Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is rich

How to build a spontaneous crowd for Sarah Palin in a few easy steps.

Why Obama and the Democrats Are Still Going To Win

...especially if we keep up the strong GOTV game.

Here's an excerpt from the latest NRSC email:
One week ago, I asked you to support our Get-Out-The-Vote efforts, and we had a tremendous response.

All told we helped state parties put 364 field organizers on the ground in battleground states -- including an additional 12 people in Mississippi because of your support last week alone.

I need your help again.

Right now, liberals are outspending us on TV by $236,124 in Minnesota to elect Al Franken and $350,000 in New Hampshire to install another tax-and-spend liberal in the Senate.

And to make matters worse, the DNC just announced they are going to spend an additional $5 million on attack ads against our candidates.

You came through for us last week -- now I need your help again. We need your help today to boost our TV ad buys for the next 7 days.


An additional 12 people in Mississippi? Jeez, they must be really hurting. And also sorely lacking in party faithful right now. I get the sense from reading reports at fivethirtyeight and elsewhere that Obama has 364 field organizers in one or two states alone, not to mention hordes of enthusiastic volunteers. I don't think the Republicans get it. I think in an election year like this, when Obama and the Democrats are connecting neighbors and fellow citizens with each other in a well funded but people-centered way, it's a sign of the Republican's true ideas about a centralized government that most of their campaigns boil down to a few organizers in understaffed campaign offices and a bunch of negative ad buys. The Republican party: by and large a group of a few committed ideologues with a bunch of money and no enthusiastic volunteer support from the common people?

Sounds like a great strategy for governing a democracy, if you ask me.

-Matt S

Monday, October 27, 2008

Adam Smith, Socialist


I truly do not understand the attack by the McCain campaign as a "socialist". People have recently dug up a recording of a radio interview where Obama discusses why the judiciary hasn't been used effectively to redistribute income (it appears Obama thinks the judiciary shouldn't be able to redistribute wealth, this is discussed it here), and attempted to blow it into a scandal.
The Politico
“That’s what change means for the Obama administration. They’re redistributing. It means taking your money and giving it to someone else.”

It seems we must classify all government spending as redistributionist, after all, it take private wealth and spends it on public goods. In such case, we must logically conclude what John McCain is this: anyone not an anarchist is a socialist.
Even if we are willing to give what McCain is saying the most charitable interpretation, it makes no sense. As Hendrik Hertzberg put it "The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent."
Further, if McCain is saying that taxation with intent to reduce inequality is socialist, then a lot of people have been socialist. Republican's are quick to remind us that Karl Marx said "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." This is to misunderstand what Marx believed socialism is altogether. To him, it was about workers seizing the means of production... a far more radical shift than I would guess Obama has in mind.
The founder of communism believed in progressive taxation, but the founder of capitalism was no less enthusiastic .From Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations:
""The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

Ted Stevens: Crooked


Surprise!
WASHINGTON (AP) — Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that threatened to end the 40-year career of Alaska's political patriarch in disgrace.

The verdict, coming barely a week before Election Day, increased Stevens' difficulty in winning what already was a difficult race against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Stevens, 84, was convicted of all the felony charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating last week.

This story has been making the rounds all over what Stevens once called the "series of tubes".

campaign updates

Two quick campaign updates.

The first is that I'm really, truly, so proud of my home state of Kentucky right now. The tolerance, the intelligence, the curiosity that leads a disturbing number of them to think that Obama is a Muslim or not a christian just makes my heart soar like a hawk. Couldn't we just roll out Keith Ellison (D-MN) and have him take the fall as the evil, plotting, Manchurian, radical Muslim in our government? I actually used that a few times (minus the satire) during the primaries, to positive effect. It's much easier to tell people in Kentucky (or elsewhere, I'm sure) that they're confused about two different black men, rather than to give them an answer that straight up contradicts their Stone Age prejudices.

The second update is that McCain must seriously be low on cash right now. Behold this latest campaign email:

"John McCain 2008

Can you invest a few days of your life to make history?

McCain-Palin 2008 is looking for volunteers who are willing to spend the final days of the campaign helping in a nearby state. Deployed volunteers will participate in a number of Get-Out-The-Vote activities. These activities will include making phone calls and going door to door.

Deployed volunteers will be unpaid and participants will be responsible for arranging their own transportation and housing; unfortunately, the campaign is unable to reimburse any expenses.

If you can afford the time and expense to serve the final days of the campaign through the election on November 4th, please apply on line at http://JohnMcCain.com/deployment and pack your bags!

Thank you!

Joni Gossett, Deputy Director of Volunteers"

Meanwhile, out of the goodness of my own heart I declined to have the Obama campaign reimburse me for my $10 gas bill (I'm not sure if I even used that whole amount). But seriously, Obama is subsidizing cross-country trips for hordes of dedicated volunteers and the RNC has given up on caring about their national ticket.
I can only hope it isn't because the corporations and defense contractors have taken their bribes across the aisle in anticipation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin Unleashed

According to the Politico Sarah Palin is going rougue, disregarding her handlers.
Even as John McCain and Sarah Palin scramble to close the gap in the final days of the 2008 election, stirrings of a Palin insurgency are complicating the campaign's already-tense internal dynamics.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

This should be interesting. Many of Palin's fan-boys like us to think that the biggest problem is that she's been over-coached, which threw her of off her game, and if only McCain would let her off of the leash, she would work her magic over the American electorate. I don't buy it... it's clear she is indeed over-coached, but I doubt this little leaguer can make it in the big leagues anyway. McCain's strategy of keeping her under raps has probably averted a larger catastrophe for the campaign. Looks like Palin's already doing as she pleases.
Ensuring that news of the Republican National Committee's sartorial spending spree will remain in the headlines for at least one more news cycle, Sarah Palin on Sunday sounded off on the $150,000 wardrobe that was purchased for her in September, denouncing the report as "ridiculous" and declaring emphatically: "Those clothes, they are not my property."

A senior adviser to John McCain told CNN's Dana Bash that the comments about her wardrobe "were not the remarks we sent to her plane this morning." Palin did not discuss the wardrobe story at her rally in Kissimmee later in the day.

Bad move... why talk more about an issue like that? it doesn't play to your advantage. Hold on for the next week, things are about to get dicey.
There's a debate at the New Republic between John Chait and Noam Schreiber over whether Sarah Palin will be the nominee in 2012. I think the answer is clearly no. Palin will leave the national stage a widely mocked and unpopular figure, rather like Dan Quayle (if you recall, I made the initial comparison... I stand by that). When the exit polls for this election come out, they'll show that Palin was just as much a drag on McCain as Bush was, and the Republican base will get the message. However much the wing-nuts can't escape their crush on that woman, they'll have to concede that she's unelectable. Good riddance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wassilla II


As an additional addition to the last note, I think it's interesting to consider how Wasilla became such a free-enterprise wasteland. To do this, we should probably look at Palin's career in Wasilla, which is not an edifying sight. We get the impression that Palin is ready to promote her extremist-separatist/ church/ elementary school friends, intensely vindictive, resentful and mean, and worse, often out of her depth running the small town of Wasilla. The New Republic has an article about this, that contains this description of her campaign for mayor.
Within a few months, Palin was officially challenging Stein and exploiting the cultural shift masterfully. She welcomed a national anti-abortion group in to carpet bomb Wasilla with pink postcards affirming her pro-life bona fides. She orchestrated an NRA endorsement and a mailing from the group falsely proclaiming Stein, a lifelong hunter, "anti-gun." (Stein complained to the local newspaper that Palin was telling voters he wanted to "melt down" all the firearms in the state.) And, in a move practically out of Karl Rove's playbook, she dwelled on how Stein's wife used her maiden name, going so far as to demand a marriage certificate as proof of their nuptials. Palin's campaign literature proclaimed her "deeply devoted to conservative family values"--all in the context of an ostensibly nonpartisan election. (Stein himself was a moderate Republican.)

Additionally from Raban's essay, her leadership was even more sinister.
There followed what some Wasillaites saw as her reign of terror. She demanded resignation letters from all the city managers, ridding herself of the museum director, the librarian (whom she was later forced to rehire), the public works director, the city planner and the police chief, who’d argued against the concealed weapons bill and had supported a measure to close the town’s bars at 2.30 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. at weekends (the owners of the Mug-Shot Saloon and the Wasilla Bar had given money to Palin’s campaign). City employees were forbidden by her to speak to the press, and during her first four months in office she provoked a string of appalled editorials in the local paper, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman:

Wasilla found out it has a new mayor with either little understanding or little regard for the city’s own laws.

Palin seems to have assumed her election was indeed a coronation. Welcome to Kingdom Palin, the land of no accountability.

Mayor Palin fails to have a firm grasp of something very simple: the truth . . . Wasilla residents have been subjected to attempts to unlawfully appoint council members, statements that have been shown to be patently untrue, unrepentant backpedalling, and incessant whining that her only enemies are the press and a few disgruntled supporters of former mayor John Stein.

Surrounding herself with fellow congregants from the Pentecostalist Wasilla Assembly of God and old school chums from Wasilla High, the 32-year-old mayor set about turning the town into the kind of enterprise society that Margaret Thatcher used to extol. She abolished its building codes and signed a series of ordinances that re-zoned residential property for commercial and industrial use. When the city attorney ordered construction to stop on a house being built by one of her campaign contributors, she sacked him.

Wasilla

I recommend this segment from the Daily Show, where Jason Jones goes to Virginia. I'm beginning to get the idea that Wasilla is not the idyllic pastoral town that Republican's have portrayed (and where "real Americans" live). Palin can hardly be blamed that it is the meth capital of Alaska, but she can be partly blamed for the shape the town is in today.
From Jonathan Raban's essay on Palin.
Present-day Wasilla is Palin’s lasting monument. It sits in a broad alluvial valley, puddled with lakes, boxed in on three sides by sawtoothed Jurassic mountains, and fringed with woods of spruce and birch. Visitors usually aim their cameras at the town’s natural surroundings, for Wasilla itself – quite unlike its rival and contemporary in the valley, Palmer, 11 miles to the east – is a centreless, sprawling ribbon of deregulated development along a four-lane highway, backed on both sides by subdivisions occupied by trailer-homes, cabins, tract-housing and ranch-style bungalows, most built since 1990. It’s a generic Western settlement, and one sees Wasillas in every state this side of the 100th meridian: the same competing gas stations, fast-food outlets, strip malls and ‘big box’ stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Fred Meyer and Home Depot, each with a vast parking lot out front, on which human figures scuttle with their shopping trolleys like coloured ants, robbed of their proper scale.
...
Wasilla is what inevitably happens when there are no codes, no civic oversight, no planning, when the only governing principle in a community is a naive and superstitious trust in the benevolent authority of the free market.

Blogs...

... anyone can have one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm (kind of) back

The ridiculousness of this campaign has started to boil my blood, and so perhaps you all might be reading some more quips by me in the next few weeks.
Two things: I normally am very inquisitive and enjoy reading a number of blogs and newspapers/magazines and watching the news. However, the number of really, incredibly, undeniably stupid and/or un-American statements and activities by the Republican party and its various members in the past month has been so staggering I can hardly stop to reflect on one before a new scandal emerges. In the same day, in the same day it has not only come to light that Palin doesn't know what the Vice President's constitutional role is (and she spoke in kiddy terms to a journalist about it), but also the fact that the RNC spent over 100,000 dollars buying upscale, elitist clothing from Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue, to clothe Mrs. Main Street anti-elitist herself. My head is starting to hurt, and it's not because I'm still recovering from a 22 hour day trying to apply for a room-and-board scholarship so I can afford to continue attending Michigan with some level of comfort, given the recent economic hiccup we've experienced.

The second item:
I am an Eagle Scout. You don't get to be an eagle scout by practicing satanism or anarchy, much less socialism. You don't get to be an Eagle Scout by being un-American.
And I will tell all of you who are reading this, I have retired the physical flag a number of times, once even presiding over the ceremony myself while training others how to properly do so. This election cycle, Republicans in office should just plain retire (and those running, drop out) but instead they have decided to do something else - retire what the flag stands for.
I'm looking at you, Robin Hayes and Michelle Bachmann. Uncle Sam vomits every time you two and your top-tier cohort say "un-american" or "real america".

Matt Steele out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obsession



Have you received a copy of "Obsession" in the mail? I have... I really didn't know what to make of it until I read this article in the LRB:
If you live in an American swing state you may have received a copy of ‘Obsession’ in your Sunday paper. ‘Obsession’ isn’t a perfume: it’s a documentary about ‘radical Islam’s war against the West’. In the last two weeks of September, 28 million copies of the film were enclosed as an advertising supplement in 74 newspapers, including the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education. ‘The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,’ the sleeve announces. ‘It’s our responsibility to ensure we can make an informed vote in November.’ The Clarion Fund, the supplement’s sponsor, doesn’t explicitly endorse McCain, so as not to jeopardise its tax-exempt status, but the message is clear enough, and its circulation just happened to coincide with Obama’s leap in the polls.
...
Although there are interviews with the usual ‘terrorism experts’ – Daniel Pipes, Alan Dershowitz et al – the film’s portrayal of the region is mostly left to native informants like Nonie Darwish (a leader of Arabs for Israel and the daughter of a slain fighter from Gaza), Brigitte Gabriel (the Lebanese-Christian author of They Must Be Stopped) and Walid Shoebat, a ‘former PLO terrorist’ who operates under a pseudonym – for security reasons, of course. Shoebat runs the Walid Shoebat Foundation, described on its website as an ‘organisation that cries out for the Justice of Israel and the Jewish people’. He’s made a career of recounting his journey from Islamic terror to Christian Zionism before audiences at Evangelical gatherings and the US Air Force Academy. It’s not clear, though, that he ever laid a hand on anyone. According to a relative, ‘the biggest act of terror he ever committed was to glue Palestinian flags on street posts.’

Pretty clearly Obsession is a piece of propaganda attempting to scare people around election time.
I actually saw Walid Shoebat when he came to UM campus. He spewed all sorts of hatred and bile at his former faith, which the crowd of right-wingers ate up. I was clear he knew exactly what the bigots wanted to here. I left very skeptical that he had ever been a terrorist (one of his associates claimed to have killed 300 people, mainly with a knife... does that sound likely?). Indeed, I was skeptical as to whether he was a real Palestinian.
I was reminded of the scene in Huck Finn where Huck and Jim are traveling around with two con men. One trick these con-men use is telling churchgoing people that they are pirates who found Christ.
Walid Shoebat's song and dance is the same... he claims to be an former Muslim terrorist who found christ, the only difference between the routines is that the con-men at least didn't preach hatred.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Watching "Charlie Wilson's War"




I've been meaning to see "Charlie Wilson's War", released in 2007, for some time. I'd say the movie is very enjoyable, even for someone with no interest in politics... if you're interested in politics like me, so much the better.
The plot revolves around the story of how Charlie Wilson, a Democratic congressman from Texas, was involved in supplying the Mujahideen in Afghanistan with weaponry to fight against the Soviet Union. In the movies account, these weapons provided, especially the "Stinger" missiles used to shoot down Soviet helicopter, were key to the Muj's success. A connection is drawn between the defeat in Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the USSR. The account is based on a non-fiction book by the same name.
Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks) was rather a colorful character... his staff is made up completely of attractive young women... one of the first times we see him in a hot-tub in Vegas with two strippers and a Playboy bunny. Later we see he is indicted on suspicion of having used cocaine in relation to this episode (he is indicted, by the way, by Rudy Giuliani). Yes, the movie makes it clear that Charlie Wilson liked to have a good time, and was pretty corrupt.
My favorite character, though, was Gust Avakrotos, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gust is the CIA officer Charlie teams up with to make the war happen.
So charming are our heros that we can't help root with them against the stuffed-shirts worried about silly things like whether these operations might cause World War III, or that we are arming religious extremist warlords.
The movie presents a bit of a fairy-tale account of events. It is very strongly suggested that the weaponry provided by the United States was responsible for the Afghan's Muj's victory over the Soviet Union, especially the choice to give them "Stinger" missiles used to shoot down Russian helicopters. This is not accurate, the decision to leave Afghanistan had already been made by the Russian leadership before the US decided to supply these weapons.
The movie also seem to suggest that had we only followed through in Afghanistan, things might have turned out alright in the country. Near the end of the movie, we see Wilson trying to secure a mere $1 million for Afghanistan schools and being rebuffed by his committee (in contract, $500 billion was spent on the war against the Soviets- fund matched by Saudi Arabia). I don't think any sensible person would defend the policy of cutting off Afghanistan without a dime, but given who we were supplying with weapons, should one really be surprised by what happened? In the movie, we see Pakistani president Zia telling Wilson that the weapons must flow through him. What we don't see is Zia's policy of Islamizing Pakistan, out of which arguably many of Pakistan's current problems came out off(Zia's brutality is hinted at). Zia was a powerful force bolstering Islamism, and had been giving an extra share of it to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar in his younger days threw acid on the uncovered faces of Afghan women, and is currently killing US marines... and we gave over $200 million worth of aid to this guy.
I suspect the movie also exaggerates the role of Charlie Wilson in all this. I don not recall a single mention of the Reagan administration, but I suspect when the documents are declassified, it will be clear that the Reaganites were even more central than Charlie Wilson to this drama.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber

If you watched last night's (terrible) debate, you may recall the name (Joe the Plumber) was mentioned in excess of a million times. Joe was supposedly a modest, blue-collar independent, who was worried that he would be taxed at a higher rate under Obama's plan.... because he makes more than $250,000 a year (seriously). It turns out
a. Joe does not make more than 250,000 a year (surprise).
b.Joe is not an independent, but a registered Republican.
C. Joe owes about 1,200 in back taxes.
D. He is not, in fact, a licensed plumber.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul Krugman: Nobel Laureate



First Carter, the Gore, now this... the Nobel Committee won't give Bush a break! New York Times op-ed columnist and Princeton professor Paul Krugman has won a Nobel Prize for Economics.
Krugman has long been an implacable critic of the Bush administration, and attracted a following for his sharp incisive columns criticizing the administration. Personally, Krugman has bee one of my favorite commentators since I noticed one of his columns when I was in high school. I've bought his books and even went to hear him speak.
A blog post at the Times explains Krugman's theories further:
The Nobel Prize citation highlights two distinct but connected contributions: Mr. Krugman’s development of the “new trade theory” and his work on the “new economic geography.” International trade has a long history in economics, and for the bulk of the field’s history, patterns of trade have been explained by factor endowments and comparative advantage. Why does England export wool and Portugal export wine? The cold winters of Yorkshire produce really fluffy sheep and the banks of the Douro produce splendid grapes. Yet comparative advantage does little to explain much of modern international trade, especially not trade within industries.

Mr. Krugman published two seminal papers in 1979 and 1980 that made sense of the fact that Toyota sells cars in Germany and Mercedes-Benz sells cars in Japan. Mr. Krugman started with a variant of Edward Chamberlain’s model of monopolistic competition. In this model, every firm sells a slightly different good — an Infiniti is not exactly the same thing as a BMW. There are fixed costs of production, which means that producers get more efficient as they sell more. Finally, consumers like variety, so that even if they live in the Land of the Rising Sun, with its abundant well-made cars, they still occasionally want something a little more Teutonic.

These ingredients came together and provided a framework than can match the world’s trade patterns better than the 19th-century framework of David Ricardo, or the mid-20th-century models of Eli Heckscher, Bertil Ohlin and Paul Samuelson. The fact that two out of three of those 20th-century giants are themselves Swedes should remind us of how seriously the Swedes take their trade theory, and what a big deal it is for them to admit Mr. Krugman to the pantheon.

Mr. Krugman’s trade models became the standard in the economics profession both because they fit the world a bit better and because they were masterpieces of mathematical modeling. His models’ combination of realism, elegance and tractability meant that they could provide the underpinnings for thousands of subsequent papers on trade, economic growth, political economy and especially economic geography.

Mr. Krugman’s 1991 Journal of Political Economy paper, “Increasing Returns and Economic Geography,” is the first article that provides a clear, internally consistent mathematically rigorous framework for thinking simultaneously about trade and the location of people and firms across space. It is one of only two models that I insist that Harvard’s Ph.D. students in urban economics be able to regurgitate, equation by equation.

The model begins with the same basic elements as the new trade theory: monopolistic competition, scale economics, love of variety. To these elements Mr. Krugman adds free migration of workers across space and industries. Because workers are able to move, real wages equalize across space. People in New York City may be paid more, but they give some of that back in the form of higher housing prices. The paper provides economists with a clear framework that can make sense of where we all live. Firms and workers are pulled toward the same location to reduce transportation costs of shipping goods. For example, the garment industry located in New York City, in part because of the vast trade in textiles that was already moving through the city and because of the large number of customers already living in America’s largest city.

Of course, we don’t all live in the same city. A good model of geography needs both a centripetal and a centrifugal force. In Mr. Krugman’s model, populations are pulled apart by the desire to be close to natural inputs, like land or coal mines. Cyrus McCormick moved his reaper business from Virginia to Chicago to be closer to his rural customers in the Midwest. Later models incorporated traffic congestion and other forces that limit the growth of a single large urban area. Mr. Krugman’s model proved to quite adaptable; it has received thousands of citations.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Early Birthday Present



Yay!!!
Tomorrow is my birthday... how nice of the Alaskan inquiry into Sarah Palin to think of me.
By the way, how does the vetting look now, bitches?!

Presidential Candidate Pals Around With Terrorists

From the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain served on the advisory board to the U.S. chapter of an international group linked to ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America in the 1980s.
The U.S. Council for World Freedom also aided rebels trying to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. That landed the group in the middle of the Iran-Contra affair and in legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, which revoked the charitable organization's tax exemption.

The council created by retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub was the U.S. chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. After setting up the U.S. council, Singlaub served as the international league's chairman.

McCain also failed to disclose this when he entered congress. It appears McCain also made personal contributions to the contra cause. The contras were brutal, and were involved in the massive smuggling of drugs. Any crimes committed by the Weathermen look like juvenile pranks compared to what the contras used to do every day to Nicaraguans. Obama served on an education board at the same time as a former anti-American terrorist. McCain served on a council actively aiding pro-American terrorists, and gave money to said terrorists. Which do you think will get more play?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bail Me Out, Nancy

In a recent post regarding the vote against the bailout, I ended by saying that, with the Republicans voting against the bill, the Democrats ought to just forget about them and put together a truly progressive bill. This is clearly not what happened.
Robert Reich:
This is a lousy bill. It doesn't do the most important thing -- help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure (that role is given to the Treasury Department, which is the equivalent of putting it into the permanent circular file). It doesn't make Wall Street more transparent (there's almost no word in it about improved transparency and capital requirements, or avoiding conflicts of interest and market manipulation). It doesn't control the most egregious aspects of executive salaries (the bill contains a contorted detour for controlling certain golden parachutes when the government has made direct equity purchases of financial companies rather than taken their bad paper through an auction).

One thing this bill has thrown into relief is the class division in our society. No longer can we talk about America as a classless society, instead the media talks about the dichotomy of unscrupulous Wall Street getting bailed out by idyllic but troubled Main Street. The trouble getting the bill passed has come as congress has tried to please both worlds. Wall Street was able to dictate much of there own bailout (insisting against a bill aiding homeowners, for example). Congress is completely aware of the bills unpopularity, which explains the earlier failure in the house, as well as why voting was left open when the bill was passed to give vulnerable members a chance to vote against it.
Why is the final bill such a crock? The answer is mostly political. The Democrats realized they needed to pass this bill, or else the country would take a beating, but they also realized that bailing fat-cats who had made bad decisions is a political suicide pill, thus blame needed to be shared by both parties. The bill was bipartisan because the Democratic leadership considered this politically necessary. Needing to have the Republicans on board gave them leverage over the bill. My guess, though, is this is not the only reason. These industries, for example the credit industry, have a lot of clout on the hill, and I doubt that there was much appetite for changing the bankruptcy rules among congress-people, for example. The bill is also loaded with pork... the Paulson plan, making him a financial generalissimo, was three pages, the first revision with more oversight provisions was scarcely more than a hundred. This bill is so loaded with pork-rinds that it bulges to roughly 450 pages.

Debate Meta-Analysis

"The Republicans were euphoric over Sarah Palin’s debate performance, particularly the part in which she stood tall and refrained from falling off the stage." - Gail Collins
The most annoying thing about the post-debate analysis is the attention focuses on Sarah Palin's performance, when it was clear to anyone who watched that Joe Biden dominated the debate. Joe Biden delivered an A+ performance, yet the spotlight was always on the girl who managed to eek out a C- when most expected her to fail. The media was so entrance by the drama of whether Palin would self-destruct that they ignored any actually comparison between the candidates merits.
Unlike the "nuanced" commentators, who base there decisions on a arcane game of expectation, the public was largely not fooled. A strong majority of undecides believe Biden to have won the debate.
Sarah Palin was fine, I suppose, giving potted answers to questions she herself posed, as illustrated by this flow-chart.

From the New Republic's blog:
The losers were David Brooks, Mark Shields, and other commentators supposedly hired by television executives for intelligence, sensitivity, and ability to articulate clear-eyed responses and titillate viewers with their amusing and thoughtful reactions to political events. That these two regulars on PBS's "The NewsHour" failed to see that Sarah Palin's brassy, blind narcissism, chirpy ignorance, evasiveness, broken syntax, self-vaunting folksiness, and robotic falsity disqualified her for important public office should be their end as commentators.