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Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

On the Financial Crisis, II – the Bailout

http://jtaplin.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/democratic-spine/

I think this says a lot. Thomas Jefferson’s hypocrisy aside (the man was a serial debtor, and the opposite of a “common man”), there is value in looking at government’s complicity in this. Connect that to this:

http://joejolly.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/dems-no-blank-check/

And now we have a funny money party. Simply put, yay.

Here’s the thing, if there is a thing at all: the POINT of government is not to protect the economic system first. It is to protect the people first. Economic well-being of the people happens to be a part of that, but not the only part. The Federal Reserve system is good for the people as long as the robber barons are held in check. The moment we start financing the wealthy is the moment that the system falls apart.

And Paulson wants more cash? To the tune of $700 billion? What have you done for me lately, Henry?

I’ve said this several times, and I’ll say it again: trickle-down economics is a spectacular failure. Giving money to the rich, whether they be rich corporations or wealthy individuals, is equivalent to mortgaging the future for temporary instant benefit.

The point of representative government is to protect the powerless from the powerful, no matter what. Government is the intermediary that says, “I don’t care who you are or think you are, you are equal in my eyes.”

Why is it, then, that someone who represents one of the most polarizing aspects of the wealth-creation industry, can simply demand from Congress $700 billion dollars, no strings attached? Meanwhile, my poor homeless neighbors have to fill out cumbersome government paperwork to get food stamps?

This is absurdity at its best. The Depression is coming, and it will come at the hands of the wealthy attempting to maintain centers of wealth rather than making sure the wealth pays for something better. Like schools, universal healthcare, solving the homeless problem, more police, protecting the environment… For starters.

UPDATE (15:10 EDT)

Says Paulson: “I hate the fact that we have to do it, but it’s better than the alternative.”

I disagree. The alternative – financial firms collapsing under their own egotist weight, is not a bad thing. If you want a free market, with unfettered access to profits, you deserve the consequences of the greed. We do not have to do it.

Plus, Mr. Paulson, here’s the alternative: Since THE PEOPLE are buying out these companies, we should own them. Each American – men, women, and children – is footing approximately $2300 of the bill, we should each be given 23 shares valued at $100 apiece of the government holding company which owns the companies affected by the crisis. Let’s call the government holding company “Baily Hank” (named for Paulson, and with an eye to government naming conventions). Now for a few rules:

  1. Instituting “Baily Hank” means restoring reasonable bankruptcy rules for individuals, and making corporate bankruptcy harder to declare.
  2. Baily Hank will operate like a special mutual fund, owned by the people.
  3. The amount of bailout funds received versus market value is equivalent to the number of seats on the Board of every company THE PEOPLE have. This percentage will then stay constant. For instance, if a company is valued $1 billion, and received $750 million from Baily Hank, then 3/4ths of the seats are controlled by we, the people of the United States.
  4. Companies under Baily Hank must pay out dividends to its shareholders, us.
  5. A company under Baily Hank can buy itself out of the government holding company, but only for equal or more REAL value than it received to be “saved” by Baily Hank. So, if Baily Hank gave $400 million in 2008 dollars to the company, that company’s board must pay that amount or more (in 2008 dollars) to us, the people of the United States.
  6. Certain special rules apply to any company receiving funds out of Baily Hank, like CEO pay rules mentioned in my previous post.
Alternatively, Baily Hank can be a special high-interest loan (prime + 10%). If the companies really want to be bailed out, they need to pay it back. I prefer the above plan better, though. I may be missing some important rules, though. Thoughts?
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Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

On the Financial Crisis

Privitize the profits, socialize the losses.

I couldn’t say it better myself. Companies which want de-regulation want nothing to impair them from profit. And then when they are failing or faltering, they expect the American people to swoop in and save them. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG are all examples of this. More disheartening is the simple fact that if the government regulated the mortgage and financial markets in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Lesson: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Corporations should pay taxes to cover the outlay that we pay for the impropriety of an entire industry. If only a candidate called for stricter corporate taxation rules.

On golden parachutes: lots of talk here, and I agree. I have a couple simple solutions.

  1. No C_O can have a contractually-negotiated severance package beyond that which is offered to an entry-level non-exempt employees with three or more years of service.
  2. All C_O salaries should be performance-based, like recently-injured baseball players. $100K annually, plus risers based on independent evaluations by immediate reports, actual company performance, and a microscopic percentage of profits, let’s say 0.00001%, no greater than $4 million dollars.
I think the last one doesn’t work well as written, but the first one is a simple rule that does. In any case, more thoughts from another blogger.

Filed under: Culture, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Empire in Decline: Waning SCOTUS Influence

Interesting article using data (!) to show that the influence of the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) is waning, and quickly.

Among the reasons – foreign and international tribunals are more sophisticated, they are quoting each other, and the US decisions are less in keeping with foreign beliefs. However, there is a strong anti-foreign influence (I call it “the Pat Buchanan effect”). From the piece:

The adamant opposition of some Supreme Court justices to the citation of foreign law in their own opinions also plays a role, some foreign judges say.

“Most justices of the United States Supreme Court do not cite foreign case law in their judgments,” Aharon Barak, then the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, wrote in the Harvard Law Review in 2002. “They fail to make use of an important source of inspiration, one that enriches legal thinking, makes law more creative, and strengthens the democratic ties and foundations of different legal systems.”

Partly as a consequence, Chief Justice Barak wrote, the United States Supreme Court “is losing the central role it once had among courts in modern democracies.”

So what our staunchest ally‘s Chief Justice is saying is this: xenophobia is ruining American jurisprudential influence over the world. 

Thinking historically, the US Supreme Court is the oldest Consitutional court in the world, making its influence significant. That means we have been giving our ideas away. Moreover, we have always taken ideas in from other countries and adopted and adapted them. Fast forward to today, and Justices Roberts and Alito have said, unequivocally, that they oppose using foreign court opinions to influence their thinking.

WHAT?

A good idea is a good idea no matter where it came from. A thoughtful perspective is thoughtful no matter what language it was said in. Imagine if our Founders (who the forementioned Justices claim to be reading the intent of) refused to take ideas from the French, or English, or the Native Americans. We would have no law. No common law. No civil law. No Constitutional law. Heck, the very concept of habeas corpus, written into our Constitution, is a principle articulated in another document – the Magna Carta – and articulated through over 500 years of British jurisprudence until the exalted Founders were born.

So I call bullshit on not sharing. It’s selfish, stupid, and a sure sign of the end of American superiority. If we’re so afraid that borrowing other ideas dilutes American ones, then “these colors DO run”, to turn a phrase around. The whole point of the American Constitutional design is that the power of ideas weighs more strongly than blood, creed, or nationality. The American dream that I learned about was the one where merit matters, not citizenship.

Ask a good professor, inventor, or economist if sharing ideas is good. They will all say yes. American innovation is borne out of synthesis. It is borne from something being greater than the sum of its parts. It is borne out of the fundamental kindergarten idea – sharing is good. Why? It also reflects an American idea, that participation is good, and necessary. Americans, particularly our supposed intellectual leaders, need to participate in the worldwide marketplace of ideas, lest WE become the 21st century version of the old world our Founders extricated themselves from: slow, plodding, and selfish.

To my mind, this thinking is indicative of an empire into decline. The moment an non-expansionist empire (which we are) thinks itself so superior that it does not need to even consider the points of views of outsiders, the decay is well under way. If that superiority is borne out of xenophobia, then the empire is already afraid that it can no longer sustain itself.

Luckily, there are ways to forestall the decay, intellectually speaking.  Share. And share some more. Foreigners who meet Americans always find them to be among the most hospitable people they’ve ever met. That is because we like to share. But sharing is a two way street – we need to take as good as we give.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Who Said That?

http://gripedujour.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/pop-quiz/

I need not add to the above post. Well played, Gripe.

Also, regarding the mortgage crisis, Nader proves prescient:

http://www.votenader.org/media/2008/09/16/meltdown/

More commentary later… :)

Filed under: Culture, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Truth Vs. Truthiness

A recent post in the NYTimes Freakonomics blog demonstrates the difference between the truth and the “truthy“.

Looking at the tax plans presented by the two major party candidates, the Washington Post takes a crack at it. It’s clear that there is a semblance of balance. There is, as we can see, a small note about where the population actually is. Either way, the eyes believe one thing, while the language says something else.

Here is a better visualization from the chartjunk blog, which shows where tax cuts really are. Read the commentary from karmanaut (Viveka Weiley) and you can see how it makes more sense. While Wiley says that her(?) map is truthier, it is indeed more truthful regarding the population.

The third chart shows some real interesting stuff – tax burden. It seems clear to me that Obama’s team used this to determine cuts. Looking at the third chart, what I don’t understand is why McCain’s plan isn’t ALSO flipped, or at least flat. Reducing tax burden on the bottom bracket is essentially harmless. He could sell his tax cuts much more effectively if it showed that he was more fiscally-prudent. He proves here to be finding no way to bring money into the Federal budget.

Kudos to New York Times for pointing these things out.

Now, this is where I fight die-hard Republicans all the time. They say the rich will stimulate the economy, and the benefits will trickle down. I disagree, based on data from a non-partisan source. I think the bank failures are pointing to the fact that I’m right. Trickle-down has not benefited tax brackets below the top couple.

I invite dissent.

Filed under: media, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , ,

David Brooks on Sarah Palin

From Monday’s New York Times, David Brooks (emphasis added):

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

Both of the italicized points are important. Note that she indeed took on “a corrupt establishment” to institute a MORE corrupt establishment, with worse governance. Note also that Brooks is laying the groundwork for his inevitable endorsement of McCain – McCain’s experience matters more than Obama’s vision, and Biden and Palin don’t matter as much. You heard it here first.

Either way in the same article, I think Brooks is wrong here:

The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.

As a feminist, I think she’s not good for women, not that she’s not a real woman. Gov. Palin is bad for women because she doesn’t show the best of humanity, but the worst – the aforementioned excessive decisiveness, not to mention a sense of entitlement, not to mention the way she condescends to anyone who is critical of her opinions, not to mention the bad policies and lack of compassion. Note also that I’ve been to Wal-mart, but never to Tuscanny. Shame on you, Mr. Brooks, for playing this game. Moreover…

Look at the condescension and snobbery oozing from elite quarters, her backers say. Look at the endless string of vicious, one-sided attacks in the news media. This is what elites produce. This is why regular people need to take control.

The condescension is indeed “oozing”, but from the Republicans, towards those who ask people to sacrifice to make their country stronger. The attacks are anything but one-sided. See my previous post on the matter. The media has let the McCain camp call Palin independent when she is not, and let her make ad homenim attacks on Obama.

Luckily, Mr. Brooks backs off from this attack, if only because of his personal view of the last eight years:

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

Which is why I believe Obama is better, even than McCain – he takes on complex issues complexly, thoughtfully. He is of average people and has proved to be among the best of us, with high ideals for people around him and his country.

Filed under: Culture, media, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Palin: What Bush doctrine?

Note: If you don’t know what the Bush doctrine is, you’ve been living in the tundra trying to build a bridge to nowhere. Alaska jokes aside, foreign policy matters for the Executive Branch, and being aware of the most important American foreign policy shift in the last 60 years is a little important. From the ABC interview, enough reason not to vote for McCain:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Ermmm… This is downright scary. There was a time when Americans respected leaders we could look up to. Now we want them to be average peers. I thought we celebrated the exceptional.

Sarah Palin had ample time to prepare for the interview, which itself was fully managed by the campaign, and lives in, as she says, a state where you can see Russia.

Matt Gonzalez (Green Party) is a more serious VP candidate than Palin. Hilary Clinton would have been, too. If the rule was that McCain needed to get a woman to steal some of the Hilary vote, McCain should have selected Christie Todd Whitman. Then, the question would be whether liberals (and New Jersey) would go to McCain. He would be seen as a maverick by picking a true moderate. And Obama couldn’t simply set up camp in the middle ground and let the Hilary supporters come to him. Instead McCain antagonized half the country, and made the “maverick” moniker a joke.

Oh… The Bush doctrine is the idea of pre-emptive strikes against potential threats. It overturns over 100 years of no war except to defend allies or to respond to attacks. It was used to start the Iraq War.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Liberal Media Indeed

Wow… Good article I just saw. I took classes in college about this, and I’ve referred in tha past to media “framing”. This is the best data gathering I’ve seen yet:

http://gripedujour.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/media-still-full-on-in-the-tank-for-mccain/

This has been an ongoing gripe of mine. Nice to see actual data to back it up. If only a news station would pick it up and report on it. Side note: On the Media is a great NPR program that discusses media biases. You, very meta.

ALSO: More on my ongoing campaign to get elected to US presidency in 2020/2024 later. If anyone has policy questions, I’d gladly answer.

Filed under: Culture, media, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Release – Vijtable a Candidate for 2020 (or 2024)

Assuming things won’t change very much in the next 12 years, I’ve decided to start thinking about my run for president. Critics say that mainstream candidates don’t actually write what is on their websites. Since I’m so small-time, nobody can accuse me of that.

I’ll eventually come out with my platform, but here is the “About Vijtable” part of my future campaign website.

Thoughts on Government in 50 Words: The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong, and promote common good. Don’t tread on me. Taxation requires representation. All actions should be carefully considered, and hotly (though respectfully) debated. Dissent defines democracy. Government must endeavor always to choose what is right over what is easy.

Basics: Born and raised in the US, and living currently in New York. I am eligible to be elected before 2020. I’m being intentionally vague for the sake of temporary privacy.

Intellectual Background: I am intellectually curious. I love to debate, even if I’m bad at it. I like being proven wrong with facts. I am a student of science, religion, political science, and a little sociology and psychology. I studied religion and political science in college.

Religious Views: Don’t ask, don’t tell. I am agnostic with Buddhist leaning. I take other people’s beliefs seriously, even if I don’t know whether they are true or not.

Qualifications: Spent time in education, television, marketing, website design. For two years, I was a middle-school math teacher in an under-resourced community in California. I have spent the years since working at a non-profit dedicated to increased worldwide cooperation . (Again, apologies for the intentional vagueness.)

Politics: I call my self a “social libertarian” and an “economic moderate”, probably closest to this, but not exactly. I believe that the Constitution guarantees a maximum of freedom on social and economic issues EXCEPT in those cases where it puts safety, security, or the health/welfare of the USA/it’s people at risk. To me, social issues trump economic issues, though they are closely tied. As major parties go, these positions currently align most closely with the Democrats. I have not yet chosen my party affiliation – in recent history, Republicans are better at winning, but worse at being honorable and honest while Democrats see nuance, but don’t connect as much with voters.

Voting Record: Generally, with Democrats. McCain in 2000 would have been a particularly difficult decision. Ultimately, I voted for Nader in 2000, since the state in which I voted was safely Democratic, and went easily to Gore. I voted for Kerry in 2004. Unfortunately, McCain is much worse now than then. My 2008 vote will be Barack Obama. He would be a better president.

Political Heroes: John Adams (Alien & Sedition Acts notwithstanding), Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Stephen Biko, Nelson Mandela (early-life militancy notwithstanding), Martin Luther King, and more peacemakers and chance-takers. I would add Thomas Jefferson, but he was so hypocritical, and employed nasty political tactics like FUD, that I cannot.

Filed under: Culture, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Intellectual Property

What fun it is to consider that the idea of this sentence is owned by me.

I can now claim that anyone who has decided to replicate the sentence above is not only in violation of copyright, but is violating the DMCA and can be sent a cease-and-desist letter. The best part is, if I believe a person is infringing, and send the C&D, that person must take down the sentence, even if it bears no relation my sentence. UNLESS, that person submits a counter-claim that, indeed, it is not infringing. Which requires a lawyer. Which costs money.

Guilty until proven innocent. Innocence proven using money. Therefore, money = freedom.

Yay.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , ,

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