Krugman lays it down

The bank bailout plan is a stinker, sez Paul Krugman:


Over the weekend The Times and other newspapers reported leaked details about the Obama administration’s bank rescue plan, which is to be officially released this week. If the reports are correct, Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, has persuaded President Obama to recycle Bush administration policy — specifically, the “cash for trash” plan proposed, then abandoned, six months ago by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

This is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair.

After all, we’ve just been through the firestorm over the A.I.G. bonuses, during which administration officials claimed that they knew nothing, couldn’t do anything, and anyway it was someone else’s fault. Meanwhile, the administration has failed to quell the public’s doubts about what banks are doing with taxpayer money.

And now Mr. Obama has apparently settled on a financial plan that, in essence, assumes that banks are fundamentally sound and that bankers know what they’re doing.

It’s as if the president were determined to confirm the growing perception that he and his economic team are out of touch, that their economic vision is clouded by excessively close ties to Wall Street. And by the time Mr. Obama realizes that he needs to change course, his political capital may be gone.

I think the operative phrase is "clouded by excessively close ties to Wall Street." Both Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke are creatures of the massive entitlement culture that spawned the erstwhile Masters of the Universe. Basically, instead of following the "nationalization" plan of seizing the banks and placing them in receivership until their assets are rehabilitated -- a model that served us well during the last Bush-era financial brouhaha, the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s, and a model that rescued the Swedish economy -- Geithner wants to purchase the "toxic" mortgage-derivative assets held by the banks at a far higher price than that at which the allegedly infallible free market values them. And he's willing to give them subsidies in order to do so.

Once again -- privatizing the profits, socializing the losses. Damn it feels good to be a banksta.




Meet the new boss

 Part of the problem inherent in the many-armed bailout of the financial sector is that it hasn't been clear exactly who's in charge. Prior to and during last fall's financial meltdown, it was clear that the money men were calling the shots -- and the grim aftermath of that orgy is apparent to everyone.

President Obama was catapulted into office largely on the hope that it would be he -- and, by extension, us -- who was now in charge. But it seems that the bankers are still calling the tune. Obama's apparent impotence in the face of the AIG bonus scandal, for example, seems to speak to the pervasive influence that the financial sector still weilds over the legislative process.

And now, as the next stage in Obama's bank rescue plan goes forward, the banksters are still acting as if they didn't torpedo the whole economy, as if they are still somehow entitled to the largesse they took for granted. From the NY Times:


But some executives at private equity firms and hedge funds, who were briefed on the plan Sunday afternoon, are anxious about the recent uproar over millions of dollars in bonus payments made to executives of the American International Group.


Some of them have told administration officials that they would participate only if the government guaranteed that it would not set compensation limits on the firms, according to people briefed on the conversations. The executives also expressed worries about whether disclosure and governance rules could be added retroactively to the program by Congress, these people said.

I went into the wrong line of work. Shoulda been a banksta.


H/T Atrios

Bring on the World Cup


World Cup qualifying is back!

For soccer nerds, this is the time you begin to salivate in advance of the World Cup -- which this time around will be played in South Africa next summer. It's the first time the tournament will have ever been staged in Africa, incidentally.

I should mention that next year's World Cup is the men's tournament. And as a matter of fact, a caveat: all the soccer optimism displayed below is for the men's team, because the U.S. Women's team is the best in the world, the defending Olympic champion, and two-time winners of the World Cup. The U.S. men play in a looooong shadow.

Anyway, we've reached the final round of qualifying, dubbed the "Hexagonal" because there are six teams left -- Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Trindad & Tobago, and the United States. Our regional federation is called CONCACAF, and comprises North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Each nation plays each other nation twice, home and away, for a total of ten games per team. At the end, the top three teams advance to the World Cup. Standings are kept by awarding three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. After one game, a 2-0 home win over Mexico, the United States is tied for first place with three points. The U.S. plays its second match against El Salvador on Saturday. The game will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

The thing is, we are easily the class of the region, and have been for some time. Mexico was a colossus for years and years, but they haven't managed a win on American soil in 10 matches. Mexico's recent past has been full of painful losses to the Americans, including a memorable 2-0 elimination from the 2002 World Cup. We should easily finish in the top three, and will likely finish first.

It's really a relatively new, and strange, feeling as a fan of the U.S. national team. We're actually a respectable side now, and elite soccer nations no longer consider a game against us to be an easy win. It's a product, I think, of several generations growing up with the game. We still have a culture that draws our best athletes into basketball and American football, but the pool of talented young soccer players has grown to the point that we can field some pretty good footballers.

And just as importantly, as you can tell from the roster for Saturday's game, there are lots of Americans playing professionally in Europe, and some are even holding down starting positions in top leagues in England and Germany. Constant competition against world-class opposition will only make them better, and there are talented youngsters coming up all the time.

It's a good time to be an American soccer fan.


Theater and healing: An conversation with the production company of "A Sunbeam"

The play's the thing. Theater offers reflections of reality but can it serve as a specific tool in tackling problems? Jo Ann and Dave talk with members of PassinArt: A Theater Company about their production of "A Sunbeam" by award-winning playwright John Henry. This unique production of a play about a family torn apart by problems includes "talk back" sessions with cast members and professionals from the Avel Gordley Center for Healing.

music featured in Che


Music featured in Che and played on the Old Mole March 23, 2009

"Conga Jam"; performed by Candido a Graciela; written by Candido Camero (Manhattan Productions Music, Inc.)

interview with Mark Andres

Listen to Mark Andres, currently showing paintings at Augen gallery in the Desoto Building.

Jazz In The Afternoon


My guest on March 18 will be renowned trombonist Sonny Russo,who has retired to the Portland area after his 60-year career.

Sonny will bring his own music and his inimitable stories!

We'll touch, musically, also on Dave Frishberg's 76th birthday coming up March 23, and Nat "King" Cole's 90th,which he would have celebrated this year on St. Patrick's Day.

Last week (3/4) we celebrated Dave Frishberg's 76th, early, but in style with our "Baseball and Jazz" feature. 

Thanks for all your warm calls; because of them, this show will be a spring-training annual!

Looking ahead to our following show,  on April Fool's Day, the subject from 2 to 3 p.m. will be humor.

15--MUSIC--THE BLIND OWL--A 3 min. piece by Raz Mesinai on mp3 for your pleasure Tuesday, March 17, 2009 1:00 AM


It is available on the cd titled "Resurrections for goatskin" by Raz Mesinai available on Tzadik label.  It is in the KBOO library in the new music section.


original email read:


Just sent this along for those who are interested in the novel.  A very short percussion piece named after the novel.  Raz Mesinai was born in Jerusalem and now resides in US..



14--TEXT--THE BLIND OWL--novel by Sadegh Hedayat in 2 part script

Hi gang,

Sending this out ... a very large project.  It is taken from an Iranian Surrealist novel written in 1937.  Grace is going to produce it and has filled the roles of Narrator, The Man, and The Old Man which are the only characters in Part 1.

She has yet to fill the Part 2 roles of The Wife, The Nurse, The Mother-in-law, Street vendor, Band of drunken policemen, The odds-and-ends man, The butcher and The brother-in-law.
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