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29.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One (more) last sermon Permalink to this item

Against the odds, Forrest Church is still preaching in New York.

Blame Game Permalink to this item

The snippet of Pelosi's speech that I saw—presumably the most dramatic part of it—seemed ill-advised, but the utter failure of the House Republicans to whip their side into delivering just a dozen more votes seems more immediate a cause for the demise of today's bill than anything the Democrats did.

At least with Pelosi, you know where you stand. John Boehner, now there's a guy who will say one thing to your face while he's reaching around to stab you in the back. Just my impression, but John Shaw's first-person account of the non-effort on the part of the Republicans to garner more than a third of their votes to support their own President speaks volumes.

Lame duck and a House divided Permalink to this item

Vincent Reinhart, quoted on the Nightly Business Report: "Last week, a government official said we're one step away from the abyss if you don't take these actions... the Congress just said 'take a step forward.'"

Could have something to do with the broad-based public outrage at the size and idea of bailing out the miscreants who brought us to the abyss, and Representatives' unwillingness to tie themselves to such a bill right before an election. A few more days like today in the market, and it might not be such a good November for incumbents. Hard to imagine voters would send the usual percentage back to office after this sort of debacle.

Oddly enough, the House was not divided along party lines as much as usual: the "no" vote was one of the most bipartisan of the session (decade?), with 40% (95) of the Democrats and two-thirds (133) of the Republicans joining to kill the plan, and then elbowing their way to the nearest microphones to tell everyone who they thought was to blame.

Early voting Permalink to this item

The first returns on the grand bailout consensus over the weekend are in... and there's hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut. Dow Jones Industrials off 2½%, S&P500 3½%, NASDAQ off 4%, a couple of my stocks off 10% and more.

Looks like the start of another ugly week.

Balancing the books over the weekend, I noticed a sizeable discrepancy, and traced it down to some bonds in our portfolio. Nice, safe, secure, Moody's AAA-rated, federal and state tax-free Idaho Housing Finance Association 5% coupon, 2026 maturity, backing single family housing in our state. The trading history is sporadic, but almost all close to par, including the last trades, in April. Now there's a "third party price" quoted, at $.88 on the dollar. That's better than 60 (and 30, and 20!), but still. It's notice that we own some of the debacle, directly.

Latest headlines include Citigroup Buys Banking Operations of Wachovia. Apparently, those financial institutions that do the most advertising are the first to go? More importantly, as we hear about how we have to bail out one institution after another because they're "too big to fail," we see the remaining players getting bigger still. Perhaps we need to revisit the antitrust laws, and re-establish that too big to fail means "too big to remain intact." It would be lovely if we could legislate (or regulate) away failure, but the world doesn't work that way.

28.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Obscenity on Wheels Permalink to this item

Fast cuts, flashing lights, all the electronic candy, and... it's a Cadillac! And a hybrid, woo. As always in a car commercial, no other traffic on any of the roads, just one person in a gigantic vehicle. But what's this? Even the ultimate American lead sled luxury brand is selling fuel economy now. It's all relative, though: "50% better fuel economy in the city," they tout. Better than what? Better than the non-hybrid Escalade pig, getting 12 miles per gallon. Out on the highway, you can look forward to the same 18 or 19 mpg with either the hybrid or "regular," tops.

When it comes to saying "I can pour my money down a sewer, why should I care about wasting resources?" nothing says it quite like a Cadillac SUV.

26.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Without preconditions! Permalink to this item

What is this freaky obsession McCain has about "preconditions"? I guess this kind of nonsense works fine when he's speechifying by himself, but when it's dialogue, he's left with nothing but a bad act.

"It's just [ tenses shoulders, shakes head in mock incredulity ] dangerous."

Maybe that's why he's afraid of engaging in dialogue.

It's well known Permalink to this item

That John McCain is not Miss Congeniality. We'll stipulate that.

More importantly, if he gets upset, will he fly totally off the handle? Watching him in a debate is like watching a guy on a tightwire who isn't quite as steady as needs to be to stay up there.

You CANNOT be serious Permalink to this item

I haven't seen the whole Katie & Sarah show and apparently this part is not the worst of it, but from just that much, how could the Republican Party or John McCain possibly stand this woman up as candidate for Vice-President?!

Here's the whole interview.

Update: Herbert: Palin's words raise red flags.

"It was surreal, the kind of performance that would generate a hearty laugh if it were part of a Monty Python sketch. But this is real life, and the stakes couldn't be higher. As Ms. Palin was fumbling her way through the Couric interview, the largest bank failure in the history of the United States, the collapse of Washington Mutual, was occurring."

Overtime! Permalink to this item

I missed the President's Wednesday night address to the nation; I guess he was mostly pushing for how important it was for Congress to bailout the moguls of financing, to keep the economy going. Ok, that didn't work, now what? After the supposed leap to leadership from McCain, we find—quelle surprise!—that the Maverick is not able to lead his Party in a crisis.

There are plenty of liberals who join the conservative Republicans in being "loath to spending so much taxpayer money on Wall Street," as Nagourney and Bumiller put it; I'm guessing that's the majority view of the electorate. But yet, "economic disaster" sounds bad, and the Democrats are on the hook to lead us through this.

Today's developments (reported today, for tomorrow's "paper") have John Boehner continuing his power trip, telling reporters that "We will not agree to a bill that sells taxpayers out to bail out Wall Street," which I like the sound of, but not so much his snark that "last time I checked, you [reporters] didn't have a vote."

Dear Representative Boehner, you know that you're supposed to represent the people you serve, right? And that those people do elect you to your office? Yes, it's a representative democracy, but rubbing our faces in how powerful you are is not a really brilliant political move. Don't abuse the media, because they tell us what you're doing, eh?

But I digress. What about the rest of us? the NYT editorial board asks. Shouldn't a financial crisis triggered by bad mortgages be solved by doing something about the mortgages?

This time it's really over Permalink to this item

Sami at sunset, 2002 Sami had been pretty sporty for a good while after the recent troubles (and premature rumor of her demise back in April), but about a week ago, she must've had another seizure, or perhaps a stroke, and she didn't snap out of it this time. Her appetite waned to nothing, she was still on her feet, but wobbly yesterday, taking her last few sips of water.

She spent her last hours lying peacefully in the living room (!), not in any apparent pain. Then she slipped away, that mysterious spark stilled...

Each of our lives will come to an end some day, and there is something strangely awesome about being in the presence of an animal you've come to know as life runs out.

Farewell to our beloved cat, 17 years and 9 months from the day we found her as a starving, freezing kitten at the Little Salmon River rest stop on highway 95.

Little Salmon River on Boxing Day
Found 12/26/1990, Let go 9/26/2008

25.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Crisis roundup #2 Permalink to this item

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has a petition response: (1) let the rich pay for this; (2) make sure we don't pay too much for all that worthless paper; (3) make sure we get equity in the companies we're bailing out; (4) include an economic recovery package; (5) repeal the de-regulatory legislation that got this mess going; and (6) break up the companies that are "too big to fail."

More than 20,000 people have signed on already, part of the vast upwelling of non-support from the American people.

Sweden: Insist on getting equity in the deal. (They've been through this. Successfully.)

Michael Hudson: Investors and their capital are fleeing... from the very garbage that Paulson wants the authority (and bankroll) to buy up. The folks left holding the bag want one more deal to go down, so that it's not them.

"There is a long pedigree for this kind of behavior. And it always seems to involve a partnership between kleptocratic insiders and the Treasury. Todayís twist is that the banksters have lined up complicit accomplices from the accounting industry and bond-rating companies as well. The gang's all here."

Joseph Galloway: Trust us? In a pig's eye, I say.

Jim Crotty: The Great Switch: Banks Rob People.

Ruth Conniff: What $700 Billion Could Buy.

Danny Schecter: "We need a 'jailout' more than a bailout: hold these people accountable for what they did."

George Will: McCain loses his head, looking for a suitable scapegoat.

Be a sheep for the GOP! Permalink to this item

I haven't heard back from Senator Orrin Hatch for the email I sent him about his last shilling for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They seem to be getting increasingly desperate to find people who are willing to contribute something, anything to their cause. The last one had a pitch for sending $11, this one is to send just $7.

The inspiring pitch is how much liberals were able to raise from Al Gore's last appeal. raised $200,000 in 90 minutes after an email went out, Hatch tells us. Somehow, I'm guessing Orrin is not going to get the same results today. His bullet list of "far-left agenda" points is feeling very tired:

I mean, really. The SCOTUS has been absurdly stacked by the right already. Taxes aren't skyrocketing. Gas prices are definitely higher than they were when George W. Bush came to town, but how is that the Democrats fault? Can you say "Iraq war"? Sure you can. The Dems rolled over on drilling. Trial lawyers and big labor? OMG, that is so last election (and last century).

"Political negativity" or "voter information"? Permalink to this item

Well, it's not true that Bill Sali is actually black and white, but according to KTVB, the factual claims in Walt Minnick's latest ad (below) are all correct.

Good teacher? Good President? Permalink to this item

In last Sunday's "College Issue" of the New York Times Magazine, Alexandra Starr makes a case study of Barack Obama, describing a facet of his experience I knew nothing of. It's a fascinating read, and adds to the list of presidential qualities he's demonstrated.

To me, anyway. The folks who are dead set against him for reasons real, imagined, and deliberately made up by the rabid right are not going to look at a NYT Magazine piece, much less read all the way to the end of two jumps. Nor do I think they have the patience for someone who actually values democratic process and the open-minded consideration of views other than his own.

24.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One out of three ain't bad Permalink to this item

A comment under Donald Craig Mitchell's story, "How Alaska's AG defied the publicís interest to cover for Palin in Troopergate" announces a rally this coming Saturday to "Hold Palin Accountable."

It seems those crazy Alaskans are wanting to see their Governor uphold her promise for an "open, honest & transparent" government."

Since those our her cronies in the key positions, and since the McCain campaign is orchestrating the obstruction of the Troopergate investigation, Palin's government does qualify as "transparent," but not so much open or honest.

THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE Permalink to this item

As seen all over the tubes today, Please Respond Immediately Forthwith In Confidence.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Maureen Dowd is right, too Permalink to this item

Commenting on "the picture of Gov. Sarah Palin with a perky smile and shapely gams posing with a pleased Henry Kissinger":

"It's hard to imagine that John McCain and Sarah Palin still want advice from the Unwise Man Kissinger. It's sort of like villagers in those old movies who bring in the wizened witch doctor to shake a stick over them."

Peggy Noonan was right Permalink to this item

Here's a real poll result on that "qualified" question, from the Wall Street Journal and NBC: 49% said "not qualified" vs. 40% qualified. (Republican Kool-aid drinkers profess a belief in her being qualified by 75 to 15%.)

Joe Biden's numbers were 64/21 "qualified."

It's a little fluffy down there on the bottom of the GOP ticket.

With all due respect, Senator... Permalink to this item

You say you want to suspend your campaign so you can work on the financial crisis? Thanks, but are you serious that your presence is going to make a difference in resolving this in the next few days or weeks?

Here's an idea if you want to duck out of the debate and pretend like you're an elder statesman too busy to do the work of standing for election: have Sarah Palin carry on as if she were at the top of the ticket. Kind of a dry run in case of you-know-what. She's had time to meet several heads of state (and Henry Kissinger!) and a refresher on the Bush Doctrine, I'm sure she'll be unblinking and ready to steal the show.

If you do want to help solve the crisis, why not take a page from the book of J. Pierpont Morgan, and propose that we lock Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and a gaggle of C.E.O.s into the library and stop feeding them until they come up with a fix?

Hold the innovation Permalink to this item

One part of the pushback on the plan to make Hank Paulson CFO of USA, Inc. is to put the brakes on executive pay. Of course, Wall Street mavens, lobbyists and trade groups are howling like stuck pigs with lipstick over the very idea.

"Pay restrictions, they say, would sap incentives to hard work and innovation, and hurt the financial sector and the American economy."

Hard work is a fine value, but we've had a bit of an overdose in "innovation" lately, leading to, what is it that it's being called? Oh yeah, the verge of "financial meltdown." Keep those $hundreds of millions flowing to executives and we'll innovate our way out of this, you say?

I'm guessing the folks paying the freight—that's you and me, fellow taxpayer—will be much more enthusiastic about "claw-back" provisions for some of these too-clever titans of the banking industry than they will about the glories of unfettered capitalism. A ban on severance payments for firms on their way to going belly up would be sensible too, wouldn't it? How is walking away with $millions as the house of cards collapses behind you different from theft?

Putting venality in perspective Permalink to this item

That mere $1B in Medicare fraud doesn't seem like such a big deal now, does it? A $bil? Pocket change!

And how about McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis having his firm on the FreddieMac payroll, not just in the olden days, but right up through last month.

Give the head of Freddie some credit, though: because nobody really had any idea what Davis was actually doing on their behalf, they negotiated a reduced rate of only $15,000 a month. $180,000 a year going into a law firm, that can get lost in the rounding error.

Just trust us Permalink to this item

Really, really serious emergency here, we need to have you give us blanket authority with an unprecedented amount of money, and no review whatsoever....

Who is this really?

The party of ever-diminishing regulation, free market über alles, Big Daddy trickle-down economics and oh yes, the Baraccuda and the Maverick now brings us... the Financial Bridge to Nowhere.

"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself."
Republican National Platform, 2008

Now only $700 billion. (Hey, it's just spending "authority." We won't use it right away, and maybe we'll even get some of it back after a while.)

Cheney even popped out of his undisclosed location to visit Capitol Hill yesterday. I think that means there's going to be 6 more weeks of financial winter.

There are other options, but I'm still waiting for anything that sounds like a good one. Our story so far: housing bubble, mortgage brokers gone wild passing bogus deals on up the food chain into a $60 trillion toxic stew that makes the stuff they dumped in Love Canal look like a breakfast drink, all the guys in the nice suits clean out the safes and then want... the U.S. Taxpayers to buy up the crap? Or buy into an equity stake in these companies?

Good lord, I don't want the bad loans, and I sure as hell don't want to buy into the companies that created this debacle. Let's talk about bankruptcy reorganization, prosecution for fraud and malfeasance, and having some of these companies just go right out of business, shall we? They've certainly demonstrated ample incompetence.

As has the Bush/Cheney administration, that now proposes to take care of everything, with only two orders of magnitude more money than they said the Iraq war would cost. (And no, it's not "good news" that the war turned out to be this same order of magnitude.)

23.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's a Bonanza Permalink to this item

Sparkle Pony's been mostly focused on Condoleeza Rice these past years, but OMG (as she might say), there's a new gal in town! Take your pick up and down the blog, but I liked the "The Palin Bunch" graphic.

I'm sure the campaign would tsk and cluck, "so disrespectful..."

The Grey Lady's take certainly meets the due deference test, but it also has a curiously Sparkle Pony feel of its own. Henry K! Big teeth! Nice gams! All that and the crash course in meeting titans of international diplomacy. Next up, some sort of formal dinner thing, once they figure out who to sit the First Dude next to.

Let's vote by intertubes Permalink to this item

Snapshot of NOW poll, 9/23 After a couple decades futzing with email, my radar for scams, spam and other folderol is pretty well developed, but I confess, I fell for the viral "Is Sarah Palin qualified to server as Vice President of the United States?" poll that NOW put up.

Online polls are fairly ridiculous, you know, designed to pump up readership, ad revenue, whatever. Anything depending on whoever shows up and clicks a radio button provides a measure of just that: who shows up and clicks radio buttons. In the case of the NOW poll, it was even sillier in that there were no means to prevent multiple votes from one person.

After the freepers and other motivated mouse clickers pumped up the Yes results, the left side of the aisle fought back with their own email chains, to say No, No, No. As a result, according to Tynan on Tech, the director of new media for the program said they've collected 43+ million "votes," as of yesterday.

As of today, the playing field has been nearly leveled, from 53-45-0 to 50-48-0. (Rounding errors total 2% for both those snapshots? Hmmm.)

Update, 9/24: The rounding error has tightened up to 50-49-0, and voting now produces a yellow-letter notice:

"Your first vote for this poll has been registered. Any subsequent vote will not be counted. This is not a scientific poll."

My first vote today? Or the first vote I made last week? The last statement is certainly true, at least.

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho CD-1 Tipping? Permalink to this item

The Minnick campaign is coming out with poll data from Harstad Strategic Research, from a phone survey done after the Republican National Convention, when our red state was in maximum gush over the "Idaho native" added to the McCain ticket. In a relatively small poll (405 likely voters), Minnick has a 5% edge, 43% to 38%. That makes for a goodly margin of error, and 4 times as many people telling the pollsters they haven't made up their minds as the space between the candidates.

But, a Republican incumbent at the top of the ticket, behind his challenger? The backstory is evenly split un/favorable ratings for Sali, and half the respondents rating Sali's job performance as "poor," or only "fair." The plot thickens.

Mega-bailout opinion rodeo Permalink to this item

Newt Gingrich: "What they're doing is just wrong."

"And I think that it's likely to fail, and it's likely to make the situation worse over time. And I think that [U.S. Treasury] Secretary [Henry] Paulson has shown almost no understanding of how a democracy operates. His initial draft would have given him $700 billion of your tax money with no oversight, no judicial review, no accountability. I mean, we're not a dictatorship....

"I think it's fundamentally wrong, and I think that it is very likely to create a bureaucratic control of our financial system in a way that will cripple us for 20 years."

John Steele Gordon: Greed, Stupidity, Delusion — and Some More Greed.

Morgan Housel: The Death of Wall Street

Fiscal conservatives: Free market dead

The Australian: Not the death of capitalism. "The market has seen large pullbacks before." The soothing, sky-not-falling, stay the course message as was also delivered by the 2-page Wall Street Journal virus that leaked into the Sunday Idaho Statesman. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Foreign banks: We want to play too! "Foreign banks, which were initially excluded from the plan, lobbied successfully over the weekend to be able to sell the toxic American mortgage debt owned by their American units to the Treasury, getting the same treatment as United States banks."

Timothy Gatto: The Rich Screw Up, and the Taxpayer Loses. (He had an exclamation point at the end of his title, but really, is that necessary?)

Michelle Malkin: The Mother of All Bailouts = The Death of Fiscal Conservatism. "I have had it with Pollyanna conservatives who continue to parrot the 'fundamentals of the market are great!' line," Malkin writes. Gee, where I have I heard that line lately? She says "crony Democrats" are to blame for all our ills, right up until this "Bush legacy" of "a ginormous bailout of every last, failing, panicked financial institution's illiquid assets that may reach into the TRILLIONS..."

Krugman: Cash for Trash.

"Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a 'clean' plan. 'Clean,' in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached—no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review 'by any court of law or any administrative agency,' and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal."

Sadly, No!: Pitchforks and torches, my friends

Wimpy: "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Hushpuppies Permalink to this item

I wasn't there, and I don't remember all the details, but the image of pallets full of greenbacks being delivered to Iraq has stuck in my mind. Let's see, searching on Iraq pallet cash... ah yes, How the US sent $12bn in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish. That was back when $12,000,000,000 was a lot of money, and the UK Guardian could gush without exaggeration about "the staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve." Ok, so maybe the delivery won't be in "tonnes" of shrink-wrapped wads of $100 bills this time, but with the ante upped by more than a factor of 10, get ready for something decidely more "staggering."

"I hate the fact that we have to do it, but itís better than the alternative," Hank Paulson sort of assures us, as his plan calls for giving him, personally, "nearly unfettered powers" (as reported in the NYT) to decide when to push the pallets out the back door of the C-130s that will be flying over Manhattan to make the special deliveries.

Now that some blood has come back to the heads of Congress who are being browbeaten into saving us from "meltdown," some small resistance is being voiced. "We will not simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street and hope for a better outcome," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, bringing her philosophically closer to Idaho's far-right Congresscritter than his colleague to the east. Strange days have found us.

21.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spam-o-rama Permalink to this item

Following in the track of the thunderstorms, a huge wave of email bounce messages started pouring into my account yesterday, at 8:15pm. Most were getting spam-filtered, since the payloads were the usual garbage, but even the small percent of out-of-office and email confirmation request autoreplies leaking through were coming in much faster than "real" messages.

Looking at the bounces, I could see that my address had been spoofed into the "From:" header by one of the many miscreants sending those oh-so-tantalizing advertisements for pills, pumps and pr0n by the millions.

The messages were coming pretty much as fast as I could delete them out of the spam bucket. Hundreds in a few minutes, more than 1,000 an hour—for just the ones that were getting bounced! A call or two for help gave me a quick introduction to the Sender Policy Framework, "providing the world with a record of who is allowed to send mail from my domain."

A phone call and several messages to the WestHost support team later, they said they'd take care of for me. I deleted another several hundred bounce messages and went off to bed. Overnight, another 3,500 came in, with the couple percent that got by the filtering leaking into my inbox enough to overwhelm the good stuff.

But the flood is down to a trickle, "only" half a dozen or so per hour coming in, and getting filtered. I guess it's fixed. I can see how someone who didn't happen to notice the start of this sort of thing, or who didn't know who to call/what to do could end up just abandoning an account. Check your email a couple days later, to find 20,000 bounce messages? Or a sysadmin notice that you went over quota and your account is locked?

There ought to be a law against this crap.

Soaker Permalink to this item

After I'd drifted back to sleep on a gloomy Saturday morning, the snooze alarm came back with a ka-BOOM. Cumulonimbus parked right over the West Bench, for the start of the first wet day in 2 months. Folks in the Gulf Coast would laugh to hear it, but the "huge" rain we got yesterday, a bit more than half an inch, amounts to a month's worth around here.

Our last day of summer has jumped the gun on the equinox, tomorrow at 09:44 MDT. Cool, cloudy, and wonderfully moist air for a (big) change.

20.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Slightly queasy at the prospect Permalink to this item

Krugman('s blog):

So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago — and promising that if we marketize health care, it will perform as well as the financial industry!

Here's the money quote from McCain, in the Sept./Oct. 2008 issue of Contingencies:

"I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health insurance across state lines, when they can find more affordable and attractive products elsewhere that they prefer. Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."

But wait, there's more!

"Nationwide insurance markets that ensure broad and vigorous competition will wring out excess costs, overhead, and bloated executive compensation."

Wring out the old, and wring in the new, as if by magic.

Sorry, I'm above the law Permalink to this item

What is up with these people? Training to follow in the footsteps of Richard B. "Dick" Cheney in inventing new branches—and privileges—of government, Alaska's First Dude tells his state's Senate Judiciary Committee to stuff their subpoena.

Gosh, isn't it great to be a Republican celebrity? You don't have to do anything you don't want to!

"[Former New York federal prosecutor Ed O'Callaghan] said that Todd Palin submitted 'objections' to the subpoena that needed to be answered before he would take the stand. Another lawyer for the Palins has said that Todd was too busy with the campaign to testify, as if standing stage left behind Sarah Palin, holding Trig and grinning during her speeches, were a matter of national security."

Don't Text and Drive (a train) Permalink to this item

NYT Reporters quote Paul Saffo, Silicon Valley technology trend forecaster, estimating that "The act of texting automatically removes 10 I.Q. points."

We're still waiting to hear whether accident investigators will put the blame for the L.A. train wreck on texting, but further down the story is this survey report:

"Americans 13 to 17 years of age sent or received an average of 1,742 text messages a month in the second quarter (of 2008)."

Almost 60 per day. On average. That's a lot of IQ points gone missing.

But the good news is that 40% of teenagers report they can run their texting machines while blindfolded. Hopefully that's a guess, rather than the result of walking around with blindfolds on.

Repealing the Law of Gravity Permalink to this item

When Idaho's freshman cut-up Bill Sali proposed it, it was his little joke, but the SEC isn't kidding. Financial stocks have been sufficiently clobbered, they say, no more short selling, at least for a while. How long? We'll have to see.

One hedge fund manager, who declined to be named, likened the changes to "turning a football game into badminton."

Badminton can be a pretty exciting game too, as you know if you watched any during the Olympics. The "revised game" brought a nice pop to the end of a wildly volatile week on the markets, but after another weekend of rule-changes, what Monday will bring is anybody's guess.

It's a speculator's market, with the speculation being what will the government do next? Whenever short-selling is allowed again, there's going to be some pent up un-demand. Right up until then, do you want to go for a ride in my shiny, black banker's limousine? On this winding road with lots of blind corners? Right next to a cliff? Feelin' lucky big fella?

19.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Color Commentary Permalink to this item

Jack Lewis takes on Sarah Palance on NewWest, with a fascinating illustration that shows how the right coordination of your outfit can really make you pop out of a crowd.

"A slowly plumping middle-aged vet, I haven't hunted in years and never once shot a moose. Gov. Palin shot one last week, just to provide more red meat for convention attendees. She doesnít wait for hunting season. That's for socialist collaborators...."

"flounder" adds a postscript:

"Although I have never shot a moose, I've seen plenty of them. They tend to stand around a lot. I imagine shooting a moose would be a lot like shooting a cow—or a Stop Sign. Republicans are really good at shooting signs, junked out old cars, prairie dogs... no wonder she becomes Joan of Arc for shooting slow targets."

"Conservative" disses conservation Permalink to this item

Bill Sali envisions a future for his children and grandchildren where the more they burn, the more prosperous they'll be. And when that bridge to nowhere takes us to the next crisis... well, let's hope there are sharper pencils in the drawer than Idaho's junior Congressman.

Stop the Bleeding Permalink to this item

Now that it's full-on crisis, and you can't stumble through a newsroom without hearing comparisons to the Great Depression, here comes George W. Bush, finally ready for government intervention.

"Our system of free enterprise rests on the conviction that the federal government should interfere in the marketplace only when necessary," Bush said. "Given the precarious state of today's financial markets—and their vital importance to the daily lives of the American people—government intervention is not only warranted, it is essential."

It's going to be another long weekend for Ben and Hank and Chris.

In firefighting mode, it's hard to imagine a measured, careful response, especially given that we're romping off into virgin territory. There may be some ways out, or we may be in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. If only we'd approached the economy with the wisdom and consensus that some regulation is essential to keep the "innovation" in gambling from multiplying out of control, instead of falling for the ideological idiocy that "free" markets have an answer to every possible problem.

18.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Honor is re-earned every day" Permalink to this item

Thanks to the unequivocal notion for calling our attention to Mark Hill's fine letter to the editor of The Idaho Statesman.

(I think I missed it because I was distracted by the editor's note that "dozens of letters about Sarah Palin" are to be "published in the order received, space permitting." The order received? I'm paying the staff of the Statesman to make selections based on quality and newsworthiness. (I know, I know, quaint notion.) If I want to get blather and spew in the order received, I can read the comments to any old unmoderated weblog.)

But anyway, Mark Hill's letter.

"As a wounded and decorated officer of the Vietnam War, I do not have to defer to McCain's service record any more than he has to defer to mine. Unlike McCain, I have never used my military service for self-promotion, nor do I think combat experience defines me, gives me special credibility or automatically imparts honor. Honor is re-earned every day; it is not conferred for life on anyone regardless of one's service or sacrifice."

Well said.

Seen any good computer ads lately? Permalink to this item

Of course you have; you've seen PC Guy and Mac. But how about Jerry and Bill? Whaaaa' ?

Yes, that Jerry, and that Bill, in a sort of funny, but bizarre and useless four-and-a-half minute "ad"?!

Thanks to Wired for the news that Microsoft stuck a fork in the campaign.

17.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Two Minutes with Barack Obama Permalink to this item

Save youself some time with all the campaign nonsense in the news, watch just one ad—this one. If you need the details, you'll know where to go for them.

16.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Suddenly, her calendar is opening up Permalink to this item

The punchline of the vote blog's Fiorina story is that "some say she's toast" after going off script and providing some straight talk about her candidates' capabilities. CNN quotes a "top campaign advisor" as saying "Carly will now disappear."

On the one hand, we don't have firm evidence that Carly knows how to run a major corporation, but on the other, she may be qualified to say who isn't qualified. Pretty much everyone she's hanging out with these days, and the opposition as well. Running a big corporation is really, really complicated, you see. Much more so than heading up the Executive branch of the government of the United States of America.

The longer nights and crisp air of fall provide a fine opportunity to spend more time with family.

15.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ways and Means Permalink to this item

Only what, two-and-a-half weeks of shopping days before Congress focuses full time on getting itself re-elected? And oh-by-the-way, the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and is there anything at all like an FY2009 budget in place?

I didn't think so.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is a bit distracted at the moment, and needs a substitute, among myriad problems we face as summer turns to fall.

Good news: this might be the nadir? Permalink to this item

Following along the unfolding financial crisis with Floyd Norris' blog. He points to Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture, and its selected lessons. The first:

Go Big: Don't just risk your company, risk the entire world of Finance. Modest incompetence is insufficient -- if you merely destroy your own company, you won't get rescued. You have to threaten to bring down the entire global financial system. The fear and disruption caused by a Bear collapse is why it was saved. (AIG has the right idea on this)

The "Dow Jones Financial Services Titans 30 Index" is dropping Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and adding Mega Financial Holding Co. Ltd. (Taiwan).

The dean of the Business School at the University of Virginia, Robert Bruner, compares the Panic of 2008 to the Panic of 1907 and cheerfully supposes that "the events of the past 10 days may mark the nadir," but is only offering "50-50 odds that this is the bottom.

"I am concerned about the spread of the crisis offshore, and to other markets. If the crisis is contained, then I think the odds are dramatically improved that this is the bottom. But if Russia fails to refinance the debts coming due by the end of the year, if consumers dramatically pull back on their spending, and if corporate investing really pulls back, weíre in for more heavy weather."

14.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Outstanding work by Fey, Poehler and SNL writers Permalink to this item

Palin's own performance with ABC's Charlie Gibson was not so amusing, with too many deer in the headlight moments for someone wanting to be taken seriously as a candidate for national office. Plenty of Republicans still seem over the moon about turning the race into a new twist on American Idol as a sure-fire way to break free of the need to endorse more of the same of what we've had for the last two terms.

Which is exactly what the McCain campaign came up with for their pick for Veep: a person with plenty of "values" to feed the base, but no relevant national experience or understanding of this country's place in the world to qualify her for governing.

12.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just to set the record straight Permalink to this item

John McCain, answering Judy Woodruff's question on our one day of comity, honoring the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001:

"Of course I respect community organizers, of course I respect people who serve their communities, and Senator Obama's record there is outstanding."

Natives are restless Permalink to this item

In our nation of immigrants, where most of the real estate was stolen fair and square from the first natives, some of us use this "native" badge in a rather bizarre fashion. The Idaho GOP is frothing more than usual about having an "Idaho native" on the Republican presidential ticket.

Folks who were born in our state like to celebrate their special and relatively rare status among the larger population. Like so many others here, I'm a newcomer, having only been a resident for 30-some years. (I'm a "Wisconsin native," thanks for asking.)

Certainly, Ms. Palin's first three months were formative, but I've yet to hear her mention anything about the warm place in her heart for her native land down here. Or for that matter, much of anything about her time at the University of Idaho, where she seems to have stayed well under the achievement radar.

Nevertheless, the reddest of the Idaho Right is over the moon about rootin', tootin', shootin' Sarah Palin. She's their gal, and Party Chair Norm Semanko is wild about the prospect of her skirttails carrying his fellow travelers to victory in November. He's asking for your patience in filling those bumper sticker orders...

Here we are with country off on the wrong track, into and through the ditch and teetering on falling off a cliff, and we're all excited about slapping a bumper sticker on the rear end. Hard to imagine a more apt metaphor for the strategy of winning elections at the expense of the country than that.

11.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Less is More Permalink to this item

Seems like this would be a really good time to have a functional Security Exchange Commission, with an expanded enforcement staff. And chairman Christopher Cox is prepared to provide lip service to this fine idea. His press release department tells us that "S.E.C. enforcement staff (under) Chairman Cox has increased to 34 percent of the S.E.C. work force from 32 percent in 2005..."

Which would be really great if the S.E.C. work force hadn't been reduced by enough to result in fewer people on the payroll. Yes, there were fewer people working in enforcement at the S.E.C., but they touted the relatively smaller reduction in that branch as an "increase."

He was entitled Permalink to this item

"The backbone of our judicial system is that a person should not be entitled," Billy Martin told the court, "to go into a courtroom and plead guilty if there are not sufficient facts to support that plea of guilty."

"Entitled" to plead guilty. Now there's an interesting legal theory. We'll find out if the Minnesota Court of Appeals is persuaded by Mr. Martin within 90 days, and whether they'll give a Senator Larry Craig a do-over. In the meantime, something good has come out of this case:

"Over the course of the last year, there's been a great reduction in complaints regarding behaviors in the restrooms," said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. "If there's anything good that came out of the Craig case, it's that people know now that we are policing the restrooms just as we do other parts of the airport, and that this is not a good place to engage in activity that's inappropriate for a public restroom."

Bringing home the bacon Permalink to this item

FiveThirtyEight illustrates the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. I spent some words a week ago to describe how much value Sarah Palin had returned to her small town, and the larger context of the money flowing from red states to blue, but this illustration says it better than I did:

Modifed version of FiveThirtyEight's 'Barn' graph

The original graph contrasted the awesome pile of pork that Wasilla was slurping up, but didn't show the context of just how small Palin's home town is. This one contrasts Boise, a city of 200,000 or so (in a metro area barking past half a million) with Wasilla's small town population of 7,000-ish, barely enough to peek out from behind that porcine pile.

(Wasilla is part of Anchorage's so-called Metropolitan Statistical Area by the way, comparable in size to Boise and the Treasure Valley. Did little Wasilla share its spoils with the metropolis it lives in? Or is this their pork alone?)

Election? What election? Permalink to this item

The Boise School District had an election a week ago Tuesday, with three people running for two seats. Two were incumbents, one new guy. The day after Labor Day is not a great day to have an election, and neither does it seem smart or cost effective to have a "standalone" election, but still, when I get a chance to vote, you pretty much can't stop me.

The incumbents won, ho-hum. 44 and 40% of the vote, with only 1 in 6 dropping an X for challenger Jeff Almeida.

And how many people turned out to vote? 1,174, out of 98,517 registered voters in the District. 1.2%.

Update, 12.Sept.: Jeff was kind enough to point out an error in my shorthand summary: "While I got roughly 17% of the vote, each person [had] (up to, there were about 10% undervotes) two votes; 362 of the 1174, or 30.8% of the people who marked a ballot (since they couldn't vote for the same person twice), actually marked a ballot with my name on it! :)"

In bed with big oil Permalink to this item

We thought that was "just an expression," like "you can put lipstick on a pig..." or something. Turns out that the Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department really was in bed with big oil. Some people probably want to know what one commenter asked after Mary Ann Akers' column:


It's like mascara on a moose Permalink to this item

I've seen a moose or two or maybe three out in the wild. The one I remember was a day in late summer at Rock Lake in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, on the last morning of a two-week stay. I was making one last circumnavigation of the lake, an undertaking that required a certain amount of scrambling and bushwhacking, and coming out into a clearing, I saw it standing in shallow, marshy water, dipping its head in and filtering out the tasty aquatic plants.

It was an awesome moment in the stillness of early morning, and a thrilling keepsake of a wonderful experience in Idaho's wilderness.

I had no urge to shoot the animal, by the way.

I've got moose—and pigs, and lipstick—on my mind today, thanks to the Comedy Central-quality faux outrage the McCain campaign came up with after Obama used a cliche that supposedly connected to Sarah Palin's big speech in a way that... sorry, no way around this, even on a generally family-friendly blog, called her a pig. Political correctness, meet the new math:

I didn't say that, but the Republicans did. Yes, that's right, they said he said she's a pig. (Or at least they implied that he implied she's a pig.) And I bet your momma wears Army boots! I know you are, but what am I?

That settles that. Can we get on with talking about issues now? Like... the economy? The banking and mortgage industry that Phil Gramm helped deregulate, and that now needs to be bailed out while its CEOs ride into the sunset with multimillion dollar bonuses?

So far, the Republican strategy of "let's make this about personality and insults" instead of the actual issues is about as helpful as a screen door in a submarine.

8.9.10 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tempest in a Turbine Permalink to this item

The Statesman ran a Reader's View column today from Ben Collins of Buhl, defending the Idaho Department of Fish and Game supervisor who sent a letter to the Twin Falls Times-News back in July, responding to their editorial supporting the China Mountain wind farm proposal. What Collins quoted from David Parrish's letter sounded like statements of fact, rather than opinion, so I looked up the original, for which the Times-News identified Parrish as a regional supervisor of the Department.

If you're a booster for the wind farm, you might not like the way Parrish expressed himself ("It's a no-brainer" that the wind farm will have "negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife"), and it's reasonable to infer that someone who works at F&G would have a bias in favor of wildlife (wouldn't you hope so?), but his letter is pretty much straight up facts. He concludes with the suggestion to "let the bureaucratic process work before passing judgment."

The way that process worked was to first have the director of the Department write his own letter to the editor, saying that Parrish's "comments were his own and do not reflect Fish and Game's policy position." The headline said the previous letter "was personal opinion."

(Which is damned interesting, since the only thing that was "opinion" in Parrish's letter was that we ought to let the bureaucratic process work. The fact that a big windfarm's construction and operation would have a significant effect on wildlife is neither Parrish's, the Department's, or anyone else's opinion. There is no "policy position" involved in enumerating the costs and impacts for a proposed development.)

Then Parrish was demoted, for breaking with the Governor's "speak-no-evil media policy for state employees," as the Times-News editorial board put it. The "bureaucratic process" of course coughed up other reasons, it went "back months."

9.9.8 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bridges for sale Permalink to this item

Wow, Sarah Palin is still hawking her "rejection" of the Bridge to Nowhere on the stump? Granted, some of the rumor and innuendo about her isn't true, but this question cuts to the core of the "reformer" persona she's trying to convince us qualifies her for serving as Vice-President.

"We championed in Alaska reform of the old earmark process," she said today. [At least she does have experience with earmarks.] "I told Congress 'thanks, but no thanks' for that 'Bridge to Nowhere' up in Alaska. If our state wanted a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves."

Never mind that every state depends on federal highway money for the huge expense of building and maintaining major highways. And never mind that she supported the bridge before she opposed it.

Alaska kept the blasted money! Is she just reading these lies off the script, or is she repeating them on her own volition?

Family values Permalink to this item

Cole Rd. farmhouse, at its twilight Consider the spectrum of human existence, from self, to family, neighborhood, community, cities, counties, states, nations, the species as a whole on our planet. People organizing themselves into political parties have different things to say about these aggregations, the rights and responsibilities, and the proper (and improper) roles at each level of organization.

The strongest systems are built from the strongest components, generally speaking. Self-reliant, capable individuals make for stronger families, neighborhoods, communities, and so on. The most efficient interpersonal problem-solving happens in the smallest possible group. It's better to work out a family or neighborhood dispute one-on-one than to call the police, for example, even though broken relationships can and do require forceful intervention on occasion.

Campaigning for "leader of the free world" requires some big-picture thinking, but you hope it's supported by strength of character and the strength that comes from within, and from family, and so on. It was a "Party" idea to sneer at Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer, but to have it delivered by someone simultaneously propounding "small town values" and "executive" leadership experience makes me a little cross-eyed, which I suppose was the intent.

If you're OK with the inherent contradiction, it's a sign that the strategy of cognitive dissonance is working. Ideas that can't make sense simultaneously disengage the mind's assessment function, and clear the playing field for all sorts of mischief.

Politics is all too often a mob function, and it's never more apparent than at a national convention. A large crowd gathers together because they do—they want to—all think alike, feel alike, cheer alike. United we stand and all that, but in groupthink we fall, or at least fail to achieve what we might.

I like Jim Hansens's response to the attempted criticism of community organizers in the speech Sarah Palin delivered last Wednesday:

ALL of Americaís great movements—our countryís struggle for independence, to abolish slavery, to give women the right to vote, to end child labor, to provide for the 40-hour work week—happened because ordinary people organized in their communities and demanded change from their government.

8.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sarah Palin, under the radar Permalink to this item

I don't think I had a word to say about "Alaska media" before today, but I'm happy to broaden my horizons, and congratulate those folks up there who are enjoy some fame on their Governor's coattails.

Since the McCain campaign is keeping their little lady under wraps (at least until the media show her "some respect and deference"... maybe just straight to Dick Cheney's secret bunker after the election?), we'll have to rely on what sources we can, and here's one: the Mudflats blog, with a nice article and video suggesting that Palin's "just visiting" connection to the Alaskan Independence Party was maybe stronger than her connection to the Republican Party. "They walk among us..."

6.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mindshare Permalink to this item

George Lakoff, on the Palin Choice and the reality of the political mind:

"(T)he Palin nomination is not basically about external realities and what Democrats call 'issues,' but about the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind—the worldviews, frames, metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can't win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism, activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages that conservatives have in dominating political discourse."

Another side of one Palin story Permalink to this item

Alaska State Tropper Mike Wooten gets to tell his side of the ex-family affair. Death threat and beer cans disputed, Taser incident a minor issue of "using state equipment for personal use," not child abuse, "made some bad choices, made some mistakes and paid (his) penance."

"I would like to put this behind me and move on with my life. I don't wish ill will on anyone. I think that the nomination that Sarah got is great for the state of Alaska. I wish her good luck and the family good luck. I honestly think that everyone involved in this wanted to put this beyond us."

Frontier mentality Permalink to this item

Rick Steiner, on the running mate chosen by McCain's "spectacular, even dangerous lack of judgment":

"A particularly worrisome aspect of the Palin candidacy is her abysmal record on the environment during her two years as Alaska governor, and how that would translate into national environmental policy if she became vice president. Her environmental record as governor of the nation's 'last frontier' deserves close examination."

Compare a couple NJ Congr. districts with Alaska's Do you think the changes underway in the global climate might have an affect on Alaska, up there by (and beyond) the Arctic Circle? Palin's full-on resource extraction approach to the environment was a perfect match for the "drill baby drill" mentality that the Right is stoking to counter the idea that caution might be in order at the epochal juncture of Peak Oil and Global Climactic Disruption. Apparently, if everything is part of God's Plan, all we have to worry about is where to drill next, and how hard to pray for a pipeline.

Coming from a state that pays its people "taxes" instead of the other way around, you might expect a certain golden-egg laying goose mentality. It's a huge state, with fewer people than you can find in one of those east-coast cities where all the elites live, and the more they rip and tear, the better off they are.

5.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Interview with Amy Goodman Permalink to this item

Also on this week's NOW, Brancaccio talks with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about her arrest and abuse by the police in St. Paul. Did police target press on the street to make sure the media stayed inside the convention hall where the message was under control?

Speaking of Governor Whitman Permalink to this item

She was David Brancaccio's guest on NOW this week, and among other interesting points she made was this:

CTW: "...We've started to see this shift where every issue is made into a moral issue—it's morally correct to hold this position or that position."

DB: "And you can't argue against a moral position."

CTW: "No, and... you can't compromise on a moral postion. If I think I'm morally right, and I take this position, and you take the opposite position, then you're morally wrong, and you don't compromise with someone you think is morally wrong."

GOP soundtrack Permalink to this item

If John and Sarah want a job upholding the Constitution, maybe they could start practicing by having their campaign re-read Article I, Section 8. And the Eight Commandment.

Wait, we've heard this before Permalink to this item

Get ready for a little Groundhog Day for the next couple months. The purpose of the stump speech is to make sure the candidates stay "on message," and don't go nuts and try to improvise. That derision of "community organizers" was not just the Wednesday night pit bull theme, Sarah Palin is carrying it on out to small town America, starting with something close to my hometown, Cedarburg, Wisconsin. (It's being styled as a "suburb of Milwaukee," the city I was born in, but this will come as unwelcome news to the exurbians who purposely relocated to a model "small town" from the middle of the 20th century.)

Red State Rebels has a fine response to that cheap shot from hip-hop artist Jay Smooth, along with plenty of other hard-working people who resent being turned into a punch line.

"The difference between a 'community organizer' and a 'politician' is that community organizers are the ones who take the responsibility upon themselves to help their fellow citizens without the benefit of a government budget behind them...."

Maybe a game show appearance or a sitcom? Permalink to this item

Sure enough, Jay Rosen's forecast scenario is playing out on-script: no interviews till she's ready.

The angry Right resentment strategy is making some of those eastern elites angry, too. I don't remember this kind of dudgeon from Judith Warner before:

"Could there be a more thoroughgoing humiliation for America's women?

"You are not, I think, supposed now to say this. Just as, I am sure, you are certainly not supposed to feel that having Sarah Palin put forth as the Republicans' first female vice presidential candidate is just about as respectful a gesture toward women as was John McCain's suggestion, last month, that his wife participate in a topless beauty contest."

Exploiting the memory of the dead Permalink to this item

I haven't caught up with last night's RNC gala, beyond seeing the very end of McCain's acceptance speech. (He sure had 'em going for that; I thought the way he kept pumping those last few lines into the cheers and applause was ably done; waiting for it to die down and firing it back up would've been far less exuberant.)

I understand that part of the evening was a "9-11 Tribute" video, upon which Keith Olberman commented succinctly. Watching the 3 minute video by myself, with a little browser porthole wasn't anything nearly as dramatic as being in a darkened convention hall with a few thousands of fellow travelers watching a big screen, but I certainly got the point.

Be fearful of Evil, and those who hate us. We are righteous, blameless, and We Will Never Let it Happen Again.

"It is a war we never chose to fight," the narrator intones. Except for Iraq, that is. We did choose to fight that war, for reasons that were questionable, at best. And in Iraq, the dead, wounded, and displaced outnumber American dead, wounded, and displaced a hundred to one.

This is all about being Christian Soliders, not Christians. It is remarkable that the supposed Party of Values and Narrative can generate such fervor over the idea of life, right down to the cellular mechanics of reproduction, and yet be so willing to make callous life-and-death decisions for the rest of the world.

And then exploit the memory of "our" dead to further their own cause.

4.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Culture War Option Permalink to this item

Jay Rosen tries his hand at predicting how Sarah Palin's big night at the convention would go... and looks to have nailed the "shock and awe" of the next greatest battle in a reignited war between Fundamentalism and Pluralism, Faith and Reality, America as God's gift to the world vs. America as a member of a community of nations.

We'll see whether his strategy prediction after the "big break" at the convention is what plays out in the next couple months:

Strategy: double down on defiance by never letting her answer questions, except from friendly media figures who have joined your narrative; like Cheney with Fox. No meet the press at all. No interviews of Palin with the DC media elite—at all. De-legitimate the ask. Break with all "access" expectations. Use surrogates and spokesmen, let them get mauled, then whip up resentment at their mistreatment. Answer questions at town halls and call that adequate enough.

The GOP Vetting Emporium Permalink to this item

and Taco Stand.

I want to know what she wants to know Permalink to this item

Dr. Laura (Dr. Laura?! Yup, Dr. Laura) is "stunned" and wants to know

"(C)ouldnít the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didnít want a 'mature' woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?"

Whose Big Brother? Permalink to this item

We fast-forwarded over the part where Willard "Mitt" Romney blurted out that "Itís time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!" The NYT editorial board "couldn't imagine what he was thinking" with that, but Jeanette suggested he might have skipped over one of the seminal works of modern English literature on his way to being a Captain of Industry.

Perhaps he's projecting an unhappy memory about his big brother, or thinking about the welfare state bogeyman, rather than George Orwell's prescient description of the Bush / Cheney administration.

Coming after his own diatribe against the quaint Constitutional notions of equal protection of the law and presumption of innocence, the only question I have is how much was outright chutzpah, and how much was flat-out ignorance.

Fact Check! Permalink to this item

In her defense, there were a lot of people wanting to put words in her mouth, but let's get a few things squared away, shall we? The reality-based community collects the facts, ma'am.

If you don't like that site, you can get it off the AP wire as well. (Be advised though: the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner site is working a bit harder than usual.)

H/t to the Unequivocal Notion, just replete with good stuff today, including Jon Stewart checking in with the changes of heart pouring into the Right-sized bloviation pool.

3.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Finally, heeeeeeeeere's SARAH! Permalink to this item

She passes her first test with flying colors: reading the campaign's pitch as if she believes it with all her heart. (Granted, it was nicely customized for their last-minute pick.)

Anything about banning books in the local library? The change of heart in supporting Ted Stevens? Or his bridge? Not quite.

"We have a surplus," built on transfer payments from the Federal government, and resource extraction. If the state's going to build a bridge, they'll do it themselves? The Department of Transportation will be pleased to hear you're sending that money back.

Wha' what's that you say, you're not sending the money back?

And that liberal former mayor of New York Permalink to this item

Ridiculing the idea of working as a community organizer.

And so on. Remember people, this election is not going to be about "issues," it's supposed to be about personality. (That would explain why Rudy Guiliani is speaking on Wednesday rather than Thursday night.)

Let's do be sure to keep this video in the archive and replay it during Obama's second term.

But first, the nice loser Permalink to this item

I like Huck! As do a fair number of the Republicans in the house. And hey, after Mitt Romney, even Carly Fiorina would've looked avuncular.

Speaking out against racism here, in this mostly white crowd, more evidence of meaningful progress. And a decent statement about the opposition. "We celebrate this milestone" of Obama's nomination.

Here he is selling "change" in the house of the Party that's been in power for eight years. Huh. We're all firmly agreed we need change in the White House, OK. Huckabee's not above ignorant, cheap shots though. Attacking Obama for bringing back "European ideas" from travelling overseas?

Everybody's waiting for Sarah Palin Permalink to this item

We've heard she was a beauty queen! And she's going to read a speech somebody in the Party wrote for her!

Now, for the bigger losers Permalink to this item

Mitt Romney, who lost the run to nomination, fair and square. "Thank you very much. Ann and I love you all."

Coming out hard against the "eastern elites"... like, um, the last two Republican Presidents?! Jolly good fun, until he got to "Let me ask you some questions."

"Is a Supreme Court decision liberal or conservative that awards Guantánamo terrorists with Constitutional rights? It's liberal!"

Now, by "Guantánamo terrorists," you mean everyone that's been rounded up, acused of terrorism and locked up in our supposedly "offshore" prison in Guantánamo Bay? And by "Constitutional Rights," you're referring to Habeus corpus, a legal principle established most of a millennium ago?

All I can say is thank GOD that Mitt Romney is an also-ran, warm-up bloviator on Wednesday night instead of anywhere on the Republican ticket. He is a classic example of someone born to wealth and privilege who thinks he deserves everything he's been given.

He makes me sick. And I've got a fair resistance to that sort of response. Revulsion comes easy, outright nausea is harder.

"...and to stand up to the Tyrannosaurus appetite of government unions."

What the hell? (Teacher's unions, Jeanette explains.) I'm thinking Romney got to write his own speech.

And as Commander-in-Chief of the AKNG, she... Permalink to this item

did what, exactly?

"Drill Baby Drill" Permalink to this item

The crowd was chanting that for a while, fired up by the GOPAC chairman.

Couple of loser delegates Permalink to this item

They love Mike and Mitt, but they're backing the ticket, taking one for the team. It's all good.

These two want to play up the "Clinton split," as if last week never happened. Weren't really paying attention, were you boys?

Next up, the bad lady CEO Permalink to this item

But hey, with a $20-some million golden parachute, she landed on her feet. As Jim Lehrer put the question, "Then she had some problems with her own company, Hewlett-Packard, but she's still very highly regarded in the economic area, is she not?" Maybe in the Pig's Eye (see item #6) her self-promoting marketing will still fly, but that could be more "political bullshit" on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

"Alright, now, Carly Fiar... Fiaroni, FiaRONi, Fi-arena..."

Thank goodness they've got a fixed microphone and she can't do that stage-pacing thing she loves to do. She's having a hard time getting the attention of the floor. She's trying to work through some sort of rational argument, without enough dog whistling. Singing John McCain's praises? That should liven them up, shouldn't it?

Behind her, on the big screen, it's sunset in America. Fits the rust colored background, and that rusty silk suit she's wearing. Hand-painted signs being organized... FENCE THE... Border, I suppose, but they switched back to the podium camera.

It must be galling to her to go back to being a tout for someone else in charge. She used to be in charge, the person everybody had to listen to and jump when she said "jump." Now, they're not jumping, they're carrying on a thousand conversations while she's pouring her heart into this speech someone wrote for her.

The camera keeps switching to Frank Fiorina (I'm pretty sure that is), but no one knows who he is, at least not whoever's on the character generator tonight.

What's with this "I know John McCain" theme? It seems creepy. "He will never shrink from calling evil and aggression by their names." Which is why George W. Bush wasn't given a pass to the Excel Center?

And how do you feel about that queue-jumping Sarah Palin, Carly?

When she got to the end of the script, there was perfunctory applause, which she might have milked if only she'd known she was at the end. Oh. "Thank you very much." Ouch.

Once more into the breach Permalink to this item

The head of the Texas Railroad Commission, whaddaya know. Did he say that the change that McCain will provide is more change in your pocket when you go to fill up your gas tank?

Following along on PBS, they've got Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Az) admitting Republicans share the blame for Congress' failings, and former House Majority Leader, Republican Dick Armey, sounding a little slurred in retirement, has he had a stroke? Or a few drinks?

Ah, one of the lady CEOs, the good one, Meg Whitman. We are making progress, people. The Republicans are touting their progress in achievements for women. "I can say with certainty," she says, predicting a man's behavior far into the future, as so many of these political speakers like to do. It's about constructing a myth, convincing ourselves that we have a Hero in our midst.

She's talking about "our generation's moonshot" of energy independence (wasn't that Al Gore's idea?), and the importance of dealing with global warming. And of course, lowering your taxes. While government doesn't spend more than it takes in. As happened ever so briefly during the Clinton administration.

Is this thing on? Permalink to this item

There are some outrageous works of satire being produced in response to the latest Republican strategic moves; suffice it to say that Comedy Central's got nothing on the blogosphere these days. But Republican campaign strategists Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan, talking with Chuck Todd of NBC News, did the satirists one better when they kept talking after they thought they were off the air. Is it a send-up? Could be, but I'm guessing if it were, it would be funnier.

Peggy Noonan: "The most qualified? No! I think they went for this—excuse me—political bullshit about narratives..."

Chuck Todd: "Yeah they went to a narrative."

Mike Murphy: "I totally agree."

2.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fred Thompson Permalink to this item

Wow, how'd he get so full of life tonight? Where was that energy when he was on the campaign trail trying to get the nomination? He does have a fire in his belly, coming after the "Beltway business as usual crowd."

But mostly, Fred was there to tell the John McCain's compelling story of wartime heroism, a story which the campaign wants everyone to think about as much as possible, even though last time around, they were happy to deride and belittle a war hero, in favor of their own non-hero.

Presumably the Republican Party would prefer that we do not think about the Bush / Cheney record on associating our country with torture, or John McCain's capitulation to that record.

Ah, the secret, dog whistle message out there in the open: We won't have to ask "who is this man, and can we trust him with the Presidency?" Don't need to be too subtle with this crowd.

Christine Todd Whitman Permalink to this item

Now this woman would have made a hell of a running mate for John McCain, if you ask me. Instead, she's sitting in a pundit chair, chatting with Gwen Ifill. Former Governor of a populated state, experienced as head of the E.P.A., different enough from the failed Bush / Cheney administration that she left during its first term. Granted her record isn't perfect, but whose is? At least there's some gravitas.

Not that any Republicans give a flying whoop about what the New York Times editorial board thinks, but you know, the Board has a good point about McCain's "first executive decision," choosing his running mate.

Some fraction of the conservative base is mightily fired up about Sarah Palin, but the list of questionable items in her C.V. (reiterated by the NYT board), the timing, and the family values circus (which the campaign either (a) knew was inevitable, or (b) failed to discover in their absolutely, positively, completely thorough vetting process) may have changed the subject from the successful Democratic National Convention, but not necessarily in a good way.

"Minnesota Nice" Permalink to this item

It comes in a sleeveless yellow dress with a fake belt and buckle over the heart, a hundred watt smile and a voice that slice sharp enough to slice through granite.

"Government is not a philanthropic organization. Government is not the family. And government certainly is not the church! As Republicans, we recognize that when you keep more of your hard-earned money then you're free to spend it as you want to on the charities that touch your heart and make a difference in your communities."

Or not!

Pawlenty of fun! Permalink to this item

Couldn't help myself from checking out some of the RNC. Public speaking is not easy, and getting the right energy for both a voluminous hall, and the cameras, and getting all your lines right is not easy. So forgive what's her name for giving a big shout out for the soon-to-be-nominated Vice-Presidential candidate "Sarah Pawlenty."

Goin' to the Vet Permalink to this item

Nobody's perfect, so if a few more things come out about McCain's choice of Veep, let's just keep in mind it could be worse. Dick Cheney was put in charge of George W. Bush's Vice-Presidential pick, and look who he came up with.

All about the Constitution Permalink to this item

Free press? We don't need no stinkin' free press. We've got black-suited, baton-wielding riot police to keep unwanted journalists away from our nice Republican Party.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! charged with "obstruction of legal process and interference with a quote peace officer."

All about the framing Permalink to this item

Who's this Rick Davis guy, supposedly running John McCain's campaign? He's saying "this election is not about issues." And praising Sarah Palin because if she were Commander-in-Chief, she would have done what General Petraeus recommended. (And Barack Obama wouldn't, and if we hadn't, "we'd have Armageddon in the Middle East today.")

So, in other words, let's make the election about celebrity and personality? Never mind the economy, health care, foreign policy, global warming and all that stuff? Presumably Davis is telling us what he wants the election to be about, so he must see McCain/Palin as holding a losing hand if it does turn out to tip on the issues of the day.

All about the money Permalink to this item

For state and local government, "fighting wasteful government spending" does not typically extend to reducing the trickle down effect from the Federal government, so it's not a big surprise that Sarah Palin was for earmarks before she was against them. The scale is interesting: $27 million for a town of less than 7,000 is round about $4,000 per capita. Nice pork if you can get it.

She was likewise for the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it, and even she's no longer a Bridge fan, she's not about to give up on the hundreds of $millions that won't be spent on it. (Oh, and she was for Ted Stevens before she was against him too, running a 527 group for him to raise money from corporate donors.)

It's an all-too-familiar pattern in the intermountain West, where we're all rootin' tootin' red-state cowboys until its time to collect our transfer payments. (2005 Federal spending per dollar of tax paid: Alaska, $1.84; Arizona, $1.19; California, $0.78; Delaware, $0.77; Idaho, $1.21; Illinois, $0.75; New York, $0.79)

1.Sept.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bush / Cheney Cancelled Permalink to this item

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

To make an appearance?! Permalink to this item

It's good to learn from our mistakes, and so far, 3 years after the disasters of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, signs are positive. I suppose we could take it as icing on the cake that the Republicans have finally found their "American hats" and are willing to help out a needy Gulf Coast. But how does it help to have a presidential candidate "make an appearance," no matter how "semi-presidential" his bearing?

Leadership does not consist of "showing up," especially not with an entourage and press gaggle that are of no help whatsoever for people trying to evacuate and/or batten the hatches against a hurricane.

The good news for everyone on the mainland that Gustav didn't grow into a more serious storm. ("Only" about a hundred people killed and a thousand times that many homes destroyed as the storm smashed up Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.) Once we see how things hold up after a foot or two of rain and the waning winds, we can get back to the discussion about rebuilding the essential wetlands on the Gulf Coast.

Some meaningful action toward that end over the past three years would have provided a more dramatic show of support than a photo-op and passing the collection basket.

RNC Op-Art Permalink to this item

Will Christopher Buckley have to revise his schedule for the RNC too? We'll be watching for that Wednesday afternoon talk by Carly Fiorina, "How to Halve Your Company's Market Cap and Walk Away with a $21 Million Severance Package."

Brace yourselves Permalink to this item

As southern Idaho chills out with a mild cold front to put a stake in the end of summer, the news is focused on the Gulf of Mexico, and the mouth of the Mississippi once again, as Gustav makes landfall just west of New Orleans with triple-digit winds. I was on the road yesterday when one news item floated by: the possibility of a 14 foot storm surge (down from estimates as high as 25 feet). I don't know about you, but that's over my head. It's over my head standing on top of my car.

"Where you going to hide from God? How you going to hide from him? There is a time to be born and a time to die. If he calls your name, you got to answer."
–Roosevelt Scott, 73

The sidebar in the NYT story linked above has a graphic headed "Many Levees Still Not Ready," and illustrates "100-year criteria" and "100-year protection" (which "few of New Orleans' levees" provide) but the caption notes that "Hurricane Katrina was a 397-year storm."

It comes down to a gamble against warm water, Coriolis forces, butterfly wings flapping in Brazil and a planet warmer than we've ever known. On the one hand, all bets are off; on the other, decisions have to be made. So, time to get the hell out of Dodge for a couple millions of people, even though Gustav looks to have been helpfully discombobulated rather than strengthened by this summer's Gulf wind and water temperature pattern.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Wednesday, 01-Oct-2008 22:57:00 MDT