Monday, October 31, 2011

I'll Listen to Your Offer, but First Tell Me How You're Going to Screw Me

Michael Lewis
I'm too lazy to look up who said that to whom, but it was from an article at by Michael Lewis. The context was a trader on Wall Street wanting to sell another perhaps savvier trader a product, and that savvier trader wanting to get to the nub of the offer. "First tell me how you're going to screw me," the savvy one asked; "I don't know what you mean," replied the first trader. "Then we can't do business," countered the savvy one, getting up to go. So the first trader gives in and tells the savvy one how he was going to screw him, after which the savvy one sits back down. He can deal with a truth teller.

I loved the exchange because I could never have been that gutsy, which is why I'm more gullible than many other people who get into the markets. The Lewis article entitled "The End" is still available here. Three years ago when I first read it was the moment in time when I began to understand how screwed we were and why. Around that time TARP was enacted, and the great unraveling was well underway.

Now, today, I read a blog post from Brad DeLong that is equally enlightening. Read it. Here's the nitty-gritty:
There are three ways in which a financial transaction can be a good deal for both sides.
First, people have different time preferences: I have money now that I do not want to spend on some useful commodity until sometime in the future, while you may have no money now and need some but anticipate being flush in the future; then we both benefit if I lend you the money--at interest. Second, risks distributed and diversified are risks dissipated, and so even though the average customer pays money into the insurance system insurance is still a valuable thing to buy because the insurance company pays you when you really need the cash. Third, economies work best when benefits and losses run with decsion-making: those whose actions create or destroy value pay attention when they have "skin in the game", and financial transactions are a good way to make sure they have that "skin in the game".
Those three sources of value for both sides in financial transactions are powerful.
They motivate net investments and drawdowns, insurance and diversification, and the creation of equity interests for managers, partners, homeowners, and others.
They drive perhaps 1/1000 of the transactions we see on financial markets each day.
All the other transactions are driven by two different factors:
First, in some transactions one or both sides are simply swept up in the excitement of the game. Second, in many transactions one or both sides has simply gotten the odds wrong, and they do not understand what they are doing.
Many economists these days talk about trade in financial assets as being motivated by "disagreement": I think I can make money by doing X, you think you can make money by doing Y, because we disagree about how the world works both X and Y are compatible, and so we trade and we both go away happy--until time passes, uncertainty is resolved, and I learn that you were right and I was an idiot.
UC Berkeley's Brad DeLong
  This is the best advice a potential investor -- or voter -- can receive. Both Michael Lewis and Brad DeLong, in turn, are telling us something very useful. When you listen to financial advisers, insurance salesmen, or political candidates, you should keep the phrase "How are you going screw me?" in mind.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when Rick Perry appeared on Meet the Press, David Gregory asked, "Governor, before we go on, could you tell us who's really going to get screwed by your 20% flat tax plan?" And when Perry answered, "Why, no one gets screwed," Gregory would then say, "Sorry, Governor, looks like we've got nothing more to discuss. Good luck with your campaign."

Hey David, this is not what I meant, you know?
And to be fair, let's imagine President Obama getting the same treatment over his desire to close corporate loopholes and raise the marginal tax rates on the wealthiest individuals. Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear him say, "Well, David, I suppose you could say that my plan screws the rich. Fair enough. But that's a feature, not a bug. And two of the richest people in the world, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have agreed with me. They like my plan."

Wait. That's just what Barack Obama has been saying all along. Rick Perry with his 20% flat tax and Herman Cain with his 999 plan always have to bob and weave when it comes to who's getting screwed. The same goes for Paul Ryan and his budget plan. He bobs and weaves when it comes to admitting his plan screws seniors. The closest he comes to admitting it is when he promises the current seniors that they are safe. His plan only screws future seniors, a fact he's loathe to admit.

No wonder these guys don't mind paying a little extra...
So here's my advice: when we listen to anyone who wants our money, or wants to cut our benefits, or raise our taxes -- or lower them for some, for that matter -- try to listen to find out who's getting screwed. If you can't figure it out, don't just gut-react with a "I trust conservatives," or "I believe Obama." Research until you are satisfied that you've got the closest to a complete answer, an answer that encompasses more than just your own self-interests. If that means your taxes are going to go up but you'll get value for your investment, then fine. And if it means your taxes will go down but our country will fall apart or go broke, then resist it. Figure out what's best and fight for it.

Herman Cain Has Gone Viral, and the Republican Party Has Caught Pneumonia

Funny thing is, Herman Cain's troubles are bigger than a sexual harassment scandal. Sure, if it turns out that these charges don't "stick" -- which is odd because I think I can almost guarantee that they'll never be "proven" -- then Cain can eventually be a good, solid conservative "victim" of the liberal media (?) and get a job at Fox.

But his problems are bigger than these charges. His problem, I've always felt, was that he was essentially -- and I do mean in the true sense of that word -- unserious. No, not in the way hippies are punched for being "unserious" by the Beltway Villagers, the Very Serious People that control the centers of power, but rather in that he was making it up as he went along, and his speaking skills and presence gave him more traction than his ideas deserved.

And so Herman Cain's probably short-lived success has debased the very party he contrived to lead. Andrew Sullivan is not well-regarded in a lot of liberal blogging circles, but I have always relied on him as a gauge of the intellectual right. And if we lend David Frum that kind of credence, then that's two leading conservatives that recognize the silliness if not the batshit craziness of the current Republican canon.

Occupy Wall Street? Good. Organize America? Better!

Our prices are so low, our workers can afford them.
In a nutshell: we need to do two critical things to solve income inequality in the U.S. One, we need to restore progressivity to our income tax system by raising taxes on the rich, reinstating the estate tax, and raising the tax on capital gains to former levels. And, two, we need to reinvigorate the union movement.

If only one thing were to come out of the Occupy movement, one of the biggest would be to, say, organize the workers at, oh, I don't know, Wal-Mart!

Seriously. We should stop occupying Wall Street and start occupying Wal-Mart. This corporation is the poster child for stagnant wages, and now that it's planning to drastically cut health-care benefits for its workers, it's the poster child for what's wrong with the health-care system.

Want to shake up the establishment? Boycott, picket, occupy, organize, and unionize every Wal-Mart in America.

Easy Fixes for Difficult Problems

Although I lay it on pretty hard to conservative Republicans because of their intransigence over fixes for the economy -- as well as their loyalty to their financial overlords in fighting continually for more tax breaks for the rich -- I do so because we see many opportunities to get to work repairing our damaged job machine, and the Republican resistance is downright unpatriotic.

Republicans are starting to feel the heat as more and more Americans side with the Occupy movement, higher taxes on the wealthy,  and Democratic ideas for job creation, may we're ripe for the least controversial solutions to have a chance at enactment.

One of the best ideas I've encountered comes from Jeffrey Leonard of Washington Monthly. It's beautiful in its simplicity. Here's how it goes:
  1. We need jobs, and the 40 million newly insured under Obama's health-care reform, starting in 2014, will need clinics.
  2. A perfect place to start in with the highly successful non-profit community health centers.
  3. Although they rarely fail, their low operating margins make initial financing hard.
  4. Changes in the rules governing Small Business Administration lending would make it easier to finance new community health centers.
  5. Thousands of idle carpenters and construction workers would be put to work immediately, and thousands of health-care workers would be put to work as the thousands of needed clinics come online.
  6. These clinics, since they are meant to serve low-income earners and Medicaid recipients, which most of the newly insured are likely to be, will be just the right fix for dealing with these newly insured citizens in search of health care.
Read the article here, and then email the president and your congress persons.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sometimes They Accidentally Tell the Truth

The Osprey: overruns and deficit spending are patriotic.

As the nation approaches the sell-by date on the Super Committee's job of cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget -- over 10 years -- or face the distasteful, especially for Republicans, choice of triggering $600 billion in defense cuts, suddenly the Republicans have discovered that -- gasp! -- government can create jobs.

The irony, or hypocrisy, if you will, is delicious. Here are some quotes from the olden days when the government was a job-killing machine that can't create jobs:

[Virginia] Lt. Gov. Bob Bolling said Thursday in Lynchburg that the government’s role is not to create jobs, but to create a business environment for the private sector to create jobs.
“We do not believe the government creates jobs,” he said.

Matt Welch from Reason magazine:
In sum: The government scooped up hundreds of billions from taxpayers, redistributed it in the name of creating jobs, then attached a series of requirements that made job creation much more expensive and therefore unlikely. The predictably miserable results (go to and conduct searches on “green jobs” and “multiplier” to see just how predictable they were) should have, but did not, shame a broad swath of the political class into a long-overdue facing of facts: Governments the world over are worse than no good at “creating jobs.”

 (via In a recent TV ad funded by the Republican Governors’ Association, [Ohio Governor] John Kasich claims his “team” is “keeping and creating jobs” in Ohio.
One member of this team is Mark Kvamme, Kasich’s proclaimed “job-creation guru” and now CFO of JobsOhio – the public-private organization created by Kasich and the legislature to help bring more jobs back to Ohio.
According to JobsOhio’s website, the organization’s goal is to “lead Ohio’s job creation efforts by singularly focusing on attracting and retaining jobs."
And yet… Job Guru Kvamme repeated something today he’s said multiple times before: “Government doesn’t create jobs. It impedes jobs.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):
"If we want job growth, we need to recognize who really creates jobs in America.  It’s the private-sector."

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
"Well if government spending would create jobs we'd be in the middle of a boom because we've added $3 trillion to the national debt in the last two years with these government stimulus efforts, so, cutting spending and job creation are not mutually exclusive."
[Fox News Sunday, 3/13/11] (h/t Media Matters)
McConnell and Boehner worry that they don't have enough flags.

And so on...

Now the Republicans have gotten the Keynesian religion. Here's Steve Benen of Political Animal:
Remember, during the debt-ceiling crisis, Republicans needed to give Democrats a concession to resolve the standoff. They weren’t willing to put tax increases on the table, so GOP leaders agreed to a “trigger” that would impose harsh cuts on defense spending. The point was to create an incentive for both parties to reach an agreement — if Republicans didn’t want to slash the Pentagon budget, they’d have strike a bipartisan deal.
But as the chances of the super-committee reaching a compromise evaporate, Republicans are now confronted with the possibility that their own idea — massive defense cuts — might come to fruition. And what’s their response? Spending cuts will hurt the economy and cost jobs.
As Brian Beutler put it, “[I]t’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only thing Congressional Republicans find more abhorrent than Keynesian economics is austerity for programs they like.”
We’re all Keynesians now.

  The Nation's Ben Adler, reporting on the Republican primary debate last September:
The only major back and forth occurred around a curiously meaningless debate: which governor on stage presided over the most job growth and who would create the most jobs as president. For a party that claims government does nothing as well as the private sector and that efforts to improve society are a fools errand, it’s an odd obsession. If you believe, as Mitt Romney has repeatedly asserted, that it is business rather than government that creates jobs then how can you argue that you will do so as president?
In fact, Romney went so far as to say, “If I’d spent my career in government I wouldn’t be running for president,” because then he wouldn’t know how to create jobs. It was an apparent jab at Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has been in politics for nearly three decades and has no major private sector experience. Romney walked the claim back when moderator Brian Wiliams asked if he was saying a career politician is unqualified for the White House. Thankfully pundits seem disinclined to claim Romney showed weakness, as they bizarrely insisted Tim Pawlenty did in his confrontation with Romney at the first Republican debate.
Perry, a career politician if ever there was one, responded by noting that Massachusetts had the forty-seventh best job growth rate among the states while Romney was governor, a fact that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman also gleefully cited. Huntsman was even more smug when boasting that Utah ranked first among the states in job creation during his tenure. Perry, who has made the illusory “Texas miracle” of job creation his claim to fame, bragged in turn about the jobs created in Texas since he took office.
The governors all came prepared with job-related factoids to hurl at each other. “Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” said Perry, while Huntsman told Perry that forty-seventh best “just won’t cut it.” Romney countered that Texas created more jobs under Perry’s predecessor, George W. Bush, than under Perry. He also defended his record and minimized Perry’s by noting that Massachusetts and Texas have different political and economic conditions.

Here's Paul Krugman's take:
One thought here is that a Keynesian is an Austrian whose campaign contributors are about to lose a lucrative contract. But it also harks back to Keynes’s point, when he suggested burying bottles full of cash in disused coalmines, so that private enterprise could dig them back up and create jobs in the process:
It is curious how common sense, wriggling for an escape from absurd conclusions, has been apt to reach a preference for wholly ‘wasteful’ forms of loan expenditure rather than for partly wasteful forms, which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict ‘business’ principles. For example, unemployment relief financed by loans is more readily accepted than the financing of improvements at a charge below the current rate of interest; whilst the form of digging holes in the ground known as gold-mining, which not only adds nothing whatever to the real wealth of the world but involves the disutility of labour, is the most acceptable of all solutions.
That’s it exactly. Propose some kind of public investment, say in green energy, and the right screams “Solyndra! Waste! Fraud!” But propose spending the same amount on weapons that we don’t need, and it’s all good.

Josh Marshall of points to two Republican House members concerned about defense jobs:
“What’s more, cutting our military—either by eliminating programs or laying off soldiers—brings grave economic costs,” wrote Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. “[I]f the super committee fails to reach an agreement, its automatic cuts would kill upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian and industrial American jobs. This would inflate our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, close shipyards and assembly lines, and damage the industrial base that our warfighters need to stay fully supplied and equipped.”
“Should another $600 billion in cuts come to pass, at least 200,000 pink slips could be delivered to active-duty warfighters; at least 13 percent of our servicemembers will be forced out,” wrote Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) in Stars And Stripes last week. “Another 200,000 job losses will come to Department of Defense civilians working at installations across the country. We would be asking 1 in 4 highly skilled defense civilians to leave service.”
In an impact assessment last month, Armed Services Committee staff concluded that deep budget cuts — or, worse, the $600 billion trigger — would eradicate military, civilian defense, and defense industry jobs.
There’s truth to that. But where have these guys been the last 10 months?

 The Republicans have solved -- or proposed, I don't know which -- the conundrum: government can't create jobs, unless it can, but only if they're defense-related jobs. In that case, we'd better not cut spending, that would be job-killing. The jobs Obama wants to create? What, is he insane? The government can't create jobs.

The president appears before Congress to present his job-killing jobs plan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

They Opened Their Mouths, They Did Some Unquantifiable Amount of Thinking

David Brooks
There are individuals who have always defied my ability to see why, with a jobless rate of 9.1 percent, they aren't among the unemployed. David Brooks makes a living as the laziest thinker in the world. He makes shit up, and when he doesn't he takes such shortcuts of logic and deliberation that you wonder why he doesn't write for Bazooka Bubble Gum instead of the New York Times. But, hey, they let Ross Douthat ink the page so...

Anyway, here's Our Mister Brooks opining on Obama's folly:
Obama, who sounded so fresh in 2008, now sometimes sounds a bit like Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. Obama, who inspired the country, now threatens to run a campaign that is viciously negative. Obama, who is still widely admired because he is reasonable and calm, is in danger of squandering his best asset by pretending to be someone he is not. Obama, a natural unifier and conciliator, seems on the verge of running as a divisive populist while accusing Mitt Romney, his possible opponent, of being inauthentic.
It’s misguided. It raises the ideological temperature and arouses the Big Government/Small Government debate. It repels independents, who don’t like the finance majors who went to Wall Street but trust the history majors who went to Washington even less.
Obama would be wiser to champion a Grand Bargain strategy. Use the Congressional deficit supercommittee to embrace the sort of new social contract we’ve been circling around for the past few years: simpler taxes, reformed entitlements, more money for human capital, growth and innovation.
How is he wrong? Let me count the ways. Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi don't sound alike, and Obama doesn't sound like either of them, so that's just thrown in there because... See? We'll never know. Obama "viciously negative?" What, by pointing out that the Republicans have shut down the entire Congress so that Obama can have no victories and suggesting that the people should judge for themselves? What a pit bull!

Okay, and the comment about "the history majors who went Washington" who the independents like even less. If I ask, "How does he know that?", I run the risk of readers thinking there's an answer. I'm insulted partly because I'm a history major, but what's really irksome is the idea that history majors run Washington. History majors don't even run Bakersfield, CA. Okay, I wrote that line before I checked, so, not to be confused with Our Mister Make Shit Up, I did. Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall doesn't even have a degree, though he donates his mayoral salary to a scholarship fund, so maybe he helps create history majors. Maybe they can go to Washington and wreck the world and be hated by independents.

Finally, Our Mister Brooks advises Obama to be shrewd by embracing the GOP platform. Otherwise, he'll be viewed as "a divisive populist." If you hadn't noticed, Obama could write legislation that gave Congressional Republicans their pick of Cain's 999, Perry's optional 20 percent flat tax, or any hair-brained tax scheme Romney's yet to cook up to out-tea-party the other candidates, and Mitchell McConnell would accuse Obama of trying to force another socialist-Kenyan-fascist-terrorist-lovin'-job-killing plan down America's throat.

Megan McArdle
Enough. Let's turn our attention to Megan McArdle. Some people read her blog for Atlantic, and some people don't tear their hair, scream senselessly before throwing themselves off the nearest bridge, though it's a wonder why they don't. I guess writing a letter to the editor of Atlantic pleading for an answer to "Why, WHY?" would be more helpful.

I first noticed the offending post while reading this Timothy Noah takedown in the New Republic:
Megan McArdle of the Atlantic writes:
“Income inequality has been rising for so long that people have started to assume that it has just kept rising, even when the data show otherwise. We don't want to spend years focused on income inequality, only to learn that the financial crisis fixed it for us.”
No, we don’t. Nor do we want to spend years trying to cure cancer, only to learn that the financial crisis fixed it for us. The likelihood of that happening would be roughly the same.
Roy Edroso at alicublog puts it more fancifully:
SHORTER MEGAN McARDLE: Won't somebody please think of the 1%?

UPDATE. No, really --

I doubt Occupy Wall Street will be assuaged by learning that the top 0.1% now only receive 8% of the income earned in the US, even if that number is the lowest it's been since 2003.
I'm very upset with the liberal media -- they've obviously spiked my proposal, sent to all major networks, to give McArdle a Sunday morning show called Attend Your Betters, starring her and a bunch of dollies (whom she calls her "Board of Directors") having tea and telling each other how good it is to be away from the riff-raff. (I can tell you good people the secret of its inevitable success; once or twice an episode, we let assorted zoo animals loose on the set. No, she won't quit. It'll be just like the financial collapse: she'll never suspect things can go wrong again, so long as all the dolls have pretty dresses.)
Mind-boggling, thought-provoking, out-of-the-box thinking for your Tuesday morning consideration. We no longer have to Occupy Wall Street, go to history class, or worry about the two-party system. We can just be thankful that our overlords are spreading the wealth around by losing little bits of it to each other. Then when they wreck the world again we can force the banks to recapitalize! Oh, and lower taxes on the rich because, according to Our Miss McArdle, they're going to need it.

Update. I culled this from the PBS News Hour's bio of Our Mister Brooks:
Born on Aug. 11, 1961 in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Brooks graduated a bachelor of history from the University of Chicago in 1983.  Immediately afterwards, he became a police reporter for the City News Bureau, a wire service owned jointly by the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times.
 He's a history major! Why isn't he running Washington into the ground? He does live in Washington suburb Bethesda, MD. Oh my god, maybe he is!!

Our Miss McArdle wasn't a history major -- instead a BA in English from Penn -- but she did get her MBA from the University of Chicago. Is it something in the water there, something in the freshwater?

Update II. McArdle lives in Washington DC. She's part of the takedown squad! It finally makes sense to me...
The freshwater school of economics, where they plan the end of the world! Wait, that isn't rational...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trust Me, History Is Being Written

Fox News-- a handle on history?
One of the frustrating things about going through the times we live in is that the narrative is so easily distorted by many competing forces. It's easy to forget that history has a way of sorting itself out.

Heaven knows we can no longer rely on the mainstream media that has long since lost its Edward R. Morrows and Walter Cronkites. Even the great papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post cannot be trusted to be more than stenographers. And I'll spare you the rant about CNN and Fox News.

Fixing history, Howard Zinn-style
There are many reporters and commentators, not to mention the hundreds of chroniclers and academics toiling away on campuses across the country. Many recognize the convergence, in real time, of truth and history. All the white noise in the media and the political echo chamber can't obscure veracity and clarity forever.

Sure, the famous phrase, "history is written by the victors," tends to apply, but not completely, especially in the new information age. History is no longer written only in the ivory towers. It's written and preserved in the cloud, on the server farms of the Internet.

Nathan Hale, patriot
This doesn't guarantee accuracy or stifle the competing voices, but the chances are better than ever before that the truth can be sorted out over time, that the victors' stenographer pool will not, in the end, manage to dominate.

Here's an example. Take Nathan Hale, hanged by the British for being a spy. Though accounts differ about the nature of his last words ("I only regret that I have but one life..."), history has captured the essence of his sacrifice.

Now let's take Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private largely credited -- without trial or public statement -- with providing the material released by Wikileaks that exposed the military and diplomatic secret documents and cables from the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters. He has been held without trial for well over a year in conditions that were, until he was recently moved, considered torture by most observers.

Bradley Manning, patriot
It's likely that he will be eventually tried and convicted, having first had his constitutional and human rights trampled on by the U.S. military and its justice system. It's also unlikely he'll be free for much of his adult life, and even the death penalty is thought to be under consideration.

He has been vilified by the right and will be attacked and condemned by the government during the long lead-up to his eventual conviction. I doubt many in the mainstream press will speak of him in terms of what he really is: a whistleblower and a patriot.

Glenn Greenwald
Thanks to Glenn Greenwald of Salon, Marcy Wheeler of, and Jane Hamsher of firedoglake, we have an on-going record of Bradley Manning the well-intentioned patriot who couldn't sit on the sidelines with information of military cover-ups of civilian deaths, including premeditated executions of  women and children. It's hard to read such a report from Glenn without realizing that there is ample evidence that Manning likely has quickened the end of an unjust war. Is that not the act of a hero?

Jane Hamsher
Yet we will have to endure the constant drumbeat of "traitor, traitor" instead of the truth, that Bradley Manning is indeed a hero and patriot. We do know now, however, that the ferocity with which he is being treated by what should have been a more measured and compassionate Obama administration is meant to accomplish one thing, beyond Manning's personal destruction: to strike fear into the hearts of any serviceman or government employee on any level when confronted by the opportunity to let the truth be known about American governmental or military misconduct.

Marcy Wheeler
The chill that spreads from that reality alone is enough to disgust the staunchest patriot, one would hope. I am not a wild-eyed patriot by any stretch of the imagination -- feeling allegiance to a greater sphere than a country's borders -- but I am repulsed by the stain placed on the map of a land I do, in fact, love.

Though I spent the better part of my life as a musician, writer, and technology teacher, my original degree was in history. It is, yes, small comfort now to know that history will sort out the crimes of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and the neo-con cabal that introduced endless, unnecessary war and, indeed, torture and treaty violations left and right. They are even now, at least in historical terms, being rightfully vilified if not truly held to account. But history will not be kind to them, nor to Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and others for their failings in the area of justice, prisoner treatment, human rights, habeas corpus, due process and other niceties of a quainter time.

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent, identified these suspects, Geo. Bush's brain trust

More suspects

 I'm, as usual, conflicted, holding out hope and support for Barack Obama and his regime, that he might yet do more for the suffering masses in the age of the Great Recession. But on these points of which I speak -- and upon which others like Glenn, Jane, and Marcy speak far more eloquently and with more dedication than I -- I offer no forgiveness, and I urge all who consider themselves members of our civil society to withhold theirs and condemn these practices outright, until and beyond the inevitable verdict of history. It cannot and shall not be kind.

History's trash bin or history's pantheon -- your choice, dude

Saturday, October 22, 2011

All We Have Left Is the Celebration of Death?

America, Fuck Yeah!

Glenn Greenwald, a favorite writer of mine, does not pull punches in his pieces. He certainly didn't today:
As I wrote on the morning after bin Laden’s death, this gleeful reaction [to bin Laden's death] was understandable given the slaughter Americans witnessed on 9/11. But there was still something notable, and troubling, about this episode. Such a rare display of unified, chest-beating national celebration is now possible only when the government produces a corpse for us to dance over. Some suggested at the time that Osama bin Laden was sui generis and that no lessons could or should be drawn from his killing; for that reason, even many people who are generally uncomfortable with such acts proudly celebrated his death as the elimination of a singular evil. But it seems clear that the bin Laden episode was no aberration, no exception: the American citizenry rarely finds cause to exude nationalistic pride except when the government succeeds in ending someone’s life.
 Sad but true. Glenn goes on to suggest that we're in danger of this condition becoming permanent, that this is what's left of a nation in decline, that this might become a permanent defect in our national character. It's hard to disagree.

It's certainly true that we've lost our way as a nation for many of the reasons Greenwald cites in his post. I blame the toxic environment in DC, which is as corrupt as Glenn says it is, and the news media that has become of bunch of stenographers for the political class and the lobbyists that control it. I can't imagine an easy cure for a nation this far astray from the values I thought we believed in when I was a child in the 1950s.

The death of bin Laden in real time
I think I'm a little more forgiving than he is about both our use of drones and our celebration of the deaths of the Bad Guys. This fact really bothers me. I was and continue to be deeply against our invasion of Iraq for the general set of reasons that most progressives pointed to in the run-up to the War. However, once it had started, I caught myself cheerleading, saying, "I hope we win and get this over with fast." Some of my friends took that to mean that I favored the War in general terms. I did not and was shocked that they misunderstood my enthusiasm for quick victory as an endorsement of the invasion. It took me some time to dissuade them, and I always felt they remained skeptical.

I think I know why I feel the way I do and Greenwald feels the way he does. He's younger than I and didn't experience how we felt right after WW II. As kids in the 50s, we'd play war games in the back yard, machine-gun each other, and as we died we'd shout things like, "Dirty kraut!" Even as a child, I (and all my friends of the period) had the blood lust, with our own version of "America, Fuck Yeah!" Back in the 50s I learned to believe in the American Dream and in the rightness of demonizing our enemies. Back then they were easily reconcilable.

What changed it permanently for me was Vietnam. There was no cause for glory because war, for the U.S., had become repugnant, allowing none of the righteous gloating WW II provided.

Now, however, when I see a bad guy go down, that little child's voice echoes, "Dirty kraut!" and I momentarily reconcile my pleasure at the death with my loathing of the illegitimacy of the process.

I remain troubled by those feelings and am to this day a bit dismayed by what my true feelings might be. I do know this. I objected viscerally to the treatment of Qaddafi and was horrified by the various video accounts of his apparent mistreatment. Deep in my heart, though, I don't mind that they killed him. I actually have a hard time imagining that they would have let him live, the need for vengeance being so great.

Then I'm horrified anew at such a reaction. I'm definitely part of the problem. To be part of the solution, I need to purge these feelings and condemn my own shortcomings. I understand that to a certain extent it's because the horrors of 9/11 -- with the constant drumbeat sounding against terrorism since then -- have awakened a fear inside of me that ultimately corrupts me. I have the blood lust, which is anathema to the non-violent pacifist I supposed myself to be.

Thus I become a microcosm of the national decline, and I don't like it. It'll take some time making things right, and it'll take some work. In the meantime, I'm a conflicted mess. Sorry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Earth to Republicans: We Need Jobs

The Republicans shot down Obama piecemeal approach to job creation, as they filibustered the separated-out bill to help states hire or retain teachers, police, and firefighters. It's Republican obstructionism, pure and simple. Okay, what's a good Republican filibuster without the requisite two self-serving Blue Dogs helping out. Thanks, Ben Nelson and Jon Tester, for mucking up the Democrats' message.

In an oddball twist, Paul Ryan tells a student that Pell grants are evil and that he should instead work three jobs -- as Ryan maintains he did -- to get through college. Of course there are no jobs, so we're verging on let-them-eat-cake territory.

Paul Krugman points out that the new Republican jobs plan is based on lowering environmental standards. Recession + Pollution = Jobs!

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions thinks the food stamp program has to be cut because it's "out of control." Uh, dude, jobs'll fix this.

Republicans veto every jobs effort Obama puts forth. Republicans want to trim any federal program that helps the poor and the middle class. Republicans want to cut taxes on the rich. Republicans think that more pollution equals more jobs. Republicans don't give a shit about most Americans. Stop me when I say something that's not true.

Jon Stewart makes this abundantly clear:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Muammar Qaddafi is Dead, Obama Isn't a Loser, and Other Stories

Qaddafi was weird, bad weird.

Muammar Qaddafi is dead. How he died remains unclear for now. But dead he is and his brutal regime with it.

I had just read an Andrew Sullivan post on the successes of Obama when I heard the news about Qaddafi. Not long after, David Ignatius of the Washington Post had an Op-Ed piece up on how Obama had made good decisions on Libya. The combination of praise for Obama was interesting. Here's some of Ignatius:
What was good about President Obama’s cautious, back-seat approach to Libya was that it denied Gaddafi the final apocalyptic confrontation with the United States he craved. Sorry, Moammar, but America was just part of a NATO coalition this time. Indeed, the denouement in Libya has been a good argument for halfway measures (or at least, half-visible ones).
This was an instance in which Mr. Cool had it pretty much right. Obama saw that a “no-fly zone” wouldn’t be enough and lobbied for tougher U.N. language authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people. But he opted for limited U.S. involvement, front-loaded in the first week, and under the protective cover of NATO and the Arab League.
Obama deliberately kept the United States in the background even when critics began howling for a show of American “leadership.” And most important, he was patient through the summer, rejecting the counsel of those who argued that he must escalate U.S. military intervention to break the stalemate or, alternatively, bail out.
...Obama took a lot of shots on the way to Thursday’s symbolic end of the Libya campaign. But it seems fair to say that his vision of opposing Gaddafi through a broad, international coalition — in which other nations share the burden, for a change — worked out pretty well.
 Nobody, least of all me, wants death and destruction (okay, maybe some people do), but I was happy with the way this use of NATO air power turned out. The justification for me was that it was meant to reduce the loss of civilian lives at the hands of  Quaddafi.

Next up, Andrew Sullivan (quoting one of his readers):
The truth is that this President has done a good job in what has been one of the most difficult periods of modern history. He saved the economy from ruin (until the Tea Party took over Congress) with a stimulus that was as large as possible given the political realities, presided over a stock market that fairly quickly recouped many of its losses, presided over almost consecutive monthly increases in private sector job growth (unfortunately balanced by monthly decreases in public sector jobs which I attribute to the GOP further starving government), enacted the only meaningful healthcare reform ever in our history, passed financial reform (no matter what the Left says, he did this), saved the auto industry (which Romney is on record opposing), fired the first salvo of the Arab Spring with his address in Cairo no less, drawn down our footprint in Iraq in a responsible way (and headed toward almost total withdrawal), stopped numerous terrorist attacks in this country, stopped torture as policy, repealed DADT, joined the international community in a measured and responsible way to bring down an odious tyrant in Qaddafi, and killed a whole generation of al Qaeda leaders. And taking out Osama bin Laden the way he did will go down as one of the bravest military actions in American history.
Dude, go after some white-collar criminals already.
 Again, I agree wholeheartedly. However, I am one of those on the Left who have problems with Obama. I don't like his Justice Department, with Eric Holder being soft on  bankers and Bush's torture regime, and Justice takes the wrong side on most Supreme Court cases. Having said that, reading the above list of Obama's actual accomplishments is actually quite impressive. So kudos to Obama. I do wish he had better messaging control. Maybe the coming election year will force him to kick some butt. I'd really like to see him not say, "This is something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on." That's just not happening, and it's better to say, "The Republicans want to take your money and give it to the rich, starting with your Social Security, and then your Medicare, and then who knows what they'll want next, but they will want it."

Let's face it: Barack Obama's post-partisan world has turned out to be the Most. Partisan. Ever.

Hey, for fun let's agree with Obama today. Nah!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Health care Is a Human Right, Period

I've said before that Puritanism is America's original sin. What I mean by that is that the Puritans who came to America in the 1600s brought with them the idea of Predestination, which holds that we're all born destined to go to Heaven or Hell. If our lives are blessed by good fortune, it's a sign that we're Chosen Ones. If not, suffer and die. It's your fate.

From this I've drawn the inevitable conclusion that the reason certain groups in America hate the poor is because they need losers in order to prove to themselves they're the elected, the chosen. Currently, it's the conservative Republicans that exemplify this, which is why they tend to have weird, even despicable things happen at their primary debates, like people applauding for executions, or screaming "Yeah!" when it was proposed that a imprudent man without health insurance should die if that's his lot, or bursting out in loud applause when Herman Cain affirmed that unemployment was the unemployed's own damned fault.

Family values, Crystal-Cathedral style
Nothing has wounded the American character more than Puritanism -- and the so-called Puritan Work Ethic -- though I imagine I'd have a hard time convincing people at a Tea Party rally -- or a Baptist Church on a Sunday in Texas, for that matter -- of this. We've been placed on this Earth to suffer and die. It's God's will. To the extent that we don't suffer, then it's apparent that God has chosen us to be his elect and that we'll be blessed in this life and sit at His side in the next.

I ain't buyin' it, pure and simple. I was not placed on this planet to suffer, and those that wish me harm so that their chosenness can be demonstrated haven't got a drop of human kindness in their veins. Any moral, ethical, even pragmatic person, in my view, would want the best outcome for every living soul, period, whether they be Christian, Jew, Hindi, Muslim, or atheist. It matters not who you are. You deserve to be safe, happy, and healthy.

Ron Paul, applauded for saying the uninsured are on their own
There are many, many reasons why this cannot or will not be so, and not all of these reasons are due to the ill will of some person or group. Sometimes we just catch a bad break or get born with bad genes, or whatnot. But for heaven's sake, if we have it in our power to provide health care to as many human beings as possible wherever and whenever it can be provided, then we have a moral obligation to do so.

That doesn't mean that we can or, perhaps, ever will. We should, however, acknowledge that in a perfect world it would be so. That this isn't a perfect world does not give us license to revel in the denial of health care where possible. It only recognizes human limits. If we could, then we must, if we can't, then it's a pity. But try we must. Anything short of that is, you guessed it, a sin, however you define one.

 Here's a key aspect of my views concerning health care: if it is a human right -- as it surely is -- it becomes clear that providing health care should have the profit motive removed from it. The marketplace is not the place to make health-care decisions. "I'm getting the cheaper by-pass because I'm a savvy consumer!"-- or -- "Wal-mart's got a sale on kidney transplants. Now I can afford to get one!" Surely you get my point. If we do have health-care multi-millionaires in this country -- and we do, see Richard Scrushy, Rick Scott, and William Frist -- then it's not right that they should prosper and others should die because they cannot afford care. It's a fundamental violation of the social contract.

So many societies in the world have recognized this right to health care and provide it so much better than we do. This is not an accident. It has taken effort on these more successful societies' part to create this reality. The fact that the U.S. has yet to make a real effort is a distinct failure on our part. I feel this failure is the direct result of a national character defect brought on by the delusion that some should suffer and die so that we can see the hand of God at work. And I'm not making this up. I really believe this.

Here are a few charts to consider before you decide if I'm right, at least about the nature and quality of our effort:

Exhibit 1
Total Health Expenditure per Capita, U.S. and Selected Countries, 2008
 Exhibit 1
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010), "OECD Health Data", OECD Health Statistics (database). doi: 10.1787/data-00350-en (Accessed on 14 February 2011).
Notes: Data from Australia and Japan are 2007 data.  Figures for Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, are OECD estimates.  Numbers are PPP adjusted.

This report was featured just today on the PBS News Hour:
America's health care system is not getting any better even as it gets more expensive, according to the third comprehensive scorecard issued by the Commonwealth Fund, one of the country's biggest health care foundations.
After looking at 42 indicators of health care quality, access, cost and other values, the fund gave the United States a score of 64 out of 100 on its performance when comparing the nation to the best performing countries, states, regions or health care plans. That was slightly below the 67 the country scored in 2006, the first scorecard the fund issued, and the 65 score the United States received in 2008.
"Even though the U.S. is spending more than when we first started issuing the scorecard, we're not seeing rapid improvement in health care outcomes," said Cathy Schoen, a senior vice president at the Fund, which is based in New York City.
 Click chart for large version:

Clearly, the U.S. isn't doing health care the right way. We have a moral obligation to do it right and to help it be done right around the world. Not helping to guarantee this basic human right, the right to the best possible health outcome no matter your age or income or ethnicity, is a fundamental failure. Let's work to correct this failure.

Afterthought: If it looks like I blame religion for our lack of effective -- and humane -- health-care policy in this country, I do, but only indirectly. If I could point to a secular cause, I would, but I can't find a connection, other than the rather simplistic -- but commonly held-- rugged individualism. What I do here at The American Human is look for what's in our national character that causes us to behave as we do, and when I examine the health-care issue, I find that, as I do with other issues relating to how our society could best take care of itself, we fail because of a innate, American distrust of government. But that has not always been so. What has been consistent in defining our national character is the prevalence of the Puritan Work Ethic, also known as the Protestant Work Ethic, which I feel separates us into winners and losers. Believers in the social contract would want to work more closely to achieve common goals. When we do, the best in the American character emerges, and we do good things.

Do the GOP Candidates Have Any Positive Ideas? That's Debatable

Good heavens. Looking around the Web today for opinions of the Las Vegas GOP candidate debate -- boycotted by Jon Huntsman for some reason -- the one that seemed the least impressed was this commentary by Fox News. Fox!!
All that was missing from Tuesday’s Republican debate was a surprise paternity test. Add that, and you would have had the perfect daytime talk show. Anger, betrayals, savage attacks, shocking confessions and, when Mitt Romney put his hand on Rick Perry’s arm, it looked for a moment it looked like there might even be fisticuffs.
While Power Play holds that tough primaries can produce better nominees, what the Republicans did in Las Vegas wasn’t about deep divisions, but about being too small. At the moment that the persuadable voters of 2012 are just beginning to look at the GOP, what they saw last night looked like a pack of Pekingese squabbling over a bone.
Fox News rips 'em all a new one so we don't have to. Holy crap. Our work is done.

What, are you on drugs? Seriously, are you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken or the Egg: Who Went Crazy First, Candidates or Supporters?

As I like to, I remind readers that there are Democrats that are loopy from time to time. One thing's for certain, though: people on the left (oops, the Democratic Party is a centrist party, but...) rarely need to dissemble, distort, or delude in order to establish a policy outlook.

Republicans too crazy for this conservative?
Last week, conservative and former Bush speechwriter David Frum announced he was leaving the public radio show Marketplace where he'd been a regular, doing the point-counterpoint with liberal and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. Frum felt he could no longer represent today's conservatives in the Republican Party, so he resigned his position as commentator for the show.
So long as the topic is “green jobs” or NLRB regulations or immigration, my thinking aligns reasonably congruently with the current conservative consensus.
But on the issues that today most passionately divide Americans – healthcare reform, monetary policy, social spending to aid the unemployed, and – soon – the American response to the euro crisis, I have to recognize that my views are not very representative of the conservative mainstream.
When speaking wholly and declaredly for myself, I can shrug off (admittedly – with some regret) the distance I have drifted from old comrades. When I’m called on to do point-counterpoint, I can’t deny that there is something false about the situation. The many listeners to Marketplace who share the consensus conservative view are entitled to hear somebody articulate that view as well as it can be articulated. The listeners who do not share the consensus conservative view would benefit even more from a strong presentation of that alternative opinion.
If I can’t or won’t do that job, then I should make way for somebody who can and will.
Frum said it very politely when he said, "...I have drifted from my old comrades." I've been watching and listening, Mr. Frum, and it ain't you that have been drifting.

So, taking the lead from David Frum, let's do an exercise. Who has moved where and why? I use this frame to take a look at the candidates and their supporters. Who went batshit crazy first?

Reagan raised taxes? Impossible!
Michele Bachman (from the Des Moines Register:
Bachmann argued that taxes are too high, and called for a return to the tax policies of the 1980s.
“We had an economic miracle in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan,” Bachmann said. “I want to bring those positive solutions into the tax code.”
But the rates of taxation for both the top and bottom tax brackets throughout most of the Reagan administration were actually higher than current tax rates.
For most of Reagan’s two terms in office, the taxpayers in the highest income bracket were taxed at 50 percent – while today the highest rate is 35 percent. Taxpayers in the lowest bracket, meanwhile, paid income taxes at rates ranging from 11 to 15 percent between 1981 and 1989; today they pay 10 percent, according to data from the National Taxpayers Union.
Bachman is so enamored of Ronald Reagan that it never occurred to her to read her history. Taxes + Reagan = Paradise!

Things go better with Koch.
Herman Cain's 999 plan doesn't stand scrutiny, baked as it was in the ovens of a Wells Fargo financial advisor in Ohio, Rich Lowrie. Cain admitted it might raise "some people's taxes," without owning up to the fact that it drastically shifts the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle classes while also driving down revenues severely. Paul Krugman points out how it's also a job killer:
But seriously — or as seriously as anything involving Cain can get — Jared Bernstein has a good summary of the reality of nein, nein, nein. The key point is that each of the nines is a tax that would more or less fully fall on middle-income families, who in addition to paying 9 percent of their income in taxes would find their living costs 9 percent higher and their wages 9 percent lower. That’s a 27 percent tax, way above the average federal taxes now paid by middle-income households.
Now it turns out that Cain is essentially a Koch brothers plant. He's been working since 2005 for their Americans for Prosperity, a political outfit for advancing their own personal business interests.

If the 999 plan and help from the Kochs are the reasons for Herman Cain's ascendency, rational people should bring him back to Earth soon.

One way to solve America's problems: Drill!

As for Rick "drill, baby, drill, frack, baby, frack" Perry, his economic plan is a major dose of Texas hokum. He might be right that more drilling and digging and shooting bad chemicals into the ground will produce jobs, but so will supporting green technologies. All more oil and gas can do is lower the price on the spot market for a time. Going green helps us get off the oil grid -- and doing the same thing to oil and gas prices, too, by the way. As for fracking, well, it's virtually unregulated due to the 2005 energy bill passed by a Republican congress and signed by George Bush.

Perry called this "an act of God." Please let him be president!

We shouldn't forget Newt Gingrich, who got some attention at the Bloomberg economic debate in New Hampshire by recommending that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd be arrested for their Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill passed in 2010 and signed by President Obama. Well, maybe we should forget him. Newt, your time in the sun is over.

You'll notice I haven't gotten to "front runner" Mitt Romney yet. Part of that is because his economic plan rests on criticizing Barack Obama's record --  the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, Ben Bernanke's actions at the Fed, bailing out the auto companies -- and is pretty weak tea disguised as good hair and a strong chin, and part of it is because it's hard to know if he really means it. Obama, being a centrist with bipartisan designs has governed as a "Romney Republican," meaning Mitt's dad George Romney. We have no idea how Mitt would actually govern.

Oh, wait, we do. In his one brief term in office as governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice, backed a health care plan that channels Obama's, and governed as a moderate centrist, sort of like Obama. So why is he all wildly conservative now? Oh yeah, the Tea Party...

I could go on and on, but at some point what Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul have to say just has to be forgotten. Too many clowns in the car.

So as you follow the rest of this wacky Republican primary season (or seasons, it seems), frame your observations this way: did these candidates go crazy, or did their supporters drive them crazy? I honestly can't tell.

Update: Comedian, TV write-producer, and New Yorker writer Andy Borowitz was on San Francisco's KQED City Arts and Lectures, and he made the comment that the Republican field is taking on the appearance of a "prank." I forget the exact phrase, but it cracked me up. I couldn't find a permanent link to the broadcast, so here's the Google search page where I found a temporary one. Good luck.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are We Too Occupied with Wall Street?

No is the simple answer. Yet there are no simple answers about what the Occupy movement is all about because it defies being boxed. Fox News and other agenda-driven outlets want to put the movement down because they see it as a threat. But is it?

Yes is the simple answer. But I've been through these kinds of things before. The counter-cultural revolution characterized by the hippies in the sixties and early seventies didn't end the Vietnam War that spawned it, but it did give us a cultural slackening in the areas of attire, grooming, sex, drugs, and an ever-improving rock 'n' roll. I couldn't have asked for a better time to be 18-25.

Still, we had a marginal effect on the Vietnam War. Remember, we thought we'd made progress when LBJ decided not to run in 1968 because the War had destroyed his credibility in spite of the good things he'd done or tried to do -- civil rights, voting rights, Medicare, the war on poverty. We thought we'd done something in 1970 after the Cambodian incursion and secret bombing, what with Kent State and campuses across the country united against the War.

Nixon came and went before the last Americans fled Vietnam in 1975 -- 1975! Yeah, the hippies in the sixties certainly did little to stop the War. We did influence the War's place in history, however. Did that give Americans pause before invading Iraq? I guess not.

Does that mean Occupy Wall Street will be a similar flare-up signifying nothing? It's too early to say, but the conversation is getting interesting.

Atrios pointed us to a delightfully apt tale about a teenage white girl with long dreadlocks, back in 2000, wearing a homemade t-shirt that read, "We Need a New System." Here it is at Media Matters:
It turned out Larry Summers had seen the girl too and was eagerly telling his guests about an interaction he had with her:
And so I asked the girl: 'What is this new system that you want? Tell me about it!' And the girl had nothing. Nothing! She had no fucking clue what this magical new system was supposed to be. No one is saying that there aren't problems with the world economy the way it is today. But these kids out there -- they don't know what they want!
"Mr. Secretary," said Zack. "You've got 50 economics PhDs in this room who pretty much run the world economy. And you're asking that girl for a better system? Aren't the solutions your job? You admit billions are living in hell, but it's up to that girl to fix it?"
Summers chuckled and the conversation moved on.
This is the same kind of drivel we get from Fox & Friends, criticizing the Occupiers because they don't have a seven-point plan.

Eugene Robinson likes it that way in his op-ed:
Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.
I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins. I love that they are spontaneous, leaderless and open-ended. I love that the protesters refuse to issue specific demands beyond a forceful call for economic justice. I also love that in Chicago — uniquely, thus far — demonstrators have ignored the rule about vagueness and are being ultra-specific about their goals. I love that there are no rules, just tendencies.
Eric Lichtblau at the NY Times writes about the Democratic Party's tentative steps toward embracing the Occupiers but warns:
But while some Democrats see the movement as providing a political boost, the party’s alignment with the eclectic mix of protesters makes others nervous. They see the prospect of the protesters’ pushing the party dangerously to the left — just as the Tea Party has often pushed Republicans farther to the right and made for intraparty run-ins.
Glenn Greenwald rightly points out:
After Obama’s election, the Democratic Party controlled the White House, the Senate and the House for the first two years, and the White House and Senate for the ten months after that. During this time, unemployment and home foreclosures were painfully high, while Wall Street and corporate profits exploded, along with income inequality. In July, 2009, The New York Times dubbed JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon “Obama’s favorite banker” because of his close relationship with, and heavy influence on, leading Democrats, including the President. In February, 2010, President Obama defended Dimon’s $17 million bonus and the $9 million bonus to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein — both of whose firms received substantial taxpayer bailouts — as fair and reasonable.
So, should the Democrats reach out to the Occupiers? Sure, just don't expect tons of love back. And don't be surprised if you get almost as much criticism as the Republicans. Now, the Republicans, with their no-tax-increases, no-more-money-for-unemployed-losers, and their contempt for anything that would help labor or the middle class, should get a mouthful. But Obama and the Dems haven't done much better, regardless of which team you're on.

The Occupations continue to spread today, with actions on 90 campuses, as well as in dozens of cities. Protesters in New York targeted the JPMorgan Chase skyscraper, while protesters did the same to the Wells Fargo building in downtown San Francisco.

Those who want to claim that the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn't have a clue what they stand for, I can tell them one thing: they don't like banksters! Since I don't either, which side am I on?

Update: Daily Kos has a look at who likes the OWS movement:
Attitudes toward OWS by-and-large fall along predictable partisan lines: Democrats have warm feelings and Republicans have negative ones. Independents are supportive, as are self-described moderates. The strongest positive sentiments come from self-identified liberals, who like OWS by a 69-7 margin. And in case anyone thought there was any synchronicity between this movement and the Tea Party, forget it: Tea Partiers view Occupy Wall Street unfavorably at a 12-63 clip. 
...The cohort with the most favorable overall views toward Occupy Wall Street are, fascinatingly, those who earn the most, over $100,000 a year. This does some serious damage to the claims of those who ignorantly holler about "class warfare." Put another way: Even people earning six figures know they are part of the 99%, too.
Very interesting. Of course, who likes the OWS movement isn't as important as who the OWS movement likes and whether they'll mobilize for any particular candidates. But there's probably no denying one thing: these were Obama's troops three years ago. Can he win them back?