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September 30, 2008

Roubini Conference Call Economy

NYU economist Nouriel Roubini has an excellent track record in predicting and analyzing economic crises (including the present one). His economic/financial analysis firm, RGE Monitor, is making its premium content available for free during this economic crisis, here. They just ask you to register.

There is a lot of great material there, but for an excellent overview of where we are, how we got here, and where we're going, you may want to listen to a recent conference call with Roubini here. He talks for almost 40 minutes and then there's Q&A. He talks fast and covers an awful lot of material, so if you're like me you may need to listen to it multiple times. But I think it's the best thing I've heard or read on what's really going on and will repay the effort to absorb it. Highly recommended. I'm putting it on my iPod.

He sees a "nasty" 18-month recession and severe financial crisis ahead. Not the Great Depression, but the worst recession and crisis since the Great Depression. He sees the Treasury rescue plan as "a disgrace and rip-off benefitting only shareholders and unsecured creditors of banks." He sees the demise of the shadow banking system. But that just scratches the surface of what he has to say. Put on your thinking cap and go listen.

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They Want Her To Be A 72-Year-Old Heartbeat Away Politics

Tina Fey can't top this:

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September 29, 2008

Our Shock Doctrine Moment Activism  Economy  Politics

The Right wants to use this economic crisis as a Shock Doctrine moment to take the country even farther to the right.

Digby asks the obvious question: why don't we turn it around and use it as a moment to move the country to the left? Republican policies have been so thoroughly discredited by the last eight years that if there were ever a time for advancing a Progressive agenda, this is it.

Go read it.

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"A Transfer Of Wealth...A Degree Of Stench...A Bit Of Manufacture" Economy

Watch this carefully. Excellent from start to finish.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Check this out:

We had a former head of the FDIC tell a group of congressmen yesterday that the Bush administration has been going around the last few weeks, actually, so tightening up on the practices of banks that they're forcing them to have bigger reserves, which in a way would, you know, kind of create — help to create the kind of tight money policies that we're saying we’re trying to alleviate with this bill. So, you know, there needs to be a deeper look at this. It seems to me there's a possibility that this crisis has a little bit of...uh...manufacture to it.

When thinking about the "bailout," notice who's shoving it down the Congress' throat: Wall Street and the Bush Administration. Does anybody really think they have our best interests at heart? Democrats need to wake the hell up.

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

These financial shenanigans that have been going on... Like today I was reading that they're now putting an end to something called short selling, which is when you borrow stock that you don't own, and sell it, hoping that it will go down so that you can buy it back at a profit. This was legal, but pot smoking isn't? — Bill Maher

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September 28, 2008

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

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September 26, 2008

Fiscal Conservatives Economy  Politics




Source

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Jon Stewart's "Freedom Memory" Economy  Humor & Fun  Politics

Jon Stewart nails it, as usual:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

[Thanks, Miles]

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September 24, 2008

"You Need A Ride To The Airport?" Humor & Fun  Politics

Letterman on McCain's ridiculous stunt:

Awesome.

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Methane Bubbling Up From Arctic Seas Environment

Wall Street may be the least of our worries. The Independent:

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

"We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night," said Dr Gustafsson. "An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. These 'methane chimneys' were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments]."

At some locations, methane concentrations reached 100 times background levels. [...]

"The conventional thought has been that the permafrost 'lid' on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane... The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed."

The preliminary findings of the International Siberian Shelf Study 2008, being prepared for publication by the American Geophysical Union, are being overseen by Igor Semiletov of the Far-Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Since 1994, he has led about 10 expeditions in the Laptev Sea but during the 1990s he did not detect any elevated levels of methane. However, since 2003 he reported a rising number of methane "hotspots", which have now been confirmed using more sensitive instruments on board the Jacob Smirnitskyi. [...]

The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4C rise in average temperatures over recent decades and a dramatic decline in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by summer sea ice. Many scientists fear that the loss of sea ice could accelerate the warming trend because open ocean soaks up more heat from the sun than the reflective surface of an ice-covered sea.

The key point here is that these are self-reinforcing, self-accelerating effects. Melting permafrost releases more methane, which warms the Earth causing more permafrost to melt, etc., etc. These kinds of feedback loops are nonlinear — i.e., in the absence of suppressing feedback loops, they take on a momentum of their own, accelerating faster and faster, more or less exponentially. At some point run-away warming will be the result, and that point is almost certainly a lot closer than we think since we humans always misjudge exponential growth.

This methane story is a very big deal.

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Big Numbers Economy

A lot of big numbers are getting tossed around these days. Numbers like trillion.

We can lose sight of how big a trillion really is. This helps:

1 million seconds = 11 days

1 billion seconds = 32 years

1 trillion seconds = 32 thousand years

Or to put it another way:

A million seconds ago was the week before last.

A billion seconds ago, I was in grad school.

A trillion seconds ago there were Neanderthals in Europe.

Trillion is a big number.

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

More bad news from President Bush. Remember those rebate checks from a few months ago? He wants them back. We need to give that money to rich people on Wall Street. They need it more than you do. — Jay Leno

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September 23, 2008

Naomi Klein: It's The Shock Doctrine Economy

Last night's post made the connection between the Wall Street "bailout" and Naomi Klein's notion of The Shock Doctrine. Today, Naomi Klein weighed in on Huffington Post:

I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place...).

The best summary of how the right plans to use the economic crisis to push through their policy wish list comes from Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. On Sunday, Gingrich laid out 18 policy prescriptions for Congress to take in order to "return to a Reagan-Thatcher policy of economic growth through fundamental reforms." In the midst of this economic crisis, he is actually demanding the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which would lead to further deregulation of the financial industry. Gingrich is also calling for reforming the education system to allow "competition" (a.k.a. vouchers), strengthening border enforcement, cutting corporate taxes and his signature move: allowing offshore drilling.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis -- created by deregulation and privatization -- to demand more of the same. Don't forget that Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is still riding the wave of success from its offshore drilling campaign, "Drill Here, Drill Now!" Just four months ago, offshore drilling was not even on the political radar and now the U.S. House of Representatives has passed supportive legislation. Gingrich is holding an event this Saturday, September 27 that will be broadcast on satellite television to shore up public support for these controversial policies.

What Gingrich's wish list tells us is that the dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure from the think tanks and the corporate media to abandon his campaign promises and embrace austerity and "free-market stimulus."

We have seen this many times before, in this country and around the world. But here's the thing: these opportunistic tactics can only work if we let them. They work when we respond to crisis by regressing, wanting to believe in "strong leaders" -- even if they are the same strong leaders who used the September 11 attacks to push through the Patriot Act and launch the illegal war in Iraq.

So let's be absolutely clear: there are no saviors who are going to look out for us in this crisis. Certainly not Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the companies that will benefit most from his proposed bailout (which is actually a stick up). The only hope of preventing another dose of shock politics is loud, organized grassroots pressure on all political parties: they have to know right now that after seven years of Bush, Americans are becoming shock resistant.

The very people who created this mess want to use it to take us even farther down the road to ruin.

Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them you're not buying it (calling is better than emailing). Do it.

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They're Catching On Economy  Politics

A new poll shows people get the "bailout," even if Congress doesn't. Bloomberg:

Americans oppose government rescues of ailing financial companies by a decisive margin, and blame Wall Street and President George W. Bush for the credit crisis.

By a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent, Americans say it's not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy, according to the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll.

Poll respondents say Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama would do a better job handling the financial crisis than Republican John McCain, by a margin of 45 percent to 33 percent. Almost half of voters say the Democrat has better ideas to strengthen the economy than his Republican opponent.

Six weeks before the presidential election, almost 80 percent of Americans say the U.S. is going in the wrong direction, the biggest percentage since the poll began asking that question in 1991.

After market chaos this month drove Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy and prompted federal takeovers of American International Group Inc., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, most survey respondents said financial companies shouldn't expect taxpayers to rush to the rescue.

"Why should we help companies that can't help themselves?" Tara Rook, 36, a Republican voter in Medford, New Jersey, asked in a follow-up interview. "The government is getting way too involved with private companies."

Congress, you listening?

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

The federal government, you know them, they announced a plan to spend, like, a trillion of taxpayer dollars to buy out bad mortgages and debt. Wall Street was surprisingly enthusiastic about the plan to save their asses with other peoples' money. — Bill Maher

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September 22, 2008

Disaster Capitalism Economy

This whole trillion dollar "bailout" plan reeks of disaster capitalism. Remember Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine? In an earlier post I described it this way:

The thesis, in a nutshell, is that recent history has seen a series of conscious, highly-organized efforts to exploit shocks — economic catastrophes, natural disasters, wars, 9/11, Katrina — to jam through "reforms" that people would never tolerate otherwise. Economic shock therapy, suspension of civil liberties, the Patriot Act and Gitmo, etc., etc. But above all, disaster capitalism — privatization of all kinds of formerly public functions, extending now even to privatized war-fighting. Enormous fortunes are being made by companies that now have a vested interested in more and bigger catastrophes. And it's not only about dollars. Each shock drives us further to the right politically. In the event of another shock of national scope — another 9/11, or worse — the groundwork has been laid to fundamentally alter just about everything about how the US government functions and the rights of US citizens.

The draft legislation they're trying to jam down our throats includes provisions like this:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

This, in a democracy.

And everybody says it’s a $700 billion plan, but the language reads:

The Secretary's authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time.

Note that phrase "at any one time." So Paulson can buy $700 billion worth of securities, sell them, and buy some more. They're trying to hand Paulson the keys to the Treasury, with no oversight of any kind, and his actions "may not be reviewed by any court or any administrative agency."

But, you see, it's a crisis. It has to be dealt with today. No time to read the fine print. Just sign here. Otherwise, it's going to be a catastrophe. Never mind that we're handing the Treasury over to the same Masters of the Universe that created the whole mess in the first place. Let's not forget that Henry Paulson used to run Goldman Sachs.

One is even tempted to wonder if they've manipulated the whole thing to exaggerate the suddenness of the crisis and stampede us into believing desperate measures are called for. It's all been years in the making, but now all of a sudden we're told the end of the world is at hand. Could it be they saw they were in the process of eating a trillion dollar shit sandwich and thought how can we pawn this off on the taxpayers and maybe even make some money while we're at it. All it would take is the creation of a sort of financial 9/11 — or at least the appearance of one. Then the "bailout" could be rushed through a Congress stampeded by fear, Patriot Act-style.

Paranoid? Probably. But a trillion dollars is a lot of dough. People will do a lot to get their hands on a trillion dollars.

Even if the crisis hasn't been manipulated, it is certainly being exploited. The whole idea of handing a blank check to one man whose decisions will be "non-reviewable...by any court of law or any administrative agency" is insane. That it's even being entertained is a measure of how supine we've become. A free people would never consider it. Not for a moment.

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

You may already know, the government has bailed two huge financial companies out, and today, they strongly hinted that they would bail the rest of them out, at taxpayers' expense. It's all part of a new approach our leaders in the White House and Congress are taking to the economy. It's called socialism. — Jimmy Kimmel

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September 19, 2008

Capitalism Economy

Source

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Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Let me ask you, why are we bailing out an insurance company? I mean, what's the first thing an insurance company does when you have a loss? They cancel your policy, right? That's what we should do, cancel their policy. "Ooh, sorry, you're too much of a risk." — Jay Leno

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September 18, 2008

McCain Seems To Think Spain Is In Latin America Politics

This is astonishing. Go read it and listen to the clip.

John McCain is definitely running on empty.

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September 17, 2008

It's Bad Economy

The situation on Wall Street is dire. Don't let anyone tell you different. The speed at which events are unfolding is just stunning. The latest victim, AIG, is huge, the 18th largest public company on Earth, with more than a trillion dollars in assets. That's trillion with a t. US taxpayers are now on the hook for some $900 billion, and there are doubtless more bankruptcies and bank failures right around the corner. Even the Fed's balance sheet is increasingly suspect.

I don't have time to write more tonight, but let me quote a couple of articles from Dow Jones Newswires.

First this:

There's a run on Wall Street, and that bodes ill for the financial system and hence corporate growth and the stock market. Beyond the damage wrought on American International Group, Lehman Brothers and the financial sector as a whole, the crisis has caused another freeze in short-term lending. Such extended slowdowns in lending combined with banking collapses are associated with some of the toughest times in the U.S. economy and stock market.

Indexes are already trading at their lowest levels in roughly three years and most traders expect more selling ahead, with the only sure refuges Treasurys and gold....A typical bear market involves a loss of roughly 20% to 30%, but there's no guarantee the 50% drop on the S&P 500 during the technology bust will be averted this time around.

Shares of the remaining independent Wall Street firms Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group are sliding Wednesday - despite reporting profits Tuesday - and fears abound that the two remaining titans will face a similar crisis to those suffered by their peers.
"Their business model just isn't going to work. A stand alone bulge-bracket bank can't work in this environment," said Dave Rovelli, managing director for U.S. equity trading at Canaccord Adams.

This is the first bank panic of this scale in about 78 years and the first on Wall Street since J.P. Morgan bailed the Street out in 1907. This time, shareholders and credit traders are reacting to each failure by yanking their investments from the institution seen as the next most vulnerable. For Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG, the pattern was the same: the price of protecting against defaults on debt rose sharply, the stock price plunged, and all that made it impossible for the institution to negotiate for a capital injection. Merrill was lucky to escape, running into the embrace of Bank of America, which has the base of deposits Wall Street is now sorely missing. [...]

Throughout the crisis, which already lists Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brother and Bear Stearns among its casualties, the government has taken a reactive, case-by-case approach.

The market rallied after the Fed helped save Bear Stearns. That Lehman was allowed to fail withdrew a perceived safety net under institutions that were struggling with soured mortgage investments.

Many market participants, including Richard Bernstein, chief U.S. investment strategist at Merrill Lynch, maintain the credit crisis is a systemic problem that could not be solved case by case.

"Everybody's sticking fingers in the holes in the dike, not understanding that the problem is much bigger," said a trader at a mid-sized Wall Street firm.

The difference between the Wall Street panic of 1907 and that of 2008, is that Goldman Sachs and its peers are the very heart of the world's financial circulatory system. The crisis that began last summer has already slowed lending activity worldwide, and that's worsened this week. The slowdown in economic growth worldwide is already abundantly evident: several European countries have officially slipped into recession; China cut interest rates this week to stimulate growth.

Six to nine months from now, banks will be even more resistant to lending, which is a real concern to consumer and technology companies, as well as another drag on real estate market.

"What people still are missing is that every growth story of the last five to ten years has been based on credit," said Bernstein, of Merrill Lynch. "China, commodities, real estate, hedge funds, everything was a capital intense endeavor. Global growth was the symptom of the credit bubble," he said.

And this on the US Treasury market:

It was purely panic trade Wednesday. Global investors scrambled for cover as money-fund woes added to already-heightened credit fears. [...]

Treasury bills, the world's most-liquid assets, soared across the board, pushing the bond equivalent yield of the three-month T-bills down a whopping 81.9 basis points to 0.061%, a level not seen since at least 1954.

Demand was so gigantic that at one point, the one-month T-bill's yield dropped below zero, though the yield was recently back up to 0.09%. The 6-month T-bill was down 53.9 basis points to 1.004%. Bond yields move inversely to prices. [...]

Gold, another safe-haven asset, also jumped.

"This is a panic situation," said Charles Comiskey, head of U.S. government bond trading in New York at HSBC Securities USA Inc., a primary dealer. "This is a scary time, because it seems to me that with one money fund going below par, people are getting nervous."

The markets were gripped with fear as redemption worries skyrocketed after Reserve Primary, a $65 billion money market fund, saw its net asset value fall below $1 per share and had to suspend redemptions for one week. The fact that such ultrasafe short-term assets could wobble caused investors to demand the safest assets -- Treasury bills.

Reserve Primary is only the second fund in history to see its NAV drop below $1 a share. The drop came as the fund wrote down its 1.2% exposure to Lehman Brothers and delayed redemptions for as much as seven days.

"There is no confidence right now," said E. Craig Coats Jr., head of fixed income in New York at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "Nobody knows who is the next one to blow up. It is hard to borrow securities and it is hard to finance securities. Leverage is coming out of the market. Things are just winding down.

"Everybody is simply pulling the cover over their heads," he added. "This is as bad as I have seen it."

It's bad and it's going to get worse.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tide Turning Politics

Looks like McCain/Palin's bounce is fading. CBS/NYT has Obama 5 points ahead nationally, and Gallup's daily tracking poll has him up 2. The latter is a five day rolling average, so it is slower to show the effect.

Update (9/17) - Today's daily tracking poll has Obama up 4.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Well, in the Gibson interview, a lot of people thought Charlie Gibson was unfair to Sarah Palin, thought he was talking down to her. That was one of the comments. Like when he asked about the so-called Bush doctrine? Most people are not familiar with the Bush doctrine, right?. Well, we are. Well, we are, we know it by it's other name: Murphy's Law. — Jay Leno

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September 16, 2008

Obama On The Stump Politics

While McCain's stump speech is now mostly about Sarah Palin, Obama talks about real issues. No gimmicks, no character assassination, no Karl Rove-style appeals to the lizard brain.

Obama's no progressive — though he's probably as progressive as someone can be and get a major party's nomination in America in 2008 — but he does conduct himself with honor and intelligence and class. Compared to McCain, he's just in a whole other league. No contest.

If you don't believe me, watch this.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

AP: "McCain's Stump Speech More About Palin Than Self" Politics

AP reports that John McCain's stump speech now is more about Sarah Palin than about himself. Excerpts:

Two things jump out from John McCain's standard campaign speech: Sarah Palin and change. Mostly Sarah Palin bringing change.

It's a new pitch for McCain, and that's something that sets him apart from rival Barack Obama. The Democratic nominee settled early on what's known in the business as his stump speech and has varied it only a little since.

McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate injected an unexpected and enormous burst of energy into his White House bid, and now he tries to tap into that dynamic in his campaign speeches. Nearly unprecedented for presidential contenders in recent history, McCain's stump speech now is often almost as much about his No. 2 as it is about him.

In fact, McCain is expected to do few rallies without Palin through the fall. With McCain's uneven delivery and stiff stance on the stage, big events and formal addresses have never been a staple of his campaigns. He prefers roundtables and town-hall settings where he is more apt to shine. For a long time, he was content to leave the glitzy auditorium-filling events and smooth speechmaking to Obama.

But now crowds are gathering by the thousands for the Republican ticket, and they're there as much to see her as him. Even if she's not there, like at solo McCain rallies Monday and Tuesday, they want to hear about her.

And do they ever. [...]

McCain is a lot heavier on empathy than solutions, though. He spends nearly all his time defining problems, and very little time giving detail on how he would fix them.

It's kind of pathetic, really.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Supporters of Palin say it's okay she doesn't know what the Bush doctrine is because the average American doesn't know what it is. But shouldn't the bar be a little higher for this job? Shouldn't they be a little above average? I mean, hey, let's be honest. We already had an average guy as president. It didn't work out that great. — Jay Leno

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September 15, 2008

It's Not Because Of The Surge Iraq

Patrick Cockburn, one of the very best Western journalists covering Iraq, puts the "surge" in much needed perspective. The Independent:

As he leaves Iraq this week, the outgoing US commander, General David Petraeus, is sounding far less optimistic than the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, about the American situation in Iraq. General Petraeus says that it remains "fragile", recent security gains are "not irreversible" and "this is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not a war with a simple slogan."

Compare this with Sarah Palin's belief that "victory in Iraq is wholly in sight" and her criticism of Barack Obama for not using the word "victory". The Republican contenders have made these claims of success for the "surge" – the American reinforcements sent last year – although they are demonstrably contradicted by the fact that the US has to keep more troops, some 138,000, in Iraq today than beforehand. Another barometer of the true state of security in Iraq is the inability of the 4.7 million refugees, one in six of the population, who fled for their lives inside and outside Iraq, to return to their homes.

Ongoing violence is down, but Iraq is still the most dangerous country in the world. On Friday a car bomb exploded in the Shia market town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing 32 people and wounding 43 others. "The smoke filled my house and the shrapnel broke some of the windows," said Hussein al-Dujaili. "I went outside the house and saw two dead bodies at the gate which had been thrown there by the explosion. Some people were in panic and others were crying."

Playing down such killings, the Iraqi government and the US have launched a largely successful propaganda campaign to convince the world that "things are better" in Iraq and that life is returning to normal. One Iraqi journalist recorded his fury at watching newspapers around the world pick up a story that the world's largest Ferris wheel was to be built in Baghdad, a city where there is usually only two hours of electricity a day.

Life in Baghdad certainly is better than it was 18 months ago, when some 60 to 100 bodies were being found beside the roads every morning, the victims of Sunni-Shia sectarian slaughter. The main reason this ended was that the battle for Baghdad in 2006-07 was won by the Shia, who now control three-quarters of the capital. These demographic changes appear permanent; Sunni who try to get their houses back face assassination. [...]

The perception in the US that the tide has turned in Iraq is in part because of a change in the attitude of the foreign, largely American, media. The war in Iraq has now been going on for five years, longer than the First World War, and the world is bored with it. US television networks maintain expensive bureaux in Baghdad, but little of what they produce gets on the air. When it does, viewers turn off. US newspaper bureaux are being cut in size. The result of all this is that the American voter hears less of violence in Iraq and can suppose that America's military adventure there is finally coming good.

An important reason for this optimism is the fall in the number of American soldiers killed. (The 30,000 US soldiers wounded in Iraq are seldom mentioned.) This has happened because the war that was being waged against the American occupation by the Sunni community, the 20 per cent of Iraqis who were in control under Saddam Hussein, has largely ended. It did so because the Sunni were being defeated, not so much by the US army as by the Shia government and the Shia militias. [...]

If McCain wins the presidential election in November, his lack of understanding of what is happening in Iraq could ignite a fresh conflict. In so far as the surge has achieved military success, it is because it implicitly recognises America's political defeat in Iraq. Whatever the reason for President George Bush's decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, it was not to place the Shia Islamic parties in power and increase the influence of Iran in the country; yet that is exactly what has happened.

The surge only achieved the degree of success it did because Iran, which played a central role in getting Nouri al-Maliki appointed Prime Minister in 2006, decided to back his government fully. It negotiated a ceasefire between the Iraqi government and the powerful movement of Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra, persuading the cleric to call his militiamen off the streets there, in March and again two months later in the Sadrist stronghold of Sadr City. It is very noticeable that in recent weeks the US has largely ceased its criticism of Iran. This is partly because of American preoccupation with Russia since the fighting began in Georgia in August, but it is also an implicit recognition that US security in Iraq is highly dependant on Iranian actions.

General Petraeus has had a measure of success in Iraq less because of his military skills than because he was one of the few American leaders to have some understanding of Iraqi politics. In January 2004, when he was commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, I asked him what was the most important piece of advice he could give to his successor. He said it was "not to align too closely with one ethnic group, political party, tribe, religious group or social element". But today the US has no alternative but to support Mr Maliki and his Shia government, and to wink at the role of Iran in Iraq. If McCain supposes the US has won a military victory, and as president acts as if this were true, then he is laying the groundwork for a new war.

In Iraq, in the real world, the violence and the privation and the horror continue. But here in the US, people are bored. They've changed the channel. As if it were all just some tv series that has run its course. Let's see what else is on. As if it weren't happening in the real world, to real people — because of us.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Lehman Brothers — The Sheer Scale Economy

I doubt many people really grasp the colossal scale of the Lehman Brothers collapse. Lehman Brothers assets totaled $639 billion. Not only is the LB bankruptcy the largest in US history, as has been widely reported, it absolutely dwarfs all previous bankruptcies. The biggest before today was Worldcom. Worldcom's assets were a measly $104 billion. The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy is bigger — by about $104 billion, as it happens — than the sum of what before today were the 15 largest US bankruptcies combined.

Lehman Brothers had $639 billion in assets, but it also had some $613 billion in bank debt and $155 billion in bond debt. So it owed about $130 billion more than it had. A whole lot of banks and other institutions are holding that debt, and they're going to take a huge hit. This isn't over by any means.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Palin said [in her convention speech] that John McCain had seen evil, but I didn’t even know Dick Cheney was at the convention. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 13, 2008

Serial Liars Politics

The McCain/Palin campaign lies about everything. Here's another (Boston Globe):

WASHINGTON - Sarah Palin's visit to Iraq in 2007 consisted of a brief stop at a border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait, the vice presidential candidate's campaign said yesterday, in the second official revision of her only trip outside North America.

Following her selection last month as John McCain's running mate, aides said Palin had traveled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. During that trip she was said to have visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq. The campaign has since repeated that Palin's foreign travel included an excursion into the Iraq battle zone.

But in response to queries about the details of her trip, campaign aides and National Guard officials in Alaska said by telephone yesterday that she did not venture beyond the Kuwait-Iraq border when she visited Khabari Alawazem Crossing, also known as "K-Crossing," on July 25, 2007.

Asked to clarify where she traveled in Iraq, Palin's spokeswoman, Maria Comella, confirmed that "She visited a military outpost on the other side of the Kuwait-Iraq border."

It was the second such clarification in as many weeks of the itinerary of what Palin has called "the trip of a lifetime." Earlier, the campaign acknowledged that Palin made only a refueling stop in Ireland. [...]

But she did not venture into Iraq, [Lieutenant Colonel Dave] Osborn said. "You have to have permission to go into a lot of areas, and [the crossing] is where her permissions were," he said. [...]

Palin also told ABC that she had traveled to Mexico and Canada. Her campaign had previously mentioned a Canada visit, but not a trip to Mexico. Comella said yesterday that Palin had visited Mexico on vacation, and Canada once last year.

Claiming she had visited Ireland because her plane touched down there briefly to refuel was pathetic. But claiming she had visited a "military outpost" inside Iraq when she hadn't — that's a lot more serious. But hey, she did go to Canada once.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Well, the Wall Street Journal said today Democrats are sending an army of lawyers and investigators up to Alaska to look into the background of Sarah Palin. And of course, John McCain is furious. He said, "Hey, if I didn't look into her background, there's no reason you should be looking into her background." — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

A Heartbeat Away Politics

You've probably seen this, but it's too good not to repeat.

In her interview with Charles Gibson, Sarah Palin was pressed about how her living in Alaska gave her foreign policy insight vis-a-vis Russia. She said:

They're our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

Sounds like Miss Teen South Carolina.

Anyway, the perfect rejoinder was offered by commenter Krista, at Balloon Juice:

And when I look out my window I can see the moon. Doesn't make me a fucking astronaut now, does it?

"You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska..." Gawd. That should have ended her public career. It's like people aren't even listening to the words anymore.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:17 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 12, 2008

The Palin Interview Politics

James Fallows on the Palin interview. Perceptive, as usual:

It is embarrassing to have to spell this out, but for the record let me explain why Gov. Palin's answer to the "Bush Doctrine" question — the only part of the recent interview I have yet seen over here in China — implies a disqualifying lack of preparation for the job.

Not the mundane job of vice president, of course, which many people could handle. Rather the job of potential Commander in Chief and most powerful individual on earth. [...]

Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don't. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we're able to talk and think about it in a "rounded" way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I'd really like to hear answered is A.

Here's the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.

Mention a name or theme — Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena — and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names — they've heard of Armstrong — but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports — and politics and tech and other topics — so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics — fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera — I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years. [...]

Sarah Palin did not know this issue, or any part of it. The view she actually expressed — an endorsement of "preemptive" action — was fine on its own merits. But it is not the stated doctrine of the Bush Administration, it is not the policy her running mate has endorsed, and it is not the concept under which her own son is going off to Iraq.

How could she not know this? For the same reason I don't know anything about European football/soccer standings, player trades, or intrigue. I am not interested enough. And she evidently has not been interested enough even to follow the news of foreign affairs during the Bush era.

A further point. The truly toxic combination of traits GW Bush brought to decision making was:

1) Ignorance
2) Lack of curiosity
3) "Decisiveness"

That is, he was not broadly informed to begin with (point 1). He did not seek out new information (#2); but he nonetheless prided himself (#3) on making broad, bold decisions quickly, and then sticking to them to show resoluteness.

We don't know for sure about #2 for Palin yet — she could be a sponge-like absorber of information. But we know about #1 and we can guess, from her demeanor about #3. Most of all we know something about the person who put her in this untenable role.

That last point, of course, is crucial. McCain put her in this position. So much for "Country First."

Posted by Jonathan at 11:43 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Well, it's a very strange political campaign. I mean, out on the campaign trail, John McCain and Sarah Palin are talking about how they stood up to the Republican party. They fought the Republican establishment. They battled Republicans. And their message? Vote Republican. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 11:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 10, 2008

OK When McCain Says It Politics

Cheney, too.

It's enough to make you crazy.

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

The government is spending, what, $200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Unemployment, five-year high. Foreclosures are at a 19-year high. This means the Democrats are going to have to work extra hard over the next eight weeks to blow this election. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin's Church Politics  Religion

Wasilla Assembly of God was Sarah Palin's church from 1974 to 2002. The video below mixes footage from Wasilla AoG and Morning Star Ministries. In October, Wasilla Assembly of God will host a "Prophetic Conference" with Steve Thompson of Morning Star Ministries, as you can see on Wasilla AoG's website.

To see more of what Morning Star Ministries is into, go up on YouTube and search for Holy Spirit Breakout. There is a whole series of videos, starting with this one:

Not exactly the home of rational thought.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:53 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Palin said when she was Governor of Alaska she got rid of the state’s luxury jet and put it on eBay. Ironically, do you know who bought it? John and Cindy McCain. — Jay Leno

Cindy McCain appeared at the Republican National Convention, and Vanity Fair took a look at an outfit she wore. The magazine priced it out at around $300,000. With that kind of money, you could buy an 11th house. Should we be nervous about a man who preaches against wasteful spending when his wife is wearing $300,000? — Jimmy Kimmel

Posted by Jonathan at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 08, 2008

Palin's Goof Politics

Sarah Palin thinks mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have, over time, "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." Only one problem. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private corporations. They have never been taxpayer funded.

On Friday (after Palin spoke) they were put into conservatorship under the Federal Housing Finance Agency (a move supported by both John McCain and Barack Obama). So now taxpayers are on the hook. But Palin's comment made it clear she had no real idea what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do.

Sam Stein, Huffington Post:

Economists and analysts pounced on the misstatement, which came before the government had spent funds bailing the two entities out, saying it demonstrated a lack of understanding about one of the key economic issues likely to face the next administration.

"You would like to think that someone who is going to be vice president and conceivable president would know what Fannie and Freddie do," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "These are huge institutions and they are absolutely central to our country's mortgage debt. To not have a clue what they do doesn't speak well for her, I'd say."

Added Andrew Jakabovics, an economic analyst for the progressive think tank, Center for American Progress: "It is somewhat nonsensical because up until yesterday there was sort of no public funding there. Even today they haven't drawn down any of the credit line they have given to Treasury. 'Gotten too big and too expensive' are two separate things. The too big has been a conservative mantra for a while and there is something to be said of that in that they hold about half of the mortgage guarantees that are out there. And in the last year they have been responsible for roughly 80 percent out there. The 'too expensive to tax payers,' I don't know where that comes from."

Even conservative analysts acknowledged that the statement simply did not hold true.

"Heretofore, if the treasury had a balance sheet there would have been a liability but there was never a taxpayer payment before [the bailout]," said Gerald P. O'Driscoll, an economist with the Cato Institute. "[Fannie and Freddie] were not taxpayer funded. They had taxpayer guarantee, which is worth something, especially in the stock market..."

Listen to the clip. She's just winging it, talking through her hat.

And they want to put her a 72-year-old-heartbeat away from the presidency.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Obama Ad Uses The "L" Word Politics

As in "Lie". Via DailyKos:

Good.

Posted by Jonathan at 07:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Nearly One Homeowner In Ten Delinquent Or In Foreclosure Economy

Nearly one American homeowner in ten is delinquent on mortgage payments or in foreclosure. One in ten. Unreal. For subprime ARMs, the rate is greater than two in ten. And the rate of new foreclosures is twice what it was a year ago. USA Today (via Cryptogon):

An industry group says a record 9.2% of American homeowners with a mortgage were either behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of June, as damage from the housing crisis continued to mount.

The latest quarterly snapshot by the Mortgage Bankers Association on Friday broke records for late payments, homes entering the foreclosure process and for the inventory of loans in foreclosure.

The percentage of loans at least 30 days past due or in foreclosure was up from 8.8% in the January-March quarter, and up from 6.5% a year earlier.

In one bit of positive news, delinquencies on subprime adjustable-rate loans dipped 1 percentage point from the first quarter to 21%.

The seasonally adjusted foreclosure starts rate, the percentage of loans that entered the foreclosure process during the April-June quarter, was 1.19%, up from 0.99% in the first three months of 2008 and 0.65% in the second quarter of 2007.

The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the second quarter was 2.75%, up from 2.47% in the first quarter and from 1.40% in the second quarter of 2007.

It's getting worse, not better. Large banks and mortgage companies will soon be dumping residential properties (that they've acquired in foreclosures) on the market in bulk. Then home prices are really going to tank. Supply and demand.

Lenders have been slow to dump their holdings presumably because most of them are now worth less than the amount of the mortgage. But when other lenders start dumping, the value of their holdings will go down even further. So there's a real incentive to try to get there first — which means it will happen sooner (and faster) than you think. Mr. Mortgage explains:

He uses the term REO. I had to look that one up. It's "Real Estate Owned," which refers to properties that are owned by a bank or other lender because they failed to sell at foreclosure auctions.

Posted by Jonathan at 07:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 06:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Bush didn't make the convention because the hurricane, Gustav, hit New Orleans, but actually didn't. Bush was at the Hurricane Command Center, taking credit for a perfect emergency response to a perfect non-emergency. Although he actually did cause some panic, because viewers at home saw him sitting there, doing nothing, and they thought maybe it was another terrorist attack. — Bill Maher

Posted by Jonathan at 06:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 07, 2008

You Go, Joe! Politics

This is outstanding (via James Fallows):

We need more of that. Much more.

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Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

One of the big themes for convention speakers was that we need to elect a Republican who will go in and clean up the mess in Washington. I think that's a great lesson for kids: always clean up your own mess. — Jimmy Kimmel

Posted by Jonathan at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 06, 2008

McCain's Faustian Bargain Politics

Another great Daily Show bit, this one on John McCain's journey from Maverick Reformer to Reformed Maverick. Includes some startling clips, starting at the 3:15 mark, of John McCain saying one thing before 2006 and the exact opposite after:

From Robert Greenwald, another collection of McCain flip-flops:

Whatever John McCain may have been in the past, today he's sold his soul to the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party. He's marketed as a straight-talking man of integrity and people buy it. They need to see these clips.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

She said at her church, Governor Palin, she said she asked everyone to pray for a natural gas pipeline, which she said was God's will. And today, God said, "Hey lady, I don't deal with oil companies. That's more Satan's area." — Jay Leno

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September 05, 2008

Numbers Politics

An ABC News national poll, taken yesterday, includes these findings:

Do you approve or disapprove of John McCain's choice of Palin as his vice presidential running mate?
ApproveDisapproveUnsure
60%34%6%
Does McCain's choice of Palin for vice president make you more likely to vote for McCain, less likely, or won't it make any difference in your vote?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
25%19%55%1%
Does Barack Obama's choice of Biden for vice president make you more likely to vote for Obama, less likely, or won't it make any difference in your vote?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
22%10%67%1%
Regardless of your vote preference, does McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate make you more confident or less confident in the kind of decisions McCain would make as president?
MoreLessNo DiffUnsure
43%38%14%6%
Do you think [Biden, Palin] does or does not have the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, if that became necessary?
 DoesDoes NotUnsure
Biden66%21%13%
Palin42%50%7%

Good news, bad news. People approve of the choice of Palin, but they don't have a lot of confidence in her ability to serve as president (which I thought was pretty much the whole point of the vice presidency).

It's interesting that the approve/disapprove ratio for the choice of Palin is almost two to one, but then people are almost evenly split over whether it gives them more or less confidence in McCain's decision making ability. But nobody said people are consistent.

It's interesting, too, that Biden may actually be doing more good for Obama than Palin is for McCain. At least the difference between "more likely" and "less likely" for Biden is 12 percentage points, while for Palin it's only 6. That's a pretty weak measure (we don't know how strongly "more likely" or "less likely" people were in each case, for example) but at the very least it looks like Palin's benefit to McCain is in the same ballpark as Biden's to Obama. Which I'm guessing is not what most people would have expected. I wish they had asked the approve/disapprove question (question #1) for Biden as well so we could compare.

It looks to me like Democrats should make people think seriously about Palin as president. This isn't American Idol. It's not a question of who's more entertaining. It's a question of who can actually do the job when the election's over. I don't know about you, but the thought of President Palin terrifies me.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Humor & Fun

This is soooooo good:

Posted by Jonathan at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 04, 2008

McCain's Speech Politics

Well that was weird.

It was like he was reading a speech in another language. Major disconnect between content and affect. Smiles in all the wrong places. Stilted gestures and emphasis, like he was struggling to remember what they'd told him to do, when. Body language like a marionette's.

McCain must be running on empty.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Jesus Was A Community Organizer Politics

In last night's RNC sarcasm fest, there was a lot of snide derision directed at Obama's having been a community organizer.

A number of national organizations of community organizers have responded. This is probably my favorite response, from John Raskin, founder of Community Organizers of America and a community organizer on the West Side of Manhattan:

Community organizers work in neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the failing economy. The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we're trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn't need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn't be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.

Or maybe it's this one, left by a commenter at Faith in Public Life:

Jesus was a community organizer.
Pontius Pilate was a governor.

Amen.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Palin's Foreign Policy Credential: Alaska's Right Next Door To Russia Politics

Last Friday Fox News Channel's Steve Doocy said:

But the other thing about [Sarah Palin], she does know about international relations because she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.

Check out Jon Stewart's reaction in the Daily Show clip in this earlier post, at the 1:40 mark.

Just about the dumbest thing anyone's ever said in public, right? Apparently not everyone thinks so.

On Sunday, Cindy McCain repeated it, saying, "remember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia."

Yesterday, leading neocon Frank Gaffney picked up the theme:

Napoleon is said to have declared that "Geography is destiny." That certainly is true of Gov. Palin. Her state is adjacent to Russia... As that state's governor, Sarah Palin would know more by osmosis — if nothing else — about the necessity for US anti-missile systems than either Messrs. Obama or Biden.

And now it's been picked up by John McCain himself. On ABC today McCain said:

Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

Can you imagine Barack Obama saying something so dumb? No, neither can I.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Ali On YouTube Politics

My daughter Ali is up in St. Paul shooting footage for a video project on the street action outside the RNC. She's been tear-gassed and has filmed a number of arrests. Tuesday she happened to see the arrest of a couple of "medics" from the North Star Health Collective and was interviewed on camera briefly by some reporters from City Pages, an alternative weekly in the Twin Cities.

You can see her interview here. Not earth-shaking news, but she's my daughter and I'm proud of her!

Posted by Jonathan at 02:12 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:51 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Joke Politics

What a historic race. The first time an actual black person is leading the charge for a major American political party. I think that says something pretty great about America: we will accept a black man to lead us if the only other choice is a woman. — Bill Maher

Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

September 03, 2008

Reality And Reality TV Politics

Palin's speechwriters filled her speech with snide zingers that she delivered with snarky confidence. Never mind that it was riddled with untruths. The delegates ate it up. So we can probably expect to hear a lot of talk about her having "nailed" it. And she did, I guess, in a sort of reality-tv-show-winner-gets-to-run-for-vice-president kind of way.

But down here in the real world, people who run for vice president and win actually have to serve in the office.

Alexander Burns (politico.com) looked up the actuarial statistics on a man John McCain's age making it through his presidency. Without even factoring in McCain's history of four melanomas or the crushing stresses of the presidency, a man McCain's age would have about a 1 in 3 chance of dying before he could finish two terms and about a 1 in 7 chance of not making it through one.

So the question of Sarah Palin's fitness to be President of the United States has to be taken very seriously. This isn't some reality tv show — though you get the feeling that people are finding it harder and harder to distinguish reality from reality tv. They may think Sarah Palin as vice president would be "fun."

President Sarah Palin would most assuredly not be fun, though. Not in reality.

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Palin And Earmarks Politics

Expect to hear a lot tonight about Sarah Palin as reformer, foe of budget earmarks. True? KXMC (Via Atrios):

John McCain touts his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, as a force in his battle against earmarks and entrenched power brokers.

But under her leadership, Alaska has asked the federal government for almost $300 per person in requests for pet projects this year. That's more than any other state received, per person, from Congress and runs counter to the image the GOP ticket is pushing.

McCain's campaign says Palin realizes Alaska has been too reliant on earmarks and ordered state officials to cut back on their requests. It also says Barack Obama requested nearly a billion dollars in earmarks over three years for Illinois, a state with nearly 20 times the population of Alaska.

Obama hasn't asked for any earmarks this year. Last year he requested 311 million dollars roughly $24 worth for every Illinoisan.

To be fair, Alaska has reduced its earmark requests, which were more than $800 per Alaskan in Palin's first year in office. But the current figure of $300 per capita is still the highest in the land. The average across all states is only about $34 per capita.

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What Awaits Sarah Palin Politics

James Fallows on what's in store for Sarah Palin, even leaving aside all the embarrassing disclosures:

Unless you have seen it first first-hand, as part of the press scrum or as a campaign staffer, it is almost impossible to imagine how grueling the process of running for national office is. Everybody gets exhausted. The candidates have to answer questions and offer views roughly 18 hours a day, and any misstatement on any topic can get them in trouble. Why do candidates so often stick to a stump speech that they repeat event after event and day after day? Because they've worked out the exact way to put their positions on endless thorny issues — Iraq, abortion, the Middle East, you name it — and they know that creative variation mainly opens new complications.

If someone is campaigning for the presidency or vice presidency, there's an extra twist. That person has to have a line of argument to offer on any conceivable issue. Quick, without pausing in the next ninety seconds, tell me what you think about: the balance of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, and exactly what signals we're sending to Hamas, and what we think about Russia's role in the G-8 and potentially in NATO, and where North Korea stands on its nuclear pledges — plus Iran while we're at it, plus the EU after the Irish vote, plus cap-and-trade as applied to India and China, and what's the right future for South Ossetia; and let's not even start on domestic issues.

The point about every one of those issues is that there is a certain phrase or formulation that might seem perfectly innocent to a normal person but that can cause a big uproar. Without going into the details, there is all the difference in the world between saying "Taiwan and mainland China" versus "Taiwan and China." The first is policy as normal; the second — from an important US official — would light up the hotline between DC and Beijing.

The further point is that not even the most accomplished person knows all this off the top of his or her head. Example: Barack Obama. He is a quick study and has been campaigning very hard for 18 months. But this summer, when he tried to offer a reassuring message about his commitment to Israeli security with his AIPAC speech, he made a rookie error by getting the standard phraseology slightly wrong.

Let's assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden's even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there's no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it's what the press is going to start out looking for.

So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes. The challenge for the McCain-Palin campaign is to find some way to defuse them ahead of time, since Socrates, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz reincarnated would themselves make errors in her situation. And the challenge for Democrats is to lead people to think, What if she were in charge?, without being bullies about it.

One more reason — a big reason — why McCain's reckless gamble on Palin is crazy and doomed. I wish people would stop focusing on Palin's pregnant daughter. That's the least of her worries. It's going to be entertaining to watch Palin try to sound like she's got the goods to be a heartbeat away.

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Joke Humor & Fun

Thirty-eight million people watched Barack Obama at the stadium in Denver. There were 84,000 full-throated supporters who turned out there at the field. The Republicans fired back today. They say, "We can also fill a stadium with thousands of screaming people. For example, the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina." — Bill Maher

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September 02, 2008

GOP: Brand X Politics

Jack Cafferty on the self-destructing GOP. Worth a read.

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"This Can't Be Happening" Politics

Here's what some prominent Alaska Republicans thought of the Palin pick (Anchorage Daily News):

State Senate President Lyda Green said she thought it was a joke when someone called her at 6 a.m. to give her the news.

"She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?" [...]

The state Legislature is investigating whether Palin and her staff broke state law by pressuring the public safety department to fire a state trooper who was in a custody battle with her sister. [...]

State House Speaker John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, was astonished at the news. He didn't want to get into the issue of her qualifications.

"She's old enough," Harris said. "She's a U.S. citizen."

Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican political leader who has clashed with Palin in the past, was shocked when she heard the news Friday morning with her husband, Walt.

"I said to Walt, 'This can't be happening, because his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out," Phillips said.

Phillips has been active in the Ted Stevens re-election steering committee and remains in close touch with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other party leaders, and she said nobody had heard anything about McCain's people doing research on his prospective running mate.

"We're not a very big state. People I talk to would have heard something."

It's not just that Palin isn't ready to lead the country. By picking her, McCain has shown — definitively — that he isn't ready either. These are not the actions of a serious grownup.

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September 01, 2008

"Hookers And Blow" Politics

John McCain publicly asked RNC conventioneers to cut back on the partying while their fellow citizens deal with Hurricane Gustav. How's that working out?

You get the feeling nobody in GOP politics really gives a damn about McCain. He's just the front man, the guy they hope will let them keep their noses in the trough. He can do his thing, they're going to do theirs.

[Via FireDogLake]

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Why Sarah Palin? Politics

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin seems inexplicable. Yes, she's a woman, but there are lots of women. Why pick such a lightweight?

But maybe there's an explanation after all.

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