" economy whereas in 1929 is was still a developing industrial power. Today America is massively in debt, much more than in 1929. Today average American families have more financial obligations than that did in 1929. Today America is spending a much larger portion of GDP on the military than in 1929. Today America spends a much larger portion of GDP on health care than in 1929. Today resources are becoming more scarce around the world. Today the world is a much more economically competitive. Today the American grade-school education system is one of the worst in the industrialized world.

In short, there are actually many reasons to view the American economy as being at greater risk than it was in the 1920s, with more at stake and more to lose. That doesn't necessarily mean that another "Great Depression" is coming, but its also not out of the question either, and the more we track down the same fundamental economic path that we have been going for the past 30 years the more likely it is to happen.

See: Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays

Posted by at 11:46 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 10:51 PM EDT
Thursday, April 10, 2008
 Tibet Has Been Freed

Topic: Commentary

With all of the recent media coverage of the Tibetan protests and the Olympic torch I figure that something has to be said about the reality of the Tibetan issue. Firstly let me say that the way that the Chinese have handled the Tibetan unrest is not appropriate, and that they have done an even worse job handling the public relations of this matter. Nevertheless Western, and particularly American, media have completely misportrayed the Tibetan issue and are seizing on the Tibetan protests as an opportunity for outrageous anti-Chinese propaganda.

The issue of Tibet is in fact very complicated, much more complicated than the vast majority of Americans realize.

What few Americans realize is that the current "Free Tibet" movement in rooted in Cold War anti-Commmnist campaigns launched by the CIA. When the Chinese liberated Tibet in 1950 American leaders immediately saw this as another example of the spreading of Communism that had to be stopped.

In fact, however, the overwhelming majority of Tibetans did view the Chinese occupation of Tibet as a liberation, and the majority of Tibetans fought on the side of the Chinese when they invaded. Even today the majority of Tibetans support Tibet being a part of China and favor Chinese rule over the rule of the Lamas.

The Tibetan uprising of 1959 that we hear so much about in American media was in fact a CIA operation that had little support from the local Tibetan population. The fleeing of the Dalai Lama and the setting up of the "government in exile" in India were all encouraged and aided by the CIA. The Dalai Lama was on the CIA payroll from the 1950s through the early 1970s, and during the 1950s and 1960s the CIA was funding the small Tibetan guerilla opposition movement.

So, the "Free Tibet" movement is, at its base, the remnants of an old Cold War CIA program intent on undermining the Chinese government. From all appearances it seems that the CIA did fully abandon this program in the 1970s and stopped all funding to Tibetan opposition groups, but by that time the movement had taken on a life of its own, similar to how Al-Queda took on a life of its own after the CIA had funded Bin Laden and other Jihadists during the Afghan war against the Soviets during the 1980s.

The reality about Tibet is that Tibet was ruled by a horrible and brutal regime, the regime of the Dalai Lama, prior to the Chinese liberation. The current Dalai Lama was very young at the time of the liberation and personally bore little of the responsibility for the Tibetan government, and he himself has become a moderate and reasonable person during his time outside of Tibet, but the Tibetan system prior to the Chinese occupation was essentially a Medieval kingdom where 90% to 95% of the population were slaves ruled by an extremely abusive and oppressive religious aristocracy. Even in 1950 just prior to the Chinese liberation there were no secular schools in Tibet, 95% of the population was illiterate, the average life expectancy was 35 years, there was no movement towards modernization, there was basically no medical care at all aside for the elite, women had no rights to even choose their own partners, much less to do anything else, all of the land was owned by less than 10% of the population, and people were taught from birth that the Dalai Lama was god, they had to worship him, and they their station in life was a part of the order of the universe and that they could do nothing to change their lot in life. If they were born peasant farmers they were taught that this was punishment for being a bad person in their past life and that they had to suffer punishment and abuse in this life as atonement for their past evils. They were taught from birth that the wealthy were being rewarded for being good in their past life and that opposition to them would only bring more punishment in the next life (as well as this one).

At this time the Tibetan rulers, the Lamas, were also cooperating with the Europeans in the exploitation of the Tibetan population, exporting goods to Europe for low prices on the backs of the Tibetan slaves.

This is what the Chinese liberated the Tibetan people from, and it is why the majority of Tibetans supported the Chinese invasion and continue to support the Chinese rule. However, you don't hear anything about this in the American media.

Not only this, but the charges against the Chinese by Tibetan exiles (mostly former members of the ruling cast or Tibetan who never lived in Tibet) are largely bogus. The Chinese government has put a lot of effort into trying to improve conditions in Tibet. Sure there are cultural conflicts, but these are blown out of proportion by Western media. More Tibetan can read and write in their native Tibetan language now than under the rule of the Lamas. There is in fact more religious freedom in Tibet now than under the rule of the Lamas. Buddhism has never been outlawed in Tibet, though the strongest elements of it were suppressed, but this was in fact a good thing. Tibetan Buddhism was the core of the oppressive feudal system in Tibet. What the Chinese did in Tibet was basically no different than what the Europeans did all over Europe, taking rights, power, and land away from the Catholic Church during the 17th and 18th centuries because the Church was part of an oppressive aristocracy. There was zero religious "freedom" in Tibet under the Lamas. What there was was religious tyranny, more like what currently exists in Saudi Arabia. Now Tibetans can actually learn about other religions and can adopt other religions, which they couldn't do in the past. In fact in the past most Tibetans couldn't even practice Buddhism the way that they do today. Now more Tibetans can practice Buddhism in a fuller way today than they could in the past, where learning about Buddhism was restricted to the elites, just like in past only Catholic priests were allowed to read the Bible but today everyone can.

More Tibetans own their own land now that any time in Tibetan history. Tibetans have far more rights and freedom under Chinese rule than they did under the rule of the Lamas.

The Chinese actually have many laws that are preferential to the Tibetans. They are spending more money to preserve the Tibetan language and to teach it to others than the United States spends on preserving all Native American languages combined. The so-called "one child policy" doesn't apply to the Tibetans, even though it does apply to the Han Chinese. The Chinese government spends far more on infrastructure and services in Tibet than it collects in taxes from the Tibetan region. The Chinese have spent enormous resources bringing electricity and roads to Tibet  without charging the Tibetans a dime for it and the majority of Tibetans are overwhelmingly supportive of such efforts.

Yes there are conservatives and extremists who don't like the modernization taking place in Tibet, this is no different than what takes place anywhere. A perfect example is the FLDS polygamy sect in America that was just raided in Texas. Their first complaint was that the raids were a form of religious oppression by the government. There are always going to be complainers. The problem with the Western media is that it gives voice solely to these complainers and does nothing to look at the reality of the situation or to report fairly on the views of everyone in Tibet.

In addition, the Chinese also make things worse by simply responding with slogans and trying to suppress access to the dissenters. The Chinese actually are on the right side of this issue and have a lot that they can honestly point to as having gone out of their way to help the Tibetans, but the way they react only makes it look like they have something to hide. If the Chinese leadership would be more open and more honest they would get more people on their side.

But really the pattern of anti-Chinese sentiment in the American media and even among American leaders, largely among the Democrats actually, is outrageous.

For more on this see:

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Tibet: who’s for feudalism?
Western media miss the real Tibet story
The unusual suspect
Risky Geopolitical Game: Washington Plays ‘Tibet Roulette’ with China

Posted by at 9:13 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, April 11, 2008 8:50 AM EDT
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
 Obama's Speech on Race and his Pastor

Topic: Commentary
In response to attacks from the Clinton campaign and from others in the media over comments made by his pastor several years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech Tuesday on the subject of race relations in America.

After having watched Obama's speech on race and read the transcript I think that this was without a doubt the best speech I have seen any politician give in my lifetime. It was honest, blunt, and took a thorny issue straight on with a perfect sense of balance. On top of all that he showed tremendous poise and grace.

The one thing I would have liked to have seen him say that he didn't say is that Geraldine Ferarro is clearly not a racist. He hinted at such a sentiment, but I think he would have done well to completely absolve her of that issue and move on. I think her statements were wrong, but as Obama himself has said in the past, they weren't racist.

I also think that his speech was risky and was an example of real straight talk that by far eclipses the speeches given by McCain or Clinton during this campaign. "Straight Talk" John McCain has been doing more pandering this campaign than anyone, and has surely been giving the least straight talk, unlike during is earlier 2000 campaign.

Overall I would have to say that I was impressed with Obama's speech and very much agree with it. The only thing I didn't really agree with actually was his denouncement of his pastor's sermon, though I understand why that was obviously essential. When it comes to the sermons in question from Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, I actually agree with, or at least sympathies with, everything he said in those now famous quotes.

Not only that, but the real irony is that one of the statements of Reverend Wright that drew the most criticism, his statements about the 9/11 attacks, actually echoes statements by former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Here is what Reverend Wright said about the 9/11 attacks:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost,"
This statement from Reverend Wright is absolutely true. As someone who is not a church goer myself, and who largely sees churches as instruments of state support, I'm glad to see such critical and honest discussion in a church. The reality is that Reverend Wright was right, and that perhaps is what scares people even more. But more importantly, look at a speech that Ron Paul gave on the floor of the House of Representatives:
"Excessive meddling in the internal affairs of other nations and involving ourselves in every conflict around the globe has not endeared the United States to the oppressed of the world. The Japanese are tired of us. The South Koreans are tired of us. The Europeans are tired of us. The Central Americans are tired of us. The Filipinos are tired of us. And above all, the Arab Muslims are tired of us.

Angry and frustrated by our persistent bullying and disgusted with having their own government bought and controlled by the United States, joining a radical Islamic movement was a natural and predictable consequence for Muslims.

We believe bin Laden when he takes credit for an attack on the West, and we believe him when he warns us of an impending attack. But we refuse to listen to his explanation of why he and his allies are at war with us.

Bin Laden’s claims are straightforward. The U.S. defiles Islam with military bases on holy land in Saudi Arabia, its initiation of war against Iraq, with 12 years of persistent bombing, and its dollars and weapons being used against the Palestinians as the Palestinian territory shrinks and Israel’s occupation expands. There will be no peace in the world for the next 50 years or longer if we refuse to believe why those who are attacking us do it.

To dismiss terrorism as the result of Muslims hating us because we're rich and free is one of the greatest foreign-policy frauds ever perpetrated on the American people. Because the propaganda machine, the media, and the government have restated this so many times, the majority now accept it at face value. And the administration gets the political cover it needs to pursue a 'holy' war for democracy against the infidels who hate us for our goodness."
There is little difference between the substance of what Dr. Paul said and what Reverend Wright said, its just that Reverend Wright was fired up and speaking from the pulpit, plus he's black, and Dr. Paul is was a white man speaking more evenly, though still a little fired up, before a legislature.

As for Reverend Wright's "God Damn America" sermon, from 2003, I generally agree with that sermon too.
"The government gives them [blacks] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people, God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

I don't believe that the government is giving people drugs. Although there is indeed evidence that the CIA was involved in some cocaine dealing in America to help the Nicaraguan conservatives fund their war against the Socialist Sandinista regime, that is was an exceptional case.

But why do people like Reverend Wright criticize America? Because they hate America? No, because they love America and the rest of the world too. If they hated America they wouldn't bother with such criticisms, and I can certainly identify with this because I share much of that same sentiment myself. I'm certainly critical of much of American policy and American culture, but I wouldn't even bother wasting my time on this website if I hated America. Critics put in the effort because they care. And, any true Bible scholar should know as well that Reverend Wright's "damning of America" directly follows Biblical style and motifs. Anyone who has studied the Bible has to know that the vast majority of the Bible is condemnational. Almost all of the books of the Old Testament contain condemnations of Israel and the Jewish people. In the New Testament basically all that Jesus does is condemn everything. Reverend Wright's sermon is deeply Christian and heavily rooted in the Biblical tradition of condemnation of injustices and seeking to find meaning in disastrous events through criticism of the nation for not following God's commandments and principles. Reverend Wright's "God Damn America" sermon could be lifted straight from the pages of the book of Isaiah or any number of other books. So, this criticism of Reverend Wright's sermon by ostensible Christians I find to be completely baseless and reflective of their own lack of any real connection to scripture.

The reality is that many "white Christians" really know nothing about the Bible and nothing about Christianity and nothing about the real virtues of the religion. They tend, instead, or focus on actually the worst aspects of the religion, especially the conservatives. For conservative Christians the religion is more about tribalism, condemning non-believers, believing that their own nation is God's chosen people, and taking ancient stories as literal truth. These are all of the worst aspects of the religion. To conservative white Christians the Bible is a book to beat people over the head with and to reinforce patriotism and subservience.

Many black Americans, however, and liberal Christians in general, identify with the stories of suffering and struggle in the Bible and they focus on the message of working against poverty and oppression. These are the best parts of the religion and the parts of the religion that Reverend Wright apparently focused on. The damning of Israel by God is a constant theme in the Bible, and the reason for this damnation every time is that the people were supposedly not following God's desire to help the poor, to help the oppressed, etc., and in the Bible when the Jews were accused of not helping the poor and oppressed this was accompanied by attacks from foreign invaders, enslavement, and natural disasters. So, Reverent Wright's sermon follows directly in that vein.

The reality, of course is that much of the Bible was written by people just like Reverend Wright, social critics who loved their people and their country but wanted to right what they perceived as wrongs in society. They had little understanding of the real way that the world works, so they often blamed natural disasters and invasions on things that weren't really responsible for those events, but in the case of Reverend Wright's sermon the connections that he draws are real. American foreign policy did play a large role in bringing September 11th upon ourselves. American society and government policy is partly responsible for the strife that we have within our own population, especially among minorities. So, I agree with Reverend Wright and I also can clearly see that his sermon was supremely rooted in Christian an Biblical tradition.

Transcript of Barack Obama's speech on race

Posted by at 7:31 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 7:43 AM EDT
Friday, February 29, 2008
 The Economy

Topic: Commentary
There is a lot going on with the economy at the moment and it seems that very few people, neigh hardly anyone, is really grasping the situation. That in and of itself is pretty remarkable.

Recently the media has sounded worries about "stagflation", which is what I have been addressing here for years. The fundamentals behind all of this should be quite obvious, but no one seems to be addressing these fundamentals. A recent New York Times article called Totally Spent by Robert Reich, whom I do respect, hinted at the issue, but even he failed to completely grasp it.

In Totally Spent Reich stated:
"WE’RE sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.
The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living and for businesses to adjust to a smaller economy, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power - and not just temporarily."
This is all true. Reich's assessment of the situation is spot on, but when he comes to addressing the situation that's when he goes off course.

The remedy that Reich proposes is this:
"The only way to keep the economy going over the long run is to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans. The answer is not to protect jobs through trade protection. That would only drive up the prices of everything purchased from abroad. Most routine jobs are being automated anyway." 
Okay, well, he's sort of on the right track, but not really. The keys here are "automation" and "abroad". As I stated back in 2003 (National investment program and Labor in foreign countries), the only real solution lies in both improving wages abroad and increasing ownership of capital among the broad population. At that point automation, which is what we need more of, can actually be a real benefit.

The thing is that the Democrats and the "pro-labor" folks have it all wrong. Improving the economy is not about "protecting jobs", indeed protecting jobs is the worst possible thing we can do. The best way to understand this is to look at the fundamentals.

Improvement in the standard of living, which is what the economy is all about, is about increasing production. More than that, it is about increasing efficiency, and efficiency basically means producing more with less human work or less energy invested. The way to increase efficiency is through automation, not "increasing wages" for Americans. Increasing wages for Americans is what drives jobs overseas, so you can't increase wages in America without increases in wages in foreign countries as well without expecting to lose jobs in the process.

The only solution is two fold. First, increase the distribution of capital ownership in America and secondly work to ensure that wages in the rest of the world rise as well. At present, the exact opposite of these two things are what is happening. It is true that wages are going up in foreign countries, but not as rapidly as they should be, and in fact American policies work to keep wages in foreign countries down, they do nothing to help them rise.

The major key though is distributing capital ownership. Capitalism is all about capital ownership. The owner of the capital is the one who owns the rights to the profits. Workers have no rights to profits, indeed the workers are the ones who work to produce the profits that the capital owners take from them, thus the problem that America finds itself in today. The wealthy have become exponentially more wealthy over the past 20 years, while wages have completely stagnated over the past 30 years. The reason that the wealthy have become exponentially more wealthy as wages have stagnated is because productivity has increased, but all of the gains from that productivity have been realized via profits and thus they are realized by the capital owners and executives.

But we really shouldn't be trying to increase wages or to make people dependent on wages, what we should be doing moving to a situation where the share of capital ownership is more evenly distributed, where every individual is "a capitalist". As automation and computerization, etc., play a larger and larger role in production, individuals have to share ownership of the "means of production". That is the single and only possible solution to the long term economic problems that will be faced in a progressive and technologically advancing economy. The road that some places in Europe have taken, especially France, has been to limit the advancement of technology in order to preserve the role of the worker, thereby limiting profits and productivity. This does preserve a more equal distribution of wealth, but it also limits economic growth and the creation of new wealth.

In America we have taken the opposite tract; we have allowed and encouraged the advancement of technology and productivity, but we have completely left the worker out of the loop and thus all of the rewards have gone to a relative few capital owners. This is why we find ourselves in an economic predicament today and until this fundamental problem is addressed the American economy is going to continue to suffer the problem of increasing productivity while the working classes aren't able to drive demand for goods because they have too little income.

There really is no reason why an economy in which productivity is increasing should have any type of recession. The only reason we are having economic problems is because the fruits of the labor of workers is not being paid to those workers, and because the fruits of capital ownership are not being shared by the population. Over the past 30 years the cost of education and skill acquisition has gone up dramatically. Worker knowledge and productivity has gone up dramatically, and mechanical efficiency has gone up dramatically. That all means that we can produce more with less effort today then we could in the past, and workers have been key to these4 advances, even shouldering the higher cost of education themselves, but there has been zero payoff to workers. All of the fruits of these advances over the past 30 has gone to capital owners, and capital ownership has remained largely consolidated in the hands of a small few. Thus, those small few have reaped the rewards that have been created by millions of workers in America and around the world.

But in order to continue to encourage economic development, we cannot turn to "job preservation" or "wage increases" as the solution to this theft from the working class. The only real solution is to enfranchise the working class with capital ownership, and that is why my proposition of a National Investment Program is the only solution that can address the future economic development of America.

The economic situation in America is very, very different than anything we have faced in the past.As Robert Reich correctly points out, we are now reaching the end of a series of stop gap measures that people have taken to deal with the phenomenon of stagnant wages and increasing productivity. Those steps are primarily the entry of women into the workforce, thereby increasing the number of income earners per household, the extended use of credit, and working longer hours. But we have reached the end of that road. Once all the women have entered the workforce, once we are all working the maximum number of hours that we can healthily sustain (we are already past that, hence some of our healthcare problems), and once we have maxed out our debts (which is the current problem) then there are no more stop gap measures to take. We have finally reached a tipping point in our economy where fundamental structural changes are required in order to continue economic progress and to prevent a long term economic decline and possible depression.

The key to remember is this. As long as productivity is increasing, there is no real reason why any economy should ever go into decline. The only reason for an economic decline during a period of increasing productivity is an improper distribution of the fruits of productivity, such that all of the fruits go to one small group, thereby leaving the other group unable to sustain or improve their standard of living, in spite of the increasing capacity of the economy to enable such progress.

The tools and techniques for extending economic growth in the American economy over the past 30 years are all used up now, they will not able to continue working any longer. Taxes have been cut over the past 30 years to the point that they can't be cut anymore. Interest rates have been lowered to the point that not only can they not be lowered any more, but increased lowering has now also become ineffectual. Workers have already done everything that they can to keep pace, aside from going back to increased working of children there isn't much more that families can do to improve their revenue streams. And now costs are rising, and will continue to rise for fundamental reasons. There is only one meaningful solution, and that is the broad distribution of ownership of capital.

Posted by at 8:53 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, March 2, 2008 1:21 PM EST
Thursday, February 21, 2008
 Hillary's Campaign Reminiscent of Iraq War

Topic: Commentary
There are many instructive parallels between Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination and the Iraq War.

Like America invading Iraq, Hillary had all of the advantages on paper and all of the material advantages from the beginning, yet, those advantages were squandered with poor judgement and lack of planning.

Like the Bush and Cheney administration, Hillary went into this campaign with arrogance and assumptions that it would be a cake walk for her, only to find a strong insurgency that she was unprepared to fight against.

Like George Bush and Dick Cheney, as the failures have mounted she has continued to move the goal posts and blame others for her failures.

Like George Bush and Dick Cheney, she assembled a team of cronies and surrounded herself with loyalists and yes (wo)men who blinded her to reality and in whom she instilled so much fear that they were too afraid to actually exercise their best judgement if it contradicted her views.

Like the Bush and Cheney administrations, when things have not gone her way she has lashed out and attacked her critics and opponents.

Like George Bush and Dick Cheney, she has spread propaganda and lied in order to sell her agenda to the public.

Face the facts, Hillary Clinton had every advantage in the world going into this contest: name recognition, political ties, a national network of supporters, money, and a large head start in the campaign process. Yet, despite all of these advantages she has not just been beaten by a "superior speaker", she has been soundly out campaigned and out organized and out fund raised. Organizationally, she has done many things wrong, while Barack Obama has done many things not just right, but better than just about any political campaign in history. This in and of itself should speak to the leadership qualities of these two candidates.

How can Hillary be "ready to lead on day one" when she obviously wasn't even ready to lead her own campaign? If Obama is so lacking in substance, then why has he been able to materially out-organize her at every turn, despite having none of her advantages?

And now we get to the real issue. Now that Hillary has been backed into a corner her true self is coming out, the vicious attack dog and dirty underhanded politician.

Barack Obama was able to rise to his current standing in the race by the virtue of his own message. He didn't need to attack or insult Mrs. Clinton to make his case. However, now Hillary is not only willing to attack Barack Obama to make her case, but she clearly sees this as her primary strategy even though this is a primary campaign, knowing that her attacks do nothing but weaken the Democratic party and could potentially sabotage the election of the Democrats. John McCain doesn't even need to waste his time attacking Obama at this point; Hillary Clinton, from Obama's own party, is doing all of that work for him. But, John McCain is still attacking Obama as well, but instead of trying to do what is best for the party, which is to run a positive campaign so as not to diminish either Democratic candidate, Hillary is now essentially partnering with the Republican party to tear down the Democratic front runner! Hillary is now sacrificing her own party on the alter of her personal ambition. It is truly shameful.

Lets look specifically at some of the actions that the Hillary campaign has taken in recent days:

1) They fed a story to the press about Obama supposedly "plagiarizing" his own friend Deval Patrick - yet they claimed that they had nothing to do with launching this story.

2) Despite denouncing public financing for her campaign from the start, she is joining the Republicans in unfairly attack Barack Obama on campaign finance issues when he isn't even the nominee yet.

3) Has created a new front propaganda arm called the American Leadership Project (ALP) (kind of like the Project for a New American Century?) that is designed to "independently" attack Barack Obama.

4) Has created a propaganda website called The Delegate Hub, which supposedly "clarifies" the facts about the delegate count in the Democratic race. On this website the delegate numbers assume that the Michigan and Florida delegates will be seated, and a number of other distortions are made.

Look at her campaign, it is so reminiscent of the first term of the Bush administration. Her staff is fighting amongst itself, and I wouldn't be surprised to start seeing leaks against her coming out of her own campaign staff. Hillary Clinton is now doing more damage to the Democratic Party than the Republicans have been able to do in the past 30 years. If Hillary can't even wage a descent campaign with all of the advantages in the world, how on earth could she be expected to run the White House?

Posted by at 7:35 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2008 7:53 AM EST
Friday, February 15, 2008
 Hillary Clinton is the Dick Cheney of the Democrats

Topic: Commentary
It will be a sad day in American history if Hillary Clinton manages to get the nomination of the Democratic Party. Hillary has done her best to convince women that her campaign is an affirmation of feminism, but in reality her candidacy has nothing to do with feminism.

Unfortunately, millions of women have been convinced otherwise, and seem equally convinced that any opposition to her is an affront to all women and an affront to the feminist movement, and thus they will support her no matter what and they simply see the race as an issue of race vs gender.

The irony is that in this primary with the first major viable female and black presidential candidates, the contest is really nothing about race or gender, despite everyone's attempts to make it so, most notably Hillary herself.

The reality is that this is a primary campaign where the choice is not between a woman or an African American, but between one of the most secretive and manipulative political figures of the past 20 years in American politics vs. a new and inspirational natural born leader.

Hillary Clinton truly is the Dick Cheney of the Democratic Party, and the election of Hillary Clinton to president would be to simply put the yin to the Bush administrations yang into power. The election of Hillary Clinton would not be a rebuke of the Bush years, it would not make a change in American society and it certainly wouldn't change American politics. The election of Hillary Clinton would be ensuring at least four more years of Bush style leadership, with the exception that the agenda would be slightly different. The methods and approaches would be the same though.

Sure Hillary would not appoint judges to the Supreme Court that would be likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but what we can be sure of is that the nomination process would be virtually identical to the Bush nomination process, with the only exception being that the ideologies would be flipped.

Hillary, like Dick Cheney, has been one of the most secretive forces in American politics since 1992. Like Dick Cheney, she has worked behind the scenes, gone to great lengths to keep her activities secret, and has a history of strong arming those who disagree with her.

Let's look at all of the reasons not to elect Hillary Clinton:

1) Doing so would practically be a violation of the law on term limits. Certainly, though it may not violate the letter of the law it violates the spirit of the law. The intention of term limits is to prevent corruption and the building up of power through cronyism. Clearly, where it is Bill or Hillary officially at the helm, this principle is still violated.

2) There is no way that Bill Clinton will not enter back into a level of power and influence that no other president in American history has had after the end of his term. The whole issue of electing spouses simply sets a horrible precedent. It is bad enough that we have to deal with the political dynasties of parents and offspring, but now we also have to worry about husbands and wives as well?

3) Hillary has been very calculating from the time she was in the White House as first lady in terms of planning to capture the presidency. After her time as first lady, she then carpet bagged her way into New York because she knew that it was an influential place from which she could launch her bid at president. During her time as Senator she has been focused on building her personal political power and alliances, not doing the business of New Yorkers. She is among the top 10 earmarkers in the Senate. Why? Because she has been using earmarks, like all politicians do, do buy political support.

4) Hillary sets a horrible example for women and power. Instead of a woman who has clearly earned her place through the same type of hard work as her peers, Hillary is an example of using underhanded tactics and riding the coat tails of her husband to get to the top. Obviously she wouldn't be running for president today if her husband had never been president. This isn't really a feminist message at all.

5) In her pattern of secrecy she has refused to release her tax filings and also refused to release the documents from her time in the White House. In the process she avoids taking any responsibility for this, saying that it is Bill's decision, not hers.

6) She has pandered to lobbyists and corporations more than just about any political figure in the Senate. In her typical old school politics style, she has worked at trying to amass a base of power by pandering to the powerful. This is reflected in the manner is which she began with the most pledged super delegates as well.

7) Even now she is trying to change the rules of the game and work to seat delegates from states that at the outset everyone agreed would not be seated. I agree that this was a poor decision in the first place, but those were the rules that she agreed to from the start. Changing the rules now is simply one more example of her underhanded ways.

If Hillary Clinton gains the nomination of the Democratic Party, it will be through another Bush style assault on democracy. Having Hillary Clinton in office would be like four more years of Bush/Cheney, with the only exception being that it would be a Democratic version of Bush/Cheney.

Posted by at 9:57 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink

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