Blogs

Debate Bingo....This Time For Real!

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

DEBATE BINGO....THIS TIME FOR REAL!....Speaking of tonight's debate, our debate bingo game is back and it's better than ever. Thanks to enterprising reader Jason S., you can now print different versions of the card and play actual bingo with your friends tonight. Just click the link to go to our fundraising page and then click on the bingo card. Once you're there, click the Mother Jones logo at the top of the card and all the squares will randomly reset. You can print as many different cards as you like.

Now that's customer service! I'll be liveblogging, of course, so come on by and join us in comments. And as long as you're already at our fundraising page, maybe you can throw a few dollars our way too. It keeps both the magazine and the blogs going and helps keep progressive journalism alive. Pretty good deal, eh?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

That National Conversation About Race Is Actually Happening...

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

But, boy, do we have a long way to go. Check out this article about Obama organizers doing their best in Buchanan County, Virginia. Here's an excerpt:

...Obama's supporters, as they push to win this dead-even battleground state, are talking directly about race, betting that the best way to raise their neighbors' comfort level with the prospect of the first black president is to openly confront their feelings.
When Cecil E. Roberts, president of the coal miners union that shapes politics in much of this mountain region, talks to voters, he tells them that their choice is to have "a black friend in the White House or a white enemy." When Charlie Cox, an Obama supporter, hears friends fretting about Obama's race, he reminds them that they pull for the nearby University of Tennessee football team, "and they're black."
Union organizer Jerry Stallard asks fellow coal workers what's more important: improving their work conditions or holding onto their skepticism of Obama's race, culture or religion. "We're all black in the mines," he tells them.

Not everyone is enthusiastic. ('Course we knew that.) See the full story for more.

Debate Format

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 1:19 PM EDT

DEBATE FORMAT....Taegan Goddard summarizes the rules for tonight's "town hall" debate:

The questions will "be culled from a group of 100 to 150 uncommitted likely voters in the audience and another one-third to come via the Internet."...."An audience member will not be allowed to switch questions. Under the deal, the moderator may not ask followups or make comments. The person who asks the question will not be allowed a follow-up either, and his or her microphone will be turned off after the question is read. A camera shot will only be shown of the person asking — not reacting."....McCain and Obama are not supposed to ask each other direct questions.

This is ridiculous. Why bother with a human audience or moderator at all? You might as well just select the questions, project them on a screen via PowerPoint, and televise the results. Wire the candidates up to received increasingly intense electrical shocks if they exceed their time limits and you'd be all done. Anybody got a problem with that?

New Army Doctrine Emphasizes "Stability Operations"

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

876176812_01f5a970b7.jpg

Today, the U.S. Army released it's "Stability Operations Field Manual" (.pdf), which places humanitarian and relief work at the center of its strategic focus. The manual follows two earlier documents issued in 2005 (National Security Directive 44 and Department of Defense Directive 3000.05), which first paid institutional attention to the need to adjust the military's approach to 21st century conflicts—both issued amid widespread criticism that the Bush administration did not adequately prepare for its occupation of Iraq. (Read my piece about Directive 3000.05 here.) But the new Army field manual solidifies these earlier orders and will shape how GIs are deployed for years to come.

The manual had been in the works for 10 months and was shepherded to completion by Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the Army's Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His predecessor was none other than David Petraeus, who authored the Army's new counter-insurgency manual and went on to implement it in Iraq.

The Politics of Esthetics

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 12:26 PM EDT

THE POLITICS OF ESTHETICS....Ezra Klein is agog at Sarah Palin's campaign rhetoric:

I can't remember George W. Bush engaging the culture war with anything even approaching this ferocity in 2004.

McCain and Palin are running on fumes. There's just nothing left for them to talk about aside from unpatriotic liberals, sneering urbanites, and how the mainstream media hates them. The politics of esthetics is all they have left.

It has truly been a remarkable campaign. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose between John McCain and George Bush as president, I don't know who I'd pick — and that's something that would have been inconceivable as recently as a year ago. I wonder if McCain has any idea just how thoroughly he's going to exit this campaign with his reputation permanently soiled and his life story in tatters?

Can the Fed Stop a Bank Run?

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 11:34 AM EDT

The Fed Reserve, in a desperate action this morning to stop a bank run and preserve commercial liquidity, is pouring money into short term markets. As the AP reported an hour ago:

The US Federal Reserve opened up its coffers Tuesday to companies hit by the credit crunch with a new program that will buy up commercial paper, short-term debt critical for many corporate operations.
The latest effort in an all-out war against the credit crunch creates a new "liquidity backstop" for corporate finance and was established after the US Treasury determined it was "necessary to prevent substantial disruptions to the financial markets and the economy," the central bank said.

"Substantial disruptions to the economy" is a nice way of saying that without access to commercial paper, commerce in the the United States would grind to a halt.

Two days ago, Nouriel Roubini, the respected NYU economics professor, market expert, and editor of the RGE Monitor, had already made these urgent recommendations to stop a liquidity run. In an October 5 interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Roubini advised the following moves:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Will McCain Go Negative In Tonight's Debate?

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

That's the question of the day. The McCain campaign has decided to go negative on Barack Obama in the last month of the campaign, invoking Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright in recent days. It's easy, though, to raise attacks like those at a campaign rally filled with sympathetic listeners or in a newspaper column with one sympathetic listener. It's much harder to do so while standing face to face with your opponent, in front of a neutral crowd. It took a number of debates before Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards had the famous slugfest in South Carolina in which Clinton dropped the Rezko bomb and Obama taunted Hillary for her husband's antics by saying "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."

But McCain knows how to get rough. In a Republican debate in New Hampshire, he took the lead in a tag team assault on Mitt Romney, sticking the shiv in so many times that Romney was left pleading for civility, saying, "Senator, is there a way to have this about issues and not about personal attacks?"

Doonesbury Continues the Crusade

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 11:06 AM EDT

We mentioned yesterday that Doonesbury is running with a theme Mother Jones wrote about a few weeks back, namely that John McCain slams the role lobbyists have played in the financial meltdown while keeping dozens of Wall Street lobbyists on his campaign payroll. Here's yesterday's strip:

db100608.jpg
Doonesbury © 2008 G. B. Trudeau. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Today, strip author Garry Trudeau continues the theme. Trudeau is naming, on average, 7.5 lobbyists in each strip. One wonders if he's in this for the long haul...

Anti-Obama Book Author Corsi Arrested in Kenya

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 10:54 AM EDT

Kenyan authorities have arrested Jerome Corsi, the author of a hit book on Obama, "Obama Nation," on immigration violations, the AP reports:

The American author of a best-selling book attacking Barack Obama is being detained in Kenya because he does not have a work permit, a senior immigration official said Tuesday.
Jerome Corsi, who wrote "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," was being held at immigration headquarters in Nairobi after police picked him up from his hotel Tuesday, said Carlos Maluta, a senior immigration official in charge of investigations.
"We still haven't decided what to do with him," Maluta told The Associated Press. ...

Commercial Paper

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 2:58 AM EDT

COMMERCIAL PAPER....Banks, finance companies, and large corporations routinely finance their ongoing operations by issuing short-term debt known as commercial paper. It's denominated in large amounts (typically a million dollars or more), it's unsecured, it's low cost, it matures quickly (typically in 30 days or so), and it can be issued easily because it doesn't have to be registered with the SEC. Without access to commercial paper, large modern corporations would seize up and die.

Which, unfortunately, is what's happening right now. The commercial paper market is essentially frozen, and as notes mature and need to be rolled over, companies are finding it impossible to get routine financing. (This is how "Wall Street problems" turn into "Main Street problems.") So today, the Fed announced plans to step in:

As pressure built in the credit markets and stocks spiraled lower around the world on Monday, the Federal Reserve was considering a radical new plan to jump-start the engine of the financial system.

....The Fed plan is intended to renew the flow of credit on which the economy depends. Under its plan, the central bank would buy unsecured commercial paper, essentially short-term i.o.u.'s issued by banks, businesses and municipalities.

And there's more:

On Monday, the Fed announced that it would once again redouble one of its key emergency lending programs, increasing the size of its Term Auction Facility to $600 billion, from $300 billion. On top of that, the central bank plans to provide an additional $300 billion to banks to meet their end-of-the-year cash needs.

To pay for its burgeoning responsibilities, the Fed has no choice but to keep printing more money. To prevent that flood of new money from reducing the central bank's overnight interest rate to zero, the Fed also announced on Monday that it would start paying interest on the excess reserves that banks keep on deposit at the Fed.

Paying interest on reserves allows the central bank to set a floor on interest rates and retain at least some control over monetary policy. In its announcement on Monday, the Fed said it would pay an interest rate of 1.25 percent — three-quarters of a point below its target of 2 percent for the overnight Federal funds rate.

That's a lot of activity for one day, no? Normally, I'd say that stepping into the commercial paper market is a pretty stunning move for the Fed, which is decidedly not in the business of financing corporate operations. But after the events of the past year it seems almost anticlimactic. Before long you'll be getting your auto loans directly from the Fed.

Just to put this in perspective, though, it might actually be a bigger deal than the bailout bill we just spent the past two weeks going berserk over. But it will happen with hardly a peep regardless. I don't think anybody's in the mood to peep right now.

And one other note: remember that $7 billion that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to borrow from the Fed because the credit markets were frozen? That was for the purchase of Revenue Anticipation Notes, which are routinely used to finance ongoing operations while the state is waiting for tax revenue to arrive in the spring. Unless I'm wrong (and I might be), this is basically a form of commercial paper, which means that California might get its wish. Instead of issuing the RANs privately and paying high rates (if there are any buyers at all), California may be able to make use of the new Fed facility instead. Frankly, I'm not sure we deserve it, but who said life was fair?