As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Battle Royale

This is the kind of stuff that happens shortly after an election, not 10 days prior:

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.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.

This is one of those delicious stories that we've seen about Democrats for the past several years, but I have a quibble. This is NOT an insurgency. This is jockeying for position inside the party from a position of strength. John McCain is not the future of the GOP - I wouldn't be at all surprised if he went ahead and retired next year. Sarah Palin has the biggest stage in the world for the next ten days and she's going to use it to try to set herself up for a run in 2012.

Check this out today from Iowa (Palin has been in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent days):

SARAH PALIN: John and I will adopt the all-of-the-above approach to meet America's great energy challenges. Yes. [crowd cheers] [...] That means harnessing alternative energy sources, like the wind and the solar and the biomass and the geothermal -- and the ethanol!

A politician pandering to push ethanol in Iowa is unremarkable. But John McCain has made opposition to ethanol subsidies one of the bedrocks of his campaign, an example of how he puts his "country first." You know, we actually don't need to have these massive subsidies to the corn industry, but that's besides the point. Palin is no longer promoting the ticket, she's promoting herself.

It's kind of fascinating to watch, I must admit. Palin has gone completely off message and McCain's staffers are rebelling. They're going public with the recriminations, maybe out of some belief that she would destroy the party as its titular head. I don't know if it's true or not. She has captured the hearts of the hardcore base, and most of the rest of the party is running for cover. Given who's left, I see no reason why she wouldn't be able to consolidate the remnants. She's obviously got the fundie side locked up, and she's charging hard for the economic royalists:

Sarah Palin had a few memorable moments during her campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. But the most eye-opening of them all came, it would appear, when the Alaska Governor somehow drew a connection between Barack Obama's tax policy and an encroaching, nightmarish, communist government. The Illinois Democrat, she hysterically suggested, would, through his proposals, create a country "where the people are not free."

"See, under a big government, more tax agenda, what you thought was yours would really start belonging to somebody else, to everybody else. If you thought your income, your property, your inventory, your investments were, were yours, they would really collectively belong to everybody. Obama, Barack Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes, and I say this based on his record... Higher taxes, more government, misusing the power to tax leads to government moving into the role of some believing that government then has to take care of us. And government kind of moving into the role as the other half of our family, making decisions for us. Now, they do this in other countries where the people are not free. Let us fight for what is right. John McCain and I, we will put our trust in you."

I don't see a lot to complain about from the Big Money Boyz. And if there's one thing those types like, it's an empty suit (or an empty $150,000 wardrobe) to fill with their conservative mantras. Not to mention how they love a figure who is misunderestimated.

The war to blame either McCain or Palin in the aftermath is going to be so intense that it's already started. And the damning with faint praise we're seeing from McCain allies (Lieberman, Ridge) is part of that brawl. But I'm not certain that can stop her. She's going for it.

...McCain's people calling her a diva is really kind of amusing. It's the SAME attack they made on Barack Obama through the summer. They couldn't manage to mix it up a bit?

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Tools You Can Use

One of the biggest ways you can impact this election is to disseminate information to your circle of friends. A couple organizations have stepped up in a big way to make that process smooth and easy.

Google noticed that millions of people were searching through their site for voting information - where their polling place is, when the last day for early voting is, etc. Google created this great tool as a one-stop shop to answer all of those questions.

It's hard to believe that in 2008, information so important to U.S. citizens and the democratic process isn't well organized on the web. To solve this problem, we've released our US Voter Info site, an effort to simplify and centralize voting locations and registration information.

Are you registered to vote? What's the best way to obtain an absentee ballot? When people visit the site, answers to these questions appear. And anyone with a website can provide the same information. The US Voter Info gadget places a simple search box that expands to show a full set of voter information when someone enters an address.

We are also offering a simpler way to find out where to vote. By entering a home address, citizens across the country will be able to find their polling place for election day.

The tool is super-easy and effective. Tell your friends.

Another incredible tool comes from our friends at CREDO mobile. It's called TXT Out The Vote, and it enabled you to send targeted text messages in California opposing Prop. 4 (parental notification for abortion) and Prop. 8 (eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry). The messages, which you can send to any friend or family member with a cell phone, will be delivered on Election Day. This kind of "personal phone banking" is one of the best ways to get out the vote. Check it out at TXT Out The Vote. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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How To Negotiate With The Bush Administration

What you do is this. You set up a deadline and force the White House to negotiate with you as it nears. You ask for major concessions and never stop asking for them. When the White House demurs, you say loudly to the press that there is likely to be no deal. Eventually, the White House will concede to your demands, but try to structure it in such a way that they can still get what they want. At that point, you agree to the deal, then take it back to your constituents, listen to their concerns, and turn right around and reject the terms.

Fearing political division in the parliament and in his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki won't sign the just-completed agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, a leading lawmaker said Friday.

The new accord's demise would be a major setback for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to establish a legal basis for the extended presence of the 151,000 U.S. troops in this country, and for Iraq, which won notable concessions in the draft accord reached a week ago.

"No, he will not" submit the agreement to the parliament, Sheikh Jalal al Din al Sagheer, the deputy head of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, told McClatchy. "For this matter, we need national consensus."

I don't think Maliki is some kind of genius - signing this or really any agreement with the United States at this point would be political suicide. But the idea of "listening to constituents" is something that nobody in this country has bothered to consider when dealing with the Bush Administration for the past 8 years.

They might want to give Baghdad a ring. for the impact of this on the occupation, I would imagine the US will seek to extend the UN mandate by six months. No country on the Security Council will attempt to block that - why not let the American military degrade further and lay out even more of its depleted treasury? But this would be much better for an Obama Administration because it wouldn't be constrained by an already-existing agreement that has a consensus in Iraq. It's ridiculous that Baghdad is ultimately forcing an end to this mistake, but there we are.

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Palin's Failure

I think history will show Sarah Palin to be among the worst Vice Presidential choices in American history. Normally these picks have little to no bearing on the race. This year, it caused a big bounce up due to conservative enthusiasm followed by a HUGE bounce down once Americans got to know this lady. Especially considering the age on the top of her ticket, the idea that she might become President is enough to frighten the vast middle. In fact, it's enough to frighten McCain campaign advisers.

Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School, has long been one of the most important conservative thinkers in the United States. Under President Reagan, he served, with great distinction, as Solicitor General of the United States. Since then, he has been prominently associated with several Republican leaders and candidates, most recently John McCain, for whom he expressed his enthusiastic support in January.

This week, Fried announced that he has voted for Obama-Biden by absentee ballot. In his letter to Trevor Potter, the General Counsel to the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked that his name be removed from the several campaign-related committees on which he serves. In that letter, he said that chief among the reasons for his decision "is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis."

Why the revulsion? Because she represents everything that we've seen from George Bush for the last eight years. She is completely ignorant, particularly in the area of science...

his is too much. Sarah Palin gave a policy speech today in which she claimed that she wanted more support for children with disabilities, more tools to test for disorders, and while also decrying the expense of scientific research.

Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

...she is terribly corrupt, a strong believer in cronyism - she installed 100 friends and hangers-on in government positions in Alaska - and happy to abuse the power of her office:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin testified for two hours Friday in an abuse-of-power investigation that has been a distraction to her Republican vice presidential campaign. Palin's leadership was questioned this month in a stinging but largely toothless legislative report that found she violated state ethics laws by letting a family dispute influence her decision-making [...]

The (personnel) board is investigating the firing of her public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan. Monegan claims he was dismissed because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a messy divorce from Palin's sister. The controversy, known as "Troopergate," took on national significance after John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

(BTW, Palin calling it "Tasergate" admits guilt; their party line is that Monegan was fired because of budget issues, but the "Taser" refers to the conduct of Mike Wooten, inferring that Monegan really was fired for refusing to remove Wooten from his job.)

...and her extremism on social issues gives aid and comfort to domestic terrorists:

Brian Williams: Back to the notion of terrorists and terrorism, this word has come up in relation to Mr. Ayers -- hanging out with terrorist – domestic terrorists. It is said that it gives it a vaguely post uh 9-11 hint, using that word, that we don’t normally associate with domestic crimes. Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the ‘60’s terrorists, under this definition? Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under the definition?

Sarah Palin: There is no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was um one who sought to destroy our US Capitol and our Pentagon -- that is a domestic terrorist. There’s no question there. Now others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or um facilities, that uh, it would be unacceptable -- I don’t know if you could use the word terrorist, but its unacceptable and it would not be condoned of course on our watch. I don’t know if what you are asking is if I regret referring to Bill Ayers as an unrepentant domestic terrorist. I don’t regret characterizing him as that.

Brian Williams: I’m just asking what other categories you would put in there. Abortion clinic bombers? Protesters in cities where fires were started, Molotov cocktails, were thrown? People died.

Sarah Palin: I would put in that category of Bill Ayers anyone else who would seek to destroy our United States Capitol and our Pentagon and would seek to destroy innocent Americans.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There's the whole not understanding the role of the Vice Presidency, which puts her at odds with her own running mate. But it's a good sampling of why she has been so uniquely miserable as a nominee. It's why even John McCain's closest friends are unable to defend her. Joe Lieberman says "thank God she's not going to have to be president from day one"; Tom Ridge says the campaign would be going better if he were on the ticket. There are little controversies like wardrobe-gate. But this is about who Sarah Palin is. It terrifies people.

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Falling Flat Because They Were Never Inflated

It's something of an interesting question why the Swiftboat-style attacks on Barack Obama have gotten no traction this year. Ari Berman does a scholarly analysis in The Nation. It could be the general lack of desire for irrelevant attacks at a time of financial crisis; it could be that the implosion of the conservative movement has fractured the message; it could be that the money simply isn't there to back John McCain; it could even be that the Obama campaign counter-punched effectively and refused to allow these attacks to get traction.

I think it has something to do with the utter stupidity of this year's attacks. Jon Swift, the reasonable conservative, has the definitive list of election-year blogging from conservatives. Bloggers are pretty important in amplifying attacks, and look what they've gone after this year:

During Obama’s dark, mysterious years at Columbia, he was involved in domestic terrorist bombings

Although some mainstream media sources have alluded to Obama’s mysterious years at Columbia, only one intrepid reporter, Tom Maguire of Just One Minute has made the cognitive leap required to connect all of the dots. Noting that Obama admitted in his book Dreams of My Father that he was “interested in South Africa divestment,” Maguire does some digging and discovers that some protests against the 1981 tour by the South African Springboks rugby team resulted in violence and even some bombings. Guess who “was involved in some fashion” in these bombings? The Weather Underground! “These are just dots and it may be impossible to connect them,” says Maguire, modestly, “but we have Barack Obama at Columbia working on South African divestment (as were many peaceful protestors) while other radical elements with a Weather Underground flavor are setting bombs, killing cops, and working on South African divestment. As a bonus, Bill Ayers is studying at Bank Street College a quarter mile from Columbia.” Wow! How can the mainstream media possibly ignore the fact that Obama must have been “involved in some fashion” in domestic terrorism because he was “interested in South African divestment.” “Tom Maguire steps pretty far out on a limb with this bit of speculation,” says CPAC Blogger of the Year Ace of Spades, who links to the story. “But it would explain why Barack Obama's ‘lost years’ at Columbia have remained so very very secret.” It makes me wonder how my friend Tom Watson, who was at Columbia at the same time as Obama and was also “interested in South African divestment,” was connected to the Weather Underground, not to mention hundreds of other former Columbia students who today freely walk the streets despite their terrorist connections. I wonder if Tom has mentioned his radical connections in his upcoming book CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World, or if like Obama, he mysteriously left it out.

That's just one of them. It's must reading and really a seminal document. Americans may not have the smartest bullshit detector, but they can ferret out complete ridiculousness. And that accurately describes the conservative movement in 2008.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

YouTube Gallery

I'm packing it in for the day. So have at it with some humor.

Wassup 2008

Little Bill vs. Barney Frank

I blew the election.

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Today In Election Fraud

There's been something of a pattern in recent GOP voter suppression schemes - Republican officials press their claims, and the courts smack them down. This was true when the Supreme Court backed up the Secretary of State of Ohio a week ago, saying she didn't need to match 220,000 new voter registration forms to a federal document. It's happened in Wisconsin, where a similar scheme to verify forms, pushed by the Republican Attorney General (and McCain campaign co-chair), has been tossed out. And it's happened in Indiana as well.

The Indiana Supreme Court has declined to approve a bid by the GOP to shut down early voting centers in Democratic strongholds of a key county.

A lower court had similarly rejected the effort earlier this week. The Supreme Court ruled today that the case had to first be heard by an appeals court, rather than going straight to the state's high court as the Republican plaintiffs wanted.

The appeals court may yet get involved in this, but I think we'll see early voting sites remain open there. Now we have to worry about the people counting the votes:

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) -- A Republican county election clerk said Friday she has apologized to two employees for distributing copies of Internet blog posting referring to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as a "young, black Adolf Hitler."

The employees, who had voted for Obama in Indiana's Democratic primary, discovered the printouts at their desks after returning from Labor Day weekend, sheriff's Deputy Doug Cox said in a police report made public this week. One of the workers complained, and surveillance video showed Johnson County Clerk Jill Jackson placing an item on one worker's desk at 5:27 p.m. on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, Cox said.

"She admitted to being responsible for the letter, but only did it as a joke," Cox said. Jackson told Cox she had intended to speak with the workers upon returning to work but forgot.

I know that if I was in Indiana, I'd feel safe knowing my vote was in her hands.

Elsewhere, it's amazing to me that we still deal with faulty ballot design in this day and age, but that's what's happening in North Carolina, where their "straight-party voting" option does NOT generate a vote for President. Why the heck would that be? And this isn't a new flaw, but was in place in 2004 as well, and 3% of voters cast no ballot for President. That's absurd.

And finally, we have your good old-fashioned voter intimidation.

Minority voters in New Mexico report to TPMmuckraker that a private investigator working with Republican party lawyer Pat Rogers has appeared in person at the homes of their family members, intimidating and confusing them about their right to vote in the general election [...]

Guadalupe Bojorquez, who works in law enforcement in Albuquerque, told TPMmuckraker today that her mother, Dora Escobedo, was one of the ten voters whose names were released by the GOP. After this happened, said Bojorquez, her mother had been contacted by the voter registration group ACORN. Bojorquez, with ACORN's help, confirmed with the county clerk that her mother, who does not speak English, is indeed eligible to vote, and had been when she voted in June.

Nonetheless, Bojorquez said that her mother yesterday received a visit from a man who asked for her personal information, including an ID, in reference to her eligibility to vote. Bojorquez told TPMmuckraker that according to her mother, at one point the man asked what she would do if immigration authorities contacted her.

Read the whole thing. But if you don't, suffice to say that the GOP preys upon weakness and fear to stop people from voting.

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Allow Me To Be Bipartisan

Tim Mahoney can go ahead and pack up his things at this point.

The Tim Mahoney story just keeps getting worse and worse.

First it was a settlement over an alleged affair; then it was a second alleged affair; then it was admitting to multiple affairs and now it's seedy details behind the settlement with Mahoney's former mistress [...]

The settlement was reached after Allen hired a lawyer who sent the Congressman a "demand" letter, listing specific examples of Mahoney's alleged "gross misconduct" and "stalking" including:
a) Calling Allen late in the evenings and demanding "phone sex;"
b) Demanding that Allen answer his calls or face termination;
c) Demanding that Allen attend fundraisers and "tease c-ck" to bring in more donations from the male members of the public;
d) Demanding that Allen engage in sexual conduct with another woman for his enjoyment.

Current and former staffers told ABC News the allegations contained in the "demand letter" sent to Mahoney were backed up by tape recordings of phone calls between the Congressman and Allen.

Although, I have to say, I'm not being TOTALLY bipartisan. Mahoney was a Republican right up until 2006. He was one of Rahm Emanuel's golden boys, brought in to nudge out an actual Democrat named Dave Lutrin. He was a scumbag then and he's a scumbag now. Rahm always has the best interest of the Democratic Party at heart.

P.S. I like that it took until now for the wife to file for divorce.

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They Need To Come Up With Something Bigger Than "FAIL" To Describe This

OK, so now it comes out that the McCain campaign was feeding reporters that now-discredited story about the campaign staffer attacked by an Obama supporter because of her bumper sticker.

John Verrilli, the news director for KDKA in Pittsburgh, told TPM Election Central that McCain's Pennsylvania campaign communications director gave one of his reporters a detailed version of the attack that included a claim that the alleged attacker said, "You're with the McCain campaign? I'm going to teach you a lesson."

Verrilli also told TPM that the McCain spokesperson had claimed that the "B" stood for Barack. According to Verrilli, the spokesperson also told KDKA that Sarah Palin had called the victim of the alleged attack, who has since admitted the story was a hoax.

The KDKA reporter had called McCain's campaign office for details after seeing the story -- sans details -- teased on Drudge.

This is just a disaster for the right wing. They lived by these B.S. stories for so long and now they're dying by them. It's extremely appropriate.

And hopefully, this signals the end of Matt Drudge and the ushering in of a new sobriety where people desire actual news and information instead of nonsense links to irrelevant gotcha stories. Indeed, just today Eric Boehlert writes:

Was Drudge just trying to prove our point?

About how his influence has cratered during his campaign cycle? And how, since the Wall Street meltdown began six weeks ago, his brand of shallow, partisan, GOP gotcha attacks have been completely ineffective?

Well, yesterday he went all in on the very hard-to-believe tale from Pittsburgh about the McCain supporter who was mugged and whose assailant carved a "B" in her face after becoming enraged about her GOP loyalties.

It was The Drudge Report that posted blaring headlines about the story, and it was The Drudge Report that tried to push the story into the mainstream media, perhaps in one last attempt to leave its mark on the campaign.

Well, Drudge did leave a mark. Just not the one he wanted.

It's hard not to feel schadenfreude over this. I can't say that I've ever read Drudge more than once or twice in my life, but the way that the traditional media follows his every utterance is disturbing. Maybe not so much anymore.

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The Myth Of A Maverick

Matt Stoller has scored an incredible interview with a staffer from John McCain's 2000 Presidential campaign. It might not surprise you, given the sludge that his campaign is currently running, that the style is virtually unchanged from those days, when he was this supposed straight-talking honorable maverick. John McCain hasn't changed a bit.

McCain 2000 staffer: Yes, in South Carolina he had the Quinn's running his campaign out of their office. McCain did very well with establishment Republicans in NH... they helped him get his big win there along with independents. The Quinn's (Rick and Richard) are notorious.

Matt Stoller: For what?

McCain 2000 staffer: Well, they are probably one of the few consultants in SC that everyone would want. But... They also publish the Southern Partisan magazine. Which is extremely racist.

McCain 2000 staffer: McCain had their support and they were our consultants there. A good get for a Republican in the primary.

Matt Stoller: Wow

McCain 2000 staffer: He also had the support of some state officials and legislators that were important. Not to mention Graham and Sanford who at the time were both US Reps. Now one is a Senator and the other is Governor

Matt Stoller: The general consensus among pundits is that McCain in 2000 was destroyed by George Bush's dirty tricks (masterminded by Karl Rove). These tricks included claims he fathered a black child and attacks on his record in Vietnam.

McCain 2000 staffer: Had the Quinn's won SC for McCain he would have been the nominee in 2000.

Matt Stoller: But that McCain himself ran an honorable campaign.

McCain 2000 staffer: Ha! Again, the story is more detailed than that. Rove ran a Rove campaign. So yes, they were dirty. But we were too. I remember the week after NH, we surged in SC polls from something like 10pts behind Bush to 10pts ahead. After a little slipping because Bush was letting surrogates go after McCain's military history, we went up with an ad that said Bush twisted the truth just like Clinton. The ad aired for one day. The press said McCain was going negative, the Bush people screamed bloody murder, and our campaign went into a tail spin. Had that ad not run, I'm convinced, and if you spoke to people from the SC campaign or Weaver or Davis and they were honest with you they would agree, that ad sank the campaign.

Matt Stoller: What were some of the rumors the campaign was pushing about Bush?

McCain 2000 staffer: I remember talking with reporters after events about Bush's DUI. I remember senior press staff doing that. I remember them talking about Laura Bush's horrible car accident, saying that she may have been drunk when it happened. On a funny side note, during a debate Bush held up this flyer we were handing out door to door and at events that said Bush would hurt seniors... it was a really nasty flyer aimed at scaring the elderly. So Bush holds it up and asks McCain about it. McCain looks at Bush and says it isn't from his campaign. Bush points out that it says McCain's campaign paid for it. McCain then says well we have stopped doing that. Keep in mind, McCain swore off negative TV ads after the Clinton one failed so badly. So I'm watching the debate and I'm like... is he crazy? We have people in the field handing that out TONIGHT. He blew up at the staff that night over the flyer. Vintage McCain. He doesn't mind getting deep in the mud when it works for him. But if he gets caught? Hell-to-pay. And then he plays the straight-talking martyr.

Matt Stoller: Was he responsible for the flyer, or was it some sort of rogue operation within the campaign? What kind of tone did he and his senior advisors set?

McCain 2000 staffer: Ultimately McCain signed off on everything. That's how he operated. Very military minded, chain of command so to speak. The tone? Well, I think a story illustrates that better. On the campaign we had this right of passage called being WOW'd. It stood for Wrath of Weaver. If you ever experienced his wrath you essentially made it to the in-team. McCain on the other hand, being on the receiving end of his temper was NEVER a good thing. It wasn't something you bragged about over drinks with co-workers like you did with Weaver. It could be brutal. It's sort of funny in retrospect. At the end of ads these days, candidates have to say 'I'm so and so, and I approve this message." McCain is the guy who made that law. To see the filth he's been approving is pretty sick, but not unexpected.

This would be a nice story to fax to David Broder and Chris Matthews and Joe Klein, these pundits who did somersaults any time McCain was in their general orbit for years, and who think that this dive into the muck is only of recent vintage. McCain has been saying and doing anything to get elected for a long, long time. The gasbags became so impressed by this military man and his presumed honor that they made up a story about him, created an image basically out of nothing, an image that until this year made him the most respected Republican politician in America. Now a few of them are seeing the error of their ways, but they're replacing it with another story - John McCain's changed. He had to go to the dark side in this election. He didn't even want to, it's those Rove protégés around him that are pushing this noble warrior into it.

Wrong. All wrong. McCain lives for knifing his political enemies. He just wants deniability for it, which so many in the media are willing to give him thanks to this carefully cultivated image. The great axiom of modern politics is that if someone on television is telling you how honorable a politician is, well, just turn the sound off, because it's nothing but inauthentic flattery. Cocktail parties don't have this much gladhanding at them.

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The Bee Lady

This election has been a carnival of stupid, so it's fitting that the "October Surprise" is unbelievably stupid as well.

A Pittsburgh police commander says a volunteer for the McCain campaign who reported being robbed and attacked near a bank ATM in Bloomfield has confessed to making up the story. Police say charges will be filed. More details to follow.

This was the woman who claimed that an Obama supporter - a black man - mugged her and beat her up because he saw her McCain bumper sticker. And that he carved a "B" into her skin. Only the "B" was perfectly situated, not jagged in any way, and it was backwards, as if it was carved while using a mirror. Turns out that she immediately started changing her story, and it looked bogus to anyone who spent more than two seconds with it.

And, you know, it was.

Didn't stop half the conservative blogosphere from running with it - and I say only half, because Michelle Malkin and some others were sleptical.


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Friday Random Ten

Another Friday deadline day, so this will be a light morning.

Velvet Snow - Kings Of Leon
Dance Till the Morning - Brazilian Girls
Haven't Got A Clue - The Flaming Lips
Tape Recorder Man - Momus
The Rolling People - The Verve
Ne M'Appelle Pas Ta Biche - Stereo Total
Go-Go Gadget Gospel - Gnarls Barkley
Flowers - Cibo Matto
I Gotta Get Through This - Daniel Bedingfield (OK, that's embarrassing. I hate that song)
Heard 'Em Say - Kanye West feat. Adam Levine

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The Old "That Thing You Didn't Say Isn't True" Trick

Marc Danzinger writes at Winds of Change under the name "Armed Liberal." In my scattered meetings with him, I've found him to be neither armed nor liberal, but maybe I caught him on a bad day. A few weeks ago, we appeared on a radio show together, and we got into a discussion over whether or not Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be blamed for the financial meltdown, which is a tautological discussion at the outset, because the idea that there's one simplistic answer for something so complex isn't an argument worth having. But I made my points, and he made his, and then a week or so later he wrote this long piece on his website that I imagine he considered the definitive takedown of moi.

Now, I was fully prepared to let this go, but this "Fannie and Freddie did it!" meme has shown no sign of letting up, with House Republicans calling for a special counsel to investigate the GSE's role in the crisis, and in particular the conduct of former Clinton Administration officials (Man, that old Whitewater magic has some kind of pull). They desperately want to push this off onto any organization that has ties to Democrats to absolve themselves. So I'm compelled to respond.

In his post, Armed Liberal cites the conversation we had on the radio.

Dave and Marcy Wheeler were taking the "Fannie had nothing to do with this" position. I countered with "I've got this 92-page Powerpoint from the Milken Institute that says otherwise..."

Dave immediate dismissed it, saying "Did Fannie or Freddie make subprime loans?" And while I went to get the appropriate slide from the deck to show him, we moved the conversation along - because according to Brad, no one cares.

But I do, and I'll suggest that we all should. because they did, and further because of who they were and their position in the financial ecology, what they did was dramatically more important than what any other single institution chose to do.

Well, let's stop right there, because that's a misstatement of what I actually said. I never said "Did Fannie or Freddie make subprime loans?" I said "Did Fannie or Freddie guarantee or securitize subprime loans?" And I know that's what I said for two reasons. One, he has the damn mp3 on the site. And two, I was quoting a post I had written that very day which contained that very specific language:

• Fannie and Freddie did not guarantee and securitize subprime loans. Such loans didn’t meet their conforming loan standards. In fact, as the subprime market was building, Fannie and Freddie lost market share because they were under stricter standards. Thus, their participation in the secondary market did not assist in the creation of the subprime market.

• It’s true, however, that Fannie and Freddie were damaged by the subprime crisis because everyone in the housing sector was damaged by falling home prices and, more significantly, the two companies branched out into a broader investment portfolio. In that portfolio were included mortgage-backed securities that hurt all of those who purchased them. Fannie and Freddie weren’t the biggest players in this and, most importantly, started this practice very late in the game. In fact, the subprime market had already started to go bad when they started their purchases (which speaks poorly for Fannie and Freddie’s decision making, but precludes them from responsibility for the crisis).

• Fannie and Freddie were supposed to be more closely supervised than other lenders—with their own regulator, which was supposed to keep a special eye on them because they are important institutions. Those regulators, who were part of the Bush administration, failed along with the rest of the Bush regulatory apparatus to stop the problem.

In the first paragraph, you see that Fannie and Freddie were losing market share, and were basically forced into a subprime market that was already created and well underway. In fact, it was their foot in the free market that forced them into that. This weird hybrid of a "government-sponsored entity," still responsible to shareholders, demanded that Fannie and Freddie chase the market.

Now, Armed Liberal uses the quote of mine he fabricated to "prove me wrong." But there is a major difference between what I said and what he thinks I said. Fannie and Freddie "made" subprime loans, after the market was in place and the bubble was set (Armed Liberal even quotes a WaPo piece saying that they didn't get into the market until 2006), but they didn't guarantee and securitize them. They bought mortgage-backed securities as part of a broader investment portfolio. That was stupid, as they were under-capitalized. But they wanted to show their shareholders that they were going where the mortgage market was going and finding a way, despite their loan conforming standards, to be a part of it.

The problem with the mortgage market was that these shaky loans were sliced and diced into securities that were sold off to others. Fannie and Freddie did not and could not perform that. They got involved when the market was already collapsing. There's a difference between dumb and responsible. If they didn't purchase MBS's, there was a giant pile of money (Big Shitpile) ready to do the same.

When Armed Liberal pulls out the main slide that proves all this (here's an excerpt of his text):

Now if you'll recall, this all started when I suggested, arguing with Marcy Wheeler, that Fannie and Freddie did have something to do with the meltdown. Dave Dayen countered with "do Fannie and Freddie make subprime loans?" And I was flipping through the deck, looking for this slide:

You'll note that 61% of the loans Freddie had in its retained portfolio in 2006 were subprime, and a further 25% were Alt-A.

It's the kind of thing you wish you'd had at your fingertips when you're arguing in public...

As to Fannie, in 2006 the ratios were 46% subprime and 35% Alt-A.

I'll send this link over to Marcy and Dave (as well as Brad) and see what they have to say.

What I'll say is that you're looking at their stock protfolio. This lists the percentages in the mortgage-backed securities they purchased, and that has been ably spun by the Milken Institute (where this guy's "proof" comes from) into Fannie and Freddie being solely responsible for them. That's just silly, for reasons described above.

You don't really have to believe me on this one. You can go ahead and look at the reporting:

Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.

Subprime lending offered high-cost loans to the weakest borrowers during the housing boom that lasted from 2001 to 2007. Subprime lending was at its height from 2004 to 2006.

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.

Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.

Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that's being lambasted by conservative critics.

Or the United States Treasury Department:

The PWG found that the principal underlying causes of the turmoil in financial markets

• a breakdown in underwriting standards for subprime mortgages;
• a significant erosion of market discipline by those involved in the securitization process, including originators, underwriters, credit rating agencies, and global investors, related in part to failures to provide or obtain adequate risk disclosures;
• flaws in credit rating agencies’ assessments of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and other complex structured credit products, especially collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that held RMBS and other asset-backed securities (CDOs of ABS);
• risk management weaknesses at some large U.S. and European financial institutions; and
• regulatory policies, including capital and disclosure requirements, that failed to mitigate risk management weaknesses.

(You won't see Fannie and Freddie referenced in there, with the possible exception of the regulatory policies that failed to mitigate risk management, where I completely agree. But of course this is because they were forced by their quasi-private status to operate like everyone else in the market. My remedy for that comes later.)

... or former Treasury Secretary John Snow, SEC Chair Chris Cox, and former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, and believe me, if there was a scapegoat to be had, they would have no problem using it.

Today in a House Oversight Committee hearing with former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, SEC chairman Christopher Cox, and former Treasury secretary John Snow, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) revived that argument. He also tried to tie the crisis to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), holding up a chart called “Follow the Money Trail.” He pointed that Obama has been the largest recipient of donations from Freddie and Fannie. (Actually, he’s the second highest.)

Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) chastised Mica for trying to turn the financial crisis into a political issue. He noted that Freddie and Fannie “certainly played a role” in the current situation, but then asked the witnesses, “Do any of you believe that they were the cause of this financial crisis?” All three men said no. Watch it:

I don't know why Armed Liberal has such a hard-on to blame Fannie and Freddie, and I'm not going to go all Matt Taibbi on him and ridicule him for not knowing what the hell he's talking about. Instead I'll try to find some common ground. This was a private sector problem, a failure of regulation and a failure of overwatch on the runaway securitization of loans and the insurance and bets made behind the loans. To the extent that Fannie and Freddie were a part of that, late in the game, it was because they were part of the private sector. I see absolutely no reason to have government-sponsored entities that are partially public and partially private. I imagine this makes it easier to perform poor risk management because the risk is taken away from you. So I would take them permanently off the private market so they could stick to their core function instead of chasing wealth. If this were the case, no lobby shop would be available to press Republicans and Democrats alike to back off any meaningful regulation.

So we need to re-regulate the market and make Fannie and Freddie what they always should have been - backstops. As for Armed Liberal, the next time he wants to argue with me, it'd be nice if he quoted me accurately.

...just to elaborate on this a bit, I'm always skeptical of anyone who leads this off with "subprime loans." The problem of them was not their existence but the securitization. There are also regular loans in those MBS's, and there are loans to people who qualified above subprime but were given one of the more exotic loans. The securitization made everyone generally feel confident, that even if a bunch of loans failed they were a small subset of the total market and so lending standards could be acceptably thrown out. Fannie and Freddie were on the other side of that transaction. They shouldn't have bought them in 2006 and beyond, but they simply weren't responsible for creating the instruments, and their absence from the market wouldn't have collapsed it at all - the dot-com bubble flowed very naturally into the housing bubble, and all the global money went nicely with it.

Also, I associate myself with Ezra Klein's remarks about how we can actually find blame in all of this and use that evidence to create new solutions, essentially a new oversight structure that treats banks for what they do and not who they say they are, and treats insurance like insurance (I'm talking about CDS's here). Do read them.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life Support

We're seeing the beginning of the end of the political career of John McCain. The resumes are being shopped and the fingers are being pointed. Maybe it's because we haven't had a real blowout election in the digital age, but this post-mortem, coming 12 days early, is the earliest I've ever seen it. The New York Times Magazine article is particularly brutal, showing practically every wart of this flailing campaign. I think this paragraph, which is kind of a throwaway, said it all.

The campaign was in the throes of an identity crisis by June 24, when a number of senior strategists gathered at 9:30 a.m. in a conference room of McCain’s campaign headquarters in Arlington. As one participant said later, the meeting was convened “because we still couldn’t answer the question, ‘Why elect John McCain?’ ” Considering that the election was less than five months away, this was not a good sign.

On October 23, they still can't answer it. They bounced from one idea to the next and never settled on anything. It was a cynical, superficial campaign designed to win hours of the news cycle instead of a campaign. And this is an incredible passage:

Then for a half-hour or so, the group reviewed names that had been bandied about in the past: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (of Minnesota) and Gov. Charlie Crist (of Florida); the former governors Tom Ridge (Pennsylvania) and Mitt Romney (Massachusetts); Senator Joe Lieberman (Connecticut); and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York). From a branding standpoint, they wondered, what message would each of these candidates send about John McCain? McInturff’s polling data suggested that none of these candidates brought significantly more to the ticket than any other.

“What about Sarah Palin?” Schmidt asked.

What [Davis] liked was how she stuck to her pet issues — energy independence and ethics reform — and thereby refused to let Rose manage the interview. This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her. A friend had said to Davis: “The way you pick a vice president is, you get a frame of Time magazine, and you put the pictures of the people in that frame. You look at who fits that frame best — that’s your V. P.”

And this is now his single biggest liability in the campaign.

But more than anything, this part gets to the heart of who John McCain is as a man, why he would be led by the nose and stoop to the basest tactics just to get elected.

The flipside to John McCain’s metanarrative of personal valor has always been palpable self-righteousness. In this campaign, his sense of integrity has been doubly offended. First, an adviser said, “He just really thinks the media is completely in the tank for Obama and doesn’t feel like he’s getting a fair shake at all.” And second, another said, “I don’t think John likes people who try to do jobs they’re not qualified for” — referring, in this case, to Barack Obama.

And this informs the latest gimmick.

John McCain's election night watch party might be missing John McCain. Instead of appearing before a throng of supporters at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix on the evening of Nov. 4, the Republican presidential nominee plans to deliver postelection remarks to a small group of reporters and guests on the hotel's lawn.

Aides said Thursday that the arrangement was due to space limitations and that McCain might drop by the election watch party at some other point.

He's so self-righteous that he doesn't want to face anyone when he loses. He can't imagine that America wouldn't think him worthy of the honor, and so he'd rather wrap himself inside the bubble. This is cowardly.

I predict he resigns from the Senate before the 111th Congress even starts.

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Oh Well, Another Handful Of Afghanis Dead

Barack Obama talked to Joe Klein about his views of the chief foreign policy challenges at this time, and the need for a full perspective.

[Q] Let me ask you about a situation like that. I have been collecting accounts of your meeting with David Petraeus in Baghdad. And you had [inaudible] after he had made a really strong pitch [inaudible] for maximum flexibility. A lot of politicians at that moment would have said [inaudible] but from what I hear, you pushed back.

[BO] I did. I remember the conversation, pretty precisely. He made the case for maximum flexibility and I said you know what if I were in your shoes I would be making the exact same argument because your job right now is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. My job as a potential commander in chief is to view your counsel and your interests through the prism of our overall national security which includes what is happening in Afghanistan, which includes the costs to our image in the middle east, to the continued occupation, which includes the financial costs of our occupation, which includes what it is doing to our military. So I said look, I described in my mind at list an analogous situation where I am sure he has to deal with situations where the commanding officer in [inaudible] says I need more troops here now because I really think I can make progress doing x y and z. That commanding officer is doing his job in Ramadi, but Petraeus’s job is to step back and see how does it impact Iraq as a whole. My argument was I have got to do the same thing here. And based on my strong assessment particularly having just come from Afghanistan were going to have to make a different decision. But the point is that hopefully I communicated to the press my complete respect and gratitude to him and Proder who was in the meeting for their outstanding work. Our differences don't necessarily derive from differences in sort of, or my differences with him don't derive from tactical objections to his approach. But rather from a strategic framework that is trying to take into account the challenges to our national security and the fact that we've got finite resources.

You know, it may be that the big picture calls for an increase in forces in Afghanistan. But I hope events like this fit into the edge of the frame.

Nine Afghan soldiers were killed and four others injured by a U.S. airstrike on an Afghan army checkpoint Wednesday in an apparent friendly-fire incident in eastern Afghanistan, according to Afghan and U.S. military officials.

The pre-dawn airstrike occurred after a convoy of coalition troops came under fire as they returned to their base in Khost province, according to a statement released by the U.S. military. Coalition soldiers called for air support after exchanging fire with Afghan troops near an Afghan army checkpoint in the Sayed Kheil area in what military officials said could be "a case of mistaken identity on both sides." [...]

Arsallah Jamal, governor of Khost province, said coalition and Afghan troops had been engaged in operations in the area for about 10 days before the strike occurred. Jamal said the army checkpoint was relatively new but was well-known and on a main road. "They knew it was there. They made a mistake," Jamal said.

There was another airstrike in the region today that hit a Pakistani school and killed at least eight. And you can just read these stories with a sense of deja vu throughout the past seven years. We've been bombing Afghanistan for so long, as a band-aid to make up for the lack of troops, that I'm not sure if you asked an Afghan civilian that they would tell you that the Taliban is the real enemy and not the guys in the airplanes in the sky. Right now popular support for a foreign presence is almost even with opposition, and declining.

Russ Feingold spoke up today with one of those statements that isn't allowed in the polite company of the foreign policy establishment in Washington - maybe we shouldn't just transfer our military strength from one country to the next.

But few people seem willing to ask whether the main solution that's being talked about– sending more troops to Afghanistan – will actually work.

If the devastating policies of the current administration have proved anything, it's that we need to ask tough questions before deploying our brave service members – and that we need to be suspicious of Washington "group think." Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

For far too long, we have been fighting in Afghanistan with too few troops. It has been an "economy of force" campaign, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff put it. But we can't just assume that additional troops will undo the damage caused by years of neglect.

Sending more US troops made sense in, say, 2006, and it may still make sense today. The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated badly over the past year, however, despite a larger US and coalition military presence.

We need to ask: After seven years of war, will more troops help us achieve our strategic goals in Afghanistan? How many troops would be needed and for how long? Is there a danger that a heavier military footprint will further alienate the population, and, if so, what are the alternatives? And – with the lessons of Iraq in mind – will this approach advance our top national security priority, namely defeating Al Qaeda?

How dare he try to ask questions, using such trifles as reason and logic. How dare he consider that massive military might can be anything but glorious. How dare he suggest that an international problem has something other than a military solution.

The very nerve.

...I want to fully characterize Obama's position on Afghanistan, because it's about more than an influx of troops. Here's more from that same interview:

[BO] Here's my attitude. Number 1 we can't have our troops remain sitting ducks. We should, under our coalition mandate we are in Afghanistan at the invitation of the afghan government. We're there legally, under international watch. When those troops are attacked, they have a right to defend themselves. Period. Now I think that the most critical task that we have in Afghanistan is to not only strengthen the Afghan government, it's military capacity, it's ability to deliver services to its people, its capacity to work with the agricultural sector there to replace the poppy crop. But it’s to also work through a viable strategy for Pakistan. My sense is that Zedari has already been willing to step out and commit himself in a pretty difficult situation to work with the United States to root out militant terrorists.

So, building a different relationship with the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military, the ISI. Working with Pakistan, this government to deliver for its people so it gains legitimacy, in all regions of the country. Working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve, and Kashmir, crisis in a serious way. Those are all critical tasks for the next administration. Kashmir in particular is an interesting situation where that is obviously a potential tar pit diplomatically. But, for us to devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach, and essentially make the argument to the Indians, you guys are on the brink of being an economic superpower, why do you want to keep on messing with this? To make the argument to the Pakistanis, look at India and what they are doing, why do you want to keep n being bogged down with this particularly at a time where the biggest threat now is coming from the Afghan boarder? I think there is a moment where potentially we could get their attention. It won’t be easy, but it’s important.

[Q] …Should we be talking to the Taliban? I don’t mean you.

[BO] You know, I think that this is one useful lesson that is applicable from Iraq. The Great Awakening, the Sunni Awakening changed the dynamic in Iraq fundamentally. It could not have occurred unless there were some contacts and intermediaries to peel off those who are tribal leaders, regional leaders, Sunni nationalists, from a more radical Messianic brand of insurgency. Well whether there are those same opportunities in Afghanistan I think should be explored. I can't guarantee that they are and one of the problems that we had and we've historically had, the Russians historically had it, the British historically had it, is our intelligence there is poor and our understanding of the culture is poor. And our understanding of the tribal and clan ties that exist there are complicated. But the Afghans don't see things in the same black and white terms on many of these issues that we legitimately do because we're concerned about our safety and our security. But what we're going to have to do is to have folks on the ground who do develop that understanding, I was very impressed with McKernan, very impressed with a lot of the folks who are there. My impression is that those who have a chance to stay there a little bit longer and develop clear understanding of the formidable complexities are going to achieve a lot more than simply us rotating in folks on a rapid rotation and I think that people on the ground tend to agree with me on that.

I don't think that's entirely right, and I still don't agree with the emphasis on troops (there may be political reasons for that), but it's pretty good as far as it goes. I just wanted to give the full context.

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An Insane Person

Join Rudy 2012? You drop this 12 days before the election, Mr. Mayor? Like you didn't already ruin your reputation thoroughly?

Who in their right mind would give you another $50 million dollars you you could nab zero delegates again?

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CA Campaign Update: CA-03, CA-04, CA-46, Assembly & Senate

Here's some tidbits from the campaign trail with 12 days out:

• CA-03: Bill Durston and Dan Lungren debated last night, and it was a predictable affair, says Randy Bayne:

Nothing new, no fireworks, no knockout punch, no excitement of any kind was reported by either or the Stockton Record. Just what we already know — Durston wants us out of Iraq, doesn’t like No Child Left Behind, and thinks the bailout is the wrong solution. Lungren supports the occupation, favors No Child Left Behind, and voted for the bailout.

If you’re looking for change from eight years of down the toilet policy, and you don’t want to continue flushing our future down the crapper – vote for Bill Durston.

If the registration stats cited by anecdotal reports are at all accurate, we're going to be very close to registration parity in this seat by Election Day. Lungren may be acting positive in public, but inside the campaign they must be terrified. They probably didn't expect Durston to run a credible campaign.

• CA-04: Tom McClintock has caught a bit of trouble for relating gay people to dogs in a roundabout way.

"Lincoln asked, 'If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? The answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one,'" McClintock said in a statement. "And calling a homosexual partnership a marriage doesn’t make it one."

I'm pretty sure that means nothing at all, but California's Alan Keyes has had to distance himself from the comment. Meanwhile his much bigger problem is lacking the funds to run a proper campaign. He's now taken to relying on cheap robocalls, and Charlie Brown has immediately called on him to stop. Dirty trick robocalls that appeared to be coming from the Brown campaign were a major factor in John Doolittle's narrow re-election in 2006.

• CA-46: I didn't get a chance to post Debbie Cook's amazing closing statement at Tuesday's debate. Here it is.

The OC Register has a story on this race today. These "Challenger hopes to upset incumbent" stories have a familiar feel to them - the pose of surprise that the race is competitive, the quote from the shallow CW fountain like Allen Hoffenblum explaining why the incumbent is probably still safe, and the overall sense of shock, which would be natural if you weren't paying attention for the last 18 months, like, um, us.

• Assembly & Senate: Art Torres and Ron Nehring had a debate yesterday, and I think Torres needed to be prepped a little better. He claimed that Democrats could grab a 2/3 majority in the legislature but then couldn't come up with a simple list of what seats are in play. He should be reading more Calitics. Nehring replied with a lot of bunk and a little truth.

None of that adds up to 54 and 27, of course, and Nehring said Torres' boast "just doesn't pencil out."

He noted that Democratic efforts to oust Sen. Jeff Denham via recall failed miserably this year and the party ended up with no opponent to challenge Sen. Abel Maldonado in Santa Maria, a district believed to be winnable by a Democrat.

On the Assembly side, Nehring said, Republicans "have a great shot at holding on to" the 15th and "have a number of strategic advantages in the 78th (because) the Democrats have nominated the most liberal candidate (Marty Block) they possibly could."

In the 80th, the Democratic candidate (Manuel Perez) "is getting hammered on ... social issues which are important to many people in the Latino community," Nehring said.

"I don't know how can you be serious about trying to have a two-thirds vote in the Legislature," Nehring told Torres, "when you blow so many of these opportunities."

I'll go bottom to top on this. Manuel Perez is going to CRUSH Gary Jeandron, and if anyone's being hammered, it's the Republicans. The IE money is pretty one-sided in the state. Between that and the registration gains, it'll take more than just spin to dig your party out of its self-created hole, Mr. Nehring.

However, on one point I will agree with you. The Denham recall and Maldonado disaster have indeed stopped the potential forward momentum in the Senate. Of course, Torres couldn't say the plain truth - that Don Perata is among the worst leaders in recent Democratic Party history, and has completely set back the state in major ways by his blunders. He is an embarrassment.

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You Might Be Losing The Presidential Election If...'re a Republican and you're losing in Montana.

(I knew the Ron Paul factor - he's on the Presidential ballot here - would be huge, as big as Perot's presence in Montana in 1992. Perot got something close to 20% of the vote there, and Clinton ended up winning. This is a replay.)

...your own Senate campaign committee is running ads that assume you will lose.

...even Chuck Todd figures out that you and your running mate look very uncomfortable together.

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The Sadness Of Alan Greenspan

Today our ex-Master of the Universe had his "nobody could have anticipated" moment.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called today for imposing some of the same sorts of regulations on mortgage securities he resisted when he was in office, acknowledging that the current financial crisis had exposed "a flaw" in his view of how the world and markets function.

The absence of significant controls on how mortgages are repackaged into larger and more complex securities has been cited as a central cause of the current financial crisis.

In testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee, Greenspan said that as a result of the current situation the United States is heading for a "significant rise in layoffs and unemployment" and a continued downturn in home values as the world works through a crisis that is "broader than anything I could have imagined."

Greenspan, who called the current financial crisis a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami," said that he remained "in a state of shocked disbelief" that banks and investment firms did not do a better job of analyzing the risks involved with investing in home mortgages extended to less creditworthy borrowers.

Under questioning from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, Greenspan acknowledged that the failure of that expected self-regulation represented "a flaw in the model" he used to analyze economics. "I was going for 40 years or more on the perception that it was working well."

Here's that key moment.

Is he really this stupid? He predicated his entire economic philosophy on the premise that greedy people wouldn't act greedily? This free market fundamentalism might work in computer simulation, but in the business world you pretty much have people who want to get ridiculously rich as a matter of projecting power. Also, to suggest that Greenspan had just nothing to do with hyping adjustable rate mortgages and deregulation is absurd. This is his problem and he ought to be slow roasted for it.

If men were angels, no laws would be necessary, to borrow a phrase. But regulation exists for creeps like this:

CONVERSATION OF THE DAY....Between Rahul Dilip Shah and Shannon Mooney, a pair of analysts at the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, chatting via IM back in 2007:

RDS: btw: that deal is ridiculous

SM: I know right ... model def does not capture half of the risk

RDS: we should not be rating it

SM: we rate every deal

SM: it could be structured by cows and we would rate it

I actually don't think Greenspan is this dumb, he just wanted to let the party keep going until he retired or died so he wouldn't have to be pinned with the blame. Tough break, Alan.

Digby is great on this.

Being able to pass on all your risk to someone else while personally coming out on top is a pretty glaring and obvious flaw in the system unless you think that wealthy people are too wise and moral to ever do such a thing. The only people who believe that are Randians and Joe the Plumber. Everybody on Wall Street certainly seemed to know the score and acted accordingly [...]

Uncle Alan is in his 80s and he's just learned that his heroes aren't what he thought they were after all. No wonder he's in a state of "shocked disbelief." It's a wonder he didn't keel over.

I know people are focused on Hank Paulson and what a poor job he's doing, but focus some attention back on this Randian fool Alan Greenspan. He deserves to have his entire reputation destroyed.

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It Must Be Homes And Investment

We are in a world of hurt right now economically. Job losses are increasing, and I predict we'll go an entire calendar year without one month of gains. This will likely lead to more foreclosures in the year ahead, as restructuring and refinancing isn't going to help the unemployed. Consumer spending will plummet and the holiday shopping season is probably going to be bleak, though some disagree. Most unnerving is the looming crisis in credit card defaults, because that's really all that workers who can't take equity out of their home and whose wages are flat have left to keep up with rising costs.

The question is what we do about this. Perhaps this plan from the FDIC chair will help.

Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., told the same Senate panel that the government needs to do more to help tens of thousands of home borrowers avert foreclosure, including setting standards for modifying mortgages into more affordable loans and providing loan guarantees to banks and other mortgage services that meet them.

"Loan guarantees could be used as an incentive for servicers to modify loans," Bair said. "By doing so, unaffordable loans could be converted into loans that are sustainable over the long term."

The FDIC is working "closely and creatively" with the Treasury Department on such a plan, she said.

As I said, recently unemployed folks aren't going to be able to refinance. And the loans have been so securitized that you'd have to negotiate on multiple fronts just to cover every piece of the mortgage. But if they can make it work, this is very desirable. The cost to the greater economy of a foreclosure, both in upkeep and falling home prices in the immediate area et al, is close to $250,000. If there are likely to be a million foreclosures next year, you're talking about a number approaching that of the bailout package. We have to do something to get homes under control. Keeping people inside them, too, is both an economic and a moral imperative.

The other thing we must do is public investment, in infrastructure and job-creating engines. The neo-Hooverites in the media who are proscribing belt-tightening during a recession are writing up a recipe for disaster. Republican allies to such a "head in the sand" approach include Saxby Chambliss and Norm Coleman:

“I would be very cautious if a stimulus plan becomes another excuse to simply spending more dollars,” the Republican senator said in an interview after a campaign rally Tuesday in Bemidji.

These two need to be defeated. It's totally absurd to advocate for austerity budgeting at this time. It threatens a longer and deeper recession than we've ever seen in our lifetimes. The government has the ability to step in where private investment can't to provide stimulus that CREATES, whether it's jobs or infrastructure or a move to a green economy. Speaker Pelosi is talking about freezing Bush out of the measure and waiting for a new President, and she should. But immediately thereafter, we need a serious stimulus (more than she's willing to admit, actually).

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Prop. 8: Polling, Analysis, Obama

So the latest poll on Prop. 8 has come out from the PPIC, showing the No side still ahead, albeit with a narrower lead than the last time PPIC was in the field.

A majority of Californians still oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but the margin is narrowing so notably that the fate of Proposition 8 may hinge on the turnout for the presidential race.

A new poll released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Prop. 8 losing 52 to 44 percent among likely voters. That eight-point margin has narrowed from the 14-point spread that PPIC polls found in August and September. Just 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

"The vote on Proposition 8 could get closer between now and the election, because we know that Californians are evenly divided in general on whether they favor or oppose gay marriage," said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the PPIC.

There should be a Field Poll on this next week. But I think it'll confirm what we see here - a close race that either side can take. The polling guru Nate Silver of 538 waded into this today.

Both the PPIC and SurveyUSA polls have Barack Obama leading by large (20+ point) margins, so I'm not sure that opponents of the measure can count on some sort of turnout surge above and beyond what is already reflected in the polls. There are evidently fair numbers of Obama/'Yes on 8' tickets, especially among the state's black and Latino populations.

On the one hand, there have been suggestions that there is something of 'Bradley Effect' on polling on gay marriage bans, and that such measures tend to overperform their polls, although a more recent analysis refutes this suggestion.

On the other hand, because ballot measures are confusing, it is usually better to be on the 'No' side of them ... people tend to vote 'no' on things that they don't understand. In this case, that gives an advantage to the marriage equality folks. (It may even be the case that some voters vote 'no', thinking that they're voting no to gay marriage, when in fact the wording of the resolution is such that a 'no' vote protects gay marriage).

I'd peg the 'no' side as about a 55/45 favorite, but not more than that.

Sounds pretty accurate to me. So what can turn the tide in this race at this late date? Well, there are the human interest stories like this ex-mayor of Folsom coming out and opposing Prop. 8 in an emotional display. I think putting a face on whose rights would be eliminated can be powerful. There is also value in putting a spotlight on the extremism and basic indecency coming from the Yes side.

Standing there as the “Yes on 8” rally outside Oakland’s Foothill Missionary Baptist Church began to wind down today, I noticed a gentleman in the crowd approach an elderly woman who was holding a “Gay marriage = legal perversion” sign. I eavesdropped – hey, that’s my job – as he told her he agreed with her sign completely, but he urged her to ditch it and just use a “Yes on 8” sign instead because her homemade sign’s sentiment might turn off some voters.

They're trying to hide their wingnuts, but they're pretty ubiquitous. And this story seems to me to be a good one to push, considering that one of the key arguments of the Yes side concerns classroom indoctrination.

A Salinas High School teacher who distributed “Yes on Proposition 8” literature to her students last week has been asked to refrain from doing so by administrators [...]

The literature that was passed out to students says it is important to protect marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.

The one-page statement also says it is critical to vote yes on Proposition 8, saying its failure would eventually force the state to approve “polygamy, polymory, incest, group and other ‘creative’ arrangements for marriage.”

Think of the children!

But a more controversial idea, expressed by Andrew Sullivan, is that Barack Obama should get involved in this race. Obama has already expressed his opposition to Prop. 8, but Sullivan argues that he should do more.

As expected, one reason Proposition 8, stripping gay couples of marriage equality, is still viable in California is because of strong African-American support. Black Californians back the anti-gay measure by a margin of 20 points, 58 - 38, in the SUSA poll. No other ethnic group comes close to the level of opposition and black turnout is likely to be very high next month.

All this makes it vital, in my opinion, that Barack Obama strongly and unequivocally oppose Proposition 8 in California, rather than keeping mainly quiet as he has done so far. We need him to make an ad opposing it. This is a core test of whether gay Americans should back Obama as enthusiastically as they have in the last month. If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama's governing coalition. It could tear it apart.

I think Sen. Obama is focused on winning a different election right now. Still, even a small measure, like sending out a fundraising appeal to his California list, could speak volumes. And as he's already on the record, it's not like the McCain campaign couldn't already point to the issue if they so chose.

What do you think?

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Total Sleaze - Not Just For John McCain Anymore!

I've been focused on the ugliness of the McCain campaign and their attack ads, mailers and robocalls. But I don't want to discount the efforts of any of his GOP allies.

Like Rep. Tom Feeney, who claims that his opponent Suzanne Kosmas basically let Mohammed Atta into the country in his latest ad ("She wanted driver's licenses for illegals and terrorists.")

Or Rep. Scott Garrett, who connects his opponent, Dennis Shulman, to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Please note: Shulman is a RABBI.

Or Sen. Elizabeth Dole, whose latest mailer claims that her opponent Kay Hagan will force the Boy Scouts to go all gay.

I don't think there isn't a place for contrast advertising. Here's a very tough one - and a good one - from Judy Baker:

The difference is that Baker's ad connects her opponent to the very real consequences of his policies, whereas these other mailers simply use fear to distract and divide - fear of terrorists, fear of Muslims, fear of homosexuals.

I guess that when you're bracing for a blowout, fear is all you've got left.

Voter displeasure with the war and economy, coupled with Sen. Barack Obama's popularity, has the House GOP running for cover. Even though polls have shown that Americans don't like congressional Democrats any more, a new internal GOP tally of House races suggests a Democratic rout that could keep the Republicans in the minority for decades. A document provided to Washington Whispers from a House GOP official shows that they could lose a net 34 seats. That means the Democrats would have a 270-165 advantage in the 111th Congress. In the Senate, Republicans expect to lose also but to keep up to 44 seats, ensuring their ability to stage a filibuster.

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The Joe The Plumber Tour

It's just like the Jackson Victory tour, only with less victory and no black people.

Central Florida is getting ready for another visit from Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

McCain is set to take part in a "Joe The Plumber" tour rally Thursday.

I'm looking forward to Joe the Plumber on Ice featuring Dorothy Hammill.

I think Hollywood studios would turn down the Joe the Plumber script because it was too unbelievable and profoundly uninteresting.

And Atrios is right, this is about a black guy stealing money from a hardworking white guy.

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Arnold Embarrasses Himself Trying To Shield His Party And His Presidential Nominees

The Presidential campaign on the Republican side has really become ridiculous, with nonsense talk of "socialism" (I guess that's what the kids are calling the progressive tax system nowadays). Here, Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to defend it by playing the "I was born in socialist Europe" card (expect this to be part of his campaign address for John McCain in Ohio next week):

• Schwarzenegger seemed to embrace language that Republican John McCain has been using in his latest attacks against Democrat Barack Obama related to "redistribution of wealth."

"I left Europe because of the socialistic kind of environment and the way countries were run and the way government was on your back and therefore stifled the opportunities in Europe and that's why I came to America," he said. "So I hope -- and that's why I've been always involved in campaigning for political leaders that I believe in, because I wanted to do everything that I can to make sure that America doesn't go back to those days of 40 years ago when I left Europe, that we go back to that system of redistribution of wealth that some people are talking about. There is no redistribution of wealth."

"Redistribution of wealth," apparently, is raising the top tax rate from 36% to 39%. Ooh! Why don't you just give everybody borscht as well? (By the way, hasn't Arnold called for new taxes to fill the budget gap? Um, Arnold, isn't that, er, redistributing wealth?)

But that's not half as embarrassing as this exchange with CNN's Campbell Brown:

BROWN: Do you think she's qualified to be president?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that she will get to be qualified.

BROWN: She will get there? What do you mean? She's not ready yet?

SCHWARZENEGGER: By the time that she is sworn in I think she will be ready.

OK, today is October 23. Inauguration Day is January 20. Exactly what is going to happen over three months that would suddenly make Sarah Palin qualified for the office of the Presidency?

The answer, of course, is nothing. But Arnold is a loyal Republican soldier and a "Free To Choose" economic royalist, so he can't see that. What a fraud.

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They Don't Want You To Vote

Josh Marshall found this gem from a news item about the early voting sites in the heavily African-American Lake County in Indiana:

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — A judge weighing whether to close down early voting sites in Lake County’s Democratic strongholds questioned local officials about the absentee voting process during visits to the disputed sites.

Lake County Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider toured the Gary, Hammond and East Chicago satellite voting sites Monday and heard hours of testimony and arguments on whether they are legal and fair.

Republicans want to shut down the centers in the largely Democratic county on the grounds that they will increase the likelihood of vote fraud in the Nov. 4 election.

Kavadias-Schneider, who was appointed a special judge in the case by the Indiana Supreme Court, questioned county elections board director Sally LaSota on Monday about the process of early voting and safeguards against vote fraud.

LaSota assured the judge that the elections board staff ensures voters are registered and don’t vote more than once.
When Kavadias-Schneider asked, “What of those who have already voted?” R. Lawrence Steele, a GOP lawyer, replied, “Maybe those votes should be discarded.”

And well, there you have it. For decades this has essentially been the Republican strategy, since they can't run the country the way they'd like with all these pesky voters running around. From 1980 when Paul Weyrich famously said "I don't want everybody to vote...our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up, as the voting populace goes down, right up until today.

So this is, ultimately, why the right is making ACORN famous, calling for defunding and investigations and the like. It's to cover their real agenda of trying to disenfranchise voters. It's been the GOP ground game for a long time. And every time you think you've got it tamped down, it rises up somewhere else. Particularly slippery this year has been the "lose your house, lose your vote" effort to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters. Even after it was revealed and part of a lawsuit in Michigan, where the GOP was forced to surrender its effort, it has popped back up around the country. This is in Volusia County, Florida:

Thanks to a new law passed by the Florida Legislature, she explained, groups interested in challenging voters now may do so up to 30 days before an election.

Once a voter's right to cast a ballot is challenged, McFall's office must attempt to notify the voter, and must flag the voter's name in the statewide database.

If the problem can't be straightened out at the supervisor's office before Election Day, the challenged voter will be required to vote a provisional ballot, then visit the Elections Office within 48 hours after the election to disprove the allegations of the challenge.

"One party, that we know of, is going to challenge every voter that's being foreclosed on," McFall said.

Foreclosure-related caging is just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, they don't want you to vote.

Brave New Films created this great piece that everybody should take a look at. We have to recognize this pattern when we see it.

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