Historian Argues Bailout Is Far Cry From Socialism

While there are certainly arguments to be made in opposition to the recent bail out plan, Andrew M. Schocket writes at The History News Network that the plan is a far cry from socialism as many on the right claim. Partial government ownership of banks is also not unprecedented in the United States:

“Socialism!” That’s the alarm many conservative commentators and legislators are sounding about the latest development in Washington’s bank bailout scheme. Critics worry that the latest bank rescue plan will begin a slippery slope towards socialism or at least a day when government officials run American businesses, the American economy and, eventually, American lives.

But this isn’t the first time the U.S. government has held stock in banks, and the nation never turned to socialism. Unless the government’s investment in banks comes with effective government oversight, the real problem is that banks will continue to have too much autonomy rather than too little.

As part of the federal government’s financial bailout plan outlined over the past few days, President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson joined an international effort to help troubled banks by buying stock in them. Their hope is that the government’s investment will get the banks to lend more money. It would also assure bankers that the loans they give each other are safe (banks actually lend each other money on a regular basis). Then money will start flowing again between banks and to businesses that right now can’t get the credit they routinely depend upon. If the plan succeeds, when the economy finally improves and the stock market goes back up, the government could sell its bank stock and probably make a profit for taxpayers.

Despite some concern about the United States becoming socialist, partial government ownership of corporations, especially banks, dates back to the beginning of the nation. When the government did own a piece of banks, businessmen elected by bank shareholders — not government officials — sang the tune, much to the dismay of the legislators and their constituents who warned that banks had too little public oversight.

Many of America’s first banks were owned partly by either state governments or the national government. These included the first Bank of the United States, established in 1791, in which the federal government held 20 percent of all shares. Among the states, Pennsylvania in particular owned stock in numerous banks, beginning in 1793 with a third of the Bank of Pennsylvania. How much of a stake our current government will buy in individual banks remains to be seen, but it will probably not be more than a quarter of any given bank.

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SciFi Weekend: Star Trek & Lost Trailers; Beyoncé as Wonder Woman; Whoopie on Mars; and the Future History of the Obama Administration

Ain’t It Cool News has a couple of reports on a new trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie to be released next Friday. From one of the descriptions:

We start out with a muscle car tearing ass down a dirt road. Eventually it careens off a cliff, but not before the driver jets himself out – he’s a young boy, couldn’t be older than 11. Suddenly what I can only describe as a space-cop asks him, “what is your name sir?” The young boy replies, “James Tiberius Kirk.”

Then Chris Pine takes over as we see him being angsty, driving down the road on a motorcycle. We hear some voice over from someone else that confirms his angst saying things like, “You’ve never really been happy have you?” and etc. Then we see him drive up what looks like a smelting factory – probably more of that ship construction we got in the earlier trailer.

Then we really kick into trailer mode as we get quick images of Spock as a kid. Spock all grown up. Leonard Nimoy. A vulcan council. Space cadets. And the crew alone with some quick, flashy space fighting.

There is a financial cost to new and better technology. After first buying all the previous Star Trek movies on videocassettes and then on DVD’s it might be hard to resist getting them in Blue-ray. Reportedly they might come out on Blue-ray in 2009. At least the Blue-ray HD-DVD war is long over so there is no doubt as to which format to buy.

A new Lost trailer was also broadcast during the election night coverage on ABC. IO9 has the video.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Beyoncé is interested in playing Wonder Woman:

Beyoncé is ready for an Amazon-sized challenge — the pop superstar wants to be the first actress to wear Wonder Woman’s famed red, white and blue bathing suit on the silver screen.

“I want to do a superhero movie and what would be better than Wonder Woman? It would be great. And it would be a very bold choice. A black Wonder Woman would be a powerful thing. It’s time for that, right?”

Beyoncé says that she has met with representatives of DC Comics and Warner Bros. to express her interest in a major role in one of the many comic-book adaptations now in the pipeline following the massive success of “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man” and the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” franchises. Beyoncé’s acting to career to date has included a comedic role in “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and two notable music world roles, the first as a quasi-Diana Ross character in “Dreamgirls” and as the defiant and heroin-addicted Etta James in the upcoming “Cadillac Records.”

I’ve previously noted that the ABC version of Life on Mars might not be using the same explanation as on the BBC series as to why Sam Tyler is in the 1970’s. The initial episode seemed to have people from the present talking around him, suggesting that possibly he is in a coma dreaming of life in the 1970’s. We’ve seen robots with no clear explanation.  From time to time the 1970’s and the present have blurred, such as with newspapers fluctuating between pictures of Richard Nixon and George Bush. This week’s episode, Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead, suggests that Sam could be dead or in purgatory. While this has been entertaining so far I fear that they might be putting in different possible explanations without a clear idea as to where the show is going.

In the episode, Sam meets both his future mentor and Whoopie Goldberg. It is a shame that Whoopie wasn’t playing Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation. She showed in Yesterday’s Enterprise an ability to sense problems involving time and might be able to figure out what is going on with Sam.

This week included an election of great historical significance. Some with an interest in both politics and techniques of science fiction have already been looking at the “future history” of the Obama administration. Nerve takes a “look back” at the Obama administration:

Obama’s election marked the moment in American history when a human being could be judged not for the color of his or her skin, but for the content of his or her character. Not coincidentally, it also marked the moment when the United States turned definitively from a fortress of self-interest to a peaceful emissary of freedom and human rights. These are the principles that the pax Americana has been built on, and an inheritance that we hope to keep as a legacy for our children.

Future Blogger looks back on How the Nanobama Administration Accelerated Technology, but I believe he will reverse George Bush’s ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research soon after taking office as opposed to 2010 as in this post. The post looks back on the tremendous changes to come as a result, including nanotechnology, concluding:

Now, in 2013, as the Nanobama Administration embarks on its second term, it is clear that the benefits of nanotech have already greatly changed the lives of every human, and for the better. Still, the ethical and existential implications continue to boggle the mind.

In particular, the primary neo-luddite argument against the pursuit of nanotechnological development is the fear that intelligent machines will one day spell the doom of mankind. There could come a point, critics continue to warn, where tech ceases to be an extension of humanity, or worse, turns against it’s maker, a possibility made more dangerous by the likelihood that, by the time it happened, humans will have become complacent and helpless.

Still, it looks as thought the Nanobama forces will continue to embrace acceleration, sticking to the critical path laid out by Bucky Fuller. The argument is that the knowledge base of any intelligent species must expand proportionately to the growth of its population, to survive past a critical survival threshold (a potential confrontation with rogue AI?). It’s evolve or die, though that same evolution is likely to bring about the forces that could bring us to the brink.

While many are optimistic about a better world with Obama replacing the Republicans, Focus on the Family released a Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America prior to the election with scare stories of “Terrorist strikes on four U.S. cities. Russia rolling into Eastern Europe. Israel hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts.”

Pushing Daisies is rumored to be at risk of cancellation. I think the idea would have worked far better as a movie than a weekly television series. I tried it both last season and then again at the start of this season. While somewhat entertaining I just couldn’t get into it enough to watch week after week. Rumor also has it that if the show is canceled Bryan Fuller will return to work on Heroes.

It was bound to be considered after the success of the first movie, and there are far more product placements to sell. Kim Cattrall has said in an interview that a sequel to the Sex And The City movie is planned. While possible, it doesn’t look like the other stars are on board yet. If they are to continue playing these roles it is a shame that they couldn’t have done an additional television season for HBO. The movie lacked much of what I found entertaining in the television show, but then I wasn’t the intended audience for the movie.

Republicans Lost By Fighting the Wrong Battles

The Republicans lost not only because a majority of voters rejected their views but because they were fighting the wrong battles. Voters didn’t so much disagree with Republicans but simply found that their views were irrelevant to the 21st century world.The old Republican arguments no longer worked.

Republicans won in 2002 and 2004 by capitalizing on fear of terrorism and portraying themselves as being stronger on foreign policy. The failure of Bush’s policies in Iraq have made the Republicans far less attractive on foreign policy. Fareed Zakaria pointed out how the view of Republicans on foreign policy has changed when interviewing Brent Scowcroft today. While a transcrpt is not yet available, the gist came down to Zakaria saying that Republicans were perceived as delivering a pragmatic internationalist foreign policy in the past but have now been taken over by ideologues.

Liberals now represent pragmatism on foreign policy. The same is true on economic policy. Voters did not accept the outrageous and untrue claims that Democrats favored socialism and redistribution of wealth. The battle between socialism and capitalism is long over with capitalism coming out victorious and supported by members of both political parties. Most voters did not vote based upon this false choice between capitalism and socialism. For those who did, Republicans made for poor representatives of a free market philosophy even before the current response to the financial crisis. I have not taken Republicans seriously as defenders of the free market since I saw Richard Nixon institute wage and price controls. While few current voters are likely to remember this, some may have considered factors such as Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force and the K-Street Project as examples of Republican hypocrisy on the free market. Most voters simply are looking for the party with the most pragmatic answers on the economy.

Republicans came to office promising to cut the size of government but instead have given us a bigger government. After cutting taxes they continued to spend, borrowing money instead of cutting the size of government. Between seeing this failure to cut the size of government, along with decreased concern for cutting government in all cases after Katrina and the recent financial crisis, Republican arguments based upon cutting government were no longer as meaningful. Many voters simply wanted smarter government and were less concerned about the size.

After seeing Republican government, many voters also became more sophisticated, realizing that cutting the size of government is not the real issue. The impact of government on the lives of the individual is far more meaningful than the size of government. Even if Republicans delivered in cutting the size of government this would not necessarily be a victory for liberty. Voters increasingly see Republicans as the party which desires to restrict civil liberties, eliminate abortion rights, intervene in end of life decisions as in the Schiavo case, prevent funding of embryonic stem cell research, block the medicinal use of marijuana (even in states where it is legal), and promote the agenda of the religious right. These are far more concrete issues than the size of government.

It is the association of Republicans with the religious right which has done the most to marginalize them into primarily a southern regional party. Both the nonreligious and sensible religious individuals understand the reasons why our founding fathers considered separation of church and state to be so important. This association also resulted in the loss by Republicans of suburban and affluent educated voters. Educated voters would have difficulty backing a party which backs creationism, regardless of whether they have total agreement with the opposing party.

Republicans tried to make issues of the patriotism of their opponents, but voters have become more sophisticated and ignored such attempts to revive what Mark Halperin and John Harris have described as the freak show. Most voters ignored these arguments and concentrated on which candidate they thought could best solve our problems. Many of those who did consider these arguments questioned how the Republicans could dare challenge the patriotism of Democrats when they were the ones who acted in opposition to our American heritage of separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. You cannot claim to be patriotic Americans while opposing such basic American values. It is a virtue of Barack Obama that he listens to a wide variety of views, and some association with those whose views he does not share was not considered reason to base ones vote by voters beyond the extreme right.

Voters ignored the Republican arguments and looked for pragmatic solutions to problems. After having backed a president who was clearly unqualified for the position for the past eight years, the Republicans further harmed their credibility by pretending (until they began to speak out after the election) that Sarah Palin was qualified to be VP. Support for Sarah Palin, along with her views on creationism and ignoring the position of the vast majority of scientists on climate change, only emphasized the anti-intellectuaism of the current Repubican Party. As Nicholas Kristoff wrote today, after Obana’s race, the “second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.” Voters wanted a pragmatic, intelligent candidate who would attmpt to solve problems without being blinded by ideology.

Conservatives lost not because of any specific issue but because their entire world view is not relevant to the modern world. They campaigned against Obama not based upon his actual positions but out of a distorted sense of what non-conservatives believe after years of listening to their own rhetoric. To see how out of touch with reality the conservatives are, read the view of Peter Hitchens that the election of Obama represented the end of “our last best hope on Earth.” He repeats the conservative line that voters for Obama were cultists when in reality most were voting for a pragmatic centrist. While he accuses Obama supporters of being like “Moonies, the Scientologists or people who claim to have been abducted in flying saucers,” it is conservatives like him who have adopted a philosphy which is not only extremist but out of touch with reality. Voters awoke to this reality in 2006 and 2008 and the Republicans arguments based upon a fantasy-world failed to resonate with them.