Monday, September 29, 2008

Crisis of confidence

Oh, good. All my concerns about the wisdom of handing over $700 billion to the same greedy criminal shitheads who drove our economy off a cliff are relieved.
Bush confident bailout bill will stabilize economy

WASHINGTON - Key supporters of a Wall Street bailout package prodded lawmakers to approve the plan hours ahead of a difficult House vote on Monday, with President Bush saying it is needed to "keep the crisis in our financial system from spreading throughout our economy."

"Every member of Congress and every American should keep in mind that a vote for this bill is a vote to prevent economic damage to you and your community," said Bush, fully aware that congressional passage of the $700 billion compromise legislation is far from assured.
Even after the Bush administration’s expensive tax breaks for the rich and all the money it has funneled to its friends and political allies over the past eight years, the disastrous shape of the economy and the struggles of what’s left of the middle class have done nothing to shake conservatives’ confidence that the best way to help the nonrich is to stuff as much money as possible into the pockets of the rich.

Of course, Bush uses the only tactic in the GOP bag, fear, to pressure lawmakers to vote for this unprecedencted giveaway of nearly $1 trillion.

As for the story’s headline, the fact that Bush is confident in something is, to me, an indication that it won’t happen or just won’t work. For a list of other things Bush has been confident about during his reign of failure, click here. Some of the administration’s greatest hits are covered, including Bush’s confidence that Bin Laden will be captured, that Iraqi WMD will be found, that he’s winning the Socical Security “debate” and many more.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008


Paul Newman, 83.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Inspired by the battle over $700 billion taking place in Washington.

The Beatles.

Spinal Tap.


The Money Programme

This one goes out to all the thieving scumbag greedheads on Wall Street trying desperately for one last great heist, because they know the party’s almost over.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Campaign suspended

John McCain would have you believe he suspended his campaign because of the financial crisis—you know, the one that started with the subprime mortgage meltdown but is now threatening to affect rich people. But that’s probably just an excuse to skip the debates. It’s more likely that the McCain camp realized that Obama is improving in the polls as a result of the economy, and that Friday’s debate is likely to accelerate that trend. Given McCain’s high-speed flip flops on the AIG bailout and government regulation, it’s possible that McCain doesn’t understand what’s going on with the economy and has no policy for dealing with it. That would be kind of difficult to hide in a debate setting. McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five scandal doesn’t exactly help him, either.

What else doesn’t help McCain is the seemingly endless string of monumental mistakes by his campaign, like this.

In addition, the McCain campaign wants to reschedule the presidential candidates’ debate for the day the vice presidential candidates are scheduled to debate. That debate would be postponed until never. There’s at least some rationale for postponing the presidential debate, flimsy though it may be. What rationale could there be for postponing the VP debate? That makes it pretty clear, I think, that the Republicans want no part of any debates. It’s awful hard to make this election about personalities when everybody’s asking about those pesky issues.

I think the McCain camp would rather let McCain debate Obama wearing nothing but a leather thong and pasties than let Sarah Palin within a mile of a debate with Joe Biden.

I’ve read comments that said suspending the campaign was a shrewd move by McCain because it forces Obama to follow McCain’s lead or appear to put politics before country. But now that McCain has commited to stopping campaigning and fundraising, Obama has refused to cancel the debate and many people see this move by McCain as a political ploy, how does McCain artfully return to the fray, especially if a resolution to this crisis takes more than a couple of days to cobble together? Through surrogates, I suppose, but that’s not exactly a substitute for having the candidate at the top of the ticket out there pressing the flesh, in front of the cameras and headlining fundraisers.

It looks like McCain has pushed all of his chips to the center of the table. But if this move paints anyone into a corner, it’s John McCain.


Douchebag of the Week

It’s only Wednesday, but such mind-boggling douchebaggery demands immediate recogniton. Our champion has raised douchebaggery to an art form.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Louisiana state Rep. John Labruzzo.
Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.


He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.

It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.
The Republican representative, like all good comedians, is only saying what his supporters are thinking.

However, it is interesting to see a Southern Republican who doesn’t oppose birth control. In some circles, Rep. Douchebag is downright progressive.


Monday, September 22, 2008

How Republicans rescue the economy

By lining the pockets of the rich and connected. Krugman on the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout proposal.
If the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.
So, essentially, Paulson wants to give away billions of dollars in free money to corporations, while homeowners struggling with stagnant wages and facing forclosure as a result of ballooning ARMs get nothing. It’s trickle-down economics at its finest, which is to say, more of the same.

UPDATE: It appears that skepticism about the plan is well placed.
In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The bailout plan

Glenn, on the latest plan to save the American economy from collapse, which he points out was formed “largely without any debate and mostly in secret.” There’s so much worth reading there that you’re better off clicking through and reading the whole thing, but here are some passages that sent my Rage-O-Meter off the charts:
We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded.

More amazingly, they're free to walk away without having to disgorge their gains; at worst, they're just "forced" to walk away without any further stake in the gamble. How can these bailouts not at least be categorically conditioned on the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from those who are responsible? The mere fact that shareholders might lose their stake going forward doesn't resolve that concern; why should those who so fantastically profited from these schemes they couldn't support walk away with their gains? This is "redistribution of wealth" and "government takeover of industry" on the grandest scale imaginable -- the buzzphrases that have been thrown around for decades to represent all that is evil and bad in the world. That's all this is; it's not an "investment" by the Government in any real sense but just a magical transfer of losses away from those who are responsible for these losses to those who aren't.


The beneficiaries of this week's extraordinary Government schemes aren't just the coincidental recipients of largesse due to some random stroke of good luck. The people on whose behalf these schemes are being implemented -- the true beneficiaries -- are the very same people who have been running and owning our Government -- both parties -- for decades, which is why they have been able to do what they've been doing without interference. They were able to gamble without limit because they control the Government, and now they're having others bear the brunt of their collapse for the same reason -- because the Government is largely run for their benefit.

If there is any "pitchfork moment" -- an episode that understandably would send people into the streets in mass outrage -- it would be this. Nobody really even seems to know how much of these losses "the Government" -- meaning working people who had no part in the profits from these transactions -- is undertaking virtually overnight but it's at least a trillion dollars, an amount so vast it's hard to comprehend, let alone analyze in terms of consequences. The transactions are way too complex even for the most sophisticated financial analysts to understand, let alone value. Whatever else is true, generations of Americans are almost certainly going to be severely burdened in untold ways by the events of the last week -- ones that have been carried out largely without any debate and mostly in secret.

Third, what's probably most amazing of all is the contrast between how gargantuan all of this is and the complete absence of debate or disagreement over what's taking place. It's not just that, as usual, Democrats and Republicans are embracing the same core premises ("this is regrettable but necessary"). It's that there's almost no real discussion of what happened, who is responsible, and what the consequences are. It's basically as though the elite class is getting together and discussing this all in whispers, coordinating their views, and releasing just enough information to keep the stupid masses content and calm.


Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's elegantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.
Paul Krugman adds some perspective to this last point.
Even if you have full faith in Henry Paulson, Intrade currently gives John McCain a 48 percent chance of being president. Are you willing to give essentially unlimited discretion over the use of $700 billion — with explicit protection against any review by Congress or the courts — to Phil Gramm?
You might read this and hear echoes of Congress voting to give George Bush authorization to use force at his own discretion, and that’s because Congress seems intent on giving away all of its oversight ability. In short, Congress is legislating itself right out of existence.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Another selection inspired by Wall Street. It looks like a lot of us will be singing this one for a long time.

Ain’t it great when the nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few?

Ray Charles:

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Friday Afternoon Music Club

This Pink Floyd song goes out to the greedy swine on Wall Street.

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They must mean the names.
The Hill reports that it inquired with both Joseph Biden and Sarah Palin about whether they would consider themselves to be part of the executive branch in the next administration. The Hill’s Kevin Bogardus reports, “Sen. Biden (Del.) believes the office he is seeking is solely in the executive branch, according to his staff. But aides to Alaska Gov. Palin did not answer the question.”
Could it be that Palin is reserving the right to ignore the law regarding the handling of classified information?

They’re not even trying to hide the similarities between themselves and the criminal Bush administration.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Once upon a time,
Sharon Leighow, the governor's spokeswoman, said Palin "doesn't see a need for a formal investigation," but is willing to answer questions.

"The governor has said all along that she will fully cooperate with an investigation and her staff will cooperate as well," Leighow said.
So, of course, today we get word from the Straight Talk Express that
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will not cooperate with a legislative inquiry into her firing of an Alaska official, her campaign said, labeling the probe "partisan."

Spokesman Ed O'Callaghan said Monday the investigation had become "tainted" by Democratic state lawmakers targeting Palin, the governor of Alaska who Republican White House hopeful John McCain chose as his running mate late last month.

"I think it's fair to say that the governor is not going to cooperate with that investigation so long as it remains tainted and run by partisan individuals that have a predetermined conclusion," O'Callaghan said.
The bipartisan panel that voted 12-0 to investigate this case has 14 members, four of whom are Democrats. Given that the panel’s vote to investigate was unanimous (although two members apparently did not vote), I fail to see how the “partisan” charge could contain much truth.

Maybe when Palin’s spokesperson said “partisan,” he meant “sexist.” But four members of the panel are women (only one of whom is a Democrat). But if Tina Fey can be sexist, I suppose any woman who is inconvenient to the GOP ticket can be sexist.
Last week Alaska lawmakers voted 5-3 to subpoena Palin's husband Todd Palin in the legislative investigation into whether his wife improperly attempted to fire a state trooper who was her former brother-in-law.

The committee also subpoenaed Palin's chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

The panel had agreed beforehand however that a subpoena of Sarah Palin herself would not be considered, with the understanding she would agree to an interview by the investigator, retired prosecutor Stephen Branchflower.
I guess it’s time to start considering that subpoena, huh?

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The going got tough, so Tucker got going.

I will take the liberty of answering the question for Tucker: No, McCain will not admit being wrong when he lied and said Sarah Palin did not take earmarks as governor of Alaska. In addition, McCain and Palin will continue to repeat the lie over and over until the election.

Because it’s all about straight talk for those two.


Slacker Uprising

Michael Moore’s new movie can be downloaded for free. Click here to sign up.


Monday, September 15, 2008

More of the same

A story in the NYT reveals several disturbing similarities between the governing stylings of Sarah Palin and George Bush.

Palin (from the Times story):
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained y The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.


While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”
Bush (from the public record):
The White House acknowledged yesterday that e-mails dealing with official government business may have been lost because they were improperly sent through private accounts intended to be used for political activities. Democrats have been seeking such missives as part of an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Administration officials said they could offer no estimate of how many e-mails were lost but indicated that some may involve messages from White House senior adviser Karl Rove, whose role in the firings has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats.
So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.
But then came Michael Brown. When President Bush's former point man on disasters was discovered to have more expertise about the rules of Arabian horse competition than about the management of a catastrophe, it was a reminder that the competence of government officials who are not household names can have a life or death impact. The Brown debacle has raised pointed questions about whether political connections, not qualifications, have helped an unusually high number of Bush appointees land vitally important jobs in the Federal Government.
Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.
Perhaps the biggest revelation from Scott McClellan's bombshell book about his time at the White House is that President Bush directly authorized the leak of Valerie Plame's identity.


The president was leaving an event in North Carolina, McClellan recalled, and as they walked to Air Force One a reporter yelled out a question: Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence information, enabled Scooter Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times to bolster the administration's arguments for war?

McClellan took the question to the president, telling Bush: "He's saying you yourself were the one that authorized the leaking of this information."

"And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kind of taken aback," McClellan said.
Another confidante of Ms. Palin’s is Ms. Frye, 27. She worked as a receptionist for State Senator Lyda Green before she joined Ms. Palin’s campaign for governor. Now Ms. Frye earns $68,664 as a special assistant to the governor. Her frequent interactions with Ms. Palin’s children have prompted some lawmakers to refer to her as “the babysitter,” a title that Ms. Frye disavows.

Like Mr. Bailey, she is an effusive cheerleader for her boss.

“YOU ARE SO AWESOME!” Ms. Frye typed in an e-mail message to Ms. Palin in March.
"You are the best governor ever - deserving of great respect," Harriet E. Miers wrote to George W. Bush days after his 51st birthday in July 1997. She also found him "cool," said he and his wife, Laura, were "the greatest!" and told him: "Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed."
Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.
The order to squelch talk about polar bears came in a "new requirement" listing to government scientists traveling abroad. Henceforth, if they are participating in a meeting "involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears," they need to report this and have a spokesperson assigned to articulate the administration's policies. Fish and Wildlife officials want to be sure that "the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears," understands the administration's position on these topics.
Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated.
Bush has a long record of avoiding critics, rewarding loyalty even in the face of failure and shunning - even punishing - those who disagree with him. It's a management style that shapes how he governs - disdaining compromise with Democrats in Congress, for example - and one that brushes off whole sectors of the American electorate.
Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.

During the last legislative session, some lawmakers became so frustrated with her absences that they took to wearing “Where’s Sarah?” pins.
Bush has spent well over a year at his Crawford, Texas ranch, well over a year at Camp David, and has attended 95 sports-related events.


Bush has made 142 trips to the Camp David presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains. It adds up to 450 days, a number Knoller says Bush has challenged because it includes some partial days.

Bush has had 17 foreign leaders visit him at Camp David, starting with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in February 2001.

Knoller's numbers show that Bush has made 74 trips to his Crawford ranch, for a total of 466 days. He also has made 10 trips, not counting this weekend's, to his parents' place in Kennebunkport, Maine.
If you believe, like Frank Rich, that Palin will play Dick Cheney to John McCain’s pliant George Bush, and you believe, like most people, that the Bush administration has been an unmitigated disaster, this is troubling.

Change, indeed. They must mean the kind of change in which everything stays the same.

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I imagine all those fiscal conservatives who pulled the lever for George Bush in 2000 and 2004 probably didn’t forsee this lede appearing in the New York Times before the Harvard MBA left office.
Will the U.S. financial system collapse today, or maybe over the next few days? I don’t think so — but I’m nowhere near certain. You see, Lehman Brothers, a major investment bank, is apparently about to go under. And nobody knows what will happen next.
Yet, how many of them now are prepared to vote for John McCain, who wants to extend and expand all the deficit-creating policies of the Bush administration? Even McCain’s high-profile supporters draw a blank when asked to identify a difference between the economic policies of Bush and McCain.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Easy like Sunday morning

Some Van Morrison, just because I feel like it.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The two faces

of John McCain.

UPDATE: The reformed maverick.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Neil Young:

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

It’s worthwhile, I think, to remember that seven years ago today, while the dust from the first WTC tower collapse still blackened the New York City air, John McCain was already beating the drum for war against Iraq. Think Progress tracks the Republican presidential candidate’s words and actions in the hours, days and weeks after the attacks, and Iraq sure does come up a lot.

May God bless those who lost loved ones on that tragic day. Their burden is a little heavier today.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Polishing Palin

Glenn, making a point I started to make in a previous post.
When they decide in a couple of weeks that Palin is ready to do so, she'll go and sit down with Brit Hume or Larry King or Charlie Gibson or some other pleasant, accommodating person who plays a journalist on TV and have a nice, amiable, entertaining chat about topics that are easily anticipated. Having been preceded by all sorts of campaign drama about her first interview and the excitement that she's not up to the task, her TV appearance will be widely touted, score big ratings, and will be nice entertainment for the network that presents it. It will achieve many things. Undermining propaganda isn't one of them. This idea that she's some sort of fragile, know-nothing amateur who is going to quiver and collapse when subjected to the rough and tumble world of American journalism is painfully ludicrous, given that -- as the Canonization of the endlessly malleable Tim Russert demonstrated -- that imagery is a fantasy journalists maintain about themselves but it hardly exists. The standard journalistic model of "balance" means that the TV journalist asks a few questions, lets the interviewee answer, and then moves on without commenting on or pointing out false claims, i.e., without exposing propaganda (Carney can check his own magazine to see how that sad, propaganda-boosting process works -- here, here, and here). Few things are easier than submitting to those sorts of televised rituals.

Moreover, Sarah Palin isn't Dan Quayle. She is extremely smart -- much smarter than the average media star who will eventually be interviewing her -- and she is very politically skilled as well. She didn't go from obscure small-town city council member to Governor to Vice Presidential nominee by accident. She'll be more than adequately prepared for the shallow, 30-second, rote exchanges that pass for political interviews in our Serious mainstream discourse. Anyone expecting her to fall on her face or be exposed as some drooling simpleton is going to be extremely disappointed. That might (or might not) happen with real questioning, but she's not going to face that.

If anything, this growing drama about Palin's supposed fear of facing America's super-tough "journalists" who are chomping at the bit to expose her is going to help her greatly, for exactly the reason Digby wrote here, after highlighting Chris Matthews' complaints that Palin won't yet submit to interviews:

People need to get over the idea that Palin's some kind of Britney Spears bimbo. She's a professional politician and from the looks of it, a pretty good one. She's not going to fall on her face on TV. They will build the expectations accordingly.

The ideological extremism and growing ethical questions that define Sarah Palin -- and especially the discredited, rejected core beliefs of John McCain -- means that the McCain campaign should have much to worry about in this election. Having Sarah Palin face the mighty, scary American press corps certainly isn't one of them. That's just a melodramatic distraction, one that will redound to the GOP's benefit. Palin will "face" our media soon enough, and it will probably be the easiest thing she'll have to do between now and November.
The fact that Palin is female and the McCain camp thinks disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters are dumb enough to vote for a candidate (or in this case, a candidate’s running mate) simply because she’s female probably has a lot to do with why McCain picked her. But that doesn’t mean Palin is a media-ignorant neophyte unaccustomed to lying on camera. So anyone expecting her to to be shaken off her talking points by the make-pretend scrutiny and softball questioning of a Brit Hume is going to be disappointed. Expect a lot of appearances on friendly Fox News and expect a lot of mentions of the memorized names of international leaders, but don’t expect many follow-up questions.

Palin isn’t going to do an interview in which the questions aren’t all easily anticipated (or agreed upon in advance) or for which she doesn’t have rehearsed answers. She isn’t going draw a blank, cry (unless the focus groups think she comes across as cold), wet her pants or walk off the set in a huff. She will come across as basically competent—even if her answers reveal patently ridiculous policy positions, at least they will have been communicated in a polished manner. She’s not Jeanine Pirro.

But that doesn’t change the fact that her positions are out of touch with the American mainstream. That doesn’t change the fact that her firing of a public safety officer for not firing her former brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper is now the subject of an investigation by the Alaska state legislature. That doesn’t change the fact that she left Wasilla, a town of about 5,500 residents, nearly $20 million in debt after her tenure as mayor. That doesn’ change the fact that she wanted to ban books.

That doesn’t make her qualified to be vice president.

UPDATE: Looks like Glenn was right, as one of the “pleasant, accommodating [people] who plays a journalist on TV” mentioned above gets first crack at pitching batting practice to Palin.
ABC News' Charles Gibson has snagged the first interview with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin since she was named the GOP's vice presidential pick on August 29.

Palin has been one of the most sought-after interview subjects, but presidential nominee John McCain's campaign has kept Palin away from the media amid speculation in some quarters about her relative inexperience.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Politicizing an investigation

It appears the McCain campaign’s previously reported stall tactics are not having the intended effect on the investigation into whether Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin improperly fired a public safety officer who refused to fire a state trooper after a messy divorce from Palin’s sister. In fact, it may have had the opposite effect. But appearances can be deceiving.
ABC News has exclusively learned that Alaska Senator Hollis French will announce today that he is moving up the release date of his investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her office to get the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, fired. The results of the investigation were originally scheduled for release Oct. 31 but will now come almost three weeks earlier, according to sources.

The announcement is set for 9 a.m. AKDT time.

The Alaska state senator running an investigation of Gov. Palin had accused the McCain campaign of using stall tactics to prevent him from releasing his final report by Oct. 31, four days before the November election.
There are two possibilities here, and neither speaks well of a potential McCain administration.

One possibility is that McCain lacks the juice to sway an obscure state senator. If that’s the case, how seriously can we expect foreign heads of state to take him? Could it be that he’s already irrelevant, two months before the election?

The other possibility is that this is an agreement engineered to give the campaign space and to save face for everyone involved. The decision to move up the report’s release date might actually help the McCain campaign because this gives Repubicans time to get their talking points in order and muddy the water well before the election. Plus, a month is an eternity in politics, and it’s likely that some other bullshit will come along and distract voters before election day.

So perhaps the McCain camp saw that it was getting nothing but bad press (what little of it there was) for trying to delay the release of the report and looked as if it has something to hide. This way, the GOP has a month to react to the report and spread its bullshit, voters have a month to forget about it and both state Sen. French and the McCain camp save face: French is standing up to the national political machine—not only refusing to delay the report, but also moving up the release date; and McCain and Palin no longer appear to be obstructionists. (Don’t be surprised if the campaign claims it encouraged French to move up the release date in order to “get the facts out there and clear the air as soon as possible.”)

Why else would French change the scheduled release date for the report? If he really wants to show that the McCain campaign has no influence on his investigation, he shouldn’t change a thing, and release the report on the date it was originally scheduled to be released. It might not appear to be the outcome the McCain camp wanted, but there’s no denying that the campaign’s involvement influenced the release date of the report. And for a political campaign to interfere or influence an investigation like this is wholly inappropriate.

If nothing else, this is a preview of what we can expect from a McCain presidency.


Friday news dump

More good news released while they thought nobody was watching.
The U.S. lost more jobs than forecast in August and the unemployment rate climbed to a five- year high, heightening the risk that the economic slowdown will worsen.

Payrolls fell by 84,000 in August, and revisions added another 58,000 to job losses for the prior two months, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The jobless rate jumped to 6.1 percent, matching the level of September 2003, from 5.7 percent the prior month.

Workforce reductions at companies from UAL Corp. to Gannett Co. are adding to the woes of Americans hurt by lower home values, scarcer credit and higher prices. The report may fuel concern that consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, will decline and bring the expansion to a halt. Stock-index futures dropped and Treasury notes climbed.

``It certainly increases the probability that we really are in a recession,'' William Poole, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. ``It is a weak number, including the revisions.''
But don’t worry, the Republicans have a plan to make it all better, because unemployment is a priority for them. Look how often they said the word “unemployment” in prepared remarks during their weak-ass convention.


Friday Afternoon Music Club

The Beatles

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Oh that liberal media

Looks like the Republicans have decided to stick with Sarah Palin, and network execs have made their instructions clear to their talking heads: Start treating her like a heavyweight and stop doing journalism.
With a forceful speech that served as her introduction to millions of Americans on Wednesday, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin seduced many on television who had spent days doubting her candidacy.

It wasn't just a home run, said CNN's Wolf Blitzer; it may have been a grand slam. "A very auspicious debut," said NBC's Tom Brokaw. It was a "perfect populist pitch," said CBS' Jeff Greenfield. "Terrific," said Mort Kondracke on Fox News Channel.

"A star is born," said Chris Wallace on Fox.

"A star is born," Blitzer said.

"A star is born," said Anderson Cooper on CNN.
Wow, positive reviews from Fox news. Gee, did anyone see that coming? Seriously, if Palin had taken a giant, steamy shit in the middle of the stage and then eaten it, Fox probably would have said it shows Palin’s commitment to protecting the planet through reuse and recycling. That is, it would if talk of environmentalism and careful use of resources had any place at the Republican National Convention, which it doesn’t, except maybe as a punch line.

But why single out Fox when the so-called legitimate news networks are saying the exact same thing?

While the talking heads were embarrassing themselves, the AP identified and debunked numerous lies from Palin’s speech and the rest of the Republican convention. But the bobbleheads were having none of that. Too much journalism might interrupt the praise parade and, more importantly, the narrative that the people with wealth and positions of power in this country want to feed the American people in order to protect the aforementioned wealth and positions of power.

Here’s what the television “journalists” refer to as the birth of a star:
PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.

Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.

He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.
But if you’re talking about rising to prominence in a group known for lying, I guess getting up in front of a national audience and telling one huge lie after another actually does make one a star.

So Palin gave a competent speech. What did they expect her to do? Cry? Admit she’s uninformed about world affairs and lacks the qualifications for the office for which she is being nominated? Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Hooray! The lady gave a nice talk and didn’t make an ass out of herself. Finally, a moment for the McCain campaign that wasn’t a complete, embarrassing disaster. They did something right. Start hitting up Exxon for inaugural donations.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Just what we need: Another person in the White House who is bored by details and thoughtful decision making, and instead relies on his gut; another friggin’ putz who refuses to “negotiate with himself.”
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain's vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate, and she did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, two knowledgeable McCain officials acknowledged Tuesday.
Selecting a running mate is often the first chance a presidential candidate gets to show his or her ability to make sound decisions as an executive. And it appears that McCain made his decision (if it was indeed his decision) after, shall we say, a limited vetting process. How else does a woman who is being investigated for improperly firing a public safety officer who refused to help her carry out a personal vendetta and whose husband belonged to a political party that advocates Alaska’s seceeding from the United States wind up as the vice presidential candidate of the Republican party?

Boy, The Base must really hate Mormons, huh?

Regarding Palin’s pregnant 17-year-old daughter, it, like any personal issue relating to a candidate or a candidate’s family, is immaterial unless it demonstrates some inconsistency with the candidate’s public positions or voting record. I don’t think her daughter’s pregnancy is relevant to Palin’s competence as an elected official, but I do think it speaks to McCain’s ability to make sound decisions, because his VP pick shines a spotlight on the fact that a woman who opposes sex education (“explicit” sex education. I have no idea what that is, but I know what kind of images are conjured up in people’s minds by the combination of the words “explicit” and “sex,” and it’s not something that normal people would considered appropriate for minors) in favor of abstinance education has a pregnant, unwed teenage daughter. It’s kind of awkward when your VP pick is an example of policies backed by your supporters (and the nominee herself) not working. But don’t worry, Republicans will treat this the same way they treat all facts that don’t support their worldview: They’ll ignore it. At least until Palin “withdraws her name from consideration" in order to support her daughter and her family as they prepare to welcome their newest addition.

And to be clear, I wish Palin’s family, especially her daughter and her grandchild, nothing but the best.

Here’s another fun fact about the Republican VP nominee and mother of a pregnant teenage daughter: As governor of Alaska, Palin cut funding to support teen mothers.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.

After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.

According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families."
Check out the changes Palin made to the bill:

That’s hardly the only reason to call Palin’s judgment into question.
Palin's name is listed on 2003 incorporation papers of the "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.," a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. The group was designed to serve as a political boot camp for Republican women in the state. She served as one of three directors until June 2005, when her name was replaced on state filings.
Yes, that Ted Stevens.

The reason campaigns vet possible VP candidates so closely is to avoid situations like this. If McCain couldn’t be bothered to do his homework now — before he’s elected — what reason is there to believe that he will bring careful consideration and thoughtful examination of details to important decisions as president?

UPDATE: More on Palin’s questionable judgment.
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Personally, I’m not comfortable with someone like this so close to the presidency.

UPDATE 2: Interference to delay a potentially politically damaging report.
The Alaska state senator running an investigation of Gov. Palin says the McCain campaign is using stall tactics to prevent him from releasing his final report by Oct. 31, four days before the November election.

"It's likely to be damaging to the Governor," said Senator Hollis French, a Democrat, appointed the project manager for a bi-partisan State Senate Legislative Counsel Committee investigation of claims that Palin abused her office to get the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, fired.
I can see why McCain bristles at suggestions that his presidency would be four more years of Bush, because they’re SOOOOOOO different.

UPDATE 3: Perhaps the Palin selection didn’t come from McCain after all.
Last week, while the media focused almost obsessively on the DNC's spectacle in Denver, the country's most influential conservatives met quietly at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis to get to know Sarah Palin. The assembled were members of the Council for National Policy, an ultra-secretive cabal that networks wealthy right-wing donors together with top conservative operatives to plan long-term movement strategy.
If true, this raises the question of, if he wins, McCain would ever leave important decisions to someone else.