Sunday, November 30, 2008

Did you watch ABC's This Week roundtable?

Great set of commentators:
  • George "The New Deal prolonged the Depression" Will - doing his usual schtik.
  • Tori Clarke - former Pentagon spokswoman under Bush - today praising Amity Shlaes' book that said the New Deal was a mess.
  • Matthew Dowd - chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney '04 presidential campaign - who said that Obama must inflict real pain on liberal/Democratic interest groups (as part of not doing what's best for Democrats, but what's best "for America").
  • Donna Brazile - not the most effective spokesperson for the Democrats.
All in all, great balance. Kudos to ABC for bringing out prople to argue against the just-elected president's economic proposals.


Tony Blankley on health care: "get sick and die"

You remember Blankley? He often appeared on the McLaughlin Group and for a while he was the editor of the Washington Times.

Currently, he's the designated conservative on the Left, Right, & Center political wrap show produced by Santa Monica's NPR station KCRW (and syndicated nationally).

This week the topic was The Future of Capitalism: Which Way Now? (mp3) that focused mostly on the financial crisis, but also broader trends like a national health program. Nineteen minutes into the discussion there was this exchange:
BLANKLEY: (skeptically) How do we need to change the social contract that we have, merely because we've had a financial panic? There's no need to change the social contract.

MILLER: Tony, there are 50 million people without heath care coverage. There are 25 million people who have coverage that is worthless.

BLANKLEY: Well there used to be 250 million people without health care coverage for goodness sake. They never had health care coverage until 1965, .

MILLER: Most of the the rest of the advanced world doesn't let people go bankrupt when they get ill. That is wrong Tony.

BLANKLEY: You can say that with elevated tone, but it doesn't make it correct.

MILLER: You think it's right that people should go bankrupt because they're ill in one of the richest countries in the world, Tony? C'mon!

BLANKLEY: I will come on and I will say that I predict that within 30 years we will not be able to guarantee health care for everybody because as you know, Medicare alone is somewhere around 40 trillion dollars in unfunded liability. We can't afford it. We're going to do what we've always used to do when we got old, which is we will get sick and die. And I plan to do that.
Allowing the citizens to get sick and die really cuts down on health care costs. It zeroes out the budget item, allowing for further tax cuts (or bailouts) for the rich. More people should know about this excellent conservative policy position.


Retail sales down 2.8% in October, up 3% Black Friday:

That doesn't sound right. Perhaps it's got something to do with gasoline purchases (part of October, not part of B.F.?).

Still, it seems odd.

BE AWARE: The +3% figure comes from ShopperTrak, a firm that takes foot traffic and then extrapolates to sales. They have an uneven record. If memory serves, they've released boffo numbers for Thanksgiving weekends that don't square with final store reports or credit card figures.

If however, the U.S. comsumer is still spending like mad - even in the wake of tremendous losses in 401Ks and actual and pending layoffs - you've got to wonder what it takes to cool the spending impulse.

Also, the ShopperTrak number seems to be the only one driving the news this weekend.

UPDATE: It appears skepticism is justified.


The answer is "pretty soon"

Maureen Dowd writes:
[James Macpherson] pioneered “glocal” news — outsourcing Pasadena coverage to India at Pasadena Now, his daily online “newspaperless,” as he likes to call it. Indians are writing about everything from the Pasadena Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to kitchen remodeling to city debates about eliminating plastic shopping bags. [...]

I wondered how long it would be before some guy in Bangalore was writing my column about President Obama.
Interesting to see that after a couple of decades of outsourcing non-journalism jobs, newspaper writers are just now pondering the effects of cheap non-domestic labor on their industry - especially now that internet video feeds are practical.

Welcome to the wonderful world of free-trade globalization where jobs paying $30-40K are eliminated here, and (Hi Brad DeLong!) someone somewhere else is getting paid a pittance.

OF NOTE: DOwd tells us that at the cyber-newspaper Pasadena Now, the going rate is $7.50 for a thousand words. Dowd's column this week was 770 words. If she's paid accordingly, that's $5.77 for her column. Multiply that times 52 weeks and Dowd would be pulling down a whopping $300 a year.


Saturday, November 29, 2008


Amity Shlaes: "Workers should not be paid much"

There's an argument going on between Paul Krugman and Amity Shlaes. In the Murdoch-owned WSJ, Shlaes pens "The Krugman Recipe for Depression".

Krugman responds.

Over at The Big Picture, an observation: "Krugman vs. Shlaes — Not A Fair Fight".

The Shlaes is mostly against big government spending, but also writes this:
High wages hurt corporate profits and therefore hiring. ...

... lawmakers are considering new labor legislation containing "card check," which would strengthen organized labor and so its wage demands. Because employees continue to pressure firms to spend on health care, without considering they may be making the company unable to hire an unemployed friend.

... raising wages may take away jobs in the private sector ...
Labor is an actor in the marketplace and there's no reason it, alone, should not bargain for the best deal it can get. For Shlaes, corporate profits are not to be touched no matter how high the get. Instead, labor is supposed to bear the brunt of whatever sacrifices that are needed to bring about an economic recovery.

UPDATE: George Will's Sunday column basically repeats Shlaes essay, with the bonus feature that Will deliberately ignores what Krugman told him on television about why 1937 was a bad year (FDR eased up on New Deal policies and went for balancing the budget).

AND ... Will touts Shlaes with this line: (emp add)
In "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression," Amity Shlaes of the Council on Foreign Relations and Bloomberg News argues that government policies, beyond the Federal Reserve's tight money, deepened and prolonged the Depression.
Shlaes of Bloomberg News!


Monday, November 24, 2008

These people are worthless:

It's been 24 hours since the huge Citi bailout has been announced. A bailout that involves the Treasury, FDIC, and Federal Reserve, and which has major implications for government spending and budgeting. Yet so far, there has been absolutely no mention whatsoever (negative or positive) over at NRO's The Corner blog.

Instead, they're talking about: what would be Bill Buckley's 84th birthday, abortion, Happy Hour in Britain, Hugo Chavez, the National Review fundraiser, and other critical issues of the day.

ALSO: Not a peep over at Time magazine's blog of the year, Power Line.


$7.4 trillion:
The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system ...

... as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.
How about that?


Still true:

Troubletown cartoon, from a few weeks ago:


The banks are insolvent, the system is corrupt:

That's the take-away from the Citi action this weekend.

TO ELABORATE A BIT: Until now, it wasn't clear (at least to me) how bad a shape the banks were in, both here and abroad. While some banks, especially smaller ones, are probably okay, the really big ones are in a state where they cannot operate without government help. They are, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt (even if the technical definition does not apply, as some assert).

The way out of this mess is to really nationalize the banks, not dribble money here and there with the hope that they will grease it out. Global Financial News says:
In general, there's no sense of finality here, of the government stepping in and taking charge of the situation. Instead, Treasury seems to hope that with $20 billion and some loan guarantees it will be able to help Citi muddle through for the time being. I suspect that it might end up disappointed.
As to the corrupt. Citi is now trading at six dollars, a 50% jump on the bailout news. Why? Because the shareholders are going to be protected from their folly.


Blog comments on the Citi bailout:


Is he going to be okay?

What will the Citi bailout mean to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. He has a has a 4.9% stake in the company.


Did I get this right?

It would appear that in exchange for purchasing $27 billion in Citi preferred stock, the taxpayer is on the hook for absorbing the losses on $260 billion of Citi's worst paper.


If you're this wrong, shouldn't you resign?

Bernanke Tells New Yorker He Underestimated Housing Meltdown

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he underestimated the impact subprime mortgages would have on the economy, according to an interview to appear in the New Yorker magazine’s Dec. 1 edition.

“I and others were mistaken early on in saying that the subprime crisis would be contained,” Bernanke said. “The causal relationship between the housing problem and the broad financial system was very complex and difficult to predict.”
Plus, he's lying when he asserts that the problem was "uncontained subprime". The problem was much wider than that. He's giving a polite version of "That damn Community Reinvestment Act and Fannie Mae were the cause of our problems".

Bernanke, resign now!


The executives keep their jobs:

Treasury, Federal Reserve, and FDIC:
... the U.S. government on Sunday entered into an agreement with Citigroup to provide a package of guarantees, liquidity access, and capital.

... Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will provide protection against the possibility of unusually large losses on an asset pool of approximately $306 billion of loans and securities ...

Citigroup will comply with enhanced executive compensation restrictions ...
The government is not expected to require any management changes, as that was seen as potentially being too destabilizing.
ALSO: After this, it's hard to see how Detroit misses out on a bailout.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

We need a law:

Everytime there is a story like this:
WSJ: Government to Guarantee $300 Billion in Citigroup Assets
... Citigroup will have an extremely unusual arrangement in which the government agrees to backstop a roughly $300 billion pool of its assets, containing mortgage-backed securities among other things. Citigroup must absorb the first $37 billion to $40 billion in losses from these assets. If losses extend beyond that level, Treasury will absorb the next $5 billion in losses, followed by the FDIC taking on the next $10 billion in losses. Any losses on these assets beyond that level would be taken by the Fed.
It should be accompanied with this quote and picture:
"Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."
Ronald Reagan
, 1981.

And, to be fair, for any Citigroup story, a big mention of Robert Rubin's role in steering the company in recent years:
In 1999, affirming his career-long interest in markets, Mr. Rubin joined Citigroup. ... Consolidation of investment, commercial banking, and insurance services as practiced by Citigroup under the direction of Rubin has been implicated in the subprime mortage crisis.

He sparked controversy in 2001 when he contacted an acquaintance at the Treasury Department and asked if the department could convince bond-rating agencies not to downgrade the corporate debt of Enron, a debtor of Citigroup. Rubin wanted Enron creditors to lend money to the troubled company for a restructuring of its debt; a collapse of the energy giant might have serious consequences for financial markets and energy distribution. The Treasury official refused.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Just a reminder:

From June 2005:


Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Why doesn't Obama calm the markets by announcing he won't raise taxes?"

Asks Sean Hannity on his show today.

That's a good, sensible question. Aftter all, how else will we get out of (what Hannity calls) the "Obama Recession"?


During this financial and economic crisis, it's almost as if we don't have a president:

Where the hell is Bush?

Apparently doing yeoman work here:


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did you feel that?

Barry Ritholtz is suggesting now (!) going into -2x NASDAQ 100 funds.



Will the Big Three automakers go belly-up?

It's looking more and more like they're headed for bankruptcy (of whatever stripe is unclear). That's partly a reading of the tone of the debate, along with the matter of money and time. Inaction by Congress or the Treasury before the end of the year could trigger a collapse. If that happens, there would be a further deterioration of the economic situation, leading to a very slow economy in 2009.



The New York Post today:
... a bailout would be a mistake.

For starters, the Big Three are run as inefficiently as ever. Lavish contracts granted to the United Auto Workers, for instance, put GM on the hook for more than $70 an hour per worker.
Dean Baker, yesterday:
GM Auto Workers Are Not Paid $70 an Hour and It Matters

The New York Times told readers that GM's autoworkers are paid $70 an hour (including health care and pension). This is not true. The base pay is about $28 an hour. If health care cost per worker average $12,000 per year, that adds in another $6 an hour. If the pension payment takes up 25 percent of base pay (an extremely high pension), that gets you another $7 an hour, bringing the total to $41 an hour. That's decent pay, but still a long way from $70 an hour.

How does the NYT get from $41 to $70? Well the trick is to add in GM's legacy costs, the pension and health care costs for retired workers. These legacy costs are a serious expense for GM, but this is not money being paid to current workers. The person on the line in 2008 is not benefiting from these legacy costs.

It would be helpful if the NYT could get its numbers straight. It certainly can affect public support for a bailout if they are led to believe that autoworkers are paid much more than is actually the case.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The $81.78 outrage:

On ABC's World News Tonight, Charlie "no bias" Gibson introduced a segment on the plight of Detroit this way: (I have the audio and may post it later)
On Capital Hill today the chief executives of the big three automakers made their pitch for a $25 billion taxpayer bailout. That would amount to eighty-one dollars and seventy-eight cents for every man, woman, and child in America.
All that money ... it's outrageous! And Gibson helpfully provides, not a Cato-approved flat-tax formulation, but an even more scary head-tax figure. That's something everyone can understand, even Joe the Plumber.

Kudos to Gibson for not doing that for those other expenses like the two-trillion Iraq War, hundreds of billions bank bailout, $85B AIG rescue, etc. Only bailouts that help millions of workers deserve the "we're pickpocketing your wallet" head-tax number.


Well, that was shitty:




Off the top of your head, can you name anything the Clinton Global Iniative has done?   (The AIDS initiative does not count.)

It/he has received a lot of money from foreign governments and wealthy individuals. But for what? The mission is to
"strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence."
Which is extremely vague. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the CGI was a way for governments to shovel money to Bill on the mistaken impression that he still matters in American politics. Bill certainly isn't going to say no to wads of cash and it helps stroke his ego, but if the Clinton Foundation didn't exist, would it make any difference?

If you read what they're about, much is "business-oriented". It's got a Tom Friedmanish odor:
In 2007, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) focused on expanding its successful model to engage new audiences in tackling global problems with practical, innovative solutions.
Almost as if it was headed by a moderate Republican, which is basically what Bill Clinton was, and remains today.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Great Depression didn't result in all the Detroit automakers going bankrupt:

But this financial crisis may. And things got really, really bad during the Great Depression. So why is Detroit more fragile this time around?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some another time, this would be funny:

Instead, it's pathetic. Tom Friedman:
Now is when we need a president who has the skill, the vision and the courage to ... pull us together as one nation and inspire and enable us to do the one thing we can and must do right now:

Go shopping.

When President Bush told us to go shopping after 9/11, he was right.
A commentator at Dean Baker's blog:
Friedman's personal fortune is based on his wife's inheritance of a shopping center owner and management company, General Growth Properties, whose share price has fallen from $40 to 40 cents. No wonder he wants people to go shopping.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The "Obama Recession"

Media Matters: (emp add)
On the November 11 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Sean Hannity again suggested that President-elect Barack Obama is to blame for the decline in the stock market and said of Wall Street's performance: "Wall Street keeps sinking. Could it be the Obama recession: The fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?" Hannity is not alone among conservatives in the media in referring to an "Obama recession" in purported explanation for the state of the stock market. As MSNBC's Chris Matthews noted on November 12, radio host Rush Limbaugh "says the recession isn't President Bush's fault. It's the fault, catch this, of the president who hasn't yet taken office. It's an 'Obama recession'; that's what he's calling it."
Here's the thing. If it's an Obama Recession because he won the election,
that means the country voted for it


Friday, November 14, 2008

Peter Schiff vs. idiot market commentators:

Shiff, totally correct about housing and the economy, was disputed and ridiculed over the last couple of years. A collection of segments where Shiff appeared on Fox is here (10 min YouTube).

Shiff is a Ron Reagan / Ron Paul guy and favors less government spending. Whatever you may think of that, his remarks on housing and credit were correct.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Congratulations, Dow Industrials!

You shot up in three hours from 7973 to close at 8835, an increase of 862 points, or 10%.

All people watching from the sidelines are encouraged to jump into equities now, since all the financial bad news is behind us, this holiday shopping season is sure to be boffo, and Detroit will resume selling big-profit SUVs once again.


Wall Street Journal gets far right wing editor for the news pages:

Gerard Baker will be the new deputy editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal. See him narrate an uncreative Hannity-like over-the-top video where he "praises" Obama The Messiah here (6 min YouTube). It's on the level of the snark you find at NRO's The Corner.

Will the Financial Times (or the New York Times) edge out the WSJ if the Journal continues down the Murdoch trail?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ten terrible weeks:

The stock market went down hard today, but that was following a recent rally (of sorts). The really interesting tumble was that which took place in the 10 weeks from 15 August to 24 October, seen most vividly in the tech-heavy NASDAQ. It dropped 36.57% (901 points) in that short period of time. If you watched the morning shows, several financial advisors were telling people not to sell throughout that time. (If people had sold late September, they would have "only" lost 16% from the 15 August level.) Remember, by 15 August the NASDAQ had already dropped from its 21st cehtury high of 2810 (week of 2 November) to 2452, in a wobbly path where it lost 13% over ten months - during which it was becoming clear that there were serious problems in the financial area, with housing, and a likely recession for the year.

The standard-issue "buy and hold" advice, so freely offered during the market turmoil, may have added to lots of peoples' pain.


Listening to Limbaugh:

Is Rush about to have a stroke?

Since the election, he's been talking veryveryfast and with a much more acid tone. Almost as if he's hopped up on speed.

Before the election, he spoke in a more normal (for Limbaugh) radio-host voice. But now, he's up half an octave and almost seems as if he doesn't have much to offer his listeners except a "performance" of a barely-coherent incredibly angry man.


Troubletown comics:

Political cartoons, updated every Wednesday. One frame from this week's cartoon is, as they say, right on the money:
UPDATE: The "D word" is spoken by a Wall Street bigfoot: (emp add)
The economy faces a slump deeper than the Great Depression and a growing deficit threatens the credit of the United States itself, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead ...

"I think it would be worse than the depression," Whitehead said. "We're talking about reducing the credit of the United States of America, which is the backbone of the economic system. ... I see nothing but large increases in the deficit, all of which are serving to decrease the credit standing of America. ... I just want to get people thinking about this, and to realize this is a road to disaster. I've always been a positive person and optimistic, but I don't see a solution here."
Calculated Risk comments:
So far most of the Great Depression discussions have been phrased in terms of "worst since". Whitehead has taken the next step - however I think "worse than" is extremely unlikely.


Joe Lieberman supported Norm Coleman this year:

If you check Coleman's campaign website, you will find several entries where Lieberman supported him.

Just like in 2000, Lieberman's squirrely behavior may help a Republican narrowly win office.

Lieberman apparently also supported Susan Collins, but that race was non-competitive (final result 61% to 39%). But Joe's support of Coleman over Franken may make the difference in terms of giving Democrats clout in the Senate.


Can we do something like this with health care?

Looking up the Pendelton Civil Service Reform Act, one reads: (emp add)
Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act

The United States Civil Service consists of all appointive positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the Uniformed Service. (5 U.S.C. § 2101) The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (ch. 27, 22 Stat. 403) of 1883 United States federal law established the United States Civil Service Commission, which placed most federal government employees on the merit system and marked the end of the so-called "spoils system." The act provided for some government jobs to be filled on the basis of competitive exams.

Drafted during the Chester A. Arthur administration, the Pendleton Act served as a response to President James Garfield's assassination by Charles Julius Guiteau. The Act was passed into law on January 16, 1883. The Act was sponsored by Senator George H. Pendleton, Democrat of Ohio, and written by Dorman Bridgeman Eaton, a staunch opponent of the patronage system who was later first chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission. The most famous commissioner was Theodore Roosevelt (1889-96).

The law only applied to federal government jobs: not to the state and local jobs that were the basis for political machines. At first it covered very few jobs, but there was a ratchet provision whereby outgoing presidents could lock in their own appointees by converting their jobs to civil service. After a series of party reversals at the presidential level (1884, 1888, 1892, 1896), the result was that most federal jobs were under civil service. One result was more expertise and less politics.
It was in their own short-term interest to lock in a job, but by doing so changed its status for the better over the long-term. Brilliant!

Maybe employees could be ratcheted into an expanded Medicare (through a process advantageous to the employeer in the short term, with payback through an agreement that leads to long-term reform)

Actually, you could use a rachet mechanism in other areas, like carbon-credits.

Why doesn't legislation use more Game Theory when its being crafted? Especially for solutions that might be best implemented gradually over a period of time.


Shorter Tom Friedman:
If wishes iPods were horses autos,

Beggars would ride.

If turnips were watches,

I'd wear one by my side.     (In fact, while riding in a cab in India, I heard they're working on that very thing right now.)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Google screw up?

If you went to Google this morning, you saw the following logo (aka "doodle") in comemoration of Veterans Day:
But later the same day, you saw this: (noticed elsewhere)
What happened? Isn't Google supposed to be perfect?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Y'all know what I'm talking about:

Crony capitalism -
Crony capitalism is a pejorative term describing an allegedly capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between businessmen and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth.
UPDATE: Hey, look what Dean Baker wrote the day after my post:
Are Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson Crony Capitalists?

The media should be asking this question. After all, they are trying to hide which banks are in trouble and refusing to give out information about who is borrowing from the Fed. This is exactly the behavior that the IMF and widely cited economists denounced when it was done by the East Asian countries during their financial crisis in the late 90s. Are these practices now good economics because our government is doing them?


Price target:

From GM shares hit 62-year lows after broker downgrades (emp add)
Shares of General Motors Corp tumbled 24 percent to 62-year lows on Monday after analysts downgraded the automaker, citing cash levels that may fall below the minimum needed in the first quarter of 2009.

Analysts including Barclays Capital to Credit Suisse also warned that while government aid would decrease the risk of a bankruptcy for the No.1 U.S. automaker, any assistance would come at a significant cost to existing shareholders.

Barclays cut GM to "underweight" from "equalweight" and lowered its price target for the stock to $1 from $4. It said GM is expected to end 2008 with $13.3 billion in cash and fall below its minimum the $11 billion to $14 billion in cash needs during the first quarter.

Deutsche Bank cut GM to "sell" from "hold" and lowered its equity value to zero from $4, saying GM may not be able to fund its operations beyond December.
Forget Chrysler, this GM situation is an even bigger problem.

UPDATE: Just checked the quote for GM and noticed that the market cap is just under $2 billion.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Shorter David Broder:
The first weekend after a historic Democratic victory - giving them firm control of the Presidency, Senate, and House, along with a big agenda for the many serious problems facing the nation - it's time to write about five promising Republican governors.


Not stating the obvious:

Jonathan Chait, in a post-election essay writes:
Among the intelligentsia, a handful of thinkers have started to argue that the failure of the Bush administration calls for a rethinking of conservatism. But the most powerful institutions of the right--Fox News, talk radio, National Review, The Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and the major right-wing think tanks--remain firmly in the hands of conservatives who see the events of the last eight years as a vindication of their ideology.
What do Fox News, The Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal have in common?
FN, WS, and WSJ aren't everything, but they comprise a pretty big piece of the media pie.

And let's not forget the New York Post (regional, but sets the tone for many right-wing radio shows, especially Hannity).


A connection with the past:

Obama gave his victory speech in Grant Park on Tuesday. About Grant Park:
The city officially designated the land as a park on April 29, 1844, naming it Lake Park. When the Illinois Central Railroad was built into Chicago in 1852, it was permitted to enter along the lakefront on a causeway built just offshore. The resulting lagoon became stagnant, and was largely filled in 1871 with debris from the Great Chicago Fire. In 1896 the city began extending Grant Park into the lake with landfill.

On October 9, 1901, it was renamed Grant Park in honor of Galena, Illinois resident, American Civil War General and United States President Ulysses S. Grant.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Already started:

Joe Gandelman writes: (emp add)
At a time when Republicans are pondering Senator John McCain’s decisive loss in the Presidential race against Democratic Senator Barack Obama and looking to assess what went wrong, a noisy battle is raging between McCain’s Veep pick Gov. Sarah Palin, the McCain camp and, some suggest, a more furtive campaign by supporters of former Gov. Mitt Romney to define Palin.

In an important sense, the no-rest-for-the-weary timing of this symbolic Republican battle with implications for 2012 is not shocking. Obama himself came under immediate attack from talk radio and Republicans via email almost nonstop since Wednesday morning (with one host running audio of Reverend Wright). So the end of a campaign now means a new one IMMEDIATELY begins — so an excruciating two year presidential election campaign has now morphed into to a dentist-drilling four-year one.
Look at this from the front page of


Life imitates The Onion:

The Onion had fun with the cover of this week's edition, deliberately ignoring* Obama's win and, instead, headlining the win of a district alderman:
Which is very much like this story:

Newspaper in Terrell, Texas, doesn't think Obama's win was any big deal

At least that's the impression many readers got when they opened their copies of Wednesday morning's Terrell Tribune to see an inch-high headline saying, "Jackson defeats Schoen".

Seems the paper's editors decided the local county commissioner's race was a bigger deal for their readers than the election of the first black president in American hsitory.

Not only did the Tribune not put Barack Obama's election on Page One -- there was, according to Byron Harris of WFAA-TV (Channel 8), "no story devoted to the presidential victory" anywhere in the paper.

Publisher Bill Jordan had this to say to readers who complained that the paper should have preserved this historic moment:

"We run a newspaper, not a memory book service. We covered the local commissioner's race. We thought that was more important."

Terrell, population 13,606, is labout 30 miles east of Dallas.
* actually, it appears the edition was set-for-print on election day or before, so they may not have been ignoring an Obama (or McCain) win. But it's pretty clear that was the impression they were trying to make.


Friday, November 07, 2008 is still batshit crazy:

From the Obama page:
3rd paragraph
The October 2008 crimes against Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson's family highlight Obama's record against law and order, as he voted against making it a crime in Illinois "for convicts on probation or on bail to have contact with a street gang". The person of interest in the murders of Hudson's mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew is the estranged husband of Hudson's sister and a convicted felon who had violated his parole conditions. "'We've got 75,000 gang members - that's almost six gang members to one police officer.'"

4th paragraph (emp add)
Obama is the first person having ties to a known terrorist to gain control over America's nuclear weapons. Author and blogger Jack Cashill compared the writing style of Bill Ayers' 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, with Barack Obama's earlier 1995 book, Dreams From My Father, and came to the conclusion that Ayres had ghostwritten Dreams.

8th paragraph
Doctors from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons have stated that Obama uses techniques of mind control in his speeches and campaign symbols. For example, one speech declared, "a light will shine down from somewhere, it will light upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will say to yourself, 'I have to vote for Barack.'" The doctors observe that "Obama's logo is noteworthy. It is always there, a small one in the middle of the podium, providing a point of visual fixation ... [that] resembles a crystal ball, a favorite of hypnotists."

further down
Many observers have criticized Obama's campaign for its incivility. For instance, John McCain's wife Cindy noted that Obama is running "the dirtiest campaign in American history."
That hypnosis charge by the AAPS is for real. Full 25 October 2008 press release is here.


Good idea:

In an Ezra Klein post about what to do about Lieberman, one commentator wrote:
... wouldn't it be cool if Obama were to appoint Lieberman to some office that he'd have a hard time turning down, so that he would give up his Senate seat, and then Obama could fire him? Wouldn't that be cool?


Over at the National Review, they've just now gotten upset at the relentless pro-Wall Street press:

Andy McCarthy endorses these remarks by a reader:
When stocks were up pretty big on election day, the headline I saw was "Stocks cheer likely Obama victory."

Midway though the day Wed as things had turned modestly negative, it was "Stocks taking profits on Obama's win," putting a positive connotation ("profits") on negative news.
Market bears and skeptics of Rah-Rah capitalism have been griping about the "profit taking" term for decades. Over at places like NRO, they never complained during that time. But now they do. What took them so long?


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Right-wing radio already trashing Obama:

I was going to write about the next-day reaction, but Joe Gandelman already did it.


GOP leader:

Atrios writes:
The GOP should be fun to watch. It'll be weird seeing them without an obvious leader/figurehead. In my adult lifetime they've only really been like that during the brief period of the 2000 Republican primary, roughly between Newt's resignation and the choosing of W. I mean, is it going to be McConnell? Hah. Boehner? Hah. Mittens? Huckabee?
What about Lamar Alexander?

He's moderate (at least by Republican standards). He's a Bush Senior kind of guy. He won reelection this year by a huge margin (look at the election results by county - its amazing). He's from Tennessee, which may be important since so much of the GOP is southern-based. He's run for president twice, which makes a politican less provincial in outlook. He was born in 1940, which is too old for any more presidential ambitions but old enough to be the éminence grise of the party.

From a purely politics angle, Alexander might be the kind of guy to heal and reorient the GOP.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Those bad auto sales:

The 32% declind in auto sales is certainly a sign that the recession is here, but it's useful to note that for the reporting period (Jul, Aug, Sep) the price of gasoline was also very high.

So maybe Detroit won't be in such bad shape going forward (although it will still be rough for the car makers).


Did not know this:
Senator Joseph Biden is the first Roman Catholic vice president to be elected.


The conservative "solution" is the problem:

Ross Douthat writes: (emp add)
Conservatism in the United States faces a series of extremely knotty problems at the moment. How do you restrain the welfare state at a time when the entitlements we have are broadly popular, and yet their design puts them on a glide path to insolvency? How do you respond to the socioeconomic trends - wage stagnation, social immobility, rising health care costs, family breakdown, and so forth - that are slowly undermining support for the Reaganite model of low-tax capitalism?
I'd broaden that to
undermining support for low-tax, free-market, globalized capitalism
Because that's led to so many of the problems Douthat identifies. Labor's economic power has been considerabily reduced over the last 30 years. It's not only wage stagnation but reduced health care coverage and the elimination of pensions.

A free-market gives the advantage to those with greater economic power and they will take it, eventually leading to the increased disparity in wealth - which is where we are now.

To a certain extent, the "welfare state" (along with regulation) is used to counter those trends. But Douthat wants to restrain the welfare state. So the problem he identifies cannot be solved within the framework of Douthat's conservatism.


From the In the News section of its Main Page:
Barack Obama is elected as the first black President

A possible silver lining for conservatives: The end of Hillary Clinton's power, and liberals no longer have anyone else to blame for continuing dissatisfaction.
Still there, the Obama would be the first Muslim President entry on the Obama bio page.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Will this be a history-making election?

I'm not talking about small things like the first black president or (unlikely) the first woman vice-president. No, the important question is this:
Will this be the first election where who I voted for becomes president?
Here's my record:
Year Voted for Why
1972 McGovern Vietnam War.
1976 Ford Ford was a moderate to liberal Republican.  Carter's born-again aspect was worrisome.
1980 Carter Reagan too conservative.  Reagan not smart.  Carter not impressive but better then Reagan.
1984 Mondale Reagan too conservative.  Reagan not smart.  Mondale's tax proposal looked good (this was prior to the '86 tax reform)
1988 Dukakis Viewed Bush as a continuation of Reagan (though not as bad).  Not that jazzed about Dukakis though.
1992 Bush Liked Bush for raising taxes.  Gulf War was in line with international rule-of-law.  Handled dissolution of Soviet Union well. Clinton was untrustworthy.
1996 Dole Sentimental favorite. Liked his droll humor.   Also, given the polls, it was an easy "throwaway" vote.  Still considered Clinton untrustworthy and didn't like his neo-liberal economic policies (approval of Financial Services Modernization Act, Commodities Futures Modernization Act, NAFTA, giveaway of electromagnetic spectrum).
2000 Gore Bush was a crazy Christian conservative.  Gore good on the environment and Social Security "lock box".  Supreme Court appointments.
2004 Kerry Iraq War.  Bush assault on civil liberties.  Bush anti-science.    Supreme Court appointments.
2008 Obama Republican party completely taken over by plutocrats and Christian conservatives.  Country needs expanded social safety net.  Tax code not progressive enough.   Supreme Court appointments.
CLARIFICATION: About the approval for "raising taxes". Don't like taxes but do think that when times are flush, it's appropriate to keep the national debt in check, especially with taxes on income and wealth. But when circumstances demand it, like in a recession, unwavering budget-hawkism is harmful and taxes should be lowered.


Crazy time:

Over at World Net Daily, Jerome Corsi's lastest (and hopefully last) screed against Obama is online. Some lowlights:
[People who figure in "Questions about Barack Obama" include]

Saul Alinksy. Obama's first job in Chicago was to head the Alinsky-influenced Developing Community Project, Inc. Obama also participated in teaching Alinsky-methods of radical income redistribution in classroom settings. Obama's current policies of "distributing wealth" stem from anti-capitalist attitudes developed in studying Alinsky's radical works, such as his seminal book entitled "Rules for Radicals."

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He's a Luo tribesman affiliated with Obama's father when Odinga's communist father was Kenya's first vice president after Kenyan independence and Obama's father was a Harvard-educated economist working in the Jomo Kenyatta government. Obama campaigned openly for Odinga for president in 2006 when Obama was in Kenya on a U.S. Senate "fact-finding" mission. Kenya's president Kibaki asked Obama to stop interfering with Kenyan presidential politics. Obama raised an alleged $1 million for Odinga to run for president in Kenya in Dec. 2007, adding to the $1 million raised for Odinga's 2007 presidential campaign by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. When Odinga lost the Dec. 2007 presidential election by approximately 233,000 votes, Odinga called for protests which led his Luo tribesmen to murder approximately 1,000 Kikuyu tribesman, displace another 350,000 Kikuyu tribesmen, and destroy 800 churches, while not a single mosque was destroyed. Obama helped negotiate a settlement in which Odinga was appointed co-head-of-state and appointed prime minister to end the violence, even after it became publicly disclosed Odinga signed a letter of understanding with radical Muslims in Kenya in return for their votes.
In the first case it's "Alinsky-influenced" and "Alinsky-methods" which is great for Corsi, since Alinsky doesn't have to be anywhere near Obama or have even met him. (Saul Alinsky died in 1972.)

In the second case, Corsi tells lots about Barack Obama's father - a man he was with for only one month in his entire lifetime.

In a concluding list of questions, Corsi asks (this is dated November 3):
Was Obama born in Kenya or Hawaii, as his campaign continues to maintain?
The right-wing will never let that one go.


Monday, November 03, 2008

My mini-predictions:
  • McCain wins Ohio. That state seems to have gotten steadily more conservative over the last 40 years.
  • McCain wins Missouri. It's pretty much a southern state.
  • Colorado is solid for Obama.
  • Pennsylvania goes Obama.
  • Obama will do better (as a percentage of the vote) in North Carolina than Florida. Not sure if he'll win both, one, or none.
  • Nevada for Obama. That state has been moving towards a Pacic Coast States political orientation over the last 20 years. Mostly because the population growth has been huge, fueled by people moving into the state.
  • South Dakota, Georgia, Montana, and Arizona are McCain wins. If not, then get ready for a sense within the nation that it really has moved towards liberalism. National elections, in addition to selecting officeholders, validates (or falsifies) narratives that until then were held with less surety.
  • SENATE: Pretty much the CW of a gain of 7 seats by Democrats. Also, not being filibuster-proof will be less of a problem than some are predicting.
  • HOUSE: Gains, just not sure where from or how it will affect the ideological stance (if you can speak of one) of the current House.


Sean Hannity on the radio:

Is talking about the possible need to form a
conservative, resistance, underground movement
in response to an Obama/Democrats win which would usher in a radical leftists socialist agenda ("ten times more extreme than you've been led to believe").


Those "undecided" voters:

If they're undecided now (or as recently as last week) then they're probably not very interested or motivated. Should they go to the polling places, which will in many cases have big waiting lines, they'll turn away and go home.

So they won't be much of a factor this year.


David Frum is wrong:

In a post where he comes out for John McCain - dispite his qualms about Palin - Frum gives: a list of 10 items why: (emp add)
8) McCain’s healthcare plan is the first and essential step toward a market-based approach. If competition is to work, individuals must buy their own care.
That's not true in many instances, health care being on of them. Frum says that for "competition to work" it's okay for individuals to shop among a limited set of health care providers. But competition would be fiercer if individuals banded together (union, under an employer plan, at various levels of government grouping) and use their increased economic power to cut a better deal. But Republicans don't like that because it hurts their interests - supporting business over others. Witness their resistance to having the federal government bargain for prescription drugs. They didn't like that because the government was a stronger economic entity, even though free market principles should allow for any coalitions to form and participate in the market.


My problem with McCain:

McCain doesn't like progressive taxation (that's clear from his plan which decreases progressivity and his attacks on Obama's proposal to increase the progressivity of the code). In general contours, McCain prefers something approaching a flat tax. But why should people who earn more be required to pay more in taxes? That's unfair. It's also clearly redistributionist. Instead, we should have a head tax - a fixed amount per person per year*. This crazy notion of taxing a percentage of someone's earnings punishes success, etc.

I don't understand why McCain hasn't been called out for his immoral, socialist, redistributionist stance on taxes.

* Even that's redistributionist. People should make only a single payment one time in their life. Why should people be punished for being successful (i.e. living longer) with a head tax assessed each and every year?


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Question for my readers:

Who did Limbaugh support for president early this year? Way before McCain started doing well.

I'm guessing it was either Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson. But was Romney in the mix?

Or did Limbaugh not hold any preference? (Although wasn't he anti-McCain until the last moment?)


Shorter David Broder: I'm totally in the tank with McCain's "town hall" argument

Towards the end of Broder's I'm-still-kinda-skeptical-about-Obama essay, he writes:
Obama is not, any more than other politicians, a paragon. He reneged on his promise to use public funds for his general election campaign, driving a stake into the heart of the post-Watergate effort to reform the campaign finance system. He rejected McCain's invitation to hold joint town hall meetings -- opening the door to the kind of tawdry exchange of charges that we have seen. In both instances, he put his personal goals ahead of the public good -- a worrisome precedent.
It's possible that a good-government type of person would be dismayed at Obama opting out of public financing (though there are arguments in favor, given the 527's, etc). But to say that by not agreeing to public debates on McCain's terms is
  • A "a worrisome precedent" of Obama putting "personal goals ahead of the public good", and

  • That it "opened the door to .. tawdry exchanges"
is remarkable.

First of all, town hall debates are not a necessary component to a good election campaign. Broder needed to make the case - which he didn't - that the public had insufficient exposure to the candidates and their positions this year. That argument is unpersuasive considering the huge number of debates that were held.

Second, failure to take part in town hall meetings in no way justifies the kind of low-ball charges that came from the McCain camp (e.g. "Obama wants to teach sex ed in kindergarten"). And using the expression "tawdry exchanges" makes it look like there was an equivalence between each side. That's impossible. Even McCain supporters would disagree with Broder (saying that their man got hammered worse).

The more I read Broder, the more I get the feeling that one of his goals is to promote Broder. Broder the Olympian figure who won't get his hands dirty actually grappling with unpleasant details and calling foul where appropriate. It's gotten to the where I expect Broder to refer to World War II as a "distasteful affair". That sort of thing.


Privacy first:

Some folks (including the AFSCME!) are gay-baiting in Kentucky in order to take down Mich McConnell.

I object to that. I also objected to probes into Larry Craig's personal life. Politicians represent their constituents. If the constituents want anti-gay policies enacted and a (secretly) gay politician works to those ends, I don't see any hypocrisy.

Back when outing Larry Craig was a national sport, I got into a heated debate over at Balloon Juice. I thought Craig should be left alone even if he was promoting anti-gay policies - that Idahoans wanted.

For me, privacy is fundamental. I don't like to see it violated by the right (who do it more) or by the left.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Rick Davis on the Sunday shows!
That's the actual photo thay have at ABC's This Week page.

Davis will also be on Fox News Sunday.

It might be fun to watch this guy for a change. He's usually quite arrogant, but with a pending loss, hearing him "make the case" for a McCain win would be amusing.


And never the twain shall meet:

Another sign that the right-wing is detaching itself from the rest of society.
If you've ever listened to Hugh Hewitt, you'll quickly discover that he's a total shill for the Republicans. No different than a car salesman, in fact. His "brand" is always the best, and no matter what the news is, he'll spin it his way.