Archive for ‘Politics’

March 25, 2011

Owning Your Home: Investment or Forced Savings?

Yves Smith contends that from a policy standpoint, it’s the latter. The graph below, showing real vs. nominal growth providing evidence for her claim. Via Naked Capitalism. Originally at VisualizingEconomics where the focus is on investment value of home ownership rather than social/economic policy:

A $10,000 house in 1890 would be worth almost the same in real dollars in 2010 but more than $350,000 in nominal dollars in 2010. Which matters to the home seller, real or nominal prices? If a seller is holding a mortgage then the question is: Can I sell for more or less than I owe? Since that loan amount is not adjusted for inflation then the nominal value is more important both the seller and the mortgage holder. It is when nominal prices fall that banks have trouble with high rates of mortgage defaults. But if you are looking at the long-term value of real estate as an investment (compared to stocks or bonds) then you need to take into account the real growth.

December 12, 2008

Curtailing the Tyranny of the Senate Minority

The title of this post is a bit on the dramatic side, but not inappropriately so, me thinks, given these all too interesting times. Good article by William Greider in The Nation on the Senate’s cloture rule, arguing for the necessity of changing it. Excerpts below. Emphasis added. Click here for the whole article.

If the Democratic Party intends to get serious about governing, it can start by disabling the Republican filibuster that gives the minority party in the Senate a virtual veto over anything it wants to kill. The chatter in Washington assumes that since Democrats failed to gain a sixty-seat majority, there’s nothing they can do. But that’s not true. Democrats can change the rules and remove a malignant obstacle from the path of our new president. Given the emergency conditions facing the nation, why should Mitch McConnell and his right-wing colleagues get to decide what the Senate may vote on? …

The last time the Senate changed the cloture vote threshold to overcome a filibuster was in 1975, when the Democrats reduced it from sixty-seven to sixty votes. This time, the level can reasonably be reduced to fifty-five votes to break the GOP’s stranglehold on major legislation. The argument for reform seems far more compelling now than it did in 1975. The filibuster ostensibly protects minority interests with the right to unlimited debate, but it has been used notoriously to accomplish the opposite.

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October 30, 2008

He Never Dreamed it Would Turn Out This Way

None of us is spared the specificity of a fate. Alan Greenspan’s fate is the loss, not of his head, but of his reputation. And as old as he is, virtually impossible to recover. Unfortunate and sad to be seen a fool near the end of life.

October 28, 2008

Damn, the Casino Exploded…Again

With the 30% loss (thus far) in wealth in the U.S., it’s worthwhile to step back and take an historical look at how this came to pass. Perhaps we can keep us from making the mistakes of the past again. Yes, again.

I highly recommend the 12 minute video below as preparation for the upcoming battle over the best way to re-regulate the financial markets. There won’t be any serious battle over whether to re-regulate. The Age of Friedman has ended. The best that the Friedmanites and one-note Supply Siders can hope for is that the Age of Krugman has not begun. But it may well have…

If you’d rather read the transcript than watch the video, click here.

October 25, 2008

The Technology Behind “It’s All Over but the Counting”

The new political social networking and campaign tools are not fundamentally concerned with information, but with action. Obama’s “ground game” is not good, it’s not great, it’s revolutionary. For now, that is. Each new two year election cycle will see newer and more powerful tools for reaching and mobilizing voters.

The five minute video below is instructive on the state of the art today. In it Joshua-Michele Ross of O’Reilly Radar interviews Jascha Franklin-Hodge, CTO and co-founder of Blue State Digital about “how technology is affecting politics and democracy in the U.S.” Click here for Ross’s full post at O’Reilly Radar.

In a manner of speaking, nerds rule.

Postscript: Technology + Charisma = (virtually infinite) Cash. The utility of this formula for political advertising is illustrated below.

                        Obama Purchases Ad Space On Side Of McCain’s Bus

From The Onion via

July 30, 2008

Having Fun With Electoral Maps

Want to see who’s leading in the all important Electoral College vote count rather than the headline of the moment “national polls?” Visit for a visual presentation of what is perhaps the most sophisticated interpretation of polling data available. If you do, check out their FAQ where they explain how they interpret and present the polling results.

If you want to try out different scenarios (what happens is Florida goes and Ohio goes blue and…), try the interactive map at Real Clear Politics.


Update: 8/04/08

Two more electoral maps worth looking at if you like the numbers game — and

July 23, 2008

The Best of Times? The Worst of Times?

Whether we live in the best of times or the worst of times (or both), no doubt we do live in both the blessing and curse of exceedingly interesting times. At the “worst of times” end of the scale, we find the “shock doctrine” and the rise of “disaster capitalism” as promulgated by Naomi Klein. Her book The Shock Doctrine is now out in paperback. If you’re not familiar with this, check out the first video below and/or the book at Amazon. The film is gritty, definitely polemical, but can open a worthwhile space for reflection on the history of the last 30 years as well as the current administration’s responses to the economic “shocks” of the failure of capital markets and the rapid rise of oil prices.

For a much more optimistic view of the world, take a look at the second video. Paul Hawken gives a brief introduction to his narrative of “blessed unrest” which he develops in his book of the same name, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. His enormous claim is well captured in the subtitle. Thanks to Chauncey Bell for his gift of a copy of the book.

The third video presents Hawken elaborating his story of blessed unrest for an hour at Authors@Google.

Both interpretations lie on the margins of the usual narratives about our times. The interesting stuff usually does. While I have issues with both, I’m happy to have them helping me in constructing an understanding of our world and in navigating in it.

June 22, 2008

At $500 Per Ad Maybe I’ll Run For Office Again

I guess it had to happen: prefabricated, easily personalized digital ads. And it’s happened for political as well as commercial ads. Check out this video from SlateV.

June 17, 2008

Why an Obama Landslide?

Why a landslide for Obama? That can be a long conversation, and I write short posts. So I point, first, to Frank Rich’s column in last Sunday’s NY Times. He provides a good and readable analysis for the forthcoming tsunami (switching to an oceanic metaphor). Rich also notes the mainstream media will not cover this interpretation of the election: It’s bad for business. A close race sells more advertising than a blowout. Click here for Rich’s article.

For my second illustration, I offer the video below which as of this writing has 2,353,851 views on youTube. If John Kerry was a “flip flopper” in the last election, worlds fail me in an attempt to characterize John McCain based on the evidence below. youTube + demographics = electoral nightmare for Arizona’s senior senator. Even if the major media continue their infatuation with the “maverick,” the web will show the world a different McCain.

June 9, 2008

The Counting is Over and the Shouting Has Quieted

Obama has achieved the nomination, “presumptively” of course. And Clinton, after her evening of “deranged narcissism,”* saw the handwriting all over the wall of the Media and Internet saying that her historic run had ended. What a bummer to go from candidate assured of being anointed to also ran…and also ran to such an upstart.

So it can be in life and in history. I remember a college professor of mine saying that the future can never be known because we cannot account in advance for “the genius, the prophet, the random event.”**

So while I do not claim to know the future (how could I if I can still remember that quote?), I will predict an Obama victory in November. Obama and David Axelrod, his head strategist, have laid out the emotionally compelling narratives for the campaign. Obama is telling some of them them now, as I write, in North Carolina, putting it into play for a Democrat for the first time in (almost) living memory.

Not only will Obama win, but he will win in an electoral landslide. The shouting-headed punditry will be as one shouting, “not since Ronald Reagan in 1980…”

These are changing times.

Fundamental text for understanding why people vote (and one reason why I am willing to predict a landslide): The Political Brain by Drew Weston. Click here to check it out at Amazon.

* Jeffrey Toobin. See the video below. Worth it for the triple take that David Gergen makes when the phrase is uttered. Click here for Toobin’s Wikipedia entry.

** Robert Nisbet. Click here for his Wikipedia entry.