Saturday, September 20, 2008

This isn't terrifying at all, I swears

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed to Congress what could become the largest financial bailout in United States history, requesting virtually unfettered authority for the Treasury to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets from financial institutions based in the United States.

The proposal was stunning for its stark simplicity: less than three pages, it would raise the national debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion. And it would place no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress, allowing the Treasury to buy and resell mortgage debt as it sees fit...

The plan, an ambitious effort to transfer the bad debts of Wall Street into the obligations of American taxpayers, was put forward by the administration late last week, after a series of bold interventions on behalf of ailing private firms seemed unlikely to prevent a crash of world financial markets.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Guest Post

From my friend Carlos

Selling the Cheap Knock-Off to “Swing” Voters

John McCain is attempting to foist on the American people an act of prestidigitation worthy of Houdini’s corpse in a George Romero zombie movie. With Frankenstein’s bride at his side—Sarah “Barracuda” Palin reading a Rovian teleprompter message of lies—McCain has emerged from the Dead Zone of the past eight, 20, 38 years (take your pick), robotically mimicking Barack Obama, “change is coming, change is coming, change.”

To achieve this horror show sleight-of-mind the McCain campaign, led by Rovian disciples of Joseph Goebbels, must do certain things. Not only must they sell McCain, outrageously, as the real agent of change, but at the same time insulate Sarah Palin from explaining her extremist views to the wicked “liberal media.” Never mind that only a few weeks ago, McCain held impromptu media interviews in his oxymoronic “Straight Talk Express.” Ironically, much of the good press McCain’s received, the uncritical exposure, resulted from his readiness to grant access to the selfsame mainstream media his campaign is now demonizing. Hypocrisy begets more hypocrisy.

Abraham Lincoln who would not, today, recognize the Republican Party, famously said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Proving Lincoln wrong is clearly McCain’s campaign strategy—a cynical tactic, contemptuous of the intelligence and attention span of the American voter—not just to reinvent, but rather, resuscitate the moribund candidate for a mere seven weeks as the “change agent.”

Time for Pushback

Fool me once: McCain, the “Mavrick,” read a sign in the Republican Convention (these people are not strong on basic literacy), has voted with Bush 90% of the time and his campaign is being run by Washington lobbyists.

Fool me twice: McCain’s economic “guru,” former Senator Phil Gramm, is an arch-conservative Texan whose claim to fame was to lead the repeal in 1999 of a New Deal banking regulation, precipitating today’s economic turmoil and foreclosures in the housing industry. The former general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, until he said the current economic crisis is all in our heads— “psychological”—and we’re a “nation of whiners,” remains the economic Rasputin in this gang of scoundrels. McCain himself has admitted, and has shown by his recent campaigning, that he knows nothing about the economy.

The Wrong Roosevelt:
Or How McCain is 100 Years Out of Touch

How “psychological” is a trillion dollar financial markets loss in a matter of days? McCain blames “greed on Wall Street.” The problem with his turn-of-the-century (20th century) thinking is that T.R. Roosevelt (McCain’s role model) railed against “barons of great wealth” without benefit of the economic reforms enacted during his cousin Franklin’s New Deal.

John McCain is rather like a pathetic historical “re-enactor,” desperately hoping to embody Teddy Roosevelt’s third term that never was, as if the last 100 years had never happened.

In truth, John McCain and his neoCon cohorts have waged a craven decades-long campaign against FDR’s legacy and everything it represents to this country. From deregulation of the markets to a failed presidential attempt at privatizing social security, the results are in: the greatest financial crisis our country has faced since the Great Depression.

What are the common links between these seemingly disparate events? On one side, Franklin Delano Roosevelt; on the other, well-funded oligarchs and the forces of reaction, with their political arm, the Republican Party.

History sidebar: The Republican Party of Lincoln died when Teddy Roosevelt bolted Taft’s business party to form the most successful third party in American history, the Bull Moose Party (unfortunate references to Palin notwithstanding). T.R. took with him the last remnants of progressivism in his Republican Party. After the election of 1912, many of these progressives found a home in cousin Franklin’s Democratic Party.

Greed and Ambition First, Family Second, Country Last

Now we are being offered a choice to vote the fox into the hen house. Does McCain’s “lipstick on a pig” campaign really believe the American people are this stupid?

But wait, they’re the “family values” party, right? Indeed, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of Sarah Palin: an anti-choice, anti-sex education, pro-abstinence, book-banning (presumably sex education textbooks too), vice presidential candidate who happens to be a pathological liar. The trashy, unqualified Palin, with her 60s beehive “do” and weird fundamentalist views, had no problem throwing her pregnant 17-year-old daughter under the bus in the name of political ambition. What “incentives” have this pistol-packing mom and Alaska secessionist dad offered the kid who impregnated their daughter? Fodder for the tabloids, which is perfectly fine with this Republican Party. The last thing they wanted was for this election to be about big issues.

Their strategy seemed to be working; that is, until a financial crisis rudely intruded.

An Economic Crisis Intrudes

Phil Gramm, McCain’s Treasury (what’s left of it) Secretary in waiting, is most responsible for the deepening economic crisis in our country and for the market meltdown on Wall Street. Forget “deregulation,” this is laissez-faire nonregulation—McCain, Gramm, and the Republican Party have presided over the partial rollback of FDR’s economic reforms which had, until now, survived the test of time and ensured growing prosperity for generations of Americans.

Gramm’s wife, Wendy Gramm, engineered the catastrophic deregulation of the energy industry as head of the CFTC and then served on Enron’s board of directors as it milked investors of millions of dollars, wiping out people’s life savings in a nanosecond. For her involvement in the scandal, Gramm and other Enron directors agreed to an $168 million dollar settlement in a suit led by the University of California. Ronald Reagan said Wendy Gramm was his “favorite economist.”

McCain, the NeoCon Extremist

John McCain may have voted with Bush 90% of the time on all issues, but when it comes to the war in Iraq he’s 100% with Bush. As the veneer of disinformation and propaganda is scratched from McCain’s “maverick” facade, we discover just below the surface a candidate obsessed with so-called “Islamic Fundamentalism.” In the early days of the campaign his eyes projected a fanatical glint when he spoke of this as an existential, generational threat, greater than any this country faces. In John McCain’s mind, this is a titanic struggle between competing civilizations. If required, we shall occupy Iraq for 100 years.

For Sarah Palin and her evangelical supporters, McCain’s worldview dovetails nicely with their religious fundamentalism. It portends Armageddon itself. Only last June, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God."

"Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she said. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

These are extremist positions. McCain’s fanaticism is not shared by most thoughtful foreign policy analysts, who do not consider the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, numbering in the thousands, equal to that posed by the combined armed forces of Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II. Someone in the campaign must have urged McCain to bring it down a few notches, because clearly this kind of talk alarms voters.

Nevertheless, the reality is that McCain has completely embraced the neoconservative, neofascist worldview that manipulated an empty vessel like George W. Bush into the Iraq fiasco. In some ways, McCain is more dangerous. He is a true “believer,” whereas Bush only reads off a prepared script. And now his distorted vision is on the cusp of merging with the Religious Right’s agenda in ways even the Bush regime could not achieve.

What it all Comes Down to: We Won’t get Fooled Again

Yet, for once in his mediocre political career, George W. Bush has the definitive word on this election: “There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."

Can McCain’s operatives sell the country, especially inattentive “swing” voters, on the McCain-Palin ticket as the ultimate cheap knock-off to Barack Obama’s message of change? Time will tell.

Until this week, the bottom line was it would probably come down to the debates. That is, until the bottom threatened to drop off our economy.

John McCain, the nine-home top-five-percentile oligarch, eerily echoes Herbert Hoover’s do-nothing paralysis trumpeting the “fundamentals of the economy are sound” from the deck of the Titanic, a.k.a. the U.S. economy, circa 1932. FDR won in a landslide. And so should Barack Obama in 2008.

The American people have no other choice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States

Memo to Grampy

John McCain said he would fire SEC Chairman (and Orange County Republican) Chris Cox. Memo to Grampy--while you nominaye the SEC chair as president, you have no power to dismiss the head of an independent agency.

In many ways, this is Hurricane Katrina all over, the failure of governance by people who don't believe in government.

The new White House occupant - Hugo Chavez

Hundreds of billions of dollars for corporate welfare? It's official - no big business ever fails, we just bail them out with taxpayer money, and of course that money can't come from the rich, otherwise they're just bailing themselves out, and we can't have that.

I wonder how expensive it would have been to have had competent regulation and oversight...

Wow, she's dumb

On CNN's Political Ticker, there's a story about Sarah Palin's arguments that she should run the country because she's an energy expert.

“And maybe if [Obama]’d been the governor of an energy-rich state, he’d get it."

Now, Barack Obama has never been the governor of any state, but we'll ignore that part. What we can notice is that Palin has no grasp on anything other than what's in her tiny little 5 colleges in 6 years mind, and that is that Illinois is actually an energy-rich state. Illinois is number one in terms of nuclear capacity (and hence McCain's lines about how Obama ignores nuclear power are absurd - actually, he haas been influenced by the nuclear lobby plenty of times) and 9th out of 28 states in coal production.

Man, I hate facts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life in crazyland

Clearly, only a crazy person would not want to ensure maintaining minimum survival needs for elderly people to the stock market. It is stable and ever-growing, and if only we'd invested the national retirement fund then the free market would have made sure that the bread lines were as comfortable as possible.

Melting Down

The mess is a result of a failed philosophy, deregulation and the Grover Norquist view of shrinking government to where you could drown it in a bathtub. Unregulated competitive capitalism, definitionally based on self-interest, is often not aligned with the public good.

There were two statutory measures that brought this on, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the commodities modernization bill. Clinton COULD and should have vetoed GLB (he used the threat of a veto to get some changes in the bill) but he was in effect powerless against the CFMA, given that it was attached to a spending bill and Chimpy already had the keys to the Oval Office. That was the one that jumpstarted the derivatives and swaps trading (and included the Enron loophole).

From there we have executive (the Justice Department deciding that antitrust was a silly concept) and regulatory policy (GOP majorities on the CFTC, SEC, etc. that stood idly by) out of the Bush administration that alowed the disaster to take place.

Are the Democrats blameless? Of course not. Clinton (I never figured out why the Republicans hated him so, he was practically one of them, signing GLB, the CFMA, NAFTA, CAFTA, the telecomm act, etc.) signed the bills, the Dems in Congress rolled over. But this was the implementation of conservative ideology which just shows again that while they are better than the Democrats at politics in many ways, they are unfit to govern.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What the internet is for

Best. Headline. Ever.

Article here.

Seven weeks left, update on polls

The last week has generally not been a good one for humanity, poll-wise, but the trend over the last day or two is moving back towards Obama. Regardless, here's this morning's snapshot of the polls. See here for last week's analysis and an explanation of what I'm trying to do here.

Italicized states have trended (changed categories) towards McCain, bolded (if there were any this week) towards Obama.

McCain win: Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, West Virginia, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Montana, Florida. Total: 216 EV (+54).

McCain likely: Indiana. Total: 11 EV (-6).

Obama likely: Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington. Total: 28 EV (-21).

Obama win: DC, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, California, Delaware, New Jersey, Iowa. Total: 179 EV (-32).

Tossup: Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire. Total: 104 EV (+8).

The net trend since last week is McCain put 45 EV in his column, while Obama lost 53 (and the tossup column gained 8). Combining the "win" and "likely" for each, we'd be at 227 for McCain and 207 for Obama. Not quite a dead heat, but close. PA and MI are still critical.

I'm looking forward to next week's data, when we're post-conventions more and leading up to the debates.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sorry for the absence

Work, always there. Family, always there. Now, recovering from minor surgery (minor, but ouchy) but my absence has been inexcusable.

Long time, no see

I'm always amused by how Republican politicians LOVE laws that are over 200 years old (constitutional "original intent," which is more BS than you will find on a dairy farm) but hate 75-year old laws. You know, those pesky banking and securities laws that were passed after a meltdown to limit the chances of another one?

And gosh, who was it that led the way for the federal legislation that eliminated the regulatory barriers between banks and brokerage, deregulation that allowed a lot of these catastrophes to happen. Good ol' Phil Gramm. He's not tied to any political candidate, is he?

I don't know much about money

but the news sounds awfully not good. Can someone with a greater knowledge of these things fill me in?

Nine innings, zero hits