Daily Flog: The Wall Street bear, the Capitol Hill bull; Kucinich irrelevant but his bailout plan isn’t


Running down the press:

Face it: Capitol Hill’s bailout schemes are Marxist. The only question is which Marx: Groucho or Karl?

House Finance Committee Chairman Barney Frank opts for the former.

His tragicomic analysis last weekend came in a Wall Street Journal story that is one of the finest pieces of journalism yet on the bailout maneuverings. Read the September 29 story for free on The Australian site; here’s the key passage, which you may have seen but bears repeating:

Democrat Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Finance Committee, became frustrated that Mr Paulson appeared to be arguing for softer language on the executive-pay rules, arguing that executives at these companies shouldn’t be handsomely paid.

“Let’s not get emotional,” Mr Paulson responded, according to someone in the room.

Mr Paulson also objected to language that would give a new oversight board power to control how the new program would be run. “All we’re talking about is having Groucho, Harpo, and Chico watching over Zeppo,” said Rep. Frank, before Democrats backed off.

By the time the meeting ended around 5.30pm in Washington, lawmakers were breaking up into smaller working groups. Sandwiches and pizza were delivered later in the evening. Many lawmakers continued grazing on a big bowl of pistachios in Speaker Pelosi’s office.

Nuts to them.

The best bailout plan so far may be the one pushed by Dennis Kucinich, whose House floor speech calling for a real bailout for the doomed majority of Americans was cut off by the Democratic leadership.

Kucinich’s clever plan is aimed at protecting millions of Americans after — no matter what manner of bailout Congress approves — the shit inevitably rolls downhill from Wall Street.

See “Kucinich: Bailout Must Protect Home Ownership” — on his own site because even the press belittles Kucinich and other little guys — for his letter to Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and backup material from an Emory University prof. And see his full September 30 statement, reproduced in the tiny Cleveland Leader.

Kucinich is this century’s H. Ross Perot — but unlike Perot, Kucinich has a social conscience.

Speaking of those who don’t: What the “free-market” advocates won’t face is that their 21st century corporate-welfare plan is also straight from Karl Marx.

As Martin Masse of Toronto’s National Post business page noted on September 29 in ‘Bailout marks Karl Marx’s comeback: Marx’s Proposal Number Five seems to be the leading motivation for those backing the Wall Street bailout’:

In his Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, Karl Marx proposed 10 measures to be implemented after the proletariat takes power, with the aim of centralizing all instruments of production in the hands of the state. Proposal Number Five was to bring about the “centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.”

If he were to rise from the dead today, Marx might be delighted to discover that most economists and financial commentators, including many who claim to favour the free market, agree with him.

Indeed, analysts at the Heritage and Cato Institute, and commentators in the Wall Street Journal . . . have made declarations in favour of the massive “injection of liquidities” engineered by central banks in recent months, the government takeover of giant financial institutions, as well as the still stalled US$700-billion bailout package. Some of the same voices were calling for similar interventions following the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2001.

Hail, Freedonia!

But that jingoistic pledge of allegiance to the “Land of the Spree, and the Home of the Knave” that Groucho ran into the ground in the Depression-era Duck Soup (1933) won’t help the average American hang onto the commune he or she bought with an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Angry voters deluged Congress earlier this week when details of the first corporate-welfare bailout were revealed — see this morning’s New York Times story “Labeled as a Bailout, Plan Was Hard to Sell to a Skeptical Public.”

Now the market has staged a revival and a revised bill faces a vote later today in the Senate, but the pols — only a few weeks from the election — wised up, refusing to reveal its details until shortly before the vote.

We no doubt will eventually be trampled by Wall Street’s raging bulls — once the bailout bill restores their dominion over the bears — but things could always be worse. As the Times reports this morning in “Stampede in India Kills at Least 147”:

A religious festival in northern India turned into a horrific deadly crush on Tuesday as thousands of Hindu pilgrims stampeded at a temple shrine, piling into one another on a treacherous walkway slick with spilled coconut milk. Officials said at least 147 people, mostly men, suffocated.

Television showed dead pilgrims strewn on the narrow walkway near the Chamunda Devi temple, at the southern edge of the 15th-century Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, in the western state of Rajasthan. It was the second deadly religious tragedy in the past few months in India, where pilgrim stampedes are not uncommon. The victims were suffocated as they rushed down a narrow path from the temple 150 yards above, officials said.

Tuesday was the first day of a nine-day festival called Navratra that celebrates nine incarnations of the Hindu mother goddess Durga. Between 2,000 and 3,000 pilgrims were present when the stampede began about 6 a.m.

Don’t cry over spilled coconut milk; today’s another day. While you try to steer clear of Wall Street’s latest incarnation of a corporate-welfare bill, have another triple-shot espresso and take a break for some browsing . . .


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Scotsman: ‘Teenager in £7 million lottery win toasts luck with beans’

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BBC: ‘Iraq remains “locked in conflict” ‘

Washington Post: ‘Bush’s Warnings of Danger Are No Longer as Powerful’


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Register (U.K.): ‘Movie giants sue RealNetworks over DVD copying software’

BBC: ‘US drone “kills six” in Pakistan’

Jurist: ‘Ex-CIA official pleads guilty to wire fraud in defense contract corruption case’

Washington Post: ‘Those Up for Reelection Have Explaining to Do’

BBC: ‘Bail-out hope sends shares higher’

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Register (U.K.): ‘Secret Service camera bought on eBay’

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Jurist: ‘US Senate approves expiration of moratorium on offshore oil drilling’

BBC: ‘Canada PM faces plagiarism claim’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘911 call led to loopy Heather Locklear arrest’

nineMSN (Australia): ‘Wealthy investors hoard bullion’

Slate: ‘Your DVD Player Sleeps With the Fishes’