Saturday, March 29, 2008

weekender reading room 

Eric Alterman, The Nation - on Samantha Power:
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to argue that Samantha Power is not an extraordinary woman. An all-but-unique combination of combustible contradictions, she is simultaneously a foreign policy insider and outsider, an academic and journalist, an activist and observer, a world-class schmoozer possessed of a burning intensity and an obsession with the understanding and prevention of genocide. Regardless of what form her work takes, Power is exactly the kind of person whose experience, expertise and passion might help repair what remains of America's tattered reputation as we finally approach the close of a benighted political era.


Armed with the advice of new voices with new visions, like Samantha Power, Barack Obama represents a challenge to discredited clich├ęs that have hitherto governed US foreign policy. When Obama announced during the Democratic debating season that he had no fear of negotiating with America's enemies, he was immediately attacked by the same tired old voices in the media, the establishment and, it must sadly be added, the Clinton campaign. How refreshing at that moment was the Obama campaign's unyielding response, in the form of a memo by Ms. Power, who wrote:

American foreign policy is broken. It has been broken by people who supported the Iraq War, opposed talking to our adversaries, failed to finish the job with Al Qaeda, and alienated the world with our belligerence. Yet conventional wisdom holds that people whose experience includes taking these positions are held up as examples of what America needs in times of trouble.... We cannot afford any more of this kind of bankrupt conventional wisdom.

If that's "university elitism," I say, bring it on...

More on Samantha Power at: Huffington Post

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Jeff Faux, The Nation - Is This the Big One?:
So here we go again.


Giant Ponzi scheme? Not to worry, responded the Wall Street geniuses. By spreading risks among more people, the miracle of "diversity" was actually turning bad loans into good ones. Anyway, banks were buying insurance policies against default, which in turn were transformed into a set of even murkier securities called "credit default swaps" and marketed to hedge funds, pension managers and in some cases back to the banks that were being insured in the first place. At the end of 2007 the market for these swaps was estimated at $45.5 trillion--roughly twice as large as all US stock markets combined.

This huge pyramid of debt was made possible by thirty years of relentless deregulation of financial markets, culminating in the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had prohibited banks from dealing in high-risk securities. In effect, Washington regulators became passive enablers to Wall Street's financial binge drinkers.


We are now staring into the abyss. The Bear Stearns bailout has created a presumption of a safety net under any major stockbroker, in addition to any major bank. Rumors are that Lehman Brothers and Citigroup may be next. The Fed could handle a Lehman crash. But the collapse of Citigroup, the world's largest bank, would be catastrophic, bankrupting businesses, other banks and consumers and cutting off credit for state and local governments. And it could stretch the Fed to the limit of its resources.

from the Department of I Don't Have Any Idea What's Going On Around Here:
"Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital and financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting, and tax impediments to raising capital. I am prepared to examine any new proposals and evaluate them based on these principles." ~ John McCain, March, 2008.


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