Look, we've had two choices all along: do this, or do nothing. There's an argument to be made for doing nothing. There's an argument to be made against doing the Paulson bailout. It strikes me that neither of these has been done, sufficiently. What happened today was the result of a lot of frustrations - the frustrations of a general public, many of whom do not understand the issues; the frustrations of conservatives who can't stomach this level of government intervention, and the frustrations of liberals, who, frankly, think this intervention isn't nearly enough. Of the three, I'd say the liberals are on to something.
But doing more - nationalizing banks, taking over various institutions... is simply unrealistic. We are not Europe. We are not that interventionist. The choice, as I said, was do this... or do nothing. I don't love the bailout; I think it's poorly thought through, debatable in its ultimate result, and not likely to save us. But... it's better than nothing.
Today's failure can be pinned, squarely, on Congressional Republicans - we know it, and they know it. Despite the excuse making, it's clear that conservative opposition - both in the GOP and among "blue dog" Democrats - was the key to this losing.
Two years later, I've been up, I've been down, and mostly I've been having the time of my life. I write pretty much every day - and I even admit that the occasional vacation is helpful. I have friends who write poetry, take pictures of flowers (and write poetry), and are way more serious about the issues than I am.
And I love them all.
I also love my Mom, who supports this thing and encourages me, and tonight her sister ordered to go back to writing my most recent post rather than chat with her... because she needs to know about this financial crisis thing.
Ninety thousand plus visits, 1250 plus posts, 1350 plus comments later, I'm still here, and thriving. I swore, last year, to link to things I'm proud of. Well, this year, I'm serious. For the next few days, a few greatest hits. And not, I swear, the Worst Songs Ever (although it has been pretty popular).
On the day we appear to have a bailout deal, perhaps it's worth discussing one of those things that will drive the discussion as we go forward - the politics of how we got here.
As much as I think "how did this happen" and "who can we blame" are not the most useful questions, it's no doubt that there will be a reckoning. We have to account for some of these decisions, if only to figure out how to not repeat them.
Off the mark, two basic theories have appeared - from the left, a simplistic, obvious argument against corporate greed that blames banks, unscrupulous lenders, and the Financial Wizards of Wall Street. It's a sort of standard, anti-big business line that Democrats always trot out, and it generally fits, sort of. Let's save that part, for the moment.
What is the Community Reinvestment Act? It's a Carter-era piece of legislation meant to deal with some 20 years (at the time) of redlining - the historical practice of banks drawing lines and keeping certain people (mainly blacks) out of certain communities. At the time of deep urban decline, and cities across the country struggling with urban blight, forcing banks to go back into neighborhoods they'd abandoned seemed like a necessary step. The CRA basically made investment in all the communities of urban markets a part of bank licensure.
According to the conservative theory, the emphasis on meeting various targets forced banks to offer loans to un-creditworthy customers, who couldn't possibly be expected to repay. This trend was financed, they argue, by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and grew over the years as Fannie and Feddie's management cast their lot with Democrats. In the nineties, President Clinton signed a revision of CRA that they say exacerbated these trends, leading to an overheated loan market, as Fannie and Freddie floated mortgage backed bonds to finance their bad mortgages, and the market demanded ever more bad loans to satsfy demand for mortgage paper.
And now it's all coming apart and Fannie and Freddie have imploded. QED.
For a New York Weboy, I've been pretty quiet about Charlie Rangel.
Outside of New York, I'm not really sure how many people understand the Rangel story, not fully, anyway. Rent stabilized apartments, vacation villa in Punta Cana... yeah, it's a scandal... but it's such a New
York scandal. And part of the New York reality is that, in many ways, it's meaningless in Charlie's district. And that's really where it should matter most.
New York is a collection of neighborhood, and in politics, the neighborhoods are very much characterized by some larger than life presence, usually a politician. It's not the same politician, or political level in every case - Chelsea's gay enclave is voiced, for instance, by State Senator Tom Duane and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The Upper West Side, for a long time, was voiced by someone like Ruth Messinger, until her career imploded with a failed run for Mayor. Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community is usually voiced by Dov Hikind... and so on.
It's impossible to minimize how much Charlie Rangel is the voice of Harlem. His seat, formerly held by Adam Clayton Powell, has historically been the voice of the urban black community, and Rangel has been that, for a very long time. He dominates the uptown political landscape, and like most of New York's political clubs, the uptown political scene is a cozy, insular world still handled, comfortably, with a lot of patronage and cozy relationships.
I'm not saying this to impugn scandal or graft - though there's some clear examples of that at the State Government level in Harlem, to be sure - but to explain why Charlie Rangel won't face a serious challenge to his power, now... or probably even two years from now.
Just to be up front - I didn't watch the debate. Instead I took a hot sauna in an 85 degree coffee shop all night. Fun!
As far as I can tell, I didn't miss too much. I feel like debates are one of those cultural touchstones we just have to have - what would we be, as a society, if we didn't arrange for the most contrived, least enlightening, least interesting series of forums designed to give us a view of the candidates as they never will be?
I said going in that I thought John McCain couldn't salvage his week. And apparently, he didn't. Despite a lot of positive reviews from pundits and reporters, Obama dominated post-debate polling, labeled the winner and winning over more of the voters he needs to win.
Watching the bits that are around on the web - and someone, really, should be embarrassed that there's not a direct, easy to find YouTube of the entire debate, without interruption - I was struck by McCain's inability to especially articulate a position. His attempts to sound "serious" leave him raspy and muttering (I think he has a breath control problem, myself), and he doesn't so much offer new ideas, as complain about old ones.
Though I've never been a fan of musical hybrids (ONJ/Tubes from Xanadu being the exception), this one brings together two too important icons to be ignored I think; still I found it difficult to pick a side to dance to
On a short, unrelated note: as a student of our marketing culture, I tend to watch ads a lot. My Mom doesn't, she thinks it's weird to pay attention to what's going on with commercial television in between the detective story part. I watch it kind of obsessively, because you can learn a lot from commercials... about who we are, what interests us, what works and what doesn't.
I'm always fascinated by Microsoft's advertising. Like a number of companies, I don't think Microsoft actually understands advertising because its success was never about getting the general consumer to like their product. It doesn't matter if you like Windows or not, if 89% of computers use it. It just is.
Plus Microsoft's people - Bill Gates, especially, but clearly others - think of themselves as big idea people. Thus they tend not to sell their products as practical, useful tools (if they did, they'd realize that Excel should be up front in their campaigns, for one thing), but as game changers that improve humanity... and we, of course, need improving.
I think these notions go a long way to explaining the frankly bizarre ads that recently showed up featuring Gates and Seinfeld. Lacking any real connection to Microsoft product, they seemed to represent some inner monologue about big ideas, and how things are interconnected. Mostly, though, they made no sense.
In its place, Microsoft launched a more direct assault on Apple's "I'm a Mac" with a rather witty response to the bespectacled "I'm a PC" presentation in those ads. "I'm a PC," of course, is almost everyone; and Microsoft's ad made the connections ("i wear jeans." "I study genes." "I design jeans.") that showed the PC's reach.
Just one thing... what does that have to do with Microsoft?
What's really smart about Apple's campaign - yes, yes, I'm a Mac - is that it doesn't really run against Microsoft as much as it does the "DellWinTel" model of PCs with Intel cards and Windows operating systems. Yes, they've made fun of various aspects of Vista, but in the context of the problems it causes the pooter, not in itself. Microsoft's ad, while charming, falls into the usual trap - okay, we're all PC... now what? Nothing underlines it quite so well as the final clip of Deepak Chopra (fresh? current? why him?) expounding on the "I'm a human being" line. Portentous, overthought, and... unrelatable.
I mention all of this because the real punchline is this: like most advertising, the "I'm a PC" ad... was built on a Mac. And several of the spokespeople in it - Eva Longoria Parker, Pharrell Willimas, and, well, Chopra - are actually Apple users and supporters. And I'm just a human... giggling.