Friday, October 31, 2008

I've had lingering doubts about the Clintons, their true intentions when it came to Obama, perhaps not wanting to try too hard to help him land in the White House, etc. Well, seeing Bill with Obama in Florida put much of those concerns to rest. Not your typical endorsing stump speech as Clinton goes over the top in all the right ways. See it here.
A terrific blog entry by Steve Benen, further making the case that McCain = Bush, only Benen infers (rightly so) that in some ways McCain is worse. Wow, didn't think that was possible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In The New York Observer, a letter to the editor from James Ponsoldt:
With John McCain's campaign becoming sleazier and slimier, I've heard a number of Republican friends and family members indicate that they can't possibly vote for him, especially with Sarah Palin waiting in the wings.

But they can't talk about it with church, club or business friends.

So, yes, we'll see a bit of the traditional "Bradley effect" this election, but there will be an even greater "reverse Bradley" effect: longtime Republicans who claim they're sticking with the party but, once they enter the voting booth, won't be able to stomach it.
I am increasingly hearing and reading about an expected reverse-Bradley effect come November 4th. Considering recent evidence tends to show that the Bradley effect is misinterpreted and even outdated, if a reverse-Bradley were to happen (and it's very much conceivable), then Obama's 10-12 point lead could in reality be more like a 15+ point lead.
I recently wrote, "Obama is risking his life by seeking to become president -- a notion that is incredibly horrific but unfortunately something that cannot be dismissed out of hand."

Some unfortunate evidence reported today.
Ed "Walking Around Money" Rollins recently said this about Sarah Palin: "She definitely is going to be the most popular Republican in this country when this thing is over."

What I can't figure out is when this thing is over who is going to be more persona non grata, Bill Kristol or Ed Rollins -- two of Palin's biggest cheerleaders...?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wanted: finance experts.

The complexities inherent in our modern financial system have increased at an exponential rate over the last several years, one that surely far surpasses the rate of incline for the typical IQ. All the more reason supposed experts are clueless when it comes to this crisis.

The state of our global financial apparatus is beyond fathoming by any one "expert." Bernanke and/or Paulson may think they have it all figured out (though truth be told, I don't think they would ever admit to that), but it's obvious they don't and the point is that shouldn't shock anyone.

Yet that realization doesn't make it any less scary. It's quite a daunting prospect to ponder that a system in which we depend on greatly (!) is currently suffering dearly, has grown out of control in its layers of sophistication to the point where it may implode before we even recognize a remotely appropriate cure for the problem(s).
In the Washington Post last week:
A $25 billion loan program rushed through Congress to revive the nation's ailing domestic auto industry may not deliver any money to Detroit for more than a year, federal officials said, prompting concern that the cash may come too late to prop up one of the country's most important manufacturing sectors.
The loan package, the largest government subsidy for the auto industry since the 1979 Chrysler bailout, is intended to aid production of more fuel-efficient cars. During the gas crisis of the 1970s, Asian and European automakers capitalized on America's growing appetite for smaller cars. Since then, the Big Three have slipped and continue to lose market share to Toyota, Honda and other foreign brands.
"It's critical to have a direct loan program, and it's equally important to infuse that money into the industry as quickly as possible," GM spokesman Greg Martin said.
The bailout craze has now hit the auto makers. What ailing industry will we the tax payers save next, the airlines? Retailers? Oh, but you better not call it socialism or nationalization, no way....

Have to love how for years the U.S. auto companies resisted developing and building fuel-efficient vehicles, choosing instead to churn out Hummers, Tahoes, etc. Yet now they need from us these many billions ASAP so that they can survive long enough to develop -- fuel-efficient vehicles.

Only in America....
With his campaign bopping along, looking to find any message that might stick and have some impact, one of the latest is to play up the idea of a unified government (same party) is bad. We just can't have a president, Senate and House all hailing from the same political party, that would be awful.

Look, this message may have worked if McCain didn't choose Palin. Americans might have been more comfortable with this check-mate idea if they didn't have to picture an unqualified diva waiting in the wings with a 72-year old McCain who has experienced serious health issues. That imagery alone is a deal breaker for most Americans and it has come through in the polls. Palin has succeeded in becoming a bigger negative working against McCain than Bush -- amazing.

And this revelation is not lost on McCain who is reportedly fuming about his decision to go with her in the first place, feeling misled by Palin's primary advocate: Bill Kristol. However, if true it's just more proof that McCain equates to Bush in that he not only continues to receive bad advice from inept associates, but that he proceeds and embraces it. We need four more years of that?

The other piece of irony regarding the VP pick is it was said that McCain refused to go with Romney because of a concern about loyalty, that Romney would be more closely aligned with Karl Rove et al than McCain himself, so he felt someone like Palin would be more true-blue and indebted to him. Now of course we hear she's turning on him. The entire campaign has been a disaster and is now unraveling, coming apart at the seams.
On Thursday, Dick Polman noticed a curious error or disconnect when Sarah Palin was being interviewed by James Dobson:
The key moment came when Dobson brought up the official Republican party platform, which decrees total opposition to abortion - with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the endangerment of the woman's life - and proposes that this ban be codified in the U.S. Constitution. Dobson asked Palin, "In your private conversations with Senator McCain, is it your impression that he also strongly supports those views?"

Palin: "I do, from the bottom of my heart. I am such a strong believer that McCain believes in those strong planks, and we do have good conversations about some of the details, too, about the different planks and what they represent. And I'm very heartened that John McCain, he doesn't want a vice president who will check the opinions of me at the door, and we talk about some of these. And they are very important. It's most important, though, as you are suggesting that Americans know that John McCain is solidly there on those solid planks in our platform that build the right agenda for America."

Those remarks prompt me to wonder who at this point is really in charge of the McCain campaign - is it McCain, or her? Because the fact is, McCain has repeatedly indicated that he opposes a total ban on abortion, that he would permit abortions in cases of rape, incest, or the endangerment of the woman's life; as recently as Sept. 8, a McCain aide told the website that McCain favored those exemptions. But here was Palin, apparently on her own, yanking him further rightward.
How can she get this wrong? Her statements obviously differ from McCain's views, with these exceptions making a huge difference on this issue. Is Palin just babbling on like she does, barely knowing anything of which she speaks, OR is she purposefully stating these things, knowingly trying to influence the campaign and rewrite positions to her liking? In other words, is she possibly looking to covertly take over the campaign, to make it more Palin/McCain than McCain/Palin? And if so, what does Mr. McCain think of this?

Well, yesterday Kevin wrote about the looming crack-up between Palin and McCain. It could get very ugly -- before November 4th. This is what happens when you select a bubble-head, narcissistic diva to be your Number 2. Divas never settle for second fiddle.

Do we feel sorry for him yet? Nah.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hasn't McCain been making a big stink about waste and pork spending, claiming Obama brought home to Illinois a very expensive overhead projector?

Well, it appears his Republican colleague, Sen. Mitch McConnell, is actually bragging about his pork spending on the campaign trail.
Looking desperately for a redoubt, some Republicans are returning to the last refuge of incumbents: pork-barrel spending. McConnell now claims to have delivered $500 million in taxpayer funds to his state in the past year for projects that range from riverfront development to mobile health-care units. By comparison, he says, the most pork any freshman Democratic Senator delivered to a state last year was $16 million.
That's $500 million in pork for just one year. Compare this to Obama's $3 million "overhead projector," which in reality is not what McCain described. The partisan distortions continue.
With fingers crossed and realizing the race is far from over, it's great to see that shows Obama with a huge 364-171-3 lead in the Electoral College. Meanwhile, shows a similar lead for Obama at 345-193.

To help put these numbers in perspective, please view the following two charts:

The top chart shows Obama/McCain, the bottom shows Bush/Kerry. Like McCain this year, Bush enjoyed a post-convention bounce in the polls, with Kerry having to make up ground in that regard from about late September until the election. Kerry was able to close the gap and actually pull ahead of Bush late, but to no avail.

Compare the McCain/Obama chart to the Bush/Kerry chart. Not even close. Obama gave up some of his lead around the GOP convention, allowing McCain to draw about even at one point, but has since re-expanded his lead in dramatic fashion. Obama's cushion over McCain now easily surpasses his prior high set in June when he was in Europe.

I know about the racism concerns, the voter suppression efforts, the robo-calling, the potential for a late "October Surprise," but if Obama were to lose this election due to some odd, Ohio-like strange happenings then we will have witnessed the hat trick, three consecutive presidential elections that involved shady results. The polling numbers as we see them today has to translate into a resounding Electoral College victory for Obama. Assuming these numbers hold up, all the nefarious chicanery they can muster should not change this expected outcome. If it were to somehow, someway succeed, then the citizens of this country better rise up and demand recounts on a massive scale. As Obama said in Denver, enough!
Kevin Drum believes that if McCain loses, the GOP will likely become even more conservative and right wing, not less.

As unbelievable as it may seem, Kevin is probably correct, Republicans will look to remedy their perceived problems by lurching even further to the right. If you don't think this is possible, I ask who remains in the party with enough influence to effectively advocate for more moderation? Before this year it might have been McCain, but that ship has long ago sailed, so who does that leave, Richard Lugar?? I rest my case.
Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley Jr., recently endorsed Obama and for that he was forced to leave the magazine his father founded.

Some choice segments in his own words:
As for the mail flooding into National Review Online—that’s been running about, oh, 700-to-1 against. In fact, the only thing the Right can’t quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless.
Kathleen [Parker] had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster.
I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.
Glad to see the right wing is imploding from the inside, one by one eating their own. And it's not as if it's one crazed faction warring against another, but rather some within the "big tent" simply see Obama as the better candidate and yet to voice this belief publicly, offering reasons, is apparently an unforgivable sin worthy of banishment.

To those of us on the outside, the question remains: who would ever want to be a part of this group to begin with? Their true colors are evident with these types of episodes as well as on the McCain campaign trail.

Expect more of the same in the next few weeks, and if Obama wins, the next several years.

Monday, October 20, 2008

From yesterday's NY Times:

  • With time winding down, this administration continues to make anti-environmental changes to please industry friends....

  • When conservative pundits and commentators have written critical words about McCain and Palin, they have often received angry, threatening emails -- proving much about the sober thoughtfulness and reasoned tolerance of their rabid base.

  • Frank Rich says don't fall for the offered excuse that McCain's woes are due to GW and the economy. Not quite....
  • Friday, October 17, 2008

    Regarding McCain's debate performance, Kevin Drum wrote, "He sounded like a guy who had so many preplanned attacks lined up that he could barely spit all of them out in the allotted time."

    In other words, he was just like his overly coached running mate in her debate. She had so many talking points and sound bites crammed into her noggin that she resorted to just ignoring the questions asked and instead just regurgitate these phrases where/when she could. It ended up sounding forced, nonsensical, and frantic in a very disturbing way.

    As Kevin said, McCain similarly seemed to have a gazillion little attack lines that he wanted to launch like spaghetti against the wall, hoping at least one of them would hit the mark ala "I knew John F. Kennedy...." But it was not to be, with instead McCain appearing more/less like a male version of his running mate (sans the winking).

    It's quite sad that with either McCain or Palin you never hear a coherent, well thought out answer rooted in policy. All of their responses are reactive, cobbled together talking points and gotcha lines that are expected to resonate with the base -- who apparently just want blurb lines they can repeat at the water cooler and to friends.

    Haven't we seen enough of this make-it-up-as-you-go-along "policy" over the last eight years?
    Even when it comes to literally their Joe Six Pack, there ends up being falsehoods here and there.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama.
    [T]he difference in character and temperament has become plainer by the day, and there is no decent way of avoiding the fact. Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience.
    I suppose it could be said, as Michael Gerson has alleged, that the Obama campaign's choice of the word erratic to describe McCain is also an insinuation. But really, it's only a euphemism. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear had to feel sorry for the old lion on his last outing and wish that he could be taken somewhere soothing and restful before the night was out. The train-wreck sentences, the whistlings in the pipes, the alarming and bewildered handhold phrases—"My friends"—to get him through the next 10 seconds. I haven't felt such pity for anyone since the late Adm. James Stockdale humiliated himself as Ross Perot's running mate. And I am sorry to have to say it, but Stockdale had also distinguished himself in America's most disastrous and shameful war, and it didn't qualify him then and it doesn't qualify McCain now.
    He concludes by pleading, "One only wishes that the election could be over now" so as to spare us further from "a low, dishonest campaign." I couldn't agree more.

    Meanwhile, McCain's amazing implosion continues as his poll numbers seemingly sink with each passing day. What was a 6-8 point deficit now looks more like a 10-12 point gap from Obama's lead.

    That said Obama still faces an uphill battle given racism, which could amount to 6% of his lead, and the newly reported evidence of massive voter registration purging occurring in key states. But even if Obama were to overcome these obstacles and land in the White House, Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman reminds us that the next four years will be quite despicable.
    Something very ugly is taking shape on the political scene: as McCain’s chances fade, the crowds at his rallies are, by all accounts, increasingly gripped by insane rage.
    We’ve seen this before. One thing that has been sort of written out of the mainstream history of politics is the sheer insanity of the attacks on the Clintons — they were drug smugglers, they murdered Vince Foster (and lots of other people), they were in league with foreign powers. And this stuff didn’t just show up in fringe publications — it was discussed in Congress, given props by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and so on.
    What happens when Obama is elected? It will be even worse than it was in the Clinton years. For sure there will be crazy accusations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some violence.
    It's not a stretch to state that for reasons mentioned above, Obama is risking his life by seeking to become president -- a notion that is incredibly horrific but unfortunately something that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Must-reading: McCain's latest attempt at craven vote-grabbing is a supposed $300 billion homeowner bailout package. Kevin Drum discusses it here and here.

    It appears to be 1/3 corporate give-away, rewarding all the wrong parties, and the other 2/3 is given to homeowners who got in over their heads.

    But what about most of us homeowners who did not get in over our heads and continue to payoff our mortgages? Is it fair to us to see others get bailed out with sweeter terms because they either got bamboozled and yet should've known better, and/or over-extended themselves and should've known better?

    Kevin writes:
    The only comment I did make in real time about McCain's proposal was an observation that CNN's focus group "against expectations, really didn't like McCain's idea of bailing out homeowners directly." And the reason for that appears to be straightforward: cautious, responsible homeowners who took out cautious, responsible loans and bought cautious, responsible houses, are not necessarily thrilled at the idea of their idiot profligate neighbors getting a federal bailout for the idiot profligate loans they took out on their idiot profligate house/remodel/HELOCs.
    It's fitting that McCain likely thought he had a sure-fire winner with this latest gimmick and yet like everything else associated with his campaign, it turns out to be not just a dud but a potential negative. When does he just give up and begin to go through the motions until it's finally over?
  • Rep. Brad Sherman says many members of Congress were told that if they didn't vote for the bailout bill then martial law would be the end result. The fear-mongering never stops for this administration.

  • A man is shot three times for wearing an Obama t-shirt. It's getting very ugly to say the least.

  • Voter registration drives have helped the Democrats and hurt the Republicans. Unfortunately, Greg Palast and Robert Kennedy, Jr. have concluded it may not matter, that the fix may already be in.

  • Another thing Greenspan got wrong.

  • In their debate, Palin frequently evoked the image of Reagan, yet it was Biden who was doing to Palin what Reagan did to Carter: remind the voters of prior woe and the need for change. Voters typically seek change by booting out the incumbent party, yet McCain/Palin wish to try the novel approach of convincing us that change will come by keeping the GOP in the White House for four more years. Oh, right, almost forgot, THEY'RE MAVERICKS!

  • Despite what McCain may claim, Obama is the true supporter of veterans.
  • "That one" won.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    I jotted the following down a few days ago:
    I never would've imagined McCain would sink lower than Bush/Rove, but he has. Cindy McCain's assurances that no negative campaigning would occur is a joke as her husband has turned that promise on its head. Much of the honor and respect accorded McCain prior to this race has long slid to nothing.

    With just a few weeks remaining before Nov. 4th and McCain's poll numbers sinking faster than the stock market, the question is will McCain resort to Willie Horton-type, suggestive, beyond-the-pale negative ads, or will he instead say no, stop the insanity? I'd like to believe he has a shred of dignity left and will tell Schmidt to not go there, to not repeat the Rove-ian antics that were used against him in 2000.

    But we'll see. He may actually sink further in gall and go there in full force, only to then beg for forgiveness months later if he loses. It will be too late by then, his soul long ago sold to the dark side, with no chance for pity and restoration of respect by the public. Hopefully voters will be smarter this time around if they try to pull that kind of late-in-the-game BS -- hopefully.
    Well, after scribbling this down, Monday came along and I see they've decided to sink lower and return to trying desperately to associate Obama with Ayers. Apparently they've concluded they must change the topic off the economy, else face defeat.

    Harold Meyerson had a terrific column yesterday where he basically lays out if McCain wants to got there, Obama has more than enough ammo (Keating and Phil Gramm) to fire back (never mind that Obama's association with Ayers is tenuous, versus McCain's full-embrace relationships with Keating and Gramm).

    This latest attempt is even more pathetic and desperate than the Willie Horton stunt because at least the Horton ad was "fresh", new material (albeit a distortion to scare voters), whereas with Ayers it's just retread, old news debunked by many respected news outlets and is not likely to resonate a second time around (it barely did the first time).

    But alas, it appears McCain et al have decided to sink even lower in hopes of reversing their slide in the polls. Steve Benen wrote today:
    There's been a lot of talk of late about whether McCain, win or lose in November, will regret how pathetic he became over the course of this campaign. I rather doubt it -- he knew exactly what he was doing when he hired Karl Rove's operation and deliberately abandoned his integrity for electoral gain.

    John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, told Heilemann months ago that the carefully-cultivated image may not be salvageable. "There is no brand in politics you can just put on the shelf, run a campaign totally contrary to it, and then take it down later and still expect people to believe it," Weaver said.

    I suspect that's exactly what McCain expected. He'd developed a degree of credibility and good will, and thought he could simply reclaim it after lying and smearing his way to victory. By all appearances, he badly miscalculated.
    I now think McCain concluded that his career has led up to this point in time, that it was the presidency or bust. Do whatever it takes, no matter how shameful or scummy (after all, such tactics worked against him in 2000), go for that ultimate prize, and if it doesn't work out then so be it. He is 72 years old, rich, the GOP is likely finished with respect to power, so if he lost it just meant an earlier retirement. All the maverick stuff was not to be "reclaimed" as Benen put it, but rather he was done. He made a decision, a very unfortunate one, that this was to be his last gasp as a politician and if he was going to go out, he was going to do it flailing and flinging all the garbage he could muster, with a willingness to trash his past. Truly, truly sad.

    Now I'm off to watch debate -- let's see if McCain can actually descend even lower.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    This bailout quagmire is complicated stuff and as Paul Krugman has said the bill is not perfect by any means but better to pass something then to risk having the country plunge into a deep, wrenching depression (yes, it is that bad).

    But don't take my word for it, to help coax you in your thinking, all you have to know is many of the House Republicans that reversed course earlier this week and decided to vote down the bailout had reportedly been inundated by furious calls from listeners of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. If the Limbaughs and Hannitys are against the bailout, you know it can't be all that bad.

    Again, it's flawed and will need lots of reworking in the many weeks ahead, but it's a first step and time is of the essence. Libor continues to shoot skyward, indicating banks are growing increasingly unwilling to loan to each other, further exacerbating an already bad liquidity problem. But the root cause of the liquidity freeze is the solvency issue, namely that banks do not trust the balance sheets of their brethren thanks to the toxic vehicles they own. Sell the damaged goods at deep discounts to rid it from the balance sheet and lending funds should begin to flow again.

    To gain a better understanding I recommend reading this and this.
    So she didn't freeze up, meltdown, or just flat out went bonkers on us -- and that makes her performance superior to Biden's? And we thought the bar was an inch from the ground when GW was wowing us with his debate prowess.... (Apparently Biden won).

    The fact is her answers to most questions sounded much better than her astoundingly bad replies to Katie Couric's queries, but you just have to scratch the surface a bit to realize there's not much there. Lots of memorized talking points, colloquial phrases ("gee whiz," "well gosh"), and ad hoc references to the base that frequently had zilch to do with Ifill's question(s). In the end, she came off as a slightly nervous, overly prepped 10th grade debater who just had to have that extra-large espresso before going on stage.

    Biden was fine, although at the start he could've used some of that espresso. It felt like he had to initially get his bearings, to allow some time to feel how the tone of the event was going, before he could shed some caution and begin to truly engage. Once he did, he was often terrific.

    In the end, neither candidate made any huge gaffes but neither did they likely make a hugely positive impact on the poll numbers. We'll see.