Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain and the Bailout Failure

It appears the Republican (this time with some help from Democrats) have sunk the bailout a second time... I have mixed at best feelings about this plan. From the Caucus:
For its part, the McCain campaign issued a statement by Doug Holtz-Eakin:
“From the minute John McCain suspended his campaign and arrived in Washington to address this crisis, he was attacked by the Democratic leadership: Senators Obama and Reid, Speaker Pelosi and others. Their partisan attacks were an effort to gain political advantage during a national economic crisis. By doing so, they put at risk the homes, livelihoods and savings of millions of American families.

“Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill.

“Just before the vote, when the outcome was still in doubt, Speaker Pelosi gave a strongly worded partisan speech and poisoned the outcome. “This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”

Then read this:
“Now is not the time to fix the blame,” McCain said in Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s the time to fix the problem.”

McCain sure has a lot of chutzpah. Briefly before the bill fell apart, McCain rushed to take credit for the victory... shortly after, his campaign rushed to lay blame for its failure.
He was not welcome when he went back to Washington, by members of both parties were angry that he injected himself recklessly for political gain. The first deal fell apart shortly after he arrived, after which both Democrats and some Republicans let McCain know that it was time to get out of town... preventing McCain from making any political hay riding into the rescue.
Indeed, the first time the deal fell apart, John McCain failed to even take a stand.
Perhaps more maddening, this bill is supported by Pelosi and Reid, who delivered majorities of Democrats. Boehner couldn't (or wouldn't) deliver majorities of his Republicans.
There's going to be hell to pay after the Dow drops 800 points. The house Republicans voted against it, any repercussion would justly fall on them. Their "alternative" of cutting capital gains tax, by the way, is ridiculous and would do literally nothing to alleviate the problem.
If this illustrates anything, it's how tangled the politics of the bailout are. The public is not at all happy seeing wall-street get bailed-out, and the house Republicans are all to ready to lead a populist fight against this bill. This makes me wonder, could we muster enough votes for something better, say, bank nationalization like what was done in Sweden. Paul Krugman says this is better policy wise, but we need the Republicans on board for political cover. I'm beginning to think we can't get enough congressional Republicans on the current bailout. Could we get enough votes for nationalization, and more important, could we get the administration to go along? Certainly, that would better policy-wise and less plutocratic.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate

I did not, as you may have noticed, blog on the debate for on this site. This is mainly because I found the debate somewhat uninspiring: both candidates spouted canned talking points. I would have expected this of McCain, but not Obama. Pols are so, so afraid to say something wrong, I guess.
McCain certainly did a lot of distorting in this debate (a friend pointed me to Think Progress's recap).
Fortunately, based on the polls taken, it looks like Obama won.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eyeball to Eyeball

After reaching a bailout deal, the Republican's tanked it.

House Republicans say that Senate leaders spoke too soon when they said a deal had been reached on a Wall Street bailout package.

In addition, a key Republican lawmaker stated that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to explore new ideas, like loaning money to financial institutions or insuring the companies, rather than buying their toxic debt.

Earlier Thursday, senators and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said they had a tentative agreement, though they’re still negotiating a bankruptcy provision. They said the deal was ready to be taken to the Bush administration.

It seems especially odd to me that McCain suddenly has a to discuss new stuff. Was any of this somehow less pertinent yesterday, when it wouldn't have been used to sink any deal.

McCain appear to be trying to disorder the debates, perhaps preempting the VP debate, which will doubtless be a disaster for the Republicans. McCain said he "suspended" his campaign... except that
he has been doing nothing that would indicate that he is suspending his campaign (Jeffrey Toobin pointed this out).

What should Obama do? Before, I was all ready to break out the rubber chicken, but I think there's a better idea: say he will debate Bob Barr if McCain refuses to show up. McCain will blink.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Everybody Freeze!


John Mcain has evidently shouted "stop the campaign, I want to get off!". According to the official McCain line, McCain decided that he was far too important to be wasting time on anything as trivial as politics and the like. Perhaps it is for the best, McCain's campaign didn't seem to be going anywhere good anyway. This decision has the mercy of a terrible show being cancelled halfway through the season. Or it would if I believed that this actually represented a stoop in the campaign, rather than politics by other means. This is as naked and contrived a political stunt as I've ever seen.
Most importantly, McCain wants to cancel the debate. Dammit, McCain, just when I had planned a party around the debate. Why should my political entertainment be disrupted for your political theater?
George Sr. refused to debate Clinton for the longest time, until he was approached by a man in a chicken suit, and was drawn into a debate over whether he was in fact a chicken. McCain seems pretty inclined to duck this debate (or let Sarah duck it). Pretty chickenshit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cash of the Titans

Were a third-world nation facing a crisis similar to the one the US is facing now, grey international economic eminences would sternly lecture them on the importance of the free market, and point out that the economy must be allowed to make adjustments, painful as they are. Clearly, this is and example of do as I say, not as I do. It is odd how this our supposedly conservative government has presided over the biggest nationalization of industry ever seen in the United States.
The neo-liberal and conservative lexicon seems to break down when it comes to this crisis. This isn't free-market capitalism, hence it must be socialism, they reason. They don't seem to understand this giveaway is neither, it is plutocracy. a $700 giveaway to the financial sector, not exactly Marxian.
Hank Paulson has show exemplary competence as a Bush official, but the plan as it stands looks to be a mistake (I recommend taking a look at the response). Read Paul Krugman on the bailout.
But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

Even if you trust Paulson to use that power wisely, keep in mind he won't be the Treasury Secretary forever. Do you trust Phil Gramm to be an equally wise steward of our economy?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCainomics

Via Paul Krugman, John McCain thinks that the healthcare industry should be more like the banking industry.
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

In other words, deregulate the healthcare industry like they deregulated the financial industry.
While McCain doubtless wishes he hadn't said that, it clearly reflects a real belief among his advisors. This is a great issue to attack McCain. Indeed, this whole collapse provides a chance to both link him to economic failure and the failed policies of the Bushies. McCain can easily be linked to Bush's defunct plan to privatize social security (still defended by McCain). Keep in mind, had succeeded, lots of seniors would be royally screwed with this latest meltdown.
Roosevelt made and issue railing against the malefactors of wealth who caused the meltdown, Clinton, whatever his flaws, could reduce economic wonkery into emotional down-home issues. To take full advantage of the situation, Obama ought to learn from his Democratic forebearers and combine this rhetoric with a complete critique of conservative free-market ideology.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spain and the Strained Brain of John McCain

BBC:
Asked by a Miami radio station if he would meet PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Mr McCain spoke of his record with leaders in "the hemisphere".

His answer led some to suggest he thought Mr Zapatero was Latin American.

Mr McCain's campaign team denied any gaffe, but did say the candidate had refused to commit to a meeting.

Searching for an alternative explanation, some Spanish commentators have suggested Mr McCain may not have forgiven Mr Zapatero for pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq when he became prime minister in 2004.
...

"If you are elected president, would you be willing to invite Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the White House to meet with you?"

"I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are our friends and who want to work with us in co-operative fashion," Mr McCain answered, before moving on to talk about US relations with Mexico.

In an effort to draw an answer, the Caracol Miami reporter posed the same question three more times.

Mr McCain gave more or less the same response, saying at one stage: "All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not.

"And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region."

But Mr McCain's answer has itself posed more questions.

Did Mr McCain forget which country Mr Zapatero leads? Did he misunderstand or mishear the question? Or was he intentionally signalling a cooling in the relationship between Spain and the US?

Mr McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Sheunemann, said that there was no doubt about the senator's answers.

"The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero, and identified him in the question, so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred," he wrote in an email to the Washington Post.

"Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview," he confirmed.

In the interview McCain seems to lump Spanish President Zapatero with latin-American leftists such as Hugo Chavez (this is particularly odd because Zapatero has been outspokenly anti-Chavez). McCain clearly seems confused during the interview, probably not realizing what what the interviewer is asking. Most commentators have assumed McCain misheard, which seems plausible enough. My guess is McCain's mind wandered during the question, or else he missed the mention of Spain, and did not know off the top of his head who Zapatero is, and assumed him another latin leftist because all the previous question had been on the topic of anti-American governments in South America.
What happened next is what worried me. Instead of simply admitting the error, McCain advisor Randy Schuenemann e-mailed the Washington Post saying the snub had been deliberate.
It wouldn't surprise me if Schuenemann, a die hard neo-conservative, truly felt what the US ought to snub Spain. If you recall, US conservatives accused Spain's government of appeasement after voting for Zapatero and withdrawing troops shortly after the Madrid train bombings. Never mind that Zapatero's pledge to withdraw troops far predated the attacks and the Spanish public was as much reacting to the right-wing People's Party's craven and ridiculous attempt to blame the train bombing's on the the Baque separatist group ETA.
What is most worrying about this is how ready the McCain campaign was to provoke a minor spat with a NATO ally simply to cover-up a gaffe.
Josh Marshall:
Randy Scheunemann would rather further inflame Spanish-American relations by ridiculously insisting that McCain knew exactly what he saying than admit the obvious -- that he didn't understand the question. It wouldn't be that surprising. But given McCain has premised his whole campaign on foreign policy experience they've clearly decided it would simply be too damaging to admit he was either a) confused, b) ignorant or c) reckless enough to spout off aggressive remarks when he didn't even know who he was being asked about.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Q: Have you ever noticed how Tina Fey and Sarah Palin, aside from looking exactly alike, have "conveniently" never appeared on stage at the same time?
A: It's time to end the charade!
I suppose Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin was inevitable, and here it is. I think this skit is more sharp and amusing than most recent SNL. It really nails her.
Note: this site seems to really be focusing on one topic (mirroring the nation, I suppose). I the last 8 posts (counting this one) 7 have been about Sarah Palin, and the one that was not in part was about Alaska.

Sarah Palin Baby Names Generator

What would you be named if you were part of the Palin family? Find out here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Case for Palin Hatred



To many people, Sarah Palin seems a non-threatening figure. She reminds one of Marge Gunderson, the likable pregnant cop from Fargo, at least, if Gunderson were played by Tina Fey.
Beneath this exterior is a dangerous ideologue. Sarah Palin has the same scary christianity that Mike Huckabee, if not to his right. But while Huckabee was likable even as he was scary, Sarah Palin
is far, far from likable. Her speech at the RNC is the case in point. Though not particularly clever , her tone was curdled and nasty, not just toward Barack Obama, but toward the whole idea of making a difference in one's community. Hendrik Hertzberg commented on the speech this way.
Like almost every major speech at that Convention (Mike Huckabee’s being an exception), it substituted sarcasm for humor in its sneers at Obama. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” she said. “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights,” she said, a little chillingly. “Listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the state senate,” she said. This last was simply false; Obama’s legislative record, both in Illinois and (given its brevity) in Washington, is impressive. (Also, it’s McCain whose books have been “authored.” Obama wrote his.) But the speech was well crafted and more than competently delivered, with even its most mean-spirited lines accompanied by perky smiles and wrinklings of the nose. McCain’s gamble, though shockingly irresponsible as an act of potential governance, is, for now, a political success: Palin attracted close to forty million television viewers, the crowd in the hall went wild for her, and a Rasmussen poll taken immediately afterward showed her with higher “positives” than any of the three men on the national tickets.

So, for now American's like the Alaska governor, but hopefully in time they will see the same small, mean little woman already apparent to so many of us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Petro-America

I love it. From the Times.
WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

You truly cannot make this sort of thing up. It brilliantly sums up the decadence of our regulation, and our cozy control of the industry has over regulatory agencies. Oil company executives toast record profit after doing lines of cocaine with their alleged overseers. Now we know that the government is not just figuratively fellating the oil industry. All this while Republicans are pushing a "drill here, drill now" message.
As far as petro-politics, though, you can't beat Alaska, home of Sarah Palin. The popular image of Alaska is of rugged individualist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Alaska is a corporate socialist state floated on petro-dollars and handouts from Uncle Sam. The governor's office is even located in the BP building. This article takes on the Alaska myth.
It amuses me the most when John McCain brags about how Palin balanced a budget, or when Republican's brag about her popularity. With oil so high popularity can be bought easily (think of Putin), and how could someone fail to balance Alaska's budget?

Lipstick on a Pig


Some of you may have -- I'm assuming you guys have heard this, watching the news. I'm talking about John McCain's economic politics, I say, "This is more of the same, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig."

And suddenly they say, "Oh, you must be talking about the governor of Alaska."

Burn.
A pig wearing lipstick, that sounds like our girl.
Anyway, Obama's full response is worth checking out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Incredible Cynicism of John McCain

"Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I."
- Harry Lime (The Third Man)
I can't think about the Sarah Palin pick without thinking about this quote. John McCain thinks we're suckers and mugs, and he and his conservative ilk think they'll have no trouble pulling the wool over our eyes. Richard Cohen:
John McCain's selection of Palin, which I first viewed with horror, could now be seen in a different light. Based on various television interviews over the Labor Day weekend -- and a careful reading of the transcripts -- it is possible that this is McCain's attempt to make fools of his fellow Republicans. He has succeeded beyond all expectations.
...
Just to show that he would not ask of others what he would not do himself, McCain came before Chris Wallace to sing Palin's praises. He said that he had "watched her record . . . for many, many years" which is, a prudent man might say, more years than she's had a record. McCain, as a fellow military man, did not mention Palin's tenure as the supreme commander of the entire Alaska National Guard, maybe because he thought it speaks for itself. If that's the case, he's right.

Probably the most depressing thing about Palin is not her selection but the defense of it. It has produced a parade of GOP spokesmen intent on spiking the needle on a polygraph. Looking right into the camera, they offer statement after statement that they hope the voters will swallow but that history will forget. The sum effect on the diligent news consumer is a feeling of consummate contempt for the intelligence of the American people -- a contempt that will be justified should Palin be the factor that makes McCain a winner in November.

One of the more heroic efforts at Palin worship came from the commentator-columnist William Kristol, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle. He had to use the code word "traditional" three times in a single sentence to make his point: "It's a pretty amazing story of personal success, being at once a traditional woman who broke all of these traditional barriers, kind of the best of both worlds, if you believe in traditional values."

About the only Republican who seemed totally sincere about Palin was Grover G. Norquist, an anti-tax obsessive who once likened the argument that the estate tax affected only a very few people to the argument -- made by no one I can think of -- that the Holocaust also affected a relatively few people. "I mean, that's the morality of the Holocaust," he said only five years ago. Norquist called the selection of the anti-tax Palin a "wise" choice.

What can really be said for a movement so intent on pulling the wool over our eyes? Conservative philosophy comes down to this: regular people are rubes, and we must distract enough of them so they don't notice the elite constantly enriching itself.
One thing I can tell you... John McCain is going to wish he vetted Palin, which he clearly did not. It's a convenient story for the GOP that Palin is a "reformer" and therefore clean, but I suspect some revelations are on the way.
Ezra Klein:
When a politician comes out of a truly corrupt system, a reputation as a "reformer" isn't the same as a clean record. Reformers, in general, are somewhat less corrupt then the machine they're fighting, and they're enemies of the most entrenched elements of the existing system. But they're not radicals, and they're not ascetics. They played by some of the rules. If they'd simply rejected the whole rotted infrastructure, the system would have purged them early, and they'd never have been powerful enough to confront anyone at all.

Palin did not reject the system. Alaska is a pork-based economy. So when she was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 6,700 people, she employed Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, a powerful lobbying firm, to push Congress into appropriating almost $27 million in earmarks for her town. That's about $4,000 per person. When the $250 million Bridge to Nowhere was a possibility, she advocated for it. When Ted Stevens was the state's most powerful politician, she attached herself to him, directing his 527 group. Which is not say she doesn't have some reformist credentials: She does. But in a state as corrupt as Alaska, that's not the same as saying she's clean.