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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4190)

by Michael Winship

We thirst for leadership, vision, someone who can speak to us in a way that refuses to avert its eyes from the crisis but shines a light of truth upon the problem, then offers hope and possible solutions.

If this is indeed an economic 9/11, as some have suggested, we need that voice now. Right now. And so far it has yet to be heard. Not from McCain, or Obama, or President Bush.

After September 11, 2001, the President stood on a pile of debris with a megaphone and said that the whole world could hear the rescue workers and shared their grief. Soon, words of sorrow degenerated into bumper sticker rhetoric: Axis of Evil, Wanted Dead or Alive, Mission Accomplished. Nor, at a time when people were ready to do whatever needed to be done, was there a call for national sacrifice. Instead, the President invoked not poets or statesman past but variations on a tee-shirt slogan: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

Over the last two weeks, he has been seen infrequently and when he has spoken, his words have rung false. This Harvard MBA speaks Economics as though he were phonetically reading a foreign language.

The President has seemed underinformed, disconnected and not, you should excuse the word, invested. In his address to the nation Wednesday evening, he said the government was blameless for the financial crisis; it had done what it was supposed to do but had been victimized by overseas lenders, greedy banks, and Americans taking on more credit than they could carry. And as he has done too often before, he tried to make us afraid.

September 26, 2006

George Lakoff and Kathleen Frumkin

John McCain knew that there would be no bailout agreement before he announced that he would go to Washington, supposedly to help promote such an agreement in the spirit of bipartisanship. We smell a trap. Bush, Paulson, and the Congressional Republicans lure the Democrats (and Obama) into supporting a proposal based on a taxpayer bailout of Wall Street.

by Nikolas Kozloff

Last week, John McCain set off a political firestorm when he suggested that he might not meet with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the White House. Speaking to a reporter from Spanish-language Union Radio, McCain said "Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations and priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to harm the United States."

The question about socialist leader Zapatero came up in the midst of a wider conversation about how McCain viewed U.S. relations with leftist regimes in Latin America such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba.

McCain declared that he would not speak to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez "without any sort of preconditions, as Senator Obama has said he would." The Arizona politician added that Chávez was "depriving his people of their democratic rights." The Arizona Senator viewed Bolivia's Evo Morales as "very similar" and also condemned Cuba's Raúl Castro.

by Peter Michaelson

The social science of economics has just performed a trillion-dollar flop. The financial chicanery engineered by Wall Street was staged and directed by a circus troupe of economists who graduated from (and taught at) America's top universities. Will some of these economists do the honorable thing and, before they've packed up their tents and pet theories, tell us exactly how their so-called scientific discipline was so removed from reality?

In the three-ring circus of Wall Street, these economists cavorted in an ever-expanding universe of debt, which they called wealth. That debt was heralded, trumpeted, and glamorized. It was also expanded, differentiated, extrapolated, integrated, truncated, and probably anesthetized -- and still they called it wealth.

When it started to contract and collapse in upon itself, our economists finally began, through perspiration streaked with grease paint, to call it "troubled assets." That's a sly euphemism for the elephant dung they're dumping on America's unborn, poor, and struggling citizens.

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

From our offices in Manhattan, we look out on the tall, gleaming skyscrapers that are cathedrals of wealth and power -- the Olympus ruled by the gods of finance, the temples of the mighty, the holy of holies, whose priests guard the sacred texts of salvation -- the ones containing the secrets of subprime lending and derivatives as mysterious and elusive as the Grail itself.
This last couple of weeks, ordinary mortals below could almost hear the ripcords of golden parachutes being pulled as the divinities on high prepared for soft, safe landings -- all this while tossing their workers like sacrificial lambs into the purgatory of unemployment.
During the last five years of his tenure as CEO of now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld's total take was $354 million. John Thain, the current chairman of Merrill Lynch, taken over this week by Bank of America, has been on the job for just nine months. He pocketed a $15 million signing bonus. His predecessor, Stan O'Neal, retired with a package valued at $161 million, after the company reported an $8 billion loss in a single quarter. And remember Bear Stearns Chairman James Cayne? After the company collapsed earlier this year and was up for sale at bargain basement prices, he sold his stake for more than $60 million.

by Nikolas Kozloff

In a careless slip of the tongue in August 2006, Senator George Allen (R-VA) shot himself in the foot and ended his political career. During a campaign rally, Allen pointed to a man of Indian descent and remarked "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great."

Allen's supporters began to laugh.

"Let's give a welcome to macaca, here," the Senator added. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

The word macaca is an ethnic slur meaning either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants.

Thursday, 18 September 2008 07:26

Peter Michaelson: The Meaning of Sarah Palin

by Peter Michaelson

Sarah Palin claims to represent change and reform. But devoted conservatives know, deep in the brain stem, that if elected, she'll protect them from the need for personal change. That's what they really love about her.

Conservatives are famous for their fear of change. It's true that social and economic changes can be frightening, even for the strongest people. But it's inner change that really terrifies Palin's fans. What happens if they become new, refreshed, awakened individuals? Not only will they have to give up their petty selves and precious resentments, but also they could experience the terror of becoming liberals.

Social change and personal change go together. For instance, Wall Street titans of self-aggrandizement don't become decent human beings without the overthrow of their compulsions and egos. Racists don't become secure, compassionate people without big rumblings and tectonic shifts occurring along their psyche's inner plates. Military hawks don't become successful diplomats without an uprising by their brain's neurons.

Palin is not charismatic as much as she's the cheerleader for the superficial perspective of life. She's the poster-girl for evolutionary stragglers who want her around as a model of how to ignore reality and pretend they're as evolved as God wants them to be.

by Elliot D. Cohen

Americans are being duped by the McCain/Palin campaign. This campaign is adept at playing on human weaknesses in rationally processing ideas and is using well-designed devices of manipulation to change people's minds. This is why they are not discussing the issues. They believe that they are more likely to win votes through mind manipulation than through the appeal to reason. And it seems to be working. Americans need to beware or else they will vote into office another regime of guile and deception, perhaps one that is even more artful at it than the Bush Administration.

Many people were very impressed by Sarah Palin because the McCain campaign sold her as another "maverick." It built her image as someone who has engaged in ethics reform, stood up against big oil, did unconventional things such as sell a jet on E-Bay, opposed earmarks, and said "No thanks" to the "Bridge to Nowhere." It would have been quite another image had they told you that she was marred in corruption, supported big oil's lucrative interest in drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Preserve, never even sold the jet on E-Bay, requested millions in earmarks in both mayoral and gubernatorial capacities, and had originally been in favor of the "Bridge to Nowhere."

Tuesday, 16 September 2008 02:48

Michael Winship: Lipstick on Polar Bears

by Michael Winship

Where would politicians be without the Titanic? As metaphors go, it's far more majestic than putting lipstick on pigs or pit bulls.

Farmyard bacon and junkyard dogs may come and go but in the world of political rhetoric, the Titanic sails on. The most famous shipwreck in modern history is the mother of all metaphors. Just last week, at a rally in Tampa, Florida, Hillary Clinton declared, "Anybody who believes that the Republicans, whoever they are, can fix the mess they created probably believes that the iceberg could have saved the Titanic."

A political cartoon shows the President at the helm, yelling, "I'm king of the world!" as the mighty vessel plows into bergs labeled "Deficits," "Unemployment," and "Foreign Policy." Democratic strategist Paul Begala writes, "Selling the old Bush line in this economy would be like trying to sell tickets for the return trip on the Titanic after it sank."

Monday, 15 September 2008 08:50

Nikolas Kozloff: Obama's Sobering Choices

by Nikolas Kozloff

Since the inception of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama has promised to transcend America's petty and divisive politics. During a recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Senator from Illinois remarked that the U.S. was in the midst of an electoral "silly season" and that the public should pay more attention to pressing economic concerns. Savaged by a wave of negative claims from the McCain camp in recent weeks, Obama is desperately trying to turn the conversation back to bread and butter issues. But McCain is not letting up. Why should he? For now, the GOP's strategy of exploiting American cultural politics is reaping great dividends.

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