Monday, April 27, 2009

Geithner: a man firmly wedged in the pocket of criminally-bloated finance

At least Geithner's fundamentalist bank-cartel-centric ideology is out in the open now so, like, the holding Obama to account for the incongruity between his ideological rhetoric and ideological actions can begin, right?

Geithner proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.

The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.

“People thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of out there,’ ” said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who heard about the idea afterward. Mr. Geithner says, “I don’t remember a serious discussion on that proposal then.”

But in the 10 months since then, the government has in many ways embraced his blue-sky prescription....(today's NY Times)

Things must really be that bad.

whatever's "left" of political prudence

Robert Kuttner reads the signs and is rightly skeptical of Obama's will to enduring change:
When Lyndon Johnson advised his aides, just days after President Kennedy was assassinated, that he intended to use his presidency to enact landmark civil rights laws, he was warned that it was far too early to risk the nation's support on something so controversial. "Hell," Johnson replied, "What's the presidency for?"

Barack Obama, after nearly a hundred days[...]has yet to decide what his presidency is for.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

let the justice department deal with them

Frank Rich making the convincing case:
Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Update: Or, prepare to be disappointed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"The banks need a permanent solution"

"Temporary nationalization" may be the new "market-friendly" solution, but some insane and probably communist critics wager we've been fucked by market-gaming long enough to deserve something that actually lasts...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


...difficult to work with, always dynamic.


Knowing that torture was condoned in our names is an abominable thing. This parlor game of moving forward, not backward, of letting bygones be bygones, admitting error, and just getting the hell on with our days is just as dismal, because this, finally, internalizes the message that we citizens, our government, and other nations will take from this sorry affair, which is that while we begrudgingly acquiesce to stopping, we will, even now, refuse to recognize the act itself as truly criminal.

There is absolutely no pride to be gained in no longer torturing, but blocking justice in those instances in which we have. It is no act of courage; it is no enlightened position. It is merely the easiest path, and the one followed in nearly every instance by nations proven to have committed foul acts. Sorry, but we're not about to do anything about it. We'll stop, but in exchange for stopping we expect the episode to be forgotten. What would count as a war crime for you other countries counts for us as an internal matter, and we consider it closed.

I do not feel like begging. After years of railing against the practice (to be largely ignored, because in those days the majority of voices presumed torture to have positive effects, and therefore be justified), after years of government denial that any such thing was happening (in spite of clear and demonstrable evidence that it did), the last thing in the world that I feel like doing is once again begging, at long last, and to the supposed reasonable people that replaced the last reasonable people, that we actually follow our own goddamn laws, or treat crimes by our powerful with the same grave manner as we do crimes by anyone else in the nation.

I am fucking sick of it...

We all are. The question is are you, Mr. Attorney General?

Update: Nicolaus Mills on the most crucial and obvious:
...if we don’t at least deal with the collective failures that occurred in the Bush Justice Department immediately following 9/11, we are setting ourselves up for a time when a future administration will see no risk in again sanctioning torture. This is a problem that the Obama administration cannot duck—no matter how much it would like to.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Proud of my Vermont

...clearly leading the nation global warming:

Obama's "flawed bank-centric cosmology"

Huffington brilliant as always:
...Worse, as the fundamental flaw in the administration's cosmology becomes more and more evident, the economic team around the president is closing ranks. Even David Axelrod, once the administration's champion of a more skeptical view of a bank-centric universe, appears to be peering through the Geithner-Summers telescope.

Back in February, he crossed swords with Geithner, arguing for executive pay caps. But there he was on Sunday, whiffing on a pro-populist softball offered up by Fox News' Chris Wallace, who asked: "When taxpayers are putting up most of the money and taking more of the risk, why would the Obama administration allow some of these executives to get even richer?"

Axelrod's answer? "On some of these programs, we're asking financial companies to come in and help solve this problem by providing more lending, by buying up toxic assets and so on. We don't want to create disincentives and undermine the program."

"Asking" them? Aren't we, in fact, bribing them with massive capital infusions and loan guarantees? That's what being surrounded by a group of modern day Ptolemys will do to a person.[...]

There is an enormous human cost to this bank-centric dogma. Unemployment, already at levels not seen since 1983, is skyrocketing. In many places in the country, it's approaching 20 percent (and in Detroit it's 22 percent).

Writing about the "grand book" that is the universe, Galileo declared that it "cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written... without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth."

That's where we find ourselves today, wandering about in a dark financial labyrinth -- being led by good men blinded by an obsolete view of the world.

Monday, April 06, 2009

29 years old

Incidentally Columbia University Press is having a big sale on some very enticing cloth-bound volumes. Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks and Levinas, in particular...should anybody out there not be broke and also strongly desire to send a birthday greeting...Exchanges and used copies always welcome too.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Life goes on

Long Sunday is about to disappear forever from the Internets, victim of other priorities, waning enthusiasms and participation, reluctant credit cards. Or maybe she just grew too old, accrued too many regrets after speaking too much or too soon, and senile. It all happened so fast. There were some profoundly positive moments. And persistent critique. She will be missed.

The end of financial capitalism: "too big to save"

Descriptions and prescriptions again from OpenDemocracy:
By way of illustration: the global value of financial assets (which means: debt) in the whole world by September 2008 - as the crisis was exploding with the collapse of Lehman Brothers - was $160 trillion: three-and-a-half times larger than the value of global GDP. The financial system cannot be rescued by pumping in the money available.

Whether those two things really follow I'm not sure. Meanwhile...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

G20–the birth of better institutions?

David Hayes writes for OpenDemocracy:
The question of exactly who and what the G20 is, has yet to be resolved (the 3,070-word communiqué uses the word "we" ninety times). Perhaps - as Claude Sautet said in another context - being together will become enough to answer it. That has worked for the G7/G8, after all; but doesn't such very lack of definition suit less-than-accountable power all too well?

The shift from in-itself to for-itself may yet happen. Everything seems open in these deeply uncertain times - including the future of a new body that in its early incarnation more fairly reflects the shifting economic and geopolitical power-balances in the world. If a trend towards its institutionalisation develops, the implications for its older and more established siblings (the G7/G8, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and World Trade Organisation) might also be profound. The United Nations too - which hosts an emergency summit of its own in June 2009, but which has been missing in action in many of the global deliberations - needs to find its voice.

A grouping that emerged in ad-hoc fashion from a crisis which has wrecked the lives of millions and threatens even greater damage, whose character is less than defined and whose final form is unclear, is in an odd position: it has neither the credibility that comes from substantive achievement nor yet the taint of failure and disappointed expectations. The diversity of the G20 is an additional complicating factor here for those who would anathematise it with the vehemence they might attach to the G8 or the IMF; a group that includes the governments of (say) Brazil, South Africa and India is by that very fact significantly different from one run by rich, white, western elites.

Update: At the conclusion Robert Kuttner takes his analysis several steps further:
...But for the most part, the fate of the European center-left has been to preside over slightly less awful center-right policies and then to suffer retribution at the polls.

With European parliamentary elections coming up in June, and even nominally center-left governments more solicitous of banks than of ordinary people, it's not at all clear that progressive parties will benefit from what should be the greatest embarrassment of capitalism since the 1930s, or that the politics and regulation of capitalism will be transformed.

The Brussels meetings produced a brave communiqué, calling for a Global New Deal, built on sustainable development, the harnessing of private finance, and broad social justice. The meetings opened with a stirring speech by Bill Clinton, who managed to sound more progressive than he ever did in office. I found myself thinking: If only this man had been president[...]

This Group of 20 meeting was notable only because the club of seven leading democracies plus Russia ("the G-8") was expanded to include emerging world powers such as India, China, and Brazil. The most important third world nations never embraced financial market fundamentalism, and they are a salutary counterweight.

But the 2009 summit, whose extensive press clippings will soon be fishwrap, succeeded mainly because it managed not to fail. Michelle Obama dominated European television for a week. Her husband was hailed as a diplomatic genius for mediating a minor dust-up between French President Sarkozy (who was threatening to take his boule and go home because of the summit's tepid acceptance of an OECD blacklist of forbidden tax-havens) and Chinese President Hu Jin-tao (who insisted that the communiqué not give any role to the OECD, which excludes China.) Obama solved the spat with an indirect reference to the OECD list, and persuaded the two grown men to shake hands like adults. In this age of diminished expectations, that feat passes for statecraft.

But the Europeans did not get the Americans to commit to the details of tougher financial regulation. Nor did the Americans get the Europeans to agree to more economic stimulus spending. Instead, the two camps punted the ball to two international organizations of dubious provenance. (read the whole thing)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tied to the w(h)ipping post

In case you're wondering that's my nephew on the left, doing the Duane Allman.

Not sure what happens at the end of this one. Apparently the action got a little too hot in front for filming. Wasn't college fun.