September 21, 2008 archive

Cross Examining Capitalism

Original article, by Doug Page, via

The powerful culture wide taboo against discussing or analyzing the dynamics of our market economy will lead to the fall of our democratic civilization. UCLA Professor Jared Diamond studied four civilizations that perished and three that survived. The civilizations of Greenland Norsemen, Mesa Verde Native Americans, Central American Mayans and Easter Island perished. The Norse settlement in Greenland perished after 400 years partly because Norsemen could not overcome their taboo against eating seal meat and fish.1 Diamond listed two choices that those societies which adjusted and survived made while those that failed did not:

Willingness to reconsider and change core values

Long term planning

Note: The original article has hyperlinked end notes.

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Paulson resists calls for added help in bailout


49 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Sunday that the nation’s credit markets remain frozen and Congress must move quickly to pass a $700 billion bailout package for financial firms. But key Democrats said the legislation needs changes to provide better protections for taxpayers and homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

“The credit markets are still very fragile right now and frozen,” Paulson said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We need to deal with this and deal with it quickly.”

Paulson made the rounds of the television talk shows to stress the need for speed in getting the bailout package approved. The administration spent the weekend negotiating the details of the proposal with members of Congress with the expectation that it can be passed in the next week.

2 Paulson says bailout needed to shield economy

By Mark Felsenthal and Tom Ferraro, Reuters

2 hours, 33 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson took his case for an unprecedented $700 billion bailout of financial markets to the American people on Sunday, saying it was needed to prevent further damage to an already fragile economy.

“This is not something that we wanted to do. This was something that was very necessary,” Paulson said on the NBC Sunday program “Meet the Press.”

“We did this to protect the taxpayer.”

3 Pakistan blames Al-Qaeda for hotel bombing

by Emmanuel Giroud, AFP

2 hours, 42 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan on Sunday blamed Al-Qaeda linked Taliban militants for the massive suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel that killed at least 60 people and injured more than 260.

Dramatic footage of Saturday night’s attack showed the carnage could have been far worse, but the attacker failed to get through a secondary barrier when he crashed his explosives-laden truck into the hotel’s security gates.

The interior ministry said the truck was packed with 600 kilos (1,300 pounds) of explosives, and pointed a finger at Taliban militants allied with Al-Qaeda who are based in the remote areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Every once in a while we win one: a summary of Schroer v Library of Congress

I was minding my own business, cooling my heels in Friday Philosophy, hoping for a little more than the usually suspects to show up.  From the activity at 6pm eastern on a Friday, one might suspect that people had actual lives or something.

Anyhoo, jessical dropped by at 8:20 by the time stamp, which is probably something like 8:45 in real time.  So not only had most of the likely readers left by then, thereby missing what jessica left, but most of the unlikely readers no doubt missed it as well.  It’s not like there has been a big Huzzah about it or anything.

Well, except for maybe jessica and me and a batch of other transfolk.

jessica dropped of a link to the text of a decision by the US District Court for the District of Columbia in the case of Schroer v. the Library of Congress.

NL dropped by and left a link to an ACLU announcement.

There was the obligatory article in the Washington Post, from their man on the District Court beat, which appears on B10 the day after the ruling of that court.

I’ve spent a couple of days searching for someone to write the story and explain how this is important to transsexual people, mostly because when news like this comes from me or someone like me, it is too easy to downplay the significance.

Whatever.  Doesn’t seem like this news has a chance of surfacing amidst the roiling seas of financial profligacy.

So, as short and sweet as I can make it [turns out, that didn’t happen – ed], from my own biased point of view, here’s the deal.

Aquarium of the Pacific: medusae, ponies and dragons

I feel like I have to start off with a huge apology for being so much of a novice at photography…and for being a it slow to figure it out.

One of the main reasons for at lest a couple of us to visit the aquarium was to see the sea horses and sea dragons.  And the jellies.  Jellies are always cool.  (You did know that medusa is  synonym for jellyfish, right?)  

But most of any aquarium visit is inside poorly lit rooms built to allow people to view the contents of variously sized glass boxes.  That’s a real challenge for a mediocre photographer with a flash camera.  Every photo has to be at an angle, which reduces the clarity (q.v. your physics classes on refraction and reflection), and some of them are bound to be just too damn dark.

Thus many of my photos of the creatures we really wanted to remember are substandard.  Fortunately I figured out that I should switch to my iPhone instead while we still had some time remaining, so if you will bear with me through the trash, I hope that you’ll find some nuggets by the end.  I’ve tried not to include anything that ended up being totally worthless.

But even if you don’t come in, have a pony on the house.


Sunday Morning Wall Street Blues

Bailout: Finally, someone is pissed instead of scared

Matt Stoller from OpenLeft made my day with this.

This email is from a lawmaker and it should give you a flavor for what’s going on right now in Congress.

Paulsen and congressional Republicans, or the few that will actually vote for this (most will be unwilling to take responsibility for the consequences of their policies), have said that there can’t be any “add ons,” or addition provisions. Fuck that. I don’t really want to trigger a world wide depression (that’s not hyperbole, that’s a distinct possibility), but I’m not voting for a blank check for $700 billion for those mother fuckers.

Nancy said she wanted to include the second “stimulus” package that the Bush Administration and congressional Republicans have blocked. I don’t want to trade a $700 billion dollar giveaway to the most unsympathetic human beings on the planet for a few fucking bridges. I want reforms of the industry, and I want it to be as punitive as possible.

Henry Waxman has suggested corporate government reforms, including CEO compensation, as the price for this.  Some members have publicly suggested allowing modification of mortgages in bankruptcy, and the House Judiciary Committee staff is also very interested in that.  That’s a real possibility.  

We may strip out all the gives to industry in the predatory mortgage lending bill that the House passed last November, which hasn’t budged in the Senate, and include that in the bill.  There are other ideas on the table but they are going to be tough to work out before next week.  

I also find myself drawn to provisions that would serve no useful purpose except to insult the industry, like requiring the CEOs, CFOs and the chair of the board of any entity that sells mortgage related securities to the Treasury Department to certify that they have completed an approved course in credit counseling. That is now required of consumers filing bankruptcy to make sure they feel properly humiliated for being head over heels in debt, although most lost control of their finances because of a serious illness in the family. That would just be petty and childish, and completely in character for me.

I’m open to other ideas, and I am looking for volunteers who want to hold the sons of bitches so I can beat the crap out of them.

Writing while black

From The Field Negro this week, we learn the story of Fatimah Ali, a writer with the Philadelphia Daily News.


On September 2nd, Ms. Ali wrote a column titled We need Obama, not 4 more years of George Bush. In it she laid out the case that McCain and the Republicans will continue to deepen the divide between the haves and the have-nots in this country.

AMERICA is on the brink of a long, harsh and bitterly cold winter, with a looming recession that the GOP won’t even admit to.

The policies of the current White House have brutalized our economy, yet the wealthiest think that everything is fine.

Rich Republicans just don’t understand that millions are suffering. But many of their working class do, and they’re beginning to abandon their own party.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective


LIza Minelli and Joel Gray:  Money

Another Very Troubling Extremely Tragic Incident

There’s an Extremely Tragic episode of the possible results of serving in Iraq playing out in Caldwell County NC.

Not much known as yet, just one police officer killed, another shot three times but saved by his bulletproof vest, the cop killed was shot in the head according to reports.

This is all that’s out right now:

Docudharma Times Sunday September 21

Sarah Palin Is Responsible For Nothing

As The McCain Campaign Now Governs Alaska And

The Up Coming Debate Will Have No Difficult Questions

Because Her “Expertise” May Shine Through  

Sunday’s Headlines:

No Longer Ready to Retire

Hundreds feared dead in blast at Pakistan hotel

Milk scandal blows away China’s feel-good mood

Spain braced for opening of civil war’s mass graves

Secret files point to Markov’s killer

Intimidation and fear as Mugabe says he is in the ‘driving seat

Thabo Mbeki forced out as rival Jacob Zuma seizes power

Tucked in a Tehran Neighborhood, One Man’s Temple of Modern Art

Scandal-hit Olmert announces resignation

Tab for financial bailout: $700 billion  

The White House submits a proposal to Congress seeking unprecedented authority with no oversight.

 By Peter G. Gosselin and Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

September 21, 2008    

WASHINGTON — Unveiling its plan to rescue the nation’s financial system from near-paralysis, the Bush administration is asking Congress for the authority to spend $700 billion and for powers to intervene in the economy so sweeping that they have virtually no precedent in U.S. history.

The proposal, set out in a spare 2 1/2 page document sent to congressional leaders Saturday, would in effect allow the Treasury secretary to set up a government investment bank to buy up the billions of dollars of the mortgagebacked securities now clogging the arteries of the global financial system.

The dollar figure alone is remarkable, amounting to 5% of the nation’s gross domestic product. But the most distinctive — and potentially most controversial — element of the plan is the extent to which it would allow Treasury to act unilaterally:

Alaskans angered that Palin is off-limits

Queries are directed through the McCain campaign machine. Her political capital at home is eroding.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 21, 2008  

ANCHORAGE — Jerry McCutcheon went to Sarah Palin’s office here last week to request information about the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, the scandal that for weeks has threatened to overshadow the governor’s role as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate.

McCutcheon was given a phone number in Virginia to call: the national headquarters of the McCain-Palin campaign.

Why, he wanted to know, did he have to call a campaign office 4,300 miles away to find out what was going on in Alaska government? The longtime civic activist phoned his local state representative, Les Gara, who quickly filed a protest.

These days, many such queries about Monegan — or anything else involving Palin’s record as governor — get diverted to McCain staffers.



Candidates spend at record rate in August

$3 million a day; Obama leads McCain in fundraising, cash on hand

Associated Press  

WASHINGTON – Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain together spent $94 million in August, a record spree mostly aimed at about a dozen states that will probably decide their historic presidential contest.

Their campaign finance reports, filed before Saturday’s midnight deadline, shows that more than half of their $3-million-a-day spending rate was devoted to advertising that became increasingly negative during the month.

The Toilet Paper Revolution

(cross-posted at dKos– go there and rec it if you like it)

Good morning, Ameeeeeriiiiica!

People are waking up to the incredible fraud that is being perpetrated by the investment banksters, the former Goldman Sachs bankster, Henry Paulson, and the complicit Democratic Congressional leadership.

Now this abomination is on the fast track to passage just like what happened with the Patriot Act after another “unforeseeable” crisis.

And your cards, letters, calls and emails will have about as much impact as they did with Alito and FISA.

So here’s an idea that might get some media attention and put some pressure on these thieves and their accomplices.

Level with us

I’ve been reading alot today trying to understand the proposed bailout. And I have to admit that I still don’t know what to think about it all.

I don’t really give a shit if these individual companies fail or even if the stock market fails. But if we’re talking about a global economic collapse, that’s not something I think we can risk.

What I can say with confidence is that, once again, this country has waited until the peak of crisis to take action. We seem to not have the capacity to evaluate risk and take preventative action…no matter what the issue.

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