Thursday, October 30, 2008

A picture is worth 700 billion words (via boing boing):

Idea: Exxon Mobil, enjoying the largest US quarterly profit ever, should help bail out the next failed banking institution.
Gnarls Barkley makes the best music videos:

Conservative prodigal son Christopher Buckley has now written a concession speech for John McCain, demonstrating clearly that even reprobate Republicans are not funny:

My friends, this is a historic night. Tonight America elected its first African-American president. I’m proud of my country for doing that, though I kind of wish it hadn’t done it on this particular November 4. But no, seriously, I congratulate Senator Obama on a tremendous achievement. And I congratulate the country. Tonight, America has shown that it truly is the land of limitless opportunity. If a self-described “skinny black guy with big ears and a funny name” can become president of the United States – well, my friends, I guess there’s hope for just about anyone. Who knows, maybe next time it’ll be a Martian or some other type of little green man off a spaceship. Well, as that great philosopher, Yogi Berra, said when someone told him a Jewish man had been elected mayor of Dublin: “Only in America.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm a little bit burnt out on the race. I don't know if one more belligerent Palin comment, one more voter suppression scare, one more Obama taking a state that he normally wouldn't take (well, maybe that), one more "Kill him," one more "Who is yada yada yada?" is going to register with me. I think I've had enough shock and/or outrage and/or surprise and/or news (which isn't to say I won't keep reading/blogging about it). But for now, I've been reading the blogs of so-called TI's, or "targeted individuals," people who believe that the government is controlling their minds and reading their thoughts. It really is the usual run of paranoia turned up a notch; there's not that much of a gap between a person viewing a misplaced envelope of money as the work of government operatives and a person connecting an acquaintance with a former member of the Weather Underground with active terrorism. Moreover, the individual who writes this blog is not stupid. About police brutality he writes, "Such viciousness by the police is indicative of their being brainwashed into committing the most sadistic and unconscionable of crimes." There's brainwashed and there's brainwashed, right? Are they literally sat down in a chair with waves shooting into their brains? Probably not. Are they indoctrinated with a sense of superiority and self-righteousness? Often, yes. I'll leave you with my favorite illustration from the site.

Monday, October 27, 2008

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka on Barack Obama and race:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

James Pinkerton, apparently so desperate that he would even establish a link between himself and Obama if it could damage the latter's credibility, has devolved to Church Lady:
Could Lucifer play a role in this presidential election? It may sound crazy, but one of the candidates in this race has publicly praised, even emulated, a writer-activist who himself paid tribute to Lucifer. That’s right, Lucifer, also known as the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub—you get the idea.
I just finished reading State Capitalism and World Revolution by C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee [Boggs], the founders of what came to be known as the "Forest-Johnson Tendency," after the pseudonyms that James and Dunayevskaya used in many of their first collaborative projects. The book is incredibly timely because it confronts the question of what socialism is. Right now, there are two public debates running concurrently, both of which use the term "socialism" rather liberally. The first has to do with Obama's plan for moderate tax cuts to the middle and lower classes and tax hikes for the wealthy. The specter of socialism is raised here, and strenuously denied by the Obama camp, simply as a tactic to divert the argument from tax policy to political philosophy. I don't think it is worth discussing. The second deals with the Treasury's billions of dollars in loans to banks and their plan (TARP) to buy up hundreds of billions in bad assets; this move amounts to strong-arming taxpayers into becoming corporate investors in incredibly risky ventures. The claim is that this is state socialism - the state is stepping in to take control of the banks, and becoming de facto socialist. But State Capitalism and World Revolution takes aim against precisely this notion of socialism, i.e. the Stalinist, Titoist model of state "socialism." They argue that centralization in the state and state property is capitalism of a specific kind: state capitalism. Instead of Capitalists, you have bureaucrats, but their function is essentially the same; they are to keep power out of the hands of the proletariat, to keep the workers chained to the factories, and to work at the constant intensification of labor. Russian Stakhanovism is the same as American Taylorism:
With the Stakhanovites, the bureaucratic administration acquires a social base, and alongside, there grows the instability and cirsis in the economy. It is the counter-revolution of state-capital.
In capitalism, surplus value amasses in the hands of individual capitalists and capitalist trusts. Under Stalin, on the other hand, it amasses in the hands of the state. The results, seen from the standpoint of the workers, are identical: constant intensification of labor, prevention of unionization, by force if necessary, the growth of a managerial class to keep workers on pace and prevent worker uprisings. What State Capitalism and World Revolution highlights is that 1) not only can the means of production be nationalized without being socialized, but 2) nationalization manifests itself as the concentration of wealth at the expense of the working majority. In a word, TARP is not socialism except insofar as socialism has been equated with Stalinism in this country, the better to demonize it. James, Dunayevskaya, and Lee confront the claims that nationalization is tantamount to socialism. Instead, they argue that the task for the Fourth International (which is the major anti-Stalinist Socialist body circa 1950, the year of the composition of SC&WR) is to denounce all state dictatorships in favor of World Revolution. The discussions on the possibility for revolution right now (as opposed to 1950, when the world did see various revolutions in the so-called "third world") are numerous, and I will not go into the account here. Virtually every paper written in the humanities makes what has been called by one of my colleagues the "shrug toward Utopia." If nothing else, this book offers a set of principals through which to view the scare-tactics of anti-socialism in our own period, and also a lens with which to view the strategy of Paulson, which I think can only facetiously be called "socialism."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

So one of the more interesting explanations of the McCain camp's move to Pennsylvania is that the Obama camp faked them out:
The Obama campaign is doing a major head fake in PA. They "accidentally" leaked an "internal" poll showing Obama up by only 2 percent in PA. I guarantee you that no such poll exists and that this was done both to motivate volunteers in the state (and maybe elsewhere) and prevent them from getting too complacent and also to sucker the McCain campaign into spending more time there. Ed Rendell has asked Obama to come back and campaign in the state-another major ruse. They know that McCain makes most of the decisions for his campaign and that they can goad him into spending more time in PA by pretending that it is close there. Let's see if Obama actually returns to PA before November 4th, but I sincerely doubt it. They are brilliant.
This was forwarded by a New Republic reader. The idea that Obama leaked fake polls is pretty ingenious. I'm not sure it's entirely accurate. There is the simple electoral math: McCain cannot win this election without turning a blue state red; he probably can't win this election anyway. If the reader is right, however, that would be a very exciting thing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ballast looks to be a great film. The reviews from Sundance have nothing but good things to say about it. The trailer is very good, and I hope I get a chance to see this film in the near future. Lance Hammer, the film's director, has chosen self-distribution, which means that it will probably have to get screened mostly at film festivals and university screenings. With any luck, Carolina Theatre will screen it (I have my doubts), but it's not on their "coming soon" list.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The New York Times endorses Barack Obama:
Mr. McCain offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans’ bank accounts. Mr. Obama has another vision of government’s role and responsibilities.

In his convention speech in Denver, Mr. Obama said, “Government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”

Since the financial crisis, he has correctly identified the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse.
This might turn a few heads. Notice the scarf she's wearing.

Oh, and I forgot to post on this last night. Frontline has a great new documentary on the climate crisis, entitled Heat. You can watch the whole thing online.
Foreclosure Filings Rise 71% 3Q 2008 vs. 3Q 2007. From Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith).
David Sedaris has the following to say about undecided voters. I saw it over at Gerry's website, and while I know that it is likely that anyone reading my blog will already have read Gerry's, I found it too good to pass up:
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
Benoit Mandelbrot: "I don't know if we're entering the most difficult period, not since the Great Depression [but] since the American Revolution."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I added some new links to reflect what I've been reading.
I got in an argument tonight with a friend about whether it is worth it to vote for Obama, whether he will represent anything like progressive action in this country and whether, if he won't, it is worth voting against McCain. There are a number of arguments on both sides. Obama has a "squishy" record on NAFTA, for instance (David Sirota,, switching his stance on the issue numerous times. Obama gets most of his funding from law organizations, a large chunk of change from hedge funds, and a not insignificant amount (although half of the Republican amount) from tobacco. Nor does Obama take the firm anti-war, anti-military stance that many on the left desire (and it's one thing we will never get). On the other hand, Obama's health care plan is vastly superior to McCain's, his positions on engaging in large superpower conflict are far less hysterical, his position on education is far more productive, and if global warming is at all important to you then you shouldn't even have second thoughts about voting Obama. Also, for those leftists who have a strong interest in Latin America, it should be hastily pointed out that Obama is unique among leaders of European or Anglo-Saxon nations in not jumping on the coattails of Uribe and even going so far as to confront the Uribe government with its violations of human rights (while France is still giddy about the rescue of Irene Betancourt). Will Obama make miracles? Obviously not. I wouldn't expect miracles of Nader, either. I feel that the left who reject Obama on the grounds that he is not radical enough for them are making a grave error. I have no doubt that, had the European Left had a second chance following the victories of Fascism in the first half of the twentieth century, they would have made a concerted effort to ally themselves with Social Democrats rather than let the Fascists have a solid victory.

About a half hour after my argument, I found the following videos online, and I felt extremely vindicated. Both Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are voting for Obama and recommend others do the same. They are both, particularly Chomsky, more cynical than myself about the potential of an Obama presidency, but as Chomsky says, "People treat voting for the lesser of two evils as a bad thing. Maybe that's because of the way it is phrased. It's not a bad thing. It's a good thing."

I went on the New York Times website around 5 PM today and saw one of the stupidest financial headlines I've seen in a while: "Despite End of Credit Freeze, Dow Drops 5.7%." The stupidity of this headline wouldn't have been so glaring at CNN or Fox News, but right below it, there was another headline, "Wachovia Reports $23.9 Billion Loss" and next to that "Merck Announces Big Job Cuts." Anyway, the Times must have realized how stupid they sounded, because now the headline reads "Stocks Dive as Crisis Erodes Earnings; Dow Drops 5.7%". People really do have a tendency to mystify the markets, as if rubbing one's hands together and saying "alakazam" (and injecting hundreds of billions in cash) should cure all the problems of the economy in one fell swoop. My only explanation is that the people who don't understand how the markets could plummet after the press and the President had declared that the markets shouldn't plummet anymore are so personally invested in stock market performance that they can't see any other facets of the economy besides the stock market.
Wachovia just released its quarterly. It posted $23.7 billion dollars in quarterly losses! Should I be emptying my accounts?
ACORN just put out a video defending itself and turning the tables on the Republicans, pointing to their voter-suppression campaign. I hope this pushes Republican voter suppression further into the open.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gerry has a post about North Carolina's election woes: a reporter was assaulted at a McCain-Palin rally, black voters were heckled, an Obama supporter's tires were slashed at a Fayetteville rally, and, the most bizarre and disgusting, a dead bear, shot in the head, was dropped on West Carolina University's campus draped in Obama signs. I hope everything goes okay in the next weeks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This week is going to be a very bad week for McCain (unless there's something I don't know):

* The press is reversing on ACORN. My guess is that this is the result of the Obama camp requesting that the special investigator who is looking into the attorney firings also look into the FBI's investigation of ACORN. I don't expect a full reversal, but I do think that CNN, among others, will back down from their condemnation of ACORN and point out that registration fraud is a very different thing from voter fraud, and that it's not a centrally-controlled thing.

* Colin Powell endorsed Obama, yesterday, and one imagines this will bring another wave of defections from moderate-right pundits against the McCain camp. The endorsement included Powell's condemnation of the press for letting "Muslim" become a slur and his condemnation of the press and the McCain camp for harping on Ayers. This will dominate the news this week.

* David Letterman seems to have almost pushed the G. Gordon Liddy/McCain friendship out into the open. It was well-known on blogs for weeks, but it hasn't yet made its way to the mainstream press. My guess is that it gets mentioned once or twice this week, but that the press doesn't pull out the stops. This is a man who has plotted multiple assassinations and kidnappings (this is only what we know he did) and has said as recently as 1990 that, if his listeners ever want to shoot an ATF agent, to aim for the head.

* Obama raised $150 Million this month. This will also dominate the news this week.

* The issue of health records is also coming back into the spotlight. The New York Times has a five page story on why candidates should release their health records. This may be ostensibly aimed at all the candidates, but McCain clearly has the most to lose.

(I'll hyperlink all of this later). Update: Hyperlinked.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The best part of a financial crisis is the photos of stockbrokers with their hands on their faces and heads, which is why it's nice to see that there's a whole blog devoted to the subject. I have to admit, a few of them made me feel kind of bad for the guys, especially the one at the bottom of this post, although in reality, the worst that's going to happen to this guy is apartment living, which is what I do, anyway, and which I find not only adequate but preferable.

My favorite part of W., by the way: When George Bush, Sr. lost to Clinton, the Bushes are portrayed sitting in the White House watching the television. Barbara Bush (Ellen Burstyn) says, weeping, "The best man didn't win this time, George. The best man didn't win." A woman in the audience at this point yelled out, "Oh yes, he did!"

The Banality of Empire

I feel like there is something missing from many of the reviews of W. I've read thus far. Yes, the film is a pastiche of quotations from the Bush years fit into a fairly short (for Oliver Stone) biopic. Yes, it is a farce, and doesn't always reflect reality. Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice is particularly terrible, mouthing about six lines in the entire movie and standing awkwardly close to foreign dignitaries (leading one to think that Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser can't write women, unless they are arguing with someone). Yes, Oliver Stone's typical stylistic flare, replete with jump cuts and shots filtered through media, is missing. Admittedly, the film has a lot of bad moments.

But what is ignored is the central aim of the film. Many are disappointed that this film is not Nixon, with its paranoid rendering of a nation under siege. We're letting the nefariousness of the Bush Years off the hook, as the argument runs, by portraying them as the escapades of a formerly-alcoholic fraternity boy turned with a daddy issue. Yet something is being ignored. The film is not concerned with plumbing the secrets of the elite but with the "banality of evil." Every film is an argument, and this film is trying to make the case that destruction is not a heart of darkness. In Nixon, there is a scene in which Nixon meets with CIA Director Richard Helms, played by Sam Waterson, and at one point, Helms looks up, and his eyes are completely black, as though we are looking into the soul of the CIA. This is not the path that W. chooses to take. Instead, we see shot after shot of alcohol being imbibed, food being eaten, groups of old codgers waddling through the forest. Because Stone would never avoid pointing to the path of destruction behind the facade, we also see media footage of anti-war protests, of the shock-and-awe of both Gulf Wars, and of the turnaround in Baghdad, when people started protesting, fighting, and blowing one another up in the streets. Yet what we are supposed to understand is that the entire war unwound under Bush's eyes, and he remained clueless the entire time.

Stone does not include all of the Bush presidency. This seems to have bothered many, but I'm not exactly sure why. Watching it, it seems that it could end at any point and allude to the future: it could have ended with Bush first entering Iraq (although a couple of important scenes would have been lost), it could have ended with Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished," it could have ended with Rumsfeld eating pie. The end would have alluded to this future (which does beg the question of whether this film will make any sense to people twenty years down the road). It didn't go into Katrina, it didn't go into warrantless wiretapping and the erosion of the constitution, but it would seem that it's easy to read those things into it. The same buffoonery and arrogance that got us into Iraq also led to the entire edifice of power under Bush. In the end, we watch the bad men, and their actions strike us as absurd, but their results are all the more clear.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A study by a professor at the University of Georgia interviewed men on their level of disgust with homosexuality. It subsequently had them watch gay porn. Those who expressed the highest levels of disgust in the interview were the most aroused watching the porn. More at the University of Chicago Law Faculty Blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I found this old Cat and Girl strip. It seemed very apropos.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Those damned liberals and their political divisiveness. Forcing the Sacramento GOP to take down their "Waterboard Obama" slogan from their website. Seriously. Can someone be arrested for saying something like that? Does politics get any worse? (Answer: yes. Look at Bolivia.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If, after this revelation, the right-wing base is still actively boosting McCain and calling Obama a terrorist, then they're even more hypocritical than I would have expected. The head of McCain's transition team lobbied for Saddam Hussein.
The Times Online has a fantastic interview with Oliver Stone on his new film W. There are some really strong statements in this interview. One of the most interesting is on John McCain's war career:
“I think McCain’s a very special story because he was never a soldier,” Stone says coldly. “He’s said he never saw the results of his own bombing. I saw the damage we did, I saw the corpses, the decay, I smelt the flesh, I saw people who’d been napalmed, people who’d been killed by shrapnel, mutilated. I saw horrible things. McCain was a prisoner and he has a siege mentality. He doesn’t see a balanced portrait of cause and effect – there’s something missing in the man, mentally."
Recently, Andrew Sullivan compared Obama and McCain to Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Obama remains cool and lets his opponents self-destruct. Today, The Washington Monthly has a post that goes a long way toward confirming this pseudo-hypothesis. It seems that the McCain ticket, unsatisfied with the results of the Troopergate probe, decided to launch a different probe, spearheaded by Alaska's Personnel Board. The assumption was that the Personnel Board would play partisan politics, clear Palin of any wrongdoing, and "the new talking point would be, 'One investigation cleared Palin, one didn't, so let's just forget the whole thing.'" It turns out, this may backfire for the McCain camp:
[T]he board ended up hiring an aggressive Anchorage trial lawyer, Timothy Petumenos, as an independent counsel. McCain aides were chagrined to discover that Petumenos was a Democrat who had contributed to Palin's 2006 opponent for governor, Tony Knowles. Palin is now scheduled to be questioned next week, and the counsel's report could be released soon after. "We took a gamble when we went to the personnel board," said a McCain aide who asked not to be identified discussing strategy. While the McCain camp still insists Palin "has nothing to hide," it acknowledges a critical finding by Petumenos would be even harder to dismiss.
The Big Picture has the most scathing critique I've seen yet of the stupid right-wing idea that the liberals and the poor caused the current credit crisis:
Understand this simple fact: In an ultra-low rate environment, where prices are appreciating rapidily, and mortgaes are being securitized, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT THE BORROWER NOT DEFAULT IN 90 days (or 6 Months). The goal was to make a loan that did not default in that period of time, it cannot be put back to the originator.

As a mortgage salesman, you only lose your a fee if a borrower defaults within 3 or 6 months. What do you do to maximize your returns? The best way to do that -- to put people in houses that would not default in 90 days -- was the 2/28 ARM mortgages. Cheap teaser rates for 24 months, then the big reset. By then, it was no longer your problem.

Can you grasp what a monumental change this was? Instead of making sure that borrowers could pay back ALL OF THE 30 YEAR FIXED MORTGAGE, you only had to find people who could afford the teaser rate for a a few months. THIS WAS AN ENORMOUS AND UNPRECEDENTED SHIFT IN LENDING.
Being a lefty pinko kook, I'm always suspicious of any good financial news. Yesterday's bounce in stock prices is no exception, and it seems I'm not alone. At the Financial Times, John Authers talks about "Tigger Markets" (they bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce). Wild fluctuations in the market are expected, especially in crisis periods. Authers goes on to argue that this could be a rally, but it depends on whether the money markets unfreeze. Over at Boom2Bust, there is a summary of the writings of economists who are bringing up the specter of recession (can't they let us dance while Rome is burning?). After Paulson's recent injection of capital into banks, Brad de Long, for one, has resorted to prayer as the best means of resuscitating the financial markets. The good news is that another financial shock would rocket Obama in the polls (oops, I'm not supposed to say that).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ezra Klein has an article directed against tipping in restaurants. I never thought very seriously about this before, but tipping is a very deceitful custom: the premise is that we are being nice and tipping our waiters because we feel some common human bond with them. This is true; I know waiters, I've known waiters; I've never been a waiter, mostly because I'm awkward and clumsy; I've worked in food service. I feel that people deserve tips. But in reality, the custom supports a system in which low wages are supposed to be compensated by tips. Waiters, particularly at places like diners, make dirt. The only reason the state permits them to be paid so low is that tips are supposed to compensate. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. But they can continue to receive incredibly low wages on the grounds that they receive tips, as well.

Let's imagine, though, a counter-scenario. We abolish tipping, and instead add that money to the menu price of the food. Waiters are subsequently paid livable wages. Assuming waiters didn't get screwed in the transition, this would arguably be a more honest way of going about it. Then again, it seems that customers would simply be angry and the wait staff would continue to get the short end of the stick. So perhaps tipping remains the best way to confuse people into paying the full value of their meal.

Update: Over in the comments section at Ezra Klein's blog, a reader actually developed a model to explain tipping as a means to transfer risk.
I just found this video, over at Think Progress, of Sarah Palin claiming that McCain is going to reign in abuses of power, days after she was confirmed to have abused her power. Something else I noted in this video, however, is that Palin has toned down her accent; the vowels are not as wide and the tone is not as high-pitched. We still hear some of the down-home, aw shucksness of it, but she's learning to sound like one of them arugula-eating, east-coast liberals.

Move On has a new ad, reflecting that both Elizabeth Dole and John McCain are on the ropes in North Carolina:

The New York Times has an article today on the increasing problems of No Child Left Behind. In the first years of the bill, it tells us, the required gains in student proficiency were relatively modest, but last year they jumped a very large amount, and as a result, the number of schools failing to meet NCLB goals has shot up.
But this year, California schools were required to make what experts call a gigantic leap, increasing the students proficient in every group by 11 percentage points. For the first time, Prairie, and hundreds of other California schools, fell short, a failure that results in probation and, unless reversed, federal sanctions within a year.

“And they’re asking for another 11 percent increase next year and the next, and that’s where I’m saying I just don’t know how,” Fawzia Keval, the school’s principal, said. “I’m spending sleepless nights.”
Given the administration that put NCLB through, I wouldn't be surprised if this was part of the plan: make schools fail so that we can privatize everything. A 100 percent proficiency rate in reading and math, the requirement of NCLB by 2014 (thanks, Gerry), is probably impossible. I doubt that any public school in the country would be able to meet it; in another seven to ten years, were NCLB to continue as written, the public school system in the U.S. would be abolished. I honestly do not think that the bill was ever intended to improve schools by leaps and bounds.

Update:Gerry, in the comments section, clarifies some issues from my post and provides a link to an old Washington Monthly article on the subject.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Three things:

1) Inquiry concludes Palin abused power. Isn't that a gosh darn surprise there?

2) There's no doubt going to be cynicism about the fact that McCain is finally telling his supporters to calm down. I don't doubt that there is political motivation, but because that is precisely what I wanted of him, I respect his decision to do so. I'm glad he wrangled with his virulent supporters, regardless of the motivation.

3) The Republican National Committee sent me a flyer today, presumably aimed at Dems, with the line, "Do you know what the Democratic leadership really thinks about Obama?" Then it had a series of quotes from the primaries. I believe that the Republican National Committee is not actually waging their campaign against Obama. I believe that the entire premise of running a presidential nominee is actually a cover-up for their ultimate goal: trying to piss me off. I believe that, in 2007, Karl Rove got together with a couple of henchmen, identified a democratic voter, and said, "Gentlemen, our aim is to get his goat."

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm having trouble with my Internets today. I'm wondering if anyone else is having a problem: a) seeing streaming video on typically leftist blogs; b) accessing anti-McCain articles on the web. It's an oddly selective problem, not a general one, so I'm suspicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Things I hate:
  • Murder
  • SUVs
  • Grading papers (but not for the reasons you might think)
  • The phrase, "I'm a fiscal conservative, not a social conservative"
  • Fiscal conservatives
  • "24"
  • Non-partisanship
  • The Laffer Curve
  • Feather boas
  • "My Country: Love It or Leave It"
  • Global warming
Yglesias has some music recommendations for McCain:
Thinking about John McCain’s Foo Fighters problem, some of the issue here is that not only are there few contemporary rock bands that are inclined to support McCain, but there are few contemporary rock songs that are thematically appropriate to the McCain campaign. If it were actually the case that “My Hero” is about the need to look up to a war veteran, then I’m not sure that Dave Grohl’s personal opinion would matter. This problem goes back, of course, to Ronald Reagan’s (mis)appropriation of “Born in the USA.” It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but I think conservative politicians would actually do better to turn to the world of commercial hip-hop, where key conservative values like greed and violence are frequently lauded.
Only the dirtiest campaign in history could, the day after calling their opponent a terrorist, refer to his campaign as "the dirtiest campaign in history." Just when you thought the McCain camp couldn't get any worse, Cindy McCain gets co-opted to play second to Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One thing that needs to get more play with the debates, foregoing the obvious discussions of McCain's "That one" comment or Bill Ayers, or whatever else we can dredge up, is the fact that McCain is proposing two very, very bad policy suggestions that are also radically new (not to mention all the other bad policy that McCain brought up last night): the first I have already talked about - that is, the League of Democracies. Since that post, Matthew Yglesias has brought the idea up a few times. I am tempted to paraphrase Barack Obama on taxation with regard to the league of democracies: "John McCain supports a league with other democracies, who don't need it and didn't ask for it." Support from other Democratic nations for the League is almost nil: ex-British Prime Ministers might support it, but the only acting head of a country who supports the idea, to my knowledge, is the conservative PM of Denmark. Because, despite claims to the contrary, the League of Democracies would be no more effective in policing global crisis than the UN, the entire idea behind the League seems to be, not to create a positive force for good in the world, but to diminish the influence of China and Russia. McCain would like to use it as a foreign policy hammer. Another example of him, again paraphrasing Obama, this time on the budget, "using a hatchet where we need a scalpel."

The other issue that McCain keeps trumpeting, and that the mainstream press seems to be supporting him on (my only explanation is that they are thickheaded) is a budget freeze. As Yglesias puts it, "a lot of the press’ leading lights seem to think we ought to follow Herbert Hoover off the cliff. Everyone’s been living too high on the hog and we need to liquidate everything. Massive suffering will be good for us." The belief that reigning in government spending is what is going to get us out of the credit crisis is absurd. Again, from Yglesias:
Meanwhile, as you may have noticed, there’s a credit crunch afoot. A lot of people or business who might think they have solid ideas about how to invest some money in new production or sales are finding they can’t get the loans they need to do that. One of the few entities that still can easily raise large quantities of money on favorable terms is the federal government. If the feds don’t take up that opportunity and borrow cash that gets plowed into something or other, then there’s going to be no new economic activity at all. What we ought to be doing is debating not whether to spend, but what to spend the money on since, clearly, it’s much better to have the money spent on something useful than on something pointless.

The low-budget government mantra makes no sense. McCain likes to attack earmarks, and certainly there are absurd earmarks, but if we break down the budget (and our current deficit), it is not earmarks that are the problem. Indeed, many earmarks are very important, and provide good things: the earmark in the current bailout bill that provided funding for renewable energy, for example. But the budget problem is not one of earmarks. For starters, we have a 10 billion dollar-a-month war going on. Defense spending is ludicrous, and it is to McCain's credit that he offered to reign it in (unfortunate as it may be, given his record, that most of the budget cuts will probably be to veterans' affairs organizations and not to military spending).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm sure everyone has heard that Sarah Palin is turning political rallies into lynch mobs in Florida, so I won't go into it, although Gerry has a couple posts on the issue. It conjures up some of my worst fears about the Republican party, but I don't want to be accused of jumping the gun, so I'll let them be for now. She's also attacking Obama for his support of the troops, which is utterly absurd:
See our opponent voted to cut off funding for our troops even after saying that he would never do so.


And he said that our troops in Afghanistan are just quote, "raiding villages and killing civilians."


And that's not what our brave men and women in uniform are doing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is fighting terrorism and protecting us and our values.
What happened is pretty clear: Obama voted against the troop funding bill without a timetable, McCain voted against the troop funding bill with a time table. In other words, they both voted to cut funding for the war (not for "troops"), but the issue was the timeline, not the funding. But to claim that McCain loves the troops is thoroughly dishonest and disgusting. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America just released its congressional scorecard and gave McCain a "D." Like most associations and unions, the IAVA does not use particularly subjective criteria to make its assessments (e.g., "What do our members think of McCain?"). They simply assess how often the candidate, compared to other candidates, voted yes on IAVA issues. Think Progress has more.

Update: Obama got a B, which is not up there with Jim Webb (A+), but it's much better than his "I love the troops" opponent.

Update: The report card does not award F's, which means that McCain got the lowest grade possible.

Update Update: The report card does reward F's. If one were present at all or almost all of the IAVA votes and voted no on every single issue, one would get an F (there are two total).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Also, Climate Progress points out something I noticed as well: both times that Palin has talked about man-made climate change - first on Couric, now in the debate - she made the same gaff. The first time, she said, "I’m not going to solely blame all of man’s activities on changes in climate." The second time, she said, "I’m not one to attribute every man... activity of man to the changes in the climate." She got the order backwards each time: she's not blaming human activity on the climate. That's good to know. That means that if I'm grumpy tomorrow, it won't be the weather's fault.*

*It will be Sarah Palin's.

To Sarah
From The National Society of Atomic Scientists*:

[*]Doesn't really exist

I just finished watching the vice-presidential debate. People are saying Palin didn't train wreck simply because she didn't give a "fuck you" to the moderator with her facial gestures like she did with Couric. Biden destroyed her; every time she made a substantial claim, Biden refuted her. Most of her claims, being non-substantial, were irrefutable. Biden knows the constitution; Biden knows how many troops are in Iraq; Biden knows how much money John McCain would save Exxon-Valdez. Sarah Palin knows that "John McCain is a maverick."

I also wanted to point out: I would be willing to bet that the McCain debate team has coached both candidates to smile sarcastically when their opponent is talking. Both Palin and McCain were incredibly rude to their opponents while they were talking. About midway through the election, Biden picked up the McCain strategy and started giving little chuckles when Palin said certain things. But he was, being far more poised than her, far more subtle about it. I really do think this is one of their debate strategies. It is a losing strategy for McCain against Obama: people will think he is being a bully. It would be a winning strategy for Palin against Biden if she could also win a few debate points.