Thursday, October 30, 2008

T-minus 5 days...

1. The Economist endorses Obama:

For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama
offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them. The
does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We
do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers
the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence.
2. TPM's "100 seconds" clip is particularly funny today:

I especially like the part that starts 14 seconds in. Just a little mix-up...

3. Joe Klein is pretty disgusted with McCain's blatant Jew-baiting:

There is so much desperate, crapulous spew from the McCain campaign right now that it's hard to keep track of it all--but this ad, via Andrew Sullivan, marks some sort of low. Yet again--in a last, desperate attempt to scare the elderly Jews of Florida--McCain posits Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the "leader" of Iran, even though he has no control over Iranian foreign or military policy. (Ayatullah Ali Khamenei is the guy in charge in Iran, which is why they call him--you guessed it--the Supreme Leader.) Yet again, McCain brings up the notion of "preconditions," only now the preconditions are Ahmadinejad's: namely, that the U.S. would have to leave the Middle East before he'd be willing to talk.

It's all inflammatory nonsense, of course. Obama has said that he would meet with the Iranian leadership without "preconditions"--namely, the Bush Administration requirement that the Iranians stop processing uranium. Of course, the Bush Administration doesn't seem so set on that precondition anymore, either. Again, this is a purposeful effort to mislead on Obama's actual position: he would begin lower-level negotiations with the Iranians, and see how much progress could be made. That is a position supported by many of McCain's own diplomatic supporters.

But that's not really what this is all about: this ad--with its Middle Eastern music--is all about implying that Obama isn't one of us, that he's one of them. It is shameful, in the extreme. It's also really bad policy.

4. Some in the media are starting to connect the dots with all this talk about "welfare" and "taking your money and giving it to someone else". Either McCain doesn't understand the difference between tax breaks and welfare, or he has another agenda.

5. Yes, the national polls are tightening somewhat. This is to be expected, as "undecideds" finally make up their minds, including many who were "soft" supporters of McCain all along. But this means, at best, a couple points for McCain nationally. Obama is holding steady or improving his position in nearly every major swing state, so some limited tightening in the national numbers is irrelevant at this point.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Late night comedy

If you loved the BBC's Planet Earth, this irreverant spoof should crack you up:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How Republicans exploit the middle class

Ed from ginandtacos has an excellent post up about Joe the Plumber:

Joe lives near Toledo, Ohio. The most charitable way I can describe that city is “post-industrial shithole.” The city’s unemployment rate is 9% as measured with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ woefully understated methodology. There are many thousands of foreclosed homes within the city limits at this moment; Toledo is in the top ten large cities nationwide for foreclosures. Its population has fallen from 384,000 in 1970 to 285,000 today. Its violent crime rate is fully double the national average and rising. Based on nine common economic indicators, Lucas County (home of Toledo) ranks 87th out of 88 counties in Ohio for economic performance between 2001-2008. Annual bankruptcy filings have increased 23% in the same time period, while the percentage of residents in poverty has increased from 12% to a third-world-like 17%. Nearly 8000 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in just six years (2001-2007). Toledo proper gained national attention for its unprecedented 7.5% drop in median home price in just 12 months. Real incomes are falling. In short, Toledo is in what its hometown newspaper calls a “downward spiral.” Every vital sign is flatlining and the city is entering what is likely a terminal economic torpor.

None of this matters to Joe the Plumber, of course. He lies awake at night worrying about taxes. That he lives in a picture-perfect example of the kinds of cities that right-wing economic policies have rendered moribund is irrelevant. What keeps Joe on edge and bubbling with entitled white male rage is Barack Hussein Tax-&-Spend Obama’s dastardly, amoral plan to raise taxes.

Click the link for the whole thing.

I think this is an exquisite illustration of the way Republicans get people like Joe to vote for them. While the town he lives in has been absolutely leveled by Bush's economic policies, what really pisses him off? Higher taxes for the rich. He's not rich, of course, but like many Republican voters, he's convinced that he will be someday.

Add in a healthy dose of white middle-class resentment, and a dollop of simple ignorance, and voila! Joe the Plumber, Republican figurehead, is born.

On the question of becoming rich, it is a cherished myth in the United States that such things "only happen in America". "Only in America" can a poor man succeed and become rich. All it takes is hard work and a little entrepreneurial spirit. The Republicans live and die on this sacred concept; and small business owners who dream of making it big consistently vote for the GOP by large margins.

Unfortunately, the data do not support this official propaganda.

In economics, there is a concept called intergenerational income mobility. Essentially, it is a measure of how likely the children of poor families are to end up with an improved economic status relative to their parents, and conversely, how likely the children of rich families are to end up with a worse economic status relative to their parents.

In other words, if the America that politicians talk about actually exists, we should find that intergenerational income mobility is high; that people succeed on their own merits, without much regard to whether they started off rich or poor.

This is not the case. Studies show that mobility is actually higher in several other industrialized countries, including Canada, Sweden, and Norway, while the US is roughly in the middle of the pack. Why is this? Gross income inequality is one reason. Those at the top control such a insanely large portion of the nation's wealth that they are unlikely to lose it absent redistributive tax policies.

In fact, recent government policies and tax cuts have only strengthened the position of wealthy Americans relative to everyone else. Meanwhile, the poor have little access to health care, little access to education, and they will now be hardest hit by the worsening economy. But in a country like Sweden, the rich are heavily taxed, while the poor have access to generous social transfers, free health care, and free post-secondary education. Is it any wonder that a poor Swede has a better chance of improving his or her economic status than a poor American?

Comrades, the revolution is at hand!

Oh noes! Obama really IS a socialist! If you don't believe me, just read this transcript of a top secret radio interview that some brave right-wing blogger googled up at the risk of his life and livelihood, risking the wrath of the "Obama thugocracy":

Barack Obama, in 2001:

You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil-rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples. So that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it, I’d be okay, but the Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth , and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution — at least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [It] says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn’t shifted, and one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil-rights movement was because the civil-rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.

Wow, that's pretty open and shut. Case closed, Obama is clearly a crazy socialist nutjob. Because only crazy socialist nutjobs use the verb "to redistribute". At least according to this wise man from NRO, who is pretty sure now that Obama's finished:

I do not blame Barack Obama for believing in wealth distribution. That’s his right as an American. I do blame him for lying about what he believes. But his entire life has been applying for the next job at the expense of the current one. He’s at the end of the line now.

I do, however, blame the press for allowing an individual citizen to do the work that they employ standing armies of so-called professionals for. I know they are capable of this kind of investigative journalism: It only took them a day or two to damage Sarah Palin with wild accusations about her baby’s paternity

I'm guessing he means Daily Kos and the National Enquirer?

and less time than that to destroy a man who happened to be playing ball when the Messiah decided to roll up looking for a few more votes on the way to the inevitable coronation.

Who, Joe the Liar Plumber? The man who hates the media spotlight so much that he's even thinking of running for Congress?

We no longer have an independent, fair, investigative press. That is abundantly clear to everyone — even the press. It is just another of the facts that they refuse to report, because it does not suit them.

Remember this, America: The press did not break this story. A single citizen, on the Internet did.

There is a special hell for you “journalists” out there, a hell made specifically for you narcissists and elitists who think you have the right to determine which information is passed on to the electorate and which is not. That hell — your own personal hell — is a fiery lake of irrelevance, blinding clouds of obscurity, and burning, everlasting scorn. You’ve earned it. [..]

This discovery will hurt Obama much more than Joe the Plumber.

It very well may, but 0 squared is still 0.

Sheesh, I may need to use the "stupidity" label on all my posts from now until election day.

(h/t Red Tory)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good advice

From Atrios:

Be prepared for the final onslaught of the really stupid, when the media feels
the need to balance reality with whatever horseshit that McCain/Drudge are
spewing that day.

I recommend a locked windowless room with a vat of

Actually, I thought we were already in the final onslaught of the really stupid. It's hard to see how it can get much worse. Oh, wait....

I'm literally speechless. Every single one of her questions is predicated on a fundamentally dishonest premise. She even quotes Karl Marx and asks Biden to explain how Obama is not a Marxist! It's like a right-wing blogger's wet dream; to them, this is a "real reporter asking real questions".

Here was one of the questions:

WEST: You may recognize this famous quote, “from each according to his
abilities, to each according to his needs.” That’s from Karl Marx. How is Sen.
Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?

BIDEN: Are you joking? Is this a joke? … Or is that a real question?

My God, if this is representative of the Florida news media, no wonder the state is a tossup.

ThinkProgress has a roundup of some of the reaction. The consensus seems to be that it was an utterly embarrassing and unprofessional display on the part of Mrs. West. I think she just wants a job at Fox News, as does AL:

The right wing blogs are all worked into a lather over an interview Joe Biden did recently with WFTV, a local television station in Orlando. They seem to think Biden somehow embarrassed himself or got rattled during the interview. The fact that they think that is further evidence of the rapidly widening gulf between the reality most of us inhabit and the alternate universe where most right wing bloggers now reside.

In the interview, Biden never loses his composure, despite being bombarded with questions that were so ridiculously loaded and counterfactual that Sean Hannity would have been embarrassed to ask them. [..]

For those of you who can't see the video, here are the six questions asked by Barbara West, the WFTV anchor. I'm not cherry picking here; these are the only questions she asked:

1) Aren’t you embarrassed by the blatant attempts to register phony voters by ACORN, an organization that Barack Obama has been tied to in the past?

2) But in the past Senator Obama was a community organizer for ACORN, he was an attorney for ACORN, and certainly in the Senate he was a benefactor for ACORN?

3) Senator Obama now famously told Joe the Plumber he wanted to spread his wealth around. A Gallup poll showed 84% of Americans prefer that government focus on improving economic conditions and creating more jobs in the U.S. as opposed to taking steps to spread wealth. Isn’t Senator Obama’s comment a potentially crushing political blunder?

4) You may recognize this famous quote: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” That’s from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?

5) Now you recently said “Mark my works, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.” But what worries many people is your caveat asking them to stand with him because it is not going to be apparent initially that he’s right. Are you forewarning Americans that nothing will be done and that America’s days as the world’s leading power are over?

6) Getting back to the spreading the wealth question, what do you say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country like Sweden?

That's it. That was the entire interview. The woman was like a cartoonish caricature of a wingnut, and her questions were straight out of a Steven Colbert interview. I kept waiting for her to ask Biden when Obama stopped being a member of al Qaeda. At one point, toward the middle of the interview, Biden actually had to stop and ask the anchor--in all seriousness--if she was joking. I don't blame him. The questions were so off the wall that he had to have been wondering whether this was some sort of Daily Show-esque mock interview.

Yeah, final onslaught of the stupid indeed.

Just to reiterate, the Right wing blogs were very impressed with this lady. Think about that for a second. And then read these posts by Daniel Larison.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Patriots blogging

They sure looked solid today (and even moreso last week), with Cassel managing the game competently, Randy Moss catching lots of balls, and the defense making some big plays.

Granted, the Rams aren't the cream of the crop, and I have concerns about the amount of injuries sustained by NE's running backs, but I think this is definitely a team that can win their division. I don't see them as a Super Bowl contender by any stretch of the imagination, but the way this season has gone so far for a lot of teams, who knows?

What's changed?

More lovely McCain supporters, this time in Denver, Colorado:

(via digby)

Boy, all those people saying Obama is a communist are going to be awfully surprised when he doesn't nationalize the economy and send them all to re-education camps...or they just don't have a clue what the hell they're talking about, and will move onto the next smear/conspiracy theory once this one gets stale.

You know, I used to wonder how Bush could possibly have been re-elected in 2004. Sure, Kerry wasn't the most exciting candidate, but still, surely four years of W was enough for most people?

But in retrospect, the kind of people in that video were around then, just as they are around now. By which I mean tribalistic, anti-intellectual, religious extremist nutjobs who will still vote GOP even if it is revealed that the entire party has been replaced by green reptilian space aliens who eat puppies. When you take them out of the equation, you're left with a relatively small group of swing voters, alternately known as "Independents", "Moderates", "Uncommitted voters", or something similar.

While some small percentage of these people have valid reasons for being disenchanted with both major parties, the majority of them are low information voters that continually shift their allegiances with the wind, the "wind" in this case being the "daily news cycle". These are the people who normally can be counted on to respond positively to character attacks like the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry or the guilt by association nonsense about Bill Ayers, as well as shallow labels, like Kerry being a flip-flopper, or Obama being a socialist/communist/terrorist/celebrity etc. Such attacks have clearly worked on that crowd, as can be seen by their energetic shouting.

This year is different, mainly because 8 years of Bush is worse than 4 years of Bush, because Obama is a much better candidate than Kerry (conversely, McCain is a very poor candidate), because McCain was shown to be a sleazy liar on multiple occasions, because Sarah Palin proved to be a disastrous choice for VP in the long run, and because the Obama campaign has achieved its goal of registering millions of new voters.

But there's also something else that hasn't got much attention. First of all, anyone who was 14 in 2004 is now eligible to vote. Who do you think most of them are voting for? Second, lots of people who were senior citizens in 2004 are now dead. Who do you think most of them would have voted for? Thirdly, many new immigrants have arrived in the United States. Who do you think most of them are voting for?

Obama benefits from all three demographic shifts; young people and minorities are, in general, far more likely to support him, while senior citizens are much less likely to.

I guess what I'm getting at is that if the US electorate were identical to that of 2004, this would be a much closer race. Luckily for Obama and the Democrats, current and future generational shifts favor them unambiguously. As time goes on, it will become more and more difficult for Republicans to keep fighting the civil rights battles of the 1960s or the social issue battles of the 1990s, simply because most young voters don't care about any of it, not when there are such important challenges facing our generation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Off the deep end

BREAKING HARD AND FAST- White Woman McCain Volunteer Not Robbed, Attacked, Mutilated, and Assaulted By Swarthy Member of Obama Thugocracy!!!

First off, Matt Drudge is a shithead. Second, hee.

I quite like this post from Kevin Drum. It fills me with warm feelings:

Let’s summarize the past couple of days: (a) Politico reports that La Palin has
spent $150,000 on campaign outfits, (b) John McCain’s brother calls 911 to
complain about a traffic jam and then curses at the operator for telling him to
get off the line, (c) the New York Times reports that Palin also spent $30,000
or so on hair and makeup over a period of two weeks, and (d) a white woman who
claimed she was attacked by a black Obama supporter admits that the whole thing
was a hoax.

Tim F. from Balloon Juice adds :

He was also endorsed by al Qaeda. Plus, some of McCain’s own advisors are abandoning the campaign and endorsing Obama. Then there is the possibility that McCain is hanging out in Pennsylvania because the Obama campaign played him out of competing in competitive states. By the way, wasn’t the second investigation into Palin’s abuse of power due to issue a report one of these days?

This right wing meltdown is really quite amusing to watch. Take Andy McCarthy ; the guy's like a walking punchline, so crazed and incoherent have his postings become! And the supposed home of "serious conservative intellectuals", National Review Online, actually employs him! That's right, instead of spreading his nuttiness from his mother's basement while doing his best not to drool on the keyboard, a "respectable" publication has this man in their employ! They also employ nutjob morons like Jonah "Liberal Fascism" Goldberg and Mark Steyn (an unfortunate Canadian), so "intellectual" is not the word I would use to describe what goes on at K-Lo's House of Crazy, but still! You gotta have some standards.

Steyn notwithstanding, there is really no equivalent to this kind of nuttiness here in Canada, at least not nuttiness that has a voice in the national dialog. Sure, some of the conservative blogs are a bit out to lunch, but even those are a pale imitation of what passes for daily fare at Redstate.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

T-minus 12 days...

1. Palin in 2012? Not bloody likely, says AL.

2. The satirical Jon Swift has an epic post up praising right-wing bloggers for their phenomenal efforts in chronicling the many sins, shady associations, and criminal acts of Barack Obama. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't know that Bill Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography! Or that his birth certificate is fake! Or that his wife hates white people! Or that he had a gay affair with a pedophile! Or...well, you get the idea. Read the whole thing.

3. All this talk about "real America" and "real Virginia" (as opposed to the not real versions) was perhaps elaborated on a little bit today as Sarah Palin sat down for another interview, this time with Brian Williams, "accompanied" (read: supervised) by that other guy on the ticket, John McCain, who said this:

(responding to a question about where these ubiquitous "elitists" can be found)

MCCAIN: I-- I know where a lot of 'em live. (LAUGH)

WILLIAMS: Where's that?

MCCAIN: Well, in our nation's capital and New York City. I've seen it. I've lived there. I know the town. I know-- I know what a lot of these elitists are. The ones that she never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown. I'll be very frank with you. Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.

This, from the campaign that just spent more than $150,000 outfitting Sarah Palin.

But anyway, Adam Sewer breathes a sigh of relief:

This is fantastic news for Americans, who erroneously believed they had been attacked on 9/11. In reality, the only areas that were attacked were the elitist provinces of Fake America and the 2,998 Americans who lost their lives that day are faux American elitists who don't actually count. Sure, the Pentagon is technically in Northern Virginia, but that area has previously been identified by McCain campaign officials as "not real." Osama bin Laden meanwhile, must be terribly frustrated to learn that he in fact, missed. No one can be more confused than the Taliban, who are probably wondering why we invaded Afghanistan since Real America wasn't attacked.

Meanwhile, I suggest a new campaign slogan: Real Country First.

4. Former Bush Press Secretary Scott McLellan endorses Obama. So that's at least two former members of the Bush administration that have jumped ship.

5. TPM is doing these "day in 100 seconds" clips from now until the election, and they're actually pretty entertaining. Here's yesterday's:

And here's today's:

Seriously, what's up with Shepherd Smith at the end of both clips? It's almost like he's anxious for this thing to be over...

6. And finally, I'd just like to say a few things about Joe the Plumber, that wonderful everyman from Ohio who was mentioned about 30,000 times in the last debate, and has gotten a lot of attention since.

See, everything that McCain claimed about him turned out to be wrong. Not just wrong, but massively, fundamentally wrong.

He's not actually a licensed plumber, his first name is Sam, he wouldn't have a tax increase under Obama's plan, because his income is only around $40,000/year (he would actually get a tax cut ), and even if he purchases this plumbing business that makes $250,000+/year, that wouldn't be even close to his income, since the business only nets around $6000/year in taxable income.

To clarify, the only way that Mr. Plumber gets a tax increase under Obama is if he increases this business's revenues by roughly 2000%.

And if he does? What is the nature of this dreadful calamity that would befall the suddenly rich and successful Joe the Plumber? A three percent marginal tax increase. Real end of days stuff, people.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The next crisis

(graph from here, via Obsidian Wings)

Americans are increasingly unable to cover their credit card debt. What does this mean for the economy? Well, several things:

First, with their customers increasingly defaulting on their loans and credit card debt, banks will be much more stingy in their lending. People who depend on loans to get by will have a harder go of things.

Second, consumers will inevitably scale back their spending, reducing aggregate demand and business profits, which in turn has a negative effect on employment. Unemployed people don't spend much money either, which just reinforces this downward spiral.

This is what happens when a central bank tries to avoid a recession at all costs.

Economy not doing so well? Here, have some easy credit! Borrow money and spend it on shit from China. Oh, and buy a house, and use it as leverage for even more borrowing. And in the meantime, the fat cats on Wall Street will get rich by repackaging and reselling all your debt. Everyone's happy!

...until the bill comes due. We've seen the effects; a housing bubble popped, financial institutions crumbling under the weight of bad assets, credit markets in a deep freeze, and now the impending death of the omnipotent American Consumer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Political funnies

Isn't it time for a new JibJab?

Let's not forget the classic 2004 original:

And it isn't strictly political, but this article by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg is a riot, chronicling his efforts to "modestly test" the effectiveness of the Transport Safety Administration's airport security regime. Suffice to say, the results were not encouraging. An excerpt:

Schnei­er and I joined the line with our ersatz boarding passes. “Technically we could get arrested for this,” he said, but we judged the risk to be acceptable. We handed our boarding passes and IDs to the security officer, who inspected our driver’s licenses through a loupe, one of those magnifying-glass devices jewelers use for minute examinations of fine detail. This was the moment of maximum peril, not because the boarding passes were flawed, but because the TSA now trains its officers in the science of behavior detection. The SPOT program—“Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques”—was based in part on the work of a psychologist who believes that involuntary facial-muscle movements, including the most fleeting “micro-expressions,” can betray lying or criminality. The training program for behavior-detection officers is one week long. Our facial muscles did not cooperate with the SPOT program, apparently, because the officer chicken-scratched onto our boarding passes what might have been his signature, or the number 4, or the letter y. We took our shoes off and placed our laptops in bins. Schnei­er took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled “saline solution.”

“It’s allowed,” he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don’t fall under the TSA’s three-ounce rule.

“What’s allowed?” I asked. “Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?”

“Bottles labeled saline solution. They won’t check what’s in it, trust me.”

They did not check . As we gathered our belongings, Schnei­er held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, “This is okay, right?” “Yep,” the officer said. “Just have to put it in the tray.”

“Maybe if you lit it on fire, he’d pay attention,” I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schnei­er would carry two bottles labeled saline solution—24 ounces in total—through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Two weeks left

Barring some unforseen "October surprise", it looks very much like Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States. Although the national polls have tightened somewhat over the past few days, they are irrelevant at this point. What matters are the polls in the (previously) red states that Obama is currently competing in.

As the map stands right now, Obama will definitely pick up Iowa and New Mexico at a bare minimum, while holding New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, states where McCain hoped to be competitive, but also states where his hopes are fading fast.

That leaves Obama needing to win only one of the following six states to get past 270: Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, and Missouri. Winning only Nevada and its five electoral votes would result in a 269-269 tie, but even this would work in Obama's favor, since the Democratic majority in Congress would select him as the new President.

Looking at the polling, Obama leads by healthy margins in both Colorado and Virginia, and is statistically tied or leading slightly in all the others. Even Indiana and Georgia are possible Democratic pickups. Remember, Obama needs to win only one of these states. McCain needs them all.

When you consider the great degree of uncertainty over turnout and new registrations, as well as encouraging results from early voting, an Obama landslide is still a very probable outcome, and even a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority is not an outlandish possibility.

It's too early to write a McCain campaign post-mortem, but this is a good effort from the Anonymous Liberal in explaining where it derailed:

Going into the Republican Convention, Obama was up by eight points (50-42) in the Gallup daily tracking poll. By the time the convention concluded, McCain was up by five in the same poll. At the time, most of this rather large bounce was attributed to Sarah Palin's much-discussed national debut. But, like Nate Silver, I suspect that McCain may have gotten a bigger boost from his own under-appreciated convention speech. The speech wasn't written or delivered particularly well, but I think it was very effective in tone and content. McCain told his very moving personal story and re-embraced his prior image as a maverick and a reformer, someone who could rise above partisan politics and get things done. Unlike the rest of the convention, the speech was aimed squarely at independents and swing voters. McCain spent very little time attacking Obama and presented viewers with a mostly positive (if not very specific) case for his candidacy.

The most worried I've been about Obama's chances was in the immediate aftermath of that speech. I thought it would play pretty well among up-for-grab voters and I worried that the McCain campaign--having attacked Obama harshly and effectively during the convention--would use McCain's speech as a pivot point and spend the rest of the campaign making a direct appeal to independents and swing voters.

But they didn't do that. In the days following McCain's convention speech, his campaign looked around at all the suddenly favorable poll numbers and made a completely inexplicable decision. They decided to pick an unnecessary fight with the media by suddenly and dramatically ratcheting up the dishonestly level of the campaign. Instead of quietly conceding that many of Governor Palin's initial claims about her record had been false, the campaign doubled-down. Despite widespread debunking of these claims by the media, Palin insisted on repeating them--verbatim--in all of her appearances. McCain himself waded in, adding the claims to his own stump speech. Campaign ads were released touting the same debunked claims.
Click the link for the whole thing.
Also, here's an epic thrashing of a Ralph Peters column in the New York Post by Daniel Larison.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Some good news for Obama

I think it's fair to say that Obama won the news cycle quite decisively today, first with the huge endorsement of Colin Powell, and then with the stunning announcement that his campaign raised $150 million in September, busting his old record of $66 million wide open.

Powell is significant for a number of reasons. He is well-respected by both the media and the public, not to mention moderates of all political stripes, and he carries a great deal of authority on issues of national security. He was also a member of the Bush administration, and it's unusual whenever the former Secretary of State of an outgoing President endorses the candidate from the other party. And his endorsement was unequivocal and eloquent, going into detail about how McCain and the Republican party have disappointed him.

And then there was this:

That was Obama speaking in front of 100,000 people in St. Louis yesterday. I don't think I'm going out on a limb here predicting that Missouri is likely to turn blue this year.

Republicans are already emotionally preparing themselves for defeat. But in a bad way. Here's billmon from Daily Kos:

With the prospect of a bone-crushing election defeat staring them full in the face, the diehard rump of the conservative movement is already busy fashioning a narrative to explain the dissolution of its world -- the one that Ronald Reagan built and that George W. Bush (with an assist from Wall Street) has thoroughly trashed.

And the emerging story line appears to be, roughly, that ACORN did it.

Given the underlying proclivities of the modern conservative movement (Sarah Palin division) we should have understood that sooner or later it would come to something as absurd as this. Failed authoritarian movements needs scapegoats the way fecal coliform bacteria need a steady supply of raw sewage, and this one has a lot of failures that need explaining.

The remarkable thing, of course, is the right's effort to make the ACORN boogie man do double duty: responsible not only for the looming "theft" of American democracy (per John McCain) but also for bringing the US and global financial system to its knees (per any number of conservative quacks economists and cranks pundits).

You have to admit: That's a damned impressive revolutionary track record for an obscure group of community organizers operating on a shoestring budget. I mean, who needs the Red Army when you've got ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act?

It would be easy to dismiss this lunacy as a manifestation of what the social scientist Richard Hofstader called the "paranoid style" in American politics. And some liberals have already made the connection. As far as the grassroots hysterics are concerned(i.e. the sort of people who are obsessed with the kerning and font size on Barack Obama's "alleged" birth certificate) this is no doubt true.

But I think by now it's also very clear that the GOP high commmand -- as far back as the Twin Cities white power rally, if not before -- deliberately adopted the demonization of ACORN/community organizers/the poor as a proxy for the hatred that no longer dares to speak its real name (except at the occasional Sarah Palin rally).

I think this strategy serves two purposes. One is obvious: to play upon traditional racial and class resentments to try to win back middle-class and working-class voters who might otherwise be waivering as they watch their jobs, their homes and their already inadequate retirement savings go spinning around the hole in the bottom of the economic toilet bowl.

Click the link for more.

I think this hits pretty close to the mark. When you even have McCain comparing Obama's tax plan to "welfare", it's pretty hard to deny that Republicans are pinning all their remaining hopes on white middle class racial resentment. The fact that this comes at a time of middle class economic crisis makes it all the more repellent. The Republicans royally fucked things up for the middle class, and yet they're counting on middle class ignorance to carry them to victory this year. My gut tells me they'll be disappointed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Draft McKenna!

It looks like Stephane Dion is going to step down Monday, and I wish him all the best. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate, and charming individual who just isn't all that great a politician.

So without further ado, the Liberals must draft Frank McKenna as their parliamentary leader.

McKenna was the popular premier of my home province of New Brunswick for ten years, resigning in 1997, since he promised to only serve that long. His policies were all about jobs, and he convinced businesses to invest in NB through traditional means like tax incentives but also a more personal touch: direct phone calls to businessmen and professionals. He even had a toll-free number direct to his office, 1-800-MCKENNA that anyone could use. This was not a man afraid to face his constituents. More recently, he was the ambassador to the US, and he is currently Deputy Chairman of TD Bank (which is valuable experience given the financial turmoil afflicting the globe).

Most importantly, he's a good communicator, a credible leader, and speaks flawless English.

The only problem is that he doesn't seem to want the job! And the Liberals will probably cruise to another defeat without him. But if he runs, he can count on my vote.

UPDATE: Maybe I spoke too soon; from yesterday's paper:

Could McKenna be the Liberal leader?

Even a broken neo-con is right sometimes

This is NYT columnist Tom Friedman on Real Time the other night:

Now, Friedman is an asshole. He was a huge cheerleader of the Iraq war, and became infamous for his Friedman Units (FUs) of roughly three to six months, after which the situation in that country would either get better or the war would be lost. This image illustrates the concept. Or more succinctly:

So anyway, he's a total douchebag.

But even douchebags are capable of being right from time to time, whatever their motivations or pretensions toward greater understanding.

This "Drill baby, drill!" nonsense is the saddest excuse for an energy policy that I've ever seen. Even Stephen Harper sees the logic in carbon markets (though he tries to avoid admitting it in public), but the American Right is intent on sticking their heads in the sand and desperately hanging on to an obsolete economy and an unsustainable lifestyle.

Offshore drilling is not going to save them from $4/gallon gas. Nor will it save the middle class. Ironically, the opposite course of action can.

Red Tory, also responding to Friedman, wonders why liberals have such a difficult time selling this simple message:

It drove me completely mental that during the last election, and leading up to it, St├ęphane Dion was hopelessly incapable of creating a broader framework and context for his “Green Shift” and it therefore simply became, as described by the Conservatives, a “tax on everything.” Once again, liberals demonstrate how, in recent years at least, they consistently get outfoxed by conservatives when it comes to “framing” issues. When will they ever learn these simple lessons? Oy.

In some of the Liberal commercials they mentioned “green jobs” or something like that, but there was no substance to it other than being a pleasing expression. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t discuss some of the exciting new technology that’s emerging that the government could have helped to facilitate with various incentives. Most people would probably agree that Stephen Harper isn’t exactly a man of vision — except to the extent of imaging Canada as being an “energy superpower” with oil extraction programs of “Brobignagian “ proportions (yes, he actually said that). And yet, we see our manufacturing sector and industrial infrastructure gradually falling apart — whether because demand for the products being made is diminishing (much of the automotive sector… wrong vehicles at the wrong time) or because it’s simply no longer “competitive” in a low-wage global race to the bottom. What’s needed is investment to revitalize that sector of the economy focusing on technologies of the future, not trying to prop up the remains of soon-to-be legacy industries.

This is going to be a tough perception to crack. The public, by and large, associates environmentalist policies with more government spending and thus higher taxes, and also stricter regulation that may hamper economic growth. The great challenge for environmentalists over the next few years is to demonstrate that this shift toward a greener economy is not only necessary, but possibly very beneficial for our economic prospects.

"New industries and new jobs" is the message that people should take away from this. Higher taxes on gasoline are beside the point, because the ultimate goal is to make gasoline itself obsolete.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catching up

Sorry about the lack of updates, just too much real life business to take care of.

1. I missed the first 20 minutes or so of the debate, but from what I saw, it was same old, same old. Obama gave generally better answers and was calm and collected throughout the entire thing, while McCain lied and blustered his way through with ideology, not substance, all while struggling to control his temper and hide his contempt for his rival.

The talking heads on CNN seem to think McCain did very well through the first half hour or so, but started losing his way when they got into the Ayers/ACORN stuff.

Things that made me want to yell at the TV screen:

- McCain dishonestly blaming the financial crisis on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (see Matt Taibbi's epic IM takedown of Byron York).

- McCain lying about ACORN and voter fraud.

- McCain lying about Obama voting to let babies die.

- McCain repeatedly stressing how important it was to make health care more affordable, even after Obama eviscerated his sham of a plan.

2. Ah, the Canadian election. I don't have much to say about it, really. It went down about how I expected. Harper made some gains, but it's still a minority government, so either he gets the support of one or more opposition parties to pass legislation, or he just makes everything a confidence vote, daring the opposition to take him down.

Clearly Harper's attacks on the cultural industry and his support of tougher measures on youth crime hurt him badly in Quebec. If it hadn't been for those two things, he might have gotten his majority, bad economic news or no.

3. The stock market took another dive today (the Dow suffered its worst percentage loss since 1987; remember, 700 points means a lot more when your starting point is 9200).

What did I say last week? I said I'm buying this week...but I might actually have to extend that to next week.

Some economists think the bottom is around a thousand points lower than the current level (that goes for both Canada and the US). They're the pessimistic economists of course, but perhaps a little pessimism is the right attitude after the massive clusterfuck that has been perpetrated on an unsuspecting populace.

One thing is for sure, smart investors (and I humbly claim to be a reasonably smart one) will be able to get a lot of value at rock-bottom prices. Even after the Great Depression, the stock market did go back up, and money invested back then has since doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or quintupled several times over. This might not be another Great Depression, but it is, at minimum, a severe market correction. And stocks are a terrific bargain right now.....just wait a few more days and see what happens.

4. Kos has a good post up about some inexplicable McCain campaign decisions. For instance, why is he still spending millions of dollars on advertisements in Iowa and Pennsylvania? Obama is ahead by double digits in both states. If McCain wants any chance of winning at all, he needs to concentrate ALL his efforts on Florida and Ohio, and pray for some game-changer that shifts the fundamentals in his favor so that states like Virginia and Colorado stay red. Iowa and Pennsylvania are the last swing states that would shift in his favor, if they can even be considered swing states at this point.

5. And just because my day would not be complete without exposing yet another lie from Sarah Palin, this here is probably her worst yet. Steve Benen explains:

I can understand Sarah Palin feeling humiliated by her Troopergate scandal. An independent investigation concluded that she violated state ethics, abused the powers of her office, and lied about it. This isn't exactly easy to spin away this kind of violation of the public trust.

It was odd, then, to hear Palin tell reporters on Saturday that she's "very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing, any hint of any kind of unethical activity there." This was, of course, the exact opposite of reality. The Anchorage Daily News called Palin's response "an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation." The editorial added, "Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.... Palin's response is the kind of political 'big lie' that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down."

Naturally, then, Palin repeated the lie yesterday.

"The report that came out also was very clear in that there was no unethical or unlawful behavior on my part," Palin told a local CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, adding, "No abuse of power there at all."

This is just madness. The report was unambiguous -- Palin "abused her power." She "violated" the "Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act." Even Sarah Palin can read this and understand the plain meaning of basic words.

This makes Palin's breathtaking lies all the more remarkable. She said the report was "very clear" that she hadn't done anything "unethical" and there was "no abuse of power" at all. I don't think I've ever seen a politician lie so brazenly.

No? Where have you been the last two months, Steve?

....oh, I kid Steve Benen. He's been invaluable in cataloging all of this crap, and yes, this lie probably takes the cake.

That's all I got.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Patriots blues

Quick whine before bed....

No, this is not the same Patriots team without Brady. At times, they look almost capable, and at other times, they look like defeated has-beens. Matt Cassel, bless his heart, just doesn't have the talent or the experience to carry this team. At best, he can manage games against inferior opponents. But he can't throw the deep ball with much confidence, he's useless in the red zone, and he doesn't understand the concept of "get rid of the damn ball before you get sacked!".

That is all I have to say.

Nearing the finish line

Canadians will go to the polls on Tuesday (if they haven't already), and most likely elect a Parliament that will probably have a few fewer Liberal seats, and a few more Conservative and NDP seats. The Greens will likely fail once again to elect a single MP. Harper tried to beat the clock on the financial crisis, and failed. But this only means a minority instead of a majority; not a Liberal government.

I'm a little depressed about this outcome, because I think the Liberals had by far the best platform of the major parties, with a bold (but not radical) attempt to address both climate change and a changing energy economy in one swift stroke, and also the promise of competent economic stewardship in a time of crisis.

On the other hand, Harper's Conservatives offered very little in the way of new ideas, preferring to run on "leadership", and present Harper as a cuddly teddy bear in blue sweaters, as opposed to the cold, emotionless robot that much of the public believes he is. The latter met with limited success, but the "leadership" thing was enough for some, including MacLeans and The Globe and Mail, both of which endorsed Harper.

I must say that I am troubled at the ease by which Harper shifts positions whenever convenient. Afghanistan is a good example; just a year ago, Harper was positively Mavericky, insisting that a timetable for withdrawal was a bad, bad idea. Now, he has announced a set date for a complete pullout, in direct opposition to NATO strategy overall. Then there was income trusts. And fixed election dates.

Harper has attempted to govern from the center, but he has one undeniable conservative accomplishment: getting money out of Ottawa. That was the rationale behind the GST cut, which was bad economics, but brilliant politics. That was the rationale behind "equalization" payments. And it has gone pretty much unnoticed.

Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your own beliefs. But there is a strong undercurrent of cynicism inherent in Harper's style of politicking.

No stranger to dirty politics, having been smeared as a crazy right wing nutjob who would put troops on our streets, Harper has turned the tables on his adversaries, and used much the same tactics in defining Dion as weak and indecisive, and convincing a sizable percentage of the Canadian population that a carbon tax is something to be feared, and a potentially disastrous blow to our stumbling economy. Harper knows this isn't true. Hell, the Conservative environmental plan (which would include indirect cap and trade markets, through carbon "credits" that can be earned by firms that beat their regulatory targets) kinda sorta puts a price on carbon too, but it's slightly more opaque. Here's Andrew Coyne:

In sum, the Conservative plan is just as costly (per tonne of emissions reduced) as the Liberals', twice as complicated (emissions trading markets are, as Europe has learned, fiendishly difficult to design: just the task of ensuring credits are based on "real, incremental, verifiable" reductions would take several pages to explain), and probably half as effective. (Not that there's anything wrong with cap-and-trade. But to get anywhere near our targets, we're probably going to need both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade, as indeed the Liberals propose.) The Tory plan has, however, proved unassailably superior in political terms. The very thing that makes the Liberal plan less risky economically — the costs are known up front — makes it more risky politically. The Conservatives have succeeded in implying, without quite saying, that the choice is between a costly scheme and no costs at all. They've hit the political sweet spot: enough of a plan to say they have a plan, but not so much as to get in anyone's face.

He goes on to note that while the Green Shift is unconvincing in its committment to revenue neutrality, and far from a perfect plan, the Conservatives take the cake in demagoguery:

But it is the Conservatives who have been the demagogues-in-chief in this affair. Among the long-term costs will be Conservative credibility. The same Conservatives who have told us for years that prices, in a market economy, are to be preferred to regulation as a means of changing economic behaviour, suddenly forget their economics when it comes to pricing carbon. The same Conservatives who have long insisted that tax rates are critical to incentives seemingly cannot comprehend the logic of shifting taxes from income to carbon. And the same Conservatives who have long lectured us that "corporations don't pay taxes, people do" — that any costs imposed on business will inevitably be passed on, usually to consumers — would rather we forgot they ever mentioned it.

Dion tried, and mostly failed, to make the argument that a Green Shift is not too expensive to risk, but too expensive to put off. We need a green economy to compete in the 21st century. No one who seriously considers the issue will deny this. And it isn't going to happen with intensity based targets and a 2006 baseline.

So yeah, I'm a little unhappy with the way things are going.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thanksgiving roundup

First off, happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I'm driving home to New Brunswick tomorrow to spend a few days with my folks, so my time available for blogging will be limited.

There were two funny stories yesterday.

First, after sliming Obama for the entire week with the worst kinds of personal attacks, and riling up rabid crowds of right wingers, McCain was forced to tone things down at a campaign event, asking his supporters to be "respectful" towards the Democrat, adding that no one needs to be afraid of him, and that he is a "decent person". This is welcome, of course, though the fact that McCain's pleas for calm met with boos can't be too encouraging.

As always, you reap what you sow. I realize McCain is desperate. But inciting hate and violence is a lot worse for your legacy than losing a presidential campaign. As badly as he clearly wants to win this thing, I doubt he wants to be remembered as a racist hate monger. And that was the trajectory that his campaign was headed on.

The second funny story was that after numerous attempts at derailing the investigation and lying about her role in the affair, Palin was found guilty by a bipartisan Alaskan legislative panel of abusing her power in Troopergate. The panel found that she had abused the power of her office in pushing for the removal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he refused to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law. The firing itself was lawful, as Mongan served at the Governor's pleasure. But like the US Attorneys scandal, just because something is technically legal does not make it ethical. And Palin (motivated primarily by her husband, it seems) clearly acted unethically.

Is this vetting we can believe in? For their part, the McCain campaign is predictably claiming that this was a partisan witch hunt (despite it being a bipartisan panel mostly composed of Republicans), politically motivated (even though this investigation had begun before McCain chose Palin as his VP), and even that the report vindicates Palin, since it shows that she had legal authority to fire this guy. Of course, that was never in question. We already knew she had the authority. The question was whether she had abused that authority.

In any case, while honest conservatives like Christopher Buckley continue to jump ship, the Right-wing meltdown continues. Michael Barone wrote a column today entitled The Coming Obama Thugocracy. Thugocracy? Well, he's from Chicago, you see.

And Andy McCarthy (such an appropriate name...) wonders today whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama's book. Seriously.

These people are batshit insane. In fairness, a Barack Obama Presidency could be pretty bad:

The time has come to ask: What might happen to our country if we elect a black Muslim terrorist president?

Dave and Hilzoy have noted some concerns on the part of our friends on the Right that Barack Obama may not actually be what he appears to be -- a centrist Democrat with the most mild of reformist impulses -- but rather a secret radical Manchurian monkey boy, who has spent decades hiding all of his actual beliefs and allegiances, in order to better destroy our very way of life.

This is an interesting theory, which it seems to me they are far too quick to dismiss as barking paranoia, of the classic American style. In the alternative, I'd like to suggest what some might consider a worst-case scenario for an Obama administration -- but one that will seem all too plausible to anyone who is familiar with the ideology and techniques of the Left.

Predictions: Within a few months of Obama's election, a couple of major U.S. cities will be the sites of a huge terrorist attack that kills thousands of Americans. The Obama administration will use this as an excuse for violating our civil liberties on an unprecedented scale, by setting up Gulag-style detention centers, where people will be held for years without any access to the legal system. Some of these people will be, I predict, actually tortured, as we all know the Left is completely dedicated to the idea that the ends justify the means, and that it has no respect for The Rule of Law.

But this will only be the beginning. Being a radical black militant, Obama will simply ignore any legal requirements that interfere with doing what he deems necessary to "protect" America. Indeed, I predict this power-drunk Negro will carry out secret and illegal spying operations against Americans on a scale Richard Nixon could only dream of. Then, in a veritable Maoist orgy of contempt for the very idea of law, he will demand that the legislature legalize his lawbreaking after the fact.

Moreover, Hussein Obama will have no trouble finding radical law professors and other viral strains of anti-Americanism in our institutions of higher learning, to justify whatever totalitarian theory of a "unitary executive" he might want to deploy. The argument, you can safely bet, will be that the Constitution grants this dusky interloper with a funny name UNLIMITED AND UNREVIEWABLE CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS to "protect the nation," and there won't be a thing our rump Congress and impotent courts will be able to do about it.

Furthermore, I predict an Obama administration will distract the public from its own treasonous incomptence through the oldest dirty political trick in the book: war. Obama will simply deem some nation to be our mortal enemy and a threat to our very existence. He will then invade it.

How can he get away with that you might well ask? The answer is all too predictable: such a war will be justified to the public on the basis of Maoist-Stalinist-Democrat-Nazi-style propaganda, fed to the public by a cowed and complacent Mainstream Media (MSM). And, because the administration will be riddled with neopotistic incompetents, appointed only because of their previous connections to the Great Tribal Chief, this war will be waged with maximum ineptitude, leading to hundreds of thousands of pointless deaths and trillions of dollars of wasted wealth.

After years of the sort of shiftlessness and corruption we all know is the trademark of certain kinds of people, That One will have undermined our entire economy to the point where the financial markets are crashing -- creating an opening for the nationalizing of banks, insurance companies, government-backed mortgage agencies, and anything else the inner city street gang that will be running what used to be America can manage to get their thieving socialistic bongo-playing hands on.

A paranoid nightmare you say? Just wait eight years, and get back to me then.

Brilliant snark.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The politics of hate

(Palin: "Hey, I'm just askin' questions,")

Inflammatory Republican rallies raise concerns

Shouts of "terrorist" and "treason" aimed at Barack Obama have echoed around Republican rallies, whipping up into alarming, hate-filled frenzies against the Democratic White House hopeful.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has taken to asking, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" at rallies this week, leading one supporter in Pennsylvania, a blue-collar battleground state to shout back, "he is a bomb."

Before the rally, local Republican leader Bill Platt warmed up the crowd by several times referring to "Barack Hussein Obama," focusing on the Illinois senator's middle name, trying to highlight his differences with other Americans.

Chants of "Nobama, Nobama" mingled with cries of "terrorist," as one banner in the crowd declared: "Go ahead, let the dogs out."

Yeah, it certainly is a bit concerning that Republican rallies have become hate-filled frenzies directed against a black Presidential candidate, calling him a "terrorist" and a "traitor". Here's Glenn Greenwald:

Just look at the videotapes of the angry, hateful hordes attending these rallies — screaming that Obama is a socialist; that he’s both a Muslim and a terrorist as proven by his “bloodline” and his name; that his supporters are “commie faggots”; that he’s guilty of treason; underscored by increasing racial invective and even punctuated in one case by a call from an audience member for someone to be killed. These aren’t just isolated individuals; these sentiments are common at these rallies and becoming increasingly virulent and enraged — at the rallies and otherwise

And worst of all, all of this rage and this innuendo is taking place in the most volatile climate of all — one of severe economic distress and anxiety — and these mobs are increasingly becoming convinced, because the Right and the McCain/Palin campaign is leading them to believe it, that this economic crisis is the fault of the black candidate — Obama — for making banks give mortgages to racial minorities. As an email printed just now by Jonah Goldberg put it — defending someone at a McCain/Palin rally today who screamed he was “very angry” at Obama the “socialist”:
He, and the rest of the conservatives in this country are sick and tired of
being taken for granted, having our money stolen by the government and given to
lazy, ungrateful people who don’t contribute or produce (or often, aren’t even
citizens) anything.

This is what happens when you stoke the fury and resentments of people looking for scapegoats and work them into a blind rage. And they didn’t just pop up and start believing this. They’re saying this because the core premise of the McCain/Palin campaign has become that Barack Hussein Obama is a Terrorist-sympathizer, being funded by secret Arab sources, who hates the military and the troops. As McCain now asks in his most sinister tone in every speech: Who is the real Barack Obama? As National Review’s illustratively deranged Andy McCarthy put it: ” Someone is either a terrorist sympathizer or he isn’t; someone is either disqualified as a terrorist sympathizer or he’s qualified for public office.”

Look at those videos linked above if you haven’t seen them (this one, this one and this one). Is there anything even remotely comparable taking place at Obama rallies? Are the accusations against McCain even arguably similar to the Right’s relentless and self-evidently dangerous depiction of Obama as a military-hating, subversive Muslim and Terrorist? What do we do with Terrorists and traitors — or, in the past, with those wanting to take over the U.S. with a secret socialist agenda? We kill them. If that’s what Obama is, if that’s what hordes of enraged right-wing mobs are becoming convinced of and having those passions stoked, then what should be done to Obama — just merely defeat him in the presidential campaign?

Yeah, don't we kill terrorists and traitors? All I can say is that the Secret Service better be extra-vigilant from now until November 4th, because this is an extremely dangerous thing that McCain/Palin are promoting.

It's pretty damn scary, and a perfect illustration of how morally and intellectually bankrupt the American Right has become. While their "intellectuals" debate over the extent of Obama's Communist beliefs, their foot soldiers rile up crowds with inflammatory and racist language.

This is all they have left.

For a more visceral illustration of this phenomena, watch these videos:

And the funny thing is that Obama predicted this exactly:

Next week, as the stock market keeps tanking and McCain falls ever further in the polls, expect to hear a lot more about an individual named Jeremiah Wright.

(Photo: Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Loony loonie

Our dollar took a record dive today, briefly falling below 83 cents USD, but recovering to close the day at 84.69, losing about 2 and half cents, and more than 10% since last Friday.

It doesn't make much sense to me, but like everything else with our markets, the loonie is reacting to the whirlwind of bad economic news from the United States, pushing oil prices down (oil closed at $78/barrel today), and sending world currencies plummeting against the dollar as investors liquidate their shaky assets all across the globe, in favor of the relative safety of US Treasury bonds.

I say "relative" saftey because I don't have much long term confidence in the US dollar either. $10-13 trillion of debt is nothing to sneeze at. And while central bankers may currently be fretting about the possibility of deflation, currency devaluation is going to start to look awfully tempting once Social Security and Medicare become insolvent just a few years down the road.

Oh well, even if our currency is tanking, at least we're not in as bad shape as Iceland:

Iceland suspended trading on its stock exchange for two days and took control of the country's largest bank — the third to be placed under its protective umbrella — on Thursday as it grappled with a banking crisis that is threatening to engulf the entire country.

The Nordic nation's government also used sweeping new emergency powers to create a new bank that will take over the bulk of the domestic operations of another one of its collapsed banks.

The country is struggling to get a grip on the collapse of its top-heavy banking system, a situation that Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde has warned is putting Iceland at risk of "national bankruptcy."

The crisis is also causing ripples throughout Europe, where tens of thousands of people have accounts with subsidiaries of the Icelandic banks.

Holy shit.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bottoming out

I would have more to say about the plummeting stock markets, but I'm sick, tired and grumpy, and have little energy or motivation for blogging right now. So I'll just leave you with a few informative links.

Here's something positive, Canadian banks ranked soundest in the world. (the US is ranked 40)

CIBC says that the world will avoid a global recession, and Jim Flaherty says that Canada is "well-positioned" to weather this crisis, but does anyone actually believe them?

Dean Baker says that low stock prices are actually good news for us young folks who can buy them really cheap and see them grow astronomically once the markets recover. I know I'm buying. But not until next week.

My initial reaction to McCain's latest idea to save the world was fair. It's a joke.

And poor Dion, just when he was gaining in the polls, he goes and fumbles an easy question on the economy during a CTV interview. Repeatedly. (I understand that he has a slight hearing problem, but it seems like he has trouble understanding the concept of the question, which is more than a little weird)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Does the Right really believe Obama is a radical?

While they wrangle over whether Obama is Maoist or Stalinist over at the NRO Corner, and while the McCain campaign continues to push Bill Ayers on an unreceptive public, Daniel Larison injects some common sense into the debate:

I’d like to think that I have also more or less recognized the same thing that David Sirota saw in Obama months and months ago, which is his avoidance of confronting power and his aversion to risk. His preference for consensus-building and his habit of using conciliatory language, which annoyed so many progressives early on, show him to be the opposite of a radical; he has no interest in getting at the root of our current problems, but generally wants cosmetic changes and wants to tweak how things are managed. Flipping on the FISA legislation and signing off on the bailout are just two prominent examples from this year of how he yields to establishment consensus; his less-than-outspoken opposition to the war inside the Senate, his half-a-loaf withdrawal plan and his endorsement of the Iraq Study Group proposals are more examples of his desire, as Kass says, to go along and get along.

Sirota has argued persuasively that Obama yields to powerful interests, which bothered him particularly in connection with Obama’s trade and economic policies, but whatever area of policy you’re in you can come away with the consolation or disappointment that Obama will accommodate himself to the status quo. This is the real reason why trying to portray him as the terrorist’s pal or as a raging anti-American black nationalist (and, again, I have to stress that it is the anti-Americanism of Ayers and Wright that agitates the people who obsess about them) is so profoundly stupid.

I think this is mostly right. Obama's nature is that of a pragmatist. He may associate with people who have radical views, but only as far as it helps accomplish some policy goal, or, let's be honest, as it furthers his own ambitions.

Obama served on the same board (headed by a Republican, BTW) as William Ayers in Chicago because he wanted to improve the public school system, not because he was somehow sympathetic to setting off bombs in government buildings. Obama went to Jeremiah Wright's Black Liberation church not because he thinks the country is the United States of KKK, but because he felt needed to make inroads with the black community (at least that's my opinion), and going to a church popular among African Americans was a good way to make that connection.

These facts seem self-evident, and they paint a picture of a politician who is perhaps a little cynical, but certainly no radical. Of course, Republicans love to say that Obama has never gone against his own party, and claim that this somehow disproves any pretence of pragmatism and bipartisanship. This is ridiculous for a couple reasons.

First of all, real bipartisanship is not limited to jumping ship from your own party to support some legislative idea from the other party, it also includes convincing members of the other party that your party is right. And in the case of Obama, his party happens to have been mostly right over the past few years, or at least less wrong than the other party.

And for all these right-wingers whining about Obama's supposed lack of bipartisanship, I'd love just one of them to acknowledge that the Democratic Congress caves in on most of Bush's demands as soon as he stamps his feet. I mean, they haven't stopped funding the war or slapped him down on FISA. Actually, don't get me started on FISA. That's the kind of "bipartisanship" these idiots want.

Health care shennenigans

Last night, McCain once again claimed that Obama's health care plan would require mandates, in the tried and true tradition of right-wingers demagoguing "socialized medicine".

Let's go right to the source.

The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan. Under the Obama-Biden plan, patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats.

Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.

If you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options.

Clear enough for everyone?

The major thrust of this is to say that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or risk factors. The plan will also include tax credits, measures to increase competition in the industry, measures to decrease the cost of prescription drugs, expansions of SCHIP and Medicaid, and make the public insurance available to members of Congress also available to its financiers, the public.

It's a good plan, but as far as I'm concerned, the entire HMO system should be scrapped. There is no reason that what works so well in the rest of the industrialized world cannot work in the US. None at all.

The only thing holding it back is this utterly dishonest and self-interested misrepresentation of universal health care by right-wing politicians. And the Democrats, helpless against such an entrenched meme, can only offer half-way solutions that will treat the symptoms, but not the disease.

It's the economy, stupid

It doesn't look like Harper will get his majority:

The problem the Tories face is that they didn't anticipate the breadth of this crisis when they called the election. And so they went into it without a coherent response. Big no-no. Harper's initial reaction was to say the Canadian economy was doing fine and deny that anything needed to change, which the opposition parties leapt on.

The irony here is that Harper's policies have nothing to do with the crisis, at least as it pertains to the financial sector. Our financial sector is healthy insofar as it is shielded from the US. Which may not be too reassuring, but the problems we currently face are certainly not a result of Harper favoring US style deregulation.

That is not to say that our economy hasn't been stuttering in other ways (Ontario's economy was basically already in recession before all this hit), but I sometimes think we fail to realize just how dependent we are on the US. 90% of our trade is conducted with our southern neighbor, and that's why Ontario is suffering, not because Harper cut the GST or didn't give enough subsidies to artists.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Debate liveblogging

Yup, I'm liveblogging the debate. Could be fun. Or it could be a disaster, with me veering off into incoherent rants and shouting obscenities at the television. We're about to find out either way.

Just one thing to clear up for all you Western elites. In Atlantic Canada we use Atlantic Time, not Eastern Time. So the debate starts at 10pm.

9:58 - On CNN, Gloria Borger just said that each candidate should emphasize that they "have a plan" to solve the financial crisis. That only works if you actually do have a plan.

10:00 - From what I'm reading, this "town hall" format is a bit of a farce. The questions are pre-selected, and there are no followups available for the questioners, nor can the cameramen capture the reaction of the questioners after the candidate has given their BS answer. Nice.

10:03 - You have to think that was an awkward handshake.

10:05 - Obama's scoring pretty well on that annoying dial that CNN has. They liked it when he vowed to crack down on CEOs who abused the bailout.

10:08 - Did McCain just propose that the way to solve the crisis is to renegotiate all the bad mortgages at the current house values? That's insane, and totally misses the point.

10:13 - Oh boy, here we go with Fannie May and Freddie Mac. McCain has no idea what he's talking about here, but he doesn't care.

10:17 - That was a pretty good deflection of the Fannie stuff: "What Senator McCain just said was bullshit, but that's not what you want us to talk about".

10:23 - McCain's saying that he's been a "consistent reformer", but he hasn't reformed anything related to the financial crisis.

10:25 - McCain: We have to promote solar and wind energy! We have to reform health care! Because your platform doesn't do either.

10:29 - Brokaw's whining about the time. I don't get it; let them talk! Who cares if they go a little overschedule? This is important stuff.

10:30 - Here he goes again with his ridiculous "spending freeze" idea. Obama should call him out on this.

10:33 - Obama's doing a pretty good job of calling the nation to service in regard to energy. This is what being a leader is all about.

10:37 - McCain's back to lying about Obama's tax policies. Saying that Obama will raise taxes for half of small business owners. I'm honestly not sure whether that is true, but I doubt it.

10:40 - Good defense of the tax plan. Brokaw didn't want to let him respond, but Obama tied it into the question, which was about entitlement programs.

10:43 - Creepy McCain laugh, followed by yet another repetition of the "Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times" lie. Grrrr....

10:48 - Ha, Obama turns the "voted x number of times against y" attack against McCain on alternative energy issue. Also points out that a green economy creates jobs. Good. I just don't see how the GOP has any credibility on this issue when their entire energy policy is "Drill baby, drill!".

And Brokaw's still whining about the time! Shut up Tom! You're irritating me.

10:50 - Now Brokaw's laughing at McCain's dumb jokes! WTF?

10:55 - There's really no comparison between the two health care plans. Which is probably why McCain is lying once again about Obama's plan requiring mandates. He's not even answering the charge about taxing employer health benefits.

10:59 - Obama: Health care is a right. Also, you're damn right there is a mandate, for children. Not for small businesses, and not for anyone else. And McCain voted against children's health care.

11:05 - McCain: The surge is working! Obama: Yeah, but the war was a bad idea and it's costing us at least a trillion dollars.

This is starting to get quite predictable.

11:12 - You have to wonder if it might have been smarter for Obama to just backtrack on Pakistan months ago. Instead, he's being forced to defend his position on cross-border raids again and again.

Just a side observation; it's pretty sedate so far. I don't think this is what McCain needed to change the tenor of this race. Obama's playing it safe too.

11:16 - Ooh, Obama just nailed him on "Bomb, bomb Iran" and nuking North Korea. Speak softly, my ass. And if McCain knows how to get Bin Laden, why isn't he sharing this strategy with the Bush administration?

11:19 - Unlike Palin, Obama knows General McKiernan's name. And McCain still doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.

11:25 - "Is Putin's Russia a new Evil Empire? Yes or no". What kind of a stupid ass question is that?

11:29 - McCain: We can't allow a second Holocaust. Obama: I agree, but that's why we need to use all the options at our disposal in dealing with Iran, including negotiation.

11:31 - I notice that women are generally responding a lot better to Obama on the dial.

11:33 - McCain: I kinda sorta grew up in a single parent household too, because my dad was busy off being a four star admiral.

But I bet you never needed to resort to food stamps. I don't think Mr. "I don't know how many houses I own" will ever win the "empathy with the middle class" argument.

11:36 - Okay, signing off for now. My impression is that both candidates did pretty well in a mostly boring debate, but McCain didn't do nearly enough to change the direction this race is going in.