Monday, October 27, 2008

Restoring Hope: Viewing the World from the Ground-Up

After engaging in many conversations about the plight of this country and the world over the weekend, I felt a little worn down. All of the issues that surround the Presidential election combined with sifting through all the misinformation can be exhausting and dejecting at times. I woke up early Saturday morning to attend a mandatory class on working the polls as I will be doing on November 4th and was pleased to find the class packed with people of all ages anxious to spend their time helping others vote on Election Day. Viewing the election through your television screen for the past two years can wear you down and seeing active members of your own community eager to participate in the process is a good feeling. Coming out of that class I felt partially recharged and so today, I decided to ride that wave of optimism and go down to the Board of Elections to vote early.

I arrived a little before two o' clock and took my place at the end of a long line that stretched out onto the sidewalk. People were handing out fliers with the hope of swaying any last minute voters who had yet to make up their mind. I saw literature for voting yes on Issue 8, No on Issue 5, for Todd Portune, against Issue 6, and so on. Many of the people gathered outside had brought their younger children so their kids could be introduced to the voting process. There was a family in front of me where the mother was explaining to her young son why it was important to vote and why there were so many people in line. People of all colors and creeds were in generally good spirits as they exchanged smiles and engaged in small talk as the line snaked up the stairs and into the main section of the BOE. Election officials were on-hand directing the voters to empty voting booths and explaining the layout of the ballot.

As I shuffled through the line, I was reminded of a quote that I once heard from folk musician and activist Utah Phillips during a 2004 interview. In that interview Phillips said:

If I look at it [the world] from the top down, I get seriously depressed. The world’s going to hell in a wheelbarrow. But if I walk out the door, turn all that off, and go with the people, whatever town I’m in, who are doing the real work down at the street level, like I said, there’s too many good people doing too many good things for me to let myself be pessimistic about that. I’m hopeful, can’t live without hope. Can you?

As I was standing there today watching an elderly couple struggling to climb the stairs to get into the BOE, as I watched that little boy ask his mom questions about voting, as I watched a blind woman receive her ballot, I felt hope. I felt the hope of an active citizenry cut through all the sound bytes and negative ads and permeate through the racism and hatred of this campaign. I, like Utah Phillips, was forced to view things from the ground up and it gave me hope in what a unified people and in what an active citizenry can do. This hope and faith in people is important in times like these when we live in a world that bombards us with media sound bytes, sensational news stories, and views from the top; it is enough to make anyone pessimistic about the direction that we are headed. It is during those times, when the negativity is driving us to the point of insanity, that it is so important to take a step back and view the world from the bottom up. There are people who are doing very good work to move this society forward in the face of all that is stacked against us. That is what gives me hope and it is this faith in people that we all must depend on. We all have our vision of how we would like to make our community, our country, the world a better place, but these visions all must stem from the fundamental faith in people to unite, take action, and implement the changes necessary to move us forward.

Mark Johnson is filmmaker who just finished a documentary entitled "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music". It is a film that took Johnson ten years to make, but his belief that "No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we are all united through music" carried the project forward. Johnson was on the Bill Moyers Journal this past week discussing the film and why he chose to take on this project. Johnson said it quickly became evident that those involved with the film were representing the eyes of the children on the planet. He went on:

Because the truth is, they need us to inspire each other and to create a better world. I mean, there's so many problems now with the economy and with war and a lot of depression. But at the end of the day, there's also so much hope because I can assure you, all over the world, people are beautiful and they want to unite together.

Johnson traveled all over the world recording street musicians, viewing the world from the ground up, and uniting the world through music. He traveled to some of the most troubled regions of the planet and when Bill Moyers asked him what took him to those places of the world, Johnson responded:

Well, I think that in order to really unite people, you know, we have to show that in our darkest situations and in the places with the most struggles in the world, that we can find a way of uplifting each other out of it. I remember hearing somebody that said, you know, "The last person who knew why we were fighting died a long time ago."

We all know the world is changing. And we get to decide if it's changing for the better or if it's changing for the worse.

Hope during dark times is not idealistic, it is necessary. Faith in a united people is the foundation for moving us forward and bettering our lives. As the election draws closer, as more bombs are dropped overseas, and as the economy continues to slide, let's take a moment for a deep breath and look at the world from the ground up.

Below is a clip from the documentary referenced above with a brief introduction by Bill Moyers. The song is "Stand by Me", the musicians are from all across the world, and hopefully it will do a little bit to restore your faith in a unified people.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Iraqi and a War Veteran Speak Out for an End to Occupation

The Speak for Peace Tour 2008 came to Xavier University's Bellarmine Chapel last Thursday evening in an effort to bring voices from the Iraq War to Cincinnati, Ohio. The Speak for Peace Tour 2008 is put on by the American Friends Service Committee and has traveled throughout various cities in the country. The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization founded in 1917 and "carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world." The event was also co-sponsored by Xavier University's Peace & Justice Programs, Bellarmine Chapel, and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center. The Iraq War and its impact on human lives was the main topic as speakers Eugene Cherry and Raed Jarrar addressed the crowd.

Eugene Cherry is an Iraq War Veteran. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he worked as a medic and for a personal security detachment. He returned to the United States in 2005 with symptoms of PTSD and went AWOL for 16 months before turning himself in. He was given an honorable discharge and now is working with various groups, including Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) to tell his story about what is happening overseas. Cherry spoke of enlisting in the military with the hope of learning some medical skills that would aid him in his quest to become a doctor, but after his time in Iraq Cherry feels that he did more harm than good. Within American Culture, violence is too often embraced and when speaking within the context of the American military, Cherry says that they are often the perpetrators of such violence. Cherry spoke of the use of cluster bombs and their deadly impact on civilian populations and spoke candidly about the use of white phosphorous by United States forces in Iraq.

In 2004, after the U.S. assault on the city of Fallujah, independent reporters began to report that the United States had used chemical weapons on civilians during the assault. Reporter Dahr Jamail was one of those who began to report that he had spoken with Iraqi doctors who treated citizens who "had their skin melted". The U.S. initially denied having used white phosphorus during the assault, then said they had used it only to light up enemy positions at night, and then admitted that they did use the chemical weapon, but assured us that they did not target civilians. Eugene Cherry confirms that the United States did use this weapon and that the those within the military called it "shake and bake".

Cherry went on to speak about the role of private contractors and mercenary firms inside of Iraq as proof that the corporations are in the back pocket of elected officials. "With every war there is an underlying social and economic issue," Cherry stated. He went on to speak of his work with the contracting firm KBR and how KBR paid their local workers a small salary every month while some KBR contractors were earning up to $650,000 for their work. Cherry equated this treatment with slave labor.

The evening had been kicked off with the question "What really led us to this point?" and as Raed Jarrar took the floor, he reminded those gathered in the chapel that what has been going on in Iraq began during the first Gulf War. Jarrar is an Iraqi and following the fall of Baghdad in 2003, became a country director for the only door-to-door casualty survey group in post-invasion Iraq. He currently works in Washington D.C. as an Iraqi Political Analyst. "The same people who have been telling us lies, continue to tell us lies," Jarrar said. He sees two reasons that politicians use to explain why the U.S. must stay in Iraq. The first is for the security of the United States, politicians claiming that if the U.S. withdraws, Al Qaeda will take over. The second is for humanitarian reasons, if the U.S. withdraws, then all hell will break loose and the Iraqis will be worse off. Jarrar claims that both of these views are manufactured myths.

The humanitarian reason for staying in Iraq is based on the belief that Iraq is divided by sectarian hatred, Sunni versus Shite versus Kurd. "Iraqi's do not see it this way," Jarrar stated, "They [Iraqis] realize that it is political and economic, not religious." Jarrar finds that the United States has been taking the side (though at different points throughout the conflict) of Sunnis and Shites with the minority view against the majority of Iraqis. This can be seen if you look at the representation in the Iraqi Parliament which is largely made up of parties who advocate for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Jarrar stated that these very parties hold the majority of seats in Parliament yet hold no seats in the executive branch. This results in the Iraqi people voting in members of Parliament who want the U.S. to withdraw, but an Executive Branch that is aligned with Washington in allowing U.S. forces to continue the occupation. Jarrar feels that this is a disconnect that many members of Congress even fail to see. Jarrar told the crowd that if they wanted to see the view of the majority of Iraqis, to watch the demonstration that would be happening over the weekend in Iraq. The peaceful protest did happen on Saturday and drew tens of thousands of Iraqis who protested the continued occupation of their country.

I had a chance to get in one question during a brief Q&A session which I directed at both Eugene Cherry and Raed Jarrar. I asked them for the Iraqi's perspective on the presence of private mercenary firms (like Blackwater) and if Iraqis see any difference in opinion between contractors and U.S. troops. Eugene Cherry responded that it is problematic when you have contractors operating with complete immunity inside Iraq. He said the only distinction is that U.S. military operates under a set of laws that can allow for accountability, but contractors are not bound by either American or Iraqi law. Raed Jarrar gave a much more frank answer to the question. "They [Iraqis] do not care where the bullets come from or who is doing the shooting. People do not like to be occupied."

Both Eugene Cherry and Raed Jarrar call for a complete and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and reject both major Presidential candidates support for continuing the occupation and building permanent military bases inside of Iraq.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Their Raging Supporters

As I continue to watch the odd twists and turns of the election season, I cannot help but be somewhat taken aback at the level of anger that is being shown by the supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin. There have been outbursts during some of the speeches made by McCain and Palin calling Barack Obama a "terrorist" and the Secret Service is investigating whether a supporter shouted out "Kill Him" during a speech given by Sarah Palin in Florida. This level of anger from supporters has been invigorated ever since the McCain campaign has decided that the "gloves are coming off" in the remaining days before the election. This has resulted in increased attacks against Barack Obama for his association with William Ayers, a fear that Obama "isn't one of us", and has led Sarah Palin to famously quip that Obama is "palling around with terrorists." As John McCain desperately tries to attempt to put the genie back in the bottle, let's take a look at some videos and comments that have relevance to this discussion.

There has been some very interesting footage that has been circulating recently of McCain supporters waiting to get into speaking events. Take this video from outside an event in Strongsville, Ohio:

This type of sentiment has also found its way inside McCain rallies. During this clip, you can hear a McCain supporter yell "terrorist" in response to McCain's question: "Who is the real Barack Obama?":

This type of behavior has drawn criticism from some who claim that the McCain/Palin ticket has been fueling this type of behavior. This criticism has led to John McCain defending Barack Obama during recent town hall meetings and even getting booed by his own supporters:

All of this and Cindy McCain still believes that Obama is running the "dirtiest campaign in American history."

On October 10, Frank Schaeffer wrote an open letter to John McCain that appeared in the Baltimore Sun. Schaeffer supported John McCain his Presidential bid in 2000 and is the son of the evangelist Francis Schaeffer. Frank has worked in the past with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and has chronicled his life growing up with religion in numerous books. Schaeffer has come out in support of Obama and feels that the McCain campaign has released a dangerous hatred from within his supporters. Part of his open letter is below:

John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

At a Sarah Palin rally, someone called out, "Kill him!" At one of your rallies, someone called out, "Terrorist!" Neither was answered or denounced by you or your running mate, as the crowd laughed and cheered. At your campaign event Wednesday in Bethlehem, Pa., the crowd was seething with hatred for the Democratic nominee - an attitude encouraged in speeches there by you, your running mate, your wife and the local Republican chairman.


...John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that surround the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post- 9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter. You also know we are a bitterly divided country on many other issues. You know that, sadly, in America, violence is always just a moment away. You know that there are plenty of crazy people out there.

Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.

John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.

Frank Schaeffer also mentioned during an interview today, that this type of language being used by McCain and Palin is stirring up anger within certain subcultures within this country that resonate with Sarah Palin and her background.

Journalist Max Blumenthal is back from a trip to Alaska where he visited Sarah Palin's church of 20 years and interviewed people that Palin has been involved with during her political career including the former Chair of the Alaskan Independence Party Mark Chryson. (Video here) Blumenthal documented his trip in some videos, one of which is below:

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Actual Change and the Need for a Progressive Uprising

As this election season drags on and the race for President is getting more personal by the day, it seems as though we are learning little that is "new" from either major candidate. As has been demonstrated in both Presidential debates, Barack Obama and John McCain agree on many issues. Both have voted for the bailout, both advocate sending more troops into Afghanistan, both are advocating for the use of nuclear power for energy, both advocate unwavering support for Israel and on it goes. This alliance on many issues has some progressives scratching their heads as to what exactly an Obama administration will mean for the country. In fact, it is along these very lines which progressives are divided between supporting Obama and voting for a third party candidate. With under a month left before the election we all have to ask ourselves this question: Will an Obama Presidency produce fundamental progressive change for this country?

Barack Obama has been running on the idea of "bringing change" long before McCain jumped on the bandwagon. It was this message combined with Obama's charismatic ability to appeal to the younger generation that led to a largely progressive following. These supporters are obviously tired of the last eight years of rule under George W. Bush and are looking to take the country in a new direction. During the primaries Obama supported positions that excited the progressive community. He called for an end to the Iraq War and voiced opposition to FISA legislation that would give immunity to telecom companies. Since clinching the nomination, Obama has altered his language on Iraq and voted for FISA legislation that gave immunity to telecom companies. Actions such as these made some Obama supporters think twice about Obama's "progressive" message while others dismissed these changes in position as the traditional "move to the right" that Democratic candidates display after they make it through the primaries. Was Obama running to the left in the primaries and returning to his actual centrist beliefs or did Obama actually hold progressive viewpoints but feel he had to shift to the right in order to get elected? Many still claim that Obama must move to the right so he can get elected and only once he is elected can he implement his true agenda. Is there evidence for this view?

In July, Paul Street wrote a piece that is relevant to this discussion. In his piece, Street outlines Obama's political career and comes to the conclusion that there is no evidence that Obama is somehow a closet progressive that will implement radical progressive change once elected. Street claims that Obama is simply a typical politician with centrist roots. Street writes:

Obama's career prior to his emergence as a national celebrity and politician does not jibe particularly well with the "stealth progressive" hypothesis. During his seven years in the Illinois Senate between 1997 and 2004, Obama developed strong and interrelated reputations for limitless personal aspiration, for working closely with Republicans, for "pragmatic" compromise, and for staying close to the great hidden secret to success under the rules of American "market democracy" - corporate money [8]. As Ryan Lizza notes in an important recent New Yorker sketch of Obama's early political career, "Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them"

The important line in this quote is that at every stage of Obama's political career, he has "been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them." In addition to the examples of FISA, the Iraq War, and Israeli support, Street sites the following as other examples of Obama's eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions:

...he did things like:

* vote with Republicans to cap consumer legal damages ("tort reform").
* confirm the war criminal Condoleezaa Rice as (of all things) Secretary of State.
* lecture "bloggers" (Obama's new code name for the growing number of activists and voters who dare to openly disagree with Him from the left) on their need to show proper respect for U.S. Senators who approved the appointment of arch-reactionary opponents of womens' and civil rights to the rule-for-life Supreme Court.
* distance himself from Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA)call for early withdrawal from Iraq and from his fellow Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin's courageous criticism of American Gestapo-like practices in Guantanamo.
* lend his campaign support to pro-war against antiwar candidates in the Democratic congressional primaries of 2006 and otherwise distance himself from the movement against the Iraq War.
* advance the energy agenda of the nuclear and ethanol industries.

It seems as though many Obama supporters are putting their faith in his ability to fundamentally change the existing institutions that have moved America so far backward when Obama's actions over the years indicate that he is more willing to accommodate these institutions rather than tear them down. The conservative criticism that Obama is a closeted "socialist" and the Democratic belief that Obama is a closeted progressive, are both off base in this regard.

With this being said, is there any hope at all for any type of progressive change to be implemented under an Obama Presidency? To address this question it is necessary to recognize the power of corporate interests and lobbyists within this country. One of the criticisms of Bill Clinton was his shift toward more corporatist policies after running a populist campaign back in 1992. In this regard history could very well repeat itself. The next President will inherit a financial crisis like none we have seen since the Great Depression, a national debt that continues to grow, two wars, and a crumbling infrastructure. This financial crisis could provide the pretext for heavy pressure from Wall Street, to cut programs that are needed to reinvest dollars domestically that the United States needs. Think tanks and lobbyists could advise the next President that we simply cannot afford to expand our alternative energy resources or invest in healthcare for everyone. It is this type of pressure that could reignite the same failed polices of privatization that have led us into this mess in the first place. Naomi Klein recently articulated this point in an address to the University of Chicago:

I think it is a waste of your minds, your creativity, because all of these crises—climate change, the casino that is contemporary capitalism—all of these crises do demand answers, do demand actions. They are messages, telling us that the system is broken. And instead of actual solutions, we're throwing ideology, very profitable ideology, at these problems. So we need better ideas lying around.

We need better ideas responding to what a Barack Obama presidency would absolutely face. As soon as he comes to office, "Yes, you can" turns into "No, you can't; we're broke." No green jobs, no alternative energy, no healthcare for everyone. You know, his plan for—to give healthcare to every child in America costs $80 billion. Bailing out AIG cost $85 billion. They're spending that money. They're spending those promises. So, the people who are going to say, "No, you can't," who are going to use this crisis to shut down hope, to shut down possibility, are ready.

Klein reemphasized this point in her appearance on "The Colbert Report" last week. She stated that there are those who will advise an Obama administration that we are broke and cannot afford these changes. These will be the same people who will push for the privatization of things such as our infrastructure. This will be done under the banner that we must eliminate programs that are "unnecessary" and "wasteful". Obama (like McCain) has already stated that he will go through the budget "line by line" and eliminate "programs that don't work and aren't needed." Massive corporate interests are lined up, ready to pressure those within an Obama Administration to adopt policies that will work to uphold the very same institutions that have led us to the dismal situation in which we find ourselves today.

The view that Obama taking power will result in a complete reversal of where we are currently headed is misguided. This belief, that actual change is possible within the two main parties, is unfounded and not supported by history. All major movements for social change have grown out of movements which have forced the party in power to adopt policies that they can no longer refuse to ignore. From Women's Rights to Civil Rights this holds true and the circumstances today are no exception. It is here that there may be some hope around Obama's candidacy: With such a massive groundswell of support for this man there is potential for a movement to form in order to counter the influence of Wall Street, lobbyists and other corporate interests. It is first imperative to realize that Obama is not going to change things without overwhelming pressure from an outside progressive movement. If those who are progressively minded and have supported Obama walk away from the process after the election, then we will not have any hope for accountability. These energized progressives within the Obama campaign need to join with those who have been fighting within existing movements such as the anti-war movement, the media reform movement, or the environmental movement and hold a potential Obama Administration accountable. We live in times where putting faith in one man to change a system is not going to work. A powerful movement is needed to force a potential Obama Administration to adopt policies that they can no longer refuse to ignore.

Many of those who have been fighting this fight are already keenly aware of these problems. This is the reason that there is a very real fight to open the debates to third party candidates to address these issues and this is the reason that many people will either sit out this election or cast their vote for a third party candidate. Those who feel strongly about Obama's possibility must join with those who feel strongly about a unified people's possibility. Obama will not change things on his own, the people must force Obama to change, especially because Obama is a candidate that adapts to institutions rather than tear them down. The people must tear them down.

While a glimmer of hope is there, I fear that this will not happen. I fear that those who have fought this fight for years will be left to continue fighting while a group of confused Obama supporters wonder why things are still heading down the same path. I hope I am proven wrong because the United States can not take much more of this.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Conservatives, Progressives, and Bailouts...Oh My!

If you are like me then all of this talk of bailouts and economic disaster in the media has given me a giant headache. Conservatives are taking the same stance as progressives, talking heads are telling us that our economy is going to collapse if we do nothing, and others have claimed that we are on our way to becoming a socialist country. It is enough to make your mind spin and wonder what exactly is going on. Suddenly up is down and the next day down is up. Perhaps some comments from some leading minds on this crisis will help to filter out the madness.

We are getting hit with opinions from pundits and talking heads who have been wrong time and time again and only add to the absolute confusion of the current economic situation. Peter Bronson wrote a piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer today stating that using the term "bailout" is wrong in this situation because "A bailout is the kind of thing that happens when your brother-in-law calls at 3 a.m. from the county slammer, where's he locked up for mowing down mailboxes with his drinking buddy Jack Daniel's." He says that we should be using the term "rescue" because "A rescue is what the Red Cross does for victims of earthquakes, hurricanes and other calamities. A rescue is heroic - a selfless act of lifesaving courage. A rescue is for someone like me who deserves it. A bailout is for someone else who deserves a night in jail." He continues, "Nearly every headline and every glitzy graphic on the news calls it a "bailout." And it's wrong. We are way past welfare for Wall Street. Now we're talking about a loan to rescue Pension Street, IRA Boulevard and 401(k) Avenue." How could anyone be confused with that crystal clear analogy?

Lucky for us, Ken Blackwell has put his finger on the root problem of this whole economic mess. From his latest piece Blackwell says:

But we must look to the root cause. It is not the loosening of regulations from the Clinton years, or the push for home ownership by the administration and certain congressional leaders, or the corrupt practices at Fannie and Freddie, or the greed of financiers. All of those played a role. But those factors could not cause a collapse by themselves.

We have become a culture addicted to instant gratification and a fixation on the material. Increasingly, concepts such as duty, self-denial, hard work, delayed gratification, and patience have been swept away.

Wait a second, all of those factors (de-regulation, a push for a home ownership society, corruption, and greed) couldn't cause a collapse by themselves? Tell me more Mr. Blackwell!

The instant-gratification culture that has run rampant at the consumer end of the equation has now seeped into the lending end. Suddenly, when people apply for a loan for twice as much house as they could afford, the bank says yes...

...It may not be exciting to talk about teaching and following sound principles regarding debt management and prudent planning. It is even less exciting to talk about finding contentment and happiness in ways other than always needing to lunge after something newer, better - and more expensive.

Blackwell's solution, that of talking with people about "finding happiness" in other ways which run counter to the way our very society functions, is not helpful. Not only is his solution not helpful, but it implies that the population's actions have run independent from the very system that encourages the behavior of rampant consumerism. After all, I thought it was patriotic to go shopping? Let's interject some clarity into this discussion and turn to some voices that have been absent from the corporate media during this debate.

Economist Dean Baker, one of the people who accurately predicted this meltdown, recently wrote a piece in which he said:

There is no way that the failure to do a bailout will lead to more than a very brief failure of the financial system. The worst case scenario is that we have an extremely scary day in which the markets freeze for a few hours. Then the Fed steps in and takes over the major banks. The system of payments continues to operate exactly as before, but the bank executives are out of their jobs and the bank shareholders have likely lost most of their money. In other words, the banks have a gun pointed to their heads and are threatening to pull the trigger unless we hand them $700 billion."...

...There has been a mountain of scare stories and misinformation circulated to push the bailout. Yes, banks have tightened credit. Yes, we are in a recession. But the problem is not a freeze up of the banking system. The problem is the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. (It was remarkable how many so-called experts somehow could not see the housing bubble as it grew to ever more dangerous levels. It is even more remarkable that many of these experts still don't recognize the bubble even as its collapse sinks the economy and the financial system.) The decline in housing prices to date has already cost the economy $4 trillion to $5 trillion in housing equity. This would be expected to lead to a decline in annual consumption on the order of $160 billion to $300 billion.

Or how about the words of New York University economist Nouriel Roubini:

...the claim by the Fed and Treasury that spending $700 billion of public money is the best way to recapitalize banks has absolutely no factual basis or justification. This way of recapitalizing financial institutions is a total rip-off that will mostly benefit – at a huge expense for the US taxpayer - the common and preferred shareholders and even unsecured creditors of the banks. Even the late addition of some warrants that the government will get in exchange of this massive injection of public money is only a cosmetic fig leaf of dubious value as the form and size of such warrants is totally vague and fuzzy...

...Instead, the restoration of the financial health of distressed financial firms could have been achieved with a cheaper and better use of public money. It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. ... and it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners.

It is quite interesting that throughout all of this bailout discussion, much of the reporting being done by the corporate media has been within the framework of the Paulson Plan. There has been little to no talk of any alternative plans outside of amendments to the existing framework. Too often is it presented that a bailout is 100% needed and if decisive action is not taken soon, it could lead to a greater disaster. I have seen hardly any talk of alternative ideas and I have yet to see a roundtable discussion of different solutions between leading economists on a major network. Wouldn't this be an appropriate time to have this conversation to make absolute sure that we are taking the best road out of this mess? I tend to agree with Josh Silver of FreePress when he states:

The result is an American public that is fundamentally uninformed about the issues that matter most - like economics, health care, and war - and over-informed about those that matter least: sports, celebrity, the latest campaign ad, and horserace analysis of elections. We have no reason to believe that the press -- and along with it, most politicians -- will ask the tough questions, expand the range of debate, and bring the facts to the American people. But until they do, our economy - and our democracy -- will continue its race to the bottom.

We are a confused public and we are viewing the "solution" through a single framework that is being presented by the media as only one that we can consider. We need to expand the debate on this issue, but with the House set to vote (and potentially pass) the bailout plan on Friday, it looks like some of these voices will go unheard.

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