Archive for September 29th, 2008
Look at these posts:
And there’s this (and it’s important to keep in mind that the Democrats mostly voted for the bill and the Republicans mostly voted against the bill—actual figures: 60% of Democrats in the House and 33% of Republicans voted for this bill. ):
Glenn Greenwald has an exceptionally good column today, analyzing the process used to meet the current crisis—and how it matches how earlier crises have been met. He begins:
The word being used most frequently to describe the bailout package that is about to pass is “extraordinary.” That adjective may apply to the amounts of money being transferred from taxpayers to Wall Street, but the process by which this is all happening is anything but “extraordinary.” All of the “principles” that drive how our Government functions in general — what explain the last eight years at least — are perfectly evident in what has happened here:
(1) Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency. Nancy Pelosi has praised herself for decreeing that the new law will be online for 24 hours before Congress votes on it — a full 24 hours for the American public to understand and assess a law that forces them to subsidize Wall St.’s losses in a way that may impact them for decades, if not generations. The most significant and consequential pieces of legislation over the last eight years — the Patriot Act, the various expanded surveillance laws, the Military Commissions Act — were the by-product of identical anti-democratic processes.
(2) Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored — systematically excluded from the process. Professor Nouriel Roubini:
It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented — many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum — alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis.
Last week, Hank Paulson — who bears responsibility for the crisis in numerous ways — demanded that $700 billion be transferred to him in order to purchase toxic assets from his Wall St. friends, and while there was much howling of outrage in many quarters, no other framework was ever considered.
(3) Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions. Much is being made over the allegedly strong oversight provisions to limit the Treasury Secretary’s power, accomplished through the creation of two oversight panels — one that is composed of 5 administration officials (including the Treasury Secretary himself, the Federal Reserve Chairman and the SEC Chairman — the definitive foxes guarding the hen house), and another that is appointed by Congress but which — as is true for everything Congress touches — has little real authority over what is done.Identically, executive compensation limits — used to bestow the plan with its populist bona fides — are minimal and extremely limited. Worse, the public is being told that the financial services industry must pay for any losses to the Treasury still outstanding after five years, but the bill requires nothing of the sort, simply requiring that the president “propose” a plan for recoupment, not that Congress enact any such plan.
And, most of all, while not as absolute as it was in the original Paulson proposal, the Congressional plan still vests extraordinarily vast and centralized power in the Treasury Secretary — just as Paulson demanded. As the NYT put it this morning: “During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary.”
(4) The Government begins …
From Dan Froomkin’s column today:
Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post about what a long way it is from Bush’s frequent bragging “about the government’s role in increasing homeownership rates and in decreasing government regulation of the housing market. . . .
“In 2004, for example, Bush told a group of carpenters in Phoenix that ‘the housing industry is booming, which means more people own their home. And that’s positive.’
“‘We want more people owning their own home. There’s nothing like saying this home is my home,’ Bush said, adding: ‘I’ve called on private-sector mortgage banks and banks to be more aggressive about lending money to first-time home buyers. And the response has been really good.’
“During an October 2004 speech to the National Association of Home Builders, Bush talked about his administration’s record on encouraging homeownership — including a proposal to allow first-time buyers to make no down payment. He cast the effort as part of an ‘ownership society’ that would also include health-care and retirement accounts.”
Added another 2 blocks to the route, and that seems to have done the trick: 1 hour 2 minutes 18.97 seconds. It feels good to get out for a walk—and especially good when I start back.
Often it’s difficult to quantify the value of a lesson learned, but rather easy in this case. I had 4 DVDs to return to Blockbuster. I go out to the car, open the garage door, and see that the recycling bins need to be moved from the curb to their rightful place. So I place the stack of DVDs on the trunk lid, put the recycling bins away (3 bins = 2 trips), return to the car, get in, and drive off. Halfway to Blockbusters, I suddenly realize…
Stop the car, look in back, look on trunk lid (pathetic), and see no DVDs. Return home, following same route. No DVDs. Go to Blockbuster, ask what it will cost if they’re not returned. Total: $60 = value of lesson.
My view of human nature is such that I estimate with 80% probability that the DVDs will be returned to Blockbusters in a week. We’ll see.
Very interesting article by David Chang in Esquire:
Recently I was chatting with one of my purveyors about meat, prices, and the food chain. Michael raises Tamworth pigs in upstate New York and rocks his John Deere cap without a trace of irony. He’s an honest, upright citizen, a real person, not some revolutionary or back-to-the-land type. So it really chilled me when he said, “America better prepare for some uncomfortable changes. Things might get really ugly.”
You’ve seen the articles, right there on the front page next to equally uplifting stories about oil, the economy, and the war: The cost of food–of producing and procuring it–is soaring. In the restaurant world, it’s all anyone can talk about. And the thing is, this is no temporary spike; it’s actually a massive correction. · Ever since my parents came to America in 1968, it has been meat and milk 24/7. They emigrated from war-ravaged Korea and, like Americans coming out of World War II, they couldn’t believe–and didn’t resist–the Crazy Eddie abundance of the American agricultural industry. As far as my parents are concerned, meat grows on trees.
But guess what? The machinery that’s pumped so much meat into our lives over the last half century was never built to last, and now it’s breaking down big-time. Feed is more expensive. Gasoline is more expensive. Milk, rice, butter, corn–it’s all going through the roof. And for the foreseeable future, it’s not coming back down.
Farmer Michael’s feed costs have risen 400 percent in the last twelve months. To make a profit on the beautiful turkeys his family is raising in time for Thanksgiving, he’ll have to charge a hundred bucks a bird. At Momofuku, I’m paying 150 percent more for humanely raised pork belly than I was paying at this time last year. And at the hyperglobal megachains that feed most of America, the only way they’ll be able to keep selling one-dollar hamburgers is to grow their “protein units” in petri dishes, add even more filler to their products, and outright enslave the workers whose backs they’re already breaking to keep costs artificially low.
It’s depressing, this state of affairs, and sometimes I let myself wallow in it. But then I think about the opportunity this situation presents. Let’s allow these harsh new realities to force us to do something that Alice Waters has been advocating for decades: Let’s finally embrace the truth that food is not something to be taken for granted. As a culture, we need to be more curious about where our food comes from. We need to buy from farmers who are trying to do things the right way. We need to think before we eat.
If we do, we’ll find that …