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Michael Winship: Say Anything

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

Say Anything
By Michael Winship

And so it has begun. The final month of the presidential race, the campaign that feels as if it commenced some time during the Coolidge administration. And as we slide into these last weeks, what we all feared is coming true. Just when you thought the bottom of the swamp had been scraped, sludge gurgles up from the primordial ooze.

This is the endgame, the ugly stuff, meant to assassinate character and distract the electorate with foolishness as our financial house of cards flutters away into the uncertain winds of whatever’s left of the global economy. “It’s a dangerous road, but we have no choice,” a “top McCain strategist” told the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.” Another GOP operative was quoted by the WASHINGTON POST: “There’s no question we have to change the subject here.”

Change the subject, turn the page, sling the mud. For several days now, Governor Palin has impugned Senator Obama’s patriotism and accused him of “palling around with terrorists” – specifically, William Ayers, a founding member nearly 40 years ago of the radical and violent Weathermen, now a prominent educator and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Obama was chair of a school reform project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and Ayers briefed board members on education issues. They both served on the board of a Chicago charity and Ayers and his wife hosted a coffee when Obama first ran for office.

Governor Palin cited THE NEW YORK TIMES as backing up her accusations, despite that publication’s previous characterization by the McCain campaign as a biased, inaccurate rag somewhere to the left of the DAILY WORKER. In fact, the TIMES reported, “A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63.” But, the paper continued, “…the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.’”

The whole thing is reminiscent of the desperation move of the other President Bush, running against Bill Clinton in 1992, when he implied darker ulterior motives to Clinton’s 1970 student visit to the Soviet Union.

For Obama’s part, his campaign released an ad characterizing John McCain as “erratic,” and a thirteen-minute video revisiting the “Keating Five.” Sen. McCain, the Obama folks would like you to recall, was one of five United States senators accused in 1989 of using their clout to help bail out Charles Keating, chairman of the failed Lincoln Savings and Loan. All had received campaign contributions and other perks from Keating.

The collapse of Lincoln Savings cost the American taxpayers $2.6 billion. Charles Keating went to prison. Mr. McCain got off with a mild rebuke for "questionable conduct" from the Senate Ethics Committee, and vowed that from then on he would be above reproach.

So both sides are at each other, hammer and tong. But to suggest there is an equivalency in the attacks, as many in the media have done, is debatable. That McCain has a past history of stumbling into financial poo (although $2.6 billion seems a pittance in comparison to the mega-sums being gambled away now) seems on point, relevant at a time when the economy is the most important issue in the land. Not to mention that he had a far deeper and more personal relationship with Keating than Obama ever had with Ayers – including nine trips on the Keating dime (a few on Keating’s private jet), some of which weren’t reimbursed until the scandal erupted, and $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating and his associates, more than any of the other four senators.

And not to mention McCain’s relationship with Phil Gramm, his economic guru, the former senior senator from Texas via Wall Street who called us “a nation of whiners” and who manipulated Congress to open the door to many of the excesses that have led to our fiscal downfall -- a man who, as AMERICAN PROSPECT editor Harold Meyerson wrote, “has diminished American solvency and power beyond the wildest dreams of anti-American terrorists.”

By comparison, the charges made by the McCain-Palin camp are scattershot and approach demagoguery, hurled primarily by Palin, who has been cast as designated, campaign pit bull, the customary role given to a party’s vice presidential candidate.

But Governor Palin has skated onto the ice with a rare vengeance, not so much fiercely protective hockey mom as a political version of figure skater Tonya Harding, kneecapping the opposition and crying foul when caught in a media mess of her own making.

This leads from bad to worse. In Tuesday’s WASHINGTON POST, Dana Milbank described a Palin rally in Florida, “In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her ‘less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.’ At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.’”

Thus, behind the candied incandescence of the Palin phenomena, behind the shoutouts to Joe Six Pack, and third graders at the Gladys Wood Elementary School, behind the darn right’s and the coy winks is perhaps something scarier – a rank appeal to our baser instincts at a time when nationwide fear can be manipulated to overrule basic common sense.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

In the opinion of the Economist, Oct. 16,
"He (McJCain) needs to dump the dumb populism (even though it seems to be too late, alas, to dump the dumb populist-in-chief, Sarah Palin.)

I continue on this theme: The "populism" is so absurd in a "conservative Republican" we know there is no competence here. Palin actually acts more like a Hugo Chavez style socialist than a conservative. After all, all Alaskans get large checks every year while the rest of us get tax bills. There is $2000 per person from the "oil wealth savings account" and another $1200 from the "special windfall tax", the latter being Palin's very popular accomplishment.

How can she explain her very popular positions on taxation of oil companies? She appears to be speaking freely on a NOW video, saying that 'we' (Alskans) own the oil. So I can't resist asking, "How is "taking on big oil' in Alaska different from Hugo Chavez "taking on big oil" in Venezuela?" He is also wildly popular. And how is it so courageous and mavericky to to take action that is wildly popular with the voters?

As to who owns the oil, I thought the USA bought Alaska a long time ago. How it all worked out from that point is a little complicated, but here is a link to a map showing much of Alaska to be Federal lands of one sort or another.
http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/images/pdf/fedlands/ak.pdf It looks to me like the oil lands are entirely Federal lands.

Below is a link to Palin where she discusses her leadership in increasing tax on big oil for the benefit of Alaskan people. Why don't I get checks like they get in Alaska. It feels like redistribution of wealth to the selected group called Alaskans. Conservatives need to understand what "conservative" means.
http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/434/video-webex.html

So I say that Palin represents a kind of "conservative" leadership that should be seriously questioned. Robin Hood is not usually thought of as a conservative, and neither is Hugo Chavez. Palin seems to be following their examples. In case it is forgotten, Ayn Rand thoroughly trashed the arch type "liberal" Robin Hood in Atlas Shrugged, (at least that is how I remember it.) I wonder if Palin had time to read Atlas Shrugged while she was busy reading "all the newspapers."

As to what I think are real qualifications for office, consider that the assigned role for Gov. Palin appears to be that of attack dog so she stirs up dangerous emotions instead of talking about how she thinks. She could talk about the Constitution and show that she understands why it was written the way it was, and by doing so would let us see how she would act as President. She might also talk about her experiences as Mayor and Governor, explaining her priorities in leadership actions. She could tell about how she chose her advisors and the administrators that worked under her, and what were her considerations in making such choices. My understanding is that she was a strong leader in getting a sports center built. How did she come to the conclusion that this was an appropriate community priority? But more than anything, I get no sense that she shares my concern about the need for separation between church and state.

the rich want to stay rich and they want the poor to stay poor, it's that simple. from my perspective their money isn't worth the paper it's printed on so in reality we are all poor-so where has all the money gone? china i think

the rich want to stay rich and they want the poor to stay poor, it's that simple. from my perspective their money isn't worth the paper it's printed on so in reality we are all poor-so where has all the money gone? china i think

Doesn't a drug addict do anything to get their fix?

So it goes with the power hungry, egomaniacal, lying rhetoricians in politics.

They will say or do anything to get their fix.

All this would not matter so much if the citizens had recourse. But as it is we citizens can do nothing but watch the ego and power addicts destroy our country by trying to reach ever increasing higher highs.

We talk of living in a sustainable world, yet our actions betray our true feelings. All we have to do is to look at the stock market to see what happens when growth declines even a little.

Even if a company yields stable earning, but does not grow its earnings it is looked down upon. Stability and balance is part of a sustainable footprint, yet we shun such balance.

With one breath we talk about cutting global warming and how we have to cut our dependence of fossil fuel.

Then with the next breath we demand no cut backs in our standard of living, we must spend and consume above all else...build more, build faster, build bigger.

The GDP must only go up, up and away...all the while this consumption just increases global warming and keeps depleting the fossil fuels faster and faster.

Sick...sick..sick mentality, buy more cars, build more houses and monstrosities of architecture, spend more but 'cut back' to save our dear fossil fuels. For all practical purpose we will be out of crude oil and natural gas in 2 or 3 decades and possible much sooner.

Consumption is ingrained in us and we know no other way. And even if we wished to amend our ways, how could all our retirement funds take the hit?

We have the tiger by the tail and cannot let go...but our grip is getting tired and all hell is going to break loose soon.

Our world population has grown to levels where it has passed the point of no return for supporting a sustainable human population as we know it today when it comes to their energy demands.

And what does all that consumerism lead to?

It leads to the mess we are in now and the bigger mess the world will be in once India and China pick up momentum to copycat the envious lifestyle that they have held in high esteem as the 'American Dream'

The problem is not with the earth having enough land for all its people - the problem is with earth providing ad infinitum for all the needs the people crave.

The more people born, the more heat is produced from their life and all their cravings, As such, the warmer and more polluted the earth gets and the more energy they all use and the earths resources are depleted.

Fueling the problem of consumption is the games the Federal and World banks play with interest rates. They manage the economies in ways to fuel consumption and mask the real trend.

Witness the recent cries for Federal bankers to lower interest rates...so the stock market can go up...fueled by spending of the consumer.

It is drug habit that Greenspan got us hooked on and we just can't get away from.

Our economy is not based on sustainable health - it is based low interest credit to encourage compulsive spending, debt and living a life of constant consumption with a 'disposable mentality' when it comes to durable goods.

All this consumption to artificially fuel our economy to make our retirement funds only go up contributes to more and more global warming and the depletion of our natural resources.

Then the governments juggle the numbers to make the inflation figures seem artificially low, so everyone's retirement portfolio will make them happy so they will continue to buy and consume more...and on it goes....IT IS ALL WE KNOW and the bill is coming due soon!

We can see we have created a time bomb. Even the highest level brainiac economists can't fix what ails us. Our whole system is based on an unsustainable model that will eventually collapse no matter how much money that is printed up by the Fed. (...they don't even need to print money nowadays, all that needs to be done to create billions is to magnetize a silicon chip!)

Now maybe if our energy supply was stable and affordable and global warming was not an issue, things would be different and we could keep on consuming and expanding as infinitum

Sad thing is...IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE TO DO A 180...Without compulsive spending and conspicuous consumption funded by unaffordable debt, we would fail as a country.

You ever hear the saying...'I got the tiger by the tail and can't let go?' That is how it has developed in the US of A.

Lets say everyone becomes voluntary simplicity and frugal squirrel devotees. We recycle, reuse, repair and just say no to buying more crap. If we stop buying all the stuff that America imports from China - who keeps the billion plus people in China from starving, so they do not go back to old ways of trying to take over the world?

China and Russia tried to support its people though a sustainable, self sufficient manner when they ere totally RED. Now that they are PINK, they are much more successful at support, So the world exchanged the dread of communist domination for that of the problem of more capitalism and consumption. But as Taoists tell us...fleas come with the dog. America now wishes China and India had stayed backwards. But as long as the crude holds out, they can't go backwards once they got a taste of the American dream.

Maybe if China was a a balanced self sufficient economy with less mouths to feed and things would not be so bad. Same as the US...self sufficient. But everyone is globally connected nowadays.

And on a more local level, if the consumer stops consuming even US goods, the US companies go bust, everyone loses their jobs and his or her retirement funds will collapse.

What about growing a a garden...nothing wrong with that? Lets say everyone starts growing 'victory gardens' in the backyard as food has become unaffordable. So some of the few farmers left in the US go bust cause their food just rots on the shelves unsold. Now there is less food being produced and at even a higher cost to those that can afford it the least.

What about more taxes? Tax the little guy so DC can pay for their compulsive spending disease. More taxes = less for us to compulsively spend 'trying' to buy happiness = lower earnings for the greedy corporations = raise hell with the DOW = less cap gains tax income for the gov to squander = everyone's retirement funds sink lower and lower = even less compulsive spending since everyone is poorer..."A debt-based society cannot prosper and is doomed to fail..." ~ Ron Paul

Back in the day, (prairie and turn of the century) citizens were more of a self sufficient nature. Most of us have lost that skill of self sufficiency and we have shifted gears to be dependent on gov and a few other such as farmers or oil producers or China to take care of the whole pop of the US. The problem is, it is very hard to go back without causing a lot of pain. (Actually a lot of deaths)

Hell, the impotent people of modern day and age can't even make pancakes or peanut butter sandwiches and have to buy them ready made in the store...it's really scary.

Shirlene: The Demopublicans are only the sales representatives, not the manufacturers of the cosmetics. If the shampoo burns your eyes or the lipstick won't cold-creme off, you have to go shoot Avon with Cupid's love arrow, right in their pink, fat butt. I have a little recipe manual showing how to make perfectly good eyeshadow and rouge at home from items you may already have on hand. When I see you at the Inaugural March Jan. 20th I'll share these secrets with you.

It seems no one has considered that the Democrats have been in control and what have they done? NOTHING!! No, I do not agree with everything Bush has done, but in all fairness the Democrats are a BIG problem!!!

Dear Bill Moyers,

Thank you for your interview with the very wise and responsible George Soros. He has an extremely good grasp of the situation and he is not afraid to share his accessment of the economic situation. It is only by honestly excepting where we are at, that we will be able to make the healthiest, long term recovery. It is refreshing to hear someone talk about what we need to do. One thing he mentioned were some responsible regulations.

I speak as an average middle class investor here. For me, and I bet for many others, we continue to have a loss of faith in the markets because we do not see any real changes in regulations that would prevent the abuses, on Wall Street, that got us into this mess in the first place. I don't believe what they "say their going to do", instead I will believe "what I see them doing". When I see that the government has actually changed the regulations into something more responsible, I will have more faith in the markets.

Thank you very much.

"Who you gonna get to do the dirty work, when all the slaves are free? Who you gonna get? Generalissimo Robert E. Lee? (Joni Mitchell)

George Soros is a lucky, self-sentimental sociopath.
Emmie: Walmart is cutting back on hires as sales slow. Anyway, even Soros admits home mortgages are not at the center of the financial implosion. Commercial real estate defaults are potentially greater, as are auto loan defaults and credit card defaults. A magnitude above this are the bubbles created by hedging and credit default swaps. (The total thus far: approximately 60 billion) Above this recognize the currency trading bubble, derivative default swaps and derivatives themselves are much greater liabilities. People found ways to insure other peoples gambling debts in which they were not directly involved. There is no ready description of some exotic instruments out there for which banks and other corporations hold obligations.(A trillion is a thousand billion, and we could be talking about a black hole of debt tallying a quadrillion, a thousand trillion.) Computers are so much faster than human accounting that an abyss of debt owed to the wealthy class has been created we can never fathom or repay. Our paltry economy grossed 15 trillion total at its peak.
Comfort yourself in knowing that money is a fiction, a social convention. What we must repudiate is the elite accounting making us all debt-slaves and begin to value money on a labor value basis, so that the money supply can never exceed the value of human productivity again. In short, you may have been deceived if you believe fixing the mortgage market will solve a much greater problem of elite greed and fraud. (Do you think it fair to hawk your paintings on this blog?)

I welcome George Soros' comments & agree with him. As a former financial analyst and commercial lender, I have been warning of this for years: the logic behind the securitization of mortgage loans is flawed. This process does not reduce risk by dispersing it. It increases risk! It created three groups: borrowers, servicers, and investors. And all three groups have conflicting interests. They in effect deleted the lender and the lender’s responsibility, and now some wonder why some lenders did not act responsibly? Soros omitted one important consideration. Many good people, faced with rising housing costs, optimistic about housing values & their own earnings ability, tried to make the best decision they could when they bought their overpriced homes. They could not have known the rampant inflation they now face. Addiitonally, many have lost jobs & many of those who are (were) self employed have seen reduced sales combined with huge increases in operating costs. Addressing credit & real estate markets is not enough. I hope someone out there realizes there are millions of dislocated workers for whom there is no program, no voice. Lots of them are working at Walmart.

Speaking of civil war, General Robert E. Lee, once said, "Politicians are more or less so warped by party feeling, by selfishness, or prejudices, that their minds are not altogether balanced. They are the most difficult to cure of all insane people, politics having so much excitement in them."

I try not to despair. but it's hard. I even have a few loved ones who can't connect the dots. And I have grandchildren and honorary grandchildren whose lives will be diminished forever if this "we - them" mentality, espoused in the Palin-McCain rhetoric and innuendo, wins out. We can already see what it's done in the credit crisis, the market collapse, in health care availability and in gas costs and mortgage gouging. This country will never be the same if we can't start believing in a place we call "us."

I agree Max and Annie. I'm trying not to cause more hatred by being quiet. If McCain and Palin were to take office I don't see how they could formulate a coherent sane government now, following all this.
Sherry warned us last week the military is being staged for domestic counterinsurgency. Then Amy Goodman reported the same thing Wednesday. They must expect things to become chaotic if McCain is shoe-horned into office. He doesn't look well either and Palin is an extremist, at best an incompetent below the George Bush level. It would be time for peristroika, ignoring this puppet regime. I will vote for Bashful Barry and Delaware Joe anyway and see what happens. All bets are off: No more business as usual. (We determined this week Wells Fargo is pretty shakey from default swaps, more rotten wood underneath.)

McCain is playing with fire in a deeply irresponsible way.

This goes well beyond mud slinging to fomenting a civil war. I connected more dots at the link at my name.

The Republicans are using McCain/Palin as hate mongers to rev up the future fighters of America.

The neocon Republican goal has been unchanging and it is to achieve and maintain global dominance - in government control, power, military might and corporate market share.

Since they are facing losing executive and legislative dominance, a civil war is what will keep them "in the money."

It's time to see this for what it really is.

Terrorism in the US under the guise of a political party. These are true and menacing domestic enemies.

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