Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

StormyMondayWill HHS Secretary Sebelius fall on her sword? Will Websitegate force Barack Obama from office? Will Republicans ever shut their damn mouths and concentrate, for once, on doing something positive, rather than devoting all their time and tons of public money to futile attempts at de-legitimizing this President? No, no, and hell no.

After initial refusals, followed by scheduling issues, it now appears that Secretary Sebelius will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect majority members on the Committee to grandstand vigorously, hoping to compile some tasty video clips they can use for next year’s reelection efforts when they try to convince their constituents to save them from having to go and earn an honest living for another two years.

Wednesday morning, the 29-member Conference Committee holds its first meeting on the budget. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on a way forward? Can anything actually get done? Well, one thing that might get done this week is the passage of a House resolution formally giving the President a wag of the finger for having the colossal temerity to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7.  Laissez les bipartisan temps rouler! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

Stormy Monday, 10/14/13

StormyMondayCan Wall Street talk sense to Congressional Republicans? It’s a trick question, of course; nobody can talk sense to Congressional Republicans. Still, all eyes will be on the financial markets Monday as sluggish negotiations to reopen the government and avert a default continue.

After a weekend marked – make that marred by contrived freak show events, Debtpocalypse, a mere three days away, begins to seem almost appealing, like Snake Plissken triggering a global EMP at the end of Escape from LA. From the grubby spectacle at the World War II Memorial, featuring a joint appearance by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz (picture two egos the size of Macy’s parade balloons vying for attention) to the farcical Truckers Ride for the Constitution protest (which caused less traffic disruption than the recent surprise lunchtime stroll to Taylor Gourmet by the President and Vice President) to the supremely offensive display of a Confederate flag outside the First Family’s residence, Republicans have spent most of the weekend scribbling new chapters in the history of American public service. Poorly.

If you’re curious about White House doings this week, a visit to whitehouse.gov won’t provide much information, but you will see this message:

Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, the information on this web site may not be up to date. Some submissions may not be processed, and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries.

Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman will head the US delegation as representatives of the US, France, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and Iran meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva to discuss curtailment of Iran’s nuclear program as a quid pro quo for a limited reversal of sanctions. On Sunday, Iran refused to comply with a demand that it ship its uranium stockpiles abroad, a demand Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi called “a red line.” While President Obama’s late September phone call with Hassan Rouhani, his Iranian counterpart, might not have signaled the new morning in relations between the two nations many had hoped, there’s still reason to remain hopeful. After all, House Republicans – as far as anyone knows – are not advising Iran’s leadership. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/14/13

Stormy Monday, 8/12/13

StormyMondayWell, it’s taken a full year, but finally something worthwhile is happening again in Washington. It’s DC Beer Week! This year’s list of events is long and varied; many will feature Solidarity Summer Ale, a limited-edition collaboration between over a dozen Washington area brewers.

The 60-odd goats turned loose last Wednesday to tame the weeds at the perimeter of Congressional Cemetery will complete their work Tuesday and return to their home base, Eco-Goats, in Davidsonville, Maryland, with full bellies and the thanks of Christ Church and the nation. Despite its name, and the many dozens of members of Congress interred there, the cemetery has no government connection, as its website FAQ confirms:

Q. Do you have to be a Member of Congress (or any other requirement) to be buried there?

A. No. You just have to be dead.

President Obama and family hopped into Marine One and headed to Martha’s Vineyard over the weekend. Apparently it was the first presidential flight to be accompanied by the fancy, newfangled tiltroter MV-22 Osprey, several of which ferried press, White House staff and Secret Service personnel to the Vineyard. The Obamas’ fourth vacation on the island ends August 18.

This was supposed to be the second week of a two-week “sexual harassment therapy” program for San Diego mayor and übercreep Bob Filner. Instead, Filner has pulled himself out of the program and will be taking “some personal time.” Don’t worry, though, Payne & Frears, the law firm trying to keep Filner’s miserable ass out of jail, assures us that he will “continue treatment on an outpatient basis.” Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/12/13

Sunday Talks, 11/4/12

ABC’s “This Week” will feature White House senior adviser David Plouffe and Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie in a discussion of the final days of the race, as well as the latest ABC poll numbers. The . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/4/12

Digging Deeper: The Anthracite Syndrome

If you work in cultural studies, there’s a place where myth takes over from fact. The meanings of things often overpower words and lie deep in silence, tangled and forgotten. This week’s brouhaha brings up a case in point: Mayor Cory Booker may be nauseated by the criticisms of equity capital, but he of all people should remember the most egregious example of equity capital and be nauseated. Equity capital brought us slavery.

Equity capital has had a spin machine since the colonial era when the huge profits that exploded from the trafficking of human beings for three centuries were interpreted as a response to a demand for labor. Not so. Labor was available. Europe was facing economic depressions and wars; poverty was rampant, and those trapped by class, circumstances and history were eager to better themselves. The cost of keeping and maintaining slaves were not significantly different from paying wages to immigrants. But importing labor didn’t double down (or triple!) profits. Trafficking in slaves created a profit center even larger than the crops the labor grew and harvested. The key difference, the most significant reason for the growth of African slavery in the Americas was as the world’s largest profit center for equity capital firms.

Ship captains and planters didn’t have the capital to “buy” human beings; ship captains and planters didn’t organize international markets or set up legal codes that stripped slaves of every aspect of human liberty. All of this was done and assisted by equity capitalists and political arm-twisting. Firms in London, Liverpool, Newport, Charleston, Baltimore, Havana, and cities around the Atlantic rim organized men of wealth to purchase shares in ships with human cargo and create a fiscal and legal infrastructure on both sides of the Atlantic.

Slavery was a risky business. Disease wiped out the investment; even sailors on slavers (as the ships were called), died in record numbers. Abolitionists opposed the business. But the profits reaped made the capital risks and human costs seem miniscule. But Stanford- and Oxford-trained Cory Booker finds a silent place and missing ledger entries and voices no upset about the very forces that continue to see the world as a balance sheet.

When slavery ended, did equity capital reform? Did it question its profit-above-all approach, its strategy of ignoring any considerations other than profit and wealth? Or did it seek new opportunities? Trace the history carefully and you arrive at Mitt Romney—and Cory Booker and Harold Ford and Steve Rattner, who praise the benefits of the investments of equity without reference to its morality or history. Continue reading Digging Deeper: Cory Booker and the Anthracite Syndrome

TSW #20

Clinton isn’t the only one who could replace Obama (don’t get excited Joe Biden, it’s not you). There is Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who could appeal to moderates; Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who would appeal . . . → Read More: TSW #20

Sunday Talks 7/24/11

It’s another debt-centric lineup on this Sunday’s television talk shows, with White House chief of staff Bill Daley and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner covering all five of the major networks to discuss the troubled negotiations to raise . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks 7/24/11