barbara's blog

W = Watchful and Wary Waiting

January 23, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

leftymn and I were jawing as we sometimes do about the political landscape and the economic terrain. He said he wouldn’t burden me with his economic analysis. But you know what? He’s a whole lot savvier about that than I am, so I asked him to lay it out for me. Now I’m laying it out for you.

leftymn writes:

The TARP and the stimulus salvaged the base of our freely operating credit economy. Things could be much worse. In something of a rarity, world leaders actually worked together to effect stimulus in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Also Central bankers in most countries that matter most economically slashed rates to zero, basically to keep liquidity alive. This essentially restored us to status quo.

Most importantly, in 2008 after the crisis stopped its gradual exchange rate tightening, China simultaneously loosened bank lending and eased its interest rates. And they went on a public infrastructure spending program, with money flowing and public jobs still sanctified (although hundreds of thousands did lose jobs in some export industrial works). Within about six months, the Chinese were up and running and ginning their domestic economy.

As usually happens in China, speculative investment in real estate and hard assets began. Copper has escalated in world markets strictly as a result of Chinese buying. Commodities stabilized and turned around. The Chinese bought soybeans as though there were no tomorrow, soybean-wise. This in spite of the fact that they could not sell their own surplus soybeans in their domestic markets since the domestic prices were higher than imported soybeans. This all resulted in stimulating both the Chinese and the world economy. Read on.

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Gong Show, writ large

January 20, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

Amazing. Simply amazing. In one swell foop, the Democrats and Martha Coakley yesterday ceded Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat to the Republicans. Cosmo's Scott Brown triumphed in the special election in Massachusetts.

Now the rabble is into full frontal dithering, as one might expect.

The blame game is on, Big Time. Obama’s fault. Martha Coakley’s fault. Obama’s fault. Rahm Emanuel’s fault. DSCC’s fault. Obama’s fault. The Clintons’ fault. Obama’s fault. The liberal bloggers’ fault. The conservative Twitterers' fault. Massachusetts’ voters fault. Teddy Kennedy’s fault. Obama’s fault. Wall Street’s fault. (Its little subset, the corporatists’ fault.) Fox “News’” fault. Obama’s fault. Sarah Palin’s fault. Brangelina's fault. (Okay, I made that up.)

Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a sagacious political analyst. I don’t have the wherewithal, including a sufficiency of smarts, to delve into the bowels of political machinations and make meaning of it. (Now there’s a thoroughly disgusting metaphor.) But like everyone else who blogs, I do have opinions. Sometimes I form opinions after the fact. Kind of retro forward motion (five yards, automatic first down). And btw (in case you haven’t noticed), I am crazy about parenthetical cross-talk. Also, it takes me a while to warm up and get to the point.

My point is this. There is a kind of systemic rot in what used to be called the political party of liberals. Of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Of Teddy Kennedy.

There’s nothing woo-woo about it. Exorcism is not called for. But it is time to take out the Sorting Hat and reassign the peeps. Read on.

UPDATE: Please catch this Robert Reich piece about the significance of the Scott "Cosmo" Brown victory. (h/t LeftyMN)

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Help Haiti Today

January 13, 2010 by barbara

UPDATE: A great place to consider for your donations:

From Micahel Kieschnick of CREDO Action via The Seminal:

Doctors Without Borders operates one of the only free trauma centers in Port-au-Prince as well as an emergency hospital in the capital for pregnant women, new mothers, and newborn children. All three of its primary medical centers have collapsed, but DWB/MSF has already set up temporary shelters and is offering emergency care on the ground. For more info on their work in Haiti click here. To make a donation click here.

prairie writes with barbara p.s.

You can help the people of Haiti. Huffington Post is building a comprehensive list. As one commenter there noted, you can make sure your money goes to a charity that will really help the people by checking charitynavigator.org..

In the early days of Prairie Sun Rising, I wrote "Let Them Eat Mud Cookies" about the dire everyday poverty of Haiti.

Now, the island has been devastated by an earthquake. For those who have so little, even a little contribution will go a long way. And it only takes a little time.

A Fargo group sponsored by Triumph Lutheran Church was already in Haiti on a service mission. They’re okay. But they’re going to be busy. I know of medical volunteer teams who have given of their own time to go over the years.

But the truth is, the need, the poverty, the circumstances of life in Haiti is so dire that these groups can’t begin to do what needs doing alone. And now, the earthquake jolts us. We get caught up in our daily lives, the issues we care passionately about. But we can all help, even in the comfort of our own homes.

For the least of our brethren….remember? The lesson we were supposed to learn from Katrina?
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crossposted at Prairie Sun Rising and The Seminal.

P.S. from barbara

I had absolutely no idea this had happened until I read Prairie’s post a few minutes ago. Obviously, I’ve given up on MSM as my main source of news.

Please, please, let us bestir ourselves into action. However critical we/I are of our nation, one of the things we do best as citizens is to reach out in a major way when there’s trouble somewhere else on this fragile planet. When push comes to shove, we set aside our fractious ways and help humans in a world of hurt and difficulty.

We know the drill. Let’s do it.

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An idea whose time has come!

January 10, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

I have a theory about traditional terrorism (as opposed to Frank Rich’s excellent case for economic terrorism – see Prairie’s post below).

My working definition of terrorism is a situation where a small group of individuals causes a large group of individuals (say, an entire nation) to completely lose its marbles. Occasionally, there is just cause. But generally, the net result is that our over-the-top response simply provides comic relief for those living in caves. We are exceeding their expectations. We are, effectively, terrorized by them, and they needn’t do much of anything to keep us scared. Remember, they have the radical right’s support in the "oooh, oooh, oooh" bidness.

The goal of terrorists is, of course, to do something horribly destructive that will make big news. Big news, followed by massive, knee-jerk dithering and frenetic overkill. In his own way, the Christmas Day castrato succeeded in his otherwise spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to bring down Flight 253. Succeeded how? Look at us.

Once again, we are into sky-is-falling mode, this time seeking ways to ramp up underwear checks at airports and expose people’s privates to scrutiny.

Hairspray and toothpaste inspection. Shoes. Underwear. What next, I wonder.

Wait, wait! I have an idea! Read on!

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Prairie's Reading: Rich on Econ-terrorism

January 10, 2010 by barbara

Prairie writes:
.
Oh, he doesn't call it that—econ-terrorism—in his column, The Other Plot to Wreck America. But in fact, Frank Rich lays out a compelling commentary on the destructive economic tactics titans of Wall Street have wreaked, unchecked, on all of the rest of us. And fully expect to keep on doing. Unless.

This could be, should be, the most important news of coming days — initial hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, its chairman former California treasurer Phil Angelides.

One presumes that a public official from the state arguably hardest hit by the Enron corruption would bring his own compelling case to the destructive chaos that is the current state of the economy. (and one would hope the willfully myopic, malfeasant Larry Summers Read on.

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Quiet heroes

January 09, 2010 by barbara

Prairie writes:

Weekends are for relaxing and reflection. Looking backward and ahead. [And this time of year, hoping the damned temperature does in fact rise or the weather guys will have a lot of explaining to do!]

We’ve begun to contemplate the passing of an era with Byron Dorgan’s retirement announcement. Because he wasn’t one of the posturers and preeners who feel it is their divine right to always show up on the pundit shows, he may not have been the best known of senators outside our own North Dakota borders.

But those who know him know well what a legacy of honor and regard he has amassed.

Two tales to tell about the Senator you may not know so well. Read on.

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Make list, check twice, repeat as needed

January 02, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

Okay. I promised myself I would not succumb to drawing up a Top Ten list for the new decade. Since I am a keeper of promises, I present my Top Seventeen list.

And just so you know, my December 31, 2009 resolutions list was drafted on January 02, 2010, and is presented in no particular priority order:

1) No more procrastinating, disorganization, dithering (trifecta!).

2) No more state DFL conventions, ever.

3) No more Sarah Palin.* (Note: I don't understand what this means either.)

4) More fresh vegetables, less chocolate (hell, why not? I’m allergic to it)

5) No more swearing, dammit!

6) More exercise. (Obligatory item for lists like this one.)

7) Consider friend’s challenge to consider writing my considerable life story (note considerably cautious commitment)

8) Kick alliteration habit. Read on.

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Prairie's reading: Stiglitz on harsh lessons

January 02, 2010 by barbara


Photo: telegraph.com

Prairie writes:

Do yourself a favor. Read this article by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on the five harsh economic lessons we must [re-]learn.

No excuses.

We cannot afford the idle luxury of thinking that somebody else will take care of things and make it all better. Whomever you think that somebody else may be.

Do your country a favor.

This article appears in China Daily. Look at the label of the clothes you're wearing. Consider who's holding America's debt. It ain't Tinkerbell.

They're learning. Will we?

(cross-posted on Prairie Sun Rising)

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Who is Kim Peek and why does he matter?

December 30, 2009 by barbara

barbara writes

My friend PC shared this amazing video with me. It’s a relatively current-time summary of the life of Kim Peek. We know him better as “Rain Man.”

Excerpts from the UK’s Times Online:

Kim Peek, the autistic savant who inspired the Oscar-winning film Rain Man, has died, aged 58.

Mr Peek's father Fran said that his son had suffered a major heart attack on Saturday and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, the town where he had spent his life.

(snip)

Born in 1951 in Salt Lake city, Mr Peek was diagnosed as severely mentally retarded and his parents were advised to place him in an institution and forget about him. Thirty years later, he was classified as a "mega-savant," a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates.

(snip)

He would read eight books a day, taking just ten seconds to read a page. He could read two pages simultaneously, his left eye reading the left page and his right eye reading the right page. Read on.

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