Saturday, September 20, 2008

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog interviews Ralph Nader

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

General Thoughts

One of the reasons I stopped blogging-- and why I don't even read as many blogs as I used to-- is that it just becomes a masturbatory echo chamber after a while. Conservative blogs (I am so addicted to the National Review's 'The Corner' site) are hysterical in this regard, as they ignore most substantive issues-- *coughDrudgecough*-- in lieu of chest-pounding anger and rants about socialism and jokes about Al Gore and celebrities (who says they're stuck in the past!). But many liberal blogs are guilty of this as well, having convinced themselves that there's no way, in this year especially, that John McCain could win. And then the GOP snuck in, with their usual distract-and-divide tactics, and are giving Obama and the Democrats a real run for their money. Ask President Kerry what underestimating ones opponent gets you.

And what am I seeing on many liberal communities and blogs (note: I am not counting news sites like Talking Points Memo or Think Progress or others like those)? Genuine pushback on the substance of this election? Yes, occasionally (stuff like this, for instance, needs to posted more). But lately it's been rants and jokes about Sarah Palin. Endlessly. This is counterproductive.

Yes, Sarah Palin is an uninformed, largely corrupt joke of a candidate who was only nominated to a) fire up the base, b) steal Obama's 'change' thunder, and c) act as a human shield for Team McCain. This is all true. But she is not the issue; she's a distraction. Every second spend ranting about her, or posting photoshopped pics of her moose-hunting in a bikini is a second wasted... not to mention it plays right in to the GOP's hand, as they want to convince Americans the only reason anyone could object to this candidacy is sexism and bias. Underestimate this woman-- and her appeal to all the right electoral demographics-- at our own risk. Our opponent here is John McCain. Remind folks about him and then move on.

Speaking of McCain! He's no longer running as the experienced candidate (guess it didn't poll well) and is instead running as the maverick reformer will bring real change to Washington. Pointing out what pure bullshit this is needs to be job #1 for Sen. Obama and Democrats. This is a guy who sold out in every way possible, and now insists he has to tell lie after lie in ads about Obama because, hey, Obama refused to do a dozen choreographed town hall debates with him this summer. Democrats need to openly treat this with derision and ridicule.

The Republicans are, of course, running so against their own record that they're literally pretending that they haven't been in charge of the federal government for the last eight years. Whether it's Mitt Romney and others at the convention ranting about failed liberal leadership or McCain flaks lamenting the lack of financial regulation or McCain himself promising to clean up the mess in Washington just seconds after thanking the President for his leadership, these folks have taken 'create your own reality' political rhetoric to new levels. Of course, this is the party that convinced a shocking % of Americans that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, so that's no shocker. But that doesn't mean that the Dems should let them get away it. And no, writing retaliatory blog posts doesn't count. We need Democratic leaders-- Howard Dean, did you die?-- holding press conferences to remind voters which is the incumbent party in this election and which is the opposition team.

And when Sen. McCain insists that the 'fundamentals' of our economy remain strong (particularly when the best explanation for that statement he can come up with is a platitude about Americans working hard), fight back. Beyond just the failures in the financial sector, the last eight years (and going back well before that too) have seen rising costs of everything from food to housing to fuel while the value of Americans' wages are continuously declining, jobs are disappearing, and debt piles up everywhere. That the final fallout from a lot of these problems is still years off doesn't mean that the economy is any way sound. Even conservatives know this to be true, and our job should be to get them to acknowledge this in public.

(Bonus advice: Obama and Biden, stop prefacing every single attack on McCain by noting how much you love him and what a nice guy he is. When a man punches you in the face, you don't have to compliment him before hitting back. Also, when the GOP plays that 'elitist' card they love so much, remind them that this is race between a very rich, out-of-touch man and an upper middle-class family man who was raised by a single mom on food stamps and went to college on scholarships. Don't let them turn another rich white guy into John Wayne.)

Moving on to Sen. Obama himself... we need to remind voters that this is a serious candidate with serious issues and proposals for moving this country forward again. Barack Obama is the superior candidate in this race. His only problem right now is lack of message discipline (the GOP has this down pat, not to mention their ability to control the media narratives), and that's certainly fix-able. What does "change" mean? People actually want to know. Explain it to them.

And the issue that Obama is supposedly most vulnerable on-- foreign policy/national security-- should be an issue that he's owning now if he played it right. Here's the bottom line... Barack Obama has been right on all these issues, and the GOP has been wrong, and they are acting accordingly. Obama, and the Democratic party as a whole, has pointed out for some time that the war in Iraq was a mistake because it fueled regional tensions (and, umm, killed a lot of people) and was also a distraction from the real war on terror (of which the Afghanistan situation is key). Now we see the Bush administration winding down their 'surge' in Iraq (leaving the rest of that Iraq can to be kicked down the road to the next President) and renewing efforts to fix Afghanistan, even though it's a few years too late. I guess Obama was right. He was apparently also right about taking the fight to Osama in Pakistan, as we also now learn that the Bush administration is engaging in secret raids in that area. Nice of them to listen to his advice on that too. And as we see less saber-rattling with countries like Iran and more (also secret) diplomatic efforts, we can see another area where the GOP is conceding that Obama was right. It'd be helpful if Obama would take the time to point this out.

But, in the end, the last two elections I voted in were decided based on narratives and nonsense and smears. It's taking all my faith and energy to believe that this election won't end the same way. If I disappear from time to time, it's only because I am trying to stay sane.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Let's be clear: what we've seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed."

Not that it's getting much press so far, but Obama came out swinging on the economy today-

This is a long video, yes, but it's worth watching. This is the right attitude.

Other videos... Stephen Colbert salutes the McCain/Palin team for their lies and dodges. Rachel Maddow looks at how Team McCain is helping Palin stonewall investigators in Alaska. Some totally not-racist entrepreneurs at the conservative Values Voters Summit sell some Obama foodstuffs. Finally, Paul Krugman speaks with Keith Olbermann about economics.

[UPDATE: Now AIG has also officially received the government bailout treatment.]

The Arsonist is running for Fire Chief.

Time magazine's Joe Klein wrote a great blog post yesterday (darn that liberal media!!) on the insanity of the idea that John McCain and the Republican party are the ones who can/should be elected to fix this economic mess. I reprint it in full, because I wish this was an Obama stump speech this week-
John McCain is up with an ad touting his "experience" to deal with the financial crisis. But no specific experience is cited--which is attributable to the fact that McCain has been a happily orthodox Republican when it comes to financial regulation these past 26 years. He's against it. He's against Washington telling you how to run your business. The unseen hand of the market and all that...

This has been the long-standing Republican bait and switch--scaring small businesses with the threat of new regulations if the Democrats win, commiserating with larger businesses about the evils of environmental and plant safety rules, while lifting as many regulations as possible governing the financial titans whose credit should be at the heart of new economic development.
But that hasn't been happening: the financial titans have been going for the quick buck rather than the sound one. Money and creativity have been redirected during the Reagan-Bush era away from substantive loans to real businesses into a Ponzi scheme of borrowing by investment bankers, so they could engage in the most irresponsible, if lucrative (for them) speculative lending imaginable...In this sense, the mortgage crisis was a perfect metaphor for Republican financial governance: Investment banks like Lehman--R.I.P.--took loans to invest money in...bad loans. In this case, the loans were bad mortgages. This is called throwing good money after bad.

Actually, John McCain has excellent experience--a ringside seat--in the vagaries of this experiment in greed and anarchy. He was a member of the Keating Five. This was the signature scandal of the Savings and Loan crisis, twenty years ago. It concerned the insider help that five Senators gave Charles Keating and his Lincoln Savings and Loan, in return for contributions and gifts. The deregulation of S&Ls--community banks dedicated to local mortgages (like George Bailey's bank in "It's A Wonderful Life")--enabled slick operators like Keating to make reckless loans in new areas where they had no expertise. The final tab to the taxpayers was $165 billion.

McCain wasn't the worst offender in the scandal. He was included in the Five to make it bipartisan (the other four were Democrats). But he knew Keating, partied with him, made inquiries on his behalf. He once told me that his role in the scandal was harder on him, in some ways, than being a prisoner of war "Because my honor was called into question."

After an experience like that, you might think Senator Honorable would have devoted himself to preventing other such crises--to making sure the Big Wall Street Casino was operating according to rules that wouldn't screw the small investors and, more to the point, the taxpayers. But he walked the anti-regulatory party line, with only occasional exceptions...and tried to lay down a smokescreen of righteousness by campaigning against small potato[e!]s like legislative earmarks--money to study the mating habits of, uh, crabs, in, uh, Alaska (proposed by Governor Honorable).

What we are seeing on Wall Street today is the result of an ideology gone amok. There was call to loosen and change the antiquated regulations governing investment back in 1980. But the Republican era has seen that loosening go to the point of near-cataclysm. Banks are failing, markets dropping. We are in the midst of a slow-motion economic crash. What happens next is an economic contraction: loans aren't available, so businesses can't expand. A crash comes at the beginning of a period of economic trouble.

John McCain, after his political near-death experience, could have made the responsible regulation of markets one of his great causes. He didn't. And today he said, once again, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." I hope he's right, but it's entirely possible that he knows as much about our economy as Sarah Palin knows about The Bush Doctrine.

Nailed it.

Too bad this can't be as easily condensed into a media soundbyte or headline like BS 'lipstick' jokes, because this is a basic fact that the average voter needs to reminded of every day until November 4th, and beyond.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

This new Tom Tomorrow cartoon pretty much sums up the GOP's strategy that they've been running with since their convention. I'd find it pretty hysterical if the polls weren't indicating that the usual distract-and-divide tactic was working gangbusters for them again.


To prove the point that Republicans can literally get away with saying anything, watch this video of McCain campaign flak Carly Fiorina on MSNBC this morning. In it, she states the obvious that this mess wouldn't have happened if we'd had stricter regulation of the economy/financial sector... and then proceeded to blame this on Democrats. {*this is where my brain exploded*} Yes, that was a Republican blaming the lack of evil, socialist regulation and accountability on the Democrats.

Remember, so much of this-- the idea of an 'ownership society' free-market paradise-- was heralded by President Bush and the GOP at their 2004 convention as his greatest domestic success. And Andrea Mitchell didn't challenge that at all, instead they sort of dismissed this as a bipartisan mess (while Fiorina went on a non-sequitur pander about how hard working Americans are). Because that would've been biased of Mitchell. Or sexist too!

Hopefully I'll have time tomorrow or Wednesday for some thoughts on where things stand in general with Obama, McCain, etc. It's nice to see the campaign focused back (if only for a day) on real issues, but I'm still not convinced voters are getting a good message here.

[PS- Sen. Obama's response was okay, but too weak and polite. Punch hard, give the media soundbytes so they'll pretend to give a shit about what you have to say. How about this... "Lehman Brothers survived the Great Depression, but it couldn't survive George W. Bush." BAM. Something like that. It'd be nice to actually drive the news cycle for a change.]

The Housing Bubble, Mortgage Crisis, and Bear Sterns: A Primer

This is an entry I originally posted in March... it deserves repeating today for obvious reasons. Courtesy of the PBS News Hours the weekend after Bear Sterns went down, a succinct 11-minute report explaining how problems in the housing market spread into the wider economy.

Warning: May shake your faith in the religion of deregulation and free-market chaos.

YOUTUBE: Bear Stearns and the Domino Effect

On a related note, a Brooklyn resident wrote this letter printed in the NY Daily News the day I originally posted this: "Bear Stearns selling for $2 a share and ruining many people financially is a prime example of why we should not invest Social Security in private retirement accounts. Aren't we glad we didn't swallow that snake oil?" Yes. Yes we are.

[PS- These two Tom Tomorrow cartoons (one, two) also sum it pretty well.]

It's The Economy, Stupid!!

This story about the fall of Lehman Brothers (and AIG and Washington Mutual and Merrill Lynch?) is just part of a larger economic story that began officially with the downfall of Bear Sterns earlier this year, but really traces back to years and years of bad, shortsighted economic policy ("ownership society"!). It is, by far, the most depressingly ignored issue of the campaign right now. They're just not discussing it all.

It's very obvious why the McCain/Palin/GOP folks are ignoring it-- after all, it's (mostly) their chickens coming home to roost here-- but why the fuck the Obama team hasn't been pushing this front and center is beyond me. Granted, I know they've now been forced to spend most of their time pulling their hair out and screaming at the media and America "McCain and Palin are lying about everything! Why is this okay?!??!", but maybe dedicate some time to getting back on offense on domestic issues like this. Because it ties back not only to a lot of other economic issues, but speaks volumes about the entire conservative economic philosophy as a whole.

And, in the end, regardless of any of that, it's just a really fucking serious issue.

[UPDATE: Ask, and ye shall receive. Now let's hope this actually gets some media play.

UPDATE #2: Sen. McCain does his best to pretend to give a shit about this crisis.]


Paul Begala speaks to Bill Maher with some advice for Obama. Even Karl Rove knows that John McCain is a huge liar. About everything. And, finally, Tina Fey just nails Sarah Palin ("And I can see Russia from my house!").


Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's a Bush Doctrine?

This footage from this morning's McCain/Palin rally is very illuminating.