Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rachel Re: GOP Hurt Feelings?

No GOP leader?

Rachel Re: Rachel Maddow takes a look at the Republican party and who the real leader of the GOP is, if there really is one. [Sept. 29]

[ 4:59 ]

Blunt Walks It Back: It Wasn't Pelosi After All

Jed Lewison:

Maybe it was Barney Frank's mockery, or maybe it was just an impulsive decision to tell the truth, but Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the lead House GOP bailout negotiator is backpedaling his claim from Monday that Nancy Pelosi's floor speech turned had led to GOP defections.

Blunt told ABC News that only "one or two" Members could have been affected by Pelosi's speech, adding "I think you don't want to give too much blame to that speech."

Politico also has an interesting piece up about how John Boehner's job may now be in jeopardy.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Bill Fails

U.S. stocks plunged and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index tumbled after the House of Representatives voted down the emergency bailout bill in a 228 to 205 vote.

Note: According to the House Majority Leader, H.R.3997 will be used as the vehicle for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. See documents on the House Financial Services Committee website and H.Res.1517 on the House Rules Committee website.

The Congressional Budget Office issued an analysis of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The text is posted here.

I think that David Sirota said it best:

Corruption and Sleaze Are Swirling Around These Bailouts -- and America Knows It

The amount of brazen corruption and conflicts of interest swirling around this deal is odious, even by Washington's standards -- and polls suggest the public inherently understands that. [...]

Add to this the fact that the negotiations over this bill have been largely conducted in secret, and you have one of the most sleazy heists in American history.

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Obama: the safe alternative to McCain

John McCain's whole strategy has been based on essentially two elements-- the first is to try and suggest that for America to elect Barack Obama would be to take too big of a risk, and the second is to argue that McCain is a 'safe' alternative.

But I think that might be just a little bit backwards.

An article out yesterday in the New York Times (maybe why one of McCain's managers tried to stage a 'pre-emptive strike' against the Times) by accusing them of bias even before this article came out highlights John McCain's own gambling habits and more importantly ties to the gaming industry.

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress....

in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

This is troubling to me on two levels.

The first is the matter of McCain's campaign rhetoric. Now, I know that the way the game is played in Washington is thought lobbyists who can raise millions of dollars to help a candidate-- if he gives them what they want-- or millions to defeat him if he goes against their interests. But Mr. 'straight talk' has staked a lot of his campaign by claiming to be a reformer, and in particular one who doesn't tie himself to lobbyists or special interests. Instead of being a hypocrite about it, why not just fess up, and say 'I've been a tool of the gaming industry for years?' The article even quotes a gaming industry expert who calls McCain, “One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” Yeah, there are people who might have trouble with that one, but at least then McCain wouldn't be pretending to be something he's not, and that he never was.

The second way this is troubling to me is much more profound, however. Now, I recognize that there is nothing illegal about gambling in a casino, and many good and honest people do. But it also says something about a person's decision making process. And let's face it. The recent past, whether it be McCain's gamble that he could raise enough money fast enough in 2007 to support a $100 million political machine for the primary (a gamble which failed), his gamble that he could skip the Iowa caucuses and still chase down Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination (a gamble that succeeded, thanks to Mike Huckabee getting in Romney's way), his gamble to choose none of the VP candidates his campaign had been vetting for months and instead pick a little-known Governor or Alaska to run for VP (a gamble which looked like it succeeded early on but as time goes on appears more and more questionable), or his gamble last week to play chicken with the debate and try to get credit for the bailout package (a gamble which failed), it is clear from John McCain's decision making process that he likes to take chances, often acting impulsively.

It isn't hard to look for another individual who makes decisions the same way. And on virtually all of them, John McCain has stood right by his side and rolled the dice with him. That person of course is George W. Bush.

President Bush gambled by pushing forward with deregulation, including of banks and of the financial services industry. John McCain stood right there alongside of Bush.

President Bush gambled that we could pass trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. It's true that John McCain voted against the first round of tax cuts, but now he stands right with Bush in wanting to make them permanent.

President Bush gambled that we could take time away from the Afghan war and the people who had killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11 to go invade another country, Iraq. John McCain stood with him on that decision.

President Bush gambled that the Iraq war would be short, easy and lead to a democracy that we could count on to help us find all those WMD that had to be stored in huge stockpiles all over Iraq. John McCain gambled on that right alongside of President Bush.

President Bush tried to gamble with our Social Security into a privatization scheme that would have tied it to financial markets. John McCain stood right there with Bush and gambled on that one too. Thank God that Barack Obama and Congress stood up and gave a resounding 'no' to that one. Imagine how much more quickly the financial 'iceberg' that Social Security faces would be coming at us if our Social Security was all wrapped up in the financial mess we see right in front of us.

The problem with gambling of course is as Kenny Rogers sang in the song, "The Gambler,"

You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em.
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table,
There'll be time enough for counting,
When the dealin's done.

And for both George Bush and John McCain, their downfall is that second line. Have you ever seen either of them fold and admit to a mistake? Admit that maybe we need to do something differently than what they've been pushing? Well, yeah-- John McCain did change his position on the Bush tax cuts that got us here in the first place. Now he wants to keep them. Trust me, they really like guys like that in Vegas, ones who even when they have a winning hand, throw it away in exchange for a losing hand.

After eight years of a Gambler in the White House (and not a very good one, at that) I'm certain that WE can't take the roll the dice on another risk-taker, especially one who has shown he really doesn't play his cards very well.

Luckily we don't have to. There is a safe alternative. When Barack Obama makes a decision he doesn't gamble. The way he chose Biden is instructive. He collects all the information that he has available. He reads it and ponders what he has read (Obama even took a week off the campaign trail out in Hawaii so he could work throught this decision.) He puts his head together with his advisors (which now includes Biden, who as the chair of the Foreign Services Committee has a great deal of experience in the one area where Obama recognized that he might need some help.) Obama is also a man of faith, so I suspect he prays for help in making the right decision. Then he makes it. And once it is made, he sticks firmly to it. At the same time, he does learn by experience. So for example, this year he opposed a 'vacation' from the Federal gasoline tax (an idea that McCain supported,) relying on his experience from doing the same kind of thing in Illinois and observing that the tax cut failed to reduce gas prices in Illinois (the reason for why it doesn't work would involve a discussion of the mathematical/economic concept of a relatively inelastic equilibrium point on the supply and demand curve which is too complicated to explain here, but Obama gets it.)

With the country facing it's most difficult economic crisis since the 1930's, we need a deliberate and careful decision maker, and one who is forceful in carrying out decisions but also able to recognize what works and what doesn't.

What we can't afford is to gamble on another gambler.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Palin: Pathetic and Utterly Unqualified

Jack Cafferty:

[ 2:26 ]

"If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old's heartbeat away from being president of the United States. And if that doesn't scare the Hell out of you, it should."

"Don't make excuses for her. That was pathetic."

Palin Is Ready? Please.


Couric asked her a smart question about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the American financial sector. It was designed to see if Palin understood that the problem in this crisis is that credit and liquidity in the financial system has dried up, and that that's why, in the estimation of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the government needs to step in to buy up Wall Street's most toxic liabilities. Here's the entire exchange:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

This is nonsense — a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. [snip]

Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Let Those Who Broke It Pay To Fix It

10 Ways to Bail Out Wall Street (and Main Street)

Without Soaking Taxpayers in Debt

Who says we need to borrow a trillion dollars to save Wall Street from its own excesses?

Chuck Collins and Dedrick Muhammad, AlterNet:

Wall Street and speculators should pay now for the mess they created.

Instead of borrowing from the super-wealthy beneficiaries of the casino economy, we should tax them.

A Responsible Plan to Pay for Recovery: $900 Billion in New Revenue

Below is our 10-point program to pay for this broader bailout. This plan would generate $900 billion a year until the costs of the bailout and stimulus program are paid for.

  1. A Securities Transaction Tax: $100 Billion...

  2. A Wealth Tax Surcharge on Households with $10 Million: $300 billion...

  3. A Corporate Minimum Income Tax: $60 Billion...

  4. A "Disgorgement" Recovery From Profligate CEOs: $40 Billion...

  5. An Income Tax Surcharge on Incomes Over $5 Million: $105 Billion...

  6. An End to Overseas Corporate Tax Havens: $100 Billion...

  7. The Elimination of Subsidies for Excessive CEO Pay: $20 Billion...

  8. The Elimination of the Tax Preference for Capital Gains: $95 Billion...

  9. A Progressive Inheritance Tax: $60 Billion...

  10. The Elimination of the Mansion Subsidy: $20 Billion...

Economic Fascism Coming to America

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig:
Smell a rat if Congress approves the Paulson plan without major modifications that might help Main Street as well as Wall Street.

Meltdown: It's Not Just a Matter of Greed

Arthur MacEwan, Dollars and Sense:
Greed is a human constant, which begs the question of what it is that changed in the lead-up to this financial crisis.

McCain and GOP Pals' One-Page Plan To Save His Campaign ... er, the Economy

Steven D., Booman Tribune:
If you believe this one I've got a bridge to sell you in Alaska.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bail Out Deregulation Trainwreck Expressed

Americans Blame Financial Crisis On ‘Lack Of Regulation,’ While McCain Says People ‘Don’t Want Regulation’:

In an interview on Tuesday with WCAU in Philadelphia, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) backed away from his Sept. 16 claim that he believes in “excess government regulation,” saying that Americans actually want deregulation:

WELKER: It sounds like you’re calling for more regulation. Yet throughout your career you’ve advocated deregulation. Do you now see that as a failed economic policy — deregulation?

MCCAIN: Oh no. People don’t want regulation. They want to live as freely as they can. It’s smart regulation. Look, I’ve called for fixing Fannie and Freddie a long time ago.

A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll doesn’t bear McCain’s claims out, however. It finds that Americans are actually blaming the financial crisis on a lack of government regulation...

McCain’s Embrace Of Wall Street Regulation Exposes Health Care Hypocrisy

McCain Banks On Deregulation:

In the latest edition of American Academy of Actuaries, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) makes his case for “deregulating the health insurance industry by extolling the benefits of the last decade of deregulation in the banking sector:

[Individuals] need to be in charge of their health care dollars… I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health insurance across state lines…Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

In fact, deregulation of the banking industry “offers a cautionary tale about a little-understood provision at the center of John McCain’s health care plan.”

Following a pair of Supreme Court decisions which deregulated the banking industry, credit card companies relocated to states with no interest rate caps and charged “what they wanted” to borrowers in states with interest rate limits. This deregulated environment allows credit card companies to “use pricing practices, like teaser rates, to attract cash-strapped families and then… double or triple those rates without notice.”

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox Finally Realizes The Problem With Deregulation:

Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the Bush administration’s proposed $700 billion bailout plan. During the hearing, Christopher Cox, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), testified that deregulation was a cause of the current financial crisis, including a “regulatory hole” in the credit swap market:

There is another similar regulatory hole that must be immediately addressed to avoid similar consequences. The $58 trillion national market in credit default swaps — double the amount outstanding in 2006 — is regulated by no one. Neither the SEC nor any regulator has authority over the CDS market, even to require minimal disclosure to the market.

It’s rather ironic that Cox is now calling for regulation of the credit swap market. After all, trading in the credit swap market was what sunk insurance giant AIG. Once AIG had “sold large quantities of credit-default swaps to financial institutions around the world,” it required an $85 billion federal bailout to keep its failure from affecting the wider financial system.

But its not just on credit swaps that Cox has come around. He also blamed the the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act - which was constructed by former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) in 1999 and deregulated the banking industry - for contributing to the financial meltdown. He said that “the failure of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to give regulatory authority over investment bank holding companies to any agency of government was, based on the experience of the last several months, a costly mistake.”

Just six months ago the Bush administration found the credit crisis so manageable that it “unveiled a widely discussed blueprint for U.S. financial regulatory reform that called for less supervision of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

FLASHBACK: Six Months Ago, Paulson Said ‘Our Banks And Investment Banks Are Strong’

h/t: This Modern World


McCain is suspending campaign (whatever that means) and going to Washington so he can have pictures taken of him looking like he's doing something. Asks that Obama do the same, and wants Friday's debate to be postponed, because he can't possibly do 2 things at once.

Reaction to McCain's political stunt:
So apparently, McCain no longer thinks the fundamentals of our economy are strong. So now he's "suspending his campaign". What are people saying about this desperation stunt?

Reid Tells McCain to Stay Away:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks John McCain should keep campaigning and show up for the scheduled debate Friday instead of offering his financial expertise - honed in the Keating 5 scandal - to the Senate he has so assiduously avoided the past six months:

...I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.

If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.

McCain Comments On Involvement In Keating Five: ‘It Was A Very Unhappy Period In My Life’

Welcome Back, John McCain!

The prodigal son returns. John McCain has announced that America is finally confronting a crisis that he doesn't feel he can be absent for.

Some fun facts about John McCain: Of all Senators, John McCain has been the most absent. There have been 643 votes taken in the current Senate session: McCain has missed 412 of them.

McCain has not voted in the Senate since April 8th. Since March, he has missed 109 of the last 110 votes.

He missed votes on the GI Bill, energy policy, and in 2007 he missed "all 15 critical environmental votes in the Senate" -- giving him a 2007 rating of 0% from the League of Conservation Voters.

A Bush In the Rose Garden, August 31, 2007

The recent disturbances in the sub-prime mortgage industry are modest -- they're modest in relation to the size of our economy. But if you're a family -- if your family is one of those having trouble making the monthly payments, this problem doesn't seem modest at all. I understand these concerns, and therefore, I've made this a top priority to help our homeowners navigate these financial challenges, so that many families as possible can stay in their homes. That's what we've been working on, a plan to help homeowners.

We've got a role, the government has got a role to play -- but it is limited. A federal bailout of lenders would only encourage a recurrence of the problem. It's not the government's job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford. Yet there are many American homeowners who could get through this difficult time with a little flexibility from their lenders, or a little help from their government. So I strongly urge lenders to work with homeowners to adjust their mortgages. I believe lenders have a responsibility to help these good people to renegotiate so they can stay in their home. And today I'm going to outline a variety of steps at the federal level to help American families keep their homes.

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McCain scheme to duck out of the debate Friday

John McCain has said he is suspending his campaign so he can rush to Washington and work on the bailout plan with Congressional leaders.

This is the same John McCain who has not bothered to show up for a Senate vote since April 8.

This is the same John McCain who has favored deregulation for years, a big part of why we have this crisis going on even as we speak.

This is the same John McCain who admitted earlier this year that he doesn't know very much about economics and said he needs to be 'educated' about it.

The truth of the matter is that McCain has been out there campaigning nearly every day while Senator Obama has spent some time off the campaign trail prepping for the debates. So McCain's offer is a lot like an unprepared student who realizes two days before the big midterm exam that he hasn't been cracking the books, trying to figure out a way to get his test push back so he can catch up to the rest of the class.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Nation of Village Idiots

Don't let them tell you this economic meltdown is a complicated mess. It's not. Our national financial crisis is readily understood by anyone who has seen greed and hypocrisy. But we are now witnessing them on a profound, monumental scale.

Conservative Republicans always want the government to stay out of business and avoid regulation as long as they are making lots of money. When their greed, however, gets them into a fix, they are the first to cry out for rules and laws and taxpayer money to bail out their businesses. Obviously, Republicans are socialists. The Bush administration has decided to socialize the debt of the big Wall Street Firms. Taxpayers didn't get to enjoy any of the big money profits on the phony financial instruments like derivatives or bundled sub-prime paper, but we get the privilege of paying for their debt and failures. [snip]

How did we get here?

That's pretty easy to answer, too. His name is Phil Gramm. A few days after the Supreme Court made George W. Bush president in 2000, Gramm stuck something called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act into the budget bill. Nobody knew that the Texas senator was slipping America a 262 page poison pill. The Gramm Guts America Act was designed to keep regulators from controlling new financial tools described as credit "swaps." These are instruments like sub-prime mortgages bundled up and sold as securities. Under the Gramm law, neither the SEC nor the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) were able to examine financial institutions like hedge funds or investment banks to guarantee they had the assets necessary to cover losses they were guaranteeing.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post, of course.

The more and more I read about the history of the US, the more and more I see how terrible Republican economic policy truly is. Not only do they seem to completely remove the middle class, they don't take care of the poor and they run up such insane deficits... and for what; in the 1980s some military equipment that quickly went obsolete and now an unecessary war? I hope these village idiots wake the hell up and put nation before political party.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Deregulation Meltdown

Europeans on left and right ridicule U.S. money meltdown

Los Angeles Times:

It's a rare day when finance officials, leftist intellectuals and ordinary salespeople can agree on something. But the economic meltdown that wrought its wrath from Rome to Madrid to Berlin this week brought Europeans together in a harsh chorus of condemnation of the excess and disarray on Wall Street. [snip]

The spectacle across the ocean has left a lasting impression on many Europeans. Hanna Evers of Berlin, a cellphone retailer interviewed in the shopping district of Wilmersdorfer Street, said she was angry about the amount of money that had been "burned" in recent days.

"And I'm furious when I see the pictures of Americans who thought they were on the sunny side of life and now have lost their homes and have to live in their cars," Evers said. "I definitely do not feel sorry for the bankers who lost their jobs in the last couple of days. I can't believe that a country like the U.S.A. could have been so careless on a money issue!"

"I was taught that the U.S.A. is the motherland of moneymaking," she added. "And now all I can see is a herd of headless chickens running around on Wall Street."

Meltdown and Bailout:
Why Our Economic System Is on the Verge of Collapse

Joshua Holland, AlterNet:

The immediate cause of our financial meltdown is unchecked, unbridled greed. Mainstream newspapers and the business press are doing a fairly good job of explaining how the lack of regulatory oversight led us into this nightmare.

But you have to dig down one layer to find the cause of that situation. Under cover of the ideological euphemism known as the "free market" and with enormous cash investments over the past four decades, business elites have captured the regulatory organs of powerful democratic states -- nowhere more so than the United States -- and promoted their own narrow economic agendas for short-term gain.

The $700 Billion Bailout:
One More Weapon of Mass Deception

Richard W. Behan, AlterNet:

Not since the Bush administration's lies about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" have the American people been so despicably misled.

The Bush administration's proposal to buy, with taxpayers' money, $700 billion of toxic liabilities from the corporate financial titans of Wall Street is a fraud. It is by no means necessary, as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson claims in the agency's Fact Sheet, "to promote market stability, and help protect American families and the U.S. economy."

It is necessary only to assure the financial survival of Wall Street banks and brokerages, the administration's most loyal supporters and its greatest political contributors -- and in large measure the cause of the financial meltdown the country is facing.

These financial corporations lobbied ferociously to be free of government regulation. Had they not succeeded, they could not have done what they did next: They created and leveraged trillions of dollars of complex "derivatives" -- mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps -- all riding on an unprecedented real estate bubble stimulated by their frenzy of creative finance. When the bubble burst, as bubbles do, many of these financial titans faced bankruptcy, their obligations far exceeding their assets.

Connect The Dots


John McCain may be confused about the need to keep companies like AIG solvent. But as DevilsTower laid out in his spectacular post, Three Times is Enemy Action, there is no doubt it was the intentional actions of people like John McCain and his economic advisor Phil Gramm over the years that created and nurtured the intricate web of shortsighted stupidity that directly enabled this enormous mess:

This is a bullet deliberately fired into the economy by men willing to exercise their ideology regardless of the cost to taxpayers. John McCain may not have had his finger directly on the trigger, but he was there. He assisted. He not only cheered them on, but claimed until last month that he was also "primarily a deregulator."

McCain: I’m glad I deregulated Wall Street.

Think Progress:

In the wake of last week’s financial meltdown, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been calling for more regulation and criticizing lax oversight of Wall Street, despite the fact that he and former senator Phil Gramm passed much of the deregulatory reforms that led to the current crisis.

Now, John McCain wants to deregulate the healthcare industry:

[ 0:30 ]


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

An idea for Federal bailouts: let We the People keep 20%

For a change, it looks like George W. Bush did the right thing. Not that he had a lot of choice.

We came remarkably close earlier this week to a repeat of the events of 1929. Bush, whose legacy is already about as bad as it could be, along with his two biggest economic appointees-- Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, was faced with a stark choice between being Herbert Hoover or Franklin Roosevelt.

He and Bernanke and Paulson picked Roosevelt and moved to have the Federal Government aggressively intervene in the banking system to stave off a collapse. Things had gotten so bad at one point this week that investors were actually paying money to park their investments in safe treasury bonds, the first time since the great Depression that the effective interest rate on any kind of federal note had been negative.

A lot of pro-deregulation market oriented conservatives howled at the price tag of the federal bailout-- maybe as high as a trillion dollars. It joins the Iraq war and the medicare prescription drug handout to the pharmaceutical industry as trillion dollar debt busters that the Bush administration has given us. Unlike the first two however this one is absolutely necessary. Without it, well we'd be stuck in 1929 and all that that would augur for a very bleak future.

That isn't to say though that we should just let things go on as business as usual.

To start with, there is some outrage to go around. For instance, here are some golden parachute numbers, for CEO's of firms that failed monumentally:

Stanley O'Neill, Merrill Lynch: $161 million.

Jimmy Cayne, Bear Stearns: $61.3 million (plus another $4 million plus in J.P. Morgan stock, the company that ended up absorbing Bear Stearns.)

Michael Perry, IndyMac Bank: $37.5 million

Richard Fuld, Lehman Brothers: $22 million

Robert Willumstad (AIG July-Sept. 2008): $7 million
Martin Sullivan (AIG 2005-2008): $47 million

I'm sure I could run any bank into the ground as well as these guys did. Why can't I get that kind of cash?

Here is the good golden parachute news:

Daniel Mudd, Fannie Mae: $0
Richard Syron, Freddie Mac: $0.

Federal regulators, thanks to the hybrid nature of the companies to begin with, were able to ensure that Mudd's and Syron's golden parachutes failed to deploy. Chalk up two big wins for Federal control.

Beyond that, it is abundantly clear that the 'free market' that American conservatives like to sing about, really means that the rewards are private, but the risk is the responsiblity of all of us. Some hardcore ideologues on the right have been speaking out against the bailouts this week suggesting that we should just let the whole system fail and come crashing down. I guess they wouldn't have a problem with us going back to the 1930's when millions of ordinary people lived under bridges and ate boiled weeds for dinner but I do have a problem with that. Rather, I believe that since ultimately we as a society are on the hook for the long term stability of our economy anyway, and that the economy is tied to the stability of these banks, we should share in the rewards that come with this risk.

I don't necessarily mean through higher taxes either. Some are right that if you tax wealth then the wealthy will find and exploit loopholes to escape taxes. That's not a reason give up on getting them to pay their fair share in taxes but it does mean that we can't expect to count on taxation of companies who can certainly employ enough lobbyists to create all the loopholes they need as the only answer here.

Nor does regulation provide the answer (though I certainly agree that we will need to take a look at tightening regulation). We already know that even as these institutions and banks were failing they employed armies of lobbyists and made millions of dollars in campaign contributions all over Washington so it's a fact that regulations can be skirted or rewritten over time (as institutional memories of why they were there in the first place fade).

And yeah, I'd love to see Washington ban corporate lobbyists but you and I both know that isn't going to happen anytime soon, or if it does there will be some loophole left open so they can still funnel money to candidates. So let's talk about practical solutions here, not pie-in-the-sky pledges to 'change Washington' as a way to prevent another crisis originating on Wall Street.

No, what I propose is very simple and straightforward. If the Federal Government is going to effectively back up institutions and banks that make risky decisions and then step in and absorb the fallout when the risks become reality, then we (collectively, as taxpayers) should share in the rewards. Let the Treasury Department hang onto a share-- say in the 10-20% range-- of stock in the company, and mandate that this stock remain under the control of the Federal government for at least 20 years after any bailout. That way if and when the company regains profitability then We the People will get a direct return on our 'investment' (made as it was under the darkest of circumstances.)

This may be criticized as 'socialistic' but let's face it-- the bailout and takeover of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG are nothing else. Maintaining a 20% federal ownership of companies like these actually would achieve three goals: 1. it would over time pay us all back as a society so that we wouldn't just be paying out good money for bad, 2. it would help stabilize the share price as the company clawed its way back, and 3. while 20% isn't a majority and the major decisions would ultimately be left to the rest of the investors and the CEO they appoint, it's a big enough piece that the government would have a lot of input. Treasury Secretaries are by nature a cautious bunch so having a representative of the treasury department representing taxpayer interests in a corporate boardroom meeting might influence those decisions in a more cautious direction but clearly that isn't such a bad thing.

And then once 20 years are past, the treasury department could slowly release our shares onto the open market, using the profits to pay off our own national debt or to pay for other spending (possibly reducing the need to collect taxes from the rest of us.)

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Friday, September 19, 2008

McConfused Express

Apparently in an effort to correct his statement that he would fire the chairman of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), in Wisconsin this morning John McCain called for the resignation of the chairman of...

...the FEC (Federal Election Commission)?

[ 0:11 ]

Arrr, Matey.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finally, a new homebuyer enters the Phoenix market.

Few states have been hit as hard by the mortgage crisis as Arizona. Years of rapid growth, even more rapid construction and unscrupulous lending practices have taken their toll. To make things worse, this has been combined with greedy people thinking they were just smarter than the rest of us so that they could keep on jumping up the housing ladder into more expensive homes until suddenly they were making enormous payments on mansions that were worth less than what they owed *. These erstwhile 'sharks' have become the 'marks.' It seems that every week I see big stickers plastered on the front of the Arizona Republic advertising an auction of hundreds of foreclosed properties. And with the credit crisis, hundreds of them also go unsold at any price.

But it's nice to know that there is apparently a new homebuyer in the Phoenix metro market. A buyer who is known to have bought property here before. A guy who certainly has the cash to pay for some of these homes. A guy who really isn't all that good with the numbers, in fact he doesn't even know how many he has now (so what the heck, one more can't hurt, right?)

Here are some property signs advertising the new homebuyer in town:


Hat tip to Tedski at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.

*-- almost too polite to mention, but the areas where there are the highest levels of foreclosures on relatively new and expensive homes have in recent years voted heavily Republican. Granted people who have been hit with a huge ARM reset they couldn't pay and been foreclosed on come from all walks of life and it's a miserable experience for anyone, but probably most of the really expensive homes that are being foreclosed around metro Phoenix, their buyers were the jerk that cuts you off while driving a giant SUV with a fading "W" bumper sticker and thinks social Darwinism is real and that he's (95% chance it's a male) at the top of the gene pool.

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Bushed Economy

Yesterday, September 17, 2008:

Matthews Pushes Cantor On Bush’s Handling Of The Economy: ‘He’s Pulling One Of These Katrinas Again’

Ali, Think Progress:

In a contentious segment on “Hardball” tonight, host Chris Matthews accused Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his conservative allies of “taking off your uniforms,” pretending they’re not Republicans, and running against President Bush. “I’m not going to let anyone get away with that kind of foolery,” Matthews said. He asked Cantor at least five times whether he supported the job Bush is doing — and all five times Cantor refused to answer.

Noting that a “normal president” would be more visible during such a crisis, Matthews compared Bush’s response to the current financial turmoil to his handling of Hurricane Katrina:

[ 4:25 ]

Matthews was visibly frustrated, telling Cantor, “You have to take responsibility, sir, for the policies of this Administration that have gotten us into this mess. You can’t walk away and say, Oh we had nothing to do with this, can you? Say it if you want to. It’s your right.”

Matthews noted Cantor’s refusal to even mention the President: “You haven’t used the word Republican tonight, your party didn’t use it in the acceptance speech,” he said. [snip] “You’re trying to take off your uniforms and run from the field of political battle and claim you’re not Republicans.”

Fleischer: Bush is a liability for conservatives

Amanda, Think Progress:

Bloomberg writes, “There is an invisible man in the 2008 election: the president of the United States. Republican candidates have all but shunned him, save those who need him to help raise money.” Even former Bush spokesman, Ari Fleischer, admitted that the President’s presence would “hurt the party and hurt John McCain.”

McCain Flip-Flops On AIG Bailout In 24 Hours

Satyam, Think Progress:

Interviewed on NBC’s Today Show before the decision yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that “we cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else”:

No, I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be on the hook for AIG and I’m glad that the Secretary Paulson has apparently taken the same line.

Interviewed on ABC this morning, however, McCain suggested that he supported the bail out:

I didn’t want to do that. And I don’t think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investment, whose insurance were at risk here. They were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption.

McCain’s change on AIG comes on the heels of economy-related flip flop. McCain told NBC yesterday, “Of course I don’t like excessive and unnecessary regulation.” But on CBS’s Early Show minutes later, McCain said, “Do I believe in excess government regulation? Yes.”

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Barack Obama On The Economy

Senator Obama Addresses Nation on the Economy in Two-Minute Ad

September 17, 2008

[ 2:00 ]

Obama's Economic Plan

Senator Obama on Confronting an Economic Crisis

Speech on the current state of the economy: [ 38:12 ]
Golden, Colorado — September 16, 2008

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now I know which Republican president McCain reminds me of.


Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

-- John McCain, Sept. 15, 2008.

The fundamental business of the country, that is production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis

-- Herbert Hoover, October 30, 1929.

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It isn't just John McCain who doesn't have a clue about the economy. Neither do the people advising him.

Today, Hewlett Packard announced another 24,000 job cuts, officially associated with its merger with Electronic Data Systems.

The job cuts however represent eight percent of HP's total workforce, suggesting that there are some intrinsic structural problems that are also being addressed. In fact, current CEO Frank Hurd has been very aggressive about cutting jobs since he was first hired in 2005.

While I might complain about Hurd's image as the new "Chainsaw Al" or point out that he is far from the only one doing it in these times (the unemployment rate has risen a full point since April) there is one thing that it also points out: the company that Hurd took over was unprofitable, bloated and badly in need of the overhaul he has brought to it.

And who did he replace? The answer is Carly Fiorina. Apparently she is at least partially responsible for the slow, lumbering company that Hurd has been riding herd on (and with some success, at that-- I'll give him credit for that.)

Hmmm. Not long ago the same Carly Fiorina stepped up to become John McCain's chief economic advisor, after Phil Gramm had to step down for saying that the bad economy was just in people's heads and that we had become a 'nation of whiners.'

Just today, John McCain said at a rally in Florida that the 'fundamentals of the economy are strong.' This on a day when the Dow fell 500 points and National Public Radio reported that the International Monetary Fund will be conducting a stability assessment of the United States economy, a 'privilege' usually reserved for third world debtor nations that are in danger of defaulting on their loans.

Well, remember that McCain admitted back during the primaries that he doesn't know very much about economics.

So who else can he get economic advice from? Palin? Whatever her strengths and weaknesses are, has anyone even from Fox News suggested that she knows anything at all about subprime mortgage defaults or has a clue about how to get people back to work?

Keep in mind that the standard Republican playbook of 'tax cuts for the wealthy, loosen regulation and let the market drive the economy' has been in force for eight years and it's clear that it doesn't work.

Electing McCain would be a disaster. Not only has he pretty much appropriated the Bush economic strategy as his own (apparently not being able to figure out a better one) but the people around him, even his economic advisors, seem to have no better a record on the economy than he does.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Outrageous McCain Lies


For links and more detail, read John Aravosis:

St. Petersburg Times (Editorial) “Campaign of lies disgraces McCain” McCain's straight talk has become a toxic mix of lies and double-speak.

Atlanta Journal Constitution (Jay Bookman) The volume and audacity of lies pouring from the McCain campaign is startling and even historic…That’s really something, lying straight out about a FactCheck group, knowing that you’re going to get caught but not giving a damn about it.

Pittsburg Post Gazette (Tony Norman) Where have you gone, John McCain? You once said you'd rather lose an election than lose a war. Is it worth winning an election if it means forfeiting your soul on the altar of political expediency?

Kansas City Star (Barb Shelly) McCain stoops to deception, distortion: Maybe you’ve seen it. [snip] Distort. Twist. Deceive. Damage. And the winning candidate drags a load of public contempt into office.

Boston Globe (Scot Lehigh) Pretzel logic from the McCain campaign: Here’s the question voters should be asking themselves this week: Just how stupid does the McCain-Palin campaign think I am? The answer: Dumb enough to hoodwink with charges so contrived and cynical they make your teeth ache...

Washington Post (David Ignatius) Stopping at nothing to win: Thinking about the Palin choice, you begin to ponder other moves McCain has made on the road to winning the Republican nomination.

Washington Post (Eugene Robinson) The Scream Machine: There was a time when Republicans campaigned on their ideas, programs and values.

Chicago Tribune (Steve Chapman) To McCain the truth is expandable: McCain has concluded that a fact-based case about Obama isn't enough to prevail in November. So he has chosen to smear his opponent with ridiculous claims that he thinks the American people are gullible enough to believe.

Chicago Tribune (Frank James) This is an old-fashioned, unreconstructed politics whose goal, first and foremost, is to get the candidate elected, the truth be damned.

Chicago Tribune (Eric Zorn) 'I'm John McCain and I approved this message.' With that infamous admission, McCain surrendered his integrity and signaled a willingness to say or do anything to get elected… We used to expect better from John McCain. No longer.

TIME (Joe Klein) A new rule here: Rather than do the McCain campaign's bidding by wasting space on Senator Honor's daily lies and bilge--his constant attempts to divert attention from substantive issues--I'm going to assume that others will spend more than enough time on the sewage that Steve Schmidt is shoveling and, from now on, try to stick to the issues.

TIME (Joe Klein) Apology Not Accepted: he is responsible for one of the sleaziest ads I've ever seen in presidential politics, so sleazy that I won't abet its spread by linking to it... [snip] Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

TIME (Joe Klein) Another McCain Flip Flop: Army Times, which is not--last time I checked--a radical left wing publication, takes John McCain to task for changing his position on the Future Combat Systems program. This is yet another example of how running for President has driven McCain off the deep end.

New York Times (Paul Krugman) Blizzard of Lies: And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country? What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

New York Times (Editorial) This from that straight-talker of yore, who fervidly denounced the 2004 Bush campaign’s Swift Boat character attacks on John Kerry’s military record. What a difference four years makes, especially after Mr. McCain secured the nomination by hiring some of the same low-blow artists from the Bush campaign.

New York Times (Larry Rohter) The advertisement [“Disrespectful”] is the latest in a number that resort to a dubious disregard for the facts. The nonpartisan political analysis group Factcheck.org has already criticized “Disrespectful” as “particularly egregious,” saying that it “goes down new paths of deception,” and is “peddling false quotes.”

New York Times (Michael Cooper and Jim Rutenberg) McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions: Mr. McCain came into the race promoting himself as a truth teller and has long publicly deplored the kinds of negative tactics that helped sink his candidacy in the Republican primaries in 2000. But his strategy now reflects a calculation advisers made this summer — over the strenuous objections of some longtime hands who helped him build his “Straight Talk” image — to shift the campaign more toward disqualifying Mr. Obama in the eyes of voters.

ABC News-Political Punch (Jake Tapper) One can only imagine what the John McCain of 2004 – who called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads “dishonest and dishonorable” – would say about this ad… I suppose one could twist this stuff any way you want if your only point is to make an inflammatory charge. And win an election... and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker ... says the ad is a gross distortion. I agree -- in both senses of the word "gross."

AP (Charles Babington) The "Straight Talk Express" has detoured into doublespeak. He says Obama would raise nearly everyone's taxes, when independent groups say 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

McMore Lies, Deceits And Distortions

You know McSame's campaign is pretty bad when even Rove says McCain Has Gone 'One Step Too Far'

John McCain's campaign ads are lies and distortions:

[ 3:31 ]

Palin says Alaska supplies 20 percent of U.S. energy.

Not true. Not even close.


Palin claims Alaska "produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." That's not true.

Alaska did produce 14 percent of all the oil from U.S. wells last year, but that's a far cry from all the "energy" produced in the U.S.

Alaska's share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent, according to the official figures kept by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And if by "supply" Palin meant all the energy consumed in the U.S., and not just produced here, then Alaska's production accounted for only 2.4 percent.

More at FactCheck.org.

Blizzard of Lies

Paul Krugman:

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? [snip]

One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern. [snip]

I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.

I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. [snip]

What does that say about how that team would run the country?

What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

John McCain would rather throw kids to pedophiles than lose an election

John McCain was confronted during an interview last night on "The View" by host Joy Behar.

She specifically mentioned an ad the McCain campaign has put out (including the legally mandated caption, "I'm John McCain and I approved this message") which accuses Barack Obama of supporting comprehensive sex education children starting in kindergarten.

The truth is that Obama as a state legislature sponsored a bill that mandated teaching kindergarten students to recognize what is inappropriate touching by adults and who they can report it to.

Behar pointed to that ad specifically and said that what McCain had said he stood by (calling this 'comprehensive sex education for kindergarten students') 'are lies.' She asked if he still stood by them.

McCain's response?

"They are not lies."

OK. So this guy claims that calling a program to educate children about child molesters is the same thing as 'comprehensive sex education' for kindergartners.

What is worse, the McCain campaign came out with a statement trying to justify the ad suggesting that this kind of stuff should be taught at home (apparently still using their stock answer for 'sex education' to discuss teaching about pedophiles.) Taking education for kindergartners about pedophiles out of the schools is very dangerous since most child molestation does happen at home, and obviously pedophiles who have children in the home would be the last ones to teach them that there is anything wrong with it, or who they could talk to about it.

This ad, and this ad alone (and McCain's refusal when confronted with the facts to repudiate it) should be enough to disqualify John McCain from any serious consideration for the Presidency.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Interview Observation

In her first major interview as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was stumped when asked about the so-called "Bush Doctrine," unable to answer whether she agreed with the six-year-old U.S. policy of military preemption. [snip]

Later in the interview, Palin was asked why exactly being the governor of Alaska made her an expert on Russia -- a claim that the McCain campaign has used to justify her national security bonafides. Her response was to cite geographic proximity, claiming that from some points in her home state, one could actually see the increasingly confrontational nation.

PALIN: We have to keep our eyes on Russia. Under the leadership there.

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.


Palin's geographical proximity to Russia is a claim of foreign policy experience?


Following that line of thinking then, and given that I am -- as the crow flies -- within three miles of a foreign country and have over many decades actually spend a lot of time in that same country, and given that I am a few (just "a few" mind you) years older than that woman, I guess that qualifies me as quite a bit more experienced in foreign policy! But I would not be promoting myself as any having any qualified experience in any real foreign policy on any sort of governmental level.

The "POW / Lipstick" ticket is a platform for more of the same old failing policies, only worse. If anything the last eight years has taught us it is that we don't need any more of that kind of clueless incompetence in positions of power.


Moose In The Headlights

Fail! The Bush Doctrine is not limited to Islamic extremism. It allows us to invade any country if we believe it will "prevent" that country from attacking us, even if there is no evidence that country has any plans to attack us. Exhibit A is Iraq, which had no plans to attack us.

Scary Sarah Graduates Neocon 101

In her interview with Charlie Gibson, Sarah Palin revealed some gaping holes in her knowledge of foreign affairs, including her "Moose in the Headlights" ignorance of the Bush Doctrine.

And even more revealing was her absolute certainty that she has the knowledge, experience, and credibility to be President on Day 1, based on the fact that you can see Russia from the remotest Alaska island. (And has she ever been there? Never mind.) Charlie Gibson rightly called that Hubris, and it was truly scary.

But even scarier was her near-command of neocon ideology, after just one week of coaching by McCain's neocon-in-chief, Randy Scheunemann. There was no hesitation in her delivery of neocon talking points, indicating she became a true believer under Scheunemann's tutelage.

Josh Marshall has been warning for months that McCain's devotion to neocon ideology (a.k.a. naked imperialism) is even greater than Bush's. Josh reminds us that McCain was even closer than Bush to Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi con man and neocon cats-paw who tricked us into invading Iraq by promising we would be greeted with candy and flowers, instead of a deadly insurgency. And Josh has written extensively about Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy advisory, who was a paid agent of Georgia and seems determined to drag us into World War III.

Impact of Palin's Foreign Policy Flub

The first thing to point out is that Palin's mishandling of the question regarding the Bush Doctrine is conclusive proof that she does not belong on the ticket. She is not ready and she proved it. [snip]

If you want to learn about that yourself I recommend hilzoy's take over at Washington Monthly:

The point of the Bush Doctrine was to change that: to say, as Bush said at West Point: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long." It was, basically, the acceptance of preventive war: war waged not in response to evidence of an imminent attack, but in response to the possibility that a country that was not attacking us now might attack us at some point in the future.

To anyone who had been following foreign policy in even the most cursory way, but who had somehow forgotten what the name "Bush Doctrine" referred to, Charlie Gibson's explanation would have made it clear what big Bush administration change in policy was under discussion. "Oh, right", such a person would think: "that."

For that reason, one of the most striking things about Palin's response, to me, was this: in answering Gibson's question, she seemed to think that she was accepting the Bush Doctrine, but what she actually said just restated the old doctrine of preemption.

So it is important. However voters may not know it was important that she know that. The term "Doctrine" linked to a Presidential name is a foreign policy term of art. It is elemental. Not to understand that makes you a real neophyte and Palin clearly did not understand the term. Again, regular voters may not know this. The key is now how the media informs them that this was a serious mistake.


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

One To Remember

Your Thursday Molly Ivins Moment:

There are some signs of what could become a dangerous division in what has been an unusually unified America since this crisis began, and they have to do with a class difference in information. To oversimplify, those who are getting their information from the Internet and/or a broad range of publications are having conversations with one another that are radically different from those heard on many radio talk shows.

This is more than the simplistic jingoism that is a constant in American life; this is simplistic jingoism with a dangerously short attention span. The "let's nuke 'em" crowd is still looking for a short, simple solution, and there just isn't one. ...

While some of us are talking about how to build a civil society, achieve energy independence and settle long-standing international disputes, others are reacting like the waitress in an Austin drinking establishment, who refused to serve the East Indian guest of a regular patron, repeatedly calling him a terrorist and insisting that he leave. That's the reaction gap that concerns me.

Courtesy of Bill in Portland Maine. Now, go read his diary for today.

He's got lots of questions.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Around the Blogosphere

I Don't Remember:

Boehner forgets his golfing vacation, says he was at GOP drilling protest ‘each and every day.’

Last month, House conservatives engaged in a political stunt in the Capitol, demanding a vote on oil drilling while Congress was adjourned for recess. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), however, was absent for part of the protest, squeezing in a couple of rounds of golf in Ohio while his colleagues were in Washington. Speaking today on the floor, Boehner claimed he was there “each and every day”:

Watch it: [ 4:01 ]

Spigot Hissy Spit:

House GOP Threatens Shutdown Over Drilling

Drill Now BS: Actual Domestic Oil Facts

Drill here, drill now is ridiculous and should be called out for what it is - a moronic, dangerous policy idea with absolutely no logical foundation.

More Bush Government Incompetence:

Veterans Groups Attack Bush Administration Plan To Outsource GI Bill Benefits

In June — after months of finally signed a war supplemental spending bill that included a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for veterans.

Bush’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), however, doesn’t seem too happy about the increased work these new benefits will create and plans to outsource it all.

Braindead Media:

Hannity: No One At Fox News Has Ever Accused Obama Of Being A Muslim [Fake Spews BS]

Media Embrace McCain’s ‘Maverick’ Re-Branding Effort [With Video]

On Fox News yesterday, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes observed that this re-branding effort is something that “the media has bought.” Barnes is right. Since the convention last week, the media appear to be more than happy to comply with McCain’s effort to put the “maverick” brand back into his campaign — hook, line and sinker...

In fact, there is nothing about any of McCain’s policy proposals that could in any way justify calling him a “maverick.” His economic, energy, health care and national security policies are all either in line with President Bush’s or in some cases further to the right.

Paul Begala rips MSM, Republican operative for flat-out lying about Palin’s record [With video and transcript]

Paul Begala goes to town on GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos for peddling blatant falsehoods about Sarah Palin’s “reformer” record, specifically her phantom opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere,” which she not only supported, but for which hired a Abramoff crony to secure the earmark.

Alternate Realities:

Meghan McCain: ‘No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period.’

Also Needing A Reality Check:

McCain Campaign Piles Up New Falsehoods On Bridge To Nowhere

McCain and his advisers are now conceding that, yes, Sarah Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it -- but they're casting this as more proof of her reform credentials.

In so doing, the McCain camp is piling new falsehoods atop the old ones.

Surveillance And Secrecy:

Government secrecy on the rise.

A new “secrecy report card” by OpenTheGovernment.org finds that by almost every measure, government secrecy is rising. Some of the report’s indicators: PDF

* The government spent $195 maintaining the secrets already on the books for every one dollar the government spent declassifying documents

* 18 percent of the requested Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition funding is for classified, or ‘black,’ programs...

* “Federal surveillance activity under the jurisdiction of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has risen for the 9th consecutive year...”

Screwing The People For Fun And More Profit:

Freddie & Fannie execs to walk away with millions

Under the terms of his employment contract, Daniel H. Mudd, the departing head of Fannie Mae, stands to collect $9.3 million in severance pay, retirement benefits and deferred compensation, provided his dismissal is deemed to be “without cause,” according to an analysis by the consulting firm James F. Reda & Associates. Mr. Mudd has already taken home $12.4 million in cash compensation and stock option gains since becoming chief executive in 2004, according to an analysis by Equilar, an executive pay research firm.

Richard F. Syron, the departing chief executive of Freddie Mac, could receive an exit package of at least $14.1 million, largely because of a clause added to his employment contract in mid-July as his company’s troubles deepened. He has taken home $17.1 million in pay and stock option gains since becoming chief executive in 2003.

More Bushenomics: Why McCain's Plans Would Only Add to Americans' Economic Pain

Somewhere between box-office hit and policy wonk mentality is the real world. Here, "Country First" should represent more than military prowess; it should mean economic stability. A country can't be strong if the personal economies of its citizens are weak. Yet, under McCain's economic strategy, individual financial security is under attack.

Grandiose notions of combat don't pay for adjustable mortgages, sneaky credit card fees and rate hikes, health care premiums, tuition, gas or food. They don't regulate a banking system gone mad that has already commandeered billions of dollars of bailouts (from Bear Stearns to the cost of "effectively privatizing" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).

McCain's main economic promises are cutting taxes, creating jobs and balancing the budget (aka removing pork). All commendable, except when you consider the details. His policies would result in a higher deficit, a lower dollar, more jobs leaving the country, and a reduction in Social Security, Medicare, education and other entitlement programs.

Calling Them On It:

Obama on Countdown: McCain/Palin “stretching the bounds of spin” [Video and transcript]

Fixing Elections:

Ten ways the McCain/Palin GOP is now stealing the Ohio vote

Nearly 600,000 Subject to Possible Caging in Ohio ... Updated

Virginia county issues “chilling” voter registration report

Officials in charge of voter registration in Virginia seem to be asking for Federal investigation… According to this press release from this extremely important battleground state, students are being told that they risk losing their scholarship and tax dependency status if they register to vote in their college, as opposed to home, state. And surprise, it appears all these warnings are bogus and have one impact and one impact only: to suppress voter turnout among college-aged people, who are overwhelmingly supporting Obama this year. Memo to Virginia: that’s illegal.

TPMTV Video:

Palin a Reformer? Simply Laughable


Pointing out the obvious: Self Correcting Conservatives

I’ve been saying that this is the time America was finally ready to turn away from the phony notion that being a conservative is a good thing—go left and reject conservatism completely. I mean, it’s been an utter failure and John McCain has been a big part of that failure. I’ve been calling on the Obama campaign to attack the ideals that conservatism apply. Not to be used like a wedge issue since he has been running on a platform of bipartisanship, (I disapprove of that also) but to point out the obvious. If a party hates government then they will prove how bad government is. And what we get are people left stranded in NOLA with no water for a week as an example of how dangerous it is.

Well, all summer we had a chance to point that out to America, but unfortunately that did not happen and now we’re left watching John McCain try to remake the image of his party while he gets sucked into the conservative Borg organism in the process. And the media rejoices. He’s a Maverick they say! What a guy. And if you believe the polls, the public is buying it to so far.

I’ve also thought that this would come down to the debates because Americans just don’t know Obama all that well and when he’s side by side with McSame, America will truly see the difference. It’s tough to wait it out till then, but that’s going to be the defining moments I think in this election unless some really bad news or crazy gaffes take place.

Digby has a great post up called: Self Correcting Conservatives.


William K. Wolfrum Chronicles: Jesus quits Christianity after viewing the GOP platform

“There’s a new breed of Christian out there that seems to think I represent free-for-all capitalism and slaying my enemies,” said Christ, munching on an arugula quiche. “I mean, they made Isaiah into a Cold War-era strategist, for Dad’s sake. Did they even read the New Testament?”

- - - - -

A thoughtful Christ said he had yet to decide what would be next for him, but expressed pride in his philosophy and accomplishments.

“We had a good run,” said Christ. “It really far exceeded anything I had hoped for, but humanity was supposed to become more evolved over time, not less.

“It’s just time to pull the plug.”

- - - - -

But Christ did allow for one tidbit to be released - what the “H” stood for in “Jesus H. Christ.”

“Hector,” said Christ, walking out the door.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Still Hungry

From Dark Wraith:

[ 1:07 ]

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Did Anne Really Say That About Sarah?

Did Anne Kilkenny Really Say Those Things About Sarah Palin?

David Emery's Urban Legends Blog:

The viral email of the hour is a lengthy screed lambasting Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's record as a small-town mayor and Governor of Alaska. It was signed by one Anne Kilkenny, who claims she is longtime resident of Wasilla, Alaska and was able to observe Sarah Palin's governing style firsthand.

Did she really write it? Yes, she did. Does she really live in Wasilla? Yes, she does. And, in case you hadn't already guessed, she's a Democrat.

Anne Kilkenny on Sarah Palin*:

*This page also has links for: Sources confirming Anne Kilkenny as the author; Sarah Palin's record, and Sarah Palin on the issues.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Smoke and mirrors

Remember the carnival magician? You'd buy a ticket, go into a tent and watch as the Amazing Zandolini seemed to pull a canary out of an empty box, saw a woman in half and then put her back together, escape from a straightjacket while locked inside a safe, hand you two interlocked iron rings and then separate them, make a rope rise up out of a basket and dance as he played some vaguely middle eastern tune on the recorder, levitate a volunteer in thin air and make all sorts of objects disappear and reappear in a puff of smoke.

You knew of course that it was all sleight of hand, but it was entertaining anyway.

Who knew that the Amazing Zandolini's assistant would go on to run for Vice President of the United States?

We've heard a compelling story this week about Sarah Palin-- that she fought corruption, fought earmarks, cancelled the so-called "bridge to nowhere," cut taxes. and sold her predecessor's private plane on e-bay.

Turns out that it's all smoke and mirrors.

Start with the corruption, since we've been learning all week about how Palin is under investigation herself for apparently abusing the power of her office as Governor to try and help her sister out in a custody dispute with her ex-husband. This has been reported on fairly widely (including here) so I won't repeat all the details, except to say that to claim that Sarah Palin is a corruption fighter is a bit like suggesting that Eliot Spitzer was a fighter against prostitution. She's throwing stones and they are breaking her glass house all around her on that one. She also likes to point out that she ran against and defeated corrupt former Governor Frank Murkowski, who was especially unpopular after engineering his daughter into a U.S. Senate seat. OK, so she beat him. Corrupt politicians often lose because they are corrupt. She was astute enough politically to realize that Murkowski could be beaten in a primary but that in itself says nothing about her own views on corruption.

What about earmarks? Isn't she big against earmarks? Well, no actually. We've learned that while she was mayor of Wasilla, a town about the size of Winslow, she hired a Washington lobbying firm which brought in over 27 million dollars in earmarks for the town. She even once praised Congressman Don Young for helping her town get this 'largesse.' Yup, a fighter against pork. NOT!!

Then when she ran for Governor she promised more of the same. On one campaign trip to Ketchikan she said she supported the proposed bridge that has now become infamous.

So what about the bridge? It became a symbol of so-called wasteful government spending. Demogogues on the right made no end of pointing out that the bridge cost $223 million and would provide road access to an island that had a population of fifty. In fact, they either ignorantly or intentionally omitted the fact that on the island was an airport that serves 200,000 passengers per year who have to be brought over to the mainland by ferry, so in fact a good case could be made for building the bridge. In any case though, Congress decided to make it the symbolic sacrifice of pork they could kill and all look good back home. So Palin, the consummate politician realized it was about to be gone anyway so she cancelled it and took the credit. In her speech this week she said "I told Congress, thanks but no thanks." Only she kept the money! The money that had already been sent up there stayed in Alaska and went to other projects. Not only that but right now the state of Alaska is building the access road to the proposed bridge for a twenty-five million dollar price tag (they did keep that money too.) So if the bridge is never built then this must be wasting money on the 'road to nowhere.'

What about tax cuts? Well, that would be difficult since in Alaska there is no sales tax and no income tax to begin with. Most of the state revenues come from royalties paid to the state by the petroleum industry, as well as the Federal largesse that Alaskans enjoy on a grander scale than residents of any other state (and which Palin for years dined at the trough of.) And in a remarkably progressive policy, the state of Alaska has for several decades sent excess oil revenue to all residents of the state in the form of a once per year check. It is true that with oil prices soaring the revenue has gone up commensurately so this year's check, about $1,200 per permanent resident was substantially more than last year's. If you want to call that a tax cut, I guess you can call it one. But you can call a mule a horse and it still doesn't make it a horse.

What does that leave? Oh, yes that airplane. It is true that when Palin took office she found that Murkowski had purchased an airplane with state money. So she put it on e-bay. Again, a good political move, and if she and the GOP left it at that, she'd have scored a point. Only they haven't; they've implied and have now actually been saying that she sold it on e-bay. Which is false. We learn today that the plane did not sell on e-bay, but was subsequently sold to a businessman in a private transaction, and at a $600,000 loss.

Specifically, the plane originally cost $2.7 million and was sold for $2.1 million to businessman Larry Reynolds.

Yet today John McCain is quoted as saying at a campaign stop in Wisconsin,

You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay -- and made a profit!"

Well, McCain can be excused-- this is hardly the first time he's gotten his facts wrong on the campaign trail.

But on the video played about Palin at the GOP convention they said outright that she had 'auctioned it' on e-bay. Either the video was intentionally misleading or very poorly researched. But I'm sure Palin must have known that it didn't really sell on e-bay but she has said nothing to correct the error-- which reflects directly on her own character, and not in a good way.

And for that matter, if she took a loss on the plane then it is fair to ask, now that the state government doesn't have that plane anymore, how she gets around a state where flying is a necessity (you can't drive to Juneau from the rest of the state, for example.) Does she take commercial air? If so does the state government pick up the tab for the flight? If not, then did they buy another airplane? Come on, if they lost $600,000 on the deal then where is the savings? Only an advocate of Bush economics could figure out a way to claim that the state is making a profit by selling a plane they already owned at a loss.

So it looks like everything that Sarah Palin is supposed to be running on is a mirage. A carefully crafted mirage, which makes you wonder exactly who is writing the story-- it looks like something that might be written in a Washington think tank rather than in Alaska.

At least when the Amazing Zandolini pulled a rabbit out of a hat nobody was trying to tell me that it was real.

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