Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Morning Flash Post

Friday's debate was about a draw, but I think that works to Obama's favor, with (1) McCain's lunacy last week, (2) the economy continuing to tailspin, and (3) the next big item on the schedule being the V.P. debate on Thursday.

The market is going to continue to spiral this morning until the House vote at around 1 p.m. EST. I'm predicting passage; after that, the Dow should be up by three to four hundred. If it's not, that'll be a terrible omen for the coming year or two or three. Of course, if the bill doesn't pass, I'd say it's a good time to start burying precious metals in your yard.

China is planning on building a space station.

The Palin bubble is popped.

Bill Clinton's recent shenanigans are simply unforgivable.

I wonder if it's still a good time to invest in gold and silver, as we're sure to face further turmoil and trouble over the next six months to a year, and the dollar seems set to take a further fall.

Friday, September 26, 2008

This Hurts My Brain

I think Chris Orr is right: the McCain campaign has broken Sarah Palin. I don't agree with Palin on anything, but at this point, I honestly do feel sorry for her. Even though she is dead wrong on the issues, I can admit that, before all of this V.P. drama broke her down, she was a talented, charismatic, natural politician, albeit one who didn't know much except local Alaska politics. And then McCain chose to thrust her into a national spotlight for which she was simply not prepared. On top of that, the McCain campaign has destroyed her own naive confidence by hammering home to everyone in the country that they fear letting her say anything unscripted to anyone.

From a Republican perspective (obviously not my own) I think the McCain camp's reckless move of throwing Palin into this position when she so obviously was not ready was stupid tactically, and terrible for their party, in that they have destroyed the reputation of one of their up and coming young politicians. Assuming the McCain campaign goes down this November -- and it will -- Palin will not have the chance to follow a natural progression and develop into a politician who could take the national stage (i.e., running for the Senate, spending some years gaining national and international experience). McCain's recklessness has trashed Palin, just as his recklessness and grandstanding this week has trashed bipartisan efforts on a financial bill.

It's really quite obvious: McCain lacks the judgment or temperament to be President. He's a reckless, egomaniacal hothead.

And thanks to his hijinks this week, John McCain is also the proud owner of today's market sell-off .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Had Enough?

Yes, yes, yes, "Country First", nation is in crisis, must come together, must go to Washington to help pass this bailout bill, and . . . SURPRISE, no V.P. debate next week!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Time Out to Look Around

Aaaaacck. I know there are only 43 days left until Election Day, and EVERY DAY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LAST, but I need to take a break from the election and the financial meltdown, and everything else. There is a world outside our borders!

- Ethiopian troops opened fire in market in Bakara, Somalia, killing 40. The Ethiopian troops were apparently backing Somali government troops against Islamic insurgents.

- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a former Mossad agent, will succeed Yehud Olmert to become Israel's next Prime Minister. Livni, 50, "has pledged to pursue peace with the Palestinians and Syria, following up negotiations started by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She would be Israel's first female premier since 1974." CBC.

- The Egyptian government continues to work to free 11 European hostages. It is not clear what group is responsible for the kidnappings.

- "The last of the Neanderthals feasted on warmed mussels, baby seals and washed-up dolphins, according to fossil hunters working in ancient seaside caves in Gibraltar." The Guardian.

- "A global search has begun for food crops with traits that are able to withstand changes to the climate. The project, co-ordinated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is searching national seed banks for 'climate proof' varieties, including maize and rice." BBC

- Alitalia is still in business.

- Global warming may mean cooler weather for Atlantic Canada: "Melting Arctic ice may cause cooler water to drift south and change the climate of the eastern provinces in a different way than many people would expect, said Ken Drinkwater . . . ." CBC.

- "The global financial crisis endangers efforts to reduce world poverty and demands a new approach with less "uncritical faith in the 'magic' of markets," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday." Reuters.

- Mass tombs found near Machu Picchu.

- There is a lot of lightning on Venus.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to the Future Again

[Editor's Note: What's sad about the post below is that I wrote it and saved it as a draft on Friday morning. I didn't get around to releasing it until today. In the meantime, Frank Rich's piece in the Sunday NYT made largely the same point. Not that raising the S&L crisis is -- or should be -- any great shocker, of course.]

How does McCain truly feel about government regulation of the economy? How does he really feel about "corruption" in the financial system?

We could listen to the endlessly shifting messages he's been offering this week, or we could look at McCain's involvement in one of our countries most significant financial crises -- the Savings and Loan Crisis.

McCain was one of the infamous Keating Five. What was his role as part of that notorious group? Using his weight as an United States Senator to get federal regulators to back off of a real estate investor who had entered into real estate investments with Cindy McCain, had paid for McCain and his family to vacation at his Caribbean resort, and who was engaging in questionable and risky deals that were a significant part of the Savings and Loan Crisis that ultimately costs U.S taxpayers $124.6 billion.

Our memories should not be so short that we allow McCain to elide this dark episode in his political history.

Also, not to pile on, but perhaps someone should check with McCain this week to see if he still supports a plan to privatize Social Security.

A Very Good Reason for Not Caring About the Economy

John McCain offers a defense of his recent mixed messages on the economy:
My friends, in recent days I've been accused of not being interested in or even understanding economic issues. Some have said that I haven't offered any concrete plans for how to address the current financial crisis.

My friends, if I could, I'd just like to mention to my critics that, for a very long time, for five and a half years, in fact, I didn't have any money. I didn't have any cash, any coins, any checking account, any credit cards, any mutual funds, or a stock portfolio. I didn't have any money because I was a PRISONER OF WAR. For FIVE AND A HALF YEARS. NO HOUSE. NO MONEY.
O.G. "News" Service.

The sad thing is, you could actually see him saying something along these lines.

California Dreaming

Last night I had a dream that I was watching television coverage on election night and Barack Obama had won the Presidency. I don’t know how much stock I place in dreams like this, but we’ll check back on this post on November 5th and appraise my powers of prophecy.

Of course, what’s most likely to make my dream become a reality is the nightmare of our economy. The current crisis has exposed McCain and Palin for the lobotomized “Government Bad, Free Market Good” know-nothings that they are, with no plan, no good ideas, just stupid-ass catch-phrases that contradict what they said ten minutes earlier. This quote from McCain’s campaign really just says it all (and Obama and Biden should hammer him with it):
As recently as Tuesday, the campaign's senior policy advisor flatly rejected any detailed plan to deal with the mounting crisis. "The senator is not running to be Treasury secretary. He's not running to be head of the SEC. He is running to be the leader of the United States. He can and has the judgment to put people in place with the technical expertise," Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters.

I do think the economy will put Obama and Biden in the White House. However, I do not envy them the situation they will be surveying on their first day in office: a financial system in meltdown, a possible exhaustion of FDIC reserves, never-ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, continuing instability in Pakistan, a resurgent Russia, increasingly severe storms devastating our coasts, health care costs spiraling into the sky, the highest unemployment rates in five years, and on and on.

Anyhow, I told you all not to worry too much, at least not about Obama’s chances. We’ll need to do the real worrying for him after he wins.

[As a closing thought, it occurs to me that “Powers of Prophecy” would have been a very good name for an early 90’s, pre-Wu Tang Clan hip hop group.]

And, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Youngest Brother Octopus. It's his 21st. All things in moderation. Especially tonight!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I write every night

Yup, that's what we need, shakin' up and some fixin'. Guys and gals, the economy is like a batch of fried chicken.

Plus, she makes no f*cking sense at all. Government can help. Get government out of our way!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Is Trash Day

The moon was pretty nice tonight. It was nice outside. I get contemplative as I roll the trash, recycling, and yard waste to the curb. I tend to look up at the moon and stars as the big plastic container rumbles along the driveway.

Also, our way of life here in America is at risk.

The most terrifying thing I read in the coverage of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch firesale, and AIG collapse was this point:
Recent events have demonstrated that the Deposit Insurance Fund's reserves can drop rapidly. Last quarter the FDIC set aside more than $10 billion of loss reserves, largely because of the IndyMac Bancorp failure in July. That provision pulled reserves down 14%, to $45 billion, or just 1.01% of insured deposits. (Since IndyMac, seven institutions have failed). The ratio is 14 basis points below the minimum level at which the agency is required to restore its reserves, most likely with higher assessments on the industry.
American Banker.

As banks continue to fail -- and there is no question that many more banks will fail in this meltdown -- and people start to worry that the FDIC won't be able to cover their deposits, we will be looking at a potential run on deposits, further accelerating bank failures.

McCain's not worried, though. He thinks "the fundamentals of the economy are strong":

That's what you think when you spend your time flying on private jets with your buddy Phill Gramm shuttling between your seven or nine or eleven homes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This Is No Time for Nonsense

Now is not the time for more lipstick on a pig faux-controversies and scandals. This is what this election is about:
In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer, people briefed on the deals said.

The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of tens of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.

They culminated a weekend of frantic around-the-clock negotiations, as Wall Street bankers huddled in meetings at the behest of Bush administration officials to try to avoid a downward spiral in the markets stemming from a crisis of confidence.

“My goodness. I’ve been in the business 35 years, and these are the most extraordinary events I‘ve ever seen,” said Peter G. Peterson, co-founder of the private equity firm the Blackstone Group, who was head of Lehman in the 1970s and a secretary of commerce in the Nixon administration.

The U.S. financial system is melting down. This is not a "mental recession". John McCain simply does not get it. We are facing one of the most critical economic crises the U.S. has ever seen. It's just not going to be enough to say we're going to deal with the crisis by "cutting back earmarks". Sorry, that's just pissing in a thundershower. We need greater regulation of the financial markets, a more aggressive and more powerful SEC, and people in the administration that understand the economy. We don't need Phill Gramm. We don't need a continuation of failed and shamefully discredited Republican economic orthodoxy. We certainly don't need know-nothing reflexive "small government" zombies like Palin.

Something is deadly wrong in America, and it's time to try to fix it. The time for idiotic bullsh*t is over. The stakes are simply too high.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Fate of the Nation Does Hang in the Balance

"I don't give a f*ck about your f*cking subpoenas."

Lies, hyper-secrecy, a premium on unquestioning loyalty, stonewalling government investigations, personal vendettas, retribution: this is just f*cking terrifying.

This woman simply cannot become the Vice President. She's Dick Cheney in a dress -- just more small-minded and vindictive.

Can you imagine what would happen if Sarah Palin became President?

Forget Roe v. Wade for a second -- what would happen if this woman had the power to declare individuals -- citizens or noncitizens -- enemy combatants, and order them locked away until the War on Terror is won? Would we trust her to exercise that judgment with wisdom and restraint?

With her desire to censor and control what the public can read -- and how is that part of a smaller, more efficient government? -- what would she do to the Department of Education? What would the Department of Justice be tasked with, once Monica Goodling is no longer a mere aide, but in charge of the most powerful country on earth?

How little would it take to provoke a President Palin, operating on God's orders, to launch an attack on Pakistan, Iran, Syria, or Russia? What would the world look like with Sarah Palin given the power to decide if and when to initiate World War III?

Dick Cheney in a dress. Horrible to contemplate (on many levels).

I simply cannot believe that this nasty, vindictive, lying person is potentially fifty odd days away from becoming our Vice President.

Also, the McCain-Palin campaign is simply full of sh*t. McCain and Palin are a pair of shameless liars -- that's the only fair way to describe it.

We've had enough of this sh*t for eight long-ass years. No more lies. No more deception. No more bullsh*t. Don't believe the hype -- it's a sequel. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin and Jews for Jesus

Sarah Palin wants Jews to know that Jesus loves them:
Some Jewish groups have raised concerns since the announcement of Ms. Palin's selection to the Republican ticket that discussions in the Wasilla Bible Church might go beyond conservatism. Last month, a leader in the group Jews for Jesus, which advocates converting Jews to Christianity — but which has been accused by some Jews of
anti-Semitism — spoke at the church. The speaker, David Brickner,
spoke enthusiastically about the "miracle" of conversions in Israel by
the group's missionaries.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Chill Out

I know the polls are scary, but everybody needs to chill. Yes, the election's going to be close. It's going to be scary. There's going to be piles of unbearable bullsh*t between now and November 4th. But it's not time to panic.

It's time to get to work. It's time to donate. It's time to get past our fear of strangers and go door to door, pick up phones, talk to strangers -- our fellow Americans.

It's time to imagine how we will feel when late on the evening of November 4 the networks call the election for Senator Barack Obama from Illinois. Imagine how that will feel -- and work to make that feeling a reality, every day from now to Election Day.

If we work for it, we will win this election. Keep your eye on the prize.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Reality Bites (Back)

What I think this election will come down to: do we care more that Sarah Palin ordered "Moosetracks" ice cream in Wisconsin, or that milk costs $5 a gallon in Pennsylvania?

That is, will Americans care more about bullsh*t celebrity nonsense, and fake narratives about "small town values" and "character", or will they focus on who actually has a plan to help them and the nation get through our current economic meltdown?

How fitting that immediately after Palin's and McCain's big empty speeches the Dow crashed, and the jobs report came out showing the highest unemployment rate in five years. McCain sought to take the wind out of the bounce from the Dems' convention through the transparent stunt of the Palin pick; the Dems didn't have to rely on stagecraft to take the wind out of the Republicans' convention; reality has done that for them.

After the mistaken images of Walter Reed Middle School in Los Angeles have faded from the huge HD screen at the Xcel Center, who will give a rat's ass about Sarah Barracuda or pregnant daughters or false stories about selling luxury planes on Ebay when we are faced with the continuing onslaught of foreclosures, job losses, bank failures, and rising gas, food, and energy prices?

And, for f*ck's sake, if they're willing to straight up lie about trivial bullsh*t like selling the plane on Ebay, why the hell should we believe anything these assholes say? Is this really what we need after eight years of Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, Libby, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Company? More right-wing ideologues who so disrespect the American people that they think nothing of flatly lying to us, because they are so sure of their own righteousness? More fantasy and fiction brought to us by the creative writing departments of the Republican Party?

Finally, I'll take a moment to pull myself out of the campaign madness to note that we are doing some truly terrible things in Afghanistan. Both Obama and McCain need to address what exactly we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq to ensure that we are not in fact killing scores of children and other civilians every month.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Community Organizing

Hat tip to Free Darko.

The Republican National Convention

A few preliminary thoughts now that the RNCC is over.

Last night, there were glimmers of the John McCain that many of us once respected, and who often pissed off and confounded his own party. For the most part, he stayed above the fray and didn't engage in misleading, middle-school name calling. (Perhaps because Palin, Giuliani, and Romney had handled that for him.)

And to be fair, his retelling of his experience as a POW was genuinely moving.

However, if you listened carefully, there really was not much that he offered in the way of an economic plan. Mostly, he was promising that government would "not get in the way". Well, that's been the problem, hasn't it? Government did "not get in the way" of the subprime mortgage madness and rampant, largely unregulated, Byzantine, and fantastical flights of financial gimmickry that have put us on a death spiral into a massive economic downturn.

Instead, McCain was trying to sell us on his character and honor. He's been tried and tested. Isn't that how Bush got elected? Wasn't Bush's campaign all about "restoring honor and dignity" to the White House? Hasn't John McCain, oddly enough, turned his campaign into one, famously, not about issues, but about personality and biography? Examine the policy prescriptions put forward by Obama and McCain; look at their platforms. Which campaign offers specifics, and which offers platitudes about honor, strength, and courage?

Also, McCain took a risk in so explicitly condemning his own party for the failures of the past eight years. But can he really pull off the mind-bending feat of casting his campaign as the "outsider" ticket, bent on "changing" Washington? Does he really think he can convince Americans that his G.O.P. ticket is the one that offers a true break from the miserable failure of the past eight years under a G.O.P. administration? In other words, is his message really going to be, we're the party that f*cked everything up, and we're the only party that can put everything back together?

About Sarah Palin: her speech may have been a hit among the rabid delegates in St. Paul, but my sense is that the seventh-grade mudslinging, the cheap "zingers" that would be perfectly at home on a VH1 special or "Judge Judy" don't sit so well with the rest of the country after few days (acknowledging the irony of citing the NYT to support my sense of "the rest of the country). Do we really want a name-calling, hectoring V.P. with a history of holding grudges, abusing her power, and who offers no specific ideas and minimal relevant experience? My sense is that, beyond McCain's base, few Americans will be attracted by what Governor Palin offers. (And I'll just note here that while Obama, Biden, and McCain will all be making themselves available for interviews this weekend and on the Sunday talk shows, the McCain campaign is keeping Palin under wraps, indefinitely. They certainly don't want her anywhere where she is answering questions and not able to read words written for her on a teleprompter.)

And I'm sure he has it ready for the vice presidential debate, but when Governor Palin makes the inevitable appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters at that debate, Joe Biden should simply turn to Palin and say, "Governor, I know Hillary Clinton. I've served with Hillary Clinton. I've worked side-by-side with her in the Senate for eight years. I've seen what she's accomplished. I know what she stands for. You, Governor Palin, are no Hillary Clinton."

Sixty days to the election. Buckle up. Donate to the Obama campaign. Volunteer. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors. Get everyone registered to vote. If we work for it, we will win this year.

UPDATE: For the first time in the history of the world, Charles Krauthammer and I are in substantial agreement.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin

a book burning in Nazi Germany

There are a lot of things that can be said and have already been said about Sarah Palin. Here's the one that I found the most chilling: "According to Time magazine, [when she was mayor, Palin] sought to have books banned from the local library and threatened to fire the librarian." NYT. See article in Time Magazine.

We will not have a book-banner as our Vice President. I refuse to believe that America has sunk so low or that our people have become so craven and despicable. We are not a nation of book banners, and we will not elect one.