Archive for February 10th, 2010

JK Rowling discusses the “fringe benefits of failure”

| February 10, 2010 | 1 Reply
JK Rowling discusses the “fringe benefits of failure”

In June 2008, J.K. Rowling gave this delightful and insightful commencement speech recognizing the upside of failure.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

How is failure essential? Rowling told the audience that it “strips away the unessential” and sets us free to see what really matters. Rock bottom can become “a solid foundation.” In fact, she urged that it is “impossible to live without failing at something.”

Rowling’s 20-minute talk is filled with nuggets of wisdom, and illustrated with stories about people with the courage to freely think and act, as well as those who dared to value empathy more than “rubies.”

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If Michael Moore ran for President

| February 10, 2010 | 1 Reply
If Michael Moore ran for President

At Truthout, Robert Naiman asks and answers what would happen if Michael Moore ran for President in 2012:

If Michael Moore were to run for president in 2012, it could be a game changer in American political life. For starters, it would likely shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least six months, and the American and Afghan lives that would be saved would alone justify the effort. If Moore announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination now, and followed up that announcement with a vigorous campaign focused on the struggles of rank-and-file Democrats, it would remobilize rank-and-file Democratic activists. It’s possible that he might even win; but win or lose, the campaign could arrest and reverse the current rightward, pro-corporate trajectory of our national politics, which is the predictable consequence of the failure of Team Obama to deliver on its promises from 2008, which in turn was the predictable consequence of the doomed effort to try to serve two masters: Wall Street and Main Street.

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Why financial reform will never happen

| February 10, 2010 | 5 Replies
Why financial reform will never happen

President Obama, 1/29/09:

…when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses — the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 — at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don’t provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads — that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.

President Obama, 1/14/10:

As we all know, our country has endured the deepest recession we’ve faced in generations. And much of the turmoil was caused by irresponsibility on the part of banks and financial institutions. Firms took reckless risks in pursuit of short-term profits and soaring bonuses, triggering a financial crisis that nearly pulled the economy into a second Great Depression.

My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed. And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people — folks who have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession.

We want our money back, and we’re going to get it. And that’s why I’m proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street. If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers.

New York Times, 2/7/10:

Just two years after Mr. Obama helped his party pull in record Wall Street contributions — $89 million from the securities and investment business, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics — some of his biggest supporters, like Mr. Dimon, have become the industry’s chief lobbyists against his regulatory agenda.

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street’s “buyer’s remorse” with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street “fat cats,” they may fight back by withholding their cash.

Though Wall Street has long been a major source of Democratic campaign money (alongside Hollywood and Silicon Valley), Mr. Obama built unusually direct ties to his contributors there. …

Wall Street lobbyists say the financial industry’s big Democratic donors help ensure that their arguments reach the ears of the president and Congress. White House visitors’ logs show dozens of meetings with big Wall Street fund-raisers, including Gary D. Cohn, a president of Goldman Sachs; Mr. Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; and Robert Wolf, the chief of the American division of the Swiss bank UBS, who has also played golf, had lunch and watched July 4 fireworks with the president.

Bloomberg News, 2/10/10:

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.

Any questions? And are trillion-dollar bailouts for these firms also a part of our “free-market system”?

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Kangaroo Courts and Show Trials

| February 10, 2010 | 1 Reply
Kangaroo Courts and Show Trials

A debate is raging over the wisdom of the administration’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in a civilian court in New York City. Those opposed to the decision assert that it’s simply too dangerous, that a military tribunal in Guantanamo would be better, and that it’s foolish to afford any constitutional protections to terrorists. They argue that KSM and other terrorists should be held under the law of war– that their actions were not crimes, but rather acts of war and are therefore undeserving of access to our normal criminal justice system. There is so much wrong with this way of thinking, it’s difficult to know where to begin to refute them. I think I’ll go on a point-by-point basis.

Those opposed to civilian trials initially cite security concerns. For example, see this bipartisan letter from six senators to Attorney General Eric Holder. The typical argument goes like this:

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial. As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge. Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

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