What do economists do, anyway?

Posted September 26, 2008 on 12:06 am | In the category Economy, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Okay so the economy of the world is going to Disneyland because the economists advising the US government on how to regulate the flow of money apparently don’t know their ass from their elbow. Or are they simply in cahoots with the CEOS who got millions of dollars for having bankrupted their firms on their watch? Or could it just be total incompetence, or the display of the emperor’s new economic expertise clothes? Should they be forced to read Hans Christian Andersen stories, instead of economic comic books? After all George Bush has an MBA from Harvard, the same super-elite US university that Canadians, who have regulated their banking system so this can’t happen, call America’s McGill. And he certainly doesn’t know anything about the topic. Why drag down McGill’s reputation? My real question is therefore: What the hell do economists do if they know buggerall about economics? Couldn’t we save a lot of it by just getting rid of this profession?

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Hockey Mom Kneels at Feet of War Criminal

Posted September 23, 2008 on 9:10 pm | In the category Election 2008, Obama, Palin, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

If you put lipstick on Henry Kissinger he would still be a pig.

Sarah Palin has decided – or been ordered –to learn something about the world and who better to teach her than Henry Kissinger. He has been a lead player in almost every major American debacle since he leeched onto Richard Nixon in 1968.The record is one of stunning mistakes, arrogant denials and a supine press licking his backside.

So, Sarah Palin, hockey Mom, nutty evangelical, and would be Vice President went back to school today with a private tutor with the following qualifications:

– In 1970 Kissinger organized the assassination of Chilean General Rene Schneider to facilitate the removal (and death) of Chilean President Salvador Allende because apparently President Nixon did not want Allende to be president of Chile;

– Over 20,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam while Kissinger waited for a “decent interval” before calling it quits AFTER he had declared a “secret peace plan\” during the 1968 election campaign;

– Ordered secret and illegal bombing on Laos and Cambodia in 1969 for nor good purpose. The bombing led to an estimated 600,000 civilian deaths;

– In 1974 Kissinger worked with Turkey to invade Cyprus and assassinate Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios.

– Kissinger’s support of Chilean government terrorist organizations led to the assassination in Washington DC of Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier and American co-worker Ronni Moffitt in 1976;

– The Indonesian government launched its bloody invasion of Portuguese East Timor in December 1975 with the concurrence of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It led to over 100,000 civilian deaths.

The list could go on, but what is truly amazing is that this tired, self-promoting criminal continues to be treated seriously and respectfully by the press. If you want a reason for the world’s distrust of America you could look no further than Henry Kissinger. And he is the man chosen to instruct the naïve, silly, empty vessel Sarah Palin. You could not make this up.

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ON THE NEW U.S. ECONOMY

Posted September 21, 2008 on 5:11 pm | In the category Economy, The Bush Watch, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.   —   John Maynard Keynes

As the U.S. economy falters due largely to lending practices that at best were idiotic and unethical and at worst illegal, the government has decided it needed to step in, and has done so at a potential cost of $700 billion. While not as much as the Iraq War has cost surely this must cement George W. Bush’s reputation as the worst American president of all time. This in spite of the inevitable stories in the press seeking to find good things to say about him as his administration slowly, ever so slowly, sinks below the surface.

The following are responses to the government’s bail out project from two of Politicsandpress’s correspondents.

Item from our European Correspondent:

“Hey, hey Ben + Hank finally came up with the plan to end the “turmoil”. Of course it involves having our grandchildren repay the Chinese who will fund it. It really is better than the previous final solution of getting all the worlds central banks to “inject” $180b into “the economy”. That was a good one. Some pundit summed it up for me: ”Having discovered that the brakes don’t work the bankers have supplied the car with a louder horn.” But this new one that Ben + Hank are going to “…work ALL WEEKEND perfecting” (the sacrifices these men make for us) is the one our grandchildren will pay for.

As I understand it from the press its premise is:
“…a comprehensive approach to address the illiquid assets on bank balance sheets that are … the underlying source of the current stresses in our financial institutions and financial markets.” (And all this time I thought the underlying problem was that Amercuns weren’t repaying their debts.)

Anyway, the way this will work is:
“…the new [taxpayer of the future] entity would “purchase assets at a steep discount from solvent financial institutions and then eventually sell them back into the market” through an auction.”

Cool. Buy stuff that is worth nothing (a debt that won’t/can’t be repaid) and later sell at a tooth fairy auction. Ben + Hank expecting to make money on this? Break even? Non-inflationary? They’re not even bothering to tell those lies.

So anyway, anyway, I am all for it cause it kicks the can down the road to a point after which I will have kicked the can.

Washington, DC responds:
The “market” just loves kicking the can. Investments go bad due to the ingenuity of the greedy little men in the world of finance [and the ignorance of the man of the street] with a large helping of gumm’t indifference – and oh yeah add the disastrous balance of trade – and the result is a $500, or is it a $800, billion bailout by our grandkids – ain’t capitalism wonderful? I’m hoping this will put a stop to the religious fervor of the followers of Milton Freedman and his laissez faire capitalism – well, that is too much to hope methinks, how about putting a dent in it.

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The Press Goes to the Races

Posted September 17, 2008 on 4:24 pm | In the category Election 2008, McCain, Palin, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Watching the press deal with the Palin nomination has certainly had its moments. The McCain camp has backed much of the press into a corner as they try to figure out whether they are allowed to ask tough questions of a woman who presents herself as not yet tough enough to be left alone with the press until she has an opportunity to learn what it is that Vice Presidents actually do all day.

There is a lot going wrong with the McCain campaign with a chief economist for the campaign commenting that neither Palin nor McCain are competent enough to be a CEO of a major corporation and another one suggesting that computerphobic McCain invented the Blackberry, but when it comes to managing the press, they have learned a lot from McCain’s newly admitted mentor, George W. Bush.

Much of the “working press” really doesn’t work all that hard, finding it much easier to write about the horse race than any of the difficult and complex issues that they seem to understand no better than Palin understands them. So the focus remains on an issue like whether Palin will drain women voters from Obama – rather than on whether her views on religion, women and sex might actually be those of a conservative right wing extremist. Or they focus on her experience as mayor of a real but very small town and ignore her ignorance of the real very large world. When chastised for being too tough toward poor little Palin many back off and write about shooting moose and her eyeglasses, leather boots and manly hubby.  And when the good ones dig around and learn the truth about Palin they are characterized as being ungracious, unfair, or even worse – “liberal”.

There are many examples of this kind of stuff and it will get worse. The so-called Republican “base” screams at the media whenever they ask a tough question or suggest that Sarah Palin might be in over her head or that McCain might be a tad too old for the job. But they are just fine with the lies and fabrications thrown at the opponents. These are our religious Christian voters???

In case anyone actually believed that the media is “liberal” witness the move at MSNBC to remove Keith Olbermann and Chris Mathews from leadership positions in their campaign coverage in response to anger from the right over their strong liberal views on issues and candidates. In fact, in the great wasteland that is cable TV, they provided a healthy antidote to CNN’s tedious, pompous Wolf Blitzer and Fox News’ virulent right-wing analysis led by the likes of Karl Rove.  At least they remain on air however and available to those in need of relief. And Maureen Dowd is regaining her mojo and there will be reporters actually committing journalism out there. You just need to search them out and that takes work and time and a willingness and interest to do so. We can hope that enough voters will make that effort.

In other news, Governor Palin has anointed Katie Couric to be interviewer number two as she moves toward becoming a heartbeat away from the presidency, following Palin’s new best friend “Charlie” Gibson. That the press would allow themselves to be treated this way is a sad commentary on a media that once included the likes of Edward R. Murrow. They have redefined “groveling”.

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There’s an election in Canada, too

Posted September 15, 2008 on 12:04 am | In the category Canada, Election 2008, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

The US presidential election with its seemingly endless foreplay followed by a curve ball from left field was bound to catch any gambler or sport fan’s attention, and the Canadian one, taking place almost simultaneously, is designed to go unnoticed in the great wide world. But it was announced last week for Oct. 14 by the governing Conservative Party, and its very shortness underlines both the strengths and weaknesses of the parliamentary versus the set-date systems of voting. On the one hand the US system has turned into such an expensive and long campaign as candidates jostle for media attention for the whole year preceding the set early November date that only the super-rich or those with super-rich friends can take a run. On the other hand, the voters do have a chance to find out everything and more that they want to know about the candidates, or at least they would if the press played an intelligent probing role. In this area, the sudden and completely unexpected appearance of a total outsider from Alaska as a vice-presidential candidate who had spent no money was surely a breath of fresh air even for her skeptics.

In the parliamentary system, in which the ruling party gets to announce the election date with only 6 weeks notice, there is by comparison very little money spent, but time does fly and instead of intelligent discussion and probing much of that time is spent by the press chasing down trivial events and meaningless mini-scandals and in the end the public hasn’t learned much about anything except the manipulated public persona of the party leader, who in not who you are voting for. You are voting only for the local representative who belongs to the caucus which will choose that leader. Thus the ruling Conservative Party spends its money on tv ads meant to show that the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is really a warmer and fuzzier man than he seems to be, and the challenging Liberal party does the same in an attempt to show that their leader, Stéphane Dion, is a better communicator than he seems to be. In private, M Dion, who once spent time with my brother and me in Iceland, is a charming, very intelligent man, who would obviously be an excellent Prime Minister. Those who know Mr. Harper well would undoubtedly say the same, but the actual election campaign does very little to actually show any of this.

So take your pick. My brother and i actually prefer the German system, but that’s another story.

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West to Alaska – the Globe looks at Gov. Palin

Posted September 7, 2008 on 4:53 pm | In the category Election, Election 2008, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

With 100% credit to the Toronto Globe and Mail’s resident poet John Allemang

PALIN COUNTRY

Please call us rednecks, ’cause we’re proud
To be so rough and rude and loud,
And act in ways elitists think
Proves that we’ve had too much to drink
In some dead-end Alaska dive
When, dude, it just shows we’re alive.
We love our church, our kids, our beer,
Can tell you right down to the year
That God put Man upon the Earth,
Know life starts well ahead of birth,
Don’t give a damn about the arts
And stay away from foreign parts
Until the moment that we’re sent
As John McCain’s vice-president

The great thing, when your neck is red?
Nobody cares what’s in your head –
The voters seem to like ’em dumb,
So why not play a hockey mom
Who hunts and prays and procreates
To govern these Unites States?
If you can drive a snowmobile,
The people, bless them, think you’re real,
And in the end who needs a brain?
Just tell your kids they must abstain,
Pretend that when your rule’s ignored
It’s some great gift sent by the Lord,
And prove you’ll go to any length
To make such redneck fault a strength.

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McCain’s Leadership Deficit

Posted September 6, 2008 on 5:25 pm | In the category Election 2008, Lieberman Watch, McCain, Palin, Politics | by Jeff

One reason we have political campaigns is to test the character of candidates under the fire of a campaign that more often than not turns out to be messy, nasty, full of fraudulent claims about oneself and outright lies about the opponent. Which means that much of what gets said in a campaign can and should be dismissed as bullshit. But watching a candidate’s behavior under pressure is instructive and during the past week we have come to understand that Senator McCain speaks softly and carries a twig.

A candidate for president makes many decisions but none as important to the country as a whole than the selection of the Vice Presidential candidate. McCain had two people in mind – Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge. Regardless of one’s party affiliation it is easy to dislike Lieberman for his self-centered, blathering pomposity but it is nonetheless possible to make a case for his candidacy based on his experiences and knowledge. It is he after all who has had to correct McCain on foreign affairs issues in front of the press. And Tom Ridge has been a U.S. Representative, Governor of a large state, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

So how did McCain come up with Governor Palin? The answer is he didn’t come up with her – his ideological enemies in the party found her and forced him to take her at the last minute to satisfy what is aptly referred to as the “base”. As for vetting – we know pretty much how that went.  McCain made the most important decision of his campaign under pressure from political hacks and with limited information. So much for strength of character and purpose. So much for putting country before party. So much for the myth of McCain as maverick. So much for leadership.

If John McCain can be pushed around by the likes of Karl Rove what could we expect of him in the White House? Who will control him?

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