Obama and Ayers

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:19 PM EDT

OBAMA AND AYERS....Stanley Kurtz has been working diligently for weeks in an attempt to prove that Barack Obama has hidden sympathies for pot-smoking-bank-bombing-60s-era domestic terrorism in the form of close (but well hidden!) ties to former Weatherman Bill Ayers. His operational strategy was to comb through the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a mid-90s educational experiment sponsored by Ronald Reagan's friend Walter Annenberg, to check for damning evidence that Ayers (who founded CAC) had a serious relationship with Obama (who was chairman of the board of directors, which did fundraising for CAC). I had sort of lost track of how this project was coming along, but apparently he finished up his labors and produced.....a mouse. Jason Zengerle summarizes:

So Kurtz spends days wading through 70 linear feet of material, suffers lord knows how many paper cuts, and the best he can come up with is that Ayers was part of a five-person "working group" that signed off on Obama joining CAC's board? That's pretty weak.

Better luck next time, Stanley.

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In Dealing with the $700 Billion Bailout, Dems Ought To Point Fingers

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 11:24 AM EDT

I am often reluctant to give advice to members of Congress. But in this case, it was hard to resist. Here's a posting initially put up elsewhere....

In reaction to the financial crisis, here's what the Democrats who control Congress ought to do:

1. Work vigorously on the bailout proposal submitted by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson but add the populist provisions that Robert Reich and others are suggesting.

2. Point fingers.

Assigning blame ought to be a key component of the Democratic response to the current meltdown. And that ought not be hard to do. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid could set up a joint select committee to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. This committee then could start holding hearings immediately and haul before it the heads of the companies that have screwed up and imperiled the economy. This will not be a short list. Call in top officials from Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. Demand explanations from them. Explore how much money they pocketed personally while overseeing their institutions.

That's just a start. The committee should bring in experts who can explain (clearly!) how these players and others abused credit default swaps, subprime loans, mortgage-backed securities, and other hanky-panky financial products.

Wow. Here's a Very Bad Way to Handle the Financial Crisis

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 11:09 AM EDT

A CEO in India has been beaten to death by a mob of fired workers. Yikes.

Pakistan Update

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 11:09 AM EDT

PAKISTAN UPDATE....Just in case the imminent collapse of the American financial system doesn't have you quite worried enough, here's a report from the LA Times about the imminent collapse of Pakistan:

More than any other terrorist attack in this volatile country, the devastating truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel over the weekend has presented government and military leaders here with a stark choice: Go all out against extremists or risk the nation's collapse into chaos.

That is the growing consensus among many Pakistani analysts and commentators, who fear that without rapid, determined and ironfisted action by officials and security forces, this nuclear-armed land is in danger of becoming a failed state, with Islamic radicals in control.

....The descent into violence and fear here has been sharp.

In a country where suicide bombings were relatively rare five years ago, more than 300 people have been killed in such attacks this year. What seemed at first to be a threat confined to the nation's fringes, in the rugged and uncontrollable border and tribal areas, has now penetrated urban centers, including the very heart of this leafy, broad-avenued capital.

As usual, the real state of play is pretty murky. But murky in a bad way, not a good one.

In the meantime, it appears that the Pakistani military didn't open fire on a U.S. helicopter that didn't fly into Pakistani airspace. That's the story, anyway.

Treasury Bailout and Dodd Bailout Now Open for Your Comments

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 11:52 PM EDT

Courtesy of, a project of the Sunlight Foundation. Who else?

Capping Executive Pay on Wall Street: McCain Takes the Lead?

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 11:35 PM EDT

The idea of capping executive pay on Wall Street is really catching on. You would think the strongest measure on that front would be found in the version of the bailout proposed by Democrat Chris Dodd. Actually, it's coming from... John McCain?

Dodd is proposing to penalize executives who take "inappropriate or excessive" risks. The executive compensation and severance packages could be reduced if that is "in the public interest," the proposal says. It would also force executives to give back profits they earned that were based on company accounting measures that are later found to be inaccurate.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has supported giving shareholders a bigger say in executive compensation in the past, said today that taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for "golden parachutes" for officers of companies that have crumbled in upheaval on Wall Street.
"The senior executives of any firm that is bailed out by Treasury should not be making more than the highest paid government official," McCain said at a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The president is the highest paid federal official, with a salary of $400,000 a year.

McCain is really, really committed to this new populist, foe-of-Wall Street posture. And, for what it's worth, take a second to reflect on how quickly and how fundamentally the economic meltdown has changed the political landscape in this country — the two parties are competing to see who can twist the screws tighter on Wall Street fat cats. Did you think even six months ago that such a scenario was possible in this country?

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New York Times Seems to Think Tonight's Heroes Premier is About Credit Cards and Whininess

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 9:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nbcheroes.jpgI've always believed part of science fiction's power comes from its ability to offer both a narrative and a symbolic, fantastical metanarrative, that can either reinforce or supplant the apparent meaning of the narrative. Also, granted, I've been known to insist on, ah, somewhat sinister readings of current sci-fi hits, even when everybody thinks I'm nuts. But in discussing tonight's mildly-anticipated season premier of Heroes, Times writer Alessandra Stanley seemed to reveal more of her own personal issues than elucidate any metaphorical meaning. Basically, she wants those damn kids off her lawn. She has no sympathy for the super-power-endowed mutants, calling the show a "venting of [their] self-pity," and then makes a bit of a leap to those brain-searingly annoying spots for

Gallows Humor of the Bailout Variety

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 9:17 PM EDT

You always want to be on the lookout for these blank check scams:

Dear American:
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

24 Days and Counting

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 7:16 PM EDT

24 DAYS AND COUNTING....The Washington Post is miffed:

John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate 23 days ago. Since then, Ms. Palin has not held a single news conference with the national media....Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who once referred to the media as his base, has himself become inaccessible. He promised to hold weekly news conferences as president but has not held a news conference as a candidate in more than a month. A candidate who stiffs the media on the campaign trail isn't likely to perform better once in office.

It's really pretty amazing. Can they get away with it? Or will the press eventually succumb to Steve Schmidt's comical bleatings about how unfair everyone is being to John and Sarah? Wait and see!

And speaking of comical bleatings, it seems that conservatives are finally coming out of their fetal crouch on the Wall Street mess and going on the offensive, desperately trying out new and innovative ways to convince America that a financial crisis brought on by deregulation is the fault of — yes! — Democrats. Fannie Mae! CRA! Sarbanes-Oxley! They'd probably toss in repeal of Glass-Steagall just for the hell of it if it hadn't been quite so obviously the brainchild of McCain's consensus future secretary of the Treasury. Their campaign to alter reality isn't working so far, which gives me renewed faith in the common sense of the American public, but I don't expect them to stop trying. By this time next week they'll be blaming the fact that FDR screwed around with the price of gold in 1933.

New Study Puts The "Perma" Back In Permafrost

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 5:38 PM EDT

It's not perfect, but it's something: A new study from researchers at the University of Alberta says that Arctic permafrost may be less vulnerable to global warming than previously thought.

The study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Science, found that a permafrost ice wedge in Canada's Yukon Territory is more than 700,000 years old, meaning that it withstood two previous cycles of intense warming. Lead researcher Duane Froese said that the findings mean we're further from a widespread thawing—and the catastrophic release of carbon and other gases that would accompany it—than earlier predictions have suggested.

Great, right? Not so fast, says Froese. While deep, ancient frost like the chunk he studied may be safe, the top layers of permafrost, formed much more recently, remain in serious danger. And it's those layers that could cause the most damage.

Still, it's heartening to know that at least some parts of the Earth are more resilient than we think they are. Of course, 700,000 years ago, no one was trying to see how far they could push that resilience.