Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No talent at ABC:

Today on ABC's Good Morning America, in the first hour after the news, they had - to "weighing in on all these facts" - an interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel. O'Reilly helpfully talked about "pinheads in Europe" and how great his cable channel show is doing.

It's not so much that O'Reilly is out there promoting himself. But what does it say about the ABC network? Don't they have anybody there - a journalist or even a "political observer" - to provide perspective?

Interesting to note that O'Reilly was on ABC shortly after he was using his show to harass a private citizen.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Wrong move:

This story, Dem Strategists: Sarah Palin Is The New Rush Limbaugh, claims that "the party plans to increasingly elevate Palin in the same manner it has employed Rush for weeks". That's not smart. Limbaugh is the much better foil. Palin is, on the whole*, a nice person. Limbaugh is not.

* Yes, she said some nasty things in speeches, but her general disposition isn't (yet) unremittingly hostile.


Nothing but insults:

What would you do if someone called you:
  • A person with a "scrawny chest"
  • Prone to "completely unearned righteousness"
  • Someone who failed in their first marriage
  • "self-deceiving"
  • A "lowdown, yellow-bellied, lily-livered intellectual coward"
  • "quivering"
Would you be open to hearing that person's message? The Los Angeles Times thinks you would.

Re the essay's pro-Limbaugh claims: I've listened to plenty of Rush's radio show and Andrew Klavan's argument is total bullshit.

UPDATE: Klavin speaks out (at Pajamas Media):
Kudos, by the way, to the always fair op-ed page editors at the [Los Angeles] Times. I have written for the Washington Post and the New York Times as well and getting a conservative point of view past their editors without being gutted is virtually impossible.
Klavin's blog is quite interesting. Here he writes about the Pope:
I’m not a Catholic—and I’m pretty sure I’ll never become one—but I’ve read a fair amount of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and it’s clear to me the man is a theological genius. I find it amazing that the Vatican could have followed a genuine hero like John Paul II with a mighty mind like Benedict’s.
He also considers Ann Coulter "adorable".

CODA: Speaking of right-wing radio, on Sean Hannity today, he opined that Europeans were worried that Obama was going to force socialism on them. The horror!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Anybody seen Paul Krugman lately?

Is he in hiding? Where did he go? It's been ages since he's penned an opinion, appeared on television, or been covered in the media.


Why is John McCain on Meet the Press today?
He's not in a leadership position in the Senate. He's not on a critical committee. He's not been part of the dialogue on financial matters. He's already gotten tons of face time over the last eight years, so it's not like he needs more exposure. What's up?


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shorter David Broder:
I don't need Social Security, and neither will you.



Excerpt from a Newsweek story about Paul Krugman by Evan Thomas: (emp add)
If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he's wrong, and you sense he's being a little harsh (especially about Geithner), but you have a creeping feeling that he knows something that others cannot, or will not, see. By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are.
That sort of thing wouldn't have been written five, ten, or twenty years ago. This is Evan Thomas, self-described establishment fan, and he's using the language of class, which is not too far away from the language of class warfare.

This financial crisis appears to have triggered a fundamental change in perspective, both by the citizenry and the media.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crossing the threshold:

Up until now, if there was a debate about people being awarded damages, it focused on the punitive part. Compensation for restorative medical treatment, pain and suffering, and economic loss, was generally seen as uncontroversial.

But now the Republicans, in their Road to Recovery document (pdf), in the section on health care, write:
"Republicans support reasonable limits on non-economic damages ..."
Which sure sounds like targeting restorative medical and pain and suffering.


Hooray for Texas!

In the news: (emp add)
Science standards challenging evolution debated in Texas

(CNN) -- The Texas Board of Education this week will vote on science standards that critics say seek to cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The board -- considering amendments passed in January -- will hear from the public on Wednesday. It will then take votes -- an initial one Thursday and the final vote Friday.

"This specific attack on well-established science ignores mountains of evidence and years of research done by experts in a variety of fields," said Steven Newton, project director at the Oakland California-based National Center for Science Education, a proponent of evolution.

One amendment, critics say, undermines the idea that life on Earth derives from a common ancestry, a major principle in the theory of evolution. It calls for the analysis and evaluation of "the sufficiency or insufficiency" of the common ancestry idea to explain the fossil record.

Newton said the board is considering other amendments casting doubt on well-established ideas in the earth and space sciences -- plate tectonics, radioactive decay and how the solar system developed.
It's really unfair that up until now biology has had to shoulder the burden of the debate with the young earth creationists. But that may change. With Texas leading the way, geology, physics, and astronomy can get into the fight.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the future:

Bernanke wants tougher oversight and institutional restrictions in place so that the financial system doesn't screw up again. But how does that insure against having an Ayn Rand acolyte becoming the Fed Chairman fifty years from now? Or a crazy Texas senator who gets legislation passed that deregulates the banks?     (h/t TT)



Yahoo's Most Viewed News:


Monday, March 23, 2009

Harvard man:

Brad DeLong, good friend of Larry Summers and current cheerleader for Tim "Legacy Loans" Geithner's plan, wrote this in September of last year: (emp add)
Fed Is Likely to Make Money from Its Bank Buyouts

I think the federal government is much more likely than not to make money off of AIG (AIG), Fannie (FNM), Freddie (FRE), and whatever else it winds up buying. The underlying goal is to recapitalize the banking system--where a "bank" is anything that borrows short thus promising liquidity and lends or invests long--and to reduce the outstanding stock of risky assets to a level where the private sector is happy holding them at a reasonable price.
How's that AIG situation working out? Are we making money on that or losing up to $200 billion?


In the news:

Bank of America’s Bernstein Says Sell Bank Stocks After Rally
Investors should sell bank stocks after they rallied 12 percent today because the Treasury Department’s plan to buy toxic assets won’t stop profits from dropping, Bank of America Corp.’s Richard Bernstein said.

Removing devalued loans and securities from banks’ balance sheets is a short-term solution that will delay the problem’s ultimate solution, which is bank takeovers, Bernstein said. The government won’t be able to inflate the prices banks receive for selling bad assets indefinitely, he added.

“The history of bubbles shows quite well that financial sector consolidation is inevitable,” Bernstein, Bank of America’s chief investment strategist, wrote in a research note. “Financial stocks will be attractive when the government tries to speed up that inevitable process. However, to the contrary, the government continues to attempt to stymie that inevitable consolidation.”


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Do you like math?

If so, go to naked capitalism for some estimates of how the Geithner plan might function (w/ additional helpful updates & critiques from comments).


The Geithner plan:

I like it. It's sensible, effective, and most of all, fair.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Seems like that's what's happening:

Eugene Robinson says:
The basic strategy for handling the crisis, begun under the Bush administration and continued by Obama, is to hook up a fire hose to the Treasury and shower irresponsible and greedy financial institutions with money until the fire is put out.
It does appear that Geithner is operating on the assumption that by constantly feeding bailout money in small* amounts to banks (and AIG and others) that eventually the situation will stabilize and then recover. But is there enough money or political will to do that?

* "small" these days is on the order of $30 billion at a time.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A lot in very little time:

Fed statement:
To provide greater support to mortgage lending and housing markets, the Committee decided today to increase the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet further by purchasing up to an additional $750 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities, bringing its total purchases of these securities to up to $1.25 trillion this year ...


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Today's poly-sci & economics lesson:


David Frum asks:
Good question. (He is particulary annoyed at Glenn Beck).


Monday, March 16, 2009

What I'd like to know:

Is AIG still writing Credit Default Swaps over at the London office?


A voice from overseas:

The Telegraph:
[Headline] European banks have nothing to apologise for over AIG bail-out

US indignation at the bankrupt-and-bailed-out insurer’s record is understandable, as is fierce debate about how AIG was rescued. But non-US banks – which together received $60bn from AIG – have nothing to feel guilty about.

Some in Washington are already singing the predictable tune: US taxpayers’ money was used to bail out European banks. But the decision to bail out AIG meant such uses of cash were inevitable: either a bailout makes good on valid contracts, or it doesn’t. ...

Once the bailout decision is made, and the funds are in, the rescuer doesn’t get to choose which obligations are honoured. That’s especially true for AIG. The whole point of the rescue was to keep the mega-insurer from defaulting on its obligations. ...

What this means is that AIG honoured its contracts. Whether it should have signed those contracts in the first place – or been bailed out subsequently – is another debate altogether.

European banks simply did what it was their duty to do. Where AIG got the money from didn’t matter. Foreign banks aren’t the custodians of US taxpayers’ funds.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

AIG bonuses:

This could be a real turning point in the politics of the financial crisis. Looks bad for AIG all around. Bailout money goes to Europe (some of it anyway). Bonuses go to the London (!) Financial Services office. If this whole mess was confined to domestic players, it'd still be bad, but the idea of money going overseas (even to a well-liked country like Britain) will get people hopping mad.

Nationalization may come sooner than you think.


This could be interesting:

Two points. One from the New York Times:
From what is known, it certainly does not appear that A.I.G’s trading partners were entirely innocent victims of extraordinary circumstances. A.I.G. was a key player in a type of unregulated derivative called a credit default swap. Such swaps are often defined as a form of insurance because the seller guarantees payment to investors in case their investments go bust. They are not safe insurance in any familiar sense, however, because A.I.G. was not required to set aside reserves in the event of a claim. That is why, when the bubble burst and defaults rose, A.I.G. was unable to make good, provoking the bailouts.

Still, the trading partners knew, or should have known, how dangerous the swaps were. And that is not necessarily the whole story. In the manic years of this decade, credit default swaps took off as a way to bet on the likelihood of default by a firm or an investment portfolio, without having to own any financial interest in the firm or portfolio. That is definitely not insurance, it is gambling. The reason it is not illegal gambling is that, in 2000, Congress specifically exempted credit default swaps from state gaming laws.

The result? Eric Dinallo, the insurance superintendent for New York State, has said that some 80 percent of the estimated $62 trillion in credit default swaps outstanding in 2008 were speculative.
The other from Jim Hoagland:
This much is known from AIG's own pre-bailout quarterly reporting, as pointed out by Henny Sender in the Financial Times on March 7: Of the $446 billion in credit insurance that AIG sold, $307 billion of these securities were bought by European banks.

Why? The best guess I hear is that the banks were not buying insurance at all -- they seem never to have diligently asked if AIG could pay off, which it manifestly could not. They were in effect buying a piece of the firm's AAA rating, which enabled the Europeans to inflate artificially their required credit reserves and lend out ever more of their capital for bigger profits -- until the crash came. Or as financial blogger John Carney has put it, the customers were in on the scam.
Whatever AIG sold, it sure doesn't seem to be an essential part of a well managed financial system. The hi-jinks at AIG deserve much more exposure and scrutiny.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watch & listen:

Engineers and physicists will be fascinated.


Cramer vs Stewart (or is it Stewart vs Cramer?):

The best short summary of what happened (and I've read dozens of reviews) is this one:
The thing that people probably won't get, though, is that Jon really isn't interested in Cramer. I wouldn't say he's interested in CNBC. He's interested in the press, and how the press serves more as a dissemination medium for the powerful than anything else. This is exactly what The Daily Show is about, and has always BEEN about, but people often forget it in their rush to turn it into a left/right Republican/Democrat thing.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Incredibly lucky:

How about this? (emp add)
Four Citigroup Inc. executives who bought the bank’s stock last week generated a $2.2 million paper profit within nine days, regulatory filings show.

The executives, including director Roberto Hernandez, benefited as the company’s stock climbed 47 percent from March 10 through yesterday’s close of markets, after Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said in a memo that the bank is having the best quarter since 2007. Their buying spree was the first by bank insiders since Jan. 14, filings show.

“You’re supposed to buy when everyone else is selling,” said Bruce Foerster, a former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. managing director who now runs South Beach Capital Markets in Miami. Banks have internal systems to monitor executive trades and prevent abuses, he said.

Pandit wrote in the internal memo March 10 that the company was profitable in January and February, leaving him “encouraged with the strength of our business so far in 2009.” The comments triggered Citigroup’s biggest one-day percentage gain since Nov. 24, spurring global markets.
They just lucked out when the "internal memo" somehow leaked this week, leading to a monster rally in the financials.


Who is this guy?

In another unsurprising George Will column slamming Obama, he writes:
Five months after enactment of TARP, a plan for unfreezing the credit system remains, like Atlantis, rumored but unseen. Twelve months after the government brokered the marriage of Bear Stearns and J.P. Morgan Chase, the government is recapitalizing financial institutions that the market has said should be shuttered. Lawrence H. White, economics professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, denies that financial institutions ever were "unregulated." Hitherto, such institutions were "regulated by profit and loss":
"The failure of Lehman Brothers and the near-failure of Merrill Lynch raised the interest rate at which profit-seeking lenders were willing to lend to highly leveraged investment banks. The market thereby forced Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to change their business models drastically and to convert to commercial banks. If that isn't effective regulation, what is? Protecting firms from failure (Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup) and mitigating their losses with bailouts renders this most appropriate form of regulation much less effective."
In other words, we don't need no stinkin' regulation - we already got some (the "invisible hand" will spank you when appropriate). No government action needed; it's the neo-Hoover stance.

But more interestingly, who is Lawrence H. White, the fellow that Will cites? From Wikipedia:
Dr. White's account of competitive currency issue in Scotland details history's best case for why there should be private issue of currency. The successful history of the Scottish system contradicts the presumption that banking regulation should be considered a public good. White's analysis implies that modern banking systems could function without a central bank, for example the Federal Reserve system of the United States.
Got it:
  • Private issue of currency.
  • No government regulation of banks.
  • No Federal Reserve.
Anybody on board with that?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The naked truth:

Is found simply in the title (and subhead) of this essay by Howard Fineman:
A Turning Tide?

Obama still has the approval of the people, but the establishment is beginning to mumble that the president may not have what it takes.
So much for democracy.

Then there are these excerpts:
Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him ...

... in ways both large and small, what's left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America.

The American people remain on his side, but he has to be careful that the gathering judgment of the Bigs doesn't trickle down to the rest of us.
This essay belongs in a time capsule.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Stocks around the world staged the biggest rally of the year after Citigroup Inc. said it was having its best quarter since 2007, spurring speculation the worst of the banking crisis is over.


Updated for the 21st century:

Back then:
William F. Buckley: (1955)
[The National Review] stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.
Mark Halperin & Co.: (2009)
.. is Obama trying to do too much?

If Obama comes out and says, 'Listen, I'm going to move all these other things aside, shift my focus mainly to the economy,' and take all these other things, put them aside -- not forget about them -- just really use all his efforts there, I think it'll make a big difference.


That poll which said there are more atheists:

It's hard to imagine that, in the space of a decade or two, there would be such a substantial growth in the percentage. Not that much has changed in the world. More likely is that people are now more comfortable saying that they don't believe in god.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Nothing new here:

There's been a mini-uproar on the right about a man with a cellphone at a homeless shelter where Michele Obama dropped by this week.

This blog made a post way back in October 2003 that contained observations of a similar nature about Rush Limbaugh (who also flogged the homless-with-a-cellphone story this week). Here are the relevant portions of that post (slightly edited):
Rush Limbaugh a multi-millionaire who complains when moms on welfare have "luxuries" like a microvave oven. (We vividly remember that rant from a while back.)

Here is the picture that accompanied a New York Times article about welfare moms in California. (enlarged 200%)

The thrust of the story was that the state of California was paying such families to move out of the state. This picture was of someone who was living in an apartment in the central valley. Rush Limbaugh seized on the story - and the accompanying picture - to complain that this lady was living the high life. Basing his analysis solely on the picture, Limbaugh was outraged that there was a dishwasher and a microwave oven in the kitchen.

[The New York Times story ran on Monday, 18 June 2001, and Limbaugh made comments on his radio show that same day. From the NYTimes abstract: Tulare County, Calif, which is one of poorest counties in US has been paying average of $1,600 per month to more than 750 welfare families to move almost anywhere in country ...]

We were driving around listening to Limbaugh at the time and were startled at his mean-spiritedness. Complaining about a microwave oven? Look at the picture. It's under the counter. Those things cost about $80. What would satisfy Limbaugh? Welfare recipients living in a tent with no heat?

He's a son of a bitch. Don't forget it.
Some things never change.



Marc Fisher, writing in the Washington Post: (emp add)
Tonight, the clock shifts forward. Tomorrow, sunset moves from 6:07 p.m. to 7:08 p.m. But our work here is not done. If we really wanted to fill our lives with joy and save energy and money, if we really wanted to move beyond the fiction of our agrarian conception of time and into the modern world, we'd shift to year-round Daylight Saving Time ...
Daylight Savings was extended in 2005 by a Republican Congress more interested in appearances than real energy conservation (the bill was authored by Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts).


Thursday, March 05, 2009


GE's stock closed today at $6.66.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arbuscular Mycontizal Fungi:

Will have more on this in a subsequent post.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Potential big story?

Here's the full post at But Then What:
AIG: Can We Get Some Transparency Here?

You know that somethings rotten in Denmark when the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times agree on something. That cats laying down with dogs event occurred today and it was prompted by the latest bailout of AIG.

Both newspapers opined that it was past high time for the government to come clean as to who we were actually bailing out. You see, the government keeps saying that AIG is systemically important and dollars keep flowing out of the company to make good on various credit default swaps contracts that the company entered into but no one will say to whom this money is flowing.

The Fed and the Treasury are stonewalling and, of course, conspiracy stories are starting to swirl. One holds that Goldman has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the bailout. Goldman naturally denies that and says that although they bought a lot of protection, they were able to hedge their exposure. Another and probably more on the mark theory is that the money is flowing to European banks who were big AIG customers.

If it is the European banks then that one is going to be embarrassing to say the least. The taxpayer is pretty fed up with supporting U.S. banks. If they get wind of a scheme to use their dollars to prop up European banks look out. I wouldn’t want to try and explain the intricacies of international finance and inter-dependency to them.

Regardless of to whom the money has been directed, I suspect that the pressure to open up about it is going to get pretty intense. Clearly there’s something here the government doesn’t want to have to deal with otherwise they wouldn’t be so tight lipped. The problem is that you can never keep a lid on this sort of thing. Look for the leaks soon.
Here's my thought: The money is going to the European banks. But to a significant degree, the money the European banks were playing with was from the oil-rich Middle East. If that can be proved, can you imagine the furor over giving money to AIG which flows through to European banks in order to make whole a bunch of wealthy Arab potentates.


Joe Klein on the last 30 years:
We are at the end of a 30-year period of radical conservatism, a period so right-wing that many of those now considered "liberals"--like, say, Barack Obama--would be seen as moderate pantywaists in the great sweep of modern political history. The past 30 years have been such a violent departure from the norm, such a profound destruction of the basic functions of government, that a major rectification is called for now--in rebalancing the system of taxation toward progressivity, in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, not just physically, but also socially and intellectually.


James Baker is making sense:

How about these words from Reagan's Treasury Secretary (in the Financial Times):
Beginning in 1990, Japan suffered a collapse in real estate and stock market prices that pushed major banks into insolvency. Rather than follow America’s tough recommendation – and close or recapitalise these banks – Japan took an easier approach. It kept banks marginally functional through explicit or implicit guarantees and piecemeal government bail-outs. The resulting “zombie banks” – neither alive nor dead – could not support economic growth.

... the US may be repeating Japan’s mistake by viewing our current banking crisis as one of liquidity and not solvency. Most proposals advanced thus far assume that, once confidence in financial markets is restored, banks will recover.

But if their assumption is wrong, we risk perpetuating US zombie banks and suffering a lost American decade.

The Treasury department – working with the Federal Reserve – must swiftly analyse the solvency of big US banks. ... Any analyses, however, should include worst-case scenarios. We can hope for the best but should be prepared for the worst.

Next, we should divide the banks into three groups: the healthy, the hopeless and the needy. Leave the healthy alone and quickly close the hopeless. The needy should be reorganised and recapitalised, preferably through private investment or debt-to-equity swaps but, if necessary, through public funds. It is time for triage.

... bank boards of directors and senior management should be replaced and, unfortunately, shareholders will lose their investment. Optimally, bondholders would be wiped out, too. But the risk of a crash in the bond market means that bondholders may receive only a haircut.
It all sounds good.


Monday, March 02, 2009

The Limbaugh scrum:

Lots of fun, especially with the latest victim, Michael Steele apologizing. But some observations and questions:
Limbaugh is on a roll, but isn't that mostly because of the recent passage of the stimulus bill and budget proposal?

Will Limbaugh still be in the catbird seat one year from now? Isn't he peaking right about now?

If Limbaugh continues to be the face of the Republican party, how will that affect Republicans voting on Obama's health care and energy policies?

Will Limbaugh shunt Republicans into a position of all voting "No", and if so, how is that different than what we've already seen in the last 30 days?

Will Limbaugh rise to a level of "respectability" so that, like in 2004, he's invited onto NBC to opine on elections? Won't there be resistance from the institutional press?

Isn't Limbaugh unintegratible into the Republican establishment hierarchy? Or can he actually take over the party (w/ assists from Hannity)?

It's odd that so far (though it's early), there have been no not-for-attribution, background quotes from Republicans on the Hill critical of Limbaugh.

Limbaugh is a factor here, but isn't the real story here that it's the Base that's calling the shots in the Republican party? Limbaugh more symptom than cause, etc.

How could the moneyed interests in the Republican party lose control to the Base? Or have they? Is this partly a legacy of there being no Bush Jr. organizational network in place, so that the party is virtually leaderless (in the traditional sense, by politicians)?
FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T GET ENOUGH: A huge round-up of comments from across the political spectrum (w/links) at the Moderate Voice.


Remember late September 2008?

On Monday, September 29, the DOW dropped from Friday's close of 11,143 to 10,365 - a 778 point decline. By this time, it was clear there was a serious financial crisis, what with Lehman, AIG, et al in the news (and the failure of the House to pass economic-related legislation).

The next day, Tuesday, on the morning network shows, they trotted out various financial advisors. What did they say? The all said pretty much the same thing:
Don't panic and sell. If you sell now, you won't have a chance to erase (some of) the losses.
Since then, and after virtually every major decline the advice has remained constant: Don't sell (with an exception for those who may need money in the next 24 months or so).

Boy, did those advisers screw over the viewers.

FYI: Today the Dow closed at 6,763, a 34% decline from the 10,365 close of Monday, September 29.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Voice from inside the Republican mind:

Limbaugh gives a speech. Conservative Rod Dreher sees it as bad for Republicans (and conservatives). Random blogger Robert Stacey McCain takes issue, supports Limbaugh, and writes:
If Rod Dreher wants to join Andrew Sullivan and David Brock ... in the ranks of the vaunting army outside the camp, let him go over and be gone. But don't sit pouting inside the camp, giving aid and comfort to the adversary by your demoralizing pronouncements.
This Limbaugh phenomenon is looking like it will bring big dividends to Democrats. The Republican party may very well shrink another 20% if this keep on.


David Frum on the Goldwater Myth:

Good reading. Basically, it's that Goldwater -> Reagan was not because of Barry, but that Reagan came in because of the problems during Carter's term.


Great Huckabee quote from CPAC:
"We've got to get the word out that the Republican Party is not just a haven for rich white guys who want to get richer."
Not "just" for rich white guys. The other components is, presumably, social conservatives. What a combo!


Limbaugh's excellent advice to Republicans:
"One thing we can all do is stop assuming that the way to beat [Democrats] is with better policy ideas."
That pretty much says it all.


Must reading:

This NYTimes story about AIG is a-freaking-mazing. Excerpt:
A quarter of a trillion dollars, if it comes to that, is an astounding amount of money to hand over to one company to prevent it from going bust.
Let it go bust.

As the story details, the losses are in credit default swaps, which are insurance policies written against mortgage-backed securities. AIG wrote lots of them, with premiums that were ridiculously low, pocketed the cash, and now that the housing bubble has burst, can't cover the policies.

Sounds like holders of mortgage-backed-securities should take the loss (since AIG is unable to compensate). What's so complicated about that?


Anybody read Maureen Dowd anymore?

During the Bush administration, every so often she'd bring out a new fact or so. But now, it's all limning of characters with stale metaphors (e.g. Obama as Mr. Spock). Uninteresting and boring, with writing that can irritate: Bush is either "W" or "43". Recently there was a column about bankers partying. Out of 806 words, nearly 500 were about Cheryl Crow at a Northern Trust gig (Dowd: Northern Untrustworthy). Check out this filler text:
  • The entertainment Web site TMZ broke the story Tuesday that ...
  • ... four days of posh hotel rooms, salmon and filet mignon dinners, music concerts, a PGA golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club with Mercedes shuttle rides and Tiffany swag bags.
  • ... lavish dinner at the Ritz Carlton on Wednesday with a concert by Chicago (at a $100,000 fee); rented a private hangar at the Santa Monica Airport on Thursday for another big dinner with a gig by Earth, Wind & Fire, and closed down the House of Blues on Sunset Strip on Saturday (at a cost of $50,000) for a dinner and serenade by Sheryl Crow.
  • Crow — in her stint as a federal employee — warbled these lyrics to the oblivious revelers:

    “Slow down, you’re gonna crash,
    Baby, you’re a-screaming it’s a blast, blast, blast
    Look out babe, you’ve got your blinders on ...
    But there’s a new cat in town
    He’s got high payin’ friends
    Thinks he’s gonna change history.”
  • ... had raised $3 million for the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce Charity Foundation and other nonprofits.
"And other nonprofits"! Are you better informed now?.

That's way too much copy/paste of a wire report to be in an opinion piece. No wonder reading her is a chore. Dowd has really lost her way.