Saturday, February 14, 2009
Darwin toyed around with William Paley's idea of Natural Theology but was attracted to natural sciences rather than natural theology. The lure a 5-year voyage on the HMS Beagle snagged young Charles and sent him on a lifetime journey to study the laws and circumstances of nature.
One can only imagine the loss to science had the young Darwin spent his life as his father had wished- as an Anglican parson in some parish church in the English countryside. Lincoln's father, Doris Kearns Goodwin reports in her book, A Team of Rivals, wanted young Abe to work as a laborer on the farm all of his life. Luckily for us, young men follow different dreams than those of their father.
To all but the few cave-dwellers, Lincoln was a hero yet, as we all know, Darwin is both a hero and a villain, depending on the eyes of the beholder. To the scientist, Darwin is a legend who opened the doors of discovery to those who came after him. To the righteous church folks, he is evil incarnate.
On the website, RaptureReady, an article by Ron Graham boldly opens with this:
"When Charles Darwin wrote his famous book on the theory of evolution, he probably had no idea where that ugly lie would take mankind and what a major falling away from faith in God would occur."
Rapture Ready. Funny stuff, except for 'the believers.' By the way, that website has some reading information for some of us non-believers. Check out the section titled, Information For Those Left Behind. I didn't check into the info. I don't have time.
Well, Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin and thanks for your masterful works which help us to figure out who we are and where we came from.
"I think I'm signaling something a little bit shocking to Americans, and to myself, actually. Which is the situation we find ourselves in at this moment, this week, is very strongly reminiscent of the situations we've seen many times in other places.
But they're places we don't like to think of ourselves as being similar to. They're emerging markets. It's Russia or Indonesia or a Thailand type situation, or Korea. That's not comfortable. America is different. America is special. America is rich. And, yet, we've somehow find ourselves in the grip of the same sort of crisis and the same sort of oligarchs."
Oligarchy, he said. A small knot of very influential and wealthy people who wield tremendous power. They run America's banking system. And they have no intention of giving up their power nor their money, Johnson said. But, he added, they will take tax-payer dollars to shore up their banks and continue to accumulate more wealth and power in the process.
It was a bleak 20-minute segment to watch. Moyers asked, "Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy?"
Although Johnson could not give a straight yes or no answer, he said, "I have this feeling in my stomach that I felt in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situation. When there's a small group of people who got you into a disaster, and who were still powerful. Disaster even made them more powerful. And you know you need to come in and break that power. And you can't. You're stuck."
Then Johnson added,
"The correct people you should be asking this question to are people at the IMF. And I can tell you what they're saying is the policy that we seem to be perusing, of being nice to the banks, is a mistake. The powerful people are the insiders. They're the CEOs of these banks. They're the people who run these banks. They're the people who pay themselves the massive bonuses at the end of the last year. Now, those bonuses are not the essence of the problem, but they are a symptom of an arrogance, and a feeling of invincibility, that tells you a lot about the culture of those organizations, and the attitudes of the people who lead them."
Here is the full text of the final portion of the interview. Mr. Johnson tells Moyers that a process similar to the one used by the IMF could help with this banking fiasco:
Johnson: That's where you go and you check the bank's books, and you say, okay, not only do we use market prices, not pretend prices, not what you wished things were worth, what they're really worth, okay, in the market today. We use that to value your loans and the securities that you have, your assets, right?
And we also assess what will happen to the value of the things you own if there's a severe recession. So that's the idea, it's a stress test, like when you go to see the doctor, they put you on a treadmill, and make you run to see how your heart is going to behave under stress.
So you're looking at how the bank's balance sheets will look under stress. And then you say to them, "This is our assessment of the amount of capital you need to cover your losses, and to stay in business, and be able to make loans, through what appears to be a severe recession."
And, as the president said, we may lose a decade. So we've got to be very hard headed, and all the officials forecasters are still too optimistic on that. This is the amount of capital you need. Now you have a month, or two, to raise this amount of capital privately.
And when this was done in Sweden, by the way, in the early 1990s, they did it to three big banks. One of the three was able to go to its shareholders, raise a lot more capital, and stay in business as a private bank, same shareholders. That's an option. Totally fine. However, the ones that can't raise the capital are in violation of the terms of their banking license, if you like.
We have no problem in this country shutting down small banks. In fact, the FDIC is world class at shutting down and managing the handover of deposits, for example, from small banks. They managed IndyMac, the closure of IndyMac, beautifully. People didn't lose touch with their money for even a moment. But they can't do it to big banks, because they don't have the political power. Nobody has the political will to do it.
So you need to take an FDIC-type process. You scale it up. You say, "You haven't raised the capital privately. The government is taking over your bank. You guys are out of business. Your bonuses are wiped out. Your golden parachutes are gone." Okay? Because the bank has failed.
This is a government-supervised bankruptcy process. It's called, in the terminology of the business, it's called an intervention. The bank is intervened. You don't go into Chapter 11 because in that's too messy. Too complicated. There's an intervention, you lose the right to operate as a bank. The FDIC takes you over. I think we agree, everyone agrees, we don't want the government to run banks in this country.
BILL MOYERS: Never done it before.
SIMON JOHNSON: Never done it before. It's not gone well anywhere in the world. And the idea of getting your money out of the bank being like visiting the DMV to get your driver's license, it's not appealing, okay?
That's not what we're going to do. That's not what the Swedes did. That's not the state of the art - it's not what the real banking experts are going to tell you to do. They're going to say, you set it up, you set up the government intervention, and there's various technical ways to do this, so that you re-privatize very quickly.
Now, it might take three months, it might take six months. It'll depend on the overall macro economy turning around. But there's a lot of private money out there. Let's call it private equity.
These people would like to come in and buy these re-privatized banks. You would attach antitrust provisions to this, so the banks are broken up as part of this transaction. Senator Sanders has a great saying. He says, "Any bank that is too big to fail is too big to exist."
And he's exactly right. So, in this transformation, you're bringing in private equity. You're using, I think this is, to me, the right idea, and what we've learned in our country, is you're using part of the powerful financial lobby against another part. You're using private equity, that would do very well in this, against the inbred insider big bankers. And you're doing this in a way so that the taxpayer decides who the new owners are.
The new owners come in and do a lot of the restructuring. They're going to fire all of these managers. I can honestly assure you that. They're going to put in new risk management systems. They're going to have to make the banks smaller. And the taxpayer is going to retain a substantial equity interest. So as these banks recover the value of our investment goes up. And that's how we get upside participation.
BILL MOYERS: So you're not talking about nationalization, are you?
SIMON JOHNSON: I'm talking about a scaled up FDIC intervention. I think we need the FDIC to be empowered. And to have the political support necessary to get this job done.
BILL MOYERS: Splitting this one powerful interest group into competing factions, and taking them on one by one.
SIMON JOHNSON: That is classic oligarchy breaking strategy. Now I do admit that once you've done that, you have to worry about the new oligarchs. That's why you're breaking up the banks. You don't want to just change the owners of banks that are too big to fail, because they'll be coming around in five years for another handout.
The structure or banking system, the concentration of power in big financial institutions has to change. There's a lot of appeal to FDR and what he did in the Great Depression.
I would go back to Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago, and think about trust busting. Okay? Now, the banks don't violate existing antitrust laws. That's 'cause our antitrust laws are 100 years old and need to be changed, okay? We need to break them up for exactly the same reason that Rockefeller and the oil interests, standard oil, at the end of the 19th century, was too powerful, economically and politically. And it had to be broken up. And breaking it up was the right thing to do. That's where we are with the banks today.
BILL MOYERS: Simon Johnson, thank you for being with me on the Journal.
SIMON JOHNSON: My pleasure.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Yes, rather than helping with the bailing of the water from our sinking ship, the righteous GOP sat on their hands and now wish the entire ship would sink to the bottom of the sea.
They are nothing more than ideologues who don't give a damn about the success of our nation. It's all about getting reelected in 2010.
God bless America.
Wow! That former Grand Old Party is morphing itself into an insurgent group not unlike the Taliban, especially with their right-wing filled with Fundamentalists, just like the Taliban.
During the Civil War, southern insurgents were quite active in their business of causing havoc on the plans of the Union generals. They learned many of these tactics in Montreal, where they and southern-sympathizers planned raids and other covert activities against the Union forces.
As my previous post suggests, one wonders if The South, led by southern Republicans, are, in fact, insurgents looking to take down the Union once again.
Yes sir, the Glass-Steagall Act. Those wise legislators from the Roosevelt Era knew exactly what they were doing. Yet, today's Republicans thought something else altogether. >Today's Republicans. Nuff said!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
"Obama is stuck in Iraq." So said Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Ricks on Hardball the other night. Ricks is the author of 'The Gamble,' his assessment of the Petraeus-led surge in Iraq 2006-2008.
The charming senator, TPM Muckraker reveals, stripped the final bill of whistleblower protection. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 has effectively exposed fraud, greed and theft by corporations and whistleblower protection is key to running an effective detection program. TPM says, " Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee, which, as an oversight committee, might be expected to see its role as protecting whistleblowers."
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
After George W. Bush's two terms, conservatives must reckon with the consequences of a presidency that failed, in large part, because of its fervent commitment to movement ideology: the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy; the blind faith in a deregulated, Wall Street-centric market; the harshly punitive "culture war" waged against liberal "elites." That these precepts should have found their final, hapless defender in John McCain, who had resisted them for most of his long career, only confirms that movement doctrine retains an inflexible and suffocating grip on the GOP.
That is quite the confession. 'Now go and sin no more,' might be the challenge from the parish priest, but will the Republican Party heed the mandate? It will be difficult for many, impossible for some. Tanenhaus goes on:
But what of the verdict issued on movement conservatism itself?There, conservatives have offered little apart from self-justifications mixed with harsh appraisals of the Bush years. Some argue that the administration wasn't conservative at all, at least not in the "small government" sense. This is true, but then no president in modern times has seriously attempted to reduce the size of government, and for good reason: Voters don't want it reduced. What they want is government that's "big" for them--whether it's Democrats who call for job-training programs and universal health care or Republicans eager to see billions funneled into "much-needed and underfunded defense procurement," as William Kristol recommended shortly after Obama's victory.
Others on the right blame Bush's heterodoxy on interlopers, chief among them Kristol's band of neoconservative warriors at The Weekly Standard, who beguiled the administration into the Iraq war and an ill-starred Wilsonian crusade for global democracy.
Yet, says the author, what conservatives have yet to do is confront the large but inescapable truth that movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead. And yet they should, because the death of movement politics can only be a boon to the right, since it has been clear for some time the movement is profoundly and defiantly un-conservative--in its ideas, arguments, strategies, and above all its vision.
Many have observed that movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy--"statist" social programs; "socialized medicine"; "big labor"; "activist" Supreme Court justices, the "media elite"; "tenured radicals" on university faculties; "experts" in and out of government.But, if it's clear what the right is against, what exactly has it been for?
Though, inevitably, most conservatives vote Republican, they are not party loyalists and the party has to woo them to win votes. This movement is issue oriented. It will happily meld with the Republican party if the party is 'right' on the issues; if not, it will walk away." By this calculus, all the obligations flow in only one direction. Parties are accountable to movement purists, while purists incur no reciprocal debt. They determine the "right" position, and the party's job is to advance it. Kristol does not consider whether purists might be expected to maneuver at all or even to modify their views--for the good not only of the party but also the larger polity.
Lastly, he says:
Kristol went on, in this essay, to extol the contributions of two movement subgroups, the neoconservatives and the evangelicals. It was of course this alliance that most fervently supported George W. Bush during his two terms and remains most loyal to him today.
Most loyal to 'him' today as well as a strong voice in the GOP now. Newly-elected GOP chair Michael Steele stated that he wanted to broaden the base of his party, to make it more inclusive. The trouble is, as I see it, those neocons and evangelicals may not want to move over to allow new faces, new ideas, a broader ideology into their tent.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably noGod. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life' are running on the streets of London. Time Magazine has the story, "Christians and Atheists Battle in London Bus Wars" Looks like the Crusades are not yet over.
Dyer noted that a similar humanist campaign in D.C. brought this sign on busses there: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake" He notes, "and there was little public outcry."
At the end of the article, Dyer says:
"The United States is not the same as Europe, but it is not invulnerable to the same trends—which may be why President Obama, while rhyming off the roll-call of America's religions in the time-honoured fashion in his election-night acceptance speech, for the first time added "and non-believers".
"Pork!" they say. "This bill is filled with pork!" cries a GOP senator. "Nothing but pork!" cries another oh-so righteous Republican. And so it goes, and goes...
Monday, February 9, 2009
You may use your scientific calculators if you have one: How Many Dimensions In The Holographic Universe?ScienceDaily asks the question. Just yesterday I told some right-winger that I was more interested in this question than the 2nd Amendment monologue he was spewing. He didn't care for my remark.
Sen. David Vitter’s phone number was found in the records of the notorious D.C. madam. Now he faces re-election (and massive karmic payback) against a sultry adult entertainer named Stormy. That's the opening line from blogger Max Blumenthal of the DailyBeast.
I enjoy metaphors and so 'peanut butter Republicans' works nicely here. Ironically, Democrat Jimmy Carter was the peanut farmer. The salmonella-laced peanut butter which has caused wide-spread health problems all across America was a result of ineffective health regulations.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
- Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
- Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood
- Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
- Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
- Poor judgment
- A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
- Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
Frank Rich writes in the NYT this morning, under the Oscar-induced title, Slumdogs Unite!
That marvelous French Revolution painting, La liberté guidant le peuple, by Eugène Delacroi comes to mind. Barricades in the street, 21-century style. Liberty leads the people. .