It's Safe to Say a President Obama Would Improve Relations With Latin America...

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 3:59 PM EDT

News of the weird: At least six Brazilian politicians have changed their names to "Barack Obama."

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McCain Hearts FDR. What's the (New) Deal?

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 3:48 PM EDT

How the times are changing. At a General Motors assembly plant in Lake Orion, Michigan yesterday, Sen. John McCain gave a shout-out to none other than Franklin Roosevelt, the original big-government guy:

One of our great presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, expressed this optimism even at the height of the Great Depression. He said, and I quote, "Plenty is at our doorstep but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply." . . .My friends, that's true again today."

Indeed it is, but, of course, McCain pointing that out is like Milli Vanilli singing "Girl You Know It's True"--the love just isn't real. Take the Social Security Act, passed under FDR in 1935. McCain (before he reversed himself recently) wanted to replace it with "private savings accounts," which would have caused millions of retirees to lose their shirts this week. As recently as July, he even said that "paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America" is "an absolute disgrace"

A "great president" whose legacy is an "absolute disgrace?" I thought that was supposed to be Bush. Here's what FDR's grandson has to say:

Quien es mas macho?

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 3:03 PM EDT

¿QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?....John McCain, desperately searching for something manly to say about the current financial crisis, has decided to call for the firing of mild-mannered-but-extremely-conservative SEC chairman Chris Cox:

"The primary regulator of Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) kept in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino," McCain says."They allowed naked short selling — which simply means that you can sell stock without ever owning it. They eliminated last year the uptick rule that has protected investors for 70 years. Speculators pounded the shares of even good companies into the ground."

Somebody help me out here. This all sounds more plausible than Sarah Palin's nattering about construction bonds yesterday, but does it actually parse any better? I know Jim Cramer has been bellowing about the uptick rule for several months, but it's not pressure on stock prices that's been responsible for the banking crisis, is it? It's the other way around. Do McCain's comments make any sense? Set me straight in comments.

Man United

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 2:37 PM EDT

MAN UNITED....Now that you, the American taxpayer, more or less own insurance giant AIG, it turns out that you, the American taxpayer, are also the principal sponsor of Manchester United, thanks to a four-year, $100 million sponsorship deal signed in 2006. So this got me curious: how is our soccer football team doing?

Answer: not well. After winning the Premier League and the European Championship last year, they've started slowly this season with a loss to Liverpool, a win over Portsmouth, and a tie with Newcastle. Net result: 14th place. Next up is first place Chelsea on the 21st.

British readers should feel free to fill in details in comments. What do all those columns mean in the league table? What do the dotted lines mean on the BBC version of the table? I mean, if we're sponsoring these blokes, I suppose we ought to know something about them.

No Mas

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 12:52 PM EDT

NO MAS....Conventional wisdom said it was just a minor gaffe. Or maybe John McCain didn't hear the question right during his radio interview with WSUA 1260 in Miami yesterday. But no: it turns out that, as a matter of policy, McCain refuses to commit to meeting with the prime minister of Spain if he's elected president. (Yes, that Spain. The one in Europe. Liberal democracy. NATO ally. Etc.) McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann provided confirmation:

"The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero (and [identified] him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred). Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview," he said in an e-mail.

Okey dokey. President Bush already has a policy of keeping Zapatero in the deep freeze, and I guess McCain has decided not to deviate from it. Full details on this bizarre incident at the link.

McCain-Spain, Continued

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 12:21 PM EDT

McCain said in June that Zapatero, the president of Spain, would be welcome at his White House. This bolsters my argument that McCain didn't intend to give Spain the cold shoulder in the Spanish-language radio interview. He simply didn't know what was going on.

Of course, the McCain campaign had to respond to this situation and they couldn't say, "Our candidate misheard the interviewer or misunderstood what was going on, so let's just forget this little senior moment, shall we?" So they claimed that McCain intentionally refused to sit down with Zapatero, who is a socialist:

"The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero (and id'd him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred). Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview," the Senator's foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann told the Washington Post.

Okay, that's insane. Lumping Spain — a member of NATO and thus a country we are bound to defend militarily in the event of crisis — in with Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea is clearly crazy. And it's a position, apparently, John McCain didn't endorse as recently as June. So we know what's going on here, right? The campaign put out a self-serving, cover-your-ass statement and John McCain is old but not so militaristic he wants to sever ties with one of our oldest allies. Everyone clear?

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Afghanistan Update

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE....I know nobody cares, what with the global financial system collapsing around our ears, but things aren't going too well in Afghanistan these days. Laura King reports:

A summer of heavy fighting during which Western military leaders had hoped to seize the initiative from Islamic militants has instead revealed an insurgency capable of employing complex new tactics and fighting across a broad swath of Afghanistan.

...."In all, we feel that things are going very, very well for us," said a Taliban field commander in Kandahar province whose men fought hit-and-run battles with Canadian and British forces during the summer, the season when fighting is most intense. "And what is more, time is on our side."

....In large swaths of the countryside, insurgents have been able to intimidate local officials into cooperating, in part because President Hamid Karzai's government is perceived to be corrupt and inefficient. "Once, people would look to the government for justice," said Abdul Qadoos, a businessman and tribal leader in Kandahar province. "Now they go to the Taliban."

Read the whole thing for more. The Taliban originally took over Afghanistan in the mid-90s because the central government was widely perceived to be corrupt and inefficient. As long as that continues, the Taliban (or something Taliban-like enough for the difference not to matter) will remain a huge force there. As in Iraq, the key to stability is political reconciliation more than pure military victory.

American Royalty Endorses American Royalty, Citing Rednecks

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 11:34 AM EDT

The jilted Clinton supporter Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild recently endorsed John McCain, saying Barack Obama is elitist and unable to connect with everyday people. De Rothschild certainly knows something about elitism — the wife of British banking scion Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, she reportedly splits her time between homes in New York and London — but it's unlikely she knows all that much about everyday people. Here she is on CNN explaining her endorsement of McCain:

"The people out, you know, who are the rednecks or whoever, are bitter."

Surely the rednecks or whoever recognize this woman as one of their own. Video after the jump.

Financial Panic Update

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 11:29 AM EDT

FINANCIAL PANIC UPDATE....The credit markets have seized up so completely that the world's central banks are now in the overnight repo market in a big way:

The world's leading central banks made a fresh attempt today to ease the growing stress in the world's money markets, taking coordinated action to provide $180bn (£100bn) in extra liquidity.

After the unwillingness of banks to lend to each other led to acute shortages of funds in short-term dollar markets, the Federal Reserve announced that the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England would all provide extra funding in short-term US dollar markets....The Bank of England is making $40bn available, with the ECB increasing its funding by $55bn and the Swiss National Bank offering $15bn. The Bank of Japan will lend $60bn and the Bank of Canada will provide $10bn.

Nobody knows how much bank assets are worth these days, so no one knows which banks are solvent. And if you don't know which banks are solvent, you aren't willing to do business with any of them. Hence the central banks take over. Eventually all these assets (Atrios's "big shitpile") will get valued, but it's not clear when this will happen or what (if anything) central bankers can do to move the process along. It'll be a while, though.

In other news, Lloyds has taken over the British bank HBOS, the first shotgun marriage outside the U.S. And the flight from bank debt to safe treasury debt is in such full flight that U.S. treasury bonds now have a negative return, the first time that's ever happened.

Palin Blames Wall Street Woes on Lobbyists - The Same Ones Who Now Work for the McCain-Palin Campaign?

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

In her third media interview (first two: ABC and People magazine), Sarah Palin talked Wall Street with Sean Hannity. The Fox News host wanted some answers on the current economic upheaval:

HANNITY: How connected is it, though, to Washington? You have 354 lawmakers got money from Fannie and Freddie. 354. If you look at the years from 1989 to 2008, second-top recipient was Senator Barack Obama. Should there be an investigation in terms of the relationship between the political donations and then of course the bankruptcy that ensued and the impact on the economy?
PALIN: I think that's significant, but even more significant is the role that the lobbyists play in an issue like this also. And in that cronyism — it's symptomatic of the grade of problem that we see right now in Washington and that is just that acceptance of the status quo, the politics as usual, the cronyism that has been allowed to be accepted and then it leads us to a position like we are today with so much collapse on Wall Street. That's the reform that we've got to get in there and make sure that this happens. We've got to put government and these regulatory agencies back on the side of the people.

Set aside the fact that she says nothing of substance about the economy or conditions on Wall Street. She says, "even more significant is the role that the lobbyists play in an issue like this... the cronyism that has been allowed to be accepted and then it leads us to... so much collapse on Wall Street." There's some confusing language in there but when you filter it out you get one inescapable conclusion.

Sarah Palin blames Wall Street lobbyists for a major part of the financial industry's "collapse."

If that's the case, why does she let 83 Wall Street lobbyists work for her campaign? McCain and Palin are slamming the "greed" of Wall Street and its lobbying pals on a daily basis, saying that they are hurting average Americans. Wouldn't you think McCain and Palin owe it to those average Americans to keep the lobbyists in question off the campaign payroll?

Photo by Ryan McFarland used under a Creative Commons license.