Notes Oct 18

October 18, 2007 § Leave a comment

Just finished reading Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost which is a story of an old man who for 15 years has been living in a cabin in the woods and makes an effort, a last effort, to return to New York City and try on a larger life, but it more less fails. Increases our empathy for ageing, in the best traction of literature that educates through experience..

And very good, the best, descriptions of contemporary politics.

I had campaigned for Stevenson as a college student and had my juvenile expectations dismantled when Eisenhower trounced him, first in 52 and then again in 56; and I could not believe what I saw when a creature so rooted in his ruthless pathology, so transparently fraudulent and a malicious as Nixon, defeated Humphrey in 68, and when, in the eighties, a self-assured knucklehead whose unsurpassable hollowness and hackneyed sentiments and absolute blindness to every historical complexity became the object of national worship and, esteemed as a " great communicator" no less, won  each of his two terms in a landslide.  And was there ever an election like Gore vs. Bush, resolved in the treacherous ways that it was, so perfectly calculated to quash the last shameful vestige of a law abiding citizen’s naiveté? Page 68.

This is very good and possibly correct.  But I think it’s important to analyze that it was not just the electorate’s preference for Reagan and Bush, but their deep suspicions or scorn or confusion about the Democratic candidate and the Democratic party.  Unfortunately that continues to be somewhat the case although the Republicans have performed so badly in the White House and Congress that the Democrats, despite their inability to take a stand against the war or two reaffirm the Constitution, I still likely to win.  I think it will be a very complex year.

Before that I "listened" to Michael Ondaatje’ Divisidero. This is a very interesting story of a California family whose characters move through life, not without structure, but without plot.  Our lives are not organized in plots and the book has a kind of realism about it that is fascinating, especially because the flow of the story is so atmospheric in a way that helps me describe my own experience.

The Business community is having a hard time because so much profit is made by financial manipulations and so little by actual production.  In this context consulting firms continually arise it tried to help.  But what I noticed it is they think the game can be well played without dealing with critical issues.  An example I came across this morning is a company called non-linear transformations. It is difficult for me to see efforts that not only treat the mainline economy as one where one can play honestly, but provide justification for the main line economy, the economy and is so dysfunctional in income, quality of life and the environment.

Juancole this morning says Blackwater is on the way out, Syria is aligning with Turkey on the Kurds, and, most importantly it’s hard on the issue of mercenaries. The use of mercenaries is part of the general tendency to outsource government functions a triumph of ideology over reality.  A privatized function has its primary goal of maintaining or increasing its contracts.  If the same effort is done by gov’t, the primary goal is to maintain the integrity of the government of which it is a part.

The Asian Times leads with the complexities of Pakistan, the U.S. influence on Bhuto’s return and a decision to go after the Islamic militants.  Will she meet the hopes of the poor, for her image has a Diana like quality to it, or will she be part of a neo-liberal approach to the Pakistan economy?

I also have an interesting article on the bush-Aznar meeting that will appear in the November 8 New York review of books.

Scott Horton starts today with the most read poet today, the 12th century Afghani Rumi. Powerful for me because I have been thinking somuch about meditation, that openness to the world, phasing the world without conventional opinion.

I dread the use of the word información, because it implies a specificity that isn’t there.  But I don’t see a better choice for the translation.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read Arabic?

Kevin Drum says what I guess is news:

WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING UPDATE….It looks like House Democrats have caved on the NSA spying bill. "It was total meltdown," says the director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union. No details yet on exactly what’s in the Senate bill that takes its place, but it doesn’t look good. More later.

The weakness of the Democratic party on security is because there’s no process by which a more adequate and sophisticated view could emerge.  Do I believe that?  Is there not some think tank capacity in the party?

Matt Stoller writes about a new democratic foreign policy.  He links Burma and the openness of the Internet and The Law Of The Sea. Connecting the law of the oceans with the openness of the Internet feels to me really evocative and interesting as a kind of new spiritual and pragmatic reality about humans and the earth.

But it is just a piece of what is required and does not quite add up to a policy democrats could get beyond in contrast to the republicans.  I should say the Bush administration, because most Republicans are as confused as the Democrats.

It is hard to find the right vocabulary.

From Roubini on credit markets and recession.

The similarities between 1987 and today go far deeper than media dust-ups. Take, for example, twin deficits—the existence of both large and unsustainable budget deficits and current account deficits that are leading to an accumulation of a large stock of public debt and foreign debt in the United States. In the years leading up to Black Monday, unsustainable tax cuts and excessive military spending during President Ronald Reagan’s first term led to a strong dollar and a large current account deficit. After 1985, driven by the unsustainable external imbalance, the dollar started to fall. Likewise, today we bear the consequences of unsustainable tax cuts and runaway military spending. And since 2002, the dollar has started to fall under the pressure of the external imbalance.

I think it makes a difference who really holds the paper, negative and positive. But this is just my ignorance. Same with the following Feel too slippery to me, too many variables.

Most notably, there are troubling parallels between 1987 and the present in trade. In the months leading up to Black Monday, the United States blamed Germany’s and Japan’s “weak” currencies for the continued U.S. trade deficit. In particular, American politicians stoked fears that a rising export giant like Japan would hollow out the U.S. manufacturing sector. The tensions came to a boil on October 18, when Treasury Secretary James Baker strongly suggested the need for a further fall in the dollar and implied that the reluctance of Germany and Japan to let the mark and yen appreciate could be met with retaliatory trade actions. The following day, the infamous Black Monday of October 19, 1987, the stock market crashed: The Dow Jones industrial average went into a free fall, losing 22.6 percent of its total value. The S&P 500 collapsed by 20.4 percent. This was the largest loss that Wall Street had ever experienced in a single day.

Part of the problem is, a real fall in the value of assets means they will be cheap, and here seems to be lots of money in the system owed by those who could benefit by a real fall. Looking for example at foreclosures on homes: who is getting them?

This week’s New Yorker (oct 22) has a full page ad for Samsung phones, a young man and girl at dinner and the caption is "TALK OF THE TOWN: you are on the line to gather the gang for an unforgettable evening out." He is being super male violating her with the camera and she looks terrified. Are we not supposed to see it?

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You are currently reading Notes Oct 18 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.

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