Crimes against humanity: foreclosures in America

Posted on July 23rd, 2008 in Politics by Robert Miller

In the past few months, we have witnessed an unparalleled commitment by the Federal Government in bailing out a major Wall Street Investment Bank (Bear Stearns), something never before on the radar screen of the Federal Reserve and, in the last few days, the Federal Government has initiated a formal support mechanism to shore up the two giants of the home mortgage industry, Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Not surprisingly, this Federal guarantee caused investors to flock to the stocks rather than continue to shy away. Wouldn’t you prefer to invest in a stock in which the Federal government was the guarantor? In essence, these moves have affirmed what the free market government has achieved in our name. The entire free market enterprise has been nothing more than a giant colossal failure, one that has required Our Federal Government to endorse the privatization of profit , while assuming public liability for risk , This must stop! It’s crazy to do this, especially since we appear to get nothing in return. Believe me, this trend is not over, not by a long shot. Right now there are investment firms lining up, through acquisitions, to properly position themselves so that they will be among the few dozen (one dozen, two, three or more?) of firms that our government decides they will have to prop up in one way or another. Yet, all of this has taken place without the public receiving any benefit whatsoever. This is an outrage in desparate need of a transition. It is probably true that we shouldn’t allow such big firms to go under. But, the cost to Fannie May, Freddie Mac and Bear Stearns should be public ownership of these institutions, with a return to sensible policies that stop the plundering of the poor to further enhance the wealthy, a clear violation of Biblical usury laws. How many foreclosures have been created by people who are saddled with debt at such high interest rates, attended by excessive penalties, such that they cannot pay their bills and cannot make a dent in their debt. Some neighborhoods, such as the Slavic Village in Cleveland are so decimated by foreclosures that they will never recover. But those in the same neighborhoods that have kept up their payments and worked hard to keep their homes in shape, have suffered too because the boarded homes around them have cost them their dream and their life savings through dramatic losses in housing values. We should never have allowed this to happen. IT IS THE FREE MARKET ECONOMY IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY THAT DID THIS! It was Wall Street telling us that free market mechanisms would be self-correcting. This is and always was snake oil salesmen at work. What a farce!

Bush’s doesn’t get his SOFA and McCain lost his war

Posted on July 19th, 2008 in Politics,War by Robert Miller

It is quite likely that this story is not over, but as of now, Bush has had to cave-in to al-Maliki and accept the principal of troop withdrawal in Iraq. The Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) that he hoped to get signed with Maliki has regressed to an "understanding" between the two leaders. Ever since the terms of the SOFA he was pursuing became widely known and characterized as an excessive agreement that would give American troops autonomy within Iraq for years to come, the Iraqi parliament, but especially al-Sadr, has objected strongly to the agreement and claimed that by signing it, Maliki would give Iraq’s sovereignty away. Maliki was strongly advised by just about everyone not to sign it. Although we don’t hear about it, the Sadrists have weekly demonstrations against the SOFA terms. The popularity of US troop withdrawal is spreading.

By deciding to stand with his fellow Arabs on the SOFA issue, Maliki’s action underscores the complete lack of authority or influence that Bush has in Iraq: lame duck President and brain-lame leader. So, for Bush to conceal this slap in the face, he needed new words to describe what will be troop withdrawal and he chose "time horizon" to escape the true implications of this agreement, which, in reality, reflects the lack of an agreement. So far no definitive time-table for withdrawal has been identified, but Obama was quick to point out the true meaning of this understanding: that it underscores the fact that Iraqis don’t want American troops in their country and many are calling for a specific time-table now.

This new development puts McCain in a difficult position, as he has always been talking about fighting terrorists in Iraq as our principal reason for staying there. But, apparently, the government of Iraq, or the one we setup to do our bidding, does not feel that terrorists are that much of a problem, rather the persistence of American troops in Iraq is a more significant problem for them. McCain is going to have to find new wiggle room for this one and of course, Bush doesn’t feel he has to help him out. What this will do for the future of oil contracts between Iraq and the oil giants like Shell and BP remains to be seen. We may see the beginning of a process that favors China’s Sinopec oil over Hunt or Russia’s Lukoil over Shell. Bush continues to show that he truly has the Medusa Touch rather than the Midas one. But, as Peter Dickson has said, “As these fig leaves drop to the ground, they are exposing raw geo-strategic objectives that were present in the original calculations of Republican foreign policy experts going back to the early 1990s, a desire for a firm U.S. foothold in the Middle East to protect the West’s access to oil and to defend the state of Israel from, then, primarily its Arab enemies.” There aren’t many fig leaves left.

Bush was between a rock and a hard place on this one, as he couldn’t push the SOFA too far, lest he be accused of pursuing imperial designs on Iraq, which is what he had in mind all along. From the time he came into office, when he wanted to adhere to the Paul Wolfowitz idea that America needed a new front to replace the lack of one from the collapse of the Cold War. Well, Bush’s bold new plan for America, a new permanent war footing in the Middle East appears to have an ending to it coming up. For most of us, it can’t come too soon.

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Zogby Electoral College Map: Can Obama Realign the Country?

Posted on July 17th, 2008 in Politics by Robert Miller

If you go to the Zogby electoral college polling data map , you can click on each state to see their polling numbers within that state, how tight the race is and the basis for putting the state’s electoral votes in one column or another. The Zogby approach to polling appeals to me because they generate more data, poll more people than most of the other popular polls, thus reducing their margin of error. Of course, these numbers can change dramatically in the weeks ahead and we will undoubtedly see a firmer trend line established after the conventions and particularly after Labor Day. Whether or not this is the last hurrah of the Reagan/Bush/Cheney/Rove/Faux News alignment that has so devastated this country, with its meaningless ideology and toxic corporatism, is largely in the hands of Obama. The Republicans have done almost everything they can to give the election to Obama and perhaps to also give political dominance to the Democrats if they can find their voice. That’s the question. If the Democrats spend their time trying to figure out how they can get back the people they lost before, like the Reagan Democrats, they will be lost, because if you posture yourself in the catch-up mode you expose yourself to ridicule and ineptitude of ideas. Winning politics is never a contest about catch-up. It’s a game about finding a vision to stir the country into an action. But the vision has to make sense. It has to resonate with what people feel is right or wrong about America. Yet, the one great thing about America that I am still hopeful about, is America’s capacity to re-invent itself, or at least to believe it is possible. This time around we can re-invent ourselves to save the planet we live on. That should work!

This election is obviously about very different views for America and about a very different set of attitudes towards government policies and public benefits. It will take an act of daringly bold political deftness to find the permanent fault line that can secure long-term stability. If we simply trade one party alternately with another, we will see the yo-yoing of America, with raveling and unraveling of government on alternate cycles, but with a firm trend which continues the road we have been on since Reagan: the highs get lower and the lows get lower. Somehow, the political leadership within the Democratic Party needs to find a way to break-up the red and blue state alignment. This can’t be subtle.

Perhaps Senator Jim Webb from Virginia has the right idea for political realignment. I think he might have a way to bring the vets, NASCAR types, hunters and former military people into the new fold. A bold idea to remake America, just as we had to do after the 1929 crash, but do so this time without a war and base it on an intelligent insight into what works best–affordable education and the elimination of Faux News: that should do for starters. Aren’t the NASCAR people suffering from high fuel prices? Shouldn’t their races of the future be structured to watch speeding solar-powered autos race around in a little circle, with little visuals showing the efficiency of the solar panels providing current to drive the little cars? Imagine the future NASCAR hero to be a nerd. Just a thought. But somewhere in there is a formula that should work. We have to find a way to get those that are on the outside of our culture to get pissed off and vote and then get an education that will get them somewhere. Right now, we have created a culture where a college education can just as easily be a bridge to nowhere as what Senator Stevens tried to build in Alaska.


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