Thursday, August 31, 2006

Keith Olbermann on Fascism

Last night Keith Olbermann gave a speech in retort to Don Rumsfeld's speech demonizing political opponents of their war. It was riveting and on the ball. This is a must see.


YouTube Link:

Hat Tip to Crooks & Liars:

On a side note: it's great to see a commentator willing to use language (BIG WORDS) that requires the avid listener to grab a dictionary. (Which I did) Oftentimes, TV personalities will dumb down their language in fear of making people feel insecure. Olbermann does not bother. His expectations are high and he knows the audience is not intellectually lazy. Besides, Olbermann knows the American public understands his words better than he can speak it.

Transcript, courtesy of DailyKos is below:

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis--and the sober contemplation--of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration's track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld's speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril--with a growing evil--powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld's, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the "secret information." It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld's -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England's, in the 1930's.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions -- its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all -- it "knew" that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic's name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History -- and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England -- have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty -- and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today's Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience -- about Osama Bin Laden's plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein's weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina's impact one year ago -- we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their "omniscience" as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have -- inadvertently or intentionally -- profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer's New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens-- must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart -- that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism."

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: "confused" or "immoral."

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular."

And so good night, and good luck.

Update: As you can imagine MSNBC and Keith Olbermann has been receiving countless number of emails about his show last night. If you are so inclined please email him as well. From the Agonist:

Email MSNBC & support Keith - now!

You think MSNBC is getting barraged by Rightwingers? Bet on it...please write them and support Keith's courage!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Oh My!

Above is a graphical illustration of housing values going back to 1890. It was produced by Yale economist Robert Shiller. This is scary stuff.

On a personal note, this past weekend I was hanging out with Bert for a night of insightful discussions and inebriated revelry. Instead, I was sobered by the economic predicament another old friend of ours currently finds himself in.

You see, my friend, I'll call him Big Bird, is currently in a situation many Americans currently find themselves in. He has a mortgage on their family home that has a variable rate component. As interest rates increase his monthly mortgage payments increase.

Furthermore, like many Californians, he owns several income producing homes that are currently in the same predicament. Rising interest rates that mean higher monthly payments. To make matters worse, the monthly payments are at a point where he consistently has to "feed" the assets. In other words, his monthly collected rent no longer covers his monthly mortgage payments (this does not include property taxes, insurance fees, etc.). So, Big Bird has to take money out of his salary or savings to cover the remaining expenses.

All the while, Big Bird refuses to accept the reality of the situation. He refuses to accept that the market could ever go down. He refuses to accept that he could lose it all. Big Bird rationalizes that "feeding" his assets is good since he is building equity. Afterall, isn't that the ultimate goal?

I aint so sure.

When I first graduated from College in the mid-90's I went to work for a small boutique commercial brokerage firm who I interned with while in college. Our main business was the sale of apartment complexes in California, and our inventory were foreclosed apartments direct from the banks. As you may recall, this was in the midst of the California real estate recession and apartment foreclosures were everywhere. I remember pitching apartment opportunities in San Diego and Orange County for as low as $20,000.00 to $30,000.00 per apartment unit. In today's' market those same assets could sell from $80,000.00 to $150,000.00, depending on the location.

Now, you might be saying, "that sounds like a slam dunk investment!" And you know what, it certainly was in retrospect. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20. Buyers for foreclosed assets in the mid-90's were difficult to find. A majority of investors, at that time, had been turned off by the market- i.e. had reached a level of market capitulation. No one wanted to buy income producing properties.

I remember calling prospective future owners about a great 45 unit opportunity in Santa Ana or Huntington Beach only to hear story after story about how they had lost their buildings to foreclosure. Each person had a different twist to their situation, but they all seemed to have similar components. All of the owners hurt by the market had, at one time, to "feed" their assets. Furthermore, they all reasoned that the market would never crash and that the extra money they put in would benefit them since it was building their equity.

Of course, this is all hog wash. When an investment no longer cash flows it is incumbent on the owner to make changes to alleviate the problem. If those changes are not effective it is important for an investor to learn to walk away or sell. In other words, when the signs become obvious it is time to reevaluate, reposition and run.

My early days of phone solicitation was a very early lesson in how I should approach my future investments. I have not forgotten those early lessons. I am hopeful that my friend Big Bird follows my advice, takes it in the gut and learns to walk away.

Hat Tip: Atrios: Link Here: