Monday, September 29, 2008

Where do we go from here?

I had been working on a post yesterday about a recent op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman, titled "Green the Bailout" -- A little ditty that encouraged our government to look beyond the bailout and work toward a Green buildup.  The idea is that plenty of countries do fossil fuel extraction and gasoline fueled autos better than we do. So why don't we switch our focus to the next step in energy -- green energy. If we can't be number one in the old way of powering the World, why not be number one in the new way? Why not replace lost blue collar jobs with what author Van Jones is calling "green collar" ones? It was going to kill.

Then the shit hit the fan and Congress gave into millions of Americans who can't bother to read a newspaper.

Whoops. Guilty as charged. I'm a print-journalism elitist. CNN and Fox News can kiss my ass.

The House of Representatives should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of taking the lead, getting out on the stump, bumping elbows with folks at potlucks and community centers and Wal-Marts all across America, convincing Americans that though this plan isn't perfect, it would help regular Janes and Joes as much as it would help the Big Bad Banks on Wall Street, they sat back and went with whichever way the wind blew. Good job, Leaders of the Free World. You may have just won re-election....but you're completely responsible for where we go from here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

(Sort of) live blogging the first presidential debate

Not only have I been (sort of) live blogging the debate, but in the spirit of Tony Reali's Around the Horn, I will dole out points arbitrarily to whomever for whatever reason I deem appropriate. This is what blogging is all about!

9:06 Kick-off!

9:07 I hate the lazy "Main Street" vs. "Wall Street" comparison. Our Main St is called Merchants Row. Or Highway 7. O-1

9:08 A 4-point plan for the bailout, GObama! O+1

9:09 Teddy's sick again. Really, McCain? M+0-1

9:10 Bipartisanship! The mark of old McCain. Where did he go? M+0

9:12 Blah, blah, I can't say whether I approve this plan. Blah, blah, Hillary had bigger balls than both of us. O/M -1

9:14 And forever....Go D-Day! M+0

9:15 They're being waaaaaay too nice. This just proves the point I've been trying to hammer home. These guys don't know enough about economics to have an honest conversation about the Economy. O/M -1

9:20 Yeah! Burn that tax plan to the ground Obama! Check out the Obamaculator to see your tax cut under the distinguished Senator from Illinois. O+2

9:22 "The sheriff". Nice nickname. I guess. M-1

9:24 "Pork-Barrel Obama". Much better nickname. True. O-1

9:26 Close the loopholes! Close-close the loopholes! O+1

9:27 Why can't they just be buddies? JK. Interruptions+1 

9:30 Ohio! Michigan! Electric cars! O+1

9:32 Ethanol subsidies? McCain's right. Stoooopid! M+1

9:33 Eliminate the waste. M+1

9:35 Google the govt. O+1

9:35 Why is the eagle facing McCain? PBS-1

9:36 Education. Mmm-hmm. Woulda given you another point had you mentioned after-school education. O+1

9:37 Nuclear power. It's gotta be on the table. There's no way around it if we want to decrease our coal burnin' ways. M+1

9:37 Nuclear does next to nothing to wean our dependence on foreign oil. That's an outright lie. M-2

9:39 Health care needs the govt's help. Plain and simple, Johnny. M-1

9:40 Cutting taxes helps a hurtin' economy. But so does increasing spending on domestic projects that create American jobs. M+1-1

9:41 "Orgy of spending"! Great quote! O+1

9:41 Yes, McCain you've opposed him at times, but you've really fallen in love with Bush since 2004. M-1

9:43 The troop surge worked. McCain is right, and he was right when it wasn't popular to be right. M+3

9:44 You opposed the war in the Illinois Senate. Good job. O-2

9:45 Sports analogies. Took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. Double points. O+2

9:47 Don't lean on Joey too much. O-1

9:48 Take him down, Obama!!! We screwed the pooch in 2003, no doubt. O+2

9:48 Tactic/Strategy? Ass-hole-ish joke, McCain. M-1

9:50 Troop funding. John McCain, don't lie about your opponent's record. M-1

9:52 Move the troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.  I agree. But we can only do that successfully because the surge worked. O+1-1

9:53 Yeah, Obama! That's not true! Call a liar a liar. O+1

9:54 Obama can talk foreign policy and not sound like a novice. I guess we should expect that from a candidate, but I'm still giving him a point. O+1

9:55 3-point plan for Afghanistan! O+1

9:56 I have a soft spot for politicians who admit mistakes. M+1

9:56 Pakistan's a crazy/precarious situation. Walk softly is the correct way to handle it. M+1

9:57 No matter what happens, at the very least, we're going to have a sharp, whip-smart president. Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning? M/O+1

9:58 Call him on it, Obama.We don't attack Pakistan on a whim. Ending bin Laden, no matter where is resides, is the right strategy. O+1

10:02 I like success as much as the next guy, but at what cost, Senator McCain? M-1

10:03 Who can tell the most heart-warming troop story. Why, o why??? M-2 for bringing it up; O-1 for stooping to his level.

10:05 We didn't put enough emphasis on Afghanistan after 2003. McCain, you may have visited the area, but you and the Republicans dropped the ball. M-2

10:06 There's only a connection between Iraq and Afghanistan because we created that connection by mistakenly going after Iraq. M-1

10:07 Yes, John. We cannot allow a second Holocaust. Way to go out on a limb. M+0

10:07 I love the name "League of Democracies". It sounds like an awesome superhero group. And not necessarily a bad idea. Easy points because I'm a sucker. M+2

10:09 We cannot allow the situation in Iraq to spill into Iran. Shame on McCain O+1

10:10 We need the Ruskies and the Chinese, too. O+1

10:11 Preconditions. I really don't care, to be honest. But only if we can talk directly to the Dalia Lama as well. Jonny+3

10:12 Ahmadinejad's a crazy bastard. I know no one's arguing that, but still give him a point. M+1

10:14 Talk to North Korea, John. Il's crazy, too, but we weren't getting anywhere by ignoring him. O+1

10:18 I just microwaved some pizza. Are we really still talking about preconditions? M/O -1

10:18 I've never met Kissinger. He's not been my friend for 35 years. But I know this: He's a crazy bastard, too. Jonny+1

10:20 Cold war dumb. Reagan+1

10:21 Soul jokes! O+1

10:23 Prof McCain. Teach it! M+2

10:26 Russia's kind of boring. Russia-1

10:27 Clean coal. What happened to that?!! Has it been delayed along with my flying car? O+1

10:28 Offshore drilling will not help anytime soon. M-1

10:30 9/11 Commission. Oh man, I loved the old McCain. What happened to that guy? Straight-Talk+1

10:30 Torture is bad. M+1

10:31 No just our borders, but our ports, too! M-1


10:33 Obama loves 'merica! O+1 (and I'm sure McCain does, too M+1)

10:34 Missile defense if a ridiculous boondoggle. M-1

10:34 How much longer does McCain feel we need these sort of troop levels in Iraq? Even Bush is ready for a phased withdrawal. Whaaaa? M+1

10:36 I love investing in science! Go NASA! Go NOAA! Go Scientists! O+1

10:38 "I love veterans, and I'll take care of them." One of the least political moments of the night. McCain was wearing his heart on his sleeve there.  M+1

10:39 We need more kids loving 'merica! Obama's Dad+1

10:40 Like I said, these guys are two smart cookies. I don't think this election is as black & white as we tend to make it. (If i say' no pun intended,' does that make me an asshole?)

Let's see who won according to this ridiculous scoring system.

Obama +16      McCain -1

I have no idea what this means. Also, I have no desire to check my figures. Good debate, though.

Okay fine. Obama wins.

Let the spin begin!

A Debate! A Debate!

Ha! Ha! I shamed McCain into debating tonight! Booyah!!!

More to come this weekend. Yezzir.

EDIT: Now let the game of lowered expectations begin!
Obama spokesman Bill Button sent an e-mail to reporters quoting news stories indicating McCain was the stronger debater, particularly on foreign policy.

"If he slips up, makes a mistake or fails to deliver a game-changing performance, it will be a serious blow to his campaign," Button said of McCain.

McCain, for his part, praised Obama's debate skills this week, suggesting his rival's performances against Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primaries had helped him win the Democratic nomination.
Next up, insane amounts of spin! I can't wait!!!

More of the same....but better

Seriously America. Let's all take a deep breath and read.

Issue Is Payback, Not Bailout (NY Times)

Take it away, David Leonhardt:

"The first thing to understand is that a bailout plan doesn’t have to cost anywhere close to $700 billion, so long as it’s designed well. The $700 billion number that you see everywhere is an estimate of how much the government would spend to buy deteriorating assets now held by banks. Eventually, the government will turn around and sell these assets, for a price almost certain to be greater than zero. So this $700 billion is very different from $700 billion spent on a war or on Medicare."

In other words, we'll spend money, but we'll get some of it back.

"Figuring out how much to pay for the assets is the first problem. The drop in house prices and rise in foreclosures have made it clear that these securities are worth considerably less than banks expected. But there is enormous uncertainty about how much less.

Based on the underlying fundamentals (like the current foreclosure rate and the one forecast for the future), many of the securities appear to be worth something on the order of 75 percent of their original value. But thanks to the fear now gripping the market — not necessarily an irrational fear, given that most forecasts have proven far too sunny over the last year — very, very few of those securities are trading hands. Among those that have, the sales price has been roughly 25 percent of the value."

This is a much better way of saying what I tried to explain in my last post. The Treasury (and more accurately, we, the taxpayers) doesn't want to overpay too much more than these assets are actually worth. If we do, we could very well end up losing a large chunk of that $700 billion when we sell these assets back to the market.

"It [The Government] clearly shouldn’t pay 75 cents on the dollar, or anything close to it. That would mean the Treasury Department — which, in the end, is really you and me — was assuming nearly all the risk. But it probably can’t pay 25 cents. That might fail to fix the credit markets, because it would do relatively little to improve financial firms’ balance sheets. Firms might then remain unwilling to lend money to businesses and households, which is the whole problem the bailout is meant to solve."

BUT, BUT, BUT! We can't pay the low price either, because no matter what these assets are worth, if we pay too little, it might not be enough of a cash-kick-start to get the markets going and banks lending and borrowing again.

"The most obvious solution is to pay more than 25 cents on the dollar and then demand something in return for the premium — namely, a stake in any firm that participates in the bailout. Congressional Democrats have been pushing for such a provision this week, and it’s one of the most important things they have done.

The government would then be accomplishing three things at once. First, it would take possession of the bad assets now causing a panic on Wall Street. Second, it would inject cash into the financial system and help shore up firms’ balance sheets (which some economists think is actually a bigger problem than the bad assets). And, third, it would go a long way toward minimizing the ultimate cost to taxpayers.

Why? The more that the government overpays for the assets, the larger the subsidy it’s providing to Wall Street — and the more it is pushing up the share prices of Wall Street firms. As Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, notes, the equity stakes allow the government to recapture some of the subsidy down the road. It’s a self-correcting mechanism."

In other words, if this works, we spend cash, and then down the road, we make some of it back. All $700 billion? Who knows!? But this isn't money thrown down the drain. If we pay enough for these assets to get the economy flowing, but not so much that we won't get a healthy return when we decide to sell, this plan really does become a Payback, not a Bailout.

Now it's time to tell your friends and family. We need to understand this. And then we need to tell our elected officials to get off their rears and make it happen. And hey Obama. Hey McCain. Why you don't you try leading for once? Right now, this hand-ringing, card-holding, who can be more mysterious BS just isn't working for me. Come right and out either fully support this plan or reject it. With words like, "Hey, maybe it's not perfect, but we need this America!" Or, "This a bad idea, America. We gotta come up with something entirely different."

Or just cancel a debate. I know you don't want to embarrass yourself by speaking about economics, Johnny McCain. But this isn't the right way to go.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blah-Blah, Blah-Blah, Money

Yeah, it's a hellova lot of dough. Yeah, it's gonna fall onto you and me (but probably mostly guys like him and him) to pay for it. And yeah, there's the danger that the Treasury might pay too much for these nearly worthless mortgage-related securities; and there's the danger that they might not pay enough for them either, and in turn, fail to jump-start the ailing market. But it's getting harder and harder to borrow on credit. Right now, it's just the big guys who are stuck neither buying or lending. But here's what happens if that trend continues:
  • Less credit for homeowners to buy new homes or refinance current mortgages.
  • Further decline in home prices, as people find it harder and harder to buy a home or keep their current one.
  • Less credit to buy new cars, borrow money to fix old ones, and hence, get to work.
  • Less credit for businesses to buy materials and produce goods.
  • Less economic activity all around.
  • Slower job growth, as people can't get to work, are busy fighting for their homes, lose their jobs because their employers go under, or a scary combinations of all three.
From the Journal, an op-ed by Kenneth Lewis, one of those overpaid CEOs, who in spite of all that, can still expound coherently why this bailout is good for everyone:
"The proposed rescue legislation accomplishes one simple goal: It provides a buyer (the Treasury) for financial assets that cannot be priced today because the market for such assets has temporarily frozen up, enabling financial institutions to stabilize their balance sheets, regain confidence in the system and one another, and start lending again....In the meantime, consumers [that's people like you and me*] will see value as money starts to flow, home prices stabilize, and the economy avoids what could otherwise be a deep -- and preventable -- recession.
Overblown hype? Probably more than a little. But can we risk sitting on our hands and doing nothing, while we lose the means with which to make home loans, car loans, and business loans which make our jobs work and keep us working?

Mr. Economist, I agree with you. Congress should pass it. And soon.

*Added by me, not that it makes more/less sense with or without it.

Speaking of Sorkin...

Mauren Dowd, who's true calling I'm sure was a Harlequin Romance novelist, had a column last week titled "Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet." I say 'had' because she really didn't write a word of it. Aaron Sorkin did. Because I can't stand her picture, with that come-hither stare that only a 50-something, post-mid-life crisis, New York male could love (like, say, Aaron Sorkin), I reprint the column in its entirety so that you won't be forced to redirect to the NY Times website. And that scary, scary picture.

Really, Maureen. What were you thinking on photo day? Really.

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a LancĂ´me rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.


BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.


BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.



OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?


BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Well they're no Jed Bartlett, that's for sure


Yes, yes, the sky is falling, but there's still an election going on. So dagnabbit, let's do this.

With both candidates trying to convince America that they hold the answers to all our financial woes, it's worth noting that neither man has much more economic experience than you or I. Both guys have their strengths, to be sure. It's just the economy isn't one of them. From the Times
"One reason for both men’s sketchy records on financial issues is that neither has been a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has oversight of the industry and its regulators. Under both parties’ leadership, the committee often has been a graveyard for proposals opposed by lobbyists for financial institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which last week were forced into government conservatorships.

Industry lobbyists’ success in killing such regulations meant senators outside the banking panel did not have to take a stand on them."
This shouldn't surprise us. It's typical Washington-think: "If it's not up for a vote, why should I care?" McCain seems to be toeing the party line as closely as possible, allowing for greater regulation during times of crises, to be replaced by deregulation as soon as the market rights itself (with nary a thank you to Uncle Sam).

What's wrong with this thinking is that it's essentially reactive. By default, it does nothing to prevent something like this from happening again. Greater regulation in response to the subprime mortgage fiasco is fine and dandy, but we really could have used it six years ago when lenders were handing out shady home loans like candy. McCain, in deference to his esteemed free market colleagues, doesn't seem to get this.

And while Obama has little more economic experience than McCain, at least he sees the inherent value in (continued) government oversight over profit-hungry financial institutions. In that sense, Obama is the truer Conservative on the matter. Conservative because he recognises the depravity of humans to put their personal interests over the interests of others. Conservative because he's not afraid to use established power to keep unchecked greed in check.

{/End quasi-Sorkin clap-trap}

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In case you missed it...

Tina Fey returned to SNL last night to play Joe Biden Sarah Palin Tina Fey with-a-Canadian-accent. Hot!

*Sigh* Tina Fey. The more I see fake versions of Sarah Palin, the more I love her despite her complete lack of vice-presidential credentials.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In what respect, Charlie?

Don't worry Sarah Palin, I don't really understand the Bush Doctrine either. And neither do people who actually work/worked for President Bush.

Many Versions of 'Bush Doctrine' (Washington Post)

One of my favorite quotes from the piece comes from Philip Zelikow, who worked for the White House and the State Department under the president:
"I actually never thought there was a Bush doctrine...Indeed, I believe the assertion that there is such a doctrine lends greater coherence to the administration's policies than they deserve."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two Americas

One that thinks this picture is brimming with awesomeness, and one that is bewildered and crapping their pants.

Seriously. Is the political Left really this far out of touch from the average American? I mean, don't we all don crazy Viking hats every other Thursday? From the Economist:
Gloria Steinem, the founder of Ms magazine, says that “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton”. Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organisation of Women, dismisses her as a “woman who opposes women’s rights”. Debbie Dingell, a leading Michigan Democrat, said that women felt insulted by the choice. Joe Biden says that, if Mrs Palin becomes the first female vice-president, it will be a “backward step for women”. “Eighteen million cracks”, says the New Republic, (referring to Mrs Clinton’s 18m votes and the glass ceiling) “and one crackpot.”
Sometimes I think "the culture wars" are just lazy journalism. Americans agree more often than we disagree, right? We all bleed red, white and blue. We would never criticize someone simply because we don't understand them or their values, right?


Good job alienating 50 million Americans Biden. Just because President Bush does it every other day doesn't make it right.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Change we can all believe in, even if we vote for the other guy (unless you're a richie).

While we've been discussing how you shouldn't trust pollsters, and how voting for one of the Big Two is like voting for ranch dressing vs. thousand island*, here is a story that ignores both from the Nation.

According to a recent Gallop poll, half of Americans expect their tax burden to rise if Senator Obama is elected. Not so according to Tax Policy Center -- an independent, non-partisan off-shoot of the center-sometimes-center-left Brookings Institution -- whose latest study finds that 95% of American families would receive a tax cut under Obama's plan:
Obama would give larger tax cuts to low- and moderate-income households and pay some of the cost by raising taxes on high-income taxpayers. In contrast, McCain would cut taxes across the board and give the biggest cuts to the highest-income households.
To find out how you would benefit under Obama's plan, check out, a neat-o tax-cut calculator based on three simple questions. And no, not those questions three.

*Which makes sense to me, because both taste terrible; you on the other hand might love ranch, or Republicans.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ron Paul Is Nuts!

And I'm 90% with him.

"The strongest message can be sent by rejecting the two party system," Paul said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "This can be accomplished by voting for one of the non-establishment, principled candidates.
He recommended Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party, former Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party and possibly others."
I'm so fed if with the two-party crap-fest everyone else is gagga over that this kind of news makes me want to kiss Ron Paul on the mouth (chastely and platonicly, natch). Playing along for the moment, here are my thoughts on the aforementioned candidates.

1) Chuck Baldwin: This guy scares the bejebus out of me. He has ties to both the Moral Majority and the 9/11 Truth Movement. Also, he left the Republican party in 2000 because he felt GW Bush was too liberal. Yikes. I grew up with folks like this, and while I love them to death, I have no desire for them to run for president. Sorry, Freedom Farm.

2) Bob Barr: Barr is one cool cat (see: Glasses). He grew up travelling the globe; worked for the CIA; served as the most conservative congressman ever; supported the War on Drugs, the Patriot Act,  and the Iraq War before he was against them all; and now is a bonafide Libertarian. I can't tell if he's genuiely a new creation (politically speaking), but man, those glasses!

3) Cynthia McKinney: According to USA Today (which I trust forever and ever amen), Cynthia McKinney, a former Democtraic Congresswomen from Georgia, lost her seat in 2002 because of crossover voting from Republicans in the Democratic primary (they allow it). Additionally, she sort of suggested that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened.


BUT, she hates depleted uranium, likes to make fun of Al Gore, has been extremely vocal about the plight of Katrina victims, and praised Hugo Chavez in her concession speech after she lost her seat in Congress for the second time. Come on, three out of four, right?

4) Ralph Nader: He's not on Ron Paul's list, but I'd rather sit at his feat than worship at the Church of Obama or Cranky-Pants McCain. Independent Lens ran a doc on him a while back that opened my eyes to all the crap he's gone through over the years. I mean, if you want to vote for a prophet for president, you don't have to look further than Nader. Hyperbole? Yes! Truth? Hells yes!!!1!11!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Polls, Polly! Polls!

The latest Post/ABC poll shows that John McCain has pulled up even with Barack Obama in the race for president, 49 to 47 percent, with a sampling error of +/- four points. In fact, a whole slew of polls held over the weekend say essentially the same thing: McCain got quite the post-convention bump, anywhere from 4-13 percentage points depending on who you believe.

A couple of things to ruminate on though.

1) Both and On the Media point out that the old phone-interview model tends to  underrepresent those who only own a cellphone. Conventional wisdom says that cellphone only voters (who live without a landline) tend to be younger, and tend to lean left. Could that mean a percentage point or two for Obama that will remain unaccounted for until November?

2) Pollsters tend to force undecided participants to choose a side. Polls with a large number of undecided don't "sell" well. We want our two-party presidential polls to add up to nearly 100. However, as David Moore, a former senior editor at Gallop for 13 years, points out:
"One can take a look, for example, at the recent Gallup Daily Tracking Poll. They asked the question - if the election were held today, who you would you vote for, you know, Barack Obama or John McCain? They find that somewhere around 95 percent of the people have made up their mind.

But, of course, the election’s not being held today, so it’s a hypothetical race. The way you could ask the question is, do you support Obama, do you support McCain, or haven't you made up your mind yet? Right now there are probably around 35 to 40 percent of voters who are undecided.

Well, I think the reason the media pollsters don't want to emphasize the undecided vote is that they think the media, the journalists, would not be interested in a poll that said there are 40 percent of the people undecided. They’d say - but gee, if people haven't begun to just make up their minds yet, or such a large segment, why don't we wait and start polling later?"
That, of course, would put pollsters out of a job. Even by a more conservative estimate, Slate's Paul Maslin estimates the number of undecideds at around 10 percent, which means either candidate still has a good chance of pulling away from the statistical dead heat we're in right now.

All that to say, with the debates ahead (not to mention increasing tensions in Afghanistan), it's still anyone's game.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Free Choice and Choosing Rightly

What does it mean to choose?

In the wake of last week's revelation that Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol "chose" to have her baby at age 17, much has been made in progressive circles that Bristol had the right to choose. One such example from the Huffington Post:
There was one overlooked part of Sarah Palin's announcement of her daughter's pregnancy. She said that her daughter had decided to carry the child to term. She later remarked that no one had pressured her daughter to do so.

I take Sarah at her word. Is it not wonderful, and will this not be a happier baby and marital circumstance, that they all had these unpressured choices? The issue is not abortion vs carrying to term, it is who gets to make that choice. Sarah Palin would have the government choose. My vote is for Bristol Palin.
What scares me the most about the abortion debate is that there is no more real debate on the issue. We've walled ourselves into two camps: those who believe in the right to choose, and those who believe there is really only one choice. We've stopped debating, and decided that shouting real loud is more cathartic and fun.

Maybe we ought to review the orginal debate. On the one side, Pro-choice/abortion advocates frame the issue thusly: abortion is a choice best left to individuals, not the government. On face value, it's a great libertarian argument. Why should the government get involved in medical decisions best left to individuals and the family?

The argument cracks, however, when you frame the debate as the Anti-abortion/choice camp does: abortion is, at its core, murder. Why should the government get involved? Because the government has been tasked to protect the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of all Americans; especially, it could be argued, those Americans who are marginalized, oppressed, and out of sight.

With that being said, the debate over Bristol Palin having a choice vs. making the right choice amounts to two side shouting "CHOICE" at each other without first agreeing what "choice" means. For the left, "choice" is the ability to choose what's best for the individual-- it's a celebration of the free will of the individual. For the right, "choice" is the ability to choose rightly -- it's a celebration of the choice to put the rights of the unborn over the physical pain, emotional turmoil, and social pressures of pregnancy and birth.

This is why politicos and pundits ought to shut up four-fifths of the time when they have the urge to speak about abortion and choice. The two sides are using such wildly different vocabularies that only under careful moderation can any headway be made. We need facilitators of debate, not talking-heads shouting at each other for ratings or political points.

What I wish progressives would understand is that there are many thinking-religious-types who want to see change in Washington, who can stand with progressives on issues like health care, the economy, the environment, crime, drug policy, campaign finance reform and America's foreign policy. But every time progressives take a swipe at how if Sarah Palin had her way, her daughter wouldn't have had the ability to choose in the first place, they miss the point:

Free choice is a wonderful concept. But as soon it impedes on the rights of others, choice can and should be limited. I can choose to drive my car to the grocery store, yet if I choose to drive down on the left side of the road, I break the law. I can choose to own a gun to protect my home from burglars, yet if I choose to shoot someone on the street for no reason, I break the law.

When thinking-religious-types hear from talking-heads that Palin's a hypocrite because she praises her daughter's choice but doesn't want to allow choice in the first place, they hear something like this: Palin's a hypocrite because she praises Americans when they don't kill their co-workers over missed deadlines but wants to legislate against Americans killing their co-workers over missed deadlines. Hypocrite city!

I don't know how else to say it, but every time progressives bring up this BS argument, I find myself one step closer to voting for Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, or no one at all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Energy Schmenergy

O the plans! O the ruin! O my brakes are failing! O this blog sucks!

So little to say, so much to not care about.

The Straight Dope on Energy Policy in the Midst of Electioneering

On the Media, that bastion of media critique which airs while I ought to be at church, says great things. Why just last week, they said great things about energy independence. An excerpt from the oh-so-short piece follows in transcript form:

DAVID FIDERER: An example I wrote about in Huffington Post was John Harwood, who writes for The New York Times and is also a political correspondent for CNBC, talked about how the Democrats now are talking about building new nuclear plants because gasoline is selling at four dollars a gallon.

BOB GARFIELD: And there is no relationship between the price of oil at the pumps and nuclear anything, correct?

DAVID FIDERER: That’s correct. Nuclear is used for generating electricity. Oil is used in the United States primarily for transportation. And there’s no viable way of converting nuclear energy into fuel for transportation.

BOB GARFIELD: Now, since both John McCain and Barack Obama and every other national politician are talking about energy independence, can we just establish a few things about that premise?


BOB GARFIELD: Like given the way petroleum deposits are distributed on Earth, is it reasonable to imagine the U.S. being fully independent of foreign oil, ever?

DAVID FIDERER: Not if we consume oil at anything close to the rate we have for the last 50 years. If we consumed oil at the rate we did in 1965, we would still be importing 40 percent of our oil.

BOB GARFIELD: Another contentious issue is that of offshore oil reserves.


BOB GARFIELD: The Republicans want to start [LAUGHS] drilling tomorrow, and they portray those against more drilling as tree huggers willing to put our nation’s energy security at risk to save a few whales. At least that’s how the media has been framing the controversy.

DAVID FIDERER: Even if all the oil reserves were there that the most optimistic oil person says is off the coast of California or Florida, it still wouldn't have a major impact on the price of oil. It still would take at best five years to bring production to market and it still wouldn't change our dependence on foreign oil in any major way.

Let's review:

1. Nuclear energy, with plenty of long-term problems not discussed here, does nothing to curb our dependence on foreign oil (unless we all drove electric vehicles, which we don't, because we love blowing things up and NASCAR and driving up rugged mountaintops).

2. Unless we create a time machine, or harness the power of Einstein-Rosen bridges, we will never become dependent of foreign oil unless we drastically change the way we consume and produce energy.

2-a. Absolute best case scenario if we allowed offshore drilling? The price of gas would finally drop by 2013. Best. Case. Scenario.

This is why politicians are stupid, and stupid politicians are running for president.