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Archive for September, 2008

What a week it’s been. The $700,000,000,000 “bailout” or “rescue” package, the McCain/Obama debate, and now word that Citi Group has bought Wachovia has given the news networks just about reason enough to be 24-hour. As usual, though, Past & Prologue will try to dig through the noise. Today, the New York Times and Washington Post are both reporting on a story, we think deserves your attention and will warrant close coverage leading into the next administration – whoever that may be.

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Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are reporting today that the Treasury’s bailout plan is pushing forward through Congress. The plan is not without its detractors, however. See the flip side for a quick rundown and some irresponsible predictions…

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Last Sunday (the 14th) I attended a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where a number authors, ranging from Johnathan Lethem, to Johnathan Franzen, to Joan Didion spoke about new works, celebrated works, and the unfortunate state of frenzied hysteria we find ourselves in every four years or so. I sat in on a panel dubbed “The Consequences to Come” moderated by Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review, which was to discuss the looming 2008 Presidential Election. The panel was decidedly pro-Obama, with Mark Danner, Ronald Dworkin, Darryl Pinckney and Joan Didion rounding things out. Each had their own assessment of how close Barack Obama would come to the White House, each voicing an understandably cynical prediction – it was, after all, one week after the Republican Convention and the unveiling of America’s newest sweetheart, Sarah Palin.

One speaker, in particular, was admittedly “depressed” by the GOP’s recent bounce. Ronald Dworkin – American legal philosopher, current professor at University College London and the New York University School of Law – had pleaded for previous speaker Mark Danner to “cheer him up with some favorable numbers.” After summarily disregarding Obama’s current poll position with regards to the “symbol-based community,” Danner left Dworkin to dwell on the rank possibilities of the Supreme Court under John McCain’s stewardship.

Dworkin said the Constitution stands to be left far worse than “more of the same” if McCain wins the White House. He argued that given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, in terms of age and ideology, many long-standing precedents regarding women’s rights, free speech and Affirmative Action would be completely overhauled given another four years of a GOP-led presidency.He stressed the key role Justice Kennedy has played, citing Kennedy’s record as a lynch pin.

In a Sunday Editorial, the New York Times concurred. “Under Mr. McCain, if a liberal justice or two or three steps down, we may see a very different America.” The veracity with which Dworkin spoke, left the assembled crowd just as depressed as he was. But, on the bright side, Gallup currently has Obama at +4…

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Let me introduce you to the National Security Presidential Directive 54 (NSPD-54) a.k.a. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (HSPD-23) a.k.a. the Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative (CNCI) or more simply, “Project 12.” All of these names refer to a multi-billion program proposed by President Bush in January of this year, wherein the basic goal of the program is “to better protect computer networks and systems, and to improve information technology processes and policies,” according to a NextGov article.

Pretty much everything else about this project is under lock and key. A few details have been forth coming over the last few months, but by and large, the initiative’s depth and breadth have yet to be released to the public.

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$700 billion + $85 billion + $200 billion = the amount of money the federal government has launched into the nation’s financial system over the last two weeks. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve are playing Monopoly, buying up all the real-estate it can: $29 billion worth of Bear Sterns (so Goldman Sachs could buy the bank for fractions of pennies on the dollar), some $200 billion for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac, $85 billion for American International Group (AIG), and as of Saturday – $700 billion for whoever else needs some allowance money for the next few weeks. And as if that weren’t enough, some argue there is over a trillion dollars of bad debt mucking up the financial system – so the government has raised its debt ceiling from $10.6 trillion to $11.3 trillion.

So much for the numbers; it’s good to have a nice baseline – a clear understanding of just how many gold $500 bills you’ll need as the banker in this game. And make no mistake, as taxpayers, we are all the bankers in this game of Monopoly, we just happen to be playing against other bankers who’ve run out of money. Now, usually when someone runs out of money in the Parker Brothers’ game, they curse and run off or fetch some collateral from Grandma. But this is no game – this is real and Lehman Brother’s just lost their building on Boardwalk, in Midtown Manhattan, to British investment firm, Barclays. (more…)

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The fate of the world will be decided in less than seven weeks – McCain/Palin or Obama/Biden – the fat is in the fire, it would seem. Past and Prologue is slowly coming back to life, so be on the lookout for increasingly frequent, random updates concerning all things Election 2008, end-of-year government procurement, and some special comment on the apparent callapse of capitalism (or maybe just the callapse of Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, et al.)

The wheels are set in motion – check back on Monday, September 22 for updates galore!

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