Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Insane Swedish Twins Take On The M6

My last post mentions running out into traffic in the throes of mental illness as an economic metaphor, so I later Googled for visuals. Turned up more than I bargained for.

The incident in the video above defies description; it is real, but bizarre, disorienting, beyond rational analysis. For reasons of their own, Swedish twin sisters run onto the M6 in England and get hit by vehicles. One gets run over by a heavy truck and survives. The other gets hit by a second car, a first one having hit her to no effect some minutes before. The second vehicle does manage to briefly knock her out, but she stands up without any sign of injury, sheds a policewoman trying to restrain her, and runs into traffic again. It takes six people to eventually subdue her enough to strap her down and shove her into an ambulance. The very brief BBC news story says that both women recovered. Recovered?? One of them was run over by a truck and helicoptered out. The other bashed in a car's windshield, folded in the crease of its roofline, and stressed the metal enough to split it. Police directly on the scene thought they were both fatalities, but all it seemed to do to the sisters was piss them off more, and they were already suicidal.

A Swedish newspaper says the twins were charged with murder for fatally stabbing a 54-year old English male in the heart back in May, and one of them had previously jumped off a bridge over highway A50, breaking her ankles and skull. The only thing I could find about this in the British press was a reference to Sabine Eriksson being held in jail the next day for assaulting an officer. What exactly must one do to get some help for mental illness?

Monday, September 29, 2008

American Mania, Pt. II: "You Maniacs! You Blew It Up! Damn You! God Damn You All To Hell!"

Where to begin. The scheduled intervention fails, 777 DJIA points and $1.15 trill go ba-bye in a few hours. I've seen worse, but this falls probably somewhere in Phase 3 of the manic cycle, the part where the victims devolve into terrified grandiosities, deciding to run out into traffic because they think they're privy to the Special Knowledge and can control cars with their minds. Both they and their rescuers will become very confused and can't put together why they got hit and flew through the air, because it makes no sense. I meditate on minds, markets, and money, on religions, and quests for immortality. As it is on the micro-individual, so it is on the macro-collective.

What the hell were they thinking, and what are they doing out there? South Sea bubbles, popular delusions, madness of crowds, marathon weekend meetings, tulip crazes unwinding, dot-com business and bailout plans rejected, broken shop windows burning and can't we all just get along as the batons rain down on our Rodney-Kingness. If maniacs survive the impact, they'll just respond with indignation, and serve out venomous recriminations. When you hear those creative obscenities, it means they're almost at the end of the cycle.

In the first stage, mania is easily camouflaged in masks of optimism and bliss. When you feel great, better than great, when you're able to directly hear the music of the spheres, the twitching muscles of the bull are at your command. You expand, you swell, you exuberate, and your exuberations are infectious. You form magical ideas, dwelling on them until you assemble them into energetic arguments, so you start to run, calling others to follow, and some do.

You run faster, faster still, shedding your past self, and so you shift into the second phase of mania. Into what they call hypomania. The compass of your body is pointed at the elixir and is propelled by fire. It's pressed down into inexhaustible white embers, stoked and sheltered in your ashes, difficult for many to detect. Your animus can outlast, it can baffle and overcome all who would assail it, and you silence the doubts of the skeptics and naysayers, even the ill-advised on cocaine. Your convincing crystalline vision sweeps them aside like a UFO sweeps away Model Ts. Risks and expenses be damned, disposable servants of supernatural vision. You will change the world.

You become impatient. The slow parts of the world do not serve quickly enough, they lag, and you are surrounded by uncomprehending fools who dispense intolerable ridicule upon you. What the spheres have revealed must work, it is destiny, and these detractors are irrational simpleton. Why do they not see? They refuse your simplest requests. You have an urge to do them harm, if only it would do some good, but your mission is to help them because you're their Messiah. It's far better to show them what you mean, to construct a perilous illustration of your powers which none can deny, so you hoist upon your back the crucifix, you'll walk out onto that freeway, the oncoming Pharisees and cars at your command.

You are hit and cry.
Why hast thou forsaken me? Your tired dopamine receptors, your burned dendrites and glazed synapses unlock as the pain starts to break through, and your joy circuits begin to realize they've been overladen for so long, so long. You're brought broken into a den, nay a cage, angry, angry with God, angry with those who thwarted you, angry with the ones who rescued you, angry over the passage of time, angry at the pointless waste, at the reversion to the human mean, flooding with anguish and self-doubt, wondering how to bear your unbearable humiliations, knowing and needing to reconstruct who and what you are.

Compared to the rest of the cycle, the hibernation is short. We're all going to heaven, we are all going the other way, and this is what we have to go through.

(Note: I've stolen from so many unattributed sources in this post, it's silly. If you're one of them, complain.)

McCain Campaign Takes Credit For Bailout Bill...Which, Ahhhm...Didn't Happen

Steve Schmidt, John McCain's campaign manager, exhibits his wares fully on yesterday's Press the Meat. He was, of course, joined by a plethora of Pug-bots repeating the same woefully ass-to-mouth, sequaciously inept, Chickens-Before-They're-Hatched Talking Points. Hahahahaa! Lewz-zers! But oh Jeebus what if these grasping Podsnappian dimwits, er, dot dot dot. Courtesy of the elegaic Empty Wheel, and via ThinkProgress:

[T]his bill would not have been agreed to had it not been for John McCain. … But, you know, this is a bipartisan accomplishment, a bipartisan success. And if people want to get something done in Washington, they just watch John McCain.” — Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 9/29/08

“Earlier in the week, when Senator McCain came back to Washington, there had been no deal reached. … What Senator McCain was able to do was to help bring all the parties to the table, including the House Republicans.” — Senior adviser Steve Schmidt, 9/28/08

“But here are the facts, and I’m not overselling anything. The fact is that the House Republicans were not in the mix at all. John didn’t phone this one in. He came and actually did something. … You can’t phone something like this in. Thank God John came back.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), 9/28/08

“Before John McCain suspended his campaign yesterday, the situation that we’re looking at today looked very different then. After he showed leadership and called for bipartisanship, for us to partisanship aside and tackle this solution head on, here we are.” — Spokesman Tucker Bounds, 9/25/08

Great work, McCain!!

Update: Meanwhile, McCain's hiding in the front of the Straight No Talk Express trying to figure out what he can say about this.

"After bragging today about his role in shaping the economic bailout package, Sen. John McCain has made no statement to the press since the defeat of the bill, in part at the hands of House Republicans. McCain boarded his Straight Talk Air charter plane a few minutes ago, but the plane has not taken off yet. McCain is in the front of the plane, separated from reporters by a brown curtain."

The Real McCain: Communist Collaborator

I did not know this. Brother Tim over at the Blog of Revelation found a damning video of Republicans and fellow captives attacking McCain's Vietnam fabrications. They tell the truth about his successful, "heroic" effort on a 1992 Senate Select Sub-Committee to keep all Vietnam POW records classified. The measure to investigate POW-MIA status, and in the process open the records, was introduced by Republican Senator Bob Dole. It had previously passed the House of Representatives 401-0, was set to pass the Senate, but McCain dug in his heels. He was personally able to put language in the bill permanently classifying POW-MIA records. Just why would he have done so?

It has long been rumored that McCain, son of his Admiral father who commanded the US fleet off Vietnam, was offered special privileges and early release in exchange for 32 propaganda tapings he made for his captors. In itself, cracking under the mere threat of torture is excusable. But 32 interviews, containing confessions that could be played to people like Jane Fonda? Many American servicemen who cooperated far less with their Vietnamese interrogators than John McCain were not hailed as heroes, but were instead punished harshly under the "aid to enemies" provisions of the Code of Military Justice, losing rank, pay, and benefits.

There's a good reason John McCain is so obsessed with perceptions of his honor: he's a phony, and a coward. His political ambitions couldn't suffer transcripts of his interviews to come out, he made thousands of people whose boys went missing in Vietnam keep suffering. Now some of his fellow prisoners and lawmakers are speaking out against him. They're can't be dismissed as biased liberals, and they're pissed. View the video and pass it on to any fence-sitters as you see fit.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sign The Petition

Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent, VT) has a proposal to force taxpayer protections in the bailout that has gathered 100,000+ signatures. Add yours:

Dear Secretary Paulson:

As a representative of the Bush Administration, you have proposed a financial bailout program of $700 billion – over $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. We are appalled that your proposal puts the cost of this bailout on average Americans; that it contains no provisions reversing failed deregulatory policies; that it allows executives at these failed institutions to continue to make exorbitant salaries and bonuses, and that your proposal contains no help for average Americans who themselves are facing severe economic hardships.

While the Administration has quickly rallied to help Wall Street, it has ignored the needs of the declining middle class. Since President Bush has been in office the wealthiest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top one-tenth of one percent now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent of Americans and the top one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Incredibly, the richest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion during the Bush presidency.

Having mismanaged the economy for 8 years while continually insisting that, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush Administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to bail out Wall Street to the tune of one trillion dollars. Meanwhile the wealthiest people, those who have benefited most from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd.

Any plan to clean up the mess on Wall Street must:

1. Ensure that middle income and working families are not the ones who are paying for this bailout by
Imposing a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue over five years;

Ensuring that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

Requiring that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the taxpayers’ assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

Taken together these three provisions will substantially reduce the likelihood that this bailout will end up on the backs of average American taxpayers.

2. Include a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect our must vulnerable families from the very difficult times they are experiencing.

3. Repeal the disastrous de-regulatory legislation that facilitated this crisis.

4. End the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.
In closing, we believe it is appropriate to act quickly to address any systemic danger to our economy. But that does not mean that we need to give a blank check to the financial sector.


Senator Bernie Sanders

Citizen Co-Signers
(from Bruce at the River Blog)

Going To The Candidates Debate

Laugh about it, shout about it when you've got to choose. John McCain didn't start chewing his microphone, exhibit obvious signs of Alzheimer's or remove his clothes to show the scars of his formative captivity. Those possibilities were in good part why we tuned in to Friday night's debate, but we're dealing with the disappointment.

There was a new real-time "audience reaction" graph for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents which crawled across the bottom of the screen, so we got to see the instant-gratification reaction of focus groups to what Obama and McCain said. Focus group members were given a dial to twist up or down depending on how they felt. In general, attacking the opponent was met with their disapproval, although Obama's highest twist came when recalling McCain's mistaken early support for the war in Iraq.

In a Fox News focus group of independents evenly split amongst Bush-Kerry voters in 2004, they gave the debate to Obama 61-39. They also think Obama won every individual segment. In the partisan focus groups, Republicans gave the debate to McCain 90-10, Democrats to Obama 93-7. You could see how ragged and indecisive the graph line was for the Independents was at many points, versus the steady sine waves of the declared. Obama gained ground, sure, but McCain won points for showing up and appearing coherent after saying he wasn't going because the fate of the country is too important, and made a case for being our bipartisan shibboleth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Letter From Paulson Estates

The tools to understand what's happening to America lie not in the details of CDOs, CDSs, SIVs, LBOs, MBSes or MMMFs. They're heated and forged in history, context, metaphor. Having predicted 7 years ago in another scurrilous September, these fallouts we're witnessing, knowing this time they wouldn't be content until they'd taken everything, I'm still the fool.

Hank Paulson was involved in Watergate; he was John Erlichman's assistant, Erlichman who went to jail for setting up "the Plumbers," the internal witch hunt in the White House, and hotel break-ins. For any youngsters who wander in here, the codes you just heard means Comrade Treasury Secretary Paulson wants to finish America off and turn it into something else, say, "Paulson Estates." He appeared with all the talking heads on Sunday, then came before our cold comfort Congress to sow hysteria and demand the full wealth of Golconda, else the wrath of financial Jupiters will rain down. There has been silence, and a deeper silence, while the Senators hesitate.

There is no law which says when a mortgage lives to 3 years old, a borrower's payment has to triple. That's a contract, not a law. Foreclosure is a choice. $100 billion to bridge the gap between non-performing home loans and the value of financial derivatives would have held up the whole house of cards, but it couldn't be done, because the Law of Personal Responsibility would be violated. (Yet a mortgage moratorium was done here in 1933 to keep people in their houses and farms.) There are links, opinions, and facts galore, but history, context, and metaphor tell me what should be done is what will not be done. In a parallel universe where Ralph Naders dwell, here is what should be:

  1. No bailouts without conditions and reciprocity in the form of stock warrants.
  2. No more lobbying for any company that is bailed out.
  3. No golden parachutes or get-out-of-jail-free cards for guilty executives.
  4. No bailouts without public hearings.
  5. Reduce the moral hazard in U.S. mortgage markets by introducing covered bonds for the majority of mortgage products, as is done in Western Europe. That gives institutions that finance mortgages an incentive to be prudent, because they cannot just unload them and wipe their hands clean of the liability, but are instead on the hook if the homeowner defaults.
  6. Maintain neighborhood stability and housing security by passing a law with a sunset clause allowing below-median-value homeowners facing foreclosure the right to “rent to own” their homes at fair market value rates.
  7. Avoid future housing bubbles by removing implicit government guarantees for new mortgages that exceed thresholds of greater than 15 to 20 times the annual fair market rent value of the home.
  8. Make the Federal Reserve a Cabinet position, so it is accountable to Congress, as well as make sure all Federal Reserve Bank presidents are appointed by the president and answerable to Congress.
  9. Reduce conflicts of interest by taking away power for auditor and rating agency selection from companies and placing it in the hands of the SEC to be administered on random assignment.
  10. Implement a securities speculation tax, starting with derivatives, to deter casino-style capitalism.

I'm the fool. I still want them to take the world and hold it against the light which shines on Delphi, watch its cellophanes weave and play like color slides, suspend the orb in their marble abytum and set a gentle ear to the hive inside. I want them to pause on their ascendancy, roll pebbles idly down the mountain and meditate on each one's fall. Oh, how I wish they could skim across the surfaces of these earthly shelves and feel the tensile calculi, looking down with smiling faces, apprehending the artifacts of what once were nations, waving at us toiling on the shore.

But all they want is to chain the world to a wall, where they can torture out its full confession. It's reached the stage of urgency, you see, where full therapies must be applied, and nothing less will do. They've done with mere beatings and are bringing the electrodes. We'll say the words they want, oh yes, say them like we mean them. One day, when this has passed, we really will mean them, and we'll agree it was for our own good.

(Note: the painting above is Salvador Dali's "Soft Construction with Beans, Premonition of Civil War," painted in 1936.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

The McCain Prescription For America's Health Care

Here's what John McCain wrote in the new issue of Contingencies, the exciting bi-monthly magazine for the American Academy of Actuaries:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
Available in a .pdf file, John's plan, Better Care at Lower Cost for Every American, explains that the Liberian Medical Model (LMM) offers a promising roadmap to innovation. Liberia's health care system is completely free of state regulation, so innovative products are naturally super-abundant. Also, outcomes-based witch doctors are the backbone of the compelling system, and these doctors compete so vigorously they sometimes kill each other, eating the deceased medicine man's brain in order to capture his healing powers.

LMM is far more cost-effective than the current US health care system, is even better at customer service, and might duplicate the last decade's banking industry miracles. Sign us up, John!

Does Life Begin At Rape For The Republican Base?

What with the recent excitements and claims on time, I've sat too long on a news article Lord Wife passed on from The Frontiersman, Alaska's newspaper. It's just the story those Special Republicans in your life need to know about: Sarah Palin isn't pro-woman. She's more like a Moosellini, and she was for rape before she was against it. Once upon a time, back in 2000, then-governor Tony Knowles signed a law expressly intended to stop the Wassila police department from charging rape victims for their post-assault exams:

The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

When the law was passed, Police Chief Charlie Fannon's reaction was to bitch that it might cost his department an extra $5,000 to 14,000 per year. Who was responsible for such blatancy? Sarah Palin. Yep. Charisma-saurus fired Fannon's predecessor in 1997, a man who had not thought it appropriate to bill rape victims $1,200 for their "rape exam kits." And don't tell me she wasn't aware of what was going on: the governor of Alaska publicly slapped her policy down.

The story of how Sarah Palin privatized rape in Wasilla is spreading through the blogsphere. Hopefully it will reach mainstream coverage, as it should on oppugnant Base States like North Carolina which jackboot their rape victims in similar fashion. It's not benign neglect. This is the lowest, most niggardly, mean-spirited, screwed-up pie-eyed pile of puritan crap in the whole vile bumper crop of government-as-business bullshit. It's preying on victims at their most violated and vulnerable, as in, "Oh, you were raped? How unfortunate. Here's our $2,000 bill for your police exam, doctor's exam, lab tests, and nurse assistance."

I made a $10 donation to Planned Parenthood in her name, and the thank-you recipient is the McCain campaign, as suggested by Firedoglake affiliate TBogg:

In discussions with various people in my real life (not the Demonic Conservative Ridicule Machine I play at night) I find that people are willing to brush off or justify Sarah Palin's lack of experience, qualifications or, well. smarts because of her novelty factor. But the one thing that stops them dead in their tracks is the story of Sarah Palin and the Pay As You Go Rape Kits:

I sat with a rape victim during the “harvesting of evidence”. Mascara smeared eyes stared blankly out from a cave of shame. “We’ve got swimmers,” announced the forensic tech in the lab next door. My friend didn’t look surprised. In her 60’s, she was still asked if she felt the need for emergency contraception. Surviving the process would have only been compounded and made worse with an itemized bill; victimized twice courtesy of Sarah Palin and the city of Wasilla.

Much can be learned about the Palin Administration’s family values from reviewing their spending priorities. Former Chief of Police Irl Stambaugh included forensic rape kits (up to $1,200 per kit) in his budget requests. He was fired by Palin in 1997. In her termination letter, Palin wrote, “…I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment. . . ” Staumbaugh headed the police department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he served 22 years with the Anchorage Police Department rising to the rank of captain. Sarah Palin hired Charlie Fannon as the new Wasilla Chief of Police and said it was one of her best decisions as mayor. Fannon eliminated the forensic rape kits from the budget. Though the number of rapes weren’t reported, Fannon claimed it would save Wasilla taxpayers $5,000 to $14,000 a year.

When Eric Croft, a Democrat Legislator from Anchorage, learned of Wasilla’s policy, he drafted HB 270, which Governor Tony Knowles signed into law. The new law made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims’ insurance companies for the costs of examinations to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault actually occurred. Upon signing the law, Governor Knowles said, “We would never bill the victim of a burglary for the cost of gathering evidence, nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.”

Wasilla Police Chief Fannon protested the new law stating it would require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. Really? Are the true costs of sexual assault and forcible rape in a community only measured and reflected in the dollars spent on the forensic rape kit?

God only knows how Sarah Palin would answer that question and, as we well know, she ain't talkin'.

Fortunately the state of Alaska saw fit to remedy the benign neglect that characterized Pailn's attitude towards rape victims. But there is still something that you can do for all women in all fifty states since they can hardly count on Vice President Palin to look out for anything other than her own blind ambition.

Per an email I received last night (and also noted here):

Instead of us all sending around more emails about how horrible Sarah Palin is, let's all make a donation to Planned Parenthood.

In Sarah Palin's name.

And here's the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor.

Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood website

You'll need to fill in the address to let PP know where to send the "in Sarah Palin's honor" card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington , VA 22202

PS make sure you use that link above or choose the pulldown of Donate--Honorary or Memorial Donations, not the regular "Donate Online"

The minimum donation is $5 ...and did I mention that it's tax deductible?

Being a slow blogger has its rewards: ABC News is reporting online that Sarah Palin actively impeded and de-funded an anti-rape initiative in Alaska, a state which has the highest rate of sexual assault in the country. The initiative was formulated by Public Safety Commissioner Dan Moneghan, whom she fired.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Someone Hold Me So I Don't Fall Out Of The Universe

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has put out a competent, hard-hitting ad for the first time in my adult life. Obviously, the earth's polarity has reversed. It's only for Al Franken's campaign in Minnesota, running against some Pug-bot traitor named Norm Coleman, but still. Just watch the ad and you'll see what I mean. The fabric of space and time can no longer be trusted.

Psyche's News Roundup

It's coming at the Pugs fast and furious this week:

A new Quinnipiac has Obama up by 4.

Bush canceled two GOP fundraisers in Alabama and Florida to meet with economic advisers today.

McCain has not spoken to the press corps that follows him in five weeks, or invited national reporters onto his bus in more than two months.

There are now not one but two firmly drawn curtains separating Mr. McCain’s spacious quarters on his plane from the press corps.

(AP) 7 US soldiers die in Iraq in a Chinook crash.

(AP) The Iraqi parliament is deadlocked on the elections law.

(BBC) Maliki questions the future of the US-Iraq SoFA saying there are "serious and dangerous obstacles" to such a deal ever taking place.

(IntNews) The new head of the UN general assembly slams "acts of aggression" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain unintentionally declares Spain an enemy of America to the Spanish press. (TPM 1, 2, 3)

NBC Nightly News (video) tears apart the Palin lies.

ABCNews (video) tears McCain apart over his flip flop on AIG.

Newsweek blasts McCain over "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

The AP's Glenn Johnson hits McCain with an extremely harsh lede blasting him on his insider/outsider claims.

At the UAW plant in Grand Rapids with Palin, the crowd chanted "Sarah, Sarah." They "haven't once screamed for McCain, even after Palin introduced him."

(All via MikeVotes at Born at the Crest.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

American Insurer AIG To Become People's Insurance Group (PIG)

Yesterday, Henry Paulson, aka "The Taxpayer's Friend," organized an $85-billion government loan to the American Insurance Group. AIG owns everything: insurance policies, fleets of jets, railroads, shipping, the Caribbean, and about $600 billion in subprime derivatives. Today, gold went up $90.40, the biggest one-day gain since Rumpelstiltzkin stopped magically spinning it out of straw. There just might be a connection.

There are a couple of interesting details about AIG's deal. First, the government got 80% of its assets in return for a 12.5% (8.5+LIBOR) loan. 80 percent. If you're an AIG shareholder your shares were just diluted by 80 percent in one night. But, it's not a bail-out, no siree...it's more of a huge doomed fire-sale with overwhelmingly tempting opportunities for fraud. How?

Before the "how," the Feds are a little short of the $85 bill promised, so Treasury announced it would auction new debt to finance the AIG rescue plan, no doubt pointing to the great yield they're getting. (CBS News) Financial systems are interconnected, of course, with the vital organs of heart, lung, brain, liver, kidney represented by New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris, Berlin. When those stop functioning normally, lesser organs and extremities fail first:
“Russia halted stock trading for a second day, poured $44 billion into its three largest banks and relaxed restrictions on lenders to stem the worst financial crisis since the nation defaulted a decade ago.” (Bloomberg)
But any one major organ failure can take the whole body down, too. Today's good news was that the two remaining investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs only went down by 44% and 25%. The good news is that they'll trade tomorrow; not so the oldest money-market fund in existence, which broke the buck (devalued under $1) and halted trading after experiencing a run on the bank. At last Friday's close, the Primary Fund had $62.6 billion in it, and depositors withdrew $40 billion between then and 3PM Teusday, when it froze redemptions for 7 days, citing the Lehman bankruptcy.

To judge by the sector-focused failures in the heart of the system, and by their accelerating intensity, we've got a system-wide emergency going down, one which is probably about to turn deflationary. Deflation, a quaint term, is now known by its new-fangled term as "demand destruction." Given that Lehman alone lavished $5.7 billion in bonuses onto its favored employees last year, most of whom live in New York City, quite a few yachts and vacation homes are poised to hit the market.

But back to the AIG fraud, which by now looks like an order of fries. The $85 billion in loans are supposed to finance an "orderly liquidation" of AIG assets. Translation: AIG is toast, they will sell off the good stuff first at low prices, stuck with crappy non-performing derivatives no one wants. As with any yard sale, they'll eventually prop the unwanted items up on the front lawn under a hastily hand-made sign which says, "Free." A likely question: how much of the government loan will be repaid before the default? I'm guessing about $40 billion will ever come back, or a year's worth of debt service at %12.5 plus the sale of a few core businesses. AIG shareholders, screwed. US taxpayers, check. AIG's dream-luck scenario is they unload their toxic subprime portfolio for .25 to the $, which means many newly unemployed homeowners will be trying to stave off agents of foreign banks and Sovereign Wealth Funds from foreclosing on their domiciles.

Don't panic--there's a real upside here. For example, the collapse of the Almighty Dollar means it won't be able to finance the ground wars it has going, much less start WWIII. This too shall pass, and financially speaking, there's a lot of America left to buy. Things will come around, the heart and lungs won't completely fail, they'll just be on life support for awhile, pumped with blood and oxygen from other sources.

Paying off a hefty resuscitation bill won't be fun, but American capitalism will survive in a restrained form, savings rates will return and be invested, and another New Economy will come roaring unreflectively back to start downing $200 martinis. Now that all the pigeons are coming home, I can't help but draw a comparison. The difference between the AIG deal and how the Soviets used to subsidize a system of horribly unprofitable, venially corrupt industry sectors, cement production to name but one example, is this: at least the Soviets got cement.

(Update: there is a great financial industry visualization tool up over at the NYT. It's called 'A Year of Heavy Losses,' and draws the banks to scale. When you roll over each box, you see their market values vs. a year ago, their current status, and the financial sector as a percentage of total Wall Street valuation.)

Obama Tax Cut Calculator

Blogger Jon sent me this web-based tax calculator, based upon the Tax Policy Center's take of Obama's plan. The Tax Magic Eight Ball will make most (but perhaps not all) ABH readers as cheery as it made me. For you whose household income is over $500,000, it says, "you will probably not get an Obama Tax Cut." For my bracket, it says something which may be interpreted as "Hooray! A DHC-2 Beaver float plane is in your future."

A tax cut for the middle class and small business owners. Hmmm. As the chart above shows (from the Freakonomics Blog), returning to a progressive federal income tax is the sure path to a balanced budget. Hahaha! Anything's possible.

Another difference between Obama and McCain: isn't it more fun to day-dream about paying less taxes than wonder what foods Halliburton will serve in DHS detention camps?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The New Narrative: Ready to Lie

Few things change an election narrative like a banking system failure. Sure, wars are great for a good crisis, too, but you can only start so many of them before, ah, before your banking system fails.

Last week, when Palin went up in the polls, lots of people (such as me) were having Gore-Kerry flashbacks, and Lord Wife noted that Obama explicitly kept hammering home two election points: economy and inequity. With the failures of AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Lehman brothers coming over the weekend, she speculates he was "banking" on some upcoming news. Whether or no, both Lord Wife and Obama are looking pretty damned smart this week.

The campaign followed the bad economic news with their own August fund-raising figures, which they'd held back on reporting:
(Reuters) Obama raises $66 million (a record) with 500,000 new donors.
Slavering media coverage of Palin/McCain as a phenom began to curdle, and what the punditry just recently described as their 'misstatements,' 'possible inaccuracies,' and 'attacks' are now being openly called 'Lies:'
Rove offers a "hook" for all the lies coverage by commenting on FoxNews?

(AFP) McCain, Palin defiant in 'lies' storm

A collection of some of the "lies" editorials.
Now conservatives are starting to pummel McPain in print:
David Brooks, conservative columnist, questions Sarah Palin's readiness.

Richard Cohen, rabid stump-chewing Zionist, calls McCain a liar.

Carly Fiorina, McCain economic advisor: "Palin couldn't run a corporation, neither could McCain."
The McCain campaign's responses are as funny as cries for help:
McCain states on CNN, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong."

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, domestic policy advisor, holds up his Blackberry to a reporter and claims, "He did this. You're looking at a miracle John McCain helped create."

Me: "By the way, you may not have heard this yet, but John was once a PRISONER OF WAR."
To put a cherry on top, what has long been begged for is now being done: they're slugging McCain in the throat. Obama is directly assaulting the Character Brand in spots called "Honor" and "Ready to Lie: An American Hero's Fall from Grace." Two months to go, but these should be effective for now.

Biologists Hope To Discover Darwin Particle With Giant Animal Smasher

Via the science blog:

Scientists from the Evolutionary Acceleration Research Institute (EARI) announced that the first test of the Giant Animal Smasher (GAS) will begin on December 19, 2008, the 41st anniversary of the premiere of Dr. Dolittle.

Dr. Thomas Malwin, head of the research project, said, "The first test runs will only accelerate microscopic life-forms like bacteria and viruses to high speeds, but theoretically the GAS can handle animals as large as squirrels, hence the squirrel smasher moniker."

Biologists from around the globe hope the GAS will unlock the secrets of the so-called "Darwin particle" that could unlock the secrets to life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Greenspan Shrugged

Over a working weekend for Federal Reserve and US Treasury officials, they ordered Chinese take-out and fresh-laundered shirts to argue over over free market principles: should we bail, or should we not? Lehman Brothers doesn't deserve it, Mr. Paulson argues, because $50 billion is just too much of the taxpayers' money. That, and his personal dislike for Lehman's CEO has nothing to do with it. Absolving Bear Stearns on the other hand was "visionary" I suppose, but since when has Wall Street worried about the American taxpayer?

Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac tally half of all US residential mortgage value, the Fed is about to own it, and has already held the discount door open for a cool electronic trillion of crisis borrowings by banks. Secret borrowings, good for any bank which felt like the sun needed to shine on its back door. But hit the road, Lehman, you communard trolls, we're in a free market! And don't distract me while I'm bailing out the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation!

Merrill Lynch was marked to market by Bank of America at $44 billion. No one knows what AIG is worth yet, Washington Mutual is coining Indian Head nickels now, and Citibank is selling its body (i.e., our mortgages) off in exotic parts of the world that Americans couldn't spell even if they were contestants buying vowels on Wheel of Fortune.

In his position as chief economic advisor to Dubai, Dr. Alan Greenspan said "these economic events are as extraordinary as I've ever seen."
Well call Doctor Watson, Sherlock, 'cuz somebody ran out of his cocaine! Alan Greenspan was president of the Federal Reserve Bank for 19 fricking years out of the last 21. He's like a meth cooker who moves in and makes product across the street, rolls industrial kilo-gs, finances dealers and crack-houses around me. Customers walk down the street stealing cars, bricks through my windows, formed up on the corners flashing out gang signs and won't say hello. Now we got gunfire coming through the house and Doctor Alan says, "Man, your neighborhood's too dangerous."

Hypocricsy much? Tomorrow's going to be rough, and this week won't be better. Got an IRA, a Mutual Fund or pension, it's going to hurt and probably not as much as me. Time to go into small stocks, selected tech stocks with good chances for= organic growth.
And oh, Alan, from beyond the grave, Ayn Rand is calling you, calling you with your personal epithet: "where is that little shit?"

(Note: in his late teens and early twenties, Greenspan was a member of novelist Ayn Rand's 'Collective' for a time in the 1960s. The last line above is not merely the ranting of a blogger-lunatic, it is also how Rand, still famous for having written free-marketeer musings in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, referred to Greenspan on at least one occasion. As I recall the full quote, she said, "Where's Alan? Tell that little shit to get his ass over here." As a student of free market capitalism, Randian or otherwise, Alan Greenspan failed.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

OK, So Maybe Obama Won't Win Georgia

This is the probably best signage I've seen yet out of the McCain campaign, brilliantly themed as grass-roots folk art. It's in Florida, but they filmed "In the Heat of the Night" in Georgia or Mississippi or someplace with swamps, so I'm going for the Virgil Tibbs angle. It's in a town called "Barefoot Bay." From the actual news story, here's what the man displaying the new McCain slogan has to say:
Lacasse put the sign in his front yard four days ago. ‘If I see anybody touching that sign, I got a club sitting right over there,’ Lacasse said.
The next lawn sign for McCain supporters will read: "Obama Half-Breed Muslin Lawyer."

Senator Joe Lieberman Sighted In Connecticut, Mistaken As Prehistoric Amphibian

Frightened residents of West Hartford described him as a "mysterious creature" and a "reservoir monster." (Video if you click on the link.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sarah Palin Bubble

Watching the "Fascism Now!" button-pushers make all the right moves and come up in the polls has been frustrating, but hey, that's what they do. Sarah Palin is the political equivalent of a black leather miniskirt. Lots of people stop thinking and don't spot a tramp right away. Fortunately the McCain Muppeteers tried to piss off the punditry, who've been showing signs of doing something radical, called "Their Job." I heard live NPR coverage of a McCain/Palin rally Tuesday night, and while supporters in Virginia cheered USA! USA! in the background, the reporter drily said, "Sarah Palin touted her stand against the Bridge to Nowhere, as she will continue to do, despite all evidence to the contrary." Worthy sentiments from Wonkette:
Political Sages Tell Democrats To Quit Freaking Out

No sooner had frontierswoman Sarah Palin finished her nasty little attack on elite community organizers last Wednesday than panic began to sweep the hallowed Chardonnay cellars of America’s liberals. Above plaintive wails of “What is happening to Our Barry?” and “We’ve got to FIGHT!” we heard the rending of garments, gnashing of teeth, and furious swilling of Two-Buck Chuck. Everyone was freaking out. Well here are some remarks from various writers who would like Democrats to unknot their panties for a moment and relax.

First: David Broder, that guy who earned a reputation as a Washington Wise Man by always saying the most blandly obvious thing.

[I]nstead of reserving judgment, many of the Republicans I talked to in Washington have started a premature celebration, while their Democratic counterparts have panicked and called for Obama to “start fighting.”

The two reactions were based on suspiciously large shifts the Post poll and others reported among some voter groups — especially white women — and on some issues. McCain vaulted past Obama among those women and scored big gains on the economy and on the capacity to change Washington. I call those shifts “suspiciously large,” not because I doubt the accuracy or the methodology on the surveys but because the years have taught me that such swerves in voter opinion are likely to be temporary.

What we know is that the American people take the choice of a new president very seriously — especially when their nation is at war and the economy is behaving in a way that causes real concern.

Next: Gail Collins, the not-insane person’s Maureen Dowd.

If the Obama brain trust seems relatively serene compared with its seething base, it’s because they live in the Electoral College world, where the presidential race only takes place in a third of the country. They don’t care about national polls — a concept as quaint as measuring one’s wealth by caribou pelts. They worry about the undecided vote in Minnesota and Ohio and run their TV ads (about the economy) in places like Colorado and Michigan and Florida. If you live in California or New York or Texas, you don’t really have much of a feel for their level of effort because as far as they’re concerned, you’ve already voted.

Ha ha, and because we need three quotes to make this a “trend,” let’s throw in Andrew Sullivan, who has returned from his space odyssey to dispense a mantra that could only be delivered with a straight face by David Caruso:

"Obama mustn’t let these schoolyard tactics unbalance him. He hasn’t in the slightest, so far, mind you, a feat of astonishing mental and psychological calm. My advice for what it’s worth: Hang in. The facts are on your side and the issues are overwhelmingly in your favor. They’re trying to force you to blink. Don’t. Hysteria will end at some point."

Patience and steel.

Not so sure about hysteria ending anytime soon, but the Obama campaign has shown deliberation throughout, and an awesome ability to plan a good response and stick to it. The McCains pulled a long pass out of their ass, but Obama has the better ground game and a sound defense.

Cheney Crushes Shotgun Barrel Between Teeth, Loses Two Molars

While the American political process cravenly hawks hollowed ground for the ten thousandth time over bodies that were ground to bits 7 years ago today and then sandwiched between asbestos, concrete dust, and molten steel, I could use some good news. And here it is!

At the OPEC meeting in Vienna, Iraq just told 6 Western oil companies to take their no-bid contracts and go screw themselves. Somewhere, Dick Cheney is gurgling with rage, killing something small and helpless 'cuz the whole point of his Evil Plan just went pfffffftttt. Still think Iraq is "doable," Dick? Hahahahaahaa! The Chinese pay cash up front:
Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters at an OPEC summit meeting in Vienna on Tuesday that talks with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Total, BP and several smaller companies for one-year deals, which were announced in June and subsequently delayed, had dragged on for so long that the companies could not now fulfill the work within that time frame. The companies confirmed on Wednesday that the deals had been canceled.

Since that time, however, Iraq’s central government has moved on with other energy deals. The Oil Ministry last month signed its first major post-Hussein contract with the China National Petroleum Corporation.
Unlike Dick Cheney, some people do not see losing control of Iraq's oil as a disaster, in much the same way many U.K. residents don't see successes by India as the end of the world. Rest of the article here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Case For American Mania

On one morning when my wife and young son were to go on a trip, I woke up at 4:02 AM, having had almost 5 hours of good sleep. My son was right next to me, covers thrown off as usual, his feet digging under my shins. At 5:30, I tried to steal away downstairs to grab a laptop and work before taking them to the airport. Halfway down, a wooden stair creaked in the dark, and my beloved child sat bolt upright and demanded: "Who said that!??"

He is an American. That is to say, he shares behavioral features commonly described as distinctly American--he has a high degree of "get up and go," all curiosity packed intensely into a burning ball of energy. These qualities are blessings, to be sure, but ones not unalloyed on a personal level. If scaled upwards into larger organizations, they would be recognizable, pronounced, and always looking for trouble.

At this very moment, off the top of your head, you could certainly recite at least 5 ongoing whacked-out things about America. And why is this so? A far more homogenous nation, Japan for example, which I assure you is completely insane, is only so on a few dimensions. Ditto Germany. And England, oh, you're definitely a rival, England, culturing your eccentricities like yeast strains in Public Trust, but can you really hope to compete on our scale of self-aggrandized Special Ness? I think not.

Maybe it's not an accident that my son (aka Lord Running Boy), his mom, and to a lesser extent, me, share a newly studied condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, which is associated with growth factor genes MEIS1, BTBD9 and MAP2K5 and is 5-10 times more common in populations of Northern European descent than of Asian, African, or Mediterranean. There's no effective cure. Many Americans I've known have something of this "movement urge" quality, for example a longest-term girlfriend always fidgeted while waiting in line, same as me. Whereas I've not much run across that in distant habitudes. In myriad Old-World queues, I've stood and noted how they form wordlessly, by automatic consent, its members then exhibiting the patience of cattle, the posture of glaciers. Americans, by contrast, must frequently be told to form lines, then reminded. We find the word "queue" repellent, and therefore employ it only when conversing in Latin.

I've begun to suspect that we and I, along with millions of our fellow citizens, share a genetic mutation--and that there exists a biological, self-selected basis for the crazes of our nation. If you live abroad, you will eventually recognize Americans strictly by their walks: aggressive, rolling, forward angles, lots of arm/shoulder movement. Europeans walk possessively, far less arm movement, posture further back with a tendency to glide. Asians, well, they almost vanish at times, and could probably walk unnoticed through an Alice in Chains mosh pit. Generally, where nature leaves off and nurture takes over is mysterious, but Americans can be spotted when not walking, too. I've been sitting mutely in foreign coat, clothes, hat, haircut, and shoes, reading a foreign book or drinking a foreign drink when people approached to ask me a question in English. They could have been reading behavioral signatures, true, but Germans have also reflexively decoded my ancestry, a good part of which is from there, while correctly noting a Czechoslovakian influence.

Jack Kerouac perfectly captures American cultural distinctions throughout 'On The Road,' a book he wrote in 20 days using benzedrine and a 120-foot roll of typing paper. It explores America, criss-crosses its essence, and revels in restlessness while an archetypally manic Neal Cassady searches for "it." Cassady isn't alone. In one anecdote, two big farmboys from Minnesota pick hitchhikers up on their flatbed Chevy truck on the way to California. Blonde Swede-descended bats out of high-decibel hell, they drive through the night, eight unmuffled cylinders banging the air for speed, wooden planked bed kicking up violently over bumps following characters who would hot-rod Southern California. In other forms of wildlife, new traits are expressed quite rapidly as environmental pressures draw out mutations. Humans have shown varieties of imaginative and remarkable knowledge-based adaptations to environmental circumstance, but in the migratory magnet of the American Experiment, have we unknowingly bred a hyper-culture? It would explain much, so let's take a crack at it.

Freud believed all psychotic disorders are forms of narcissim; with mania, one becomes the anointed, the savior, the One with ecstatic insight and a license to redeem everyone and everything if they can only be made to comprehend, to see, to agree. With dementia praecox and depression, one is singled out for crucifictions, is helotized, degraded, paranoia transforming politesses into Parthian shots. Dr. Ronald Fieve, the psychiatrist who pioneered lithium treatment for patients with bipolar disorder, gave us a clue. Years ago he noted that 90% of North Americans who come under treatment are diagnosed as manic-depressive, only 10% schizophrenic, remarkable in that the percentage of these clinical pathologies is reversed in Europe.

I'm not a geneticist, but as an observer of human history, I'm well aware that even in the face of war, persecution, and famine, for every 2 people who flee, 98 stay put; only prolonged starvation causes mass migrations. This is entirely consistent with primate behavior, where those most likely to migrate are the edge-dwellers, usually aggressive low-level males. They leave their tribe (the term is used intentionally) not because they're driven out, but because they seek opportunity and are optimistic enough to countenance risk, unattached enough to leave their loved ones.

The migrant monkeys and apes who make it through the meat gauntlet to seed a new troop are the smartest and most hardy, so in their new troops they often wind up on top, creating species-level evolutionary impacts. Some of my other forebears crossed the Atlantic in what were accurately called "coffin ships," and despite the Great Famine, despite the lethality of Black '47 and years to come, more of the Westies stayed in Ireland than ever left. Even under the worst circumstances, the ones who crossed the water were the most motivated and the most dissatisfied, traits which they passed down culturally.

Accordingly, if I were a geneticist, to prove my case for American Mania I would search for studies that look along mammalian pleasure stations, the dopamine receptors. Examples are readily found: "Dopamine D4 Receptor Exon III Polymorphism Associated with the Human Personality Trait of Novelty Seeking;" Evidence that the Dopamine D4 Receptor Is a Susceptibility Gene in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and "Population Migration and the Variation of Dopamine D4 Receptor Allele Frequencies around the Globe."

Well, then. People who can get up and go, they echo or amplify a core human evolutionary advantage. We got the hell off the Savannah and went looking for the smorgasbords of our prophecies. Whether it was catastrophe, longing, or wild hairs, something made us leave behind the security of our lakes in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. The D4-7 allele is a comparatively young recombinant outlier which differs by 6 sequential mutations from the common DRD4 alleles, and the American population is full to the gills with it. To quote the team of the latter migration study above, "we propose that this (D4-7) allele originated as a rare mutational event that nevertheless increased to high frequency in human populations by positive selection." The optimisms which can shift into pitiless, uncontrollable ecstasies, the energies which can be encased in the painful thralls of ADHD, they are our birthrights.

There are a host of implied linkages about how our genetics shaped the American interpretations of commerce and capitalism, winner-take-all competition as tied to Smithian evolutions, and greater-sum game theories. But if I wanted to write a book about it, and someone will, I would no longer be a knock-about blogger, would I? Therefore I'll just climb up on de Toqueville's imposing back:
"Choose any American at random and he should be a man of burning desires, enterprising, adventurous, and above all an innovator. The same bent affects all he does--his politics, his religious doctrines, his theories of social economy, his domestic occupations--he carries it with him into the depths of the backwoods as well as into the city's business."

(Democracy in America, Vol. I, Pt. II, Chapter 10)
That's still how Europe sees us. Like an aching knee foretells the storm, every day I stare down the ugly barrel of what I know is an epic, unfolding seizure in the American Experiment. Every week I give a thought to leaving, just like all my grandparents or great-grandparents did, just like the majority who have ever settled here, be they rapacious Vikings, religious nuts financed on a stock swindle, Scots-Irish Picts looking for somebody to shoot, huddled puking masses waiting to jump ship, economic refugees slaving over gourmet meals in L.A., or the elite and brilliant scions of India out to make a Silicon Valley fortune. Where else would we go? We have traveled the world, and it is not enough.

Many now argue for American post-exceptionalism, and I positively ache for it, but it's not that simple. That much must be confessed; I and my country-mates are genetic outliers. A collection of mutants, our bodies process the very pleasures of life differently, and we are a manic nation.
Quod erat demonstratum, U+220E. At the very least, and more charitably, we are comparatively hyperactive and cannot alter our inner structures.

The next time we hear someone preaching crazy-ass moonshines from our national podium, there's a good chance they actually mean them, but require medication. Self-knowledge, after all, is a most valuable tool for managing temperaments, moods, reactions, selves, nations. We are Americans. Brown, yellow, black, red or white, we're crazier than thou and our genes went through serious shit to make it this far. We don't need an economist. We don't need an enabler-politician. We don't need a preacher. We need a good psychiatrist.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Large Hadron Collider Rap

If you read the headline, "Scientists Seek to Re-Enact Big Bang," you can be forgiven for automatically forming a few crystals of concern and asking, "Now what hells are you damned fools going to unleash?"

While smashing nuclei together at the speed of light (probably) won't create a black hole strong enough to suck Lake Geneva into some nth-dimension, an ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) success in creating dark matter and quark-gluon soups will open a new age of high-energy science.

First, beady-eyed scientists will claim they can weaponize the reaction and make the atomic bomb look like a holiday kiddie-sparkler, which is why the US paid half a billion bucks to CERN for observer rights. On the bright side of the dark side, even more scientists will try to figure out how to use it to make clean energy, which is why the CERN consortium spent $4 billion on building the world's most advanced superconductive 17-mile long underground particle accelerator. It's located in an area famous for making the world's most precise watches.

A 23-year old intern from Michigan State, Kate McAlpine, wrote and produced a rap video while working on ALICE. It's delightful, instructive, and possibly the best argument ever for getting Midwestern white girls into rap.

Monday, September 08, 2008

US Government, Biggest Mortgage Lender, Happily Ever After

By rights, I should have posted more on the likelihood and dreary eventuality of the Feds taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Easy enough to see the insolvencies coming, overwhelming the foot-dragging protests, bluffs, and Paulsonian dyspepsia...except that writing about the economy is like writing about a homicidal schizophrenic who lives by court-ordered decree in your attic, has a knife fetish, and cackles at all hours over the din of a grinding stone.

It's scary, but never having lived with a maniac before, you don't know exactly when they'll descend and kill all of you in your sleep. Here it comes now, the footsteps are on the stairs. At best, they're coming down for midnight medications, and chalk another few trillion dollars up to inflation, to things which won't get fixed, or to government bonds which won't be repaid. Benjamin Franklin, no stranger to inflation nor friend to it, denounced it as the most scurrilous of forced personal income taxes.

Fannie, Freddie, and most banks in the Western world have already voraciously borrowed money from central banks, but are not loaning it back out to keep the engines going. And the US government is going to directly own a lot of properties, with a 7.9% property value slide in the 2nd quarter, and 1.2 million foreclosures. Oh, I'm sure they know what they're doing and everything will turn out just fine. After all, what's good for lobbyists is good for America! As living proof, the stock market, in its infinite all-seeing Free Market wisdom, took the bailouts as good news and the Dow went up by a few hundred points.

(Research credits to Still Life Living and Crooks and Liars.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Propaganda and National Power:
The Organization of Public Opinion for National Politics
by Eugen Hadamovsky, 1933

To the master of political propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels under whose brilliant leadership the neglected weapon of German politics became a creative art

(Note: This is the playbook, this is how they win. It is the diagram for Rush Limbaugh, the war on terror, swift-boating, Fox News, islamo-fascism, Robert Novak, elitism, surveillance, homeland security, prayer in schools, weak-on-defense liberals, creationism, and uppity community organizers.)


Liberalism and its offspring, Marxism, are intellectually and organically finished... If the nation is to live, liberal phrases must also die. Attempts to establish liberalism's principle of universal freedom have endangered everyone's life. Its dogmas about "public opinion" produced division and weakness in the national will.. But now the end has come. The slogan of the freedom of public opinion must be buried without tears.

- Historical and contemporary examples show that the means of public opinion can endanger or destroy national unity if they are improperly used or controlled by the enemy. ...Propaganda is the will to power; it is always subsidiary to an idea. If the idea is missing, the whole artificial structure collapses. Idea, propaganda, and power are inseparably connected.

- Propaganda is not instituted at the height of political or military actions. It is, rather, to be used as an extensive and wide-ranging preparation for them.

Misuse of Language

- The word is apparently the original element of human thought, and therefore of human genius.
Applicability to truth and falsehood is characteristic of the word; man alone decides which use he will make of it...Believe completely in your cause, do not shrink from powerful emotions, unceasingly hammer the same thoughts into the minds of the masses.

- The average man, and more certainly the masses, succumbs almost infallibly to the power of the word, unconcerned with its inherent truth. The inherent truth in words is not enough to combat spoken lies, but rather only a new word which can be set against the old. In order for this new word to be believed, the people and masses must hear and understand it. It must come to them and speak their language; its power must be greater than that of the old.

- Creative language will occasionally make wide departures from the natural and aesthetic. That has no harmful effect on the masses, whom we must today consider a political reality, even if it does violence at times to the German language. One generally has to be careful when applying the so-called aesthetic yardstick to politics, as it gives no hint of possible outcomes.

- Freedom, equality, brotherhood, capitalism, socialism, communism, profit, surplus value, output, international economy, Soviet Germany, nationalism, blood, land, race, self sufficiency-- each of these is its own slogan, encompassing the inferences and doctrines of worldview. They assault the enemy, hammer at him, raise doubt, fear, resistance, and agreement.

- The number of such words is legion. Each is propaganda by its very existence, each a form of intellectual bondage. Their very names require agreement or opposition, excite storms of the will, determine our actions.

- Creative language in political propaganda uses phrases and slogans to establish control. This is not new. The campaign slogans of a movement are and always have been the best propaganda. Christianity conquered the world with its slogan "love thy neighbor as thyself."

- The phrase “whims of the prima donna” applies not only to capricious women, but to many politicians as well. Examples are Julius Caesar whom the Romans called “regina” in mocking verse, and Napoleon, whose womanly breast drove doctors to distraction. His whims were the despair of those around him.

- The ignorance of intellectuals in politics has shown itself throughout history. When Napoleon entered an academic competition in Lyon with an essay on human ideals, it did not win the prize that the poor lieutenant had longed for. Instead, it was scornfully judged to be "not worth looking at." The same thing happens with many intellectually superior soldiers and politicians.

- In the popular criticism of today, no leading politicians fails to appear, in enemy propaganda, to be a perfect idiot, a coward, or a mere terrorist whose intelligence is so low that he must be secretly controlled from elsewhere... Material intended for the masses is not so-called objective writing, but rather such hate-filled pamphlets and caricatures. Caricature, misrepresentation, and one-sidedness belong in propaganda.

- When an intellectual criticizes someone’s propaganda, his first point is not its simple, often vulgar language. .. His greatest complaint concerns the perpetual repetition of certain goals, slogans, and catchwords. He thinks assumed limitations are actual limitations, and says pityingly, "Well, he is after all only a propagandist…"

On Maintaining Power after Attaining Power

- Power built only on propaganda is fleeting, and can disintegrate from one day to the next unless the power of organization is added to propaganda. The use of such strength of power is reflected at all levels of human life, from the strong bond of the family which brings two people together as a simple matter of personal choice to the powerful bonds of peoples and nations.

- Propaganda and power, however, are never entirely opposed to one another. The use of force can be a part of propaganda. Between them lie different degrees of effective influence over people and masses. The range extends from the sudden exciting of attention or the friendly persuasion of the individual to incessant mass propaganda, from the loose organizing of proselytes to the creation of state or semi-state institutions, from individual to mass terror, from authorized use of the might of the strong, of position, class, or government, to the military enforcement of obedience and discipline by means of martial law.

- German public opinion could not be led colorlessly, but rather it required indivisible political will and character. It is indicative of the disintegration of our internal position that a conflict could result about whether the War Press Office was seeking "political influence!" It is really so naive that one must wonder what those engaged in the argument thought of as the tasks of the War Press Office..... Politics, military leadership, and public opinion must be unified to secure success. Those who direct a war must at the same time direct politics and public opinion.

- Propagandizing is not only preaching; it is action and organization as well. It must breed the type that compels others to accommodate it, or be strong enough to lead them.

- Public opinion does not spring up by itself, nor does it correspond to true public feeling. Otherwise public opinion would reflect decisions on important political affairs before anyone else, and would thus predict such things as election results.

- What we today call "the masses" develops not from just any group of people but from one characterized so strongly by instability, pliability, and explosiveness that the individual is no longer tangible... Propaganda and the use of differing degrees of power must therefore cooperate in exceptionally clever ways. They must use the organizations of the masses if they are to achieve definite success. A practical rule for the state is thus: One does not scatter those who are organized, rather one organizes them oneself.

- It is an essential characteristic of propaganda that the preparatory work in the masses can from time to time be started by a single individual. The individual can influence schools, newspapers, and the radio; he can use them spiritually, guide them, and prepare.

- A movement or government which has to defend itself against everyone can never rely on the faulty principle of compromise that originated in the days of routine parliamentary politics. Rather, it must always be uncompromising in its propaganda.

- A propaganda technique is only a means to an end. In this it resembles diplomacy. The content can change to meet the day's tactical situations. The mission is the nationalization of the masses. The goal, however, cannot be designated with a general slogan or an arbitrary form. It should be concrete. It should not be a rather fixed and fanciful point in a program, but rather it should create a reality.

- Our life is politics. Our task today is to create a new political type who, as soldier or politician, will be equal to the tasks of the present and the future, possessing unfailing political instinct. If this political type is to preserve the existence of our people and our culture in the future, it is obvious that all other goals of public life must be subordinated to this one goal. Thus, the principle of creating this type becomes the guiding idea not only for the training of politicians, but also for the entire nation.

- Political propaganda preaches faith; it exists for no other reason. Our people long for the inner meaning of political life. It wants a political creed, and is prepared to adopt one eagerly. German intellectuals are a part of our people, the leaders of the German mind. But they are still discussing arguments and counter-arguments, pros and cons, without ever reaching a conclusion. The German intellectual may no longer stand aside. He must place himself in the service of nationalization and at the head of our people; he must first and foremost serve the faith. The nation can exist only when there is a unity of intellect and faith. If the intellect battles the faith, it will not defeat the faith but will itself be defeated.

Leveraging Mass Media

- The real effect of a word or sound carried by radio is much deeper than that, say of a newspaper or other piece of writing that must be interpreted before it is understood. Radio broadcasting works directly, without that bridge of thought, and has, therefore, greater effectiveness than the printed page. This is common knowledge. Everyone knows that our most important sense, after vision, is hearing.

- Some also believe that crude sensationalism must be avoided. If we would accept that as a guiding principle in radio programming, we would rob the radio of its most important and vigorous element. One has only to think of the deep effect of an infectious mass meeting with all its noise, tumult, and excitement, and of what the foregoing principle would set in their place! The identification of the real with the visual is merely theoretical; the denial of real effect from non-visual events is untenable.

- The radio probably has a superficial effect on the masses and it may well satisfy a mass need, but it still stands apart from the masses... The radio itself does not determine the effect, but rather what is transmitted...Those who want individualism can encourage it through the radio. Those who want collectivism. or who think some other task necessary, also have that freedom of the form and means.

- The question is no longer one of where the essential nature of the radio must lead, but rather it can be replaced by asking to what ends it should lead. The radio, which is supported by all and which is politically and culturally connected with everything, should serve the tasks of the entire nation. It is not an instrument to arouse collective mass psychosis, nor is it to be used for intellectual acrobatics. It should not be a substitute for other means of information to be used by specialists, sectarians, and outcasts. The esoteric thrives in the quiet seclusion of a like-minded circle, and is thus unsuited to radio.

- Radio can work like a newspaper, but with more immediacy, versatility, depth, and impressiveness as a result of the aesthetic element inherent in it. Newspapers and radio speak the language of the people. For the first time in history, radio gives us the chance to reach millions of people with daily and hourly influences. The old and young, workers, farmers, soldiers, and officers, men and women, sit before the apparatus, listening. The loudspeaker resounds over sports fields, squares, streets, and public places in large cities, and in factories and barracks. An entire people listens.

- What statesman would want liberal individualism that endangers the unity of national thought and desire, things more precious than gold? Freedom of choice ends here, not for reasons inherent in radio, but for reasons of responsibility to the nation and community. Their life is more important than the freedom of the individual.

- Radio shall serve this life. Its mission is the formation of national will. Its mission can only be by the conscious construction of a political type which will personify and safeguard the unity and strength of the nation.

- Problems of style, program format, and effect were talked of and discussed. No one, however, knew how to set a goal. They paid no attention to the instincts of the masses. On the radio, the masses are without the intellectual basis necessary to understand mass movements, unification, and the creation of a type. Types do not spring up from a desk, but rather they grow out of the masses. The masses built up listener organizations, powerful factors that soon unite men of certain views, of a certain political type. The strongest binding force was that feeling of identity that they wanted to express over the radio or with which they wanted to defend themselves against foreign influences on the radio.

- The central problem seems to be this: the listener instinctively understands that he has no control over the transmissions that come to him through the aether. He does not know their source, their bias, their truth or falsity.

- As long as he is politically, culturally, or artistically informed through a newspaper or through the printed page and picture, he can check the truth in other newspapers. If he learns that his newspaper lies to him, that newspaper loses him and he moves to another paper. It is different with the radio. He has no choice with the German radio, no really satisfying control. That which his radio, newspaper, or magazine tells him either before or after the program lacks the topicality, timeliness, and urgency of the radio program. It comes either too early — for what the listener actually experiences — or too late.

- The intellectual opponents of radio organizations have not generally understood the real significance of these proceedings. They mostly raised questions of taste, or intellectual arguments. The most trivial matters are discussed, the most important shouted to death. It moreover appears that the intellectual circle stays away from such gatherings and that only the shouters supporting the shallowest programs ask to speak. Truth and falsehood are mixed in these views. The question, however, is not one of taste, but rather something more important --namely the unity of spirit and nation.

- Should the government apply the principle of lazisse faire, lassier aller as it does with the press and allow the strongest instrument of public opinion -- radio --to fall into enemy hands, only to add grist to their mill by subsequent prohibitions?
- Press “impartiality" is a danger for people of weak character because it tempts them to hold it as more important than life... Those who want to be "impartial" or "objective" forget that one can be so only when he serves a great cause. The press is not a cause in itself, only an instrument.

- If one wants to label working correspondents and the press as "objective," he does so against better advice. If any large part of the press seriously worries about "objectivity" without serving a living political goal, it will decay into a comedy of dry objectivism that glorifies itself, and leads not to impartiality but to insipidity.

- The opposition (to Fascism) of four thousand German newspapers, having the entire nation as their readership, was indeed a powerful stimulus for the Hitler movement to establish its own press -- and to take up the battle against general ostricization by means of the press. In the fourteen years of growth, the hundred National Socialist newspapers and magazines that emerged certainly contributed to the success of the movement, but not decisively so. Our success came as a result of living propaganda and organization.

- The printed page is unable to excite or control mass impulses. If one calls the press a great power, as does the liberal slogan has it, one must realize that its star is fading. More correctly, perhaps, one should realize that it does not generally depend on its own power but it is rather a means and tool of a power, namely financial and industrial liberalism, that has secretly controlled public opinion for one hundred and fifty years in this comfortable way. - The kind of journalism these men have developed (they call it free, independent, neutral, nonpartisan, above party, and objective — ever and again objective) must be replaced or Germany will disappear. There is but one objective worthy of the full effort of the press — the nation. And the only justifiable objectivity is that which serves the cause of the nation.

- Until the Fascist legislation, absolute freedom of the press prevailed. It began to change the organization of the press with the law of 8 July 1924. In the following years, press legislation was passed that attacked the plague of too many "nonpartisan" newspapers by encouraging consolidation and reduction in numbers. The honor of journalists is well protected, and their number limited and controlled by the state. This is done in such a way that the governmentally approved professional associations themselves exercise the control, and have disciplinary and supervisory powers over their members.

On Leveraging Religion

- When we consider the question of a constructive, creative, and critical intellectualism and the problem of faith, it is necessary to consider that most powerful belief factor, the church. The church is the organized strength of religious faith, and as such does not reject or replace political faith, but rather deepens it. When schools churches, and national propaganda build a unity, the greatest possible strength of internal forces and will results. Since they are based in faith, knowledge, and intellect, they can only provide further support and foundation for faith, resulting in a total unity of all spiritual forces in the nation. This should be begun earlier so as to reach even the youngest children. - One might also consider the insistent evangelical radio listening groups... These are widespread.

- The Evangelical Union for Radio [Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Rundfunk] under Hinderer's leadership, works in this manner... It sees its tasks as the transmission "by radio of our movement and work, and the provision of qualified persons from our circle for the various programs. We are ready to cooperate.

- He who speaks of the relations between church and state or of religion and the nation in Germany runs the risk of being used as a witness by both sides of our religiously divided people. This is not a discussion of religious problems or ecclesiastical politics, but rather of the unity of all devout German men and women regardless of whether they are Protestant or Catholic.

- German religious groups must have equal rights, and must enjoy the same support from the state. Whether this will occur in the form of concordants or through national and regional churches is a question of historical development. It is, however, certain that neither of these large churches stands outside the national interests, and it is just as certain that the overwhelming majority of their members affirm national interests. This goes to show the vital interest the government has in its leading religious bodies.