Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Next they'll rename the DC airport, Brezhnev Int'l

I think I read somewhere on The Corner that House Republicans voted "No" on principle. Maybe so. Principles of pure, unadulterated bat shit craziness.

Let us turn the microphone over to Tim Echols, Treasurer for Paul Broun, R-GA:

FYI, all the Georgia Republicans voted against the bail-out.

As FRC said today, the current proposal fell short of upholding conservative ideals. The Congressional conservatives played an important role in keeping out the already-borderline socialistic White House proposal and some Hugo Chavezesque suggestions from the Democrats, such as allowing judges to set mortgage rates and creating a slush fund for liberal groups like ACORN. However, the final plan did not reform what has created the problem nor did it adequately explain how the taxpayers get their money back. Moreover, the bailout seemed to create a new entitlement in a federal insurance system for every home loan in America.

I blame Lincoln for leaving the Whigs.


A musical break

NPR is streaming Dylan's Bootleg Series #8 today.

UPDATE: And it, a collection of alternate takes, never released, and live stuff from No Mercy to Modern Times, is really, really good.

It's always amazing to hear this stuff and be again reminded that, for the most part, Dylan walks into the studio with nothing more than a few ideas. You can hear snatches of other songs in the songs that ended up not getting released, musical experiments, key changes...oh hell, I can't write about music any more than I can credit swaps.


In other news

Life (and death) goes on even as the U.S. gazes inward.

In Afghanistan

Where Pakistanis are fleeing by the thousands to get into.

In Iraq.

In Lebanon.

And in India.

To name a few...


To call them "swine" would be an injustice to pigs

So, while GOP House leadership was claiming to be rounding up votes for the rescue plan, then complaining that it was Pelosi's mean words that turned off the rank & file, and while John McCain was claiming leadership bona fides for getting the plan passed...the GOP was sending stations in battle ground states a TV ad ripping apart the deal and Obama's support for it.


Well, oopsie, I guess. The calculation clearly was that the Dems would have, with those few GOP votes from safe seats, enough votes to pass it, and the GOP would then necklace House and Senate Democrats and Obama with a plan they thought is wildly unpopular with voters. Didn't work. And with the unveiling of the TV spot, their calculations are out in the open.

Further, the plan may not be as unpopular as their mouth breathing base is telling them.


Being Frank

Barney Frank:

"Frankly, that's an accusation against my Republican colleagues I would have never thought of making. Here's the story: there's a terrible crisis affecting the American economy. We have come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis. And because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country. I mean, I would not have imputed that degree of pettiness and hypersensitivity.... [T]hink about this. 'Somebody hurt my feelings, so I will punish the country.' That's hardly plausible. And there are 12 Republican members who were ready to stand up for the economic interest of America, but not if anybody insulted them. I'll make an offer. Give me those 12 people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."


Quote o' the day

LG&M's Paul Campos wonders what else we'll learn as CBS News draws out the Palin Unplugged sessions and writes,

Oh it's all morbidly fascinating, until somebody gets hurt.

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Maybe they should just have a nightly segment on CBS News.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Game theory

Nate Silver finds that news reports may be over-stating the unpopularity of the "bailout."

There is a very weird sort of prisoner's dilemna here. Namely, anyone who tries to frame the plan -- although framing the plan properly would probably make it more popular -- risks taking ownership of the plan, a plan which even if framed properly, probably remains unpopular enough to constitute a political liability. So no parties have an incentive to "spin" the plan as a positive, and as such, it continues to become more unpopular as the default narrative ("Wall Street bailout") is left unchallenged. The bailout, whether it ultimately passes or not, will likely be studied by game theorists for years to come, as there are conflicting and somewhat self-contradictory incentives (everyone wants the package to pass but nobody wants to vote for it) between no fewer than a half-dozen different parties.
And who knew so many Republican House members celebrated the Jewish holidays?

For as good as the Bush/Cheney regime was in selling the war in the Fall of 2002, if the $trillion price tag had been as honestly discussed as the $700 billion has been these past couple of weeks, I doubt more than 4,000 servicemen and countless Iraqis would be dead today.


A bracelet for feigned outrage

Why, oh why, can't we get a better press corps?

September 29, 2008, 1:41 pm

Bracelet Flap Lingers Post Debate

The Obama campaign continues having to address questions about Senator Barack Obama’s allusion during Friday’s debate to the bracelet he wears of a solider who was killed in Iraq.

This time, it was on “Fox and Friends,” where, Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, got into a heated exchange with the hosts over whether he made reference to the bracelet against the wishes of the family of Ryan Jopek, the fallen soldier. While Mr. Gibbs ackowledged the family did not want the death “politicized,” he accused the Fox hosts of “making stuff up.”

Meanwhile, Jopek’s mother, Tracey, has tried to set the record straight, telling The Associated Press on Sunday that she was “ecstatic” when Mr. Obama mentioned her son’s name during the debate, and said she was upset by reports and commentary over the weekend that suggested otherwise.

“I don’t understand how people can take that and turn it into some garbage on the Internet,” she said.

In February, Ms. Jopek, of Merrill, Wis., gave Mr. Obama the bracelet with Ryan’s name on it. Since then, Mr. Obama has worn the bracelet on the campaign trail, frequently mentioning Mr. Jopek while addressing crowds.

Ms. Jopek told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last spring that she was honored by Mr. Obama mentioning her son on the campaign trail.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was such an honor, such an honor,” she said. “To know that he does know his name. It means a lot.”

In Friday’s debate, Mr. Obama brought up the bracelet in responding to Senator John McCain pointing out a bracelet of his own.

“I’ve got a bracelet, too,” Mr. Obama said. “From the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopek, given to me in Green Bay, and she asked me, ‘Can you please make sure another mother doesn’t go through what I am going through?’”

Mr. Obama was subsequently criticized by bloggers and conservative commentators, who pointed to a quote from Ms. Jopek’s former husband, Brian Jopek, who said in March that Ms. Jopek had later asked Mr. Obama not to wear the bracelet at public appearances.

On Sunday, the Republican National Committee e-mailed articles about the issue to reporters, one with the headline “Bracelet Wars.”

In her interview with The Associated Press, Ms. Jopek, sounding equally weary, said that she hopes the issue would go away.

Emphasis mine.

Um, if the young man's mother says she's honored Obama wears the bracelet and mentioned her son's name, then isn't the headline of this story disingenuous? The "flap" only "lingers" because RNC and its megaphone, Fox News, is lingering it.

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Blue Monday, Professor Longhair edition

Every Day I Have the Blues, with The Meters.

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Terrell Owens would be insulted

Time's Michael Grumwald summarizes the Week that Was.



For me, Mussina's 20th was a great thing to see yesterday, but it was a formality. If he retires and walks away at the top of his game, or makes the commitment he knows he would have to make to get to 300 wins, in either case his was a Hall of Fame career.

270 wins for a career in which he pitched entirely in the American League east during the pin cushion era. Please.

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Kristol tells McCain to double down on being an asshole.

The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.

Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.

The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and I wonder if Obama may have inadvertently set the stage for the McCain team to reintroduce him to the American public. On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words “middle class.” The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain’s omission.

The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright’s church — a passage entitled “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.”

Go for it.


Longing for Bush-era competence

Krugman is frightened.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The wake

Only the Mets would decide to hold a last game at Shea "celebration" after a game in which they may be eliminated. Delgado just flew out deep to left with two runners on in the last half of the 8th. The Brewers' walk off win is up on the scoreboard at Shea.


But didn't she name her daughter "Bristol"

Seems that as governor, Sarah Palin opposed an initiative to keep an open pit gold mine -- and the largest dam to hold mine waste -- away from Bristol Bay, a "pristine" fishery vital to the state's fishing industry.

For months, the confrontation mounted, a face-off that arguably held in the balance the fates of two of Alaska's biggest industries. On one side were companies hoping to open Pebble Mine at a huge gold and copper reserve adjacent to one of the world's largest salmon runs, Bristol Bay. On the other side were fishermen and environmentalists pushing a referendum that would make it harder for the mine to open.

The two sides spent more than $10 million -- unprecedented for such efforts in Alaska -- and throughout it all, the state's highly popular first-term governor, Sarah Palin, held back. Alaska law forbids state officials from using state resources to advocate on ballot initiatives.

Then, six days before the Aug. 26 vote, with the race looking close, Palin broke her silence. Asked about the initiative at a news conference, she invoked "personal privilege" to give an opinion. "Let me take my governor's hat off for just a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop. 4 -- I vote no on that," she said. "I have all the confidence in the world that [the Department of Environmental Conservation] and our [Department of Natural Resources] have great, very stringent regulations and policies already in place. We're going to make sure that mines operate only safely, soundly."

Palin's comments rocked the contest. Within a day, the pro-mining coalition fighting the referendum had placed full-page ads with a picture of the governor and the word "NO." The initiative went down to defeat, with 57 percent of voters rejecting it.

And she may have violated state ethics rules in doing so.

She may have another reason for regretting that decision, seeing as how "de-regulation" is being met with a bit more skepticism in recent days.

For Palin to intervene as she did, with a brief, seemingly off-the-cuff statement just days before the election, also showed a lack of serious engagement on complex and important issues, initiative supporters say. Palin, they say, was simply going on the word of officials in her administration that the existing regulations sufficed, without taking into account their possible biases: Her natural resources commissioner hails from the mining industry, and mining companies directly subsidize some regulators' salaries.

"She has this great faith that nothing will go wrong, which gave her a false sense of security, so she went off a little half-cocked" and spoke out, said Tim Bristol, Alaska program director for Trout Unlimited.

McCain campaign spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton, Palin's former press secretary, defended the governor's intervention. "From the moment Governor Palin took office, she made it clear she supports responsible resource development," Stapleton said. "On the issue of the possible development of Pebble Mine -- this is not about whether you are for or against development, because they haven't even submitted a permit; this is about process and ensuring that any company that wants to come to Alaska and develop our resources is at the very least provided the opportunity to avail themselves of the state's process."

Keep in mind that Alaska hires a great many more fishermen than miners. But, of course, the mining industry out-hires the fishing industry when it comes to lobbyists.

The same week that Palin voiced her views, Alaska's Public Offices Commission ordered revisions to an informational Web site set up by the state. The site stated that the initiative's proposed new regulations were "general and less precise" than existing law and that they might lead to limiting operations at existing mines. Initiative supporters said the Web site echoed the mining industry's talking points.

Mining companies are proceeding with planning for Pebble Mine and hope to apply for permits in a year. Discovered in 1988, the site is the largest gold and copper deposit in the country. Supporters, who include many Native Alaskan leaders, say the mine would provide jobs for struggling rural Alaska and note that mining yields $200 million a year in state tax revenue.

But the mine would sit on Bristol Bay, a fishing paradise where 31 million sockeye salmon worth $108 million were caught last year. Opponents consider it too risky to construct an open-pit mine, as well as the world's largest dam to hold mining waste, so close to the valuable fishing grounds. The defeated initiative would have addressed their concern, barring any new large metals mine from releasing chemicals that would damage salmon, a standard not included in current law.

Fishing employs more people than any other Alaska industry -- 12,000 mostly seasonal jobs in Bristol Bay alone, compared with 5,500 mining jobs statewide. But the mining industry has more lobbying clout. In the referendum fight, the pro-mining coalition easily outspent its opposition.

Mining interests have courted Palin since her inauguration. Northern Dynasty contributed to her inaugural fund, and other mining companies have offered gifts and paid travel expenses for Palin's husband to go on fact-finding trips.

Palin suggested in her campaign and early in her tenure that she would withhold judgment on Pebble Mine. In a campaign questionnaire, she said that "as part of a Bristol Bay fishing family myself, I would not support any resource development that would endanger the most sensitive and productive fishery in the world." In a September 2007 interview with the Anchorage Daily News, she repeated that "Pebble Mine will not be permitted on our watch" if it hurts the salmon grounds, but she added that "we can't go in there with a preconceived notion that Pebble Mine should or shouldn't be permitted."

Environmentalists saw a bad omen when Palin's administration urged legislators not to toughen a regulation that the previous governor, Frank Murkowski (R), had loosened to allow some levels of toxicity in streams when salmon are not present. Political strategist Danny Consenstein, a leader of the pro-initiative team, said he suspected that Palin eventually came out against the initiative to maintain her Republican standing in a state where the party has long supported the use of natural resources.

I will say this, though, about her potential fore-sightedness. If McCain-Palin is inaugurated in Janurary, I expect the price of gold is going to rise to historic levels.



Shorter Tom Brokaw MTP interview of Bill Clinton: Would you say that Barack Obama has 90, 50, or 5 percent the greatness of John McCain?


Saturday, September 27, 2008

The reviews

Nate Silver looks at the CNN poll taken after the debate and the results are very, very good.

EDIT: The CBS poll of undecideds has more confirmatory detail. Obama went from a +18 on "understanding your needs and problems" before the debate to a +56 (!) afterward. And he went from a -9 on "prepared to be president" to a +21.
I have to admit, after the debate I thought Obama had won on points, but not by much. But I'm thoroughly familiar with Barack Obama; I expected him to perform well, be presidential, convey...get-it-ness, if you will. It came as more of a surprise to people really paying attention for the first time, maybe. Expected him to come out carrying a latte quivering before the power of McCain's superior foreign policy gravitas.


Paul Newman

Strategies and tactics

Biden explains things to McCain.

Yes, McCain's lecture of Obama was one of many weird moments in the debate (starting with McCain's attempt to channel Sarah Palin during his first couple of rambling, disconnected answers). But, overall, I've never seen such an open show of contempt for an opponent during a presidential debate. About 30 minutes in started to notice the lack of eye contact (in a format intended to foster interaction with each other). Even at the end, the customary shaking of hands, McCain still can't look his opponent in the eye (see today's Times front page if you don't believe me).

Even Chris Matthews noticed. But, we'll see. The pundits have been known to change their minds a couple of days after these debates. Just ask Al Gore.

Also weird were the little zingers, that play so well during his "town halls" with sympathetic audiences. Last night's audience was instructed to sit on their hands, so his jokes simply fell flat.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Can we not put politics aside for one night.

The power of positive thinking

First of all, when do campaigns put out ads like this in the first place?


Armed forces radio

Maybe the two candidates should be required to take a few tests...


Not to put too fine a point on it, but fuck 'em

I'd say Matt has this 'bout right.

It looks like John McCain and the House GOP decided to swoop in at the least [sic] minute and scuttle a kinda sorta okay bailout package in favor of a counterproposal of tax cuts for rich people and corporations. Read your Krugman.

If conservatives won’t play ball, I think the smart move for progressives on the Hill is to come back to Bush and Paulson with a much less palatable plan — huge stimulus, big tax hikes on super-high earners, mortgage cramdowns, etc. Let Bush either cave 100 percent to a Nancy Pelosi dream deal or else let Bush bring McCain and John Boehner to the table. There’s no reason for progressives to be making concessions to the Bush administration and the financial industry if they can’t even get their lackeys to back their own plan.

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The Weight

"No" was all he said.

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Country firstiness

A leader in times of crisis, or "The John McCain bailout package," as Sen. Dodd so neatly puts it.

At 4 p.m., Mr. Bush convened his meeting at the White House; Mr. McCain had already met with House Republicans to hear their concerns. He later said on ABC that he had known going into the White House that “there never was a deal,” but he kept that sentiment to himself.

The meeting opened with Mr. Paulson, the chief architect of the bailout plan, “giving a status report on the condition of the market,” Tony Fratto, Mr. Bush’s deputy press secretary, said. Mr. Fratto said Mr. Paulson warned in particular of the tightening of credit markets overnight, adding, “that is something very much on his mind.”

Mr. McCain was at one end of the long conference table, Mr. Obama at the other, with the president and senior Congressional leaders between them. Participants said Mr. Obama peppered Mr. Paulson with questions, while Mr. McCain said little. Outside the West Wing, a huge crowd of reporters gathered in the driveway, anxiously awaiting an appearance by either presidential candidate, with expectations running high.

Instead, the first politician to emerge was Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking committee, waving a sheet of paper that he said detailed his own concerns. “The agreement,” Mr. Shelby declared, ”is obviously no agreement.”

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When managers lie

It's astonishing to me that the Times' sports reporters can use the word "lie" in their reports, while the paper's political reporters apparently cannot.

Girardi has also been less than forthright about injuries to Jorge Posada, Chien-Ming Wang and Dan Giese. But claiming that he had not asked what specifically was wrong with Rivera was either negligent, considering Rivera’s importance to the team, or a lie.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our allies

A reminder...

KABUL, Afghanistan - Pakistani troops fired at American reconnaissance helicopters near the Afghan-Pakistan border Thursday, and ground troops then exchanged fire, the U.S. military said.

No injuries were reported, but the incident heightened tensions as the U.S. steps up cross-border operations in a volatile region known as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Two American OH-58 reconnaissance helicopters, known as Kiowas, were on a routine afternoon patrol in the eastern province of Khost when they received small-arms fire from a Pakistani border post, said Tech Sgt. Kevin Wallace, a U.S. military spokesman. There was no damage to aircraft or crew, officials said.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith said Pakistan and American ground troops exchanged fire after Pakistani forces shot at the helicopters.

...that John McCain is "dangerously naive" when it comes to foreign policy as well as the economy.

McCain warned America could not afford the "confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally Pakistan" and suggested talks without preconditions with US foes.

Someone should ask him about that if they can find him tomorrow night.

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"I'll try to find some"

Best campaign evah!

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find you some, and I'll bring them to you.


Viva Arbusto!

The administration's actions this week, and the president's grave appearance on the teevee (had the sound off), simply reminded us all of how often and easily George W. Bush was bailed out in his own business ventures, before he became leader of what used to be the free world.

Dean Baker:

This raises the basic point that it is extremely difficult to trust this administration. It was good to hear President Bush say that he doesn't want the CEOs that wrecked their companies profit from this bailout, but does anyone believe that he will structure the bailout to ensure that this does not happen? Similarly, he has gone along with the idea that the government will get an equity stake in financial companies in exchange for buying their junk, but does anyone believe that we will get as good a deal as Warren Buffet did when he bought a stake in Goldman Sachs?

There can be no presumption of good faith from this administration. Unless the conditions are written in stone, for example specific rules that limit executive compensation using the same type of language that CEOs use when they sign contracts with their companies, there is no reason for the public to believe that they will get a fair deal in this bailout. The public should also demand that some genuine outsiders, representatives of labor, consumer groups and other non-Wall Street segments of society, have a direct oversight role in this deal.

If these demands are too extreme for the Bush administration, then they are not telling the truth about the financial crisis. If the risks are really as great as President Bush claims, then he should unhesitatingly agree to guarantees that will prevent the incompetents from profiting further from their incompetence. We shall see.

Will the Dems cave? Will John McCain impose his mavericky will to bullocks up a deal that is well on its way to being agreed to? Will Barrack Obama debate the voices in John McCain's head tomorrow night. Whither Palin?

Many, many questions, my friends.


"Starting to smell"

Memo to candidates: best not to blow off Letterman.

"Caught him getting a manicure."


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is way too big for democracy

If this is a campaign that is not about the issues, then why bother, really, with debates. For that matter, why not put country first and postpone the election. Surely, Barack Obama must realize that if our country is in economic turmoil a debate on foreign policy would be...reckless, and surely not country-firstedness.

It would be nice to think a presidential candidate can multitask, but that's apparently too much for John McCain.

But you really gotta love this.

"It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration's proposal," McCain said. "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time."

Um, except that just such a consensus is building, just not the way the administration would prefer.

But the real point, beyond the political stunt by the economically-ignorant John McCain, is that this is of a piece with how John McCain reacts to crisis. As with Georgia, every crisis preempts all previous crises, there is no reaction that can be too swift, thoughtless, or reactionary.


Whose fault?

Not the Community Reinvestment Act, despite the racism finger pointing from the Right.

Also unconvincing is the claim made by some conservatives that the Clinton Administration's 1995 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations, which pushed banks to lend in poor communities, caused the subprime mortgage lending binge that sparked the current troubles. It's certainly conceivable that Washington's long-held obsession with fostering home ownership helped fuel the housing bubble. But when the subprime lending binge really took off from 2003 to 2006, financial institutions subject to CRA weren't the ones leading the way. Neither were government-sponsored behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

No, starting in 2003, as a long boom in house prices and mortgage lending that had at least some foundation in economic reality (lower interest rates, higher incomes) gave way to an orgy of ever-sharper price increases fueled by ever-dodgier loans, the folks in the drivers' seat were the mortgage brokers that made the loans and the Wall Street investment banks that packaged them into private-label mortgage-backed securities.

And these people were barely regulated at all, at least not in the sense that bankers are regulated. "You had a regulatory mechanism that was targeted very narrowly to prudential regulation of the banking industry," says Gene Ludwig, who as Comptroller of the Currency oversaw the nation's big banks from 1993 to 1998. What that did, Ludwig explains, was to motivate banking companies to move activities to their less-regulated affiliates, and give a leg up to competitors (stand-alone investment firms, hedge funds, mortgage brokers, you name it) that weren't being watched by banking regulators at all.


White flight

I saw this swirling around the intertubes yesterday, but thought it was probably a trial balloon that will get shot down in a heart beat. Namely, the financial meltdown you may have heard about. Well guess what, it's the fault of "minorities."

Apparently though, this idea has gone mainstream.

Now note yesterday's Wall Street Journal op-ed hints at the same thing: we're in the mess we're in because Congress mandated banks slather low-income folks with home loans they couldn't afford.

Then there's John McCain the other day in Green Bay, claiming "At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

"Lie" is too polite a word for what is going on here.

First of all, even if Fannie and Freddie were the most awful companies in the history of the planet, its books chock-a-block with non-performing loans none of the financial contagion—none of it—would have happened had greedy financial institutions invented the risky securities that used mortgages as their foundation, via procedures that created economic incentives to write non-performing loans. We explained that a long time ago, here. Second of all, as we explained yesterday, loans that fulfilled the anti-redlining Community Reinvestment Act, performed better than the average mortgage.

Third of all: the part that makes you sick to your stomach. The pattern being drawn across the right—the Big Lie so notorious it's hard to belief they'd even dare it—is that this financial mess is something black people have done to white people.

Truly sick.

As we get closer to the election they fear they're going to lose and lose big, in the midst of a collapse that is also a collapse of their deregulatory ideology, the masks are coming off and the rank racism that has been at the core of the Republican Party's rise for the past 40 years is coming to the fore.

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"Privatize gains for the few, socialize losses for the many"

Yes, indeed. Wow.


The past sure is tense

It occurs to me that I've had four jobs and at least six bosses since the Yankees last did not make the playoffs.


Executive pay

I'm really sick of the McCain campaign.

Meanwhile, it's now McCain's campaign manager and his transition adviser who have been found to be on the retainer of the institutions McCain blames for the financial crisis. That is to say, the most powerful individual in McCain's campaign and the most powerful adviser in the planning of his presidency have been vacuuming in money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Try to square that with McCain's explanation of the crisis: "There are certainly plenty of places to point fingers, and it may be hard to pinpoint the original event that set it all in motion. But let me give you an educated guess. The financial crisis we're living through today started with the corruption and manipulation of our home mortgage system. At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." That's the sort of "educated guess" you can only get from the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who helped persuade Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac!

Corrupt, deceitful, dishonorable. And then there's their friends.

The advertisements running here against Mr. Obama come from a group called Freedom’s Defense Fund, a political action committee based in Washington that was formed four years ago and raises money from conservatives around the country. The advertisements have stood out because of the group’s connections — including to its paid consultant, Jerome S. Corsi, the author of the highly negative, largely discredited political biography of Mr. Obama, “Obama Nation” — and what local critics say are their racial overtones.

“That’s all they are — race oriented,” said Ed Bruley, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Macomb. “I think some people will be affected by it, others will see it for what it is.”

It is a view shared by Democratic leaders, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who, in a recent interview with MSNBC, said of the advertising campaign, “The fact that it is being run in a predominantly white suburb tells you that there is an explicit effort to try to divide people by race.”

Todd Zirkle, the executive director of Freedom’s Defense Fund, said race had “zero” to do with the spots. “That’s the standard retort when you want to say ‘Don’t listen to these people,’ ” Mr. Zirkle said.

He said the group’s intention was to show Mr. Obama’s affiliations — although Mr. Obama and Mr. Kilpatrick were never known to be close.

He said coming spots would highlight Mr. Obama’s ties to two white men, the developer Antoin Rezko, a former financial backer of Mr. Obama’s who has been convicted of fraud, and to the Weather Underground founder William Ayers, with whom Mr. Obama worked on an education commission in Illinois and whose past Mr. Obama has repudiated.

Mr. Zirkle said a fifth spot would highlight Mr. Obama’s supposed support for the Kenyan prime minister, the opposition leader Raila Odinga. Mr. Zirkle did not share that script, but Mr. Corsi’s book asserts, without substantiation, that Mr. Obama has been a close supporter of the African leader. Mr. Obama remained neutral in the Kenyan elections.

Next they'll say Obama is for infanticide. Oh, wait...

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On ice

The Yankees are still alive.



Getting ridiculous.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Yanks, Or Joy in Mudville

I'd hoped to post this earlier, but things got away from me: A rare guest blog from Madame Cura:

This is the closest I'll ever get to a baseball blog - or any blog likely - but the final Yankee Stadium events tonight were unexpectedly affecting. Guess I have a lot invested in these boys, over the years, like it or not. I can clearly remember Dad watching Yankees games (more or less, while reading the paper) when Dave Winfield was the big star and "Scooter" was an announcer and I would take a break from working on term papers. Now I take break from press releases for art shows to check on the team's progress (when not clearly announced by hoots, hollers and curses from the living room.) My Dad is still a fan albeit from Red Sox territory, Closer to home, it's now one John... who watches the Yanks even more avidly than Dad ever did, seeming to live or die with each of the 162 (is that right?) regular season games. That last few dozen (lo these past 12 years) always have the extra adrenalin and weeks of agony of the post season - the Fall Classic.

Have been extremely fortunate to go to several games at the Stadium over the past few years. Somewhere in the ether are some great photos I've taken - likely never to be seen again. Many thanks to... who has been gracious host more than once in extraordinary seats (third base line, directly in line with home plate, two rows back the visiting dugout). Even got to the 1st game of the 1996 World Series and suspect nothing will ever quite match the electric excitement of that night in baseball. John best describes entering the stadium as akin to being in (as viewpoint) the tracking shot in the opening of 'Good Fellas'. Well it certainly was cinematic. Even color was heightened at that game. It was star-studded too - Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis made cameo appearances in our box. John ate Calista Flockheart's hamburger because she wouldn't touch it... But there you have it - I always watch the crowd more than the game. Of late, I've drawn pictures too, but John can likely tell you the box scores.... But still I find I'm a fan. And sorry to see the old stadium go. Hate when landmarks vanish. Wonder if the ghosts will figure out to go next door. Here's a ghost too - in all probability a re-worked ghost of a previous monotype - circa 1998... I don't recall at the moment. But it is clearly Yankee Stadium and arguably Andy Pettitte, tonight's winner of record. I think I called it "Two Seam Fastball."

If you didn't hang on through the entire maudlin ceremony and the ensuing game this evening, you may have missed some great moments "in the booth" when Yogi and the Chairman of the Board" joined the Sunday night baseball announcers, for BY FAR the only segment they've done worth listening to. A couple of other good interviews too and the post game - the happy recap - and one Mr. Derek Jeter leading the world with a microphone... and then his team around the field to thank the fans. A good night, one in which many a special Yank was missed, notably my favorite Bobby Murcer who passed away in July and, again, it was unexpectedly affecting. Some really good guys out there, even the jocks!

Thanks for bearing with through this message assuming, dear reader, you've made it this far. It was a long season - be thankful there was only one email! Not sure what the 'magic number' is, but it might not be over yet... But I'm hoping!

All best,

She has a few details off -- it was the '98 Serious that we attended, but you get the idea.

Ellipses to protect the innocent.

Artwork is a print, so it's been reversed. Andy Pettitte's a left-hander.

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Better, perhaps.


Authorization for Use of Financial Force

It's chilling and vertigo-inducing, the similarities to the bailout package Paulson has put together and the run-up to the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. Then, we were told to consider a mushroom cloud imminently on the horizon, will literally no facts to back those fears up. Now, we're told we face a financial mushroom cloud if we don't give Henry Paulson a blank check. I'm dizzy.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is telling Congress that if it doesn't give him a $700 billion blank check the financial system is going to collapse. It would be reasonable for reporters discussing this request to present some background on the track record of the person asking for this enormous blank check.

In March of 2007, after the first shock waves of the housing meltdown had already hit, the Associated Press reported Mr. Paulson's view that the credit difficulties linked to the housing slump would be limited.

In August of last year, after the second round of financial shock waves disrupted markets worldwide, Paulson commented, "We have the strongest global economy I’ve seen in my business lifetime."

Just last March he warmly endorsed a reduction in the capital requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying "additional capital [invested in mortgages by Fannie and Freddie] will enable the companies to help more homeowners and will strengthen the underlying fundamentals of the mortgage market."

At every point along the way, Secretary Paulson has failed to see the extent of the crisis resulting from the collapse of the housing bubble. This raises serious questions about his judgment. Reporters should be discussing Paulson't track record in the context of this bailout proposal.

Whatever Paulson's intentions, the Bush administration is looking for a quick fix to save Wall Street investor confidence, with only six weeks before a national election. And, at the same time, they want to end any vague reminiscence about Hoover's and Melon's inaction in the early 30s.

And just as I felt in the fall of 2002: This is insane.


Blue Monday, Earl Palmer edition

Money now. Reforms later.

Yeah, this'll work.

Mr. Paulson said he hoped that the government would recoup much of the cost of buying distressed mortgage-related assets. But he did not rule out that the initial cost of the bailout could rise beyond $700 billion, the limit set in the terse proposal sent by the Treasury to Congress on Saturday.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll go all the way there, or it doesn’t mean it will stop there and we won’t ask for more,” Mr. Paulson said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “What we need is something that is big enough to get the job done. We’ll ask for what we think is a right amount to give us plenty of flexibility.”

Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, put forward the Democrats’ proposed changes to the administration’s plan. They would give the Treasury secretary the authority to set “appropriate standards” for compensation of senior executives whose companies sell troubled assets to the government.

Under a so-called claw-back provision, the secretary would have the power to force companies to recoup previous payments to executives of companies involved in the program. And Mr. Frank’s plan would give broad authority for the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, to audit and oversee the program.

But Mr. Paulson said that he was concerned that imposing limits on the compensation of executives could discourage companies from participating in the program.

“If we design it so it’s punitive and so institutions aren’t going to participate, this won’t work the way we need it to work,” Mr. Paulson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let’s talk about executive salaries. There have been excesses there. I agree with the American people. Pay should be for performance, not for failure.”

But he quickly added: “But we need this system to work, and so we — the reforms need to come afterwards.”

Republicans, though troubled by some of the same issues as Democrats, seemed ready to give Mr. Paulson wide latitude.

We certainly don't want to discourage these companies from taking our money, do we?



The Yankees stave off elimination for one more game. Molina, of all people, hits the last HR in The Yankee Stadium. Mariano Rivera throws the last pitch there, just as he'd "prayed to God" to do.

“It was more the people than the stadium,” Williams said. “You talk about the magic and the aura, but what really made the Stadium was the fans. Concrete doesn’t talk back to you. Chairs don’t talk back to you. It’s the people that are there, that root for you day in and day out. That’s what makes this place magical.”

The legacy of Yankee Stadium, it turns out, was never the title fights or the N.F.L. championships, the papal visits or the World Series. It was the fans. In its final season, the Yankees set a record for attendance, 4,298,543. At the end, the fans were drawn to Ruth’s house in ways he never could have dreamed.

It was a hell of a run.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's down to one game

Both for The Stadium and the Yankees season as the Red Sox win and the Tragic Number drops to one.

I'll try to live-blog the pre-game ceremonies, but I worry about soaking the keyboard. Anyway, odd the celebratory feel of the place given that the Yankees would have to win every remaining game and the Red Sox lose those games if the Yankees are to go to the post season for the 14th year in a row.

7:35 -- Is Cora Rizutto still standing out at shortstop?

7:40 -- Willie Randolph just slid into second. Fantastic, and totally unexpected.

7:56 -- Center field is saved for last. Joe D., Mantle. Is Bernabe Williams in The Stadium?

8:05 -- "Bern baby Bern." Bernie Williams' Day coincides with the Closing of The Stadium Day. How perfect.

And, at 8:06, Bob Shepard announces the lineup.

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Guess what? We're rubes

Well, this was certainly to be expected.

...[A]ccording to the Journal, finance industry lobbyists are already giving orders to Republican hill staffers not to allow any meaningful reforms or protections for taxpayers. So, just the money. No strings attached.
House Republican staffers met with roughly 15 lobbyists Friday afternoon, whose message to lawmakers was clear: Don't load the legislation up with provisions not directly related to the crisis, or regulatory measures the industry has long opposed.

"We're opposed to adding provisions that will affect [or] undermine the deal substantively," said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, whose members include the nation's largest banks, securities firms and insurers.

A deal killer for the group: a proposal that would grant bankruptcy judges new powers to lower the principal, interest rate or both on a mortgage as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

So, it looks like we're bailing out an industry, but regulations? Some relief for home owners crushed under the weight of a mortgage they can no longer afford? If industry lobbyists and Republicans get there way, No. And, no.

But wait. There's more! Taxpayers get nothing in return for forking over $1 trillion.

Here’s the thing: historically, financial system rescues have involved seizing the troubled institutions and guaranteeing their debts; only after that did the government try to repackage and sell their assets. The feds took over S&Ls first, protecting their depositors, then transferred their bad assets to the RTC. The Swedes took over troubled banks, again protecting their depositors, before transferring their assets to their equivalent institutions.

The Treasury plan, by contrast, looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything’s OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers’ money at the financial world.

And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving.

Marshall has a nice phrase for this: "Moral hazard on steroids."

Keep your eyes on Senators Clinton (D., Bear Stearns) and Schumer (D., Morgan Stanley). As they go, so goes this package.


Barack Obama Sr.

I tend to think that the media spends too much time analyzing biography as a proxy for the candidate's real ideas (such as they may be), and in Obama's case, I naturally would be even less interested in a man he hardly knew. But The Globe this morning has a fascinating story about a brilliant, complex man who resembles his son in some ways, but is the opposite in other, crucial ways.

Never one to hold back his opinion, Obama Sr. was well known at the time of Mboya's death as a voluble critic of then president Jomo Kenyatta. Already out of favor, in the years immediately after Mboya's death he was removed from the government job that he so loved, and stripped of his passport. Once one of Kenya's most promising young professionals, he did not handle political exile well. He was involved in a series of car crashes, many of them involving alcohol, and one of which ultimately took his life.

Obama's decline was rapid. But what, to many, makes his a tragic tale is the height from which he fell, and the veil of mystery that still clouds his unraveling. Although an avid talker, he was a man of many secrets. In the early years of his life he bristled with promise. Like his son, he linked his future to that of his country.

Barack Obama, was going to "shape the destiny of Africa," he often declared, jabbing his ubiquitous pipe in the air for emphasis. And many thought he might be right. In those years, Obama made anything seem possible, so infectious was his enthusiasm. If Barack Obama, once a village goat herder, could go to Harvard University for a graduate degree, mind you, and then go on to help shape the economy of a nation, anything was possible.

"He was a self-involved, egotistical, vivid person," recalled US Representative Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, who attended the University of Hawaii with Obama Sr. "But in his core he was dedicated to Africa, to freedom and justice. It seemed like it was about him, but in the end it was not. It was really all about hope."


Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Seems appropriate for this bad hangover week.

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Fun with Marxism

Quote of the day: Floyd Norris.

If these nationalizations smack of socialism, it is closer to the Marxism of Groucho than of Karl.


U.S. Blues

Now, that's change we can believe in.


In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue

Wow. Glad I got out of the country before McCain insisted Spain is a Latin American country.

Once again, it isn't so much McCain's response to the question, but 1.) insisting on answering a question he didn't really understand, and 2.) his advisers' doubling down on the gaffe, are what make you question whether the guy should continue to be in the Senate, let alone in the White House.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Winning a staring contest with bin Laden

Actually Sarah Palin does understand the Bush doctrine!

Best part? I'd never actually seen Rick Davis, McCain's campaign chairman. You wanna see lipstick on a pig? Well, he's your boy.

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Passing Gehrig

Congratulations Derek. That's a serious record broken with only five games left to play at The Stadium.

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The ownership society

Maybe McCain will explain that he'll pay for his massive tax cuts for the rich with all the money the American tax payer will earn from all these companies we're "rescuing!"

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fun with graphs

Monday, September 15, 2008

Richard Wright

I'm here late at night, not 500 meters from the Mediterranean Sea, learning that Richard Wright has died. There's nothing I can say about that, except that the most inventive band was the sum of its parts and there's no mistaking his voice and his playing. There was no band without Syd, of course. There was no intellectual underpinning without Roger Waters. There was no passion without Syd's friend, David Gilmour, there was no beating heart without Nick Mason, and there was no beauty without Richard Wright.

I'm tired. I have no idea if this compilation makes any sense. Richard Wright's sound was important to me.

I've cried for Duane. I've cried for Berry. I've cried for Jerry. I've cried for Syd. I cry for Richard Wright tonight.


It's the regulation's fault

Watching Paulson's press conference: He just blamed Lehman's collapse on "archaic" regulations put in place in response to the banking collapse of the 1930s.

No mention of Phil Gramm.

The general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), led the charge in 1999 to repeal a Depression-era banking regulation law that Democrat Barack Obama claimed on Thursday contributed significantly to today’s economic turmoil.

“A regulatory structure set up for banks in the 1930s needed to change because the nature of business had changed,” the Illinois senator running for president said in a New York economic speech. “But by the time [it] was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework.”

Gramm’s role in the swift and dramatic recent restructuring of the nation’s investment houses and practices didn’t stop there.

A year after the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed the old regulations, Swiss Bank UBS gobbled up brokerage house Paine Weber. Two years later, Gramm settled in as a vice chairman of UBS’s new investment banking arm.

Later, he became a major player in its government affairs operation. According to federal lobbying disclosure records, Gramm lobbied Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department about banking and mortgage issues in 2005 and 2006.

During those years, the mortgage industry pressed Congress to roll back strong state rules that sought to stem the rise of predatory tactics used by lenders and brokers to place homeowners in high-cost mortgages.

For his work, Gramm and two other lobbyists collected $750,000 in fees from UBS’s American subsidiary. In the past year, UBS has written down more than $18 billion in exposure to subprime loans and other risky securities and is considering cutting as many as 8,000 jobs.

Paulson just said, "I'm going to leave history to the historians."

Is there a hole for me to get sick in?


It's just like...Al Gore!

Fox News on Tina Fey Palin impersonation: Where's the Obama spoof?

"It could be a funny 52 days."

The full sketch:

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Comparing CNBC Europe and BBC coverage of the Lehman meltdown is weird. CNBC spent hours of talking head time on What It All Means for... U.S. shareholders. BBC just reported on what it could mean for... banks in India.

I'll assume it's the difference between covering the story at 7am CET and 7pm CET, but I'm probably wrong in that assumption.


But the fundamentals are good, right?

I've been away. Did something happen in the financial markets over the weekend?

Good thing McCain's an economic genius.

Oh noes.



I second this, but would go further: Not only does it ultimately undermine the profession of journalism, but this "pox on both their houses" fundamentally undermines the average citizen's respect for politics and politicians that is at the heart of the civic collapse in this country, a collapse that''s been going on since the glory days of Spiro and Milhouse. Unfortunately, both phenomenons -- "balance" without proportion, and a fundamental distrust of anyone running for public office -- are accelerating.

Next up: Caligula's horse for Consul. I mean, why the hell not?

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$66 million

Obama campaign pulls in another record haul for August. 500,000 first time donors. What this will mean should McCain's deceitful campaign prevail, I shudder to think about.


Even with the impressive August fund-raising, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee appear to have started September with slightly less at their disposal than Mr. McCain and the Republican National Committee for the general election sprint.

Mr. McCain set a personal record in August by raising $47 million. And Republicans started September with just more than $100 million, according to party officials and fund-raisers for Mr. McCain. That amount reflects money coming from the national committee, a balance left in Mr. McCain’s primary account that has been transferred to the party, and money held in a joint account for both entities, as well as several state parties.

Mr. Plouffe said Sunday that the Obama campaign began September with $77 million in its bank account. Democratic officials said the party raised about $17 million in August and finished with a similar amount in the bank. The combined total gave Democrats an estimated $94 million in available cash for the presidential race. There is greater urgency, though, on behalf of Mr. Obama’s campaign since he did not receive $84 million from the Treasury — as Mr. McCain did — when he formally accepted his party’s nomination.


While Mr. McCain and his party are expected to have similar resources, the Obama campaign will have more control over how it spends its money because the bulk is being raised directly for its coffers. And Mr. McCain will face an array of restrictions in how he can use the money raised by the national committee.

Please. John McCain -- he of McCain/Feingold -- has yet to give any indicactions that "restrictions" mean anything to him in his pursuit of winning.

Still a long stretch to go.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Arming the world

Even as our balance of trade tips dangerously, there is one area where we are the leading manufacturer: the international arms trade.

The surging American arms sales reflect the foreign policy tides, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader campaign against international terrorism, that have dominated the Bush administration. Deliveries on orders now being placed will continue for several years, perhaps as one of President Bush’s most lasting legacies.

The United States is far from the only country pushing sophisticated weapons systems: it is facing intense competition from Russia and elsewhere in Europe, including continuing contests for multibillion-dollar deals to sell fighter jets to India and Brazil.

In that booming market, American military contractors are working closely with the Pentagon, which acts as a broker and procures arms for foreign customers through its Foreign Military Sales program.

Less sophisticated weapons, and services to maintain these weapons systems, are often bought directly by foreign governments. That category of direct commercial sales has seen an enormous surge as well, as measured by export licenses issued this fiscal year covering an estimated $96 billion, up from $58 billion in 2005, according to the State Department, which must approve the licenses.

About 60 countries get annual military aid from the United States, $4.5 billion a year, to help them buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80 percent of that aid. The United States has also recently given Iraq and Afghanistan large amounts of weapons and other equipment and has begun to train fledgling military units at no charge; this assistance is included in the tally of foreign sales. But most arms exports are paid for by the purchasers without United States financing.

The growing tally of international weapon deals, which started to surge in 2006, is now provoking questions among some advocates of arms control and some members of Congress.

“Sure, this is a quick and easy way to cement alliances,” said William D. Hartung, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute. “But this is getting out of hand.”

Never mind the vast amount of arms we sell to Israel and Egypt (wonder why Iran is nervous and unpredictable?) arming Iraq and Afghanistan represents an incredible bet on who will hold power in those countries in the years to come. Not a sure bet, I suspect.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Incoherence is a feature, not a bug


Shorter Krauthammer:

The Bush Doctrine? It's forty different things! It's democracy, whiskey and sexy! It's John Kennedy! Suck on that, Charles Gibson!
Here's a testimony to the profound fucktacularity of the Bush years: In defending the the most ill-informed and incurious vice presidential nominee in modern American history, conservatives are reduced to pretty much conceding that they've been endorsing an incoherent foreign policy for eight years.

When I read that, first I snorted water through my nose. Then I grew profoundly depressed.


The Times' reporters seem to have written this entire story with benefit of an "L" on their keyboards.

Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions.

Mr. Obama has also been accused of distortions, but this week Mr. McCain has found himself under particularly heavy fire for a pair of headline-grabbing attacks. First the McCain campaign twisted Mr. Obama’s words to suggest that he had compared Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, to a pig after Mr. Obama said, in questioning Mr. McCain’s claim to be the change agent in the race, “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.” (Mr. McCain once used the same expression to describe Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health plan.)

Then he falsely claimed that Mr. Obama supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergartners (he supported teaching them to be alert for inappropriate advances from adults).

Those attacks followed weeks in which Mr. McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Mr. Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than Mr. McCain would, and misrepresented Mr. Obama’s positions on energy and health care.

In an interview Friday on the NY1 cable news channel, a McCain supporter, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, called “ridiculous” the implication that Mr. Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment was a reference to Ms. Palin, whom he also defended as coming under unfair attack.

“The last month, for sure,” said Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist, “I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama.”

Indeed, in recent days, Mr. McCain has been increasingly called out by news organizations, editorial boards and independent analysts like FactCheck.org. The group, which does not judge whether one candidate is more misleading than another, has cried foul on Mr. McCain more than twice as often since the start of the political conventions as it has on Mr. Obama.

It goes on...

But, sheesh, John. When you're called on it by Joy Behar, that's really sad.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh yeah, those guys

It is truly incredible. More than seven years into the Bush administration, and they still have the ability to amaze and disgust me. Whether it's for his lordship's legacy or to buoy the electoral chances of a man he once shredded, Congress should ask loudly and often, "Why now?" And, "What if we had done this seven years ago instead of focusing these same resources on the frantic effort to find the WMD in Iraq that never got found?"

NPR has learned that the raid by helicopter-borne U.S. Special Operations forces in Pakistan last week was not an isolated incident but part of a three-phase plan, approved by President Bush, to strike at Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaida leadership.

The plan calls for a much more aggressive military campaign, said one source, familiar with the presidential order, which gives the green light for the military to take part in the operations. The plan represents an 11th-hour effort by the Bush administration to hammer al-Qaida before the November election, two government officials told NPR.

"Definitely, the gloves have come off," said a source who has been briefed on the plan. "This was only Phase 1 of three phases."

Pentagon and White House officials have declined to discuss the new plan.

The intelligence community already had approval from the president to carry out operations inside Pakistan, which included attacks by Predator drones, which can carry 100-pound Hellfire missiles.

Additional authority came from the president just recently that allowed incursions by U.S. Special Operations forces, the source said.

A second source said that lawmakers on Capitol Hill were briefed on the new plan shortly before The New York Times broke the story this week about the Special Operations raid from Afghanistan into Pakistan. The source also said that CIA personnel from around the world were being pulled into the Afghan-Pakistan border area, an intelligence-community "surge" to go after bin Laden and other al-Qaida figures.

There was concern by some lawmakers about the political ramifications in Pakistan. The Pakistan government is offering some cooperation in halting the cross-border attacks by Islamist fighters from the tribal areas into Afghanistan. And Pakistan is a key logistics route for U.S. equipment heading into Afghanistan.

Should the U.S. raids continue on Pakistani soil, there is fear that the Pakistani government may halt — or at least curtail — its cooperation with American counterterrorist efforts in the border area. A military source says that the Pakistani government side is given little prior notice of the American military activity.

There have been some complaints within the military that the Pakistanis, even before last week's raid, were not doing enough to stop the cross-border attacks. And the nation's leaders are balking at allowing more Special Operations forces inside Pakistan to train the country's security forces. Currently, the Pentagon does some limited training of short duration, defense sources say.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress this week that he is drafting a new military strategy for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he mentioned that he continues to press Pakistani military and government leaders to do more to curtail the activities of Islamist extremists in the tribal lands.

The raid last week by an elite U.S. Navy SEAL team was a planned operation that took place miles inside Pakistan and led to the deaths of at least nine and as many as 20 individuals — some of them civilians. Sources say the raid was part of a "snatch and grab" operation aimed at Taliban or al-Qaida figures.

A powerful AC-130 gunship, essentially a flying battleship, was used in the operation. The SEAL team members were flown out of Pakistan by helicopter into Afghanistan. A western military source says a SEAL team remains on standby for similar missions on short notice.

"They were definitely after al-Qaida forces," said one of the sources. "But the bleedover between those two," he added, referring to the Taliban, "is significant."

Both sources say those in the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill are raising questions about the political intent of this new aggressive stance.

"The question is," said one of the sources, "Why wasn't this done a year ago?"

I would also suggest there's another factor behind the timing of this sudden push to pound al Qaeda: Musharraf is gone. Now that George Bush is no longer playing the shopkeeper in this sketch as Musharraf's authority died, and new actors are have entered the scene in Pakistan with whom Bush has no interest in having a useful relationship, he doesn't give a shit about the long term consequences of what incursions into Pakistan will do for the fight against al Qaeda leadership and Talibanism.

Yes, I know, Obama stressed -- to McCain's derision -- that he would not hesitate to go into Pakistan uninvited if he had actionable intelligence. But, with less than two months before the election, Bush should have given the next president the opportunity to make this "push." Since the next president will have to deal with the results.

I'm sure this latest effort to burnish the Bush shining legacy will tarnish America's once again.

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I know I should stop writing about Palin, but she does represent the most egregious choiceof a running mate in my lifetime. Let's put it this way, I know Dan Quayle and she's no Dan Quayle.

Perhaps when John McCain is released...er...comes out of hiding from his former base, the media, someone can ask him if he agrees with the aerial hunting of wolves and putting a bounty on them so that hunters won't have to compete with them for caribou.

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U.S. troops under Iraqi command?

Oh hum. Another day. Another breach of the U.S. Constitution.

Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway write in an opinion column for Time that what is being billed as a leaked draft of the agreement between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, recently published in Iraq by the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, would clearly contravene the U.S. Constitution:

"The breadth of the President's powers as Commander in Chief is one of the most controversial issues in constitutional law. Nevertheless, there is one point on which everybody agrees: The President can't unilaterally surrender his command over the military to somebody else and tell the troops to treat this outsider as Commander in Chief. The authority he has as Commander in Chief is not his to transfer.

"The published draft agreement violates this bedrock principle by creating a joint U.S.-Iraq committee and giving it, not the President, the authority to coordinate military operations, resolve operational disputes and even 'determine the tasks and level of the troops that will focus on training and supporting Iraqi security forces.' The agreement creates only one exception: American troops can act unilaterally in self-defense without obtaining the committee's permission.

"The constitutional violation is plain: the agreement would cede the President's authority over U.S. forces in the field to a committee, on which the Iraqis would have veto power."

They continue: "There have been occasions when foreigners have been given some control over American troops in connection with NATO and U.N. peacekeeping operations. But these delegations of command authority occurred under treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, not by presidential fiat. Worse still, the agreement would govern military relationships well into the next Administration. President Bush is proposing to give away not only his own powers as Commander in Chief but also those of his successor.

"The published draft agreement also usurps congressional power over the Treasury. It obligates the United States to pay for the construction and modification of military installations that will revert to Iraqi ownership when U.S. troops leave. This is an open-ended commitment that goes beyond the funds already appropriated by Congress. By taking this step, the President seeks to remove the most fundamental check on the abuse of executive power -- the power of the purse."

So why haven't we heard any of this before?

"The media discussion of the negotiations between the Iraqi and U.S. governments, fueled only by leaks, has focused on more sensational topics such as a timetable for withdrawal of American troops and the al-Maliki government's efforts to prosecute American contractors for crimes committed on Iraqi soil."

Imagine if a Democratic president had put U.S. troops under foreign control.

Some enterprising journalist might want to ask John McCain -- if the straight talker ever answered questions from the press -- if he thinks that's change we can believe it.

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OMG, the press takes seriously its role?

This is such a shocking thing, it made me gasp:

Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2008; A01

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, Sept. 11 -- Gov. Sarah Palin linked the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling an Iraq-bound brigade of soldiers that included her son that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The idea that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a view once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself. But it is widely agreed that militants allied with al-Qaeda have taken root in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

What's going on here?


Outta town

I'm heading into the heart of Obama territory tomorrow -- that is, outside of this country. Postings may be light.

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Sarah Palin is, we know from the McCain camp, a victim of sexist attacks by the "angry left."


One vice-presidential candidate appointed, as mayor of a small town in Alaska, a police chief who charged rape victims for the forensic exam kits used to collect evidence. It saved the town $5,000 to $14,000 a year, according to the chief, even as the mayor built a sports complex that's still costing the town millions.

The other vice-presidential candidate wrote the Violence Against Women legislation.

And one presidential candidate voted against the Violence Against Women Act.

Rove and the burning soul of Lee Atwater look on, awe-struck.


Like a hurricane

Be safe, folks. Sounds like a big one.

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"Cocky wacko"

Didn't see her on the teevee last night, but I'd say that this about sums up what Madame Cura -- who knows quite a number of confident, aggressive, ignorant women -- has been saying about the Palinator for the last two weeks.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kagan on Palin

The jokes write themselves.

Robert Kagan, a foreign policy adviser to McCain, derided criticisms of Palin as elitist.

“I don’t take this elite foreign policy view that only this anointed class knows everything about the world," he said. "I’m not generally impressed that they are better judges of American foreign policy experience than those who have Palin’s experience.”

I am, of course, generally impressed that Robert Kagan is less of a judge of American foreign policy than Sarah Palin.

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Hunting moose from a plane for Jesus

Giblets explains the appeal of Sarah Palin or SHARIA PLAN.

In comments, John Murphy astutely observes,

"Of course you like her, Giblets -- she let you name all her children."


September 11

There has been much talk about how we haven't been attacked since that terrifying, confusing, awful day in lower Manhattan and Washington seven years ago.

Never mind the similarly terrifying anthrax incidents later that same year, but in fact, the attacks masterminded by al Qaeda continue to this day, nearly every day.

9/11 happens again every time an IED explodes in Iraq, killing an American soldier.

It happens again when U.S. and Afghan troops call in an airstrike that kills Afghan civilians.

It happens every time someone is tortured in Guantanamo or Iraq, or "extraordinarily" rendered to another country for "proxy" torture.

It happens when a suicide bomber blows himself or herself up in a Baghdad market.

It happens when our politicians call for the bombing of another country that does not threaten us.

It happens when we accept those calls, with no thought to the thousands who will die for our reaction to the latest "existential" threat.

It happens when we build walls at our southern border.

It happens when our government taps our phones.

It happens when local police pre-empt political demonstrations at party conventions.

It is believed that the plotters who planned flying two planes into the World Trade Center towers seven years ago had hoped the buildings would topple, taking out many more buildings in lower Manhattan and killing thousands more.

They didn't. As we know, they collapsed in on themselves as steel girders melted in the tremendous heat.

But their fall reverberates to this day and we continue to react, as I think al Qaeda hoped, with fear of others, hatred, and disproportionate violence.


Losing the Post?

The Post's editorial board writes,

John McCain is a serious man who promised to wage a serious campaign. Win or lose, will he be able to look back on this one with pride? Right now, it's hard to see how.
Of course, the editors still seem to be under the impression -- after the last eight years -- that the "seriousness" of the campaign matters to Republicans. Only winning matters.

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