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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Appropriating Wanker Of The Day

Appropriating Wanker of the Day

by dday

I hope Atrios doesn't mind, but this qualifies for serious wanker status:

After declaring he’d return to Washington to help with the bailout negotiations immediately after last night’s debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) never went to Capitol Hill today. In fact, McCain stayed largely holed up in his Arlington apartment, leaving only to go to his campaign headquarters just around the block, the New York Times reports:

Asked why Mr. McCain did not go to Capitol Hill after coming back to Washington to help with negotiations, [McCain adviser] Mr. Salter replied that “he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone."

So this diva gets the cameras assembled on Wednesday and gravely intones that he has to jet to Washington to save the economy. By Thursday he's blown up the negotiations, by Friday he's unsuspended the suspension, and she he shoots back to Washington to continue the swashbuckling, which consists of cleaning out the refrigerator and puttering around the house.

And then there's that coup de grace comment by Mark Salter, that "he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone." Um, then why couldn't he have done that on, you know, Wednesday?

I wonder what exciting reality stunts The John McCain Show will have in store for us next week?

UPDATE: I think we have our answer!

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18 . . .

. . . McCain is expected to have a front-row seat at Bristol’s wedding and to benefit from the outpouring of goodwill that it could bring. “What’s the downside?” a source inside the McCain campaign said. “It would be wonderful. I don’t know that there has ever been a pre-election wedding before.”

As usual in the McCain campaign, a good idea is described as an idea that's never been tried before.

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Measurable Lead

It looks like The John McCain Show's reality stunts (I think next week he's going to eat a live scorpion, but will it be enough to win him immunity?) doesn't seem to be playing well with voters. The financial crisis and the final verdict on eight years of failed policies probably had something to do with it as well.

Today at my local phone bank we started calling voters in North Carolina, which is interesting in and of itself. California's role in the Obama campaign had been confined to this point to calling into Nevada, but they switched it this week. And we weren't calling into the Research Triangle, either, but rural areas in the center of the state. And I would say the reception was pretty strong.

Obama's work in the debate is starting to form into a consensus victory, and McCain's antics are repelling people.

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Today In The Greatest Transfer Of Wealth In World History

I guess the House and Senate are still negotiating over the bailout.

Some on the left are thanking their lucky stars for the nutjob House Republicans for torpedoing this deal. As their deal reflects the worst of their ideology, it's certainly something for challengers to run on. The House GOP actually wants more deregulation at a time when it's becoming perfectly clear that deregulation destroyed this economy. Furthermore, putting the brakes on this thing rather than hammering it through is positive.

I see both sides of this. I do see the virtue in getting something done. Put me pretty close to Krugman, although not as far along as Steven Pearlstein (suck it up, you idiots, and give Wall Street unlimited money!). But I'm also seeing the widsom of someone like Dean Baker:

This leaves the question of whether the Democrats can responsibly walk away from the bailout. This involves a tough call. The financial system was really shaken by the events of last week when Lehman Brothers went under and AIG was about to follow suit. However, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson were able to duct tape things together with the cooperation of the other major central banks.

The financial markets remain extremely unsettled and more bad news is a virtual certainty, but Bernanke and Paulson have lots of duct tape at their disposal. The sort of financial breakdown that we all fear remains a possibility, but my bet is that they will be able to deal with whatever crises develop.

Of course it would be better to have a more settled financial market, but this should not come at any cost. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this package will fix the problem. As many economists have noted, the more obvious way to address the current situation is to directly inject capital into the banking system, something this proposal does not do.

There is one other point worth considering in assessing the responsibility of a walk-away strategy. Suppose the Paulson plan goes through. It is virtually certain that the economy will weaken further and the number of foreclosures and people without jobs will continue to rise.

This is the fallout from a collapsing housing bubble. Families that have seen most of their home equity disappear will feel the need to cut back their consumption and increase their savings. We have a huge cohort of baby boomers at the edge of retirement, most of whom who have accumulated almost no wealth during their working lifetime. When these families respond to their loss of home equity by cutting back their consumption it will deepen the recession.

I agree with Richard Shelby and those 200 economists he keeps talking about that a bad bailout bill would be worse than no bill at all. In addition, as I suspected, the liquidity "crisis" is being exacerbated by the full knowledge of the lending institutions that a bailout deal is imminent which will offer them a better chance to make money.

So I go back and forth on it. Ultimately, no deal should be able to last through Inauguration Day. The people have to weigh in on this and decide what vision of the world they would rather have: a Republican free-market fundamentalism with socialism for the rich when they fail on their big bets, or an economy that respects the middle class and understands that its rise is linked to overall prosperity.

Walk away from the table and put a band-aid on it, guys.

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The Surrogate Deficit

Joe Biden was all over the teevee last night backing up his running mate, and he was quite good. Sarah Palin was nowhere to be found, showing up for a quick photo-op at the Irish Pub in Philly (good bar) and declining all interviews. Given the interviews we've seen from her, you can imagine why. But also she probably didn't want to talk about any of the new information revealed about her, from the witchcraft pastor to her corruption problems, which I'm going to call the Alaskan tip:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has made a crackdown on gift-giving to state officials a centerpiece of her ethics reform agenda, has accepted gifts valued at $25,367 from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in the state, a review of state records shows.

The 41 gifts Palin accepted during her 20 months as governor include honorific tributes, expensive artwork and free travel for a family member. They also include more than $2,500 in personal items from Calista, a large Alaska native corporation with a variety of pending state regulatory and budgetary issues, and a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200 from the city of Nome, which lobbies on municipal, local and capital budget matters, documents show.

About a quarter of the entities bestowing gifts on the governor are represented by one of Alaska's most influential mining lobbyists, who said in an interview that she was not involved in the tributes. The lobbyist, Wendy Chamberlain, has a relationship with the governor's family through the friendship of their teenage daughters.

The McCain campaign is so desperate to keep Palin under wraps that they lose what is supposed to be the key function of a Vice Presidential nominee: advocating for the top of the ticket. This thing just screams mistake now.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Pundits

Chris Matthews just said, basically, that McCain's obvious contempt for Obama may be offensive to voters. The pundits are highlighting Obama's tendency to say "John is right."

There's a likability factor that might loom large here, though I agree the "John is right" stuff has to go.

The big X factor post-debate is the fact that Kissinger, indeed, did back direct talks with Iran "without conditions."

...Jamison Foser with a very good post about how saying "I agree with my opponent, but..." is a completely normal political construction.

KO is emphasizing that McCain admitted that this country has tortured under Bush. That's somewhat notable. I think the Kissinger moment is pretty telling. He out-and-out lied about that.

...this is kind of important. Throughout the 2000 debates, the big focus was on Gore's sighs. McCain sneered, chuckled, and was really pretty belligerent while Obama was talking. The media has a choice to make whether to focus on that, or focus on this "I agree with John" business.

...The polls seem to favor Obama, and I think the pundits are deciding to go with that since they didn't have a clear picture. I'm seeing Pat Buchanan kind of change his view within an hour or so. If McCain comes out of this as "the mean guy" that's going to be tough for him. I expect the SNL parody to focus on this, and the bobbleheads tend to follow their lead, crazily enough.

...if this gets played a million times Obama will be seen as the winner. A very strong moment.

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Debate Thread

OK, so I'll provide a little running commentary on the debate. I think these things ultimately end up being not as important as everyone assumes, but because McCain's epic FAIL stunt of suspending the campaign crashed and burned so badly, this will be a chance to wipe that out and reset the narrative. So this one may be more important than others. Plus, Obama is in the Reagan position of proving himself on the national stage, even though I think that's a stupid construction.

And away we go...'s broadcasting in HD, which is going to make McCain look far worse than normal...

Obama gets the first question, about the financial crisis. Obama now tries to do George Bush's job for him. He's talking directly to the camera, which was a issue in the other debates. "This is a final verdict on 8 years of failed economic policies supported by George Bush and Senator McCain." Plays the "fundamentals of the economy" line against McCain.

McCain bizarrely begins name-checking Ted Kennedy. His answer is about bipartisanship. He hasn't responded to Obama's very serious charge about the root causes of this crisis. Obama did very well in that exchange.

Obama is going right back to "how did we get here." I'll tell you, he's on his game right now. "That has to do with a philosophy that says that regulation is always bad." McCain says "I warned about it too!!!" Now he's off about some unrelated antidote about Eisenhower, who he might think that he's running against. McCain's first lie of the night is when he says that he called for the resignation of the head of the SEC. He actually said that he'd fire him, which isn't within the duties of a President.

Obama: We need accountability, but not just in a crisis. This is weird. Obama's making an argument and McCain isn't.

OK, next question. Lehrer's now asking for differences between the two candidates. Begging really. This is the oddest debate I've ever seen. McCain is running against the Republican Party. He's giving stump speech lines, and they aren't working (that DNA bears line didn't go over). Claims that Obama has offered $900 million in earmarks.

Wow, thank you Obama for delegitimizing the ridiculous earmark emphasis. The earmark budget compared to McCain's tax budget is ridiculous. Going into his tax plans now. And now McCain harping on these earmarks looks kind of ridiculous when the numbers are put out there. $18 billion on earmarks versus $300 billion on tax cuts for the rich.

It almost seems like McCain doesn't understand the format of the debate. McCain is now talking about the corporate tax rate, which is a neat trick that elides the amount of money that corporations actually pay, which in the US was next to nothing over the last decade.

McCain mentions his health care refundable tax credit without mentioning that he would raise taxes for everyone by taxing health benefits as income.

Obama just said what I said about corporate tax rates AND health care taxes. He's on FIRE right now.

McCain's trying to call Obama a flip-flopper. Obama's having none of it. McCain is right to mention the energy bill, actually. But given all the other wins here, I think Obama's ahead on points.

Lehrer now asking what each candidate would have to give up because of the financial bailout. Obama is saying he can't do everything that needs to be done, but there are some things that have to be done. Mentions energy independence, health care, infrastructure and education. This has become a domestic policy debate for the first half-hour and McCain can't be happy about that.

McCain says we have to get rid of ethanol subsidies and end cost-plus defense contracting. And that defense spending is the highest part of the budget. That's all good. But then he mentions the Boeing contract, which effectively ends his ability to compete in Washington state.

Lehrer now butting in and trying to get the candidates to tell the American people to renege their policies. McCain just stepped in it, calling for a spending freeze on EVERYTHING but defense, veterans affairs and entitlements. Obama calls it "working with a hatchet and not a scalpel." That is an AWFUL, AWFUL answer.

McCain is the first to mention Sen. Clinton. Lehrer asking the exact same question a third time. Obama has given this answer already. He's patiently explaining it to Lehrer again. "We've got to know what our values are, and who we're fighting for." A budget is a moral document. Good work there by Obama. McCain responds "socialized medicine!!!" when health care was brought up 20 minutes earlier.

Obama NAILS McCain, lashes him to Bush's borrow-and-spend policies. Now McCain is running against Bush, too. This is an absolutely bizarre debate. By the way, McCain, you can't call yourself a maverick.

...we're on to Iraq, and McCain is spinning the Iraq myth yarn. Let's see if Obama gives Digby's answer (probably not). Obama goes back to whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place. And says that we never finished the job in Afghanistan. "McCain and Bush had a very different judgment, and for the good of the country I wish they had been right." Goes through the entire litany, the dead and wounded, the lost lives and treasure. There's that "Iraq has a surplus" talking point, which I hate (How dare they not pay to fix what we blew up!), but in general that's a good answer.

McCain tries to look to the future, and then goes right back to the past pre-surge. (head tilted like a dog)

Obama: John, you like to act like the war started in 2007! Then tells McCain how many things he was wrong about, how many things all neocons were wrong about, on this war. That was good stuff. McCain responds by telling a story. Eye roll.

McCain smears Obama on the troop funding issue. Obama goes right back at him. And invokes the Afghanistan/Iraq dichotomy.

Obama needs a better line than muttering "that's not true" when McCain lies about him.

New question on Afghanistan. Obama wants more troops. Ties Afghanistan to Iraq in terms of the troop strength being limited. Having these troops in Iraq is "a strategic mistake." I don't think anyone can deny that Obama is being pretty assertive in this debate. Obama's at least giving a comprehensive answer here (infrastructure, the drug trade, Pakistan) instead of saying "We need more troops and then, you know, something."

McCain gives the puzzling answer that Obama was wrong to talk about strikes inside Pakistan out loud; we might have to enact those strikes, but you shouldn't say so. That's weird. The rest of McCain's answer was basically what Obama said.

Good answer by Obama on Pakistan and how we had a Musharraf policy and we coddled the dictator. McCain says that his vote against sending Marines to Lebanon means that he's allowed to sing about bombing Iran.

...McCain loves these stories, doesn't he? I don't have the sense of things, but maybe they work. He is rambling now, I know that.

Obama says "I have a bracelet too!" Obama brings up the "muddle through" comment that McCain made about Afghanistan. McCain's response is "b-but he hasn't visited Afghanistan a lot!" Um, your VP pick didn't have a passport until last year.

This part is unappealing to me. Because it's two people talking past each other.

...Now, it's two minutes for McCain to fearmonger about Iran. He immediately and irresponsibly brings up a Second Holocaust, and then talks about this nonsense "League of Democracies." Does that League include Spain, the country whose leader you refuse to meet with? He fearmongers on Iran and Russia in the same answer! Yay!

Obama's response. The single thing that has strengthened Iran is the war in Iraq. Iran's influence has grown in Iraq. Good way to spin this. Obama feels the need to talk tough about Iran for political reasons, but he is talking about engaging in tough direct diplomacy.

...The "Ahmamadadadadinnerdijajajajad" moment was pretty amusing. This whole idea that sitting across the table with enemies legitimizes them is just kind of ridiculous. Obama correctly says that Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran, which probably will get lost in the crowd or be considered a "gaffe" because it's absolutely accurate. Brings up the fact that Kissinger, McCain's own adviser, has called for talks with Iran.

Obama brought up the Spain gaffe. McCain is sure fond of saying "What Senator Obama doesn't understand..." and he lied about Kissinger.

Obama's good at telling McCain that he's wrong and he knows it. That's a pretty good frame. McCain thinks he's got Obama on the run or something. He's yipping and getting real animated.

Here's a two-minute question on Russia. Obama's answer is measured by kind of wandering. McCain again says that Obama doesn't understand the issue. This is his message for the night.

Somehow this got on to energy, where Obama says "we can't drill our way out of the problem." Hammers him on McCain's record voting against alternative energy for 26 years. McCain now talking about "Nunn-Lugar" as if anyone knows what he's talking about. Obama was going to put in a bit about Yucca Mountain there but McCain filibustered.

The last question is pretty broad, about 9-11. McCain lies about torture, and walks the "safer but not yet safe" tightrope. Obama says we're safer in some ways. But we still have a long way to go. That's pretty similar. Obama takes it back to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then makes a good line about how the way we are perceived in the world is just as important as any military and intelligence action. Ugh, Obama gave McCain credit on the torture issue. TORTURE!!! McCain's lying about it. He voted against an intelligence bill that would ban torture practices in the CIA.

Obama started this debate pushing McCain around. McCain ended it pushing Obama around. I think Obama eked it out, but he ended badly.

McCain tries to connect Obama to Bush (!), and he continues to say that Obama doesn't have the experience to lead. Obama's closing statement is about how our standing in the world has been diminished (by WHO, Barack?). McCain couldn't let it end without a POW line. He seems pretty sensitive about being attacked on veteran's issues.

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Follow Along

If you want to know where Sen. Obama is going to attack on foreign policy tonight, outside of reading Joe Biden's speech from earlier this week you can check out this strategy document from the campaign.

TO: Interested Parties

FR: The Obama Campaign
RE: Obama's Good Judgment Proven Right; McCain's Bad Judgment Proven Wrong
DA: September 26, 2008

On the biggest foreign policy questions of the last 8 years, Barack Obama has made the right judgment, and John McCain sided with George Bush in making the wrong one. Those Bush-McCain judgments have been a disaster for our security and standing, leading to the most catastrophic foreign policy record in generations. As time has proven Obama right and McCain wrong, events have repeatedly forced the Bush Administration in the direction of Obama. In some cases, McCain has shifted his positions; in others, he has stubbornly clung to his failed policies. So in John McCain, the American people will get four more years of the worst parts of the Bush foreign policy. With Barack Obama, we will get change, and judgment we can trust.


Judgment: In 2002, Obama opposed going to war in Iraq. He warned of an "occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences." McCain was George Bush's biggest cheerleader for war, and said we'd be "greeted as liberators." Now, we've spent over five years, lost over 4,000 lives, and spent nearly a trillion dollars fighting a war against a country that had no WMD, and nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Obama was right about Iraq. McCain was wrong.

Plans: Obama has consistently called for a timetable to responsibly remove our combat brigades from Iraq, and to succeed by transitioning control to the sovereign Iraqi government. McCain called any timetable "surrender." The Iraqi Prime Minister then endorsed Obama's timetable, forcing the Bush Administration to agree to a "time horizon," and leaving McCain alone in his stubborn refusal to end this war. Obama has a plan to succeed in Iraq and to end the war. McCain has a plan for staying.


Judgment: For years, Obama has called for a focus on Afghanistan, which is the central front in the war on terror. McCain said we could "muddle through" in Afghanistan, and said in 2005 that we'd "already succeeded" in Afghanistan. Now, seven years after 9/11, Afghanistan is sliding into deeper violence and chaos. Obama was right about Afghanistan. McCain was wrong.

Plans: Obama called over a year ago for at least 2 combat brigades, more training for Afghan security forces, and increased non-military assistance. McCain followed Obama's call for more troops by a year, but couldn't say how many troops or how we could get them without ending the war in Iraq. The Bush Administration – responding to military commanders – announced a modest plan to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan that doesn't go far enough. Obama has led on Afghanistan with a plan to win. McCain has followed and has no plan to win.

Osama bin Laden / al Qaeda

Judgment: Obama said in 2002 that we should "finish the fight with bin Laden" instead of shifting our focus to Iraq. McCain said in 2002 that catching bin Laden was not that important. Now, bin Laden is still on the loose. Obama was right about bin Laden, McCain was wrong.

Plans: After al Qaeda established a safe-haven on the Afghan-Pakistani border, Obama said last August that we should take out high level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have actionable intelligence about their whereabouts, and Pakistan cannot or will not act. McCain called that position "naïve." Now, as al Qaeda has built up its sanctuary and launched more attacks, the Bush Administration has been forced by events to embrace the Obama position. McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to take out bin Laden if he is in Pakistan. Obama will take out bin Laden if we have him in our sights, McCain won't.


Judgment: Obama has consistently said that we must use all tools of American power – including tough, direct American diplomacy – to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. McCain supported the Bush policy of not talking to Iran, and saber rattling in Washington. Now, after 8 years of Bush-McCain policy, Iran has advanced its nuclear program, increased its influence in the region, continued its support for terror, elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President, and Israel is more endangered. Obama was right about Iran, McCain was wrong.

Plans: Obama's call for pressure on Iran through direct diplomacy without preconditions has been endorsed by five Secretaries of State – including Republicans Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker. Even the Bush Administration relented, and sent a high-ranking diplomat to participate in direct talks with Iran and our European allies. McCain stands alone in unconditionally ruling out diplomacy. Obama will use the strength of American diplomacy to pressure Iran, McCain offers no alternative to more of the same or a war with Iran.


Judgment: Obama called for a solution to the crises in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and said last spring that we need intensive international engagement to preserve Georgia's territorial integrity. McCain has belligerently called for Russia's expulsion from the G-8, breaking with our European allies, and antagonizing Russia. Obama was right, McCain was wrong.

Plans: Both Obama and McCain called from the outset of the conflict in Georgia for Georgia's territorial integrity to be respected. Obama and Joe Biden proposed $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for the people of Georgia, and McCain offered belligerent rhetoric. The Bush Administration has embraced the Obama-Biden proposal. Obama has a plan to stand with Georgia. McCain has empty tough talk and dangerous saber rattling.

Alliances and NATO

Judgment: Obama supports strong alliances to advance American interest, including a greater NATO contribution to Afghanistan. McCain has marched in lockstep with the Bush rhetoric, with the kind of cowboy bluster that has shredded our alliances and alienated us in the world. In the run-up to the Iraq War, he called key European allies "vacuous and posturing" even as they had troops serving alongside us in Afghanistan. Obama is respected around the world, McCain's approach has squandered our standing.

Plans: Obama will meet with our NATO ally Spain, which currently has troops serving in Afghanistan. Secretary Rice has described our relations with the Zapatero government as "warm." McCain refuses to meet with the Prime Minster of Spain. Obama will restore relations with our allies and seek greater contributions to the mission in Afghanistan. McCain won't even meet with a NATO ally.

I'll be semi-liveblogging tonight.

UPDATE: I didn't recognize that there will be a shockingly long back-and-forth section in this debate. While not an actual "debate," there are a lot more variables in this format. Should be interesting...

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Mad Men

I'm watching this maniac Chris Matthews and his courtiers trying to analyze this upcoming debate, and the consensus seems to be that the winner will be whoever has that "zinger" moment (it's really come to who has the best stand-up writers), and Obama has to act like a regular guy instead of giving these complicated answers that reflect the complex nature of the world. Because he can't be seen as too good or too smart, which would be seen as "elite" and "cool". You know, like Chris Matthews.

I'm not sure I disagree totally with this analysis, but it does reinforce my belief that 1) America has the stupidest system for choosing a President as any in the industrialized world, so mind-bogglingly inane that picking a name from the phone book would be more rigorous; and 2) these so-called pundits should be forced to gag themselves inside the 30-day election window for the good of the country.

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Teddy To The Hospital

Once again I hope it's nothing. I don't think I'm overstating things by saying that this hash in the Congress with the bailout bill would have been accomplished earlier and better with the liberal lion in there.

...MSNBC sez not serious.



Here's a Slogan: Less Shooting Wars

As we wait for tonight's debate, I imagine those tuning in will be a little confused about the foreign policy focus. Jim Lehrer will probably ask about the bailout and the economy to a certain extent, but foreign policy was the agreed topic. So foreign policy we will see. I wrote about the key issues a couple days ago, but we can add the terrifying prospect of a third shooting war in the Pakistani frontier.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 25 -- Pakistani troops and a U.S.-Afghan ground patrol exchanged fire Thursday near a frontier checkpoint, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, in a new heightening of armed tension between allies in the war against Taliban insurgents [...]

The United States has been urging Pakistan to move forcefully against Taliban havens in its mountainous border regions, complaining that guerrillas cross into Afghanistan to stage attacks. At the same time, U.S. forces have stepped up their own attacks on suspected hideouts in the restive tribal region of Waziristan, mostly using Predator drones; this month, helicopter-borne commandos went in for a ground strike.

This has led to deep anger in Pakistan's ruling circles. Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on Wednesday told journalists that Pakistan would not tolerate any act against its sovereignty and integrity in the name of the war against terrorism. Earlier, an army spokesman said any U.S. troops crossing into Pakistan would be fired on.

This results from the failure to have any kind of agreed policy with the Pakistanis, and the continued failure of policy in Afghanistan, which is as unlikely to bear fruit as all the other Western power grabs which failed in the Kush.

The National Security Network has a good primer on the global challenges. But it's very simple. George Bush and the neocons have been wrong about virtually every foreign policy issue, catastrophically wrong, of the past 50 years. The correct response is to make that argument and advocate for a completely new direction, one that gets us in less shooting wars and making us a more secure nation, and by the way those goals go hand in hand.

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Friday Random Ten

Waiting for the debate.

Revu Rockers - Panoptica
Pink Eye (On My Leg) - Ween
I'm Only Sleeping - The Vines
Jaded - The Crystal Method
Sci-Fi Wasabi - Cibo Matto
Labor Day (It's A Holiday) - Black Eyed Peas
Mighty "O" - Outkast
This Is A Blow - Blur
You're The One For Me, Fatty - Morrissey
Gang Of $ - Shudder To Think

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Roy Blunt Throws McCain Under The Bus

Chaos in the Republican Party.

REP. ROY BLUNT: Clearly, yesterday, his position on that discussion yesterday was one that stopped a deal from finalizing.

The Obama campaign's response:

"Congressman Blunt just confirmed what's been clear since John McCain rode into Washington at the eleventh hour – Senator McCain's political theatrics succeeded only in stopping a bipartisan deal. During the most serious economic crisis of our time, we don't need erratic posturing, we need steady leadership to protect American taxpayers and put our economy back on track," said Obama-Biden spokesman Bill Burton.

The guy is a drama queen. It's all about him.

What an embarrassment.

...Just to add, Republicans certainly want to reconstitute their party, but I don't think they want to do it with John McCain at the helm. We're starting to see rumblings from conservatives feeling uneasy about Sarah Palin and even calling for her to be dropped from the ticket. In many ways they'd be thrilled with McCain voting the other way on this. Republicans are BETTER in the opposition, and it would be a cleaner way for them to reconstitute themselves.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger Wants The US Economy To Fail

That's the only explanation I have for him vetoing AB1830:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a proposal today that would have imposed tougher restrictions on mortgage brokers, such as banning them from issuing exotic loans to subprime borrowers that cause balances to grow rather than shrink over time [...]

The bill by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would have banned subprime borrowers from obtaining "negative amortization" loans, agreements that offer low initial payments but increase the principal balance over time, boosting interest costs and making them difficult to pay off.

AB 1830 also would have specified that mortgage brokers owe a "fiduciary duty" to borrowers. It would have prohibited brokers from steering borrowers toward higher risk loans than they would qualify for based on their income and credit. And it would have capped prepayment penalties for borrowers who want to refinance their loans to seek better terms.

Schwarzenegger, in his veto message, said the bill had laudable goals but that it "overreaches and may have unintended consequences."

Overreaches into the profits of his mortgage lending industry buddies, that is. Schwarzenegger's concerns about putting state mortgage brokers at a "competitive disadvantage" compared to their unregulated federal counterparts is easily managed (like forcing anyone who does business in the state to work under one standard) and just a pathetic excuse.

We are in crisis mode on Wall Street right now because mortgage lenders, pressured by investment banks and securities markets, abused the process and came up with all sorts of exotic schemes to get borrowers into homes. This bill would have curbed the worst practices of the industry. The Governor would rather they continue. He would rather mortgage lenders rip off their customers. He would rather the economy sink into a deep recession.

One unexamined aspect of the Governor's character is how much of a mindless puppet he is for Chamber of Commerce interests. Let this be another example.

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The System Works

Washington Mutual failed yesterday. The government took it over and sold off some assets to JP Morgan Chase. Not one customer account will be affected, and not one dime of taxpayer money has been used in the rescue.

This is how the system is supposed to work. WaMu made a lot of crap loans and paid the price. Chase's purchase means that the FDIC funds weren't even depleted. I know that a lot of people think we must do something right now but it has to be the right thing. Panic is unnecessary, particularly if it translates into throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at the same people who caused the problem.

I guess Bush is trying to salvage the deal, so Lord help us. The House Republican proposal is batshit insane and should be rejected entirely. The end result of this at this point ought to be a small amount offered to bridge us through Inauguration Day, when the next President can come in and start over. Republicans want the economy to fail, and they shouldn't be allowed to dictate the debate.

UPDATE: This is the best analysis I've seen, and no surprise, as it's from Krugman:

First of all, we have the Republican Study Committee blowing things up with a complete nonsense proposal — solving the crisis with a holiday on capital gains taxes. How is that possible? Well, if a party runs on economic nonsense for 25 years, eventually many of its foot soldiers will be people who actually believe the nonsense.

More specifically, though, the failure to get a deal reflects the betrayals of the Bush years. Democrats weren’t going to trust Henry Paulson, because behind him they see the ghost of Colin Powell (and Paulson’s “all your bailout are belong to me” proposal, aside from being bad economics, showed an incredible tone-deafness.)

And after the way the Bushies and their allies double-crossed the Democrats again and again in the aftermath of 9/11 — demand national unity, then accuse you of being soft on terrorists anyway — there’s no way Pelosi and Reed will do the responsible but unpopular thing unless the Republicans agree to share ownership.

So what we now have is non-functional government in the face of a major crisis, because Congress includes a quorum of crazies and nobody trusts the White House an inch.

As a friend said last night, we’ve become a banana republic with nukes.

All the more reason you want to send it to the voters for a mandate. Republicans would rather see a Great Depression than end their worship of free-market ideology. They're nuts. Let the voters decide.

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Worst. Campaign Suspension. Ever.

So McCain's going to the debate and "restarting" the campaign, which was never stopped in the first place. Here's his laughable statement:

John McCain's decision to suspend his campaign was made in the hopes that politics could be set aside to address our economic crisis. In response, Americans saw a familiar spectacle in Washington. At a moment of crisis that threatened the economic security of American families, Washington played the blame game rather than work together to
find a solution that would avert a collapse of financial markets without squandering hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money to bailout bankers and brokers who bet their fortunes on unsafe lending practices. Both parties in both houses of Congress and the administration needed to come together to find a solution that would deserve the trust of the American people. And while there were attempts to do that, much of yesterday was spent fighting over who would get the credit for a deal and who would get the blame for failure. There was no deal or offer yesterday that had a majority of support in Congress. There was no deal yesterday that included adequate protections for the taxpayers. It is not enough to cut deals behind closed doors and then try to force it on the rest of Congress -- especially when it amounts to thousands of dollars for every American family.

The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was apparent during the White House meeting yesterday where Barack Obama's priority was political posturing in his opening monologue defending the package as it stands. John McCain listened to all sides so he could help focus the debate on finding a bipartisan resolution that is in the interest of taxpayers and homeowners. The Democratic interests stood together in opposition to an agreement that would accommodate additional taxpayer protections.

Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement,
especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.

This is a bizarro world statement, and I certainly don't think it's what he wanted. McCain would have much rather come in there and saved the world instead of having to lament the partisanship, especially when it's so obvious that House Republicans are to blame for it.

But let's not get distracted. McCain suspended his campaign to work on the economic crisis. There's no crisis resolution, and now he's suspending the suspension. In other words, Obama called his bluff, and he was forced to chicken out on his silly plan. In the realm of bitch-slap politics, McCain's the one with a red face. This is humiliating for him.

Of course, since he's already won the debate, he'll have time to turn things around, right?

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

And Like Such As

Before anybody says this is cruel, understand that Sarah Palin was apparently working with notes in that interview where she gave those half-literate answers. I think she's so afraid of making a mistake that she's cracking under the pressure, but that makes the comparison to Miss South Carolina MORE acute. In fact, those answers Palin is giving are classic beauty queen b.s. answers.

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AK-Sen: Toobz Trial Day 1

Day 1 of the Ted Stevens trial, the first with a sitting member of the US Senate in a long time, yielded some surprises. First we learned that Stevens used his corporate benefactor as a "handyman" service:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Stevens used one of Alaska's biggest employers as his "own personal handyman service" and never paid Veco Corp. for hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of renovations to his home, a federal prosecutor charged Thursday as she outlined the government's case for finding the Alaska Republican guilty of lying on financial disclosure forms.

"You'll learn that the defendant never paid Veco a dime for the work on the chalet. Not a penny," the Justice Department's lead prosecutor, Brenda Morris, told jurors in the opening minutes of Stevens' trial [...]

But prosecutors said the jury will also hear from many of the people who did the work on Stevens' Girdwood home, Morris said, referring to the A-frame cabin as the "chalet," as the senator did. Morris said they will describe how even though Stevens paid subcontractors with whom he didn't have a personal relationship, he never paid Veco for its work, thanks to his close connections to the company's founder.

"If the defendant needed an electrician, he contacted Veco. If the defendant needed a plumber, he contacted Veco," she said. "We reach for the Yellow Pages, he reached for Veco."

Well, we all have a large energy company we use to do odd jobs around the house.

Here's the alibi:

Stevens' lawyers countered that he was not guilty and blamed Veco and its chief executive officer, Bill Allen, for allowing costs to escalate without telling Stevens what the expenses would be or even showing him all the bills. Allen also installed fancy add-ons - like a Viking gas grill and gaudy but pricey Christmas lights - that were unnecessary and unwanted, Stevens lawyer Brendan Sullivan said.

"When you see the evidence ... you'll see he had no intent to violate the law, no intent to conceal anything," his lawyer said. "He didn't want these things, he didn't ask for these things. He told some of them to take them back. He never once hid anything."

Hm. So Ted Stevens can't take the grill back himself? Veco just dropped these gifts on him and he had nothing he could do but say "take them back?" Doesn't pass the laugh test.

Neither does this:

(The Politico) Brendan Sullivan, defense attorney for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), made an admission today that probably isn't going to help his client's re-election changes - Ted Stevens doesn't really live in Alaska, the state he has represented in the Senate for the last 40 years.

Sullivan was discussing the role that Stevens and his wife, Catherine, took during the renovation of their home. That renovation lies at the heart of the criminal case against Stevens, who is charged with filing false financial disclosure reports from 1999 to 2006 in order to hide hundreds of thousands of improper gifts. Justice Department prosecutors allege that Stevens only paid a fraction of the true cost of the renovation, with the rest being picked up by Bill Allen, former CEO of oil services company VECO Corp.

"This is a renovation by a married couple that lives 3,300 from the renovation," Sullivan said. "They live here with us in the District of Columbia because he works up here on Capitol Hill."

Yeah, you know, maybe if he doesn't live in Alaska, he could go ahead and stop representing it.

Mark Begich, the ad is already written and awaiting your "I approve this message."

The LA Times has more.

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Warrior Negotiator

It's very hard to get the lay of the land on this bailout, but this looks to me like what happened today.

• After several hours of talks, Democrats and Senate Republicans reached something approaching a deal on at least principles, without specifics. House Republicans, particularly the rank and file, were never on board.

• The deal met virtually every priority John McCain had been promoting all week, but once he got to Washington, he met with John Boehner, came out and changed his tune.

• The White House meeting was a disaster, as Boehner announced his caucus was not on board, McCain blathered away with some gibberish, floating a new plan, and no agreement was made.

• All of a sudden, House conservatives started passing along that new proposal McCain was touting, which amounted to a conservative wish list for, get this, even LESS regulation and lower taxes to spur private investment in the market. If there's anything that private investors want, it's to buy worthless securities and cross their fingers, hoping they'll somehow go up in the future, right?

• McCain hasn't said yes to anyone but he's clearly weighing the political pros and cons right now. If he goes against House Republicans he's stabbed the base in the back. If he goes with them he scuttles the deal and may get the blame for the economic pain to come. Country first. Chris Dodd basically said that McCain blew up the deal.

• Meanwhile, he's being hammered for the "suspending the campaign" gambit while his presence clearly helped push the Congress away from compromise today. Barbara Boxer said he's crawling into a corner with his blanket. Brad Woodhouse noted correctly that he hasn't actually suspended the campaign.

This has clearly been politicized by Republicans, and I don't see the endgame for them. McCain is trying to be at the forefront of history and thinks the world revolves around him, but clearly his presence was harmful to the process. But it's not like it would have been smooth sailing if he wasn't there, either. Stoller is right on this.

The end result of this should be that this is impossible to do in the current environment, and it always was, given that we're 40 days out from an election, and nothing more should be done than a temporary bridge loan to get us to Inauguration Day. The people can decide on the best practice after that.

...oh, and in case you want to play how did we get here...

President Bush chimed in, "If money isn't loosened, this sucker could go down" -- and by sucker he meant economy.

Yeah, I wonder how that could be?

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Campaign Update: CA-03, CA-04, CA-50, CA-46, SD-19, CA-42, LA Board of Supes

The latest from the campaigns:

• General: Democratic challengers ought to take a close look at two bills passed through the House this week that make conservative priorities pretty clear. HR 6983, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity Act, finally limits the ability of insurance companies to prohibit treatment of mental health in their policies. John Campbell, Darrell Issa, Ed Royce and Dana Rohrabacher were among the 47 Republicans to vote against it. HR 5244, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, would severely limit predatory lending from an industry that is at least a partial cause of the current crisis in credit. Brian Bilbray, David Dreier, Gary Miller, Jerry Lewis, Dan Lungren, Campbell, Issa, Royce and Rohrabacher were among the 111 Republicans who voted against that. These ads write themselves.

• CA-03: Bill Durston is up with two ads, as mentioned by akogun. It's unclear how big the buy is. One is a bio spot, and the other hits Dan Lungren for his, er, unique travel plans.

• CA-04: A lot to report here. While Tom McClintock is off putting together propaganda blogs attacking Charlie Brown, and of all things, this website, he ought to be paying attention to his campaign manager problem.

The camp of Democratic candidate Charlie Brown claims evidence shows state Sen. McClintock, a Republican, effectively is a substitute Doolittle, and in particular asserts that McClintock campaign manager John Feliz’s connections to Doolittle are significant.

“John Feliz is the architect of Doolittle’s first known political-practices transgression,” said Todd Stenhouse, Brown spokesman. “The bottom line is McClintock claims not to be John Doolittle, yet he’s using his former campaign manager, and he has the same treasurer (David Bauer).”

McClintock campaign spokesman Bill George said, “John Feliz hasn’t worked for Doolittle in 18 to 20 years.”

Note that he doesn't respond to Bauer, who is still the treasurer for an active Doolittle campaign committee.

Meanwhile, Charlie Brown has endorsed the Pickens Pledge. I am in complete agreement that the Pickens Plan for energy independence is just a scheme for a rich guy to get richer, but the pledge merely calls for an energy plan to be enacted in the first 100 days of the next Administration. There is a difference.

• CA-50: Al Gore was in the district to raise money for Nick Leibham. The Leibham campaign hopes this will kick-start their efforts, but the Cook Political Report recently downgraded the race to "Solid Republican." Their belief is that these Republican districts have been injected with momentum with Sarah Palin energizing conservatives to vote. We'll see.

• CA-46: One thing is clear: Dana Rohrabacher may allow insurance companies deny treatment to the mentally ill, and he may let the credit card companies fleece his constituents, but he draws the line at the Wall Street bailout. That's nothing new - lots of lawmakers are opposed to the bailout - but of course, the fact that Debbie Cook was first out of the gate with her opposition forced his hand, to be sure. Meanwhile, Cook was feted with a "Truth To Power" at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference this week. On Sunday, there's a small dollar fundraiser for Cook in Palos Verdes. Details and tickets at the ActBlue page here. I will be in attendance Sunday, so please come out if you're in the area.

• CA-42: Ed Chau has put together a video about polar bears, which obviously is the most important issue affecting constituents in Mission Viejo at risk of losing their homes. Or the ethical issues of his opponent Gary Miller, one of the most corrupt lawmakers in Congress.

• SD-19: Hannah-Beth Jackson has a new ad out with some personal testimonials about her leadership on a chemical spill in her district when she was in the Assembly, and I have to say I like it.

• LA Board of Supes: Bernard Parks is using his office to try to evict supporters of Mark Ridley-Thomas. Mayor Villaraigosa has stepped in on the side of the tenants.

On Tuesday, Villaraigosa was forced into the fray - reluctantly, his aides said - after Parks had the city send a 60-day eviction notice to Strategic Concepts of Organizing and Policy Education, a nonprofit focused on community organizing and job training.

Parks said SCOPE was using the old fire station at 1715 Florence Ave. in South Los Angeles to help the Ridley-Thomas campaign, which the group denies.

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No Deal

Jeff Merkley says this pretty well:

But given my sensibilities, Sam Seder and Marc Maron put it better.

Won't you please help?

I think the public opinion on this is becoming more toxic than the threat to the economy.

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Reality Show Campaign

While John McCain suspends his campaign, you know, except for the ads and the volunteer work and the surrogates and the campaign events and speeches, Barack Obama has moved forward, believing that he can actually juggle multiple responsibilities at once, which is, you know, part of the job description.

There are new ads about McCain's love of offshore tax havens and his lying about the foreign cars he owns to Michiganders. I don't think either were successful, but this one on the economy is better.

That's a solid, serious response to this crisis. Let's hope it's reflected in any deal.

But the real killer for John McCain is that Obama has called his bluff on tomorrow night's debate, which will go on regardless of McCain's presence.

Barack Obama is committed to hosting a public, televised event Friday night in Mississippi even if John McCain does not show up, an official close to the Obama campaign tells the Huffington Post.

In McCain's absence, the Senator is willing to make the scheduled debate a townhall meeting, a one-on-one interview with NewsHour's Jim Lehrer, or the combination of the two, the official said.

In a word, the McCain campaign is screwed. They either give up a full hour of free airtime across all networks to Barack Obama, or they suspend their campaign for a whopping hour and a half to deal with a crisis he has likened to the Great Depression. He's in a bad position of his own making, and the reviews are basically in on this being a ridiculous stunt.

McCain is reaching Omarosa territory, while Obama is leading.

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This Is Such A Set-Up

When I saw that bipartisan press conference claiming that the contours of a deal has been reached, I noticed that the Republican representative from the Senate side was Bob Bennett, not the ranking member of the Banking Committee Richard Shelby. Well, sure enough, Shelby just showed up on MSNBC, and sure enough, he's absolutely opposed to the bill. He was waving around a piece of paper from top economists opposing the bailout, calling it a giveaway to the same Wall Street corporations that created the problem. He also said it bails out foreign banks, which I thought was taken out of the bill.

Shelby isn't wrong, not to my knowledge. As James K. Galbraith says today, the need for this bailout is extremely suspect. Certainly there are better ideas out there than the crappy Paulson plan. And in many ways, lawmakers and the Bush Administration are trying to fix a problem that doesn't have a fix - the housing market hasn't hit bottom, and it'll drag down the economy regardless (though a new Home Owners Loan Corp. would help).

But the politics of this are clear. Right after Dodd and co. announced a bipartisan deal, John Boehner said no dice. They are going to try to stick the Democrats alongside with Bush on this bailout.

I don't know if that will totally work. Pete Stark is calling B.S. on President Paulson's irresponsible talk about bank runs and depressions. Brad Sherman says his office calls are running 300 to 2 against. The results are the same across the country. I think a good portion of Democrats won't go along with this. But the Blue Dogs, those supposed stewards of fiscal responsibility, will, and they'll put Democrats in the situation of being on the side of the largest bank bailout in American history. At that point, the details will be irrelevant. This is Lucy with the football, and if the Democrats manage to blow this one they actually don't deserve to be a political party.

...the other option here is that House Republicans are holding off until McCain "convinces" them, showing how much of a post-partisan leader he is. That's a possibility, but anyone who votes for this piece of crap bill, absent some really enticing language, is in trouble in 2010.

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Going Over Like A Led Palin

I think John McCain suspended his campaign (sort of) to deflect attention away from the jaw-gaping performance by his running mate with Katie Couric. We already know that he ran in for a damage control interview with Couric last night in the middle of Letterman. That was the right move. I mean this is stunning:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? … Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy– Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions.

And this:

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada [...]

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

As Couric said yesterday, in the understatement of the year, “She’s not always responsive when she’s asked questions.” Yes, in the way a hen is not responsive.

(ZOMG, you just called Sarah Palin a hen!)

I'm with Greenwald, she's either deeply ignorant and incurious or she's so buttoned up by the McCain campaign that she can only speak gibberish. I'm inclined toward the latter, actually. McCain's team is desperate to keep her stage-managed to such a ridiculous degree that Campbell Brown is calling it sexist.

Nobody can sound credible in that environment when you're always looking over your shoulder.

Of course, the McCain campaign has good reason to restrict access to Palin. Because her views, if offered to the public, would be extremely damaging. She has extreme Christianist viewpoints including book-banning. Her pastor is a nutcase who believes in witchcraft and who made this comment about Jews right in front of her:

The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.

Yeah, I think you would want to hide the candidate of holy war. Plus there's the unseemly influence of Todd Palin, her unelected de facto chief of staff. And the vindictiveness of their obstruction in the Troopergate case, which now might include witness tampering.

“Until McCain campaign staffers flew to Alaska to stop this investigation, the Governor and her staff agreed to comply with what we all know is a bi-partisan investigation. After Aug. 29 the campaign started working to block this investigation, and witnesses began joining that effort by ignoring their subpoenas and risking jail time. Something obviously changed the minds of these witnesses after Aug. 29th,” said Rep., Les Gara (D-Anchorage), a State Representative and Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General.

Alaska’s witness tampering statutes prohibit any person from “inducing” a witness to fail to comply with a subpoena. Almost daily, McCain staffers have called press conferences and made efforts to stonewall the legislative investigation. Prior to Aug. 29 no witness had stated they’d refuse to comply with the investigation, and the Governor in fact promised she and her staff would comply.

Karl Rove was asked if Sarah Palin would make a good President. He said "I don't know." And the McCain campaign wants to keep it that way.

...see also this Rolling Stone article on the myths versus the facts in Sarah Palin's image.

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Today In The Greatest Transfer Of Wealth In World History

Lots of talk about a deal today in Washington, perhaps with bankruptcy relief, perhaps not, perhaps with less money parceled out in stages, perhaps not, perhaps with executive compensation limits, perhaps not. The big White House photo-op is happening as we speak. I do want to direct you to the very sharp Peter Orzsag, who says that, despite the claims of those involved, this plan won't work:

The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.

During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag -- Congress's top bookkeeper -- said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.

"Ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values," Orszag said in his testimony. "Establishing clearer prices might reveal those institutions to be insolvent."

Yes, that's the whole point. This isn't a liquidity crisis, it's an insolvency crisis. While nobody knows what this toxic paper is worth, that's actually keeping the market afloat in a way. Unless the Treasury wildly overpays for the paper, a scenario like Orzsag's could absolutely play out.

Meanwhile, I have to clear up yet another effort by conservatives to muddy this issue and find a scapegoat. Conservatives keep shooting their mouth off about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac like they somehow created all these bad loans. They are not responsible for this mess, and are being used as a scapegoat and a stand-in for "shiftless black people getting home loans."

But here's the thing: Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S&L fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.

Partly that's because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn't do any subprime lending, because they can't: The definition of a subprime loan is precisely a loan that doesn't meet the requirement, imposed by law, that Fannie and Freddie buy only mortgages issued to borrowers who made substantial down payments and carefully documented their income.

Mark Thoma expands on this today. Fannie and Freddie had capitalization problems, but they were dragged down with the rest of the housing market from the bubble bursting. They didn't cause the problem.

But that's besides the point. American taxpayers are going to be on the hook for a bailout (and the foreign lenders aren't coming to the rescue) and they ought to be seriously pissed off about it. I'm pessimistic about the deal we're going to end up getting.

...Just saw Sen. Dodd and Bennett announce an "agreement in principle" on the bailout, but Bennett is not the ranking member, Richard Shelby is. If this gets pushed through without Congressional conservatives we're toast, maybe not now but in the near future.

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My Secretary Will Give Me A Briefing


The Paulson plan is three pages. I guess he might be talking about the Dodd or Frank plans, but for Mr. "Save the Economy" that's STILL unacceptable.

We can't afford someone this erratic in the White House.

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Suspended Animation

John McCain has been so successful suspending his campaign that he spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative this morning, sent out the usual morning email blast, deployed surrogates all over TV and radio, and continues to fundraise. I'm assuming the volunteer offices are still open as well.

That's some suspension!

I'm reminded of that line by Charles Grodin in Midnight Run, "You guys are the dumbest bounty hunters I've ever seen!" This gambit is so easily mockable, so silly, that it's impossible to take it seriously, especially since the McCain campaign doesn't take it seriously by virtue of their still actively working.

And then there's the threat to skip the debate. It is the height of disrespect to the office to suggest to try and cancel a public event like this. There have been far worse times in American history where campaign events continued to be held. Presidential campaigns and events have been held during the Civil War, WWII, even the Great Depression. Now, there is precedent of a candidate skipping a debate, but it's not exactly good precedent for McCain - Jimmy Carter dipped in the polls as a result. (How about John Anderson's energy policies?)

And I truly believe that David Letterman's mockery, his catching McCain in a lie by seeing him give an interview to Katie Couric when he said he had to rush to Washington and cancel his appearance on the talk show, is the beginning of the end for McCain. He's become a national joke. You can't dig out of a hole like that.

I'm suspending the rest of this final sent-

...UPDATE: His website and Google ads are still up as well. This is all based on the media not noticing that McCain hasn't suspended the campaign.

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Prop. 8: The Relay Fast

It's hard to get a handle on the efforts of the Yes on 8 people because they're so haphazard. They vow to produce a million yard signs but then get delayed because the signs are "in route" from China. They try to make their campaign seem to be about ordinary couples who want their traditional aw-shucks marriage, and then the virulence of their intolerance is revealed, over...

I am a Mormon High Priest. My bishop is a long-time family friend, and he has come to see me a couple of times recently, but each time he has come by assignment of his church supervisor. On the first visit, my bishop offered me a chance to resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I declined, he told me a church disciplinary council would be held. On the second visit, just a couple of days ago, he brought me a letter informing me that I am charged with conduct unbecoming a member of the Mormon Church, and being "in apostasy."

...and over again...

Turns out the aptly-named "Church of the Divide" in faraway Placerville had sent a group of hate-mongering protesters to the church where (Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson) and his family worships, complete with signs blaring "SODOMY" (and worse), to protest Kevin's decision to oppose Prop 8. They also flew in Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson from Los Angeles as their Rent-A-Hack.

What has become cleear is this: the Yes on 8 movement is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist right, an alliance of various religious sects who are coming together to try and impose their will on the people of California. They've certainly been successful financially, outraising the no side to this point. To be sure, there are liberal religious leaders coming out against this measure, like the California Faith for Equality coalition. But the level of participation by many groups, particularly the Church of Latter-Day Saints, is profoundly unsettling:

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry [...]

The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8.

Mormon donors said they weren't coerced. "Nobody twisted my arm," said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating "a matter of personal conscience." Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn't give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn't reflect Mormon Church policy [...]

The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.

Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, "I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for" the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a "friendship" with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain "unbridgeable."

Certainly there is a broader movement among the religious spectrum beyond just the Mormons; the Family Research Council is heavily invested in the measure, and is spreading lies about the consequences of same-sex marriage to their members (Christians will be jailed!!!). But what is going to be the focus of their efforts to get out the vote and pass the proposition? Apparently, fasting and praying (I don't buy the 100,000 figure below, by the way, it sounds like more bluster):

Hundreds of pastors have called on their congregations to fast and pray for passage of a ballot measure in November that would put an end to gay marriage in California.

The collective act of piety, starting Wednesday and culminating three days before the election in a revival for as many as 100,000 people at the San Diego Chargers' stadium, comes as church leaders across California put people, money and powerful words behind Proposition 8.

Some pastors around the state and nation are encouraging their flocks to forgo solid food for up to 40 days in the biblical tradition.

Well, not quite. In a remarkable catch by skippy, this 40-day fasting period, scheduled to begin today, would be somewhat unusual.

the gathering, called the call, will conclude a 40-day fasting period for california that begins sept. 24. christians are being asked to fast in some way, either the entire 40 days or perhaps by using team relays to cover the entire 40 days. running parallel to the 40-day fast is a 100-day prayer effort, which was scheduled to start july 28.

Um... team relays?

Let me get this straight. If I last from lunch to dinner without a morsel, then tag off to my partner in prayer, I can go ahead and eat dinner then? Is that really a fast, or is it, I don't know... just not snacking?

Well, the religious right can't be the only ones to get in on this fun. That's why, starting today, I am calling on every liberal and progressive to take part in a counter-fast for equality. The goal is to get enough people involved that we only have to chip in about 15 minutes or so of fasting apiece. I'm blocking out September 29, 4:30-4:45. I'm not eating a thing. We're talking commitment!!!

More on this tomorrow.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Memories of the Keating Five

As "Cut The Bullshit" McCain strides into Washington to get down to business on a plan that is pretty much already done and will be detailed almost entirely without his input, reporters who actually get to ask him a question are starting to make mention of the last time banks had to be massively bailed out in this country, and McCain's role in it:

McCain’s involvement in the “last great financial scandal in our country” has largely been ignored by the media. But local Ohio reporter Tom Beres finally forced McCain to comment on the Keating Five scandal in an interview yesterday. “Talk of greedy bankers, lax regulation brings back memories of the Keating Five,” Beres reported:

BERES: Is there some relevance of that chapter, which I think you have acknowledged was maybe not your proudest moment?

MCCAIN: It was a very unhappy period in my life. But the fact is that I moved forward and I have been the greatest voice for reform and against corruption in Washington than anybody.

Given the eleventy billion lobbyists affiliated with his campaign now, I'll leave it to know to make what you will of that last sentence. Of course, this lament from McCain is his typical M.O., apologizing for things that he should have not embarked upon on the first place. But for more of a background on the Keating 5, here's a solid visual history:

Send it to everyone you know.

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Forking It Over

So President Power Of Nightmares came on the teevee tonight and spoke darkly of grave and imminent dangers to our financial system, all of them somehow magically divorced from his own laissez-faire policies, belief in deregulation and failure to respond to the very clear warnings that we were headed down a path of disaster.

President Bush on Wednesday warned Americans and lawmakers reluctant to pass a $700 billion financial rescue plan that failing to act fast risks wiping out retirement savings, rising foreclosures, lost jobs, closed businesses and even "a long and painful recession."

His dire warning came not long after the president issued extraordinary invitations to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, one of whom will inherit the mess in four months, as well as key congressional leaders to a White House meeting on Thursday to work on a compromise.

"Without immediate action by Congress, American could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold," Bush said in a 12-minute prime-time address from the White House East Room that he hoped would help rescue his tough-sell bailout package.

Basically, gimme gimme gimme or the economy gets it. And while Bush appeared to accede to a lot of the steps sought by Congress - vague limits on executive compensation, some ability for taxpayers to cash in on the upside potential, and some manner of oversight - he drew the line at any re-regulation of the companies who got us into this mess, saying that it could "come later." And indeed, most of the talk was about the failure of borrowers to pay their bills, not the predatory practices of lenders to shuttle people into loans without explaining the circumstances (and through yield spread premiums, actually getting bonuses for that).

After a couple days of seeing the Paulson plan go down in flames, I now have a very queasy feeling about this. Bush clearly intervened in a Presidential election by inviting McCain and Obama to the White House, and the joint statement released by the two of them is worthless, all "we must rise above partisanship and work together for the good of the country" gibberish. McCain apparently dropped the specifics from the statement. Now the House and the Senate are claiming a deal with President Paulson, and the draft that's been floating around is not good. Ian Welsh calls it FISA all over again.

It's essentially a Wall Street giveaway plan, with only some fig leaves to try and pretend that it isn't.

Why? Because the language about taking warrants in exchange for buying up toxic assets is only for direct purchases and not for reverse auction puchases, which will be the majority of the purchases. As Soros points out, in any reverse auction, the government will get stuck with the most toxic of toxic waste because of information asymetries. In exchange they should at least get stock, equal not to what they paid, but to the face of the crap they are buying.

There is quite a bit of language about helping mortgage holders, but it is almost all qualified with words like encourage and request, rather than require. Since the Treasury is bailing mortgage holders out, the idea that the Secretary must "encourage" and "request" is just BS. The correct response is to make help for mortgage holders a requirement of participating in the program at all. If financial institutions don't like that they don't need to participate. Good way to make sure that companies that don't really need help don't swill at the trough.

Unlike the Dodd bill, this is not a copy of the actual language of the bill, but a summary gloss. Without seeing the language we don't know what's actually in there. Dodd was straight up with us. Frank is hiding his legislative language. Why?

The bill will allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages for those having trouble paying, and that's the bright spot. But in the end, this is a stick-up. A stick-up with a $700 billion dollar price tag that was literally invented out of thin air. Now, there's one paragraph in The Hill piece that suggest this might go in stages:

Paulson said unemployment rates could approach 10 percent if the plan was not adopted, senators said, although he did indicate possible receptiveness to the idea of implementing it in stages. Such a plan, Paulson told senators, has worked in countries like Japan, where financial rescue plans were done in stages.

That's really the only way out of this right now. That $700 billion dollar price tag defunds even the most mildly progressive agenda. I think John McCain may have lost the election today, and at the hands of David Letterman, no less. But with the federal treasury raided and in the hands of Wall Street corporations who made bad decisions, it's hard to see how a President Obama can be anything but a fixer-upper and a caretaker. All because everyone bought the crisis frame so hard.

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Good. God.

I don't know what to say.

Transcript with full context.

COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie--that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

PALIN: He's also known as the maverick though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about--the need to reform government.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

I think the wrong candidate decided to suspend their campaign. No wonder they're trying to spike the VP debate.

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Oops! McCain leaks talking points on suspending campaign

Colorado Independent has the story.

The regional spokesman for John McCain in Colorado accidentally sent the campaign’s internal talking points on the candidate’s plans to suspend his campaign to its entire Colorado media list, instead of a list of key volunteers, Wednesday afternoon, PolitickerCO’s Jeremy Pelzer reports.

The memo, titled “TALKING POINTS: SUSPENDING THE CAMPAIGN,” includes a list of points the campaign wants emphasized, and includes this warning from Kise: “Please do not proactively reach out to the media on this.”

In other words, they want to throw a Hail Mary pass but don't want to talk about it.

This is hilarious:

Told by a reporter that the e-mail had been sent to him and others in the media, Kise said, “F*ck, tell me I didn’t send it to the wrong list.”

Kise said the talking points were meant for McCain volunteers.

I've got the talking points right here, so you can read along at home when you see Nancy Pfotenhauer or Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the teevee.

• To address our nation's crisis, John McCain will suspend his campaign and return to Washington. He has spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of his decision and has asked Senator Obama to join him. The campaign is suspending its advertising and fundraising.

• John McCain is calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership of both houses of Congress, including himself and Senator Obama.

• John McCain is directing his campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on Presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until action has been taken to address this crisis.

• It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem. This is a time to put our country first. We must meet as Americans, not Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved.

• It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration's proposal. He does not believe the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.

• Last Friday, John McCain laid out his proposal and has discussed his priorities and concerns with the bill the Administration has put forward.

• America faces a historic crisis in our financial system, and we must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy.

• John McCain is confident that before the markets open on Monday, we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners and earn the confidence of the American people.

Just so your armed with the other side's arguments.

By the way, those arguments are completely non-specific on HOW to address this mess. It's also completely at odds with the Obama campaign's version of events.

“At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.”

McCain's trying to look like a tough guy here (perhaps with the ultimate goal of spiking Sarah Palin's VP debate), and his campaign looks as incompetent as ever by leaking their own blinkered talking points about this stunt.

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