Hold your nose: vote your interest

Racists for Obama?

From Sullivan's Daily Dish:

From Tim Reid for TimesOnline:
A year ago, she said, she would never have voted for Barack Obama “because he looks foreign and he looks like a terrorist”. She said that some of her friends believe he is the Antichrist.

And now? “I'm probably gonna vote for Obama. He'll bring us jobs and health care.”

From Ben Smith:

And more from Ben Smith. Please excuse the repeat:
54 year-old white male, voted Kerry '04, Bush '00, Dole '96, hunter, NASCAR fan...hard for Obama said: "I'm gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He's gonna be a bad president. But I won't ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President."

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."

And then there's this.


The Germanicu$ Pac

A list of resources to get your disenchanted friends to vote. Vote, Germanicu$, vote! Nader, Barr, Baldwin, or Moore, just vote. That way, if McCain wins, I'll know who to blame.

Baby Killers

This is the best defense of abortion rights by far. Starts at 2:45.

On a related note, one third of currently tenured judges were appointed by Bush. Nice. For a little balance, let me state that the one "abortion right" that really pisses me off is the one stipulating that minors can get abortions without their parents' consent. As a parent, that makes me ill. I suppose you can make a strong argument when you have ass-wipes like this one secretly naming their child Sarah McCain Palin, but then the exemption should apply to all major medical decisions not just abortion.



I've heard complaints that comments weren't publishing properly, so I switched to the pop-up box format. Please do let me know if that doesn't work. I think some of the customizing affects functionality on certain web browsers, but hopefully this will do the trick.

As soon as the election is over, I'll be posting a lot more on science. Can't wait. (Sorry, just felt I needed to comment.)

When Brains Collide

It seems that every football game I've seen this season has had a player sidelined with a concussion, so it was nice to see Penn State do the right thing at a very difficult moment in the game by benching quarterback Daryll Clark. Clark was clearly unhappy with the decision, and there would have been a lot of second guessing if Ohio State would have gone on to win the game, but the team doctor made the right call. There was a lot of discussion of concussions last season, and some of the increased attention might be due to the increase in weight among players leading to more devastating crashes, but hopefully Penn State's decision will blaze a trail.

Trouble Brewing

HSBC, one of the few banks to be expanding in the midst of the crisis has a new ad campaign celebrating what? Differences? Class enemies? I'm not sure, but I doubt they've found a new respect for the little guy. If this gains them street cred, it could start a damaging trend for otherwise useful confrontational tactics. Here's two examples:

The first is a full page add I saw in NYT, which they are also running in subway stations, so a massive campaign.

Most of the comments at weapon of class instruction think HSBC hit a foul ball, equating HSBC with rat, so I think it's a good sign that only Zach seems to get it.
The rat is a symbol of unfair labor practices used by unions against bad bosses.
HSBC is using the tactics that workers use against it to sell itself as an enlightened, global brand.
I think it goes beyond that, in that HSBC, by recognizing and celebrating the power of solidarity and clout that the rat represents, deflates the power of the speech.

The other is a jarring commercial depicting loggers vs. tree-huggers posted by Wall$treet Fighter.

See? We can all get along.

Definitely read the comments:
This commercial is awesome, it's really nice to see a large bank like HSBC put out a very strong advertisement to humanize themselves in a manner that isn't cliche or timid. And HSBC is not just doing lip service by producing an environmental ad. In 2006, Time magazine declared them the greenest bank and since then, HSBC has dedicated $100 million to green intiatives aimed at fighting global warming and another $200 million in researching renewable energy
This commenter goes on to add that they aren't as good as Bank of America, but still, "good work." Other comments are even worse:
Guess I'm a sucker then for sentiment. Not that i'm changing banks or anything, but i did get a little teary . . . Is it better to adhere to one's convictions over blood or marriage... or should family always supercede personal politics? Is it possible to compromise without diluting either? I really don't know

I know capitalism is always good at coopting its enemies, but I do hope this ad campaign fails.


America hates children

The MSM attacks on Palin for charging the good people of Alaska and the McCain campaign for her children's travel expenses are emblematic of this country's true attitude towards children. There's plenty of talk about family values, but when it comes down to it the motto is children should be neither seen nor heard. And this attitude has been happily promoted by an ever-expanding (age wise) youth culture that is horrified by the inconvenience of other people's children. Children are only welcome at children-themed events, and elsewhere day care is never provided. Public meetings? Forget about it. Private meetings? Even less!

I was going to point to the attacks from liberal blogs about this, but you can see it in media sources across the spectrum. I don't think conservatives are any better on this issue, even if they might be mum on this now. Their concern for children ends at conception. It's pretty much an American cultural phenomenon. All the labor events I've attended in Mexico, or any events really, that were truly open to women had children running around and in many cases organizations paid for travel of children accompanying their mothers. The only labor events in the US I have been at that have been friendly to children have been organized by Latinos or immigrants. I might be way off on this, but I also have the impression that maquiladoras have way better day care than your average US factory. Any takers?

Books for Girls

Maybe it's just my elitist taste, but I always have trouble finding good children's books with girls as protagonists. So, for all my peeps with daughters, here's a few children's books I recommend:

Clara & Señor Frog is a cool take on a little girl who becomes an artist after her mom marries a Diego Rivera lookalike.

Sadie The Air Mail Pilot is a delightful story of perseverance in the face of all logic. Neither sleet, nor snow, nor common sense stops tenacious Sadie!

Maricastaña y el ángel is an awesomely weird tale of a little girl who learns to write, but is horrified by the prospect of her daddy humiliating a goose by taking one of its feathers, so she proceeds to deplumate an angel instead.

Julieta y su caja de colores is about a girl who learns to discover new worlds with her paint brush.

The Knuffle Bunny Too is pretty awesome, especially the midnight handoff at Grand Army Plaza. And I love how my daughter insists on me reading the applelog.

I'm lukewarm on theWinnie the Witch series, but my daughter just loves Winnie.

In general, I also dig ¿Cómo Como? and the Happy Lion series. Bonjour, Happy Lion!


Glad I hadn't had breakfast yet

This turned my stomach this morning.
Brian Williams: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under this definition?

Sarah Palin: (Exasperated sigh.) There’s no question that Bill Ayers by his own admittance was one who thought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There is no question there. Now others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that it would be unacceptable to, I don’t know if you’re gonna use the word "terrorist" there.

The worse it gets, the better it gets. Pt III

Neuroscientist Peter Whybrow sees a golden opportunity to bring balance to the American Dream.
Our built-in dopamine-reward system makes instant gratification highly desirable, and the future difficult to balance with the present. This worked fine on the savanna, said Whybrow, but not the suburbs: We gorge on fatty foods and use credit cards to buy luxuries we can't actually afford. And then, overworked, underslept and overdrawn, we find ourselves anxious and depressed.

That individual weakness is reflected at the social level, in markets that have outgrown their agrarian roots and no longer constrain our excesses — resulting in the current economic crisis, in which America's unpaid bills came due with shocking speed.
But with this crisis, said Whybrow, comes the opportunity to rethink how Americans live, as individuals and as a nation, and build a country that works.

"We're primed for doing things immediately. We're poor at planning for the future, unless we get into circumstances like these, where we're forced to think cleverly about what to do next," he said. "In a way, this financial meltdown is a healthy thing for us. We'll think intuitively again. . ."

"America has always believed that it was the perfect society. When you have that mythology driving your culture, it's hard to look around and say, 'Is someone else doing it better than us?'" said Whybrow. "But you can trace the situation we're in to our evolutionary origins. Now that we find ourselves in the middle of this pseudo-abundance, we're in trouble. And the fantasy that we can restart the American dream just isn't true."

Zen-like tranquility is just around the corner.


No strike on Iran before inauguration

Jonathan Marcus at the BBC claims that plans for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities prior to Bush leaving office have been called off.
Within the Bush administration the tensions between hawks and the more pragmatic voices seem to have reached a stalemate.
Perhaps the president himself does not want to leave as his legacy a Middle East in even greater turmoil.
Accordingly Washington has made its opposition to an imminent Israeli attack against Iran crystal clear.
Indeed the recent American decision to supply Israel with an advanced early warning radar system - to be manned by Americans - is intended, paradoxically, both to strengthen Israel's defences while restricting its freedom of action, independent from Washington.

Small favors.

Of course, Uri Avnery called this one back in July.

Boeing profits down due to strike

Boeing profits down 38% due to "difficulties associated with the strike."


Elitist bastard or just plain bastard?

I used to like Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, mostly for the company they keep, but naming Mitch Albom an honorary elitist bastard? That fucking scab? And for what? For daring say an average schmo is not an ideal choice for President? Hardly seems like a bold stance against the celebration of ignorance.

On a similar note, will all you liberal media elite bastard types lay off on Palin answering third grader questions [1] ? Presumably she's speaking to third graders. Get over yourselves already. What should she say, the Vice President amounts to a warm bucket of piss?

All I wanna do is blog

A few weeks ago I saw this over at the BBC. I thought it was a little out of place for Powell, but what really struck me was this:
"It took a lot of people struggling to bring me to this point in history," Powell told the audience. "I didn't just drop out of the sky. People came from my continent in chains."

I thought, he's getting ready to endorse Obama. Of course, I didn't post that because, come on, how silly can you get? But, lo and behold, I wasn't alone.

The moral of the story: if you want to get ahead in the blogosphere, you gotta post every silly little idea that comes to your head. Otherwise, you'll never stand out from the plebitude. So, callous and stupid aside, let me say that getting Obama's white grandmother in the spotlight two weeks before the election is just what Obama needs to overcome the Angry Black Mack Truck hurling towards us. In the next ten days we are going to see a barrage of Rev. Wright's greatest hits. The McCain camp is getting us ready, since they have no choice but to respond what with Obama's negative campaigning. Any images of Obama's Kansas born and bred grandma will do wonders.

The worse it gets, the better it gets. Pt II

Fareed Zakaria on the Colbert Report celebrates the upside of the economic crisis: America will start saving again. And yet all I hear about is lowering interest rates.


Christopher refuses to agree he's wrong

I love that Hitchens is willing to go on bloggingheads with Alterman to debate if he was wrong. Although, as he says, "at least the subject is me." Many of the comments on this seem to follow the lines of, I agree with Alterman, but just really like Hitchens. Likable isn't a descriptive I would associate with Hitchens, but I guess he inspires sycophantism.

For the record, Macedonia is Greek.


Amor y Cohetes

I remember as a teen Love and Rockets was one of the few (the only?) places I felt at home. Young chicano punk/goth rockers surrounded by Spanglish, mechanics, wrestlers, and dinosaurs, permeated with an unexpressed left-working class sensibility I remembered from DF. Like seeing a young punk walk from car to car in the Metro selling copies of El Machete with the same twangy sing-song as the kids selling chiclets.

Makes sense that Hopey and Maggie are now in their forties. They must have been in their twenties when I was reading their exploits, and I could only fantasize about living on my own with a poster of Ape Sex on the wall, but I'm glad they're still around.

I came across Love & Rockets searching for an article I read today lamenting the dearth of foreign literature translated into English.
330 works of foreign literature — or a little more than 2 percent of the estimated total of 15,000 titles released — have been published in the United States so far this year.

That apparent dearth of literature in translation in the United States was the subject of controversial remarks by Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the organization that awards the Nobel Prize, a week before the prize did not go to an American.

“The U.S. is too isolated, too insular,” Mr. Engdahl said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.”

It has been a long time since I have seriously participated in the big dialogue of literature, about as long since I have read Love & Rockets. I have the collected works of Saramago, in Spanish, stacked on my shelves. Better get cracking.


Every time I post a little angel cries

It's not quite dogs with bees in their mouth and when they bark they shoot bees at you, nor is it a shark riding on an elephant's back, just trampling and eating everything they see, but damn, this fills me with an odd mixture of pity, fear, and revulsion nonetheless.


Meta Voco

Melanie Phillips at the Spectator is getting flak from PZ Myers and others for asserting that the financial crisis is rooted in the rise of militant atheism. It seems she feels that atheism somehow leads to an ethical deficit in capitalism.
I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’ which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda -- and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.

The financial crisis was brought about essentially by a public which threw away all notions of prudence and committed itself to spending today what it could never afford to pay back tomorrow, and a banking, regulatory and political sector which ruthlessly and cynically exploited and encouraged such catastrophic irresponsibility with a criminal disregard of the ruinous consequences for the poor. The financial crisis and our social meltdown are thus combining to form a perfect cultural storm.

The assertion about militant atheism seems silly and patently false, but I think intelligent people can agree on the relatively recent rise of secularism. I would argue that it is capitalism leads to the rise of secularism as well as the breakdown of morals that Phillips laments. (And does this not fit the essence of Weber's Spirit of Capitalism: Protestant Ethic->Capitalism->Secular Work Ethic, as well as classic Marxian analysis?)

So, my question is, can either Phillips' or my position be falsified, or are both views solely a reflection of ideological stance? I'm having trouble seeing what kind of evidence would answer this question, although the depth of religious fervor in this country seems like a strike against my position.


The Dems' to lose

I was really curious to see if voters would overcome bias and vote for Obama. Unfortunately, we will never know. The Democrats could run a dead mule and they would beat McCain.

Anti-Obama focus groups are giving Republican strategists fits:
"Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."

"I'm gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He's gonna be a bad president. But I won't ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President."


Gee whiz!

One of my SMS ladybugs overheard the following:
M: Buckley lost his job at National Review.
D: So he's not granfathered in? Think he saw that coming? Will the zeitgeist finally lead to a reorganization of conservative movement?
M: I think he just saw the sales potential in a "Saul on the road to Damascus" type autobiography at a time when his movement has lost its mojo.
D: Beautiful. I can see Papa grinning now.

Arteriosclerotic orthodoxy?

The Big Five

I just took Jesse Graham and Jonathan Haidt's "Moral Foundations Questionnaire" at yourmorals.org . I recommend it. Turns out I'm a lot more conservative than I thought when it comes to Loyalty and Authority, although more liberal when it comes to questions of Fairness. A little concerned about the Authority finding, but fine with all the rest. I guess I'm on the fence when it comes to Purity, and not doing Harm. My results are in green.

Here's the authors' description of the survey and results:
The scale is a measure of your reliance on and endorsement of five psychological foundations of morality that seem to be found across cultures. Each of the two parts of the scale contained four questions related to each foundation: 1) harm/care, 2) fairness/reciprocity (including issues of rights), 3) ingroup/loyalty, 4) authority/respect, and 5) purity/sanctity.

The idea behind the scale is that human morality is the result of biological and cultural evolutionary processes that made human beings very sensitive to many different (and often competing) issues. Some of these issues are about treating other individuals well (the first two foundations - harm and fairness). Other issues are about how to be a good member of a group or supporter of social order and tradition (the last three foundations). Haidt and Graham have found that political liberals generally place a higher value on the first two foundations; they are very concerned about issues of harm and fairness (including issues of inequality and exploitation). Political conservatives care about harm and fairness too, but they generally score slightly lower on those scale items. The big difference between liberals and conservatives seems to be that conservatives score slightly higher on the ingroup/loyalty foundation, and much higher on the authority/respect and purity/sanctity foundations.

This difference seems to explain many of the most contentious issues in the culture war. For example, liberals support legalizing gay marriage (to be fair and compassionate), whereas many conservatives are reluctant to change the nature of marriage and the family, basic building blocks of society. Conservatives are more likely to favor practices that increase order and respect (e.g., spanking, mandatory pledge of allegiance), whereas liberals often oppose these practices as being violent or coercive.

In the graph below, your scores on each foundation are shown in green. The scores of all liberals who have taken it on our site are shown in blue, and the scores of all conservatives are shown in red. Scores run from 0 (the lowest possible score, you completely reject that foundation) to 5 (the highest possible score, you very strongly endorse that foundation and build much of your morality on top of it).

You can download the pdf of Haidt and Graham's article, and take the survey yourself. Registration required.

Haidt, J., & Graham, J. (2007). When morality opposes justice: Conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize. Social Justice Research, 20, p. 98-116

h/t to Roscoe for the link.



I'm speechless.
AFL-CIO joins the gun wars.

Market rallies 900 points on Krugman Nobel

Spencer had a sobering take on the rally:
The market bounced back today to almost where it was on Wednesday.

But if you look at how the various sectors did the market is not only discounting that the bailout will work, but that it will be inflationary because the market bet on energy and raw materials today, not financials.

Moreover, the market is betting that the bailout wlll cause commodity prices to rise but not consumer spending..
this is an interesting forecast.

The headline is also his.


Go Philly Hockey Moms!

When Sarah Palin dropped the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers’ opener on Saturday night at the Wachovia Center, she was greeted by resounding (almost deafening) boos.

Have to agree with commenter number 5 that Palin was nuts for taking her daughter with her onto the ice in enemy territory.

Is a hoax ever more than a hoax?

I missed this August post by Stanley Fish where he takes Alan Sokal to task. It's in the context of a recent hoax of Wine Spectator's restaurant awards. The bottom line, per Fish, is that for a hoax to be successful it has to be so elaborate that it demonstrates the hoaxer's bona-fides rather than anything intrinsic about the hoaxee. Many moons ago I wrote a critique of the entire issue of Social Text where Sokal's hoax was published and found that not all, but a few other entries in that journal could have easily been a hoax as well. I think Fish brushes aside the argument about standards a little too easily. Both hoaxes were conceived because the authors perceived an incredible lack of standards in the respective arenas: one, postmodern thought, the other foodie awards. The oracle of wiki asserts that Social Text was not a peer-reviewed journal at the time of the hoax, implying it now is. The editors at Social Text correctly note that peer-reviewed journals have also been the victims of outright fraud, and the hoax authors could have simply padded their CVs with their submissions and awards (just think of the amazing publicity for a newly opened Osteria L’Intrepido), but one hopes that these hoaxes have led to stricter standards, at least in the short term.


Mockrates is a math-challenged rat turd

Unlike his heart-throb Obama, I’m not afraid to use the same gutter tactics mock learned in his days as a member of the Nazi, er, Republican Youth. I would have called him a piece-of-shit, but felt it rude for a header. To be clear, I stand by my claims. Now, Mockrates is not literally a dropping of excreta from a sewer rat, but he will be in the not too distant future. And he has decided to channel his unavoidable future in the here and now. Always ahead of the curve, that mock.

The tortured piety of the “necessary first step”. Right, the necessary first step was to tackle a problem by screaming: CRISIS, CRISIS, CRISIS: IF YOU DON”T PASS THIS THE ECONOMY WILL COLLAPSE. Somehow, the “necessary first step” was to throw away a trillion dollars on a coin toss. The question: Will it solve anything? The answer: “I dunno, but gotta try somethin.” If past actions are any indication, the plan—or the absence of a plan—was to improve the bottom line for the fat cats. It was doomed to failure, and was advocated using the same parasitic gambling mentality that seeks to socialize risk and privatize the profit.

The right approach would have been to, as I advocated, take a deep breath and think of the best way to lessen the blows to the economy. Our “leaders” should have said, there is a crisis brewing, but we are working on crafting a strong solution to the problem. One, the markets would not have become destabilized by the clown show in Congress, and might have been settled by a strong effort to seek serious solutions. Paulson’s screams of PANIC, together with the Congressional bungling both made the economic crisis worse. Voting down a bad plan only to vote for a worse plan a few days later. Your claims that it was a necessary first step are ludicrous. It is the same as claiming that the necessary first step to a potential fire in a theatre is to scream FIRE and run for the exit. Maybe there is a fire, maybe there isn’t, but causing a stampede helps no one. And there are credible voices, even now, saying there is no fire. If this is true, our Bozo the President and Congress of Stooges caused the market instability we saw all last week. To argue that Congress couldn't have passed a better bill is a strong argument against passing any bailout bill.

I assume we won’t hear from Mockrates again for another few weeks. Just as well. This type of apologizing for negligent governmental action beneath a veneer of “learned earnestness” was part of the problem, not the solution. If the Krugmans of the world had put forward useful alternative proposals and joined in putting the screws on Congress, then they would have been forced to anger the Jewish G-d, stay in session, hold hearings, and work the time necessary to iron out an intelligent solution. The country was united in anger at the leadership in a way we rarely see. It truly was a lost opportunity.


Hitchens brings me back into the fold

From this month's Vanity Fair:

In a statement on the huge state-sponsored salvage of private bankruptcy that was first proposed last September, a group of Republican lawmakers, employing one of the very rudest words in their party’s thesaurus, described the proposed rescue of the busted finance and discredited credit sectors as “socialistic.” There was a sort of half-truth to what they said. But they would have been very much nearer the mark—and rather more ironic and revealing at their own expense—if they had completed the sentence and described the actual situation as what it is: “socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest.”

I have heard arguments about whether it was Milton Friedman or Gore Vidal who first came up with this apt summary of a collusion between the overweening state and certain favored monopolistic concerns, whereby the profits can be privatized and the debts conveniently socialized, but another term for the same system would be “banana republic.”

What are the main principles of a banana republic? A very salient one might be that it has a paper currency which is an international laughingstock: a definition that would immediately qualify today’s United States of America. We may snicker at the thriller from Wasilla, who got her first passport only last year, yet millions of once well-traveled Americans are now forced to ask if they can afford even the simplest overseas trip when their folding money is apparently issued by the Boardwalk press of Atlantic City. But still, the chief principle of banana-ism is that of kleptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it. At all costs, therefore, the one principle that must not operate is the principle of accountability. In fact, if possible, even the similar-sounding term (deriving from the same root) of accountancy must be jettisoned as well. Just listen to Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as he explained how the legal guardians of fair and honest play had made those principles go away. On September 26, he announced that “the last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work.” Now listen to how he enlarges on this somewhat lame statement. It seems to him on reflection that “voluntary regulation”

[It] was fundamentally flawed from the beginning, because investment banks could opt in or out of supervision voluntarily. The fact that investment bank holding companies could withdraw from this voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the perceived mandate of the program and weakened its effectiveness.

Yes, I think one might say that. Indeed, the “perceived mandate” of a parole program that allowed those enrolled in it to take off their ankle bracelets at any time they chose to leave the house might also have been open to the charge that it was self-contradictory and wired for its own self-destruction. But in banana-republicland, like Alice’s Wonderland, words tend to lose their meaning and to dissolve into the neutral, responsibility-free verbiage of a Cox.

And still, in so many words in the phrasing of the first bailout request to be placed before Congress, there appeared the brazen demand that, once passed, the “package” be subject to virtually no more Congressional supervision or oversight. This extraordinary proposal shows the utter contempt in which the deliberative bodies on Capitol Hill are held by the unelected and inscrutable financial panjandrums. But welcome to another aspect of banana-republicdom. In a banana republic, the members of the national legislature will be (a) largely for sale and (b) consulted only for ceremonial and rubber-stamp purposes some time after all the truly important decisions have already been made elsewhere.

I was very struck, as the liquefaction of a fantasy-based system proceeded, to read an observation by Professor Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, of the Yale School of Management. Referring to those who had demanded—successfully—to be indemnified by the customers and clients whose trust they had betrayed, the professor phrased it like this:

These are people who want to be rewarded as if they were entrepreneurs. But they aren’t. They didn’t have anything at risk.

That’s almost exactly right, except that they did have something at risk. What they put at risk, though, was other people’s money and other people’s property. How very agreeable it must be to sit at a table in a casino where nobody seems to lose, and to play with a big stack of chips furnished to you by other people, and to have the further assurance that, if anything should ever chance to go wrong, you yourself are guaranteed by the tax dollars of those whose money you are throwing about in the first place! It’s enough to make a cat laugh. These members of the “business community” are indeed not buccaneering and risk-taking innovators. They are instead, to quote my old friend Nicholas von Hoffman about another era, those who were standing around with tubas in their arms on the day it began to rain money. And then, when the rain of gold stopped and the wind changed, they were the only ones who didn’t feel the blast. Daniel Mudd and Richard Syron, the former bosses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have departed with $9.43 million in retirement benefits. I append no comment.

Douchashov: Coward and Historical Revisionist

"You ask for a proactive proposal. In a word, socialism"

No, Douchashov, no one asked for your "proactive" proposal after the bailout failed to immediately garner all the results you believed it should have--we criticized you for not having one beforehand and then parading around afterwards, pretending you saw this coming. Oh, and "socialism" was the solution you knew would work, but were secreting away from us for some reason?

There's a curious lacuna in your thought process that one often sees in vulgar Marxists: Marx viewed fully-actualized capitalism as the necessary precursor to socialist revolution, though most revolutionaries would choke on that scientific interpretation because it clashes with the moral imperative for revolution (which is really why they're revolutionaries to begin with). Similarly, I have't the slightest idea how you thought a plan of flat out nationalization (which I favor) was even a remote possibility until other half measures (like the bailout) had been tried and failed.

"If the economic problem is truly fundamental, a govt. bailout won't solve it. And as we saw it can't even put a floor under it."

I'm not even sure what your hypothesis is about what's causing this crisis. At one point you say:

"The ideology of living beyond our means is why "faith" will not be restored."

Then you say

"Looking for a quick fix is the cause of the crisis. A nice start in getting on track would be punishing off-shoring and out-sourcing, and that could be done immediately."

Putting aside the fact that "punishing" off-shoring and outsourcing is immaterial and completely beyond the realm of possibility at the moment, you seem to be saying that the fundamental problem is that we spend much more than we make, or can hope to pay back within a reasonable span of time.

That's a great meta-critique of US consumerism and over-leveraging in the financial world, but if it is, in fact, the "fundamental cause" of the current crisis (recognizing how quickly this could become a bottomless semantic debate about the term "fundamental"), then surely what we need to be dealing with right now is the proximate cause, which is 1) the information assymetry, to put it mildy, created by the packaging up and securitizing of good and bad mortgages together, 2) the rapid decline in the property values underlying these mortgages, and 3) the seizing up of the credit markets based on the uncertainty created by 1) and 2).

The credit market problems are beginning to have a huge impact on employment--surely you aren't suggesting that we need to sign the country up for behavior modification shock treatment before we attempt to address that. If you are, then I say to you and all the libertarians fulminating about this on the margins: I understand what an important role punishment and pain play in your psycho-sexual constitution, but this really isn't the place to actualize your fantasy lives.

This is going to be a progressive process of varying levels of government intervention, and it had to begin with the highly-flawed bailout that was, by definition, the one that was politically possible at the time. Doing nothing was not a political option--most of the Republican and Democrat no votes the first time around knew that, but felt free to vote against it because they thought there were enough votes to pass it without them.

Republicans were especially loathe to be seen supporting it because it's exactly the type of issue they specialize in demagoguing: one with a complex interplay of costs and benefits that is difficult to explain even in the time allotted on the Jim Lehrer News Hour.

"You're first mistake was in assuming that the bailout was being considered in the best interest of the country."

Which of us thought that? Your first mistake was making the best the enemy of the good (and by "good" I of course mean the necessary first step). Although, then again, you didn't really even do that, did you, as that would have required making a concrete suggestion without the benefit of your retrospectacles.

Now it appears, as you noted, that straight out nationalizations are being considered. That could only have happened once the more moderate options had been tried. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling his socialist self.

Mavericks for Ayers

Two thousand plus mavericks and counting. I love how the focus is on the character assassination of Ayers, and not Obama. I wish it discussed the actual accusations against Ayers, but I suppose the aim was to appeal to a wider demographic.

Buffet prepares to lay some pipe

Huffington Post is inviting readers to caption this pic. Another reason to love the Huff Post.

So pocketbook trumps race?

This month's Labor Notes has a good piece on race and the election.
Labor leaders who want desperately to chase the Republicans from the White House are confronting a hurdle in their outreach to members: the question of race. Obama’s record on economic issues, they say, should put him way ahead of John McCain with working-class voters. But will the facts be enough to overcome some members’ deep-seated prejudice?

“We have people disguise it by saying he doesn’t have enough experience, or they’re not comfortable voting for him,” says Kyle McDermott, field director in the Steelworkers’ political department. “And we have people come at us and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to vote for a black person.’ They don’t use as kind words as I just did.” . . .

A September 8-10 national poll of likely voters by Democracy Corps found that in white union households, Obama gets 44 percent of the vote, 8 points below the local Democratic candidate for Congress and 9 points below the number of those who identify as Democrats. In 2004 white union households backed John Kerry by a 52.4 percent margin.

Putting aside people voting against their own interests, I had this pit of dread in my belly about Obama losing due to race. But now that pit's been replaced by a well of nausea due to the economy. It's striking how economic uncertainty has pushed unease about race off the table.

Now union members, military families, and other stereotypes in states as diverse as Michigan and Virginia are turning hard for Obama. A few weeks ago 527's were running race-baiting ads in Macomb county in Detroit suburbs, and now McCain pulls out of Michigan.

But what does this say about race relations? Does this mean that in bad times a visceral response to race doesn't matter, but in good times it does?


I was against it, before I was for it

Here's Paul Krugman on Rachel Maddow's show bemoaning the failure of the bailout. He was one of the morons arguing the bailout MUST be passed. Now he's saying the bill was a terrible idea, time to go back to the drawing board . . . Ooh! He's angry! (Must be all that egg on his face.)

That trillion would have come in handy right about now.


It's official, the bailout is a failure

It’s official! The bank bailout has not worked.
-Peter Morichi, University of Maryland

If policymakers think that adding extra liquidity is going to solve the credit crunch on its own, they are going to be sorely disappointed. This is because upward pressure on interbank rates is a consequence, not a cause, of the crisis.

It is a shortfall of bank capital that has made financial institutions reluctant to lend to one another. Boosting liquidity is therefore only a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for stabilising the financial sector. In fact, until banks are adequately recapitalised, funding pressures may even get worse.
-John Higgins, Capital Economics

Quick! Let's throw several more trillions down the drain before we have any idea what is really going on. The market needs to finish "correcting," then we can look for solutions. We deregulated and encouraged massive bubbles, and the bill came due. We planted the bulbs, and our tulips are blooming.

All you bushy-tailed optimists that insisted the bailout had to go through, or else: Fuck you! Running around half-decapitated has only made the hole bigger. Bet that last trillion we wasted still goes into bonuses.


The Boss rocks the Parkway

Bruce Springsteen played a great set on the Franklin Parkway on Saturday. You can find the entire seven song set here.

You can also YouTube individual songs. Here he's spoken word, explaining why he was rallying for Obama. It's worth a listen.

Boeing strike looks like a winner

How does labor strife affect business in the current climate? Capital is and will continue threatening workers that it can't meet payroll because of difficulty accessing credit lines, but how does labor strife affect that same access to credit?

I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but Wall Street appears to be pressuring Boeing management to concede to workers' demands. Business Week asked last week, why doesn't Boeing settle? They're losing more money and jeopardizing future production by not settling. And on Friday the LA Times lamented that the strike had postponed the launch of Virgin Australia and was stifling business travel in Southern California.

If Wall Street is blinking on the Boeing strike, it's time to kick them when they're down. I hope the payback's hell.


Why I hate Identity Politics

Palin celebrates Idiocy on national TV and gets away with it. Since her idiocy was made plain, her whole strategy entails proclaiming it from the highest mountain top and gathering the idiot minions around her. She is the Last Unreconstructed American.

I was a little disappointed in Pinker's piece in today's Times. I was expecting a little more psychology, instead it was mostly linguistics. I agree that her abuse of the vernacular is irrelevant, and that her effort to hide behind the vernacular is. But, how do the linguistic tools measure as far as motivating behavior? Any ideas, professor? I don't think they measure up, in part because she is a woman. Sure, she offered a lifeline to everyone that desperately sought a reason to adore her, like Pat Buchanan (proving that it is possible to WILL oneself into idiocy). And, sure, she projects this exciting tension as a potential ball-breaker, but I think watching Biden barely conceal his contempt for her lack of knowledge through a forced teeth-bearing smile (with the accompanying command of details) is what led to polls suggesting he won the debate. If she were known as an intelligent woman, like Hillary Clinton, the contempt would be seen as sexist. But since everyone could see Palin can't answer an unscripted question, Biden's restraint came across as chivalry. Any takers? I think Gail Collins agrees.

I'm still coughing up a little phlegm thanks to my germ-delivery cost-center. I hereby proclaim today the celebration of all phlegm-coughers day. It is only your own unexamined bias that makes you uncomfortable every time I spit in front of you.


The worse it gets, the better it gets. Pt I: Crisitunity!

The Senate passed the awful bail-out bill. As time progresses, my opposition has gelled. More on this later. But, at best, the bailout will keep things from deteriorating further, and at worse it will add massively to the debt while our economy contracts.

Jerry Mead-Lucero at Pilsenprole sees the silver-lining:
So now their lies are clear to all. NEO-LIBERALISM IS DEAD! We must repeat this everywhere and anywhere. It has to permeate all our discussions. The neo-liberal mantras that the ideologues deafened us with for decades finally ring hollow for nearly everyone. We must take the ideological offensive at this moment of crisis/opportunity. Because - beware – the neoliberal spin machine is already hard at work fashioning twisted logic to maintain their lock on the minds of many Americans. Take for instance the announcement today of a rejection of the most recent version of the bailout plan, being attributed primarily to conservative Republicans. Only in America, could the economic elite who have robbed us blind and created the crisis, then come off looking like populist Robin Hoods, rejecting billions for a “greedy few” on Wall Street. And what do they demand as their alternative to the Paulson plan – MORE DE-REGULATION AND TAX CUTS FOR CORPORATIONS AND THE EXTREMELY WEALTHY! It is time to end the surreal madness of U.S. politics . . . So where is the “opportunity” that I refer to in the title of this blog entry? Well let’s take a look at what the last Great Depression ultimately resulted in – Social Security, FDIC, the WPA, the FHA, the SEC, the TVA, and let’s not forget the 8 hour day and the 5 day work week. All the stuff that the ruling class has sought to dismantle in the last 3 decades.

I like how MoveOn.org isn't trumpeting their role in the failure of the bill to pass the House. Grow some cojones, You sent me the numbers to call! But, they had the right idea. Let's get to work on a good, long-term solution. This would be the time to get that done, with Bush in the cellar and the economy tanking, but that WON"T happen if there isn't a strong movement pushing for this. The first step is the left owning its role in tanking the bail-out, and the realization that it took a deep dive into the Depression for all the "progressive" legislation we hold so dear.

Props to the NY Post for their beautiful cover today:

Ask Dr. Farley

He has a Master's Degree in the Apocalypse.
Ask an Apocalypse Specialist

Dear Dr. Farley,

Should I be preparing a boat or a car?

Distressed in DC

Dear Distressed in DC,

The failure of the modern energy transportation network will make such distinctions irrelevant. It would be better to ask "horse or bike?" I recommend the former; horses can swim, and in a pinch can be eaten.

Dear Dr. Farley,

Is cannibalism really as bad as they say?

Preparing in Peoria

Dear Preparing in Peoria,

As in all things, it depends on who you're with.


Can I call you Joe?

Daughter's down to bed, so I just started watching debate. An hour behind rest of my countrymen and womyn. So now this is my first half-assed attempt at live-blogging. Criticism welcome.

I was on the phone with el lechero, and he thought Biden was going to spank Palin. I'm not so sure. The clips I've seen from her past debates--she was smokin' her opponents. She does the Joe six pack thing well, and I think she is better under fire than in these friendly interviews where she's been deer in the headlights.
Can I call you Joe?

Beautiful way to begin! Biden didn't fall for it, so we'll see if she calls him Joe.
The American workforce is the greatest in the world.

She's a great caricature of America. It sounded pretty cynical.

She just criticized Biden's years. She's trying to make him snap, and he definitely looks annoyed.

Palin just blamed the crisis on predatory lenders who sold people mortgages they couldn't afford. If she holds her own, she wins by a mile.

She just spoke directly to camera, "to American people," explaining what taxes she cut as governor. Good tactic, but it will get old fast.
In the middle-class where Todd and I have been paying taxes isn't always patriotic. Patriotic is, "govt. get out of the way."

20 minutes in Joe Biden just called McCain's Health plan, "Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere." The audience laughed. They promised not to laugh!

Biden: Post-office box off-shore tax haven is "unpatriotic."
You know what I had to do in the state of Alaska? I had to take on those big oil companies...break up a monopoly. Those tax breaks aren't going to big corporations...Obama voted for tax breaks, and I had to turn around as governor and undo in my own area of expertise, and that's energy.

Biden owns the facts, but he looks mad.

Good Biden line: "I agree with the governor. We want a windfall profits tax to benefit American people. So I hope governor can convince McCain to support windfall profits tax." Here, strategy needs to be, celebrate your opponent and give her all the rope she needs.

Palin is gritting her teeth. Pushing for domestic supply of energy. "Energy independence is key to our economic future."

Let's talk about climate change!

Alaska feels the impact of climate change... I don't attribute all changes to man's activities, but there are real changes. I don't want to argue about the causes, but about impact. I was first governor to form climate change sub-cabinet. Need to reduce emissions. We have to become energy independent because we care about climate more than other countries do
The country's IQ just dropped a few points. She started to run on too long. Started stringing nouns together at the end.

Biden: "Climate change is man made." Clean-coal, clean-coal, clean-coal. What a joke. "Dirll, drill, drill! Drill we must, but it will be ten years before we get any oil out of the ground."

Palin: "The chant is "Drill, baby, drill!" Because people are hungry for more oil."

Both support capping carbon emissions.

Now we're off to same-sex marrriage.
Biden: "We support same constitutional guarantees as heterosexual couples."
Palin, somehow, got to say she was tolerant. Apparently, some of her best friends are gay. They wouldn't prohibit hospital visitations. Palin almost ate her toes, but moderator left her off the hook.

Long on Iraq, Biden is way more detailed, and Palin way more stark and emotional.

As debate goes on, Biden treating Palin with respect is starting to pay off. Everyone knows his knowledge is an order of magnitude above hers, and so as debate wears on, the feather-weight is wearing through. However, her statements are punchy and powerful. She's done a great job prepping for the debate.

Fifty minutes in, we're deep in Iran. Biden: "Our friends and allies are saying, "Talk, talk, talk!"

Nice, Biden just stated: "McCain won't even meet with govt. of Spain! They have troops in Afghanistan." Of course, Palin will not touch that... And she doesn't.

Israel love-fest! Who hearts Israel more? Did anyone see this post: if Israel doesn't eliminate settlements, Israeli democracy is dead. Wonder how long that will take? Palin: "I'm so glad, Senator, that we both love Israel." That was a creepy, creepy line.

Palin: "Too much finger pointing backwards. We will learn from mistakes of past administrations."

Respect, respect, respect. Does Palin respect Biden more than Biden respects Palin? She turned the table on him good there.

Palin appeared to drop some knowledge on counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Biden refocused on McCain's judgement.

At one hour in, Palin smashed Biden on his support for Bush's war resolution. As an outsider, it's hard to understand: for it, before I was against it. Good. He deserved that.

Now, they're both humanitarians on Darfur, and sweeping away the line on trigger for intervention.

Palin: "John knows what evil is!.. He'll know how to win a war!"

Iffil just asked them, what wil they do if they become President. Heart-beat away, and all that.
Biden, unfortunately in my mind, injected a dab of assasination fear-mongering. "A tragedy of historic proportions. But I would follow Obama's wishes all the way." They should have role-played that question, and had a lighter answer.
Palin: "A tragey, tragedy. [rubbing hands] We're a team of mavericks! We disagree on ANWR, and we will disagree. McCain wants deliberative debate to make good policy... Govt. get out of my way."

Biden spends a lot of time in Home Depot. Why? Apparently, everyone there knows that McCain equals Bush. "Walk with me in my neighborhood. Middle class has got short end. Obama will change it."

Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe. Pointing backwards, again. Bush administration."
Apparently, her family is full of teachers. Shout-out to 3rd graders at Gladyswood Elementary School. She's got Biden beat on the name-dropping.

Palin just asked for more authority in working with Senate! No!!! She is scary.

Biden: "Every major decision, I'll be sitting in the room... I look forward to working with Barack... "

Palin opened herself up to questioning on Cheney. Can't really give an answer, except says she agrees with Cheney. Again, No!!! "My executive experience will be put to good use in White House."

Biden: "Cheney is the most dangerous Vice-President in American history. He doesn't understand that Article I defines executive role... Preside over Senate only when there is a tie vote. No authority to Congress. A bizarre notion to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive."

Biden is getting emotional towards the end. Palin is sneering almost as much as during the convention. She is the ice queen.

Palin: "We've not got to allow the partisanship... Whether Republicans in charge, I didn't see a lot of progress there, but neither with the Democrats in charge."

Biden: "A maverick he is not."

As with Bush, Palin has no regrets.

Biden is on top of every McCain policy proposal, and is all about selling Obama. Palin is all about selling herself. And she's all cute and folksy. "It's gonna be okay." She is projecting optimism.

So, she had to call him Senator Biden. She's glad to be able to speak directly without "filter" of media commentariat.

As with Obama and McCain, Palin went to Biden's area of expertise and held her own. Even though she did not get specific, I think she wins. But Biden did right by not attacking Palin and always going after McCain.

She did a great job, but I don't think the fickle polls will bounce. Too late for that.

Maddow thinks she was too gimmicky and way-over caricatured.
Buchanan thinks she was phenomenal. Astonished at how well she did.

I think they're both right, but the crisis and bailout are too present in people's minds. Palin was powerful, but you wouldn't want to put her in charge. Not now. Not anymore.

Palin did skip a lot of the questions. If people picked up on that, she didn't win. If they didn't pick up on that, she did. This was Ifill's failure to keep Palin on point. She must have been cowed by the McCain attacks on her role as moderator.

And now we know the next focus of the McCain campaign will be: "We're looking forward, Obama's looking backwards."

Armageddon Trades

Where to put one's money in tough times? As it turns out, Soup and Tasers are decent and familiar standbys. I also have to like the chances of the Vice Fund, since when tough times come, people will still drink, smoke, and gamble.


Ifill's bias

FOX NEWS claims Gwen Ifill is unfit to host the Vice Presidential debate this week, since she has written a book about Obama:

Questions are being raised about the objectivity of Thursday's vice presidential debate moderator after news surfaced that she is releasing a new book promoting Barack Obama and other black politicians who have benefited from the civil rights struggle.

Ifill's book, "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," is due to be released about the same time the next president takes the oath of office.

In her book, Ifill contends that the black political structure of the civil rights movement has cleared the way for post-racial politicians to ascend to new heights.

Now some are wondering whether Ifill can be fair and balanced, and whether she should be the moderator of Thursday's 9 p.m. ET debate.

"Clearly her books aren't going to do as well unless Obama wins, so it looks like she has some investment, literally, in one candidate or the other. And she's supposed to be sitting there as a neutral arbiter during the debate," said NPR's Juan Williams, a FOX News contributor. "I think the world of Gwen Ifill but I know there's a perception problem."

Has Juan Williams always been a wanker and a stooge? He writes the most insufferable pieces for the Wall Street Journal and he is one of the more meaningless of the Sunday morning pundits. Does he get so much face time because he is a Black Conservative? There are others less annoying.

Speaking of annoying

FOX News political analyst Michelle Malkin argued in a post on National Review that Ifill is "so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running."

Personally I think Gwen Ifill is a fine example of someone with a pretty obvious personal liberal bias who strives to be an objective and professional journalist. And generally succeeds. I only sort of believed this until I read that Malkin post; now I believe it stridently.