2008 - %3, September

David Brooks is Unhappy with the Republican Party

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 11:47 PM PDT

DAVID BROOKS IS UNHAPPY WITH THE REPUBLICAN PARTY...David Brooks on the congressional revolt against the bailout bill:

House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they've taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

I'm not sure that "interesting" is quite the right adjective to use here unless you happen to be an op-ed columnist from Mars who's on a field trip to the third planet, but point taken anyway. The lunatics are running the GOP asylum these days, but unfortunately, all of us are paying the price.

By the way, if you're interested in seeing how the vote on the bailout bill broke down, the New York Times has a very informative graphical map here. And I'll add this: judging from my email and comments, there are quite a few people who are as upset about the failure of the bill as I am. But apparently none of us are calling our congress members, who seem to be hearing from no one but refugees from talk radio and Lou Dobbs. So check that map, and if your guy/gal voted No maybe you should give 'em a call on Tuesday morning.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Housing Question

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 10:32 PM PDT

HOUSING QUESTION....I have a question related to the bailout bill that maybe some economist can answer. Here it is:

  • Much of the grassroots on both left and right feels that if we're going to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street, we should also bail out homeowners. This seems only fair, and there are various proposals floating around for doing this.

  • Economists seem to unanimously believe that housing is still overpriced and needs to be allowed to drop to its natural level, the sooner the better.

These two desires are in tension, aren't they? If we prop up homeowners with bad loans, we prop up home prices at the same time, don't we? Is there an answer to this dilemma? Or am I just missing something?

Notes on the Bailout

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 9:35 PM PDT

NOTES ON THE BAILOUT....Sorry for the radio silence this afternoon. I spent most of the day feeling about the same way I did on 9/11, consumed with a debilitating combination of fury and despair. I don't feel much better tonight, but here are a few thoughts on the failure of the bailout bill anyway:

  • The Republican Party is now officially hostage to a band of primitive conservative ideologues whose knowledge of economics was already outdated when Christians were being fed to lions. They are simply beyond belief.

  • I'm not much happier with the Jello-like support the bailout bill got from many of our leading liberals. Unfortunately, I include Brad DeLong in this group, but he's certainly right when he says, "This Republican Party needs to be burned, razed to the ground, and the furrows sown with salt..."

  • John McCain deserves to be tarred and feathered. His behavior over the past week has been almost unbearably craven.

  • Barack Obama's behavior has been a little better. But only a little. He hasn't exactly displayed a backbone of steel on this issue.

  • An awful lot of people really, really still don't get it. I swear, if I hear one more blogger or pundit suggesting that maybe it's actually a good thing the bailout bill failed because now we have a chance to pass an even better bill, I'm going to scream.

  • After the failure of the bill, the GOP leadership invented a fairy tale about Nancy Pelosi being at fault for the vote debacle because she gave a partisan speech on the floor of the House. The press is almost unanimously reporting this seriously. If Republicans had blamed it on Santa Claus, I guess they would have reported that seriously too.

  • Do you know the old saying about credit? "It's like oxygen. You don't know how much you need it until it's gone." We're about to go into financial hypoxia, and it's not the millionaires who are going to suffer most from this.

  • There are many of you who probably think I'm overreacting. I hope you're right.

And if you think this post is too caustic and bleak — well, you should have seen the first draft that Windows ate. This is the toned down version.

Financial Risk-Taking Tied to Testosterone

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 9:19 PM PDT

800px-Testosterone_structure.png No kidding. A new study finds that higher levels of testosterone correlate with financial risk-taking behavior. A Harvard study assessed men's testosterone levels before participation in an investment game, and found those whose testosterone levels were more than one standard deviation above the mean invested 12 percent more than the average man in a risky investment.

A previous study had already proved that men are generally more likely than women to take investment risks. Another demonstrated that male stock market traders experienced greater profits on days their testosterone was above its median level. The Harvard study, forthcoming in Evolution and Human Behavior, was the first study to directly examine, and find a relationship between, testosterone and financial risk-taking.

So, should the Congressional bail-out include estrogen replacement therapy for financially foolish CEOs?

For those interested in the details of the study…

The Money Behind the Bailout Vote

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 5:47 PM PDT

According to Maplight.org, House members who voted for the bailout received 54 percent more money from banks and securities firms than members who voted against it. The nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group has also broken down the average donation from those sectors, based on lawmakers' bailout stances and party affiliations:

All House Members//// Average Amount Received
Voting Yes................................$231,877
Voting No..................................$150,982
Democrats
Voting Yes................................$212,700
Voting No..................................$107,993
Republicans
Voting Yes................................$273,181
Voting No..................................$181,688

Republicans who opposed the bill are thought to have done so because they're rabid free market ideologues. So why hasn't the Street showered these guys with money in the past? Were they actually pro-regulation? (I doubt it). Are they simply marginal members of their party? Or is pure free market evangelism scary even to Wall Street? My bet's on the last one, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong. (Also, money might not explain everything)

The other interesting detail in these numbers is the small difference in donations to anti-bailout Republicans compared to pro-bailout Democrats (only about $30,000). It's not that Wall Street doesn't like free marketers; it's just a bit wary of anything in the extreme. Or to put it another way, it practices risk aversion at the ballot box. Just not enough of it; obviously, that GOP stock ain't so hot now.

Did Swing District Congressmen Doom the Bailout?

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 1:45 PM PDT

Numbers maven Nate Silver looks at how electoral prospects affected votes on the bailout:

Among 38 incumbent congressmen in races rated as "toss-up" or "lean" by Swing State Project, just 8 voted for the bailout as opposed to 30 against: a batting average of .211.
By comparison, the vote among congressmen who don't have as much to worry about was essentially even: 197 for, 198 against.
...among 26 congressmen NOT running for re-election (almost all of whom are Republicans), 23 voted in favor of the bill, as opposed to 2 against and one abstaining.

There's a huge chance the bailout doesn't work; there's very little chance it makes everything better. As a result it's way, way safer for Congressmen in tight races to vote against the thing.

That said, I do believe there was genuine ideological opposition to the bailout on the left of the Democratic Party and the right of the Republican Party. A host on CNBC postulated that this was a revolt of the Republican rank-and-file who had been told, for many years, that their desire for fiscal conservativism would have to take a back seat to the GOP leadership's spending priorities. I think there's some real truth to that.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

No Bailout

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 1:18 PM PDT

NO BAILOUT....The bailout bill has failed. Two-thirds of the House GOP caucus — primarily the lunatics in the Republican Study Committee, I assume — voted against it. I have a feeling we might now get a bunch of emergency nationalizations whether we like it or not.

Our current financial crisis has never been explained well to the public because (a) it's mind-bogglingly complex and (b) even the experts don't entirely know what's going on. And the Paulson plan was never sold well because (a) the initial draft was indefensible and (b) the theory underlying it was uncertain and complicated. So Lou Dobbs and his brand of populist yahooism won out instead.

I don't know what happens next. Hopefully we'll get another bite at the apple, but with Congress adjourning and elections approaching, action is only going to get harder, not easier. In the meantime, I guess we just have to pray that all the Chicken Littles like me are worrying too much.

On another note, an upcoming debate whose main attraction is the possibility of Sarah Palin melting down amusingly is suddenly less appealing than it used to be. I'm not really in the mood for bread and circuses right now.

After $700 Billion Bailout Collapses in the House, GOP Mounts an Absurd Blame Game

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 1:08 PM PDT

It took only a few minutes for the blame game to begin. Moments after the House failed to pass the $700 billion bailout plan, the Republican leaders--who could not produce the expected number of Republican votes for the legislation--came before the cameras with an explanation for the bill's collapse: a speech Nancy Pelosi gave.

House minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that prior to the 228-to-205 vote everything was hunky-dory. Then the House Speaker delivered a "partisan speech" before the floor vote began. This, Boehner said, "poisoned our conference and caused a number of members we thought we could get to go south." Representative Eric Cantor, a member of the Republican leadership, held up a transcript of Pelosi's speech and decried her "failure to lead."

What did Pelosi say that was so heinous? Here are some portions from the text that was issued by her office:

Mission Creep Dispatch: Catherine Lutz

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 12:14 PM PDT

lutz.jpg As part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from Catherine Lutz, anthropologist at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, author of Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century, and editor of the upcoming book The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against US Military Posts.


Welcome to Guam, USA

"Guam, USA" is the tagline on the western Pacific island's license plates. It resonates with the fact that fully one-third of Guam's territory is occupied by US military installations, from the giant Anderson Air Force Base in the north, to the Naval Magazine, where deadly ordnance is stored, in the south. For there is nothing more American, in many ways, unfortunately, than a place bristling with weapons and soldiers.

Olmert on Israeli Security

| Mon Sep. 29, 2008 11:57 AM PDT

OLMERT ON ISRAELI SECURITY....Laura Rozen points to a remarkable volte-face from Israel's outgoing prime minister:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published on Monday that Israel must withdraw from nearly all the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians and that any occupied land it held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory.

....He said traditional Israeli defense strategists had learned nothing from past experiences and seemed stuck in the considerations of the 1948 Independence War. "With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop," he said. "All these things are worthless."

He added, "Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel's basic security?"

....On Iran, Mr. Olmert said Israel would act within the international system, adding, "Part of our megalomania and our loss of proportions is the things that are said here about Iran. We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion about itself."

I wonder what Sarah Palin thinks of this? I especially wonder after reading this.