Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul Newman

We will miss a great actor and an even better person.


I am also fascinated by the contemporary wisdom that the "surge" has "worked."

Spending Freeze?

About the only thing that stuck out in my mind after the debate last night was McCain's comment about a spending freeze on everything other than defense and entitlements. Really, John? So screw the bridges and levees and education and climate change and all that? I know that the Giggling Murderer has spent the government into oblivion, but how's that going to sell in places like Minnesota or Louisiana?

Debate Post-Mortem

If condescension, ill-disguised contempt, and a patronizing attitude toward his opponent were part of the scorecard of presidential debates, then one might say that McCain "won" last night's debate. Unfortunately for McCain, his rambling, bullying performance may have been red meat for the base but did not endear him to that strange breed of voters calling themselves "undecideds" and "independents." Several post-election flash polls seemed to bear this out, giving Obama a clear "win" on points. At the risk of giving the TV punditocracy too much credit for another election 2008 buzzword, e.g. "pivot," which is then repeated ad nauseum, there was no "gamechanger" in this debate. Which is not good news for McCain.

Senator Obama wasn't at his best; he could, and should have, landed more punches on McCain. On the other hand, Obama stayed "on message," displaying his usual impressive command of the issues, and treated McCain with a deference and respect that the old geezer clearly did not deserve. Not surprisingly, this gentlemanly quality of Obama's resonated well with the viewers. At the same time, McCain did not help himself by his refusal to look Obama in the eye. The voters who will decide this election, and who were probably turning their full attention to the election for the first time, do not like to see unneccessary displays of rudeness from their candidates, and style matters as much as substance to such voters.

Perhaps it's not in Obama's nature to be combative. His "brand" (to coin another silly buzzword) would be tarnished by excessive partisanship. One could argue that Obama is where he is today because he is a brilliant politician who has figured out that Americans want a nonpartisan, conciliatory, consensus-building approach from their president. This is Obama's strength. But it could have turned into a weakness had he allowed McCain to roll him. It didn't happen, but there are those of us who would like to see more combativeness from Obama, especially in these dire times, with so much on the line in this election.

Newsflash: It went almost unnoticed that the leader of the Republican Party admitted the United States tortures prisoners. "Never again will we torture prisoners," said McCain. Am I wrong, or is this the first time a Republican officeholder with access to intelligence reports has made this assertion? Would the candidate care to amplify his comment before a war crimes tribunal in the Hague? For one who lectured Obama on what a potential president should or should not say, John McCain certainly strayed off the Republican reservation, even if confirming the obvious.

Friday, September 26, 2008

There's progress, and then there's John McCain progress

From the McCain campaign:

Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon.

All the news this morning was about how there was a major breakdown in discussions, that there are two competing plans (the Dodd variant on the Paulson one, or something like that, and the House GOP insurance scam) that have nothing in common and where the House GOP members have dug their heels in and are posturing like they're the defenders of the holy land or something and how W is impotent and how the meeting yesterday was beyond bad and how Paulson got down on a knee to beg Democrats to not tattle on him, and that the GOP might not even send reps from the House to discussions today, etc.

That's "significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement"? This from the guy who only spoke at the White House meeting when prodded by his opponent?

Go jump in a woodchipper, Senator McCain.

Bailing on the bailout, or something

I'm not really sure what to think of what's going on with this whole bailout thing.

First of all, and rather importantly, Paulson and his crew have not spelled out just what the real danger is, so it's hard to know how important it is that something get done RIGHT NOW. Clearly, financial markets struggle under the veil of uncertainty, and as we saw last week, sometimes the mere insinuation that the government is planning to help calms things down, so there may well be value in some action.

Secondly, however, the Paulson plan is clearly DOA. No one wants to give him (and, really, his successor) $700 billion (a number they pulled out of their collective behinds, BTW) with no oversight of any kind. Thankfully, even der Chimpenfuhrer has acknowledged that, and the plan that Dodd was talking about yesterday as "an agreement on principles" was, apparently noticeably different.

Thirdly, however again, we don't have the details of Dodd's plan (or whatever the compromise plan is looking like). So everyone is still reacting to Paulson's crappy plan, and there is no effort to sell us on why the compromise is not just a better idea, but actually a *good* idea.

Fourthly, in comes Saint JohnnyMac and his House GOP cronies. They have put together a "plan" which is more laughable than the Paulson one. It includes, as you would expect from crazy people, reducing regulations and cutting corporate taxes. The assumption, of course, is that if the government just got totally out of their way, companies would assume these bad debts their own bad selves and somehow figure out how to make money on them. Yes, that will work. That's why when the government was begging banks to come up with funding for AIG (I think it was AIG, I'm getting confused with all the failures) they said no way.

So, here's where we are. There are three plans, two of which are laughably bad and dangerous and one which may be better (and on which everyone except the House GOP had signed off, basically) but we don't know what it is. W has no authority of any kind (his party is in absolute revolt), McCain is clearly trying to use this to somehow gain popularity as the man who fixed the problem, and meanwhile, overnight WaMu went belly-up.

I can see the following scenarios taking place:

1) The Dems give in and sign off on the House GOP plan (or the Paulson one), either of which would be a disaster. I don't think that will happen, in part because they've got the bit in their teeth somewhat (Barney Frank is goin' ape) and in part because this is like the only time they've ever gotten Bush to give in on anything (other than SSI, and that one he just pouted on) and they can't let him forget it.

2) Nothing passes, and the markets self-correct. McCain looks like a genius for stalling everything and being terribly non-commital.

3) Nothing passes, and the markets and banking industry continues to go down the toilet. If this happens, McCain's candidacy is doomed beyond comprehension, because everyone will remember how close they were to a compromise (for good or ill) and then it died.

4) Somehow, a plan that doesn't entirely suck gets passed - the banks get a couple hundred billion (but not 700) and regulations get increased and homeowners get something back in return.

Of course, I have no idea what will actually happen, and now I have to go to work.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guest post by Dr.Pete

This was sent to me by a friend of mine:

The Senate’s Glass Dome

Unless you’ve been living in the basement of a sealed-off cave on the dark side of the moon, you’re probably aware that the 2008 election is “historic”. We’ve heard a lot about the barriers being broken by the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and rightly so, but what about the rest of our Federal government? As we edge closer to the possibility of a black president, are we making strides in other areas?

Since Barack Obama is a sitting Senator and the Senate has the mathematical virtue of having exactly 100 members, I thought it would be interesting to see how the Senate’s make-up compares to the country at large. Currently, the Senate’s official ethnic diversity page reveals that we have 5 sitting Senators who are racial minorities: the Senate is 95% white, 1% African-American, 1% Asian-American, and 3% Hispanic/Latino. At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census, the country at large was roughly 69% white, 12% African-American, 4% Asian-American, and 13% Hispanic/Latino.

According to that same census, women made up 51% of our population. The ratio of currently serving female Senators is 16%. Now, you may think that 16% is reasonably high, and that this could just be pure chance, the same as getting heads 16 times on 100 coin tosses. Just for the record, if we picked our Senators at random, the odds of getting 16 (or less) women are roughly 1 in 768,000,000,000.

So, how are we doing? I’m afraid the answer is “not very well”. While the make-up of any body will never completely mirror the country at large, and merit should always be our primary qualification for office, it’s painfully clear that we have a long way to go. We need to work to understand the forces and social pressures that still act to keep women and racial minorities from serving in the highest offices. Hopefully, the 2008 presidential election is at least a beginning to that conversation.

Quiz time, boys and girls

It is unlikely, but possible, that the electoral vote ends in a 269-269 tie.

No cheating--what happens?

Quote of the Day

Couric asked Palin, "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. Um, helping, oh, it's got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting 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 have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation."

What the hell is she talking about? Giving $700 billion to rich people who lost their shirts will reform health care, reduce taxes, and create jobs? Is she on crack, or just as dumb as she sounds? BTW, I just watched the video, and Katie Couric gets huge props for not giving away how stupid that answer was.

h/t Balloon Juice

Let me get this straight

So, Senator McCain, last week "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," but now the economy is "cratering" (crater? I hardly know her! - h/t Paul Shaffer) and Friday's debate (as well as next Thursday's Veep evisceration, err, debate) need to be postponed or canceled so that you can do something you haven't done since last year - play at being a United States Senator? That's quite a turnaround, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

World traveller Palin visits New York


At the start of her meeting with Talabani at a downtown hotel, the governor was overheard saying: "There's plenty to do here, isn't there? Plenty to see."

I love the smell of desperation

The AP, not buying the spin:

Even as McCain said he was putting the good of the country ahead of politics, his surprise announcement was clearly political. It was an attempt to try to out-maneuver Obama on an issue he's trailing on, the economy, as the Democrat gains in polls. He swiftly went before TV cameras minutes after speaking with Obama and before the two campaigns had hammered out a joint statement expressing that Congress act urgently on the bailout.

And while McCain's campaign said he would "suspend" his campaign, it simply will move to Washington knowing the spotlight will remain on him no matter where he is.

Obama repeatedly stressed at his news conference that he called McCain first to propose that they issue a joint statement in support of a package to help fix the economy as soon as possible. He said McCain called back several hours later, as Obama was leaving a rally in Florida, and agreed to the idea of a statement but also said he wanted to postpone the debate and hold joint meetings in Washington.

Obama said he suggested they first issue a joint statement showing bipartisanship.

"When I got back to the hotel, he had gone on television to announce what he was going to do," Obama said.

Rush's dumber brother, redux

I thought David Limbaugh below was just stupidity, but apparently it has become the official party line of the wingers--the Community Reinvestment Act and other housing laws "forced" banks to lend in "high risk" areas. That is a complete lie. First of all, no financial institutions were forced to suspend prudential lending standards. Secondly, these are not the loans that are the basis of the subprime mess, and of course, by mentioning "high risk areas," they use codewords for where black people live, and did you notice that Barack Obama is black???

The loans in question can be traced not to fair housing laws but to the securitization of mortgage pools and the separation of the underwriting risk from the making of the loan. Mortgage-backed securities and instruments such as credit default swaps (which I don't understand, and I'm a securities lawyer), sold through a deregulated market, led to the crisis.


So JohnnyMac wants to postpone Friday's debate and is suspending his campaign (whatever that means) to do, y'know, his job as a US Senator (something he hasn't done in ages...). I've got two better ideas:

1) Suspend your pathetic campaign permanently and put yourself out of our misery
2) Have an unscripted and unplanned discussion on Friday night about the economy. Sit at a table with Obama and just talk. Show us how bipartisan and mavericky you really are, and work out a solution that doesn't just line the pockets of your rich friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From Rush's dumber brother

"Government politicians and bureaucrats forced lending institutions to make un-creditworthy loans and helped create unnatural demand in the housing market by priming the pump on bad loans. This created an unnatural price bubble in real estate, which was securing these ill-advised loans. When the bubble inevitably burst, the mortgages secured by the artificially inflated real estate plummeted in value, which left us with an epidemic of grossly under-secured loans."

That's some deep thinking for you.


Is Vader losing his power?

From the AP:
Vice President Dick Cheney and Jim Nussle, the Bush administration's budget director, met privately with restive House Republicans, some of whom emerged from the session unpersuaded.

"Just because God created the world in seven days doesn't mean we have to pass this bill in seven days," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Added Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., "I am emphatically against it."

Six weeks left, update

The last week has generally not been a good one for humanity, poll-wise, but the trend over the last day or two is moving back towards Obama. Regardless, here's this morning's snapshot of the polls. See here for last week's analysis and an explanation of what I'm trying to do here.

Italicized states have trended (changed categories) towards McCain, bolded towards Obama.

McCain win: Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, South Dakota, North Dakota. Total: 155 EV (-61).

McCain likely: Montana, Missouri, North Carolina. Total: 29 EV (+18).

Obama likely: Wisconsin. Total: 10 EV (-18).

Obama win: DC, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, California, Delaware, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington, New Mexico, Oregon. Total: 202 EV (+23).

Tossup: Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Florida, Indiana, West Virginia. Total: 142 EV (+38).

The net trend since last week is McCain lost 33 EV from his column, while Obama gained 5 (and the tossup column gained 38). Combining the "win" and "likely" for each, we'd be at 184 for McCain and 212 for Obama. Not quite a dead heat, but close. PA and MI are still critical, but the trend was heavily in Obama's direction this week. If you include all states that are leaning one way or the other, you'd put WV, IN, FL, NV, and NH in McCain's column and OH, VA, CO, PA, MI, and MN in Obama's. That would give you totals of 302 for Obama and 236 for McCain.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Oh Madam Speaker...

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

Please consider your decisions over the next few days VERY carefully.

If you push this bailout through the House, you are a complete and utter MORON, and you will have just handed the election to Grampy. That piece of crap will get to show up in the Senate, vote "no" on the bill and then, well looky here, ain't he maverick-y! Then he spends the rest of the campaign running against BOTH Bush and the Democrats and then we're screwed for four/eight more years.

Do the right thing. Please.


Bush has sunk below the Alan Keyes line, and that took some doing:

Overall, 19% of Americans say that they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president, 76% disapprove, and 5% are undecided.

That's not the most amazing number in the data, however (19% still approve?):

No Americans say that the national economy is getting better, 13% say it is staying the same, and 82% say the national economy is getting worse.

From CNN

"The Bush administration's proposed $700 billion financial rescue began to take shape today with lawmakers debating whether to add provisions to protect taxpayers."

Only in Bush's America could protecting taxpayers (y'know, those of us footing the bill for this bailout idea) be something worthy of debate.

Bail! Bail!

This has already been said by others, but the simple truth is that if the banks and GOP feel like they can impose any conditions they want on their bailout, they must not need the money that badly. What's the threat - that they'll go out of business? Talk about cutting off your dick to spite Congress' face.