September 27, 2008

Intrade Gadfly-style for the week of Sept. 27

Both FiveThirtyEight.com and Electoral-Vote give Obama a majority in the electoral vote, with FiveThirtyEight.com giving him an outright majority in the popular vote, too.

That said, Electoral-Vote now projects the Senate breakout for the 111th Congress as 58-42. That’s 52 strong, 3 week and 3 barely. The GOP’s projected 42 has 1 barely and 2 weak, so, it is possible.

So, I’ll bump odds of 60 Senate Dems counting Lieberman to 15 percent. And, I’ll put 60 without him on the radar screen at 3 percent.

That’s still as high as I rank Rick Noriega’s chances here in Texas. National Guard down time for Ike, lack of money, and a less-than-dynamic campaign style mean sure defeat unless Cornyn has a huge gaffe in debates or Obama parachutes into Texas for more than just big-donor checks.

My odds on Obama-McCain are 56-44; as for the first debate, I give Obama a slight edge while saying neither one did that well. McCain had five or so clear lies of his own alone, to Obama’s one.

We had three bipartisan lies, on who started the Georgia-Russia war, on mistranslating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and on throwing around tax breaks we can’t afford.

HERE is a bailout idea with teeth

As part of a bailout agreement, the DOJ agrees to investigate past and/or present CEOs of all mortgage companies that offered liars’ loans, for possible fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, etc.

DOJ also agrees to investigate CEOs of investment banks, hedge funds, reinsurers, etc. who bought mortgage-based securities with liars loans in them, for similar criminality.

Beyond criminality, DOJ promises to sue, as well, per available evidence, any such CEOs.

Would be a wonderful idea, but folks such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, just to mention Congressional Democrats with the most connections to the financial sector —

I’m sorry, I forgot Barak Obama with top campaign contributor Goldman Sachs in there —

Would strangle this in the cradle.

Will Biden raise this next Thursday?

In the vice-presidential debate, I think it would be funny as hell for Biden, sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, to ask Palin not only why she charged rape victims for examination kits but also why John McCain opposes the bill every time it comes up for renewal.

HERE is a bailout idea with teeth

As part of a bailout agreement, the DOJ agrees to investigate past and/or present CEOs of all mortgage companies that offered liars’ loans, for possible fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, etc.

DOJ also agrees to investigate CEOs of investment banks, hedge funds, reinsurers, etc. who bought mortgage-based securities with liars loans in them, for similar criminality.

Beyond criminality, DOJ promises to sue, as well, per available evidence, any such CEOs.

Would be a wonderful idea, but folks such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, just to mention Congressional Democrats with the most connections to the financial sector —

I’m sorry, I forgot Barak Obama with top campaign contributor Goldman Sachs in there —

Goodbye, Paul, Cool Hand Luke and Butch

For acting, for charity, for devotion to liberal causes and much more, we will miss you indeed, Paul Newman.

I’ve never been inside a Southern prison, but I have been to Butch and Sundance’s Hole in the Wall and other hideouts in both Utah and Wyoming.

And, I will buy an occasional Newman’s Own product, too.

Kos gets facts wrong itself in Dem-fluffing AP attack

Yet another reason I don’t automatically vote Dem AND why I’m glad I got booted from the Kossack herd of sycophants.

BarbinMD claims the AP is fact-challenged in hanging large responsibility for Gramm-Leach-Bliley on Slick Willie Clinton’s neck.

Tis true that the name of the act, including Phil Gramm, wasn’t mentioned.

But, here’s the bigger things that AP also didn’t mention:
• Two-thirds of House Dems voted in favor of GLB
• Co-author Jim Leach is the biggest Republican to endorse Obama, and he’s never apologized for GLB;
• Before becoming Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin worked for Goldman Sachs, the single largest donor, by company, to Obama’s campaign.

It’s the duopoly at work!

Barb, if the AP is an “embarrassment to journalism,” you’re an embarrassment to mock indignation. Put a fork in yourself; you’re well done, Barb.

Everything written, filmed or shot will be eternally copyrighted

Or a de facto equivalent.

A copyright czar? That’s what the Senate approved Friday.

Hell, most “creatives” could stand to start with a copywrite czar.

And, in this case, our beloved Democratic-controlled Congress — enthralled to Hollywood on this issue — actually wanted to go more Nazi than Bush, specifically by requiring, yes requiring, the Department of Justice to sue on behalf of poor, deflowered movie producers and record moguls.

The House passed a similar bill in May; the bills will now have to go to conference.

Science update old and new — lichen, beer, rocks

New lichen species in Yosemite; new beer from old yeast; oldest earth rocks

Yosemite is sporting at least one newly-identified species of lichen. It’s in plain site at such commonly-visited sites as Vernal Falls, Half Dome and El Capitan.

If you’ve been to Yosemite, what you (or I) thought were brightly colored oxidized minerals is actually the lichen. Hmm… wonder if that’s true in other western spots with lots of pouroffs, like Zion.

It has newfound importance, too; lichen are good monitors of air pollution and climate change.

And, it’s not quite so lonesome; in the past two years in Yosemite, scientists have found one new species of orchid and three of bees.

A California brewmeister is using 45-million-year-old yeast for his newest offings. His company? Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.

And, since he’s in California, you can give his — to wax biblical — old yeast in new beer bottles a taste after looking at lichen in Yosemite.

Earth’s oldest rocks are now known to be in Quebec.

Sorry, Sarah Palin and others of young-earth creationist ilk, but more scientific evidence is in that our planet is about 4.5-4.6 billion years old.

The latest? Rocks in northeastern Quebec date to about 4.28 billion years
.

September 26, 2008

Live-blogging the first presidential debate

Obama shows "competence" on foreign policy vs. McCain "experience," but whiffs or passes on numerous chances to pin tail of Bush to plans of McCain

8:00 McCain tries to avoid talking about lenders' bailout and go for sympathetic father figure by talking about Ted Kennedy being rushed to hospital.

8:07 First McCain lie – that House GOP was excluded from lenders' bailout discussion.

8:10 McCain doesn't go POW, but does invoke Ike in a way totally unconnected to matters at hand.

8:14 McCain trying to separate himself from "GOP."

8:17ff Obama misses BIG opening to bring up Palin pushing for Alaska earmarks.

8:22 Obama nails McCain on effective tax rates for business taxes.

8:23 Obama also gets McCain on taxing healthcare.

8:23ff... Obama seemed stiff at the start and loosening up now.

8:24 When has McCain ever before mentioned supporting a flat tax, or a quasi-flat tax?

8:24 Second clear McCain lie, that Obama wants to start tax hikes at $42K.

8:26 I thought this was a foreign policy debate? Lehrer's determined to get into domestic policy.

8:29 McCain third lie, that Obama is "the most liberal member of the Senate."

8:33 "Freeze spending" a typical conservative gimmick.

8:33 McCain now goes Jesse Helms on looking to cut foreign policy.

8:34 Reprocessing nuclear fuel opposed by a LOT of people, Sen. McCain.

8:34 McCain drops, subtly, the Hillary Clinton card.

8:35 Obama does good framing job, "When I am president..."

8:37 Obama pins Bush tail on McCain.

8:40 McCain won't admit Iraq a mistake; still defines it in Vietnam "win" terms.

8:43 McCain oversells the Surge; the reason it appeared to have worked is primarily because rebels laid low/moved around the country.

8:44 "John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007 ... you said the war would be quick and easy ... you said we would be greeted as liberators. ...

"So, if the question is about ... using our military ... we can look at our judgment."

8:48-49 I think Obama still has given too much daylight on whether the Surge succeeded or not, but his past words, giving too much credit to the Surge, are on the record.

8:53 McCain seems to score a point by saying "You don't just announce things like (unilateral strikes against Pakistan)."
But... he ignores that George Bush did just that.

8:57 Pakistan a failed state? I disagree, McCain. That gives Musharraf way too much credit, as well as giving authoritarian government a thumbs-up.

That said, regular readers here know that I think BOTH ARE WRONG on Afghanistan.

9:00 Obama "No soldier dies in vain," as a refute of McCain playing a backdoor version of the "patriot card."
That said, I'll go Ted Rall and say, hell, no, PLENTY of soldiers do die in vain. About 57,000 died in vain in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh in 1954 was nationalist first, communist second, and about 20 years of U.S. intervention got nothing in terms of geopolitical settlement that we couldn't have had in 1954.

9:04 Time for vote pandering – Jim Lehrer brings up Iran.
McCain rises to the bait with "second Holocaust" comment.

Fourth McCain lie – that Iran is responsible for the rise in improvised explosive devices in Iraq. That was shot down a full year ago.

9:08 Fifth McCain lie – that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is talking about the "extermination of Israel" in New York tonight. First, he didn't do that this spring, despite the wet dream misquoting/mistranslating of previous statements of his. And, he's not doing that tonight, nor did he do that in the UN General Assembly earlier this week. (Lie repeated at 9:13.)

9:12 Obama punks McCain over his Zapatero "misstatements" of last week.

9:15 McCain is either repeating lie No. 5 or just an idiot.

9:16 Lehrer goes to Russia – get ready for both candidates to lie about Georgia.

9:16 Obama tells his first lie, about who started the Russia-Georgia war. He does qualify it by saying he doesn't want a Cold War.

9:18 McCain tells the lie more strenuously, although he then gets at a major truth – it's about energy. That's why both want Georgia in NATO. So, here, Obama has a hypocrisy factor – Georgia is Iraq in the middle of the Caucacus.

9:22ff Wrangling over alt-energy. McCain is on the side of Big Oil through tax breaks if nothing else, and is not as "green" in general as he makes himself out to be.

9:26 Lehrer asks about 9/11.

9:27 McCain talks about 9/11 commission. That would be the commission whose chair, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, deliberately stalled out Part II of its investigation and report due to political reasons.

9:30 McCain lie six – that Reagan's Star Wars forced the Soviet Union to his knees.

9:34 Good closing by Obama to tackle a bit of his foreign heritage before the national audience. Should he have gone further?

Postgame - on PBS. I do agree with David Brooks that Obama can still be a little distant at times.

That said, McCain seemed determined to talk around, rather than talk about, the economy in the first part of the debate.

Michael Beschloss is right that Obama didn't tie Bush to McCain as well as he could have.

Mark Shields follows that up with noting how much McCain strived to separate himself from Bush.

Overall grade? Obama a B, McCain a C++. But, because Obama didn't score that high, and didn't score any telling points, I don't expect much of a bump out of this.

It's a good thing Obama's camp soft-pedaled their expections of him, because, whether due to flop sweat or his singing a hymn from the gospel of Kumbaya, he blew some opportunities.

Finally, both candidates are lying in their tax reduction talk; we can't afford it.

Your office and living room tell your politics

And, I definitely fit the liberal profile, per a new study in Political Psychology .

Liberals supposedly have more creative looking and independent-minded office space. At home, in the living room, I fit all of these:
• More CDs (I’m nearing 800)
• A greater variety of CDs (mainly classical, but through blues and classic rock to traditional Navajo chants, folk music of Uzbekistan and chord-singing Mongolian monks)
• Greater variety of books (non-fiction, at least, despite tightly rotating many of my books in and out to Half Price Books; if it’s nonfiction, I’m likely to give it a look)
• More color (my best National Parks and other nature photography in 8x10s — walls are rented apartment standard beige, though)
• More clutter (no comment).

The one thing missing (maybe there’s not a difference) along the same lines, would be the number and variety of spices, condiments, etc. In other words, does the conformity/change axis translate to food preferences?

Instead of 1929, maybe 1907 instead?

That year might be a better comparison to today, starting with the prominence of the House of Morgan.

Jim Jubak rounds up some bailout issues

Did you know the 2005 bankruptcy reform changed the rules on derivates? That they can still be sold even if a company is in bankruptcy?

It puts a new spin on some of the Fed’s individual bailouts already in place, as well as the Mother Of All Bailouts now on the table.

And, speaking of that, Jubak calls it the maybe bailout.

On the next page of this story, he explains why many banks are NOT likely to line up for Treasury help.

The result:
So yes, we could actually throw $700 billion at the financial industry and not put an end to this crisis. And it is almost certain that we wouldn’t know for months whether the plan was working.

Meanwhile, Jubak is running a contest for the best of “Save the Derivatives” bump stickers contest.

(In the same column — Hello, John McCain, Jubak says Securities and Exchanges Commission Chairman Christopher Cox is, indeed, one of the biggest contributors to the current situation. That said, you didn’t hear McCain mention this two weeks or two months ago.)

And, derivates’ “insuring” a flow of $700 billion per year, estimated, may be where Paulson/Bernanke pulled that number from.

Oh, if you want to enter the “Save the Derivatives” bumper sticker contest, e-mail Jubak here.

Financial woes cause run on gold

U.S. Mint suspends sale of 24K gold coins.

Christmas is too much with us

From my day job, here’s my Christmas creep-up column.

That said, a couple of extra weeks for Mall Santa work might be the Bush-McCain definition of “economic stimulus.”

A little “El Pocito Pueblo de Bethlehem,” anybody?

Jack Schaefer — I believe the Enquirer

The Slate columnist says you should too, and here’s why:
Say whatever ugly things you will about the modern National Enquirer, it hasn't staged the filming of an exploding pickup truck like NBC News; it hasn't been taken by a serial liar, as was the New York Times; and it's avoided running preposterous stories about the U.S. government using nerve gas in Vietnam, as CNN did. Had Jack Kelley attempted to place his fictions in the Enquirer instead of USA Today, I'm sure the editors would have found him out.

Newsweek’s Jonathan Mahler adds his voice of approval to the Enquirer’s accuracy — and it necessity:
The Enquirer lands too many big scoops for the mainstream media to ignore—or, more accurately, that they ignore at their peril.

So, Sarah Palin’s affair with hubby Todd’s one-time snowmobile business partner? You can probably take it to the bank.

And, if Obama looses, you can also take it to the bank that he — and many hand-washing Democrats, didn’t follow Mahler and ignored the Enquirer at their peril.

Automakers also to get bailout — Senate vote

In a separate vote scheduled for Saturday, the Senate is set to consider $25 billion in loans for the formerly-Big Three.

Make me puke.

And yes, another reason not to vote for Obama. Voting to help anti-environmental American car companies.

Ted Rall tells us what the bailout really needs

Near the bottom of this week’s column, Ted Rall gets down to brass tacks :
• Declare a bank holiday;
• Reinstate Glass-Steagall (my sidebar — make House Dems eat crow on this, and Slickster, too);
• Bail out homeowners;
• Cap lending rates, tying ARM rates to the Fed’s funds rate;
• Nationalize failed banks, a la Sweden in its similar situation in the early 1990s.
• Get the hell out of BOTH Iraq and Afghanistan now; we need the money here.

Not a point there with which I would disagree.

Bush intransigence aside, Kyoto II needed

It looks like China is officially No. 1 on the list of carbon-dioxide emitters. And India could soon be third, passing Russia.

It’s part of a larger global shift, as “developing” countries now emit more than half the world’s man-made CO2.

More at the link on how scary this is in terms of long-term Earth history.

WaMu buyout and GOP balking NOT a sign for more bailout urgency

But, is McCain ginning GOP rebellion to justify debate-skipping?

Washington Mutual has been teetering on the precipice for months. And JPMorgan had the money to buy.

Besides WaMu actually having its death rattle, House GOP “upstarts” offering an alternative bailout plan is not cause for alarm, either.

(That said, the House GOP hypercapitalists’ plan would be pretty funny if it weren’t so stupid, per Hilzoy.

Among other things, it gives a nod or two to “investigation without regulation.”)

These two events have one benefit, at least.

Paulson and Bernanke will have to talk more about how much they knew and when they knew it, per White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto saying at least some elements of a bailout plan have been in the works for months.

Beyond that, though, unless some of the most liberal House Democrats and a couple of Senate Dems are rebelling, some sort of bipartisan mush should fly through the House and have enough Senate GOP support to avoid cloture problems.

Now, to do that may well require political gamesmanship on the part of House Democrats. Well, in that case, we’re at brinkmanship time again. It’s already worked once this week, at least the appearance of it has for public consumption; Paulson blinked on the CEO pay cap, at least on a symbolic version of it; he’s also accepted the bailout being done on the installment plan.

That’s why, even though McCain allegedly has not given direct support to the House GOP plan, it’s hard to see this as not being, at least in part, him attempting to justify skipping the first debate, by trying to make sure a bailout deal is not in place by midday Friday or so.

September 25, 2008

U.S. claims choppers were inside Afghanistan — RIGHT!

I have no doubt that the U.S. claim that two helicopters fired on by Pakistani troops earlier this week were still inside Afghanistan is just another lie.

The Air Force finally came clean last week about its previous lie and admitted it had bombed Afghan civilians after all.

Of course, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is also lying when he says his soldiers fired nothing more than flares.

I have a Friday night replacement for McCain

Cynthia McKinney is ready to go!

We might actually get a real debate if just one half of the duopoly had to stand on stage against a third-party candidate.

Over at Washington Monthly, in a comment, Jeff II claims McKinney is as nutty as McCain is clueless. My response:
First, I cut third-party candidates more slack.

Second, other than her degree of indulgence of 9/11 Truthers, I don't consider McKinney "nutty". Maybe "taken with herself," re the Capitol Police pushing incident, but that's something entirely different.

Less "nutty" than claiming "clean coal" actually is; less "nutty" than taking big bucks from the nuke industry while claiming to be tough; less "nutty" than refusing to tie regulatory reform to the bailout.

But, "nutty" is a facile answer to prop up the two-party duopoly, I know. If you have real examples of her being "nutty," feel free to post them.

Which is part of the problem.

Behind American exceptionalism, American anger

Roger Cohen has an excellent column on what really drives many Americans’ belief in American exceptionalism.

Three people tell Enquirer Palin lover’s name

According to National Enquirer, Sarah Palin’s co-tangoer in the affair so hot it reportedly nearly wrecked her (anointed?) marriage is Brad Hanson.

As Mayor Whazzup™ was actually mayor of Whazzup Wasilla at the time, maybe that’s why she remodeled her office to look like a bordello.

The more you read, the more you think that behind the religious and other veneers (and the huge pancake make-up), you actually have …

The Alaskan Addams Family.

Bailout and worries update

Second installment is “opt out” and not “opt in”; CEO pay cap could be largely symbolic

Here’s the latest word, and yes, some of my worries remain.

The bill would pay $250 bil up front with Treasury to get another $100 bil if it could “certify” it needed it.

Is that like AG Mike Mukasey “certifying” that telecoms need immunity?

The other $350 bil remains in the pipeline unless Congress actively votes no; in other words, per the online subscriptions world, this is an “opt-out” and not an “opt-in” on the remaining money, one of my main concerns.

And $250B plus a $100B sidebar is more than Chuck Schumer’s proposed $150B first installment.

John Schoen, in his analysis piece, has a few more details, and possible grounds for concern.

No Resolution Trust Corporation equivalent to manage this. Barney Frank’s idea of the New York Fed having a hand could be better, or it could be worse. Given that we know little of what the NYFed knew and when about the crisis, without more transparency, I’ll pass on Frank’s idea.

The reverse auction and mark-to-market issues are still unclear. Does Treasury set an absolute minimum price, for example? And, given August housing numbers, will many people even touch MBSs right now?

The CEO pay cap? With deferred compensation issues, plus options on stocks that will, perversely, now gain value, this may be little more than symbolic.

So far, MSNBC’s unscientific poll is trending toward “do n ot approve.”

Can you smell the bailout sellout?

It may not be a full sellout, but it will be a partial.

Giving bankruptcy judges more power is off the table, so I guess regulatory reform will get kicked past the election.

There’s now talk about putting credit card reform in the bailout bill. Well, you know that’s got a snowball’s chance.

Is it any wonder that Obama himself, and other Democrats, want to kick the can of regulatory reform down the road past the election?

As for the “let’s start with just $150 billion” idea, that’s “nice” as far as it goes, and not much more.

The way it’s structured is that the other $550 billion would be on an opt-OUT rather than an opt-in provision. In other words, a future Congress would have to take action to stop the rest of the bailout, rather than having to take action to implement it.

Subscription websites work like this all the time, with free or low-cost three-day trials followed by opt-out provisions. So do a lot of other offers.

And, where’s Paulson’s immunity quest? Is that officially off the table or not?

Also, House liberals’ proposals’, like Peter DeFazio’s 0.25 percent surcharge on all stock transactions to make sure the American public/government don’t lose their collective shirts, are getting shot down by pseudoliberals with financial ties such as Passive Pelosi and Laura Tyson.

Here’s the full text of Paulson’s original plan.

PETA is really weird with this one

The animal rights crusader group says (straight-faced, apparently) that Ben and Jerry’s should use human breast milk in its ice cream to lessen cruelty to cows.

So, is PETA spokeswoman Pamela Anderson volunteering? Wait… that would be cruelty to silicone.

On the other hand, PETA has an example to cite:
“PETA’s request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow’s milk in the food he serves,” the statement says.

MILF-thaler instead of Emmenthaler, anybody?

THIS is what Sen. MBNA supported in 2005

MBNA itself pushing people toward bankruptcy. Former MBNA account managers spill the beans on their company’s shady policies and practices.

There’s now talk about putting credit card reform in the bailout bill. Well, you know that’s got a snowball’s chance.

Is it any wonder that Obama himself, and other Democrats, want to kick the can of regulatory reform down the road past the election?

Palin pastor and money-grubbing Jews Israelites

These live-on-tape comments of former Sarah Palin pastor Thomas Muthee talk about the “Israelites’” prowess at financial matters.

IOKIFYAR, I guess, but Rev. Jeremiah Wright would have been crucified for such a statement.

The Guardian has more, including Muthee’s prayer to protect Palin from witchcraft.

Campbell Brown nails bipartisan cause of financial troubles

I’m glad somebody with a much bigger pulpit than me is pointing out the hand that people like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank had in getting us to this point.

Condi shot at Veep killed due to lez rumors?

That’s the straight poop per PageOneQ, saying she was McCain’s first choice.

Those rumors have floated around for years, of course, but, if this story is true, it’s interesting the McCain camp would give them that much weight.

Maybe, behind the smoke …

Update: Here's another thing I don't get. McCain has a gay chief of staff. Has had for years. Apparently not worried about that. Not worried even to the point ofMark Buse being outed. So, why was he that worried about the Rice rumors? Or, did he think Buse would be more “discreet”?

Is Czar Henry’s Immunity 2.0 limited to just himself?

Or does it also apply to financial institution execs under FBI investigation?

The list reportedly includes Fannie, Freddie, Lehman and AIG.

I would think Congress, if it is dumb enough to sign off on any immunity, would at least get clarification what it covers.

Salon offers debate preview

Salon got the halfway eclectic, or perhaps just pseudo-ecletic coterie of Mark Fabiani, James Fallows and Russ Schriefer to game out this year’s presidential debates.

All three say, in various ways, that it’s necessary to have a debate strategy.

IFabiani said going negative on the opponent is an important factor. Of course, you have to do it in the right way.

And, of course, you have to practice looking unscripted.

Of course, historically, debates have offered little “bump”: anyway, the trio’s chess analysis may actually be insightful Friday night. Or not.

September 24, 2008

James II is rolling in his grave

As is Bonnie Prince Charlie. A Catholic will be able to inherit the British crown, per reforms British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is drafting.

In the past, any non-Protestant, or anyone married to a non-Protestant, was booted from the line of succession.

The changes would also get rid of male priority in the right of succession.

Juan Cole takes Obama to the woodshed again — pander alert

This time, it’s over Iran, specifically President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and not Afghanistan.

But, it sounds just as deserved as Cole’s criticism of Obama for wanting to put more troops in Afghanistan.

Specifically, Obama criticized Ahmadinejad’s UN General Assembly speech, and Obama criticized that, calling Ahmadinejad anti-Semitic, among other things.

Cole rightly notes that Ahmadinejad made anti-Zionist statements, not anti-Semitic ones.

And, he suggests Obama should have watched Larry King, to hear Ahmadinejad say this:
”We don’t have a problem with the Jewish people.”

Beyond that, Ahmadinejad explained his oft-mistranslated quote where he allegedly said he wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth:
Ahmadinejad was forced again to explain that when he quoted Ayatollah Khomeini to the effect that “this occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” he did not mean that “Israel must be wiped off the face of the map” (as the quotation was mistranslated). He told King Tuesday night that he meant that the Israeli state’s policies of committing crimes against the Palestinians and killing them and occupying them must vanish. He added, “Our solution is in fact a completely humane and democratic one. What we’re saying is that throughout the Palestinian territories [i.e., including Israel and the occupied territories], people should gather and determine the type of government they would like to have.” In other words, he says he means by the vanishing of the regime a single democratically elected state in Israel and Palestine.

But, there’s plenty of Jewish votes in Florida and elsewhere to be pandered for. And, Obama will pander for them.

And, of course, Cynthia McKinney faced some controversy in the past over Zionist versus Jewish issues. If she were riding higher in the polls (alas) I’m sure she’d be getting smeared.

Sen. Hedge Fund, Chuck Schumer, says Congress should start with just $150 billion as a first installment; Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com agrees.

And cojones are already paying off

Bush/Paulson have already agreed to salary caps on top execs of companies that get bailed out.

And even Passive Pelosi™ is in on the act, demanding that Congressional Republicans put their votes on the line.

Ron Paul not a real libertarian

He endorses Chuck Baldwin, candidate of quasi-theocratic Constitution Party, rather than Libertarian Party’s Bob Barr.

Behind the CO2 and mirrors, little new in Western carbon pact

Seven Western states, led by California, and four Canadian provinces (how eastern Ontario and Quebec got into this I don’t know) have formed a carbon-dioxide cap-and-trade organization.

But, behind the rollout are a couple of stark facts.

First, its setup is similar to the European Union’s original carbon market, which was later found to be badly skewed.

Second, Utah is a member. Can it really be that rigorous?

Yes, it’s the “most far-reaching effort in North America” yet.

That’s about like being the best snowmobile driver in Florida.

Read for yourself, though, to see if this is more hope or hype.

‘The computers did it’ — the latest ‘goat’ for the financial flop

Yessiree, expect various current and former head honchos of Wall Street to spread this line as fast as they can.

But, to the complaint that computers underestimated the risk of derivatives manipulation, I add two rebuttals.

One is that plenty of people were flagging the potential problems two years ago or more. I’d rather blame Wall Street “rock stars” for not listening to Warren Buffett than for having faulty computers.

No. 2 is the old programmers’ acronym of GIGO. Hell, for all I know, Wall Street quantitative analysts may have even gamed their computers, which would then give us LIGO:

Lies In, Garbage Out.

Indeed, Leslie Rahl, the president of Capital Market Risk Advisors, says something along those lines, although she’s more charitable on the issue of intentionality than I am. And, I didn’t have to read that far down the Times financial blog post to guess that.

Of course, you know the next step will be to discriminate between Republican and Democratic computers or programs, or something along those lines. And since John McCain can’t e-mail, allegedly, well, then, he can’t vote on the bailout, one way or the other, either, can he?

And, if Democrats in the Senate are really stupid enough to believe Crazy Uncle Henry that Schmuck Talk’s vote is in the bag, well, I’ve got a CDS with liquidity to sell them.

Chicken Talk Express wants to postpone debate

Polls agree with McCain worry

Lying from John McCain has now entered some parallel universe. He wants to delay Friday’s presidential debate to focus on the economic crisis.

When did Arizona Republicans start spelling “run away from” with the letters for “focus on”?

Besides, the first debate is about foreign policy issues.

Meanwhile, Shrub is speaking about the bailout tonight at 9 Eastern; if he can talk, even if all lies, why can’t McCain on Friday?

Here’s why Schmuck Talk is worried — an ABC/WaPost poll puts Obama up 9 whole points, and gives him a 14-point advantage on handling the economy.

Solar panels replace copper as theft target

Fortunately, or unfortunately, due to a combination of lack of foresight by Gov. Rick Perry and lack of greed potential for TXU et al, we don’t have to worry about solar panels being stolen here in Tejas because we have none.

In California, though, it’s a whole ’nother story.

Here comes the oligarchy

David Brooks is more thought-provoking, more aggravating, more right and more wrong than normal — and all in the same column!

Brooks is writing about Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damaged Derivatives Dump, of course, which still includes Immunity 2.0, which ties in closely with his kicker, buried at the end of the column:
We’re entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework for capitalist endeavor.

Brooks argues, as does any pundit with a brain, that supply-side economic “conservativism” is dead. But he claims that populism doesn’t stand a chance against corporate centrism, either.

And, judging his reference back to Andrew Mellon, he thinks that’s good.

That said, when did Brooks, through the mouthpiece of one of his bozos, I mean “bobos,” ever criticize supply-side economics before?

In any case, the column is certainly Brooks writ large, in a microcosm.

Cards’ Carpenter looking at the knife — don’t hold your breath

I know it’s “only” for a compressed nerve in his shoulder, but, anytime I read about a pitcher undergoing shoulder surgery, as opposed to elbow surgery, I’m skeptical of a full return. (See Mulder, Mark.)

Carpenter’s closer to 35 than to 30, and while the Cards’ brain trust says he is likely to be back for opening day, we heard good initial words about Mulder, too.

Add to that fact that this surgery is related to his 2004 nerve damage. Carpenter insists it’s no big deal:
“This nerve issue is old and obviously I’ve pitched well with this before, so we just need to correct what’s going on now,” Carpenter said. “I believe I’ll be back and I’ll be fine.”

I’m not so optimistic.

I put the early 2009 over/under on Carpenter wins at 12.5. I’d certainly take a lucky 13.

Buck-buck-bucckaw from Dems on offshore drilling

House Dems are signing off on a stopgap spending bill that removes all restrictions on offshore oil drilling withough anything in return.

Here’s a smore in-depth version of what’s in play or at risk.

This just reinforces my fears of a Democratic cave on Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damaged Derivatives Dump.

McCain loses George Will

Mr. Erudite Conservative has now jumped off the Schmuck Talk express, and with both feet, comparing McCain to the Red Queen of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Baseball-phile Will goes to the diamond for his reference:
Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

He then accuses McCain of selling out any legitimate conservative financial principles he ever had in the past.

Of course, Will’s got his own bit of hypocrisy on some of his conservative bona fides, but that’s another story. The Schmuck Talk Express leaks more oil and blows more gaskets by the day.

But, will the naysaying of conservative pundit darlings trickle down to Mr. and Mrs. John/Jane Republican?

Here comes the oligarchy

David Brooks is more thought-provoking, more aggravating, more right and more wrong than normal — and all in the same column!

Brooks is writing about Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damaged Derivatives Dump, of course, which still includes Immunity 2.0, which ties in closely with his kicker, buried at the end of the column:
We’re entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework for capitalist endeavor.

Brooks argues, as does any pundit with a brain, that supply-side economic “conservativism” is dead. But he claims that populism doesn’t stand a chance against corporate centrism, either.

And, judging his reference back to Andrew Mellon, he thinks that’s good.

That said, when did Brooks, through the mouthpiece of one of his bozos, I mean “bobos,” ever criticize supply-side economics before?

In any case, the column is certainly Brooks writ large, in a microcosm.

September 23, 2008

Pickens says bailout means $150 oil

Despite that dire warning, T. Boone Pickens says he supports Czar Henry I’s lenders’ bailout.

At the same time, Pickens agrees with me that we ought to have Warren Buffett taking a look-see at bailout details; actually, Pickens says Buffett ought to manage the whole thing.

Chrysler gives us a laugh — while whore-mongering for Congressbucks

Chrysler — poster child for capitalism gone wrong — tries to play Congress and public like a fiddle

Chrysler claims it will produce an electric car by 2010.

Here’s more on two electric-priority hybrids (like the Volt) and a pure electric that makes a halfway attempt to challenge the Tesla.

First, is Cerberus that dumb, to pound sand down that rathole when the Chevy Volt and a plug-in version of the Toyota Prius are already in the works?

It’s like the last week have been a Darwin Award poster-child week for the stupidity of capitalism.

Second, there’s the tech side. Chrysler hasn’t done anything at all in the electric world, and as for this new vehicle, it says it is is still working with several partners on the battery technology for its vehicles.

Don’t you normally have things like that lined up in advance of splashy press announcements?
Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said Tuesday that the company is further ahead on developing electric vehicles than many had thought, but it kept the cars secret until recently.

“We believe in the saying, ‘Actions speak louder than words,”’ LaSorda said.

Well, so far, Tom, you’re still in the “words” stage. When you make like Tommy Lasorda and win something, get back to us.

And, here’s the kicker (you knew there had to be one, didn’t you?):
Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said the technologies the company displayed Tuesday would be accelerated if Congress funds a $25 billion loan program to help automakers and their suppliers modernize their plants to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I don’t know if Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damage Derivatives Bailout is good news or bad news here.

On the good news side, it could mean that Congress says, “We don’t have the money for this.”

On the much more likely bad news side, Congress could say, “Ahh, 25 bil? Or even the 50 bil you guys now want? Chump change!”

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Big Three “loans” rolled into the bailout plan.

And, it would be egregious enough for Ford or GM to get these loans.

But, Cerberus is a private equity company, the apotheosis of capitalism.

Take your fucking lumps.

No wonder your Denny’s omelet is pricey

Remember skyrocketing egg prices this spring?

The government is looking into allegations of tomato and egg price fixing.

And, that’s not the only breakfast item under scrutiny. DOJ has already been looking at citrus price-fixing claims.

Some Indian speed bumps on road to globalization

CEO murdered; Tata strike puts Nano on hold or nobody

As standards of living rise more in developing nations, their workers want more of the pie.

In India, that includes murdering a CEO who had apparently read one too many pages from Phil Gramm’s economics textbooks:
Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, the head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts, died of severe head wounds on Monday afternoon after being attacked by scores of laid-off employees, police said.

Employees had long been demanding better pay and permanent contracts.

Meanwhile, at Tata Motors, the new owner of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, the company had to stop work on its planned new Nano car, tentatively priced at below $3,000. Tata said it could not guarantee worker safety at its plant in West Bengal due to protests.

Not to condone any such violence, let alone murder, but there are a couple of things to note:
• That’s what Western companies get by being oriented to the lodestone of globalization. Once you outsource operations, let alone sell brand names, it’s tough going back. And, no, countries like Vietnam aren’t realistic alternatives. They don’t have the infrastructure to compete with India or China, and in today’s world of high prices for oil, concrete and steel, it’s simply not realistic to believe they can ramp up that quickly.
• Re India in particular, it is the world’s largest democracy. And, it has a British-derived history of trade unionism that communist countries don’t. You’re going to get protests that China won’t allow.

Paulson, Bernanke, Bush up brinkmanship, fearmongering

First, Big Ben Bernanke, The Worst Fed Head Since Greenspan™, says Congress must approve Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damaged Derivatives Bailout or risk recession.

Uhh, Ben? Though not officially reported yet, we’re already in a recession.

And, it’s hypocritical in spades to warn about more foreclosures as part of this fear-mongering when you and Paulson don’t want to make more mortgage relief part of a package deal.

That’s because Paulson is “embarrassed”:
”You know, I share the outrage that people have,” said Paulson. “It’s embarrassing to look at this, and I think it’s embarrassing to the United States of America.”

Then, our Must Be an Asshole (MBA!) biz Preznit weighs in:
President Bush is “very, very confident” that the plan will be approved by Congress this week, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. He said it was “unthinkable” that Congress would not pass the bill this week.

It may seem “unthinkable” to Shrub that Congress wouldn’t pass the Immunity 2.0 bailout this week; to me, it’s unconscionable if it does pass it.

Anti-American schadenfreude from ‘new economies’

Folks like Brazil, ground down one too many times under the heel of the International Monetary Fund, and relatively decoupled from the U.S. meltdown, are enjoying the moment with quiet — or Apparently, that also applied to troops helicoptering in, as Pakistani soldiers reportedly not so quiet — relish.
Asked about the crisis, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, said: “What crisis? Go ask Bush.”

Beyond the serious snow job of Czar Henry I, this level of schadenfreude is funny as hell.

McCain Chief of Staff ‘outed’

John McCain’s Senate Chief of Staff Mark Buse won the Roy Cohn award last Friday.

Given that McCain is on record as saying that he favors banning gay marriage, just at the state level, but that he would support a Defense of Marriage Act if Califfornia and other states start OKing gay marriage, AND given that Schmuck Talk Express™ supports Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a senator who is a veteran …

I think Buse’s outing is richly deserved.

If you want to add to this, you can reach Focus on the Family at 1-800-A-FAMILY (1-800-232-6459)! Thank them for supporting John McCain today!

We’re now France

Admit it. Nationalized banks. Possibly nationalized carmakers next. Even laissez-faire is French! Our big farmers get as much subsidy as their mid-sized ones.

Admit it, we’re French!

Will France start selling “Paulson fries”?

CNN gets punked by Palin

After protesting to the McCain campaign about its draconian restrictions on Sarah Palin press coverage, the Schmuck Talkers agreed to let a CNN producer accompany a network cameraman to her meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other world leaders.

But, all media was “escorted out” given the boot after just 40 seconds.

Way to show them, CNN!

I agree AND disagree with Biden on ‘old McCain’ ad

Joe Biden has said in public he disagrees with Barack Obama for running the “Old John McCain is computer illiterate” ad a couple of weeks back.

I agree in that I thought it was a dumb ad, and risked backfiring with older voters who do, after all, vote in higher percentages than 40-somethings. In other words, in terms of political tactics, it was stupid. It also wasn’t 100 percent accurate.

But, I disagree with Biden in another way. Veep candidates simply aren’t supposed to publicly step out of line with their bosses like that. I don’t know what else this portends, but Uncle Obama, in terms of campaign management, might want to give Sen. MBNA a brief walk to the woodshed.

Neocons to put out Bush zombie alert?

After Shrub’s final (thank doorknob) UN speech today, neoconservatives have to be thinking “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” happened at the UN General Assembly. Who was that in Bush’s body comparing the UN Charter to the Bible, Koran and Torah.

Don’t worry, this same guy later on pretty much lumped Russia in with the old-time religion Axis of Evil, over Moscow’s push back against the U.S.-prodded Georgian military drive for Caucasus hegemony.

NYT makes it ‘official’ that McCain is race-baiter as well as liar

Starting by calling out Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s “uppity” comment about Barack Obama, the Times editorial page rolls the ball forward, starting with calling out McCain for his Obama is “disrespectful” to Palin commercial.

The editorial correctly notes the history of the use of the word “disrespectful” in black male-white female relationships in the South.

To put it even more bluntly than the Times, being “disrespectful” was a lynching offense.

Schmuck Talk, you’ve got more than ’splaining to do. You’ve got some disavowing and repudiating to do.

Lenders’ bailout Day 3 roundup

Bewildered GOP blamed by country; China calls for calm, Lehman gets HUGE bonuses; Obama’s well-heeled campaign donors

First, the House GOP reportedly is “bewildered” by the financial crisis. They’re actually bewildered by the political play out in Peoria, and with good reason …

The GOP is blamed for the crisis — by a 2-1 marginout in Peoria and elsewhere. In some Rust Belt House seats and borderline Senate seats, you’re going to see a lot of Republicans looking like the Flip-Flop Express on this baby.

Surveys also show an eight-point jump in Palin unfavorables and more.

In what would be schadenfreude auf spaten if not for its high seriousness quotient, China is calling for currency calmness, claiming we face a “financial tsumani.” After all those years we’ve been trying to get Beijing to adjust the renminbi, and now, it gets to rub this in the collective American financial face.

At the same time, Beijing is clearly concerned.

Meanwhile, even as Congressional Dems demand CEO pay restraint as part of Crazy Uncle Henry’s bailout, top staff at Lehman Brothers apparently “forget” to take heed — $2.5 billion times.
Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (£1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night. …

Many of Lehman's UK staff are particularly angry about the US payouts because it has emerged that in the days running up to the bankruptcy, some $8bn in cash was transferred out of the account of the bank's European business into accounts at the New York head office.

Well, that steaming pile of crap ought to smell good in the halls of Congress today.

Meanwhile, at one of the two “survivors,” Goldman Sachs, they average — AVERAGE — $521,000 a year, secretaries included, in 2006. The old Hankster, before deigning to enter the public sector, cleared a cool $38 mil.

That’s how GS can afford to be Obama’s top campaign donor.

Is it any wonder Obama wants to kick regulatory reform of the finance sector down the road past Nov. 4?

Watch out for the duopoly.

Greenland ice melt speeds up

It will add four inches, by itself, to ocean height in 70 years or so. By that time, the amount of melt will be more than 50 percent greater than now.

Will the last U.S. bank to sell to foreigners please turn out the light?

You’d have to be an idiot not to think that Crazy Uncle Henry’s Damaged Derivatives Derby would get even more Congressional opposition with his plans to extend the guarantees to U.S.-held assets of foreign institutitions.

Top that off with all the foreigners planning on buying U.S. banks and this should really be fun, especially with an election now just six weeks away..

Don’t drink the water

Live next to a military base?

Or a rocket launching site?

Don’t drink the water.

Are you a soldier or spouse of one on one of the bases?

Your Decider and Commander in Chief tells you that he still cares about the troops getting the finest, purest drinking water they can and that perchlorate is good for you.

Pakistan warned us soldiers would shoot

For the last time, Obama-Biden, DROP the idea of more troops in Afghanistan

A week ago, a top Pakistan Army spokesman said his country’s soldiers had a shoot-on-site order if U.S. troops crossed the border without advance warning.

Apparently, that also applied to troops helicoptering in, as Pakistani soldiers reportedly have opened fire.

It’s not clear whether this was across-the-bow warming fire or targeted shots.

What does seem more clear, though, is that Army troops were not alone; Pakistani tribesmen from the North West Frontier were shoulder to shoulder with armed forces.

And, that’s why I, along with people such as Juan Cole, say Obama’s an IDIOT for wanting to send more troops to Afghanistan.

September 22, 2008

We need Warren Buffett and not Paulson

I’m not joking.

After Gretchen Morgansen’s column reminded me that you-know-who was one of the first people to warn the rest of the world about the toxic crapola investment banks and affiliated entities, I thought —

Who better to see that the rescue gets done right?

If Congress passes any sort of plan without sounding out Buffet, it really is a collective idiot.

Beyond just having him give a look-see, Congress ought to ask Buffett whom he thinks would be a good person to oversee the cleanup of this steaming pile of elephant crap.

Ahh, the brilliance of the Dallas Morning Snooze on finance

From a story I blogged about in April, the Snooze explains, or puffs, rather how investment bank health is “just around the corner”:
Perhaps the first ray of hope that the banking system might be on the mend came March 18, when two large investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, announced better-than-expected earnings. Shares of Goldman, the world's largest investment bank, climbed 16 percent on the news, while Lehman stock rose 46 percent.

If that bit of brilliance wasn’t enough, Will Deener adds this, about these “mending” banks will save mortgages:
Then the banks, brokerage firms and mortgage companies will start packaging those mortgages again and selling them to institutions, which is how the system is supposed to work.

Will Deener, effing idiot.

We don’t know if $700 billion is in the right ballpark or even the right PLANET!

We don’t know if $700 billion is in the right ballpark or even the right PLANET!

So, from where I sit, demanding some transparency has to be part of the bailout.

Congress could get an equity share, per Chris Dodd, and still have no idea how that equity share matches up to reality. Transparency will move this derivative crapola at least somewhat closer to being marked to market.

It will also let “we the people” know if Congress is caving in or not.

How the autism-vaccine lies started

And how autism quacks are now like hardest right anti-choicers or nobody

Update, Jan. 6, 2011: Well, we know now that the lies of Andrew Wakefield involved deliberate fraud.

At Salon, Dr. Rahul K. Parikh explains how the autism-vaccine industry has gone from fringe quasi-science to cult, starting with this example:
Early in Dr. Paul A. Offit's new book, “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure,” he describes a threatening letter he received from a man in Seattle. “I will hang you by you neck until you are dead!” it read. The FBI deemed the threat credible, assigning Offit a protective officer who, for the next few months, followed him "to and from lunch, a gun hanging at his side." He then recalls a suspicious phone call from a man who recited the names of Offit's two children and where they went to school: “His implication was clear. He knew where my children went to school. The he hung up.” These days, the hospital he works in regularly screens his mail for suspicious packages.

Parikh notes that until recently, only abortion providers had to face these types of whackjobs.

( Here’s the Amazon link to Offit’s book, already getting troll-rated by a bunch of the same nutbars.)

Parikh then traces the history of vaccine hysteria from British doctor Andrew Wakefield through nutbar winger Congressman Dan Burton (in between target practice at “Vince Foster” pumpkins) to Robert Kennedy, who is right more often than a stopped watch but sometimes makes me wonder. (Rolling Stone issued retractions of his autism piece in three separate issues; Salon issued five separate corrections.)

Problem is, Kennedy’s support for this pseudoscience gave it liberal cred that Dan Burton never could.

Finally, Brian Deer, an investigative reporter for London's Sunday Times, found professional malpractice and serious conflicts of interest by Wakefield, including being bankrolled by a personal injury lawyer. But, this was six years after the Lancet published him.

By then, the barn door was long open, and U.S. trial lawyers, with little to learn from British counterparts like the one giving Wakefield a million bucks, started cranking up the lawsuits.

And, Robert Kennedy has never apologized. Asshole.

How the autism-vaccine lies started

And how autism quacks are now like hardest right anti-choicers or nobody

At Salon, Dr. Rahul K. Parikh explains how the autism-vaccine industry has gone from fringe quasi-science to cult, starting with this example:
Early in Dr. Paul A. Offit's new book, “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure,” he describes a threatening letter he received from a man in Seattle. “I will hang you by you neck until you are dead!” it read. The FBI deemed the threat credible, assigning Offit a protective officer who, for the next few months, followed him "to and from lunch, a gun hanging at his side." He then recalls a suspicious phone call from a man who recited the names of Offit's two children and where they went to school: “His implication was clear. He knew where my children went to school. The he hung up.” These days, the hospital he works in regularly screens his mail for suspicious packages.

Parikh notes that until recently, only abortion providers had to face these types of whackjobs.

( Here’s the Amazon link to Offit’s book, already getting troll-rated by a bunch of the same nutbars.)

Parikh then traces the history of vaccine hysteria from British doctor Andrew Wakefield through nutbar winger Congressman Dan Burton (in between target practice at “Vince Foster” pumpkins) to Robert Kennedy, who is right more often than a stopped watch but sometimes makes me wonder. (Rolling Stone issued retractions of his autism piece in three separate issues; Salon issued five separate corrections.)

Problem is, Kennedy’s support for this pseudoscience gave it liberal cred that Dan Burton never could.

Finally, Brian Deer, an investigative reporter for London's Sunday Times, found professional malpractice and serious conflicts of interest by Wakefield, including being bankrolled by a personal injury lawyer. But, this was six years after the Lancet published him.

By then, the barn door was long open, and U.S. trial lawyers, with little to learn from British counterparts like the one giving Wakefield a million bucks, started cranking up the lawsuits.

And, Robert Kennedy has never apologized. Asshole.

‘Presidentialism’ — the dirty word of the two-party duopoly

Both Republican and Democratic presidents such FDR, with occasional spams earlier, have been attempting to expand the power of the executive whenver possible.

Carter did it, before Reagan. Clinton did it, before Bush II. And Obama, if he gets elected, will do it too. (Think FISA vote.)

Dana D. Nelson, professor at Vanderbilt, has a word for it — “presidentialism.” In her new book, “Bad for Democracy: How the Preisdency Undermines the Power of the People,” she analyzes the problem in detail. it’s a great book until the final chapter, the conclusion, where her suggested solutions come off as relatively weak.

Following are some excerpts from my Amazon review:
This is the type of book that, if you're like me, you'll have highighter out and running over many passages. (Actually, for me, it was a pen underlining many spots, so that I could write marginal notes as well.)

Presidentialism, in a phrase, is not just presidents, and their staffs, attempting to ever-strengthen the powers of the presidency. It's also citizens — voters — investing the office with godlike powers, character and mystique that not only go far beyond what the Founding Fathers intended, but are actually part of what they feared about a strong presidency, as Nelson shows.

And, presidents of both parties have played on that as well.

Briefly looking at whom she identifies as the first presidentialist president, Andrew Jackson, then taking a bit longer, yet brief, look at Lincoln and his Civil War exigencies, Nelson says the first more modern threads of presidentialism start with Grover Cleveland, the first president since Jackson to seriously use his veto for political and not just constitutional reasons. …

Again, progressives wedded to the Democratic Party — past presidents of both parties have worked to expand presidential power, and have worked to "play" the public to support this.

What's the problem? Nelson says that this risks becoming antidemocratic, squeezing public participation in our country's political process down to a quadrennial plebiscite at the polls.

Along with that, she said, has come the parallel rise of zero-sum politics, where discussion, as well as compromise, are disdained. Parallel to that comes the clumping of people by political pairing into neighborhoods of similarity.

All good concerns.

Excellent analysis...

Until the conclusion.

Nelson specifically says on the second page of the conclusion that she is not talking about a "magical kumbaya moment" in what changes she advocates.

But, methinks she doth protest too much.

Volunteerism used to increase political involvement, not just volunteerism? Might work, but I doubt it. Leaderless organization? The Founders' dissing of Hamilton aside, and John Yoo's ahistorical appeals to him, Americans have tended to like strong-leader presidentialism, and Nelson herself admits that.

Nelson either ignores or rejects the obvious solution -- parliamentary government. She also, although giving lip service to things like proportional representation, ignores the need for public financing of congressional campaigns, including with third-party funding possibilities, the use of instant runoff voting, and the restoration of the legality of fusion candidates. (Most states have explicitly outlawed them.) …

Parliamentary government would of course need constitutional amendment. IRV and fusionism would need state law changes — which could be done more easily if sent to states as a tie-in with Help American Vote Act version 2.0. In short, those two are far from impossible.

But, they would both undermine the two-party duopoly, as parliamentary government would. (See David Lazare's "The Frozen Republic" for the best treatise on America's need for parliamentary government.)

All my Amazon reviews, from a controversial top-1,500 reviewer, are here.

Financial idiocy from CNN

Paul LaMonica half-snidely says “get over it” on the costs of the lenders’ bailout.

He doesn’t even mention either tweaking Crazy Uncle Henry’s Dinged Derivatives Dump or entirely alternative plans, like Sebastian Mallaby mentioned already Saturday.

The neurology of neurotic belief in candidates

Over at Salon, Robert Burton tackles head-on how voters quickly get fixed and fixated on “their” candidate and often refuse to change their minds. An example:
Last week, I jokingly asked a health club acquaintance whether he would change his mind about his choice for president if presented with sufficient facts that contradicted his present beliefs. He responded with utter confidence. “Absolutely not,” he said. “No new facts will change my mind because I know that these facts are correct.”

Before unpacking Burton more, two thoughts.

First, this shows the ongoing mangling of the English language. This person doesn’t know what the word “facts” mean.

Second, the political clumping of society probably contributes to such belief fixation.

Burton says this reflects a bigger problem of psychology — those at the bottom end of normal on mental scales are most likely to overestimate their abilities. He suggests this as a BushCo epitaph:
“People who lack the knowledge or wisdom to perform well are often unaware of this fact. That is, the same incompetence that leads them to make wrong choices also deprives them of the savvy necessary to recognize competence, be it their own or anyone else’s.”

Closely related to this are two other psychological factors. First is a hard-to-shake belief in our own rectitude. Second is that the average person has horrible lie-detecting skills, or at the least, is horrible at using them.
As a result, we are all plagued by bias, self-deceit and poor character judgment.

Burton says he judges candidates most by their understanding of — and use of — scientific methodology.

Well, to be honest, in that case, not only would BOTH mainstream candidates fail, if you set the bar right, McKinney, Nader and Barr would all flunk too.

So, lest Democrats point the finger at Sarah Palin true-blue believers, or even at diehard PUMAs, let me mention two phrases: “Barack Obama” and “Kool-Aid.”

Hence my Science and Reason Party blog.

Bipartisan hypocrites pop out of the Immunity 2.0 woodwoork

At least some of them are arising like Punxsatawny Phil to see if they cast a shadow from the past, or can now don the mantle of reform:
"We're going to demand, as a coequal branch of government, accountability," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters.

This is the same Chris Dodd who was a Senate cosponsor of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America-promised “tort reform” legislation. Thanks to people like Dodd, this was one of only two Clinton vetoes to be overridden; you can’t even blame this bit of “neoliberalism” on the Slickster!

Meanwhile, here’s his GOP counterpart, Richard Shelby:
Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, blamed “greed and lack of regulatory oversight” for the financial mess.

Also appearing on “Face the Nation,” Shelby predicted there would be more such problems unless there is “tough regulatory reform in the next Congress.”

Point me to one bill, or even one amendment, you’ve sponsored or been a primary cosponsor on, that has been about tighter financial regulation, Sen. John McCain Jr.

And, Greider is well worth a read:
The United States is ill equipped to deal with it smartly, not to mention wisely. We have a brain-dead lame duck in the White House. The two presidential candidates are trapped by events, trying to say something relevant without getting blamed for the disaster.

Meanwhile, though I’m not in the same political world as Mish, he’s been on top of the whole subprime issue for three years or more, and I agree with him on Barney Frank.

There’s no easy way to do a home mortgage bailout on this, or as a standalone.

Clams may not have legs but fish got fingers

At least some of them did 380 million years ago, so Johnny Hart needs to update B.C.’s slogan.

The finding puts a major twist in previous evolutionary understanding of limb evolution, which believed it was not until tetrapods came on land 10-20 million years later that hand and digit evolution began.

Creationists and IDers are likely to seize on this as allegedly representing another example of how evolution is wrong. Rather, this shows how evolutionary biology study correctly works.

Bottom line: Congressional Dems are silent as lambs to the slaughter about new regulatory statutes, and new regulatory mandates.

OF COURSE Obama may keep Paulson on

Is Obama tipping his hand on Immunity 2.0?

Why wouldn’t he keep Henry Paulson as either Treasury Secfretary or national bailout manager. After all, Goldman Sachs IS his single biggest campaign contributor.

Or, New York Fed head Timothy F. Geithner, protégé of Clinton Treasury man Robert Rubin, another Goldman alum?

Or Clinton alums Larry Summers and Laura Tyson?

So much for the Politics of Chamge, eh?

How many of you pseudoliberal, or thought-you-were-liberal, types out there swallowed that Obama Kool-Aid?

Larry Summers? What next, disembalm Warren Christopher for yet another run at State?

September 21, 2008

Fed — ‘eff you’ to more regulation in Immunity 2.0? Goldman, Morgan now ‘banks’

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will become full-blown bank holding companies. As the blog notes, this is the last nail in the coffin, the final end to the Glass-Steagall Act.

And, why is that important?
It likely lays the groundwork for additional deal making. Given the expected bank failures this year, it is possible Goldman and Morgan Stanley could seek to buy them cheaply in a “roll-up” strategy.

Prior to the move, federal regulations prohibited the two investment banks from pursuing such deals. Indeed, Morgan Stanley’s recent talks with Wachovia revolved around Wachovia buying Morgan Stanley.

So, in essence, rather than being open to the idea of more regulation as part of the Paulson-Bernanke bailout, the Fed side, at least, seems to be saying eff you to that idea.

True, the two new banks themselves will theoretically be open to more regulation, but it seems possibly this is a way to dodge scrutiny at the same time?

Also, before this move, Stanley tried to get Chinese sovereign wealth fund backing, but could not pull it off.

So, the Chinese say our economy sucks; do Chinese wealth funds, at the same time, have any U.S. holdings they want Crazy Uncle Henry Paulson to bail out?

The xenophobia vs Wall Street would be fun for schadenfreude values, if nothing else.

Why you should NOT trust Dems in ‘Immunity 2.0’ bailout

Think “tort reform” in 1995; think GLB in 1999

Not only did 2/3 of House Dems for FOR Gramm-Leach-Bliley in 1999 (many Democratic cover-ups will point ONLY to the party-line Senate vote, while ignoring the House vote and the fact that the House reported it out of committee before the Senate, but also …

A narrow majority of Dems voted FOR The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 in the House, with a substantial minority of Senate Dems going along — 69-30 overall, with a 26-16 split against by Democrats. However, such “stalwarts” as Reid, Dodd, Kerry and even Harkin and Kennedy all voted yes; Leahy, Feingold and (surprisingly) Joe Biden were among top no votes.

Hell, Dodd was even a cosponsor!

(On GLB, other House yes votes include Rangel, Patrick Kennedy, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Ackerman, David Bonior, both Udalls, Sandy Levin, Murtha, Oberstar and others. House roll call here)

In the House, supposedly progressive minority Democrats such as Shelia Jackson-Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson were among the yes voters, along with Big Bill Richardson and Chuck Schumer (shock me again) among others.

And, you know who — Passive Pelosi™ of course voted yes.

And, you can’t even blame the Slickster for this one. He vetoed it and got overridden.

This was a fulcrum piece of legislation from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and the start of the conservative “tort reform” battle at the federal level, and Democrats couldn’t muster enough numbers to uphold a Clinton veto — one of just two vetoes of his that were overridden.

So, on Uncle Henry’s Used Derivatives Bailout, Passive Pelosi™ and Land-Swap Harry Reid will bit a bit, then roll over and play dead.

Andy, you know what?

So will about 98 percent of registered Democratic voters who are politically active.

Even where they have Green (or Socialist/Social Democratic) alternatives on the ballot for president, or even local Congressional races, you'll listen to Democrats' fear-mongering.

“What’s the Matter with Kansas” has nothing on this.

Sidebar: It’s “interesting” that Uncle Harry made his immunity request the same day Attorney General Mike Mukasey officially played the immunity card in the FISA/telecom fight.

Passive Pelosi™ promises financial legislation — later

Dems refuse to challenge Czar Henry I and “Immunity II”

She said she wants Uncle Henry Paulson’s dollar-store bailout to create “fast-track authority” for an overhaul of financial legislation.

That’s nice, but,

Why the hell is an overhaul of financial legislation not going to be part of this package?

Beyond that, why is she not even uttering a peep about Paulson’s demand that the whole rescue package be immunized from court challenge. (Henry must have talked to David Addington and Mike Mukasey over the weekend.)

What a dumb ass. What a sucker.

Meanwhile, Land-Swap Harry Reid is going to cave instead of listening to his gut:
“While the Bush proposal raises some serious issues, we need to resolve them quickly,” he said yesterday in a statement. “I am confident that, working together, we will.”

Meanwhile Chuck (Hedge Fund Trimmer) Schumer talks about “taxpayer protections.” Does that include, above all, hedge fund managers still paying capital gains rates on their income, Chuckie boy?

Bend over and enjoy it, especially all you people who will still continue to vote for the Democratic half of the two-party duopoly rather than doing what needs to be done.

You know what you need to do — vote Green where you can.

McCain-Palin campaign-debate watch

Palin-McCain is right; McCain ‘friends watch’; Mad Jack at debates?

Gail Collins has this great get:
The Republicans have discovered that McCain can’t draw a crowd without Palin, and the dangers of letting her float off by herself are apparent. So the two are manacled together these days like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in that old escape-from-a-chain-gang movie.

And, every day she remains on ice, undergoing forced cramming for her Veep debate or whatever, is another day Schmuck Talk Express™ is out there on an island.

And, given McCain’s own growing propensity to shoot from the hip, it must be bad if Steve Schmidt thinks Palin needs to be put on ice.

SnowJob SquareGlasses — I like it. It’s going in my Palin nickname lexicon.

Friends watch: Uhh, Big John? If you’re going to be this close with mentally unstable Gordon Liddy, you have zero business commenting on ANY friends of Obama’s this side of Joe Stalin.

Friends watch part 2: John McCain and Jim Inhofe — Buddies in alt-fuel opposition.

Which John McCain will show up for the debates? Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t strike me as a button-pusher, so a mid-debate explosion from Mad Jack is (sadly) highly unlikely.

So much for Straight Talk being press buddy-buddy

Schmuck Talk Express™ hasn’t talked to campaign press corps for five weeks!

Given the way the MSM has already been whacking away at staff, and the current cost of air travel, I can’t believe that more and more outlets aren’t looking at grounding their campaign correspondents for the duration.

Troopergate — how can you conclude a probe if nobody will testify?

I just don’t get Alaska state Sen. Hollis French saying the Lege’s Troopergate probe will be done before the election.

Now, if he had said a report would be issued before the election, and then caveated that by saying it depended on Palin cooperation, or lack thereof, as to whether that report was a final report or a preliminary one, that would be different.

Instead, French has now in essence said, “OK, Sarah, here’s your stalling timeline. You’ve got three weeks left, then you’re off the hook.”

(As the story notes, the recalcitrant witnesses can’t be found in contempt until next year.)

Hollis French, you just punked yourself.

Palin to stay on ice for Veep debate

The McCain campaign demanded, and the Obama campaign agreed, to a kid-gloves vice—presidential debate. Here’s your Schmuck Talk Express™ BS of the day:
McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

But, why did B.O. agree to it? The story says his camp was worried about Biden gaffes.

That said, Obama gets a win in putting domestic policy on the last debate. McCain wanted foreign policy last.

This will, or should, more than negate limiting Palin’s exposure. By the time of the third debate, the Paulson-Bernanke-Bush financial bailout will have been thoroughly aired, and, if Passive Pelosi™ and Land-Swap Harry Reid have found any cojones during that time, Obama will have plenty of ways to hammer McCain over the head.

What’s with all the Sullivans in Ted Stevens case?

The judge is a Sullivan, and you have Sullivans on both attorney sides in the corruption trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

All we need is two more Sullivans for a “in the corruption trial” Sullivan brothers shipwreck in an Anchorage courtroom.

That said, I have no idea if any of the three Sullivans in the Stevens case are related, but this IS Alaska…

And, the five Sullivans of World War II fame did meet their death while serving on the USS Juneau…

Mukasey officially demands telecom immunity — but not all is over

The too-late-to-shut-the-barn-door bit of silver lining is that he acknowledged the existence of TSP. That said, Judge Walker could do one of two things that would crap a turd in the Mukasey-Bush-Cheney-Addington punchbowl.

That would be to either:
• Pull the judicial equivalent of jury nullification and tell Mukasey where to get off;
• Issue a stay of Mukasey’s request, based on the EFF suit against the government itself rather than the telecoms, filed for exactly this reason.

Walker has no legal reason to resort to option 1. But, he has plenty of legal logic to choose option 2.

(Oh, and thanks once again for an AG like this, Chuck Schumer; with Democrats like you, who needs to vote Republican?)