Yes. History Does Repeat Itself

The scariest thing about the little rumble in the stock market this week is that it happened for good reason. The market slid three percent in one day because it appears that the governments of the world are backing away from support for the economy. If the politicians of the world have forgotten the lessons of history, the market has not. If we do not continue to stimulate the economy with government spending, there will be a depression the likes of which has never been seen.

Not that we ever did pay attention to history. If we had we would not be in this mess. We learned an excellent lesson back in the 1920s. Then we had a president who had little more than contempt for the federal government. “If the federal government should go out of existence, the common run of people would not detect the difference in the affairs of their daily life for a considerable length of time,” said Calvin Coolidge. (Compare to Ronnie Raygun’s “scariest words”… “We’re from the government and we are here to help.”) Silent Cal set the tone for governing in the 1920s by espousing a partnership between the government and industry. “This is a business country,” he said, “and it wants a business government.”

The GOOP of the 1920s championed tax breaks for the rich and channeled $3.5 billion in tax rebates and waivers to millionaires and their corporations. It opposed labor unions and ensured that the working classes stayed poor while the richer classes got even richer. High tariffs demanded by business protected the world’s most prosperous market from imports while the export market exploded … primarily because European buyers borrowed money to buy American goods from American banks. Business boomed. (And when Europe could not afford to pay its debt, American banks lost, but that wasn’t until 1929.)

The federal government, which had busted trusts and effectively regulated the economy for years, quit regulating. The Federal Trade Commission walked away from the antitrust laws and replaced them with industry-wide trade agreements. The concept of transparency in the stock market was widely derided. It all made for a robust ride up, a shimmering bubble at the top, and a quick disaster in 1929.

Herbert Hoover has been president for six months when the stock market crashed and like all free market thinkers he was sure it would correct itself. He suggested that restaurants give leftovers to needy people and ran Coxie’s Army out of the Nation’s Capital at gunpoint.

The economy was a shambles by 1933, when Roosevelt took over. FDR reregulated Wall Street and stimulated the economy. He did the later by pumping billions into the government projects. He put people to work and built infrastructure. By 1937 the people had forgotten all that. They believed it was time to get back to the balanced budget and stop deficit spending. The economy tanked. The depression was so deep that it took a war to get us out of it.

In Washington D.C. it’s 1937 again. They want to quit spending money, cut the deficit and let the economy correct itself. Something tells me that history is going to repeat itself again. Good Luck with That!

Shaking Hands With The Unemployed

Nobody has summed up the idiocy of the Senate’s holdup of the unemployment extension better than Rachel Maddow. Nobody.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What she points out so adroitly here is that unemployment benefits aren’t just good for the jobless. It’s good for the economy as a whole. I don’t know what the exact stats are exactly, but I’ve heard it quotated frequently, that for every buck that goes out in unemployment benefits in times like these, $1.35 is generated in the American economy. That’s because these are dollars that are turned over so quickly and so efficiently that it’s that beneficial to the economy as a whole. So these Republigoats, they’re not just being scrooges here to the jobless, and they’re not just denying the lazy and shiftless a free lunch, neither. No, friends, they’re TRYING EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO STOP THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY IN ITS TRACKS.

To make matters worse, they’re also taking a big fat dump all over the memory of one Thurgood Marshall. WTF, guys? Thurgood Marshall? Really? REALLY? Why not just drag Bambi into the hearing room and field dress him alive? Huh?

And hey, remember how President Obama was going to come over to your house and take all your guns away from you? Well, guess what? John Roberts (who, I have to remind you, looks exactly like Otto from “Airplane!”) and his bunch have now made it so you can have a gun or a mace or whatever you want everywhere you go! Yay guns! It just strikes me as so friggin’ odd that conservatives are so all about guns even though it was a kook with a gun who very nearly took out their vaunted superhero Ronald Warson Raygun. But, what the hell. Let’s just everybody get ourselves all armed up. James Brady be damned.

This country. Is losing. Its mind.

Robert Byrd

Sure, he was kind of a mixed bag.

It’s true that he joined the Klan at age 24, that he filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that he was at one time in his life an unabashed racist, that as late as 2001 he was on the record as using a certain word that begins with the letter “n,” and that he also really liked to bring money home to West Virginia.

But he also castigated his colleagues for the dearth of real debate regarding the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq. He was an unstoppable critic of the previous administration and an utterly outspoken advocate for health care reform.

He was also, I think, evidence that even those Americans who succumb to this nation’s most base, most vile cultural instinct, that those who opt to hate or otherwise distinguish an entire group of people based on pigmentation and other physical features and the history represented thereby, even those folks, Byrd was evidence that even they can be redeemed.

Is the last of the old guard of liberals finally gone?

Gen. McChrystal Gets His Life Back

So President Obama told McChrystal to pack his duffel today. I don’t think he had much choice in the matter. But one can’t help but wonder if Obama actually affected a policy change regarding Afghanistan today as well as a change of personnel. He said he didn’t. But we’ll see.

One thing’s for sure: This may be the most powerful thing journalism has achieved in decades. As Sam Stein points out, a little ink managed to give McChrystal the old heave-ho when other scandals, including the cover-up of the death of Pat Tillman, couldn’t.

Other interesting shouts from Leftblogistan:

Why does Mike Huckabee spend so much time thinking about gay sex?

You too can write a Richard Cohen Column!

The Infrastructure Expectation and D.C. Metro

One point I failed to make in my previous post regarding infrastructure.

I argued in that post that key to solving the energy crisis is the larger issue of infrastructure. I wrote as an example of my own ability to never ever hardly drive because I live in the D.C. Metro region, an area that has historically invested in the public transportation infrastructure.

What I failed to write was “what have ya done for me lately.”

Today is a year since I’ve been on a Metro train. Metro has been working for years to scare the living shit out of me and to convince me to ride buses instead. A year ago, those trains killed nine people and at last forced me to a more time-consuming but more reassuring commute. I mainly stopped riding because I was sick and tired of the trains stopping underground; I don’t like the feeling that gives me, not after I was stuck underground for 20 minutes when Foggy Bottom caught fire a few years ago, and not after 9/11. It’s not a rational reason. But it’s mine.

But then you see some stories. Like how this one train was taken out of service and blasted through like six stops before someone realized that there were two women aboard the train, held hostage by their own attempt to commute. Or, there’s the recent story of a bunch of ten-car trains on the track when they’re only supposed to use an eight-car train or fewer (this leaves the last two cars of the train stuck in the tunnel). Or, there’s shit like this:

So it’s not surprising to me that a report by The Washington Post says that, one year following the fatal wreck, Metro’s record on safety has not improved, and that this is in part due to a failure to invest in the system and in a failure to regulate it as well.

The part I forgot to mention is that the Washington Metro system is in a shambles, and there is precious little being done to improve and invest in this system that I’ve been riding since I’m 12 years old, even in the wake of nine dead people. That is the sad truth regarding what once was one of the nation’s finest commuter rail systems. And it is why I’m likely to be a bus guy for the duration.

Props to unsuckdcmetro.

It's Right In Front Of Your Face

Or, rather, north of it.

Evidence, that is, that regulation isn’t just some silly hogwash come up with by lilly-livered nanny-state homos with nothing better to do than to interfere with good old-fashioned, red-meat capitalism.

Blame Canada.

“We should be proud of the performance of our financial system during the crisis,” [Canadian] Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

He recalled visiting China in 2007 and hearing suggestions “that the Canadian banks were perhaps boring and too risk-adverse. And when I was there two weeks ago some of my same counterparts were saying to me, ‘You have a very solid, stable banking system in Canada,’ and emphasizing that. There wasn’t anything about being sufficiently risk-oriented.”

The banks are stable because, in part, they’re more regulated. As the United States and Europe loosened financial regulations over the past 15 years, Canada refused to do so. The banks also aren’t as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.

There was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don’t package mortgages and sell them to the private market, so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.

Imagine that.

Something Good About Kansas

It’s almost a ritual in every political campaign for the parties to seek the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce. Even if you are a Democrat and do not have a snow-ball’s chance of getting the nod from the big money business guys, you play the game and ask for their endorsement. So I have to say I am impressed with Tom Holland, the Democratic Party candidate for Kansas Governor. He told the Chamber to go piss up a rope.

Of course, Holland got a big bump in the news cycle for dumping on the Chamber, proof, perhaps, that he is going to be more than a handful for the popular and well-funded Christofacist Sam Brownback, who is running for the GOOP. Holland used the moment to tie Brownback to big business interests that have no interest in the average Kansan. The Chamber made this easy.

The Democratic candidate cited Chamber statements last year comparing people using government services… who include “the elderly, the vulnerable, school children and struggling families” to “animals feeding at the government trough.”

He cited Chamber support for a bill that would have stopped enforcement of controls aimed at greenhouse gasses, a measure that was supported by the state utilities because it was seen as a better alternative to federal regulation. The primary reason for supporting the bill, Holland said, was politics, not the best interests of Kansas. It seems the disputed legislation was the brainchild of Tim Huelskamp, GOOP candidate for Congress, and the Chamber wanted to make him look good.

Finally, The Chamber opposed a, $8.2 billion transportation plan that Holland said would create jobs and attract new business to the state. The Chamber is putting tax cutting GOOP ideology over the best interests of the state, Holland said.

The best thing about Holland is he is he is running a bare knuckled campaign, probably the only way to fight a battle uphill. At the same time it is an object lesson in how Democrats should run. As Brady frequently points out, when Democrats run like GOOPers, they don’t win. More Harry Truman, less Tru Deeds.

Death Penalty Redux

There is a guy in Utah who is due to be officially killed. He wants it to be done by firing squad, which apparently has caused some controversy. What follows is a post from Papa Bonk in 2006, which still has some relevance:

I do not believe in the death penalty. But like a lot of things I don’t believe in ”the invasion and occupation of Iraq, SUVs, tax exempt churches, criminal penalties for drug use” we have them and we will continue to have them until Americans get as smart as I am. Not likely that will happen in my lifetime. So just a few thoughts on this foolishness about lethal injections that fail.

The most humane method of executing someone, from the perspective of the victim, is probably the guillotine. I suspect it is no scarier to be led up to the blade and be laid out on it than being led to a scaffold or an electric chair or strapped to a gurney. You are aware the whole time that you are in your waning minutes, and the devices you see will kill you. At least with a guillotine, it’s fast and probably not very painful. I suspect the same could be said of a quick shot to the head with a 12 gauge, or a 30 calibre bullet to the heart (which, as I recall, is what they do in Utah).

The problem with these quick and easy methods is that from the perspective of the killer, they leave lasting impressions. I hope I can report with some satisfaction and sense of human progress that we no longer take joy from lifting heads out of the basket and displaying them to the crowds. Still, whacking off a head is a messy business. It would require that someone clean it up, wash down the killing room, remove the separate parts. Same for the shot to the head. Shot to the heart is less messy, but they say they use a full firing squad with only one person having a bullet so that the shooters don’t know for sure that they caused the death…deniability, the theory is, spares the conscience. And what if one misses? (And why is it that firing squads are queasier than hangmen?)

Hanging was for many years viewed as a humane way to do it if you tied the rope right. It is the oldest of the no muss no fuss methods. So clean, in fact, that lynching crowds in the American south often cut off body parts before the hanging, just for sport, and the Brits did the drawing and quartering thing.

In modern times, however, we have sought out “humane” ways to kill that did not leave a mess. The electric chair, for example. No one seemed to be too bothered by the smell of singed hair and cooked brains. In general it left an intact package that could easily be carted off. Gas was used for a while in some states. California used it on Carrol Chessman, and the Feds used it on the Rosenbergs.

The lethal injection seems to be the perfect killing tool for those who want to think they are being humane and also want to avoid the problem of mopping up. So why is it so hard? Apparently the guy that first recommended it suggested a complex drug cocktail that would do its work fast and painlessly…but only if administered just right, which of course, no one seems to be able to do. Incompetents are everywhere, even in the killng rooms of our nation’s prisons.

Let me make a suggestion. Use morphine. Lots of it. 1,000 milligrams. Maybe More. It’s clean. It’s painless, and if you screw it up the victim won’t give a shit. He’ll just ask for more.