Thursday, August 04, 2011

on two strikes for Congress

After the debate has settled down on the Debt Crisis, maybe Congress will begin to consider that it left important parts out of two pieces of legislation: the health bill and the treaty on the debt. (I call it a treaty because there was a war going on there between the corporatocracy and the people and the corporatocracy won. Someday the Supreme Court is going to have to change that more than a century ruling that makes a corporation equal to me and other individual people for political and other purposes when it is obvious they are not; people must take responsibility for their actions--corporations do not). Going back to the two strikes: On the health bill, Congress failed to include a public option. Instead, as it did with Medicare drug negotiations, it left things up to the private side of our world and we're going to get stuck with the costs. The pharmaceutical companies make big bucks on us older folks because Medicare cannot negotiate lower prices. And in the debt treaty Congress omitted raising taxes on people making more than $200,000/$250,000. What nobody seems to recognize is that taxes are what makes the government run. In the "Good Old 'Golden' Ages", tariffs paid for much of the government. Today, with free trade, tariffs don't bring in enough to do the job. (An increase in tariffs in 1930 is considered one cause of the depth of the Great Depression). So taxes were developed on income. And payroll taxes have been contentious since. But raising taxes would be less disastrous to the national economy than cutting benefits or payrolls to government employees and those who get federal tax money. To bring the economy back, we need to have people buying things. Only when the demand increases and consumers have to wait too long for service does a business person consider adding to payroll. Any business person who depends on his or her tax bill to determine when to hire and fire will be out of business sooner rather than later. We need the government spending. And if paying the debt then requires tax increases, so be it. The way it is now, only the common person will suffer as he did before the 1930s.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

on more idiocy in Helena

Someone would think that the Legislators meeting in Helena don't read history. Oh, that's right, they don't consider education relevant. A couple of instances

--Dating from the early days of this state, the extraction industry has proved that it cannot be trusted to regulate itself. From the Anaconda company with its pit in Butte to the coal mining companies in Eastern Montana, the extraction industry has left a mess wherever it goes. We still face cleanup from old-time mines up near Cooke City. And now one legislator wants to let new cyanide leaching miners into the state if they use two mines grandfathered in to process the ore. The industry tried once to overturn the ban we (the people) voted in several elections ago and lost. Now its going for an end around by probably paying for one legislator's campaign.
--A few years ago, a Billings legislator introduced a bill that passed during its session to lower breathing standards in his city. Excuse me, to lower the amount of ugly smelling and ugly health reactions in Billings, allowing more sulphur dioxide in the air of downtown, all in the name of jobs. It took us several sessions before we could get that law changed and be able to breathe safely in downtown Billings again. And we didn't get any jobs out of it.
--Those of us who have been around for a while don't want any more promotion of boom and bust extraction and agriculture economies. If we look back at the history of this state's economy we can see that more bubbles have burst over the years leaving open mines and wind-blown topsoil in their wakes. Housing in our bigger cities goes up when the economy does and when the bust comes people walk away from their "new" homes and head for Denver or LA.
--The legislators also don't seem to realize that cutting taxes, an easy way to claim they are doing something about any deficit (which Montana does not have), particularly the taxes of small businesses does nothing for jobs and only enables business owners to sell out and buy the biggest houses in town. Jobs come only when customers are overwhelming the store counters to the point where more hands are needed.
--And the legislators don't seem to believe that the people of this state know what they are voting on. At least two voter-approved measures are up for gutting by legislative actions this year The aforementioned cyanide lead referendum and the medical marijuana issue. Both were approved by the people by a large percentage. In fact, when one would-be miner sought to overturn the leaching ban by public vote, the percentage against it actually went up. So what gives legislators the idea that they have the right to overturn what the people have approved in this democracy? Oh, yeah, maybe the voters don't know what they are voting on. Last November they elected the scariest Legislature since the one that elected Clark to the U.S. Senate. And then they elected a leadership that believes in one case that advertising can outsell a cure to problems and another who has the brains of an ostrich and doesn't think science is a viable source of information. His only issue seems to be putting roadblocks in front of divorces. A stupid, stupid MAN.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

on Montana and global warming

A Montana legislator who shall remain nameless (because I don't have his name right in front of me now but who represents to a great extent the general thinking of his party in Helena), has introduced a bill to proclaim global warming a benefit to the state and would order the state to cease all effort to combat it. An in-state scientist has said, in essence, that the legislator is blowing smoke,that scientific studies have basically proved that humans are directly responsible for the current global climate. However, it is true that over the past 2,000 years there have been significant climate changes so that at one stage glaciers spread out again in Europe and in another people were able to live in Greenland and grow crops there for several centuries before the cold returned. What those people who accept that thinking are rejecting are numerous studies reported in scientific journals that point out that the carbon dioxide content of the air is the largest that has been seen in 30,000 years (from ice and ocean coring). In the middle of the 1980s, which the anti climate change people claim to have heard predictions about an upcoming ice age, I remember an article in, I think, Science 86, which predicted the actual changes we have seen in Montana, longer but drier warm periods and warmer winters. And the big question again this year is Are we out of the drought yet?

The unmentionable legislator cites global warming as having beneficial effects in increase crop growth with the additional carbon dioxide. Yet, it will. But what he doesn't say is that the bulk for the crop growth will go into the body of the plant and not the seeds and roots that are so important for human development. Scientists have made some experiments which indicated that the grain may be more plentiful but the loss of nutrient value will make that a negligible effect and may mean that that there will be even more widespread hunger than already exists in this world. The U.S. has a rather high percentage (for our wealth) of hungry people and Africa is starving in almost all its equatorial areas. But again, the people of Montana, those who have moved into the state within the past 100 years, don't seem to have enough between the ears to realize that their livelihoods may hang on curbing the warming effect. They don't seem to realize that this part of the country was so dry it was virtually uninhabitable before about the 17th Century. That's why the land was empty when the Crows, Cheyenne and Blackfeet were able to move into it.

on Rehberg and health funding

Our only Congressman was on the national news recently taking a stand that would eliminate funding for the new health program. He said it was not good for Montana. Well, I'm a Montanan. Without playing the more Montana than you game, let me add that my great grandfather was in this state by 1865. He, or a relative, is apparently responsible for Pattee Canyon over in Missoula. And one thing Rehberg, who has available to him a better health plan (at our expense) than anything the bill offers, forgets is that the greatest part of his constituency that will benefit from the health plan is the farmer and rancher who now has no plan or a very limited plan at very high cost. While those in Helena are trying to axe workmen's compensation in this state, they forget that the very jobs they are trying to grow in the state--mineral extraction and agriculture--are two of the most dangerous jobs in the country and the world. So they will try to add to the toll while cutting down the benefits to those who get hurt on the job. With that little side note out of the way, I'll add one last thought on the health plan that Rehberg needs to consider The only thing wrong with it is that it lacks a public option.

Friday, February 18, 2011

And then there's Rehberg Can it get any worse?

Let's stop and think about Denny Rehberg, scion of a family which has done well in Billings, Mont., so he's become the ninth richest person in Congress. But again, he's third generation and that means the blood is weakening as is the interest in his home town, witness his suit against the taxpayers of his strongest political base, Billings. For those who don't know, Denny is suing the city of Billings for leaving his land for other fires before, he says, the fire was really out. Then it flared up and took out some of the trees and sagebrush he owns on top of the Rimrocks. He is suing for damage. Since I almost set a nearby area on fire myself (by breaking a shovel handle many years ago), I am aware of about how much damage you can do up there. The land's worth very little unless there is a building on it. And some of the buildings in the area are worth very little themselves. So why doesn't he spend some of his own money to replace trees and grass instead of sagebrush instead of suing his constituents? Except for some trees, the land repairs itself in a hurry. I've seen some aftermaths of fire in the same type of land a few years later. People of Montana who would normally contribute to Denny's campaign might want to think about it. They may have to contribute to his land "repair" later if he gets an "activist" judge.

And then he goes up to the Legislature and tells his fellow stupids there that he favors eliminating activist judges. By whose definition of activist judges will he operate? I happen to think that the federal judge of a few years ago in Cheyenne (he may still be there) who bent over every time a right winger asked him to is just as much an activist as a judge who swings from the environmental side or the left wing pastures. Actually, the ones on the left may have a clearer view of the "general welfare" than the right wing. (For an explanation of the quoted material, read the preamble to the Constitution. You'll also find it in the body of that document.)

And while we're at it, let us consider the question of strict constructionists (which presumably would include those who would eliminate the 14th amendment to bring back slavery as well as the so-called tea party "patriots.") If we're going to go back to what they consider the strict construction of a document written in the 18th Century, then the Second Amendment gun slingers should beware. Seems to me (and not just me) that strict construction would limit them to the weapons available at that time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hello after a break

Seems like forever since I've posted anything but I'll try again to see if I can come up with some "brilliant" thinking to add to this universe.

At the moment I am more concerned with the state of Montana than any other issue. With the "Code of the West", the nullification idiocy, the attacks on women and on education and human services, if any of them passes, it will take the state at least a decade to recover from this legislature.

Ladies and gentlemen in Helena, including Peterson and empty-headed McGillvary: The answer is to raise taxes. Montana has always done well in balancing its budget and, strangely enough, we are among the lower states in total tax load. Our income and property taxes may be up there but we're not facing the deadly sales tax that puts the tax load into the stratosphere. Back when we had the 11% rate on high incomes, I had to laugh when a visitor from out of state called us a high-tax state. By now, I've seen enough returns to know it ain't true. What happened in response is we lowered the tax rates and then took it back from high income people by limiting their deduction for federal withholding to $5000 ($10,000 for a couple).

Reading the reporting from the legislature, in the members' own words, is like hearing Bob Hope's one liners, if he had ever joked about stupidity. People, read the history books. Read the Constitution. The best answer possible might be to eliminate the states as France did centuries ago and create provinces. The states just get in the way of "the general welfare", the reason for the Constitution in the first place. (Read the preamble.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

on the question of time

It's been a while since I posted here but let me try an idea out. I have been looking at the question of time. Not the mathematical time used by the Einsteins and other mathematical geniuses, but the time used by all the rest of us. My thought is that it doesn't exist. Time, as measured on a clock, is a false image. It is just a measurement of what we see as change and it is not always accurate as to the rate at which change is occuring. Millenia, centuries, decades, years, months and days do not exactly fit to the moments of change. And how long would a light year be if we lived on Mars?

Friday, March 13, 2009

McGillvary coming into the 20th Century?

The Billings Outpost reported the other day that some of our legislators are twittering. One of those quoted was my very own man of no talent, Tom McGillvary. Of course, he would tweet. The man only has about 140 words in his mind at a time. And those 140 words may be dictated by his church since he managed to insert the "fault" divorce bill of the extreme "religious wrong" into the Legislature this time around. How can anyone with his beliefs get elected out of my district? We've had John Bohlinger, Kelly Addy, Brent Cromley and other good representatives, but now we've got an ass. Of course, we also have Roy Brown in the Senate, but he doesn't seem to be following a preacher's menu even if he is right wing business oriented.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

on Republican arrogance

Once again, the Republicans in the Legislature in Helena are trying to tell the people of Montana that they don't know enough to vote on an issue. My so-called representative, the empty-headed Tom McGillvary, has said we didn't know what we were doing when we voted for the child insurance program and seems to think that the earnings which will allow people to qualify are too high. However, he doesn't seem to realize, as most Montana legislators don't, that the amount is below what makes people middle class in the rest of the country. But then McGillvary is an idiot, who also thinks climate change or global warming is not human caused. He will let his opinions sway the scientific facts by saying they aren't scientific facts. However, the vast majority of global weather scientists support man-caused effects. I guess he just doesn't read science magazines, even those he could understand.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

on campaigns and their advertising

I just read that KTVQ and other television stations in Montana have said they will not run a television ad from the Democrats about Fox that claims he has been fired from three jobs. If the ad is inaccurate then I salute them for not running it. But what I don't understand is why they then keep running Republican ads attacking Schweitzer and Bullock. The cited source of the Bullock ad has said that it is inaccurate and asked to have it taken down, but the stations haven't stopped running it. And they are also continuing to run the nasty attack ads run by Cynthia Lummox of Wyoming which are full of big buzz words, once very upstanding words like socialism and liberalism that have become Republican buzz words. They are empty of context anymore just as the other dirty word, conservative, has no meaning any more. Essentially it seems to mean someone who watches the dollar until it blushes; but, no, it means someone who doesn't believe in abortion or gay marriage and wants to tell the rest of world how to act; but, no, it means someone who wants to go back to a dream world that never was; but, no, it means someone who is mean spirited and doesn't believe in people's right to be free to make our own decisions; but, wait, it means..... It's become a dirty word.

The National Republican Party decided to put some ads into Montana to counteract all the ads that Obama has been running. They are claiming that he has not been tested in a crisis and has no administrative experience. If they truly believe that, then they are telling the world that we will be electing a President this Tuesday who doesn't have any administrative experience and actually has never been in a position to make a President's life and death decisions: If you read his biography, McPain doesn't have any administrative experience either and has never been in a position where he has had to make a critical decision that would affect anybody but himself. Why is he a better leader for a crisis? My suggestion is that he wouldn't; he would let his emotions handle too much of his decision making. You have to have emotions working to make good decisions, but his seem awfully limited and narrow.

This election seems to me to be the most malevolent of any I've seen since I voted absentee for Eisenhower in 1956, the first vote for President I ever cast. I'm beginning to believe that not only should the regulators bring back the Fairness Doctrine for both radio and televisiion, but that they should also ban all attack ads by political candidates and force those candidates to only run ads where they tell their platforms and what they will do if elected. If they talk in generalities, then the general public may reject them. At least we would have an idea as we get this election with the Weasel and some of the legislator candidates as to how all they can say is lower taxes and create new jobs and new programs. It's inance. Or they will freeze all government spending, which didn't work the last time the Republicans tried it back in Clinton's terms when the got nasty about funding that national government.

McCain was one of those people in my mind who was a survivor; he survived Annapolis (probably only with the help of two admirals, his father and grandfather); he survived Vietnam; he survived the Pentagon; and he survived the U.S. Senate. Which doesn't make him a good candidate for President. His judgment seems to be lacking in two of the key people in the last stages of this campaign: his choice of Sarah Pain for vice president and his sudden burst of appreciation for Joe the Plumber who isn't a licensed plumber and probably will never be a small businessman making more than 250,000 a year in his own business. The odds are against him even when he buys an existing business. So much dirt is mucking up the hems of Pain's 150,000 worth of hems, etc., that she is having some problems. So I would suggest that McBush's judgment was not active or he didn't vet these two people properly before mixing them into his campaign. The first question he should have asked about both is if there was anything that could come back and bite them on the butt. But he didn't and both have a few bite marks there even though they try to pooh-pooh them.

The biggest question that exists is Pain's history and acceptance in a big way by the religious wrong way out in la la land. I have always understood that abstinence and standing away from sex until marriage was the good old religious wrong's standard for teens. But they cheer on Palin and her daughter as they hold forth with what looks as if it's a family tradition. Apparently Sarah herself had a seven-month baby and now her daughter is about to have a child before she's married. Why have the religious control freaks changed their minds on this activity? Despite what the parties and the wingnuts on both sides say about the mainstream media, they do a good job of reporting the facts. Basically, those people who are at odds with mainstream news are those who are unwill to accept the facts because they file them in a section of their brain where everyone is a villain or a loafter, etc., and want the msm to print and air the facts with that slant. They do get some hacks in news room that have political biases. A headline on the Billings Gazette this morning about Obama's 30 min advertisement on television last year obviously was written by a very biased head writer. The gist of the head was that McCain, mentioned in one small paragraph about three or four down and the last paragraphs on the end, had criticized the ad. But the bulk of the page 1 story was about Obama and the tv show and not about McBush. For those of you who are disdainful of the daily newspapers in the country, the biggest failure I see so far is to ask some of the questions I've asked before. But we've become such a lackluster news nation any more that nobody asks the really hard questions for fear of offending someone.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

on the vp debate

Sarah Agnew-Pain did a better job than I expected in tonight's debate but she did do what she has been doing in the interviews that she's had with news people: every time she did not to answer a question, she went off on the scripted comments she's been making for weeks about her "experience" as mayor of a small town and as the governor of Alaska, or cited her mantra of change (which the Republican ticket adopted when they realized how Obama was benefitting from its use of the word), or changing the subject when she had opportunities to say how McCain's policies would differ from Bush's, or going to the flag, motherhood and apple pie when cornered; or talking about how she's middle class when she's worth at least $1 million. I don't know many middle class people who are worth that much. At least some of the people interviewed afterwards realized that she didn't answer the questions. And I think people who said they were impressed by her insistence that she was one of the people are swayed not by the issues but by the flag waving and identification.

The talking heads said she didn't make any mistakes, but she did make at least two in foreign policy. At one point she seemed to equate Al Quaida with the Shiia as terrorists when Al Quaida is actually mostly Wahabi, which is a fundamentalist Sunni sect. A moment later she linked Al Malaki, the current leader of the government of Iraq, which we support with the Taliban, the ousted government of Afghanistan which has apparently joined with Al Quaida on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. She also seemed to say that Israel should have a blank check when dealing with Iran. And on another note, she created a funny point that no one seemed to catch when she talked about the Obama/Obiden ticket. People praised her for standing tall and seeming sure of what she was saying. But she also did that when she bungled news interviews so badly. And she keeps smiling when she has nothing to smile about.

But Pain refuses to answer questions. Even when she seemed to agree with Biden, as on the gay marriage iissue, she still waffled. Will she allow civil rights for same sex couples? She never answered that. She mentioned contracts which is basically dodging the issue. Will she support enabling same sex couples government support for their unions? I would suggest that her refusal to answer questions is part arrogance and part ignorance.

One other item that I almost forgot: She also repeats the same red herring about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yes, they were doing things that perhaps they should have been more careful about, but they were also doing the job they were set up to do which is to provide a secondary market for mortgages. And blaming the laws against red lining for the mess is just ridiculous. Under the law, banks couldn't red line any part of a community, but they still could use sound banking practices in making loans.

on brown and mcgillvary

The weasel, Roy Brown, came out with his first television ads this week. As expected, he attacked his opponent without citing anything about his own role in the Legislature or about what he would do for the state except for very general statements. The problem with his ad is that he did say Montanans don't like liars, so why does he expect that they would vote for him? The weasel is probably one of the biggest liars in state politics. He will stand and lie to you with a straight face but if you watch him he will look to the left and crinkle his eyes in such a way that you know he is aware that what he is saying is not truth. He will tell you that he favors funding education in the state but his actions in the Legislature do not prove that and he knew several years ago that the state had not fully funded education. He told me that it had but two years later, or less, the state Supreme Court ruled that it hadn't. If you really want someone who won't tell you the truth and who will vote against the interests of the people of Montana vote Brown. Remember his tax cuts, as are most Republican tax cuts, will not benefit most of us, including small businesses, but they will benefit out of state firms operating in Montana.

At the same time as his tv ads, Brown also started posting signs around the city. In my area, they are mostly accompanied by signs supporting an incumbent who, beyond a doubt, is one of the lesser lights in the legislature, Tom McGillvary. Now Tom says he is supported by groups who say he has one of the "best" records in the Legislature of voting against government spending, something of which he should ashamed, not proud. He told one of his constitutents last time that he would cut taxes. When that constituent asked him what programs he would cut to do that, the only one he could come up with was one that spends less than $100,000 a biennium to pay counselors so that parents adjudged to be possible dangers to their children can visit with those children in a chaperoned milieu. Do we want to deny those parents visits with their children? He actually did vote in the last legislatu, twice, against expanding the child health insurance program to more Montana children. And while his campaign literature says he wants to be a force in the legislature for bringing people together, he actually voted against any compromises, including the one that finally ended the special session. I am ashamed that my neighbors elected both of these men.

Monday, September 29, 2008

again on the bailout

The talking heads have been yakking all afternoon about the failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the bailout and about how the Republicans failed to follow their glorious leader or even the Lone Ranger of the Presidential Campaign, John McBush. Perhaps the most surprising comment came from a Republican supporter who actually seemed angry that we were blaming free market capitalism when, he claimed, it had never been tried, that there still had been too much government interference in the markets. Dumb as a box of bricks. Free market capitalism, like Libertarianism and other far right economic schemes, are just pie in the sky. I would like Libertarianism, except we had a little example of that back in Medieval days where the strongest ruled. Now, it's the economic strongest who are ruling us. Someone once said that business destroys itself by its excesses under Republican governments and only gets well again when the Democrats are in control with regulations that keep business from eating its own tail. I think that is not only well said, but correct. Those who support such plans don't seem to take into consideration human nature. A little power, be it financial or political, leads to a desire for more. In the markets it creates greed and that, in turn, destroys any trace of free markets. We see that happening with the death or purchase of industries other than banks until just a few are left in a kind of business oligarchy.

For those who are so against a bailout of any kind, and I have all kinds of concerns about giving this Administration so much unfettered ability to wheel and deal in the financial markets, we have to remember that it will not be the fat cats who have made the decisions that led to the economic crash who will feel the pain. Most of the working people that I have come in contact with in Montana have employer sponsored retirement plans that they invest in the market in several ways including buying stock or buying mutual funds that in turn invest in stocks. Each of them has lost a bit of the $1 trillion that the markets reportedly lost today. Not a pretty picture for those who may retire in the next 10 years, says Suze Orman. Paulson, I admit, scares me. I expect he's pretty ruthless when he wants something. After all, he was CEO of Goldman-Sachs, one bank that seems to not only be surviving but growing in this financial meltdown. Yet something has to be done if the stores down on Broadway and on Grand Ave and other Billings shopping areas are going to be able to continue. They may be in great financial shape, yet it has been the rule for farmers and business to borrow operating capital that is later paid off when goods and products are sold. If credit locks up, they may have to lock their doors. It is a conundrum.

on the failure of the bailout

The bailout went down in the House this morning with enough Democratic votes against with the Republicans. It is rather amazing that the Montana echo in the House, Denny Living-off-the-taxpayer Rehberg, did not follow his esteemed leader's position but voted against it. Maybe it was for the best. At this point I would suggest that the Congress now look at other ways to unlock the bank credit lockup without having to bailout the Wall Street wealthy for their gambling. One way may be to look at making credit and money available to those banks that now can't get money and actually make the loans to keep businesses and farms operating. Seems to me that's what we are really looking. The U.S. can actually get away, I think, without the big stock markets as long as trades can be negotiated between brokers on line. It seems to me that putting the markets on line without a central point to amass gambling wealth they could be made more transparent and more easily regulated. If we were to bypass Wall Street, it might really be the best thing for the country and would help the Main Street far better than the bailout. I've really changed my mind on this since watching Paulsen on 60 minutes last night. He's scary.

Several people said on radio that Republicans and Democrats who are in close contested races are wary because their constituents are angry about the bailout of the rich. Certain minority caucuses came down against the bailout, possibly because of the number of far right comments concerning the laws that demanded that banks take chances on mortgages in more rundown areas or areas considered more risky. That was a no brainer then, and a no brainer now. If banks are going to take a chance they should be required to use the same standards in measuring a risk as they do in other areas. No wonder the minority caucuses and members voted no. They may have been afraid that the racists would prevail.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

on more of the bailout

Saw Scott Pelley interview Sec. of the Treasury Paulsen on 60 Minutes tonight. It was almost enough for me to decide to abandon the whole idea of a bailout. Paulsen, former CEO of Goldman-Sacks who got into government after people began to see the future, was just a bit scary. Pelley did a much better job of pinning him down to specifics than he did McBush last week, but there were still some pretty hazy statements. I can understand that if we don't unlock the money flow between banks, the ability to pay bills and provide loans could become a crisis and is a crisis. What I don't understand is why we should reward the money men for getting us into this crisis in the first place. They know that in the daily operations of business companies and farmers borrow money to fund operations until the items produced begin to get paid for. The fear is that the collapse of the banking system will shut down those loans, shut down production and shut down jobs. But, maybe, giving it to Wall Street and the money world is not the best response. Maybe we should give it directly to the companies who need loans for operating capital on Main Street and by-pass the idiots on wall street, the gamblers in particular. In particular, I would like to know how Treasury came up with this plan and the costs, given all the uncertainties that Paulsen has. It smells like a dead Rainbow.

I have read one very good article calling for a return of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, of the 1930s to help rebuild our infrastructure. It would certainly provide jobs as it did then and with 700 Billion of infrastructure work we might be able to stop fires, build roads and bridges, fix up schools that spend maintenance money on textbooks and work on adequate medical facilities for all. It would also provide a culture of community service. A rather good idea and one I would support. (My dad was in the CCC and while he didn't talk about it a lot, he did seem to have some feeling for it.) The insurmountable problem with the bailout, as it was with the response to 9/11, the Iraq boondoggle, and the Iran nuclear conundrum is that this administration seems to be as in a rush to "cure" the financial collapse as it was to create Homeland Secuirty with the Patriot Act and that was bollixed up pretty badly, a result seen not only in the Katrina aftermath but in following the two big hurricanes this year. Maybe this fix is too quick and there's a more thoughtful answer out there.

on the bailout

Congress is supposed to be in agreement, finally, on the proposed $700 Billion bailout of the big banks and of Wall Street. The devil, however, is in the details and I haven't seen the final elements. However, I think these should be included: help for the middle class mortgage holders; ownership of at least part of any firms that obtain money through the bailout; oversight of the Secretary of the Treasury who will oversee how the money is used; elimination of salaries higher than the U.S. President's for the CEO of any company that takes the money; and limiting the blank check to $250 Billion now with control of the remainder to come later. NO TAX CUTS. The GOP minority in the House can have a stipulation that the secretary can sell insurance on bad debt to firms who prefer to go that way rather than give up their bad debt to the government, but NO TAX CUTS FOR THOSE FIRMS.

And whomever the next president is, we need to regulate the stock markets to prevent this from happening again. One of the basic elements to consider is forcing the markets to return to their essential job: making it possible for people to sell their securities and for other people to buy them when the time comes. The casino players should be told to go play the games in Lost Wages, Nev., or in Atlantic City, N.J. It seems to me that both in 1929 and now, the problems in the market occurred because people were playing games with stocks to the point where the money was not in the market to the extent that it had to be and speculators were driving the boards up and down. Back in, I believe it was, 1968, Big Blue, IBM, had one quarter during the inflation of Guns and Butter when it didn't earn more money than it had the previous quarter. It didn't earn any less, either. But its stock took a tumble.

I have claimed for some time that we have two economies in this country: the great national economy centered on the stock and futures markets and the Main Street economy that most of us spend our money in. From my observations, I would suggest that those economies are represented in the stock markets in two ways. What I'm about to say may seem more general than it should be and some players may be active in both markets, but I think we can break out, at the minimum, two categories. The first is the Main Street investor who has a 401K with his employer and/or an IRA who puts his or her money into stock or mutual funds with the intent to watch them build up over the years until he or she is ready to draw them down for some special need such as education or a first home or retirement. The second is the gambler (the most notorious were the day traders who lost a lot of member in the first years of this administration). These are the people who sell short, buy puts and calls and derivatives with no intention of hanging onto them more than a few minutes or a year plus one day (if they want to get capital gains tax rules on their increase or decrease). These are the people who make the markets risky. Another word for them is speculators. And until their role in the stock market declines we will keep having this problem.

on the presidential campaign

In the past week I've seen McBush and Obama on television twice, once on 60 minutes a week ago today and again on the debate last Friday. I think McBush is fading and I am not referring to the polls. He seemed weaker in the 60 minutes interview and more general than I had expected. He couldn't seem to focus on the issues with any specificity. Part of that may have been that interviewer Scott Pelley (sp?) did not conduct a particularly good interview. His first question was what McBush as president would have said to the American people as the financial crisis became so clear. McCain started to give some details including saying he would have told the people the cause and Scott cut him off before he could amplify his remarks. And Scott did not then ask him to get specific about the cause. It may have been more of the blame game of greed and corruption and lack of regulation but I would have liked to have heard an answer even if I am obviously not enamored of McBush. Overall, however, I felt that Obama had a much more reasoned approach and had much better details in his plans.

The same thing happened during the debate. McBush cited his experience in foreign policy, but it seemed little more than having been to some of the trouble spots without citing anything he learned there (except for the terrain, in one instance) or what influence he had there. He also spent a great deal of time citing Gen. Petraeus' views on Iraq and Afghanistan without mentioning that as president he would be the one to make the strategic decisions. And, as David Crisp said earlier, he didn't seem to have a good hold on the difference between strategy and tactics. In my opinion, McBush did not do as well against Obama as he was expected to in the debate on foreign and one of his weaknesses was his feeling that if we leave Iraq whatever happens there will be our fault and we will lose that war. I respectfully beg to differ with him. The "war" was won years ago when Saddam fell; now we are trying to nation build to our specifications without realizing the tribal and ethnic realities of the country. We can drive out El Quaeda but the chances are much more than 50% that we will have a civil war between Shia and Sunni no matter when we leave with the Kurds staying out of it if they can. John McBush is defending the things that have led Baby Bush into a very bad relationship with U.S. citizens as far as Iraq is concerned. His daddy knew better and should have spanked him on day 1 of the invasion. And McBush really didn't say anything about the financial crisis that indicated he understood that the middle class has been in crisis since at least 2001 and maybe longer while the business fat cats have been padding their bank accounts and shortchanging the rest of us on their taxes. One thing we have to wonder is why, as Left in the West asks, does McBush hate Montana? Once again he has questioned the "earmark" that helped lead to the delisting of the grizzly bear with the resulting opening up of some Montana land to exploitation. Maybe it's because our senators are Democrats rather than the Republicans whose "pork" is for buildings named for themselves and highways in Texas that no one wants?

Obama has seemed much more reasoned and much more aware of what's going on with the average American than McBush. There is none of the tired rhetoric of a wholesale plan to "cut taxes" as if that will solve the problems of our economy. Both of the candidates are pushing a tax cut: Obama for those making under $250,000 a year and McBush for everyone. According to a tax checking group, a married couple with two children making $100,000 a year would see their taxes go down about $50 under McCain's plan and down about $500 under Obama's. A single person could expect his or her taxes to go up about $10 under McBush's plan and down about $500 under Obama's. I also felt that Obama was stronger on his emphasis on going after the terrorists rather than shooting our entire wad in Afghanistan. McBush seemed to support him in this by citing Petreaus' support for putting more troops in Afghanistan. But without pulling them out of Iraq where are they coming from without conscription (i.e., a draft)?

One other note on the debate: We found out for sure that Sarah Agnew-Pain is really following the script set down by the McBush campaign when he used, in the discussion of Iran, a phrase identical to the one that she used in her interview with Katie Couric. And, a question: Was Katie working to keep from laughing at the end of that interview? One other point that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere but Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, was asked for his opinion on who won, but Palin did not appear. I wondered until I read online that CNN and NBC (and probably the other major networks) had asked to interview her but she was unavailable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

on earmarks

Earmarks have become one of the big issues in this current campaign, so let's talk about them. First, what are earmarks? Answer: they are money approved by Congress at the urging of individual Senators and Representatives at a point in the spending process where they are not subject to the usual reviews. They amount to a little over 1 percent of the Federal Budget, but seem to have more press and more consideration than does the lack of oversight of the Iraq peace-keeping spending. (Iraq has not really been a war since the fall of Saddam.) Second, who dislikes earmarks? Generally, no one if they put money into my Congressional District (in this case, Montana). In fact, it may prove detrimental to a Congressperson who does not support such money for his constituents. I recall back in the bad old days when the pundits said a very conservative Montana representative (Orvin Fjare) lost the 1960 election to a Democrat (and we came close to having the heavens fall on us back then) when he did not support money for Yellowtail Dam. So earmarks are bad only when they are in some other jurisdiction. Afterall, Montanans have cheered the Bozeman library money and the funds spent on Taxpayer Acres (otherwise known as Dehler Park).

So that brings me to the issue of the Bridge to Nowhere which is raising a big stink in the campaign because Agnew-Palin is saying that she told Congress no on the bridge. I ask, what difference does that make? She may not have supported the bridge (the evidence says she did up until Congress said no) but as governor of Alaska she took the money and has distributed it to other projects in the state. So is she telling a lie when she says she said no to the Bridge to Nowhere? Maybe not, but she took the money and has spent. So what is the issue here: the bridge or the money? By my reading of the attacks on earmarks it's not necessarily the projects (some of which are rather criminal in nature or at least very unusual) but it is the money. So is it a lie or a rather slippery notion of facts? I would suggest that morally, she lied.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

on "reform" vs. "change"

We all know that Washington must change. What we may fully understand is that our view of the world must change as well. There is no room left in today's world for the shibboleths of the past. If we don't fully grasp the world in which we live, then we will be doomed to lose it. Some of us may say we already live in a two-tiered world: people like John McBush who believe that we can ignore the technology, ignore the changes forced upon us by technology, ignore the changes that will occur when global warming creates a world without us, ignore the changes in biology that the next century will bring. We already, for instance, have medical technology that will enable many of us to live longer and put more strain on medical and financial worlds, while not really having a much better life in the long run. But even more so, as I've said before, we face significant changes in homo sapiens over the next century: gene manipulation for certain traits and to cure genetic diseases and other things too strange to come to mind. What will happen when the people living in the coastal areas of the U.S. move to the central cities, when Denver becomes the capital because politicians don't want to have to wear scuba masks to move in D.C.? What will happen when the island nations in the Pacific become unlivable? When New York is underwater so far that Wall Street has to move out? When the people of Bangladesh and other Monsoon countries find themselves having to move out of their national boundaries or drown? What about those things that change that are unexpected? I was born before computers and television, before jet planes and super highways, before instantaneous communication around the world, before cell phones and photo exchanges on the Internet, and long before the Internet. Many of these things were not even thought of when I was born. This is not the world of 1900. It is a totally different world and yet we like to react to it the same way. Now we have the great tunnel in Europe that may tell us about the origin of the universe. And we have some people who still don't accept evolution although there is no other scientific argument.

Now we have a presidential race in which "change" has been a key issue. Obama and the Democrats realized for the start that this was the world we would need, a changed world. Now McBush has picked it up. But recently he seems to have been modifying that with "reform." You can reform the current system which means changing the atmosphere but not the policies or you can change the system which means accepting more meaningful symbols. For instance, McCain and Agnew-Palin keep talking about tax cuts for everybody, but as is usual with the Republicans, they mean tax cuts that will give most of us a few hundred dollars, but give the wealthiest thousands. This is change? If a person doesn't know how many houses he has, what can we think of him? He didn't say five, omitting rentals, which would be reasonable. He said he didn't know. He thinks you have to have $5 million to be rich. He seems to think that life is for the rich. And he would continue to send our disposable government income to Iraq. I'm not sure this is either reform or change.

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