Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mark Morford - Tax My Rich White Torturer

Tax my rich white torturer

Schools? Health care? As if. Your taxes pay for brutality and Wall St. bailouts. Feel better?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just so we have this straight: You are not paying taxes merely to fund torture and bomb-dropping and the killing of countless innocents in Iraq in a futile and lost war that's not really a war and is far more of a massive fiscal, tactical and moral failure which will end up costing the nation an estimated $3 trillion, burn through any remaining sense of national dignity and leave repercussions that will last for generations.

Ha. You should be so lucky. Because your tax money is right now also funding the Fed's unprecedented and rather shocking multibillion-dollar bailout of rich bankers and fund managers who have, through their greed and excess and with the implied blessing of former Chairman Alan Greenspan (whom many consider the architect of the collapse in the first place), helped bring about what is shaping up to be the worst fiscal crisis since World War II.

There now. Don't you feel better? Isn't it a good time to be an American? And is it not, despite the notorious dishonesty of the players involved, still a bit hard to believe?

Yes, I know it's George W. Bush. I know its Dick "Satan Loves You" Cheney. I know it's Wall Street. Hence, I know expectations are at rock bottom. But as far as torture is concerned, it's still profoundly disturbing to watch the world's most powerful leader, the president of what was once considered the most reasoned, humanitarian nation on the planet and the one that ostensibly set the ethical bar for all nations, actually veto a bill that would've banned some of the most brutal forms of torture known to man, techniques we know for a fact do not work.

Repeat: Torture does not work. Waterboarding does not work. It merely coerces the tortured into telling you what you want to hear. The CIA knows it. Torturers know it. God knows it. No matter, because America is apparently still being run by inbred white collar thugs who would blind their own mothers for an uptick in Exxon share prices.

By the way, it has also come to pass that this same president, amid an appalling laundry list of scientific and environmental abuses, has actually worked firsthand to worsen the quality of the very air itself.

It's as true as it is disgusting. It turns out that Bush himself stepped in to force the already troubled Environmental Protection Agency to defy its own mandate, its own scientific recommendations, ordering it to raise the limits for allowable ozone (it was about to recommend the exact opposite), all for the benefit of his pals in Big Energy.

No president ever dared such a move before. In fact, Bush's action was so unprecedented, so galling, so against the very structure of government itself that an army of White House lawyers had to scramble to rewrite the legal justifications for the lower air standard. Do you smell that? That's the scent of the most shamelessly foul leader of the free world. Breathe deeply, because it ain't over yet.

So then, torture, pollution, more war, Wall Street megalomania, incompetence like some sort of satanic mantra. If you had any lingering doubt that Bush was an arrogant and petulant man-child with the mind of a violently overpampered 10-year-old, please abolish it now.

Ah, but wait. It's not all bad. After all, Congress — with the eager support of the infuriatingly mindless Democrats, by the way — just rushed through an economic stimulus package, costing even more billions of dollars we do not have just so the IRS can rush you a check for a few hundred bucks, presumably so you can race right out and make a down payment on that foreclosed three-bedroom two-bath hunk of shiny tract home hell in Antioch — "The Finest Slum this Side of Stockton" — with enough left over for a burrito and some vodka. Voila! Economy saved. Or maybe not.

Do you feel stimulated? Do you feel reassured? Oh wait, I'm sorry, gas is now $4 a gallon and therefore by the time you actually made it to your tract slum and back, well, your stimulus has evaporated into a gassy vapor, just like your shares in Bear Stearns. Whoops.

Maybe now is when the real dark period begins. Sure the last seven years of the inept Bush regime have been miserable and shameful, sure we've been humiliated, mortified a thousand ways from Sunday by an administration that would yank the legs off a dog if it meant a thank-you note from Dubai.

But now Bush is in his final year. This is both the good news, and also the very, very bad news. Because we are now in the death throes of the worst administration in modern history, entering the period of serious consequences, of economic collapse, environmental impact, record oil prices, international recoil, rashes, boils, inexplicable vomiting. Fun for the whole family.

Know this for a fact. Bush does not care. He is detached, supercilious, viciously ignorant of anything but how beautifully he has served his corporate masters, of how he has raked in billions of dollars for Halliburton and Lockheed Martin and Exxon and the coal industry, mercenary armies and military manufacturers and his dad's Saudi friends. He is on no one's side but theirs, and he always has been.

Some say this pain, this fiscal crisis, this enormous instability will last a few years. Some say no way, it will be at least a generation or two before we can right this ship of state again, so deep are the wounds and so insane is our national debt and so violent the damage to our reputation, our identity, our enfeebled infrastructure.

But I'm more with those who say, no, the truth is we will never truly recover, that America's former ranking as Gilded and Irreproachable Empire No. 1 is dead and gone. India and China are dramatically changing the game, peak oil is nigh, fresh water is the new gold, the planet itself is in paroxysm, Mother Nature is quickly revealing her hand — or rather, maybe just that one big, stormy middle finger.

But maybe this is the best news of all. Because the sort of gluttonous empire Bush so disgustingly represented was doomed to failure. The center could not hold. Dubya may not have hastened the apocalypse like the evangelicals desperately prayed he would, but he certainly is hastening the end of the bloviated American ego.

So maybe the real question is not can we return to our former ill-gotten superpower glory, insular and unparalleled and reckless and arrogant, or even peaceful and defensive and ironclad. The true question is, do we have the slightest clue what we want to become instead?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/03/26/notes032608.DTL

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Photo Safari

I'm experimenting with the camera and high resolutions again. Here are a couple of newer pics from the garden. First, a pansy. It is covered in pollen, like just about everything else. Click on a pic and it will open in another window. Maybe. You just never know.


The narcissus bulbs are flowing in the front yard. It's rather odd....we planted some narcissus bulbs in the front yard and in a container on the roof. On the same day. We have flowers in the front yard ("real dirt"), but no flowers on the roof yet (using potting soil). No sign of flowers. We have a healthy green stalk up there, but no sign of even a bud. So, in this case, the roof is flowering at least a week AFTER the "real dirt" in the front yard. And counting...


Ran a few errands today. We have a "crafts" project of sorts underway at the house. It consists of placing 7" across mirrors here, there, and everywhere in the house. It's a rather free-form crafts project. Got them at IKEA for only about $5 for 4 of them, and they come with double-sided mounting tape. So we bought about 32 of them. Check them out here.

And hey! I found a bucket to soak my feet in! You never know WHAT you'll find at IKEA. The following pics are a lower res than the first two.



Oh, God, we had to get to the Galleria today. That area is easily the most-congested and most heavily-traveled part of Houston. The nearby intersection of Loop 610 and State Highway 59 is one of the most heavily-traveled freeway interchanges in the nation. We're soooo proud. We are soooooo glad that we don't live in that area. Ugh!

While the wife was off shopping, I sat outside of Victoria's Secret and....read my book some. And people-watched. (Yeah, I know these two pics are a little blurry. Think of them as....artsy.)


It's a hoot watching people, especially coming and going from Victoria's Secret. Does that make me lecherous? Yeah? Cool.


I love this book I'm reading. I love Mark Twain. This one is "On The Damned Human Race," a collection of his writings - most of which I had never read - originally printed in 1962. I don't see ANYONE out there on the scene today anywhere NEAR to Twain's wit and reach. Not to mention his command of the language. If you're a pessimist, I highly recommend it. If you're an optimist, I highly recommend it.


...and the back cover of the book...


Boy, the wife and I have more than a couple of memories of hanging out in the Galleria years and years ago. It's funny we both happened to haunt the same places for several years before we even met. Don't think we ever met, though, before 1979. I was never so loaded that I didn't know that I was getting laid. Or by whom.


...and here's today's bonus pic, for no good reason whatsoever, one that we took in Aruba a few years back.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Congressman is Unfit for Office

I live in Texas' U.S. House district 7. The current representative, John Culberson, is not fit to continue to serve in that office.

Why?


Take a look at his website here


Right there in the middle of his front page is the problem. There, he says "41 Days Since FISA expired."

And, of course, the Democrats killed it, and so the Democrats don't want to protect you from terrorists.
Lying Republican bullshit.


Either my Congressman Culberson is an idiot and can't tell the difference between what has expired and what hasn't, or he does in fact know the truth, but he chooses to LIE in order to manipulate voters into voting for him, and against the Democrats. Neither option speaks well of him.

What HAS expired is the "Protect America Act (PAA) of 2007." That was originally passed in August of 2007, with a six-month sunset - and Bush railroaded the Congress into that one, but that's another story - and it gave the President and god knows who else the authority to wiretap international calls withOUT obtaining a warrant. No oversight. Period.

FISA has not expired. The PAA was an amendment TO FISA. (Some call it the "Police America Act.") FISA is still on the books. But now, without the amendments, Bush has to once again obtain a warrant before wiretapping. Oh, boo hoo! Those pesky warrants!! And, oh yeah, if it's an emergency, Bush can go ahead and wiretap anyway and THEN apply for a warrant. Around 99% of all warrants have been approved by the FISA court. But no, that's not good enough for Bush. He demands the right to wiretap WHENEVER HE WANTS, AS MUCH AS HE WANTS. And WE are not allowed to know ANYTHING ABOUT IT! But don't worry, because Bush is a trustworthy man.

On a further page at Culberson's website, he goes on to say that, not only has FISA expired, but that the "FISA Amendments Act of 2007" is not being allowed to pass by the Democrats, which is actually true. Gotta mix in SOME truth to make the lies more palatable, eh, John?

The FISA Amendments Act of 2007 is the one that grants immunity to the telecoms for...for something...we're not sure exactly WHAT they're getting immunity FOR, since THAT information is, of course, CLASSIFIED. A national security issue, a state secret. But Bush wants immunity for the telecoms, so it must be alright. Must be pretty serious or I suppose they wouldn't need immunity in the first place. And we're supposed to trust Bush, that paragon of truth and moral clarity?


I wonder how many other Republican U.S. House members across the country are likewise either lying to the voters or stupid about this issue like Culberson is? I'll bet there's probably a lot of them. And every one of them should lose their seat in Congress.
So today I went to visit John Culberson's Democratic challenger, Michael Skelly, in Skelly's campaign office.

We had a nice conversation, but I get the feeling that Michael is not all that concerned about Culberson's misleading on this issue. Skelly thinks that Culberson knows the truth, but is lying about it. He's probably right. The truth is just so inconvenient to most Republicans these days, I guess it's not that surprising that they'll lie and distort to try and keep the upper hand. They ARE Republicans, after all.

More on my visit with Skelly in a later post. It was rather surprising.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mid-Life Crisis

Thanks, Rhonda!

AFTER BEING MARRIED FOR 44 YEARS, I TOOK A CAREFUL LOOK AT MY WIFE ONE DAY AND SAID, "HONEY, 44 YEARS AGO WE HAD A CHEAP APARTMENT, A CHEAP CAR, SLEPT ON A SOFA BED AND WATCHED A 10-INCH BLACK AND WHITE TV, BUT I GOT TO SLEEP EVERY NIGHT WITH A HOT 25-YEAR-OLD GAL.

NOW I HAVE A $500,000.00 HOME, A $45,000.00 CAR, A NICE BIG BED AND PLASMA SCREEN TV, BUT I'M SLEEPING WITH A 65-YEAR-OLD WOMAN. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOU'RE NOT HOLDING UP YOUR SIDE OF THINGS."

MY WIFE IS A VERY REASONABLE WOMAN. SHE TOLD ME TO GO OUT AND FIND A HOT 25-YEAR-OLD GAL, AND SHE WOULD MAKE SURE THAT I WOULD ONCE AGAIN BE LIVING IN A CHEAP APARTMENT, DRIVING A CHEAP CAR, SLEEPING ON A SOFA BED AND WATCHING A 10-INCH BLACK AND WHITE TV.

AREN'T OLDER WOMEN GREAT? THEY REALLY KNOW HOW TO SOLVE YOUR MID-LIFE CRISIS!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paper from hemp fiber. And so much more.

You say we need some homegrown energy sources? Look no further than the magical, miracle HEMP plant. If this country would pull it's collective head out of its ass and legalize cultivation of hemp it could spark a serious economic boom. The plant has 1001 uses, but, no, you can't use it. You can IMPORT it from Canada, but you can't GROW it here. Stupid. STUPID! STUPID!!



http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pete, is that you?!


Rev. Wright Cancels Houston Sermons

I knew it. Some people (some IDIOTS) out there were SO pissed at the recently-revealed comments by Rev. Wright that his three scheduled sermons at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston have been canceled. Death threats, of course. Naturally. And I bet those death threats were issued by good, God-fearin' Christians. How dare the Rev. criticize this nation in any way, shape, or form?! (That's sarcasm, I think.)

Security concerns prompt Rev. Wright to cancel trip

Obama's former pastor was set to preach in Houston on Sunday
By SHANNON BUGGS and JENNIFER LEAHY
Houston Chronicle

Security concerns have prompted the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to cancel his appearance at Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church for the first time in two decades.

Wright, who until February was minister of Sen. Barack Obama's church, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, was scheduled to preach three guest sermons in Houston on Sunday.
The theologian who Obama has said strengthened his Christian faith has been a regular revival preacher at Wheeler for about 20 years.

Wheeler's pastor, the Rev. Marcus Cosby, said Wright cited three reasons for his cancellation — "the safety of the institution to which he has been invited; ... the safety of his family, which has been placed in harm's way; and for his own safety."

Cosby said he would reverse that order and put the safety of Wright and his family above any thoughts of protecting Wheeler Avenue.

The church had arranged for increased security for Wright's visit, he said, including contacting the Houston Police Department and coordinating a security detail in conjunction with Wright's Chicago church.

The Rev. Myron Cloyd of the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Houston has known Wright for more than 20 years.

"As much as I hate for him not to come I think it's probably prudent," said Cloyd, noting that Wright does not normally travel with bodyguards or assistants.

"There have been threats against his life and the last thing he would ever want is the potential for someone to be hurt," said Cloyd.

Cloyd, who has had Wright speak at his church in the past, said he wished that Wright could have the opportunity to "set the record straight" to Houstonians.

Widely publicized recorded excerpts from Wright's past sermons, in which he quoted a former Iraq ambassador as saying that U.S. actions prompted the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that the government created HIV to target people of color and harassed blacks through "three strike" laws, prompted Obama to address race issues in a speech last week.

Obama termed Wright's comments "divisive," but also suggested that the snippets were not representative of the clergyman he has known for more than two decades.

"I think we have taken Dr. Wright out of context with sound bites," Cosby said. "After all these years, I am not going to kick him to the curb over sound bites."

"Dr. Wright has a perpetual invitation to Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Whenever he is comfortable traveling, he will be welcome at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church."

The long-standing relationship between the Chicago and Houston congregations and their pastors stretches back to Wheeler's first pastor, the Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

A confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lawson started the tradition of bringing Wright to Wheeler to reinvigorate the congregation during winter revivals with topical sermons that espoused black liberation theology.

"Part of what we do traditionally as African-American preachers is combine current affairs with religious affairs," Cosby said."We put the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other."

Cloyd said Wright's comments come from that tradition and have been taken out of that context.

"As pastors our goal is to teach and inspire and (Wright) uses a variety of strategies— he's certainly very passionate," Cloyd said. "We energize and mobilize not to hate but to recognize injustice, encourage change, to go out and vote, for example."

Wheeler's announcement of the cancellation came the same day that Wright cancelled three days of appearances in Tampa, Fla., security concerns.

The Tampa Tribune reported that the Rev. Earl Mason, pastor of Bible-Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace, blamed the cancellation on "hype" and "commotion" surrounding the visit. Mason also said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office would not provide security for the event, a claim the law enforcement officials denied, the Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, The Dallas Morning News reported the Rev. Wright's scheduled visit to North Texas also was pending.

Wright is scheduled on Saturday to attend luncheon at Paul Quinn College in southeast Oak Cliff, where he's to be honored that night at Friendship-West Baptist Church in the Red Bird area. Both events were moved from Texas Christian University because of security concerns by TCU officials, the News reported.


Remember free speech? Have we ever really had it? I guess speech is OK as long as you don't go against the grain, eh?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chris Hedges - A Conscientious Objection

Hedges makes a lot of sense here. Oftentimes, it does appear that our nation is swirling down the drain. Is it worth salvaging?

A Conscientious Objection
By
Chris Hedges

Those of us who oppose the war, who believe that all U.S. troops should be withdrawn and the network of permanent bases in Iraq dismantled, have only two options in the coming presidential elections—Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. A vote for any of the Republican and Democratic candidates is a vote to perpetuate the occupation of Iraq and a lengthy and futile war of attrition with the Iraqi insurgency. You can sign on for the suicidal hundred-year war with John McCain or for the nebulous open-ended war-lite with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or back those who reject the war. If you vote Democrat or Republican in the coming election be honest with yourself—you have voted to allow the U.S. government to continue, in some form, the campaign that needlessly kills ever more Americans and Iraqis in a conflict that has become the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history and a crime under international law.

“When will the American people actually vote to give to the world more than bombs and missiles, sweatshops, dubious science, frankenfood, poverty and misery?” Cynthia McKinney, the presidential candidate in the Green Party primaries, told me. “Not only do we need an immediate, orderly withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, we need an end to the militarism that has placed U.S. troops on the soil of over 100 countries. A true peace agenda means a complete redefinition of security. I remain convinced that if people in Haiti, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua can vote a peace and justice agenda into power, then so too can we.”

Examine the proposals on Iraq offered by Clinton and Obama. They talk about withdrawing some troops, but they also talk about leaving behind forces to protect U.S. bases in Iraq, assigning troops to train the Iraqi army and continuing the fight against “terrorism.” Clinton and Obama do not throw out numbers, but a rough estimate would be 40,000 or 50,000 troops permanently stationed in Iraq. Obama, his advisers say, will also not rule out continuing to use private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The war would not end under a Democratic administration. It would drag on until the mission collapsed and the U.S. retreated in humiliation. And when pressed, the Democratic candidates have admitted as much. Tim Russert in the New Hampshire debate asked the Democratic candidates to guarantee that all U.S. troops in Iraq would be home by 2013. No one, including John Edwards, was prepared to make such a commitment. Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate who opposed a continuation of the war, had been excluded from the debate. When the question was asked he was standing outside the hall in the snow with supporters to protest his exclusion.

But the lust for militarism by Clinton and Obama does not end with Iraq. The two remaining Democratic candidates back the occupation of Afghanistan. They defend Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Lebanon, which killed hundreds of Lebanese, destroyed huge parts of Lebanon’s infrastructure and left U.S.-manufactured cluster bombs littered over southern Lebanon. Clinton and Obama praise the right-wing government in Jerusalem and callously blame the Palestinian victims for the suffering inflicted on them by Israel. They support, in open defiance of international law, the 40-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the draconian siege of Gaza, dismissing the grim humanitarian crisis it has unleashed on the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison.

The Democrats, who took control of the Congress in midterm elections largely because of public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, have continued to fund the war, ignoring anti-war voters. The party, as a result, has sunk even lower in public opinion polls than the president, to a 19 percent approval rating, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Clinton and Obama dutifully lined up with most other Democratic legislators to cast ballots in favor of squandering more than $300 billion in taxpayer money on a war that should never have been fought. And, if either is elected, he or she will spend billions more on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will skip the rest of the mediocre voting records of Obama and Clinton, which include pandering to corporate interests, failing to back a universal single-payer health care system, refusing to call for the slashing of the bloated military budget, not urging repeal of NAFTA and the Taft-Hartley Act, which cripples the ability of unions to organize, and not seeking an end to nuclear power as an energy resource. Let’s stick with the war. It is depressing enough.

The anti-war movement bears much of the blame. It sold us out to the Democratic Party. The decision by anti-war activists to accept a moratorium on demonstrations in 2004 in order to support John Kerry ended our chance to build a widespread, grass-roots movement against the war. Kerry, in return for this support, ridiculed and humiliated those of us who opposed the war. He called for more troops in Iraq. He mouthed thought-terminating patriotic slogans to out-Bush Bush. He promised victory in Iraq. He assured voters that he, unlike George W. Bush, would never have pulled out of Fallujah. Anti-war voters stood passively behind him as they were humiliated and abused. And the anti-war movement has never recovered. The groundswell of popular revulsion that led hundreds of thousands to take to the streets before 2006 collapsed. The five-year anniversary of the war was marked with tepid protests that were sparsely attended. Why not? If the anti-war movement gutlessly backs pro-war candidates, what credibility does it have? If it fails to support those candidates on the margins of the political spectrum who stand with it against the war, what is the movement worth? Why not be cynical and go home?

“It is a virus,” Nader said in a phone interview. “It is self-defeating. What are they doing this for if they can’t push it into the political arena? Is it all theater?”

“The strategy of the Democratic Party is to beat the Republicans by becoming more like them,” Nader said. “How can they get away with that? If they become more like the Republic Party they start eating into the Republican vote. This usually would inflict a price on them. They would lose the left’s vote, but since the left signaled to the Democrats that their vote can be taken for granted because the Republicans are too horrible to contemplate, they get both. As a result, when you put this cocktail together, becoming more Republican to get Republican votes and hanging on to the left because they have nowhere to go, you set up a tug in the direction of the corporations. There is no discernable end to this strategy by the left. When you ask the left they say not this year, sometime later. But when? If it is not now, if it is sometime in the future, when? What is their breaking point? If you do not have a breaking point you are a slave.”

The energy and idealism are out there. Nader, in a March 13-14 Zogby poll, took 5 to 6 percent in a race between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Nader, among voters under 30 and among independents, polled 12 to 15 percent. If the anti-war movement gets behind him and McKinney, if it stands behind its principles, it could begin to shake the foundations of the Democratic Party. It could re-energize itself. It might even force Democrats to offer voters a concrete plan to withdraw from Iraq.

War is not an abstraction to me. I know its evil. It is time, if we care about the state of the nation, to take an unequivocal stand against the war. If Clinton and Obama do not want to join us, so be it. I support those candidates and organizations that fight back. We should, in solidarity, strike with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on May 1 against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should support Code Pink’s refusal to pay the portion of our taxes that go to funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But most of all, we should refuse to be suckered by Democratic candidates who use fuzzy language and will not commit to a total withdrawal from Iraq. We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of dead and injured. We owe to those Iraqis and Americans who will die in the coming days, weeks and months. We owe it to ourselves so, at the very least, we can salvage our integrity.

The Bok Choi bolted for the door!

I don't think it's alarmist to say that the weather this Winter has been rather "extreme." Have we set a record for tornadoes yet? Record snowfalls all over the US. Now we're getting some bad floods, and there will be a lot more to come soon when all that snow melts. Is the weather crazier this year than normal, and is it due to global warming or global cooling? Hell if I know. This is the first winter where we were actively trying to GARDEN, so we've been outside a lot, and it's been nuts!

Here in Houston it's been really cold (really cold for Houston is about 35 degrees) and then really warm, and then really cold. Repeat. We've had a few days - not back-to-back, and that's the problem - where the temps almost hit 90. In winter. And then
we'd plunge back into the 30's.

Wild fluctuations like that can cause plants to "bolt," or "flower" prematurely. We should have been prepared for that, or at least more aware. I can blame our negligence on our relative "rook
ie" gardener status. We just didn't think about the temperature swings. But it caused our Bok Choi to bolt.

It was rather amazing to see that thing easily grow FOUR INCHES OVERNIGHT!! One day, it looked like the first picture here, with the flower buds forming but still tucked in close. I sho
uld have taken another picture just before I pulled it up, but I didn't. Gotta do better. It grew six inches in two days. After it bolts, it becomes much more bitter, so they say, so we pulled it up, tossed it, and I re-planted more seeds.

The hibiscus are/is flowering like mad. One day we had a flaming orange flower and a couple of days later, yellow.

I took this picture in a pretty high resolution, so if you click on the flower, it should open in another window and be pret-ty large. Should also be able to magnify, etc.

And then some other pictures
of some of the color in the garden. The Spearmint is flourishing. Nothing seems to bother it. Heat or cold. Ya gotta love that, and the taste and smell is heavenly.

We have a large purple thing that a friend gave us (low res). She wasn't sure what it was either, but it's hairy. This picture is a little too close, no? Hey, it's ART!

Unfortunately, the high winds took it's toll on a couple of other plants. Three of our tomato seedlings were literally blown away. And the wind also took it's toll on the Sugar Snap Peas. They got to about four inches and then we had near-tornado-force winds. Poor things. How many times have we heard about crops being damaged by wind? Well, there you go.

High winds are, we are discovering, the biggest difficulty in container gardening on the fourth floor. It may be rather mild at street level, but the wind can be howling up there. Time for another "Duh"?

I try to get artsy with the photos now and then. Someone once said that we are all artists, and I think that's probably true. Some are definitely better artists than others, but if art is in the eye of the beholder, well, then.....

Time Out

This race for the Democratic nomination for President is going on far too long. It's seriously time that we took a hard look at the entire Primary process. Starting the primaries in January is just too early. In a contested election, like this one, you get six months of primaries. Not to mention that we expect people to turn out at the polls in the dead of winter, sometimes in blizzards. At the minimum, the first primary should be moved back to March, or even April.

On top of that, people started announcing for President in January of 2006, fer Chrissakes! Over TWO YEARS before the election. It's stupid. Speaking of stupid, this whole Superdelegate system is absurd. Either make it the will of the people or don't. But don't expect people to get fired up to get out and vote and then have a bunch of party hacks decide who gets it. And while we're fixing stupid, the Electoral College has long outlived its usefulness. There are many things wrong with our process. Does that make me unpatriotic?

I frequent a couple of online forums and the bickering between otherwise sane Democrats has gotten out of hand. It's like children taunting and teasing each other on the playground and calling each other names. It's rather juvenile, but using adult vocabulary, which makes it even worse. There are still reasonable people online, of course, but they're getting drown out, or, as in my case, not joining in the slugfest.

No doubt tensions are high after eight years of the Greedy Old Party running things. The Republicans are running this country into the dirt: financially, mentally, militarily. We need a change, badly.

Hillary Clinton by herself would have been a good antidote to Bush, but then Barack Obama decided to jump into the race. He got a free pass from the media for a long while, probably because the Republicans love to beat up on Hillary so much, and I think they were being careful with the first black candidate. Don't want to be charged with racism, and since the "media" are notorious for focusing on the controversial and sensational, they were hesitant to, or unsure of how to, attack Obama. Now that he is getting a little more scrutiny, his supporters aren't handling it very well. And now that he is catching some flak, Clintons supporters are indulging in a little too much, "Nyah, nyah, nyah."

Fortunately, most of the country is not seeing the Democrats rip into each other. We ARE seeing Hillary and Barack go at it, but they're keeping it somewhat "civil," at least as compared to the online arguments. I've stayed out of it, largely, but there is simply no escaping it. It ebbs and flows, but lately it's flowing straight into the gutter.

So, I'm going to take a break. I'll keep this blog up, but don't look for me on any of the forums I have frequented in the past, at least until AFTER the Democratic Convention. Or at least until people come to their senses.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brewer/Lakoff - We Need A President, Not Just a Commander in Chief

I really like to read George Lakoff's stuff. While he seems great on highlighting how the "right" uses "frames" to control the debate, he's a little short on alternate terminology. Like this time. Unless I'm just too obtuse to "get it."

We Need a President, Not Just a Commander in Chief
By Joe Brewer and George Lakoff
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 20 March 2008

In this primary season, the question of what makes a good presidential candidate has taken many forms. Is it how to negotiate with leaders of other nations? What kind of experience qualifies one to be a leader? Yet, the question that should make progressives ripple with discomfort is "Will the president be a strong commander in chief?"

Emphasis on "commander in chief" activates a right-wing frame and progressives should be very circumspect in referring to the presidency in this manner.

Though the words themselves are neutral, they have been used within a right-wing frame that is not obvious. The frame includes the following:

  • The overriding challenge facing our country is military in nature.
  • The military role of the president is, therefore, far more important than all of the other jobs he or she performs.
  • Military experience, or direct experience with military affairs (e.g., the Armed Services Committee), is the single most important experience needed for the presidency.
  • The country should be governed on a military basis. The state should first and foremost be a security state.
  • The temperament needed for a president is martial; the president should be a fighter and should be engaged in fighting.
  • The governing style for a president should be giving orders and making sure they are carried out. Others in public service should be obedient to the president's orders.

That is what it means to make the "commander-in-chief" question the main issue in a campaign. The commander-in-chief frame shifts the role of the president away from governing our nation and into the more limited scope of managing military affairs. It takes us away from domestic questions, including other questions of protection and leadership.

That frame is not what America is about. It does not embody fundamental American values. Nor does it portray what the role of the government is in our democracy. The dual roles of government are protection and empowerment, as we have written elsewhere. Protection is not just military or police protection, but a wide range: consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, social security, protection from natural disasters and disease and protection from economic devastation.

That is the major protective mission of the government. The protective job of the president is leadership, primarily in these areas, and also in military matters when our country is in serious danger of attack by a military force. Leadership in all of these areas places different requirements on a president:

  • The ability to articulate those needs for protection so that the nation will comprehend them as overriding needs.
  • The ability to get the country united behind plans for protecting Americans in all of those ways.
  • The ability to inspire a generation of Americans to devote their lives and careers to these tasks.

Protection and leadership are vital issues in a presidential campaign. But the commander-in-chief frame hides them, and replaces them with a right-wing model of government and of the presidency. Conservatives have a long history of dominating the landscape of ideas by trumpeting security issues. So long as the public generally thinks about military affairs as overwhelming, they will be susceptible to conservative frames. Associations between the presidency and commander in chief will tend to promote a conservative view of the world where use of force is not merely encouraged but made mandatory.

This unfortunate distortion of constitutional law, as well as the real problems of Americans, has a major strategic impact in today's political climate. Throughout recent years, the theory of the "unitary executive" has taken hold in the practices of the Bush administration. This theory places the president in the role of decider at the helm of government, thus denigrating the roles of Congress (the real decider in matters of both foreign and domestic policy) as well as the courts.

The imposition of the commander-in-chief frame imposes the top-down hierarchy of commands within the military on the decision-making authority of the president - reinforcing the "unitary executive" mindset. It conceals the fact the president is only granted power to direct military activities during times of war. There can only be a commander if there is an army fighting another army. The term only makes sense within the military frame - typically enmeshed in the more general war frame.

The kind of military chain of command and absolute authority in wartime does not apply to most functions of the president. The president is not supposed to be commander in chief of Congress, nor commander in chief of the FBI or the Justice Department, nor commander in chief of the American people. Right now, he isn't even commander in chief of Blackwater, a private army.

As we have just seen, the commander-in-chief role does not extend to most protections that a president should be concerned with - natural disaster (FEMA), health (FDA, health care agencies), environmental protection (EPA) etc. A president must address these domestic issues through leadership skills outside the realm of military action.

As we've noted before at Rockridge, such issues of framing are central to our democracy:

"Congress may argue against the president's Iraq policy, but when they do so using his words, and thus his fundamental moral frame, they put themselves at a distinct disadvantage. It is nearly impossible to persuasively present a progressive policy using conservative language and frames."

Framing the role of the president in conservative terms suppresses progressive leadership frames. The conservative view of the world as a dangerous place where military threats always lurk nearby is not conducive to the tasks that make our world safer: communicating effectively with leaders of other nations, building trust and forging lasting alliances across the globe, promoting peace through diplomacy and engaging in efforts to ease suffering through initiatives that build secure communities at home and abroad.

Instead, we are reminded of vague threats that evoke fear and encourage division among the peoples of the world. War and militarism activate fear circuits in our brains, altering the processing of information toward absolutist concepts of "good versus evil," "us versus them" and the acceptability of violence.

Progressives need to understand the politics of fear if we are to build upon the basic human capacity underlying our view of the world - empathy with responsibility. Feelings of fear and anxiety reduce the expression of empathy and lead us to place responsibility elsewhere. The antidote is to pay attention to the common bonds we all share. As Shakespeare once wrote, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" It is this recognition that pain in others is like our own that motivates the desire for healing and peace.

Progressive leaders need to promote progressive leadership frames. This means dropping the commander-in-chief term in general debates about the nature of the presidency and shifting instead to the overall role of government, protection in general, empowerment of both individuals and business and overall presidential leadership need to accomplish them.

We need a president, not just a commander in chief.

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Joe Brewer brings a diverse educational background to Rockridge. He received three B.S. degrees from Southeast Missouri State University - in physics, applied mathematics, and interdisciplinary studies. He received an M.S. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Since receiving his masters, Mr. Brewer has focused on the study of cognitive science and linguistics, including studying with Mark Johnson - a co-author with George Lakoff on two books. Mr. Brewer has a special interest and expertise in the framing of global warming issues.

George Lakoff is the co-founder and senior fellow of the Rockridge Institute. A professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, he previously taught at Harvard University and the University of Michigan. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1995) and at the Linguistics Society of America Summer Institute at the University of New Mexico (Summer, 1995).

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/032008G.shtml

BTW, Truthout.org could use a few of your bucks. Think about tossing them a few.

Friday, March 21, 2008

You Named It What?!

Thanks to my bro' for passing these along. Along chapter in our silly saga.

YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!



YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!





YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!




YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!









YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!





YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!




YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!




YOU NAMED IT WHAT?!




AND YOUR BONUS PIC.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Will Pitt - Why?

It's always a little spooky when I see stuff in the media that closely reflects what I am thinking. This new one, by Will Pitt, is spooky indeed. Not to mention aggravating, frustrating, and enraging.

Why?

By William Rivers Pitt

That's 1,825 days since "Shock and Awe" lit up the skies above Baghdad, all of which was captured live and in living color by unblinking CNN cameras with unobstructed views of the carnage.

3,991 United States soldiers have died in Iraq since then. That's a little more than two United States soldiers killed per day. Every day. For five years.

More than 40,000 United States soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since then. That's more than twenty-one United States soldiers wounded per day. Every day. For five years.

The last Congressional Budget Office report on the monetary cost for Iraq dates back to October of last year, and tabulates that cost at $421 billion. The CBO cannot be censured should that number prove lower than what has actually been spent, as it is understood that all the other millions pilfered by profiteers and passed on in bribes were not duly recorded in the books, and thus cannot be accounted for.

The CBO's number must be considered inaccurately low on spec, thanks in part to a nifty little cash-and-carry hootenanny from three years ago in July of 2005. A report from the UK Guardian tells the tale: "The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it has gone. A further $3.4 billion appropriated by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance 'security'."

But wait, there's more: "Pilfering was rife," continues the Guardian report. "Millions of dollars in cash went missing from the Iraqi Central Bank. Between $11 million and $26 million worth of Iraqi property sequestered by the Coalition Provisional Authority was unaccounted for. The payroll was padded with hundreds of ghost employees. Millions of dollars were paid to contractors for phantom work. Some $3,379,505 was billed, for example, for 'personnel not in the field performing work' and 'other improper charges' on just one oil pipeline repair contract."

This one example, just one among the multitudes, makes the existence of significant gaps in the accuracy of the information supporting the CBO's conclusions a safe assumption. As for the money not present on the official balance sheets, well ... to paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith, that cash went to the same place your lap goes when you stand up. Even the guys who stole it probably don't know what happened to it all, not completely, not for certain. If the Federal Reserve had stuffed those bills into the belly of a ballistic missile and launched the thing into deep space, they'd know exactly as much about where it is as they now know about what happened to the cash literally dumped into Iraq. It's somewhere, and nowhere, and all the way gone.

$421 billion spent over 1,825 days in Iraq comes to $230,684,931 plus change per day. Every day. For five years.

And that number is low.

Fast-forward the tape ten years to 2017, via the calculations recently published in a new book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, and the cost of attacking Iraq will be somewhere in the vicinity of $3 trillion. This is based on the assumption that United States soldiers will still be dying in Iraq ten years hence. Six to four and pick 'em on that one. Sucker bet.

George W. Bush's banner-bolstered "Mission Accomplished" photo-op happened four years and ten months ago. This event is noteworthy for myriad reasons, Bush's gruesome and unspeakably inaccurate grandstanding being foremost among them. Also, as an aside, Bush's use of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as a backdrop for his 1,825-days-wrong-and-counting festival of balderdash set a new world record for Largest Prop Ever Used For Political Gain, by any world leader, ever.

That event was followed the very next day by a comment from General Tommy Franks, leader of the US attack and invasion of Iraq. A reporter apparently had the unrivaled gall to query Franks on the matter of Iraqi civilian casualties. "We," replied Franks, "don't do body counts."

The man was not lying; in the five years since the United States invaded Iraq, not one attempt has been made by any United States government agency or office to accurately count the civilian dead and wounded. A number of non-official efforts have been made to find some kind of answer for that cheeky reporter's question. In October of 2004, a team of experts sponsored by Human Rights Watch put forth their best attempt to provide a number.

"One of the first attempts to independently estimate the loss of civilian life from the Iraq war has concluded that at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have died because of the US invasion," reported The Washington Post. "The analysis, an extrapolation based on a relatively small number of documented deaths, indicated that many of the excess deaths have occurred due to aerial attacks by coalition forces, with women and children being frequent victims."

That was four years ago, and might not be accurate. Two years later, the British medical journal the Lancet put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at 655,000. A hue and cry was raised about the methodology of that study, so we really don't know how many have died. Is it a million dead Iraqi civilians, is it two million, or only a half-million? Two hundred thousand, or one hundred thousand? Fifty thousand, or ten thousand? Nobody knows, because we don't do body counts.

One thing is sure. Iraqi civilians have been dying. Every day. For five years.

Why?

Mainly, because the motivations behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq came down to power, payback and greed, which makes this entire calamity just another ghastly page within the oldest book in humanity's bloody history.

Vice President Dick Cheney is, by far and away, the most powerful man in the present administration. He is still bitter from watching the slow annihilation of Richard Nixon, his first boss in Washington, at the hands of a Democrat-dominated US Congress fueled by broad and vocal support from an outraged public. Nixon was Cheney's archetype, the Unitary Executive version 1.0, who tried to raze the separation of powers doctrine to the ground by brazenly declaring the Presidency to be beyond any legal limitations, beyond any meddling intruders sniffing for secrets in the name of oversight, and thus vested with the same absolute authority once claimed by the Stuart kings of old.

Yet that Nixonian leviathan collapsed and came to grief before the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the rule of constitutional law. Cheney was a man thwarted, and so he would brood on that defeat for many long years, and would bide his time. Few people, not even his closest Republican colleagues, were aware of the stone-fisted authoritarian lurking behind that bland conservative facade.

One passage from a Washington Post analysis of Cheney's long career in government and business stands out: "Cheney's muscular views on presidential power, then and now, offer one answer to the question raised often by former colleagues in recent years: What happened to the careful, mainstream conservative they once thought they understood?"

What happened? Opportunity happened, at long last, George W. Bush and 9/11 and a manufactured state of permanent war happened. Over these last five years, virtually every invocation of the ever-expanding powers laid claim by Executive privilege, every ignored Congressional subpoena, every assertion of confidentiality or national security to block even meager attempts to scrutinize White House activities, every summary termination of a US attorney who refused administration orders to cripple offending Democrats with baseless abuses of prosecutorial discretion, every refusal to obey black-letter laws requiring the release of administration documents even to the harmless librarians at the National Archives, every signing statement that eviscerates another duly-passed bill from Congress, every attempt to stack the Justice Department and the federal court system with devoted yes-men whose only qualification is their total loyalty to and complete Judicial protection of the administration, with neither heed nor concern paid to whatever laws or freedoms or principles are rubbished by the process, every one of these lethal attacks upon America's constitutional infrastructure have been committed under the ill-defined and therefore limitless legal prerogatives afforded to American presidents "during a time of war."

Why?

Because war in Iraq presented Dick Cheney with the means to fulfill his decades-old ambition: to invest the Executive branch with unprecedented and unlimited power, to settle a few festering scores with that nettlesome Legislature, and to cash in on the spoils of supremacy by rerouting every available dollar out of the Treasury and into tax-sheltered coffers of like-minded comrades in the oil and warfare industries, comrades who eagerly joined in the plunder and have happily fattened their fortunes with money that now might as well be in the same place as your lap once you stand up. Somewhere, nowhere, and all the way gone.

Author and former presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal, writing in November of 2005, noted where Dick Cheney's plans had led him, and the nation, to that point. "The making of the Iraq war, torture policy and an industry-friendly energy plan," he observed, "has required secrecy, deception and subordination of government as it previously existed. But these, too, are means to an end. Even projecting a 'war on terror' as total war, trying to envelop the whole American society within its fog, is a device to invest absolute power in the executive. Dick Cheney sees in George W. Bush his last chance. Nixon self-destructed, Ford was fatally compromised by his moderation, Reagan was not what was hoped for, the elder Bush ended up a disappointment. In every case, the Republican presidents had been checked or gone soft. Finally, President Bush provided the instrument, September 11 the opportunity. This time the failures of the past provided the guideposts for getting it right. The administration's heedlessness was simply the wisdom of Cheney's experience."

It is certainly possible that those Bush administration officials who advocated legalizing the torture of prisoners, and who celebrated Bush's recent veto of legislation to prohibit same, are simply a bunch of clandestine bondage freaks with a taste for the whip and the waterboard. It doesn't matter. The one and only reason this White House chose to legitimize the infliction of ruthless agony with the stamp of presidential approval is because somebody somewhere forbade them from doing it.

They may all genuinely despise the very idea of torture, but not as much as they despise being told "No" under any circumstances. "No" is the red flag to Cheney's bull. "No" is unacceptable to the Unitary Executive. "No" will not stand, period, and whatever the matter at hand may be is almost completely irrelevant to the argument as they see it. Forcing "No" into becoming "Yes," or forcing the defeated retreat of whatever adversary dared to defy them with a "No," is the complete sum and substance of Bush administration ideology.

Why?

Outrageous as it may seem, that is the answer.

This is a wretched anniversary. Let us not do it again next year.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When is enough enough?

It is truly sickening to think about the billions and billions and billions of dollars that are being wasted in Iraq. Not to mention the thousands of dead Americans, the thousands of wounded Americans, the tens of thousands of dead Iraqi's. For what? For the war machine, most likely.

When in the world are we going to come to our senses and quit spending so many billions of dollars on warfare and the weapons of destruction? America produces more weapons that the rest of the world combined. We spend more on all things military than the rest of the world combined. All that money should be spent HELPING people, not KILLING people! Is that so hard to get through our skulls?

Is it any wonder our economy is collapsing? We're borrowing billions for bomb-making. We're borrowing billions to give tax cuts to those that don't need them. Our priorities are so screwed up, we practically DESERVE to fail. America was a great ideal back when this nation was founded, but we have lost our way. Eisenhower tried to warn us against the military-industrial-Congressional complex, but we didn't listen. We let them take over.

We have intervened in 50+ countries since WW2. Since creation of the CIA. And we wonder why we lose friends around the world? We have dropped more bombs on Iraq than in the entirety of Vietnam. We are spending around $250 million per day in Iraq, and have been doing that for FIVE YEARS! And we don't even have the money!! It's INSANE!

Bush wants to starve every federal agency except the military. Cut everything except the military. This "conservative" is going to bankrupt this country. No, we will not be conquered militarily by anyone. We're too strong for that. But our financial house is teetering on the brink of collapse, and all we hear is, "MORE WAR! MORE WAR!! MORE WAR!!!"

I feel ill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

McCain can't tell Sunni from Shia!

Hey conservatives! Your candidate, John McCain, doesn't know the difference between Sunni and Shia and al-Queda! What a foreign policy "expert!" At least he's carrying Joe Lieberman along to correct him! Even George W. Bush, moron extraordinare, figured the difference out a year or two ago. Are you feeling better about your candidate yet? hahaha

from the Washington Post:

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.


the rest is here

The Subprime Market

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lucky Bastard

If you can't read it, click the pic.

Paul Krugman - The "B" Word

...as in "Bailout." I echo Krugman here: the Bear Stearns execs had BETTER NOT be given any kind of golden parachute or bonuses of any kind after running the company into the ground. We have seen far too many times that outgoing execs get huge payouts, even when their company is suffering. I'm quite glad we didn't have any stock in Bear Stearns. I hope you don't, or didn't, either.

The B Word

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: March 17, 2008


O.K., here it comes: The unthinkable is about to become the inevitable.

Last week, Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, and John Lipsky, a top official at the International Monetary Fund, both suggested that public funds might be needed to rescue the U.S. financial system. Mr. Lipsky insisted that he wasn’t talking about a bailout. But he was.

It’s true that Henry Paulson, the current Treasury secretary, still says that any proposal to use taxpayers’ money to help resolve the crisis is a “non-starter.” But that’s about as credible as all of his previous pronouncements on the financial situation.

So here’s the question we really should be asking: When the feds do bail out the financial system, what will they do to ensure that they aren’t also bailing out the people who got us into this mess?
Let’s talk about why a bailout is inevitable.

Between 2002 and 2007, false beliefs in the private sector — the belief that home prices only go up, that financial innovation had made risk go away, that a triple-A rating really meant that an investment was safe — led to an epidemic of bad lending. Meanwhile, false beliefs in the political arena — the belief of Alan Greenspan and his friends in the Bush administration that the market is always right and regulation always a bad thing — led Washington to ignore the warning signs.

By the way, Mr. Greenspan is still at it: accepting no blame, he continues to insist that “market flexibility and open competition” are the “most reliable safeguards against cumulative economic failure.”

The result of all that bad lending was an unholy financial mess that will cause trillions of dollars in losses. A large chunk of these losses will fall on financial institutions: commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and so on.

Many people say that the government should let the chips fall where they may — that those who made bad loans should simply be left to suffer the consequences. But it’s not going to happen. When push comes to shove, financial officials — rightly — aren’t willing to run the risk that losses on bad loans will cripple the financial system and take the real economy down with it.

Consider what happened last Friday, when the Federal Reserve rushed to the aid of Bear Stearns.

Nobody expects an investment bank to be a charitable institution, but Bear has a particularly nasty reputation. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reminds us, Bear “has often operated in the gray areas of Wall Street and with an aggressive, brass-knuckles approach.”

Bear was a major promoter of the most questionable subprime lenders. It lured customers into two of its own hedge funds that were among the first to go bust in the current crisis. And it’s a bad financial citizen: the last time the Fed tried to contain a financial crisis, after the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, Bear refused to participate in the rescue operation.

Bear, in other words, deserved to be allowed to fail — both on the merits and to teach Wall Street not to expect someone else to clean up its messes.

But the Fed rode to Bear’s rescue anyway, fearing that the collapse of a major investment bank would cause panic in the markets and wreak havoc with the wider economy. Fed officials knew that they were doing a bad thing, but believed that the alternative would be even worse.

As Bear goes, so will go the rest of the financial system. And if history is any guide, the coming taxpayer-financed bailout will end up costing a lot of money.

The U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s ended up costing taxpayers 3.2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of $450 billion today. Some estimates put the fiscal cost of Japan’s post-bubble cleanup at more than 20 percent of G.D.P. — the equivalent of $3 trillion for the United States.

If these numbers shock you, they should. But the big bailout is coming. The only question is how well it will be managed.

As I said, the important thing is to bail out the system, not the people who got us into this mess. That means cleaning out the shareholders in failed institutions, making bondholders take a haircut, and canceling the stock options of executives who got rich playing heads I win, tails you lose.

According to late reports on Sunday, JPMorgan Chase will buy Bear for a pittance. That’s an O.K. resolution for this case — but not a model for the much bigger bailout to come. Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/17/opinion/17krugman.html?scp=2&sq=Krugman&st=nyt

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