John "not an expert on economics" McCain has announced that he is suspending his campaign to help solve the economic crisis.
McCain is going to "suspend his campaign" to work on the economic situation? What is he going to do? Go down to Treasury to meet with Paulson and Bernake to share his economic wisdom? Send them his advisors Phil Gramm and Don Luskin to impart their economic wisdom?
And of course, McCain can't debate on Friday night. It's no time to debate foreign policy while the economy is in shambles, right? So, how about we show our cards now? Let's debate the economy on Friday night?
John McCain brings no economic insight to the current discussion in DC. All he does is further inject politics into a discussion that needs to rise above partisan rancor and be founded in solid economics. Better John McCain get back to running his campaign into the ground and leave a fragile economy alone.
The Golden DeLay Award for Fiscal Policy goes to...
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) for his alternative proposal to solve the current economic crisis. Hensarling, chairman of the "Republican Study Committee," offers the following plan: repeal the capital gains tax.
But Hensarling doesn't stop with tax breaks for Wall Street. He also recommends, suspending the "accounting rules that require banks to estimate the market value of their troubled mortgage securities".
Hensarling's plan is, presumably, based on the economic theory that says a big, steaming pile of sub-prime negative amortization loans packaged and repackaged into meaningless derivatives are worth whatever you say they are. This is also known as, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" economics, but we like to refer to it by its Main Street name, which is "bullshit."
Rewarding destructive financial irresponsibility with tax breaks and weaker accounting rules? Only a true Tom DeLay Republican could come up with something like that.
Congratulations, Jeb Hensarling. You are today's winner.
If you ever get the opportunity to draft your own power grab, be smart, like Hank Paulson, and be sure to write in your own personal protection clause.
Sec. 8. Review.
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Interesting times in conservative commentary. First, I read George Will's column in which he, in his typically roundabout way, questions the credentials of the Republican VP nominee.
Then today, I read David Brooks's column in which he takes the gloves off and gives Sarah Palin two black eyes.
Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.
Color me befuddled. Here are a couple of heavy hitters in conservative commentary bashing the sacred cow of the newly reborn GOP. What gives?
Coming at the same time that Karl Rove all but calls John McCain a liar, I can't help but think that something is afoot.
I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but I will say that if I was a movement conservative, I would not want to be inheriting what Bush is leaving in his wake. The best bet, for long-term conservative strategy, would be to let the Democrats pick up the tanking economy and the expanding military excursions. Spend 4 years as the opposition party, which has always been the GOP's strongest position, and run a strong "reform" ticket in 2012 that will promise to return us to the golden days of yore (another GOP standard).
Could it be that the conservatives, seeing McCain's poll numbers inch up following the nominating conventions, are trying to put a damper on the unanticipated rally? Perhaps it's nothing. Perhaps it's just that these fellows suddenly prefer the Democratic ticket to the Republican. Whatever it is, though, McCain must be reeling.
Indeed, it is increasingly clear that Wall Street chief executives themselves didn't fully understand the risks they were taking on during the boom years of this decade; they have seemed as blindsided as any regulator.
The problems on Wall Street may go deeper. Financial firms have expanded vastly in the past decade, hiring tens of thousands of bright business school graduates to engineer new financial products, find ever more complicated ways to manage other peoples' money, and dream up new ways to combine, divide, and recombine corporate America.
Some large portion of that work, it now appears, wasn't really creating any value for the company's clients or for the U.S. economy. No matter how many times crummy mortgage loans are recombined into clever packages, they're still crummy.
- Washington Post, 15 September 2008
Business journalists today are talking about the new economic architecture, the new financial regulatory regime following the continued collapse of financial services companies that stretched themselves too thin during the recent housing bubble.
The Washington Post citation above hits on one of the core drivers of the current financial crisis - the expectation that companies will exceed market expectations each quarter - the magic trend line that only goes up.
What the business community needs to do, and quick, is to reign in the expectations of business analysts so that investors can make solid decisions and executives are not pressured to try to spin straw into gold.
This is something that cannot be regulated by the government, but requires a conscious shift in corporate culture beginning in business school and continuing in team meetings and corporate boardrooms. Until we change the culture of business in America to reflect not just economic potential, but economic reality, we're fooling no one but ourselves.
Last night I was having dinner at a little Italian restaurant close to my building. It's a low key sort of place, very casual with a small menu consisting of simple dishes like panini, pizza, spaghetti, and calzone. It's a quiet neighborhood place of the sort where you can grab a quick meal when you're too tired to cook. Nothing fancy, but quite good.
I was sitting and waiting for my calzone when saw the most extraordinary thing: a man walked into the nail salon next door holding a giant bunch of asparagus beans and bitter melon. These are not your typical vegetables. In fact, I can't recall ever having seen a bitter melon before living in South Asia. The man was, it appeared, offering to sell these vegetables to the women working at the nail salon.
The first thought in my head was, "my God, that man has a korola (bitter melon)." My second thought was, SHOBJI WALLAH! A shobji wallah is a vegetable hawker. This is not something that we typically see in the US, but is not unusual in some parts of the world, particularly South Asia.
I walked next door to the nail salon and asked the man if he had any more vegetable to sell. This astounded both the vegetable seller and the women at the salon, none of whom, I'm certain, ever expected someone like me to walk over, cash in hand, offering to buy exotic vegetables from a man on a bicycle.
I quickly negotiated a deal for some vegetables, paid the seller, and returned to the restaurant to enjoy my dinner. For the rest of the evening I could not help but fantasize about my neighborhood being treated to all variety of street vendors. I began to recall waking to the sound of the wallahs navigating their routes through village alleys, their voices coming together in a chorus of wares - fish! brooms! vegetables! beautiful dresses! - and looking out from a rooftop to see women leaning out of windows to pick the fattest fish they could afford from a wicker basket atop the head of the neighborhood maach wallah.
This is an unthinkable model of commerce in most parts of the US. We have licensed and regulated away the neighborhood vegetable seller, replacing him with the produce manager at giant chain store. Local farmers markets provide a glimpse at the old ways, but what is more beautiful than a bicycle basket filled with garden fresh produce?
For decades, if not centuries, people have lamented that journalism has become more concerned with entertainment than political commentary. Having suffered through the past two weeks of political coverage, I might be inclined to argue that contemporary journalism has become theatre; but then, I'm afraid that does the art and craft of theatre a disservice. Tonight, though, I was reminded that there is at least one medium where political commentary thrives: contemporary art.
I'm perfectly aware that there is "bad" contemporary art, and loads of it. Like bad art of antiquity, however, most of it will fade into oblivion and future generations will be forced to create their own objets d'banality. But thankfully there is an enormous amount of contemporary art that does precisely what art is meant to do - transport one out of his routine context and, in so doing, expand one's perspective on the world we live in.
I just returned from a reception at the Arlington Arts Center for their exhibition, Picturing Politics 2008. I went primarily to support a friend who has some pieces in the exhibit, but I left wanting to evangelize for a number of the artists represented.
Each of the pieces in the exhibit confronted contemporary political questions facing our society. There were a number of photographs dealing with war and resistance. Of particular note were photographs by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
But the two pieces that left the greatest impression on me were an installation by José Ruiz, and, Season in Hell, a multi-media environment by Randall Packer and John Anderson.
The installation by José Ruiz includes his 2007 work Descendents of Ascension, which provides an insightful commentary on the lives of immigrant laborers in the United States. I actually entered the room without having read the plaque describing the piece, and was not sure what I was looking at at first. After standing and taking in the images for a few moments, I became acutely aware not just of the voice of the artist coming through the objects and space, but that I found myself transported out of an art space and into a world with which I was unfamiliar, yet all too familiar. I found myself facing the invisible world of immigrant labor that is so integral to my life of comfort and convenience; integral, yet almost always out of site, out of mind. This was my first introduction to Ruiz's art, and I will be on the lookout for future exhibits.
The other exhibit that had a great effect on me was Season in Hell. I realized I had seen a part of this exhibit once before, but in a completely different context it did not make the same impression. The exhibit I saw this evening was perfect.
Season in Hell is a multi-media environment made up largely of digital prints and sound. The work is a stark view of the future-present examining the role of art, censorship, authoritarianism, and resistance. I was transported from Washington, DC through the Bible Belt, down to a southern Louisiana swamp, and to the graveyard of American civilization. I traveled each stage as though in trance, and while the artists present a bleak future-present for our society, I could not help leaving with a sense of hope and possiblity, a faith that I was not alone, but part of a vast underground conspiracy of cultural-political insurgents.
And so, while the Republican Vice Presidential nominee refuses to speak to reporters except in carefully controlled political theatre, it was refreshing and inspiring to spend an evening in a venue that openly confronted today's political environment. The exhibit runs through September 27, so if you are in the DC area, I highly recommend making it a point to attend.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not give a warm thank you and congratulations to Rex Weil for curating this exhibit, which is excellent in every respect.
Sarah Palin's speech last night left me feeling nauseated. Perhaps it was Rudy Giuliani's introduction that first left me with some discomfort, but it was Mrs. Palin's chosen narrative that made me dizzy from uncontrollable eye-rolling.
Mrs. Palin's speech attempted to make two great claims. First, that she is just your average small town hockey mom. Second, that she has at 44 accumulated governing experience enough to qualify her to run the most powerful nation in the world. In the midst of this confusion, Palin's speech was filled with petty put-downs more appropriate for high school hallways than national politics.
To be fair, I can't really blame Palin for her confused identity. After all, she wants to be "your average hockey mom," but in fact she began a career in politics at the age of 28, when she was elected to city council in Wasilla City, Alaska. She went on to become Mayor of Wasilla city at the age of 32, and was elected to her first term as Governor of Alaska in 2006, the job she holds today.
During her relatively short political career, Mrs. Palin hired the lobbying firm Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to help secure Congressional earmarks for the tiny town of Wasilla. Her lobbyists did a good job, securing somewhere in the vicinity of $27 million for Wasilla.
So, Palin's not exactly "your average hockey mom." In fact, for someone who claims she's "not a member of the permanent political establishment," she sure has spent a lot of her career in politics.
But while Sarah Palin may not be your average hockey mom, she's not exactly a political star, either. The former beauty queen spent some time as a sports reporter for a local news station before getting married and running for city council. And the town where she gained the vast majority of her governing experience? When she was elected Mayor in 1996, it still had fewer than 6,000 residents. Even the State of Alaska, for which Mrs. Palin has served as Governor since December 2006, has a population of fewer than 700,000 making it 48th in the nation and less than 100,000 citizens larger than the city of Washington, DC.
So I guess Mrs. Palin is partly right: As leaders go, she's probably pretty average.
George W. Bush proudly flew the flag of his average-ness, and brought smug belittling to all new levels in the United States. In many ways, Mrs. Palin last night demonstrated that she more than John McCain is heir to the George W. Bush legacy. The question for the rest of America, can we really afford to have another 4 years of George W. Bush?
According to today's Financial Times, the future does not augur well for Mrs. Palin:
Mr Ornstein added: “The McCain campaign has been doing its best to paper over the fact that his selection of Governor Palin was an impulsive choice made at the last minute.” Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said: “She may well not make it through until November.”
While most people are gossiping about the would-be-Vice President's daughter's unfortunate situation, the think tank crowd is likely more interested in the continued barrage of damaging opposition research that has surfaced almost immediately about the afore unknown candidate. Today's Washington Post reports that, despite Mrs. Palin's initial reputation as a tough-on-pork reformer, Palin was nose deep in the trough:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.
As mayor of Wasilla, however, Palin oversaw the hiring of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, an Anchorage-based law firm with close ties to Alaska's most senior Republicans: Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted in July on charges of accepting illegal gifts. The Wasilla account was handled by the former chief of staff to Stevens, Steven W. Silver, who is a partner in the firm.
If Sarah Palin was McCain's roll of the dice, it looks more and more like it's coming up snake eyes.
John McCain raised the ire of Republicans by calling President Bush's stance on global warming "disgraceful." McCain's Vice Presidential pick seems to have the same opinion of Bush's environmental position, but from a decidedly different perspective.
As reported in yesterday's Washington Post, McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin, is suing the Bush administration for being too environmentally friendly.
On Aug. 4, the state of Alaska filed a lawsuit opposing the polar bear's listing [as a threatened species], arguing that populations as a whole are stable and that melting sea ice does not pose an imminent threat to their survival. The suit says polar bears have survived warming periods in the past. The federal government has 60 days from the filing date to respond.
Sarah Palin is joined in her lawsuit by such environmental stewards as the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Mining Association.
Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Washington Post,
"The amazing thing about this litigation is that the governor of Alaska is so anti-environmental that she is suing the Bush administration over a claimed overabundance of protections for the polar bear."
Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that arctic ice is on melting at an alarming rate and on course for another all time low. The Telegraph reports that polar bears have been spotted trying to swim hundreds of miles in search of ice.