The Party’s Over!
As you may have noticed, I haven't been writing much about politics lately. After 8 years of railing at the Bush administration and railing for whoever the democratic presidential candidates were, I really needed some time off to say HALLELUJAH WE WON!, bask in the glory of success and get all inspired by the audacity of hope and such. Take heart that a victory for one minority is/should be a victory for my minority too.
Besides, the economic meltdown has dominated Obama's entire presidency so far. Honey, I can't balance a check book, much less comprehend international credit crunches. So I've been content to sit back and hope that O is doing the right thing to salvage our economy. There are rumblings now that he may NOT have a sound plan for the economy and I am loathe to reward the banks with my hard-earned money because they failed to rip me off in a way that was profitable for them. And I do recall the moment during the democratic primaries when feisty old Gravel bellowed "Follow the campaign dollars!" in reference to which side Hillary and Obama's bread is buttered on--the side of people or that of corporations. And I also remember McCain claiming during a debate that Obama had received the largest campaign contribution on record from failed mortgage giant Fannie Mae--but statements like this are misleading since it's conceivable that Fannie Mae donated more $ to each campaign in each successive presidential election. Still, you don't get to be on top in this or probably any other nation unless you make some dirty deals with some dirty dogs.
Obama's speech was phenomenal--he criticized us and made us cheer for our own shortcomings! Is Penny Arcade writing his speeches now? Good thing Dick Cheney no longer sits behind the president on these occasions--his rotted old heart would have blown if he'd had to stand up and applaud that many times. The president did fail to address one issue very close to my heart--I was waiting with bated breath to hear him say "Suck it, bitch! Yeah, Lady Bunny! Get on your fucking knees and deep throat my great big stimulus package!" Oh well, a girl can dream. (And so can an old fat man in a wig!) Michelle actually looked so glowing and radiant at the speech that I don't think I'm going to have any luck snagging a Monica Lewinsky with her fine husband. And what about that little girl they trotted out? Ty'sheoma? Her name alone calls for a complete overhaul of the education system in her native South Carolina--what dunce would think Ty'sheoma is a pretty name? Reading it, I'd think it was the name of a disease if it weren't for the absurd, meaningless apostrophe a la Mo'nique! But I do give Ty Ty major kudos for working a frosted lavender satin dress with matching nails! If she'd thrown on a liquid lavender eyeliner above her lash, she would have made fashion history.
But I digress. Obama delivering an inspiring and eloquent speech ain't news to me. However, Rachel Maddow delivered a terribly disappointing bit of news on MSNBC right before his universally-praised address. Obama is breaking his campaign promise to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months. He'll begin the withdrawals 3 months later and maintain a "residual force" of tens of thousands of troops for peacekeeping. As Miss Maddow pointed out, this is a slap in the face to those of us who voted for Obama because we are against the war in Iraq. In fact, Obama's plan now mimics Bush's withdrawal plan! That's the second time in one week that I've heard a similarity drawn between the two presidents--Obama has liberals screaming that he's continuing Bush's abuse of executive privilege and state secrets contrary to his own campaign promises of transparency in the White House should he come to inhabit it. Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald has written an article entitled "Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully"--read it on SALON.COM. Whether you read the article or not, secrets and transparency obvously can't coexist. Unless you mean Secret's new invisible deodorant available in Powder Fresh and (!) Vanilla Chai. Christ! I realize that part of globalization is the increase in once foreign sights, tastes and smells like the all-powerful pomegranate which is now in every juice drink and cocktail worldwide, but does has anyone ever REALLY stepped out of the shower craving any flavor of chai under their arms? Is ths just me being old-fashioned (using hyphens) or is this a demented, ineffective marketing scheme? Or an effective marketing scheme for a demented consumer?
But the war in Iraq is my focus issue. And as Rachel Maddow pointed out, one can call them residual troops or peacekeeping troops or whatever you like--THEY ARE STILL US CITIZENS IN A COUNTRY WHICH WE'VE DECIMATED BEARING ARMS WHICH CAN KILL MORE IRAQIS! And as I prepare to file my taxes, I am sick to death of my tax dollars being used to murder citizens of a country which never attacked me. 80% of the country wants out of this war. GET THE FUCK OUT! Unless you wanna steal their oil like Bush did. Obama mentioned in his speech that he wanted to rethink the strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honey, what is to rethink? Just think! We should have never been there, we were tricked into going there, and you yourself denounced the war from it's onset, SO LEAVE ALREADY! Even from a standpoint of thriftiness in a time of recession, think of the money we could contribute to the stimulus package, social security, or hell, to preserving the wetlands home of blasted salt marsh harvest mice in Nancy Pelosi's district that $30,000,000 is slated for--if we hadn't blown gazillions in an unnecessary, possibly illegal war that's made the whole world despise us. While you are rethinking this, please ask yourself, what is our goddam mission in Iraq in the first place? Keeping troops there will be expensive. And even though I've deftly mastered the delicate strategy of maneuvering the withdrawal of many a soldier's deflating cock out of my bunghole without having the cum-filled condom leak or slip off, I can't say that I know how to responsibly withdraw from a long-term military occupation of an unstable nation. But where there's a will, there's a way. During the democratic primaries, both Hillary and Obama predicted that we couldn't leave Iraq before 2013. Hogwash! Dennis Kucinich said GET OUT NOW with international (Ie--not just US) peacekeeping troops and that's why he got my vote. What can you possibly win by prolonging a horrid, pointless and expensive situation which was wrong in the first place, I ask you?
Afghanistan is a more complex situation. Some are predicting that this quagmire could be our next Vietnam. Watch this compelling trailer and see what you think. Surely, anyone who stood and applauded when Obama praised the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform don't want to see those folks wasting their lives in a poorly thought-out mess. Or rather, another poorly-thought out mess like Iraq.
SIGN THE PETITON AND WATCH THE ENTIRE VIDEO HERE: RETHINKAFGHANISTAN.COM
Again and again, the Bush administration tested us on whether or not we were paying attention. Since we clearly weren't, they screwed us again and again. Obama got elected on an I WANT YOU TO GET INVOLVED IN GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE platform. So even though we may not be too interested in sorting out the disaster which Bush started in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is our civic duty to find out the facts and act accordingly. Get in touch with the man. That's what he claimed he wanted before he got into office.
This is really the first we've heard of the war since the recession's eclipsed all other issues since Obama took office. But while we're paying attention, does Obama have this financial issue down? Not according to the recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz, who thinks Obama has mixed up rescuing the banks with rescuing the bankers. He's interviewed by Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow.org and unlike many of today's female newscasters Amy is not featuring a nose job, dyed hair and show biz maquillage, so her plain, insightful bimbo-free coverage is so refreshing. It ain't about her appearance--it's about the issues. Remember that kinda news? Before she gets into the Stiglitz interview, she briefly covers two topic near and dear to my heart--and lungs. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco want to legalize marijuana for recreational use, claiming that it would generate $1 billion for his cash-strapped state. I just love it when morals fall apart in a recession--this shit could be fun, y'all! Amy then reported that Andrew Cuomo applauded a recent decision to lower the amount of "fine particlutes" in the air since the current level of the pesky particulates are responsible for 100's of premature deaths in NYC alone.
FROM THE NY TIMES BY CORNELIA DEAN, 2/24:
E.P.A. Is Told to Reconsider Its Standards on Pollutants
Bush administration standards for pollutants like soot are "contrary to law and unsupported by adequately reasoned decisionmaking," a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
The court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its standards for the pollutants, fine particulates, which are linked to premature death from lung cancer and heart disease and to other health problems including asthma.
When the agency embraced the standards in 2006, its own scientific staff rejected them as too lax. In Tuesday's ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agency "did not adequately explain" why the standards were adequate.
The decision is "a victory for the breathing public," said Paul Cort, a lawyer with Earthjustice, who argued the case for environmental groups.
A VICTORY FOR THE BREATHING PUBLIC! I think that would include all of you! Yay! I like to breathe!
I'm just trying trying to hype the other fine work of Amy Goodman before she launched into her detailed analysis, with Nobel prize-winning economist, of Obama's bank bail-out. Unfamiliar with banking terms, watching this video took all of my powers of concentration--as you might have guessed from this crazily-written rant!--but to save you a little time, the Joseph Stiglitz segment begins at 15:47 into her broadcast. I found it incredibly illuminating, and I'm more inclined to trust an in-depth news report which is not punctuated by commercials for banking and investment giants so that there's no conflict of interests for a change. The other thing I loved about Amy's reportage is that every time Stiglitz had me scratching my head, she popped in with a "What does that mean? question which led the brainiac money man to break it down in a Bail-Out For Dummies kinda way.
DemocracyNow.org also provides a transcript. Here are some of Stiglitz's most interesting remarks:
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: The critical question that many Americans are obviously concerned about is the question of what do we do with the banks. And on that, he again was very clear that he recognized the anger that Americans have about the way the banks have taken our taxpayer money and misspent it, but he didn't give a clear view of what he was going to do.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama on Tuesday night. Joe Stiglitz, is he holding the banks accountable?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, so far, it hasn't happened. I think the more fundamental issues are the following. He says what we need is to get lending restarted. If he had taken the $700 billion that we gave, levered it ten-to-one, created some new institution guaranteed-provide partial guarantees going for, that would have generated $7 trillion of new lending. So, if he hadn't looked at the past, tried to bail out the banks, bail out the shareholders, bail out the other-the bankers' retirement fund, we would have easily been able to generate the lending that he says we need.
So the question isn't just whether we hold them accountable; the question is: what do we get in return for the money that we're giving them? At the end of his speech, he spent a lot of time talking about the deficit. And yet, if we don't do things right-and we haven't been doing them right-the deficit will be much larger. You know, whether you spend money well in the stimulus bill or whether you're spending money well in the bank recapitalization, it's important in everything that we do that we get the bang for the buck. And the fact is, the bank recovery bill, the way we've been spending the money on the bank recovery, has not been giving bang for the buck. We haven't gotten anything out.
What we got in terms of preferred shares, relative to what we gave them, a congressional oversight panel calculated, was only sixty-seven cents on the dollar. And the preferred shares that we got have diminished in value since then. So we got cheated, to put it bluntly. What we don't know is that-whether we will continue to get cheated. And that's really at the core of much of what we're talking about. Are we going to continue to get cheated?
(BUNNY NOTE: DO YOU LIKE GETTING CHEATED? I DON'T--SO TAKE YOUR ADD MEDS AND LET'S SORT THROUGH THIS TOGETHER. IT'S NOT TOO MUCH LONGER.)
Now, why that's so important is, one way of thinking about this-end of the speech, he starts talking about a need of reforms in Social Security, put it-you know, there's a deficit in Social Security. Well, a few years ago, when President Bush came to the American people and said there was a hole in Social Security, the size of the hole was $560 billion approximately. That meant that if we spent that amount of money, we would have guaranteed the-put on sound financial basis our Social Security system. We wouldn't have to talk about all these issues. We would have provided security for retirement for hundreds of millions of Americans over the next seventy-five years. That's less money than we spent in the bailouts of the banks, for which we have not been able to see any outcome. So it's that kind of tradeoff that seems to me that we ought to begin to talk about.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you say Obama, too, has confused saving the banks with saving the bankers.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: Why is Obama saving these bankers?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, we could all guess about the politics. We know one of the problems about American politics is the role of campaign contributions, and that's plagued every one of our major problems. Under the Bush administration, we couldn't deal with a large number problems, like the oil industry, like the pharmaceutical, the healthcare, because of the influence of campaign contributions. Now, my view is, one of the problems is that whether it's because of that or not, it lends an aura of suspicion. The fact that there was so much campaign contributions from the financial sector at least raises the concern.
Now, there is one other legitimate concern, that Wall Street has done a very good job of fear mongering. They say, "If you don't save us, the whole system will go down." But, you know, when these banks that I talked about before, when they go down, there's not even a ripple. The fact is, you change ownership. It happens on airlines all the time. An airline goes bankrupt, a new ownership, financial reorganization-not a big deal. What they've succeeded in doing is instilling a sense of fear, so that it's a kind of paralysis that hangs over what we're doing. And you could understand a politician. He's been told if you do one thing, the whole system-the sky is falling, it's going to fall. That induces political leaders to try to do the smallest incremental step, and that's what got Japan in trouble.
Well, the question is, are they willing to take the bold measures that are necessary? Everybody keeps saying we need to take bold measures, inaction is not a possibility. That's not the issue on the table. Action will be taken. The question is, which action? Is the action pouring more money into the banks without any effect on lending, increasing the deficit, which the President talked about, or the actions which could be taken, starting on new banks, looking forward rather than looking to the past, significant financial restructuring?
Are we going to bail out the shareholders, bail out the bankers, rather than focusing on saving the systemically important parts of these institutions? There are some important parts of these institutions that we'll have to save. The question is, are you going to go do it like with a bludgeon, throw money at it, or are you going to try to do it more surgically and save the parts that need to be saved? And one of the things that went wrong is when we went-let Lehman Brothers go. It caused this enormous trauma. And that's increased the fear about-but that's an example of doing things wrong. We didn't ask the question. There was a systemically important part of Lehman Brothers.
AMY GOODMAN: Which was?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Which were the commercial paper that was part of the money market funds that were-people were using like banks, like part of our basic payment mechanism. We could have saved that part and let the gambling part of Lehman Brothers, which is not part of the payment mechanism, go down. And because we took this blunt approach, we failed. And what the financial markets are doing are saying, "You have to save everything, if you're going to save anything." And that's just wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz, you co-wrote The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. Talk about the effect of war on the economic crisis. And now we're not only talking about Iraq. But your thoughts on increasing the number of troops, intensifying the war in Afghanistan?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, first, let me say, one of-the President did have two things that I really welcome. And several of the suggestions that we made in our book, he has adopted. For instance, in the past, under the Bush administration, the war was totally funded by-or almost totally funded by emergency appropriations. It was as if every year was a surprise. And he said he's going to put that on the books so that we can evaluate it, make sure their money is going in the best possible way.
A second thing in our book that was, you know, really-was really, I found, very moving was the way we treat our veterans is terrible. And he said, you know, they fought for us; we have to fully fund the Veterans Administration. So those were really important moves in the right direction.
But on the other side, the move into Afghanistan is going to be very expensive. Things are not going very well. Our European-those who-NATO partners are getting disillusioned with the war. I talked to a lot of the people in Europe, and they really feel this is a quagmire, we're going into another quagmire. And one of the things that we do talk about in our book is that if you keep a residual force in Iraq, it's going to be very expensive. That's the experience that Britain has had. They've kept a relatively few troops, and the result of that is the savings that they had hoped weren't materialized. So that goes back to the part that he talked about at the end of his speech: the deficit. If you're going to be spending all this money in Afghanistan and in Iraq, that deficit is just going to be that much greater.
AMY GOODMAN: So you think Obama is wrong on Afghanistan?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think so.
READ THE ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT AND/OR WATCH THE VIDEO INTERVIEW HERE: WWW.DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG
People, I don't know the answers, especially the answers to complex financial issues on a grand scale. Maybe Joseph Stiglitz is wrong and he's just some left-wing kook spouting gibberish while trying to hawk his book. If you think that's the case, please send me email with info to the contrary. But I know that the president I voted into office needs to stick to his campaign promises or he's going to hear from me. It's funny, because when Rachel made the announcement about the troops staying in Iraq longer, I yearned for Randi Rhodes to be back on the air so that she could jump on this the next day and confirm my fears that Obama's action was fundamentally wrong and a betrayal. But I'm actually glad that Randi is between jobs because her absence made me think for myself. As Rachel pointed out, the announcement was made in a deliberately dizzying moment in which it and every other detail would get lost in the after-glow of Obama's first speech to the joint session of Congress--and Bobby Jindal's pitiful rebuttal. The Obama camp wanted to bury their broken campaign promise on troop withdrawal and they chose the right moment to do so. It was deliberately deceptive and I think we need to take off our party hats and put on our thinking caps. Many of the people in this country didn't even start to evaluate/distrust/slam Bush until Katrina, after he'd already stolen two elections. We can't let this happen with Obama.