2008 - %3, September

Wage Insurance

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 11:56 PM EDT

WAGE INSURANCE....Here's an interesting passage from John McCain's speech tonight:

Government assistance for the unemployed workers was designed for the economy of the 1950s. That's going to change on my watch....For workers in industries that have been hard-hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one, while they receive re-training that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage.

McCain is talking here about "wage insurance," a proposal that's been bubbling around in neoliberal circles for over a decade and has considerable (though not unanimous) support among Democrats. McCain, I think, has mentioned wage insurance in passing a few times before, but as far as I know he's never really committed himself to it. And unless it's buried somewhere that I missed, it's not part of the economic plan on his website.

But tonight, in a speech with very few specific policy details, he committed himself firmly to supporting a wage insurance plan if he becomes president. Why? Was it just because he didn't really have much else in the way of economic proposals that he thought might appeal to ordinary families? Was it a throwaway line? Or is he serious about it?

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McCain's Speech

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 11:11 PM EDT

McCAIN'S SPEECH....Like Hillary Clinton, John McCain isn't a naturally great speaker, and that showed tonight. Overall, his acceptance speech struck me as flat and pedestrian, full of boilerplate and talking points.

But that's not to say it wasn't effective. It might well have been. For one thing, McCain successfully dialed down the red meat, something he desperately needed to do after last night's culture war fest. He addressed substantive issues more than previous speakers. He was good on the bipartisan roots of corruption in Washington — which didn't go over so well on the convention floor but probably did at home. And he was very good, I thought, when he was talking about war and national security. He sounded like the farthest thing imaginable from a hawkish neocon, and his line about working to build good relations with Russia while not overlooking aggression was just what the doctor ordered. Nobody watching this speech would guess that this was a man who never met a war he didn't like.

And the peroration at the end? It seemed to me like he was trying to match Barack Obama's brand of soaring rhetoric, but it didn't work. It's just not something McCain can pull off, and it clearly didn't raise the house the way Obama's final few minutes at Invesco Field did.

Still: it was workmanlike and competent and he hit most of his marks — though some of those marks (e.g., his support for a culture of life) didn't get hit with much passion. But the base didn't need any more pumping up after yesterday, so that's probably not a problem. Bottom line: I have my doubts that this speech is going to sway a lot of votes, but it was OK.

On a slightly different note, though, are the convention planners idiots? Did they really have him standing in front of a green screen for minutes on end during the middle part of his speech? It looked terrible.

And I guess they decided that Heart's "Barraucda" would be Sarah Palin's theme song after all. They didn't play that last night, did they?

Quote of the Day

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From George Bush, explaining why he settled on a surge strength of five brigades:

"Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."

There's more interesting stuff at the link. I'll have more to say about it after the Republican convention is (blessedly, finally) over.

Best Throw Away Line of the Day

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 9:26 PM EDT

Last line of Patrick Healy's NYT piece:

The Democrats also had a band that played a variety of pop anthems, whereas the Republican hall has been filled with a mix of country music and mellower harmonies. Delegates in both cities have occasionally broken into dancing, and rhythm's challenge has appeared bipartisan.

Green Clubbing In The Netherlands

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 8:56 PM EDT

That's right. A club where dancers generate power to light the floor, drinks come in recyclable cups and toilets flush with rain water. The club named WATT opened in Rotterdam today, reports Reuters. Clubbers tested out WATT's main showpiece, a dance floor where the disco lights become more dynamic as more people grooved around on it. It's done with a spring-loaded platform that compresses crystals to generate current through the piezo-electric effect, the same as push-button lighters and grills. In WATT, a meter shows how much power is being generated—generating even wilder revels.

There's a Sustainable Dance Club destined for London too.

MoJo Video: Palin Puts the Party Back in GOP

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 8:08 PM EDT

Just because you don't love Sarah Palin doesn't mean Republican National Convention-goers don't. Watch our fearless reporter Jonathan Stein's RNC video dispatch [below] as he meets the many fans of McCain and Co.

To see MoJo Video's DNC dispatches, click here and here.

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What They're Saying at the RNC (And What They're Not)

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 6:53 PM EDT

Progressive Accountability has counted the number of times certain words have been used by the speakers at the Republican National Convention. A sampling of the results:

Obama: 32
Pelosi: 4
Hillary Clinton: 2
Bill Clinton: 2
President Bush: 1
War: 22
Iraq: 11
Terror: 9
The surge: 6
Osama bin Laden: 1
Pakistan: 1
Diplomacy: 1
Afghanistan: 0
Taxes: 64
Business: 46
Poverty: 4
Mortgage: 3
Middle Class: 2
Recession: 0

Things To Do With the Price of Cindy McCain's Outfit

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 5:12 PM EDT

cindy_mccain_dress.jpg Vanity Fair added up the value of all the parts of Cindy McCain's ensemble Tuesday night and came up with this:

Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100

Why is Cindy McCain's $300,000 outfit relevant? Because just one day later the GOP spent the evening slamming Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist (using, ironically, former CEOs Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Mitt Romney to make the case). For reference, here are some things you could do with the money it took to buy Cindy McCain's outfit.

- Buy the average American home, which costs $266,00.
- Fund the $5,000 tax credit John McCain proposes giving to working families to help with the annual cost of health care. You could cover 60 families.
- Buy 30,000 anti-malarial bed nets, including distribution to Africa and education on use for recipients.
- Pay the tuition of 59 Arizona State University students.
- Fly a Learjet 60XR for two and a half days at the price of $4,800 an hour (it's the only way to get around Arizona, you know).
- Provide 6,000 students with school desks taken away by a schoolteacher that Mike Huckabee knows.
- Give tire gauges to 75,949 Americans hit hard by the price of gas, so they can get better mileage in their cars. Or so you can mock Barack Obama.
- Send nine community organizers and one part-timer into the streets to work for a better America (hahahaha!).

Look, there's nothing wrong with being rich. But there is something wrong with the party that has been in bed with the super-rich and with Big Business for decades, and has consistently pushed policies that benefit those interests, claiming to know the pulse of the working man. The price of Cindy McCain's dress isn't relevant because of Cindy McCain, the woman can wear what she wants. It's relevant because of what it illustrates about the Republican Party.

Obama Fundraising Goes Bonkers After GOP's Day-Long Attack

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:41 PM EDT

Proving Sean at fivethirtyeight.com correct, Barack Obama has raised around $8 million since Sarah Palin's speech last night. Better than the $7 million McCain got after the Palin pick was announced. Democrats I've spoken to since the speech have had two reactions, sometimes simultaneously: (1) anger about the fact that their guy got roughed up pretty bad, and (2) fear that the GOP has a new super-effective and super-likeable surrogate. Both emotions lead to the opening of wallets. Maybe Obama doesn't want people to calm down?

For the record, Obama has responded to the beating he took last night. It's after the jump.

Palin, Giuliani Mocked Obama's Organizing Work, But It Was Sponsored By The Catholic Church

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Last night at the Republican National Convention, both Rudy Giuliani and McCain veep choice Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago two decades ago. Comparing her experience to Obama's, Palin said "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer—except that you have actual responsibilities." Despite the fact that organizers do have responsibilities, Palin's derision was echoed by the delegates in the hall, who roared with laughter at the idea that "community organizing" is real work.

But in guffawing at Obama's work, the GOP was mocking the efforts of an important group: the Catholic Church. Obama's community work was part of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a project sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Campaign for Human Development has been the church's main anti-poverty and social justice program in America since 1969. Do Palin, Giuliani and all those GOP delegates really believe that bishops' effort to improve the lot of the poor and jobless is a laughing matter?

Mocking church-sponsored community organizing also undermines the right's case for faith-based initiatives and so-called compassionate conservativism. Under the conservative model, a caring citizen doesn't wait for the government to help; he raises himself and his community up—sometimes with the help of community (but non-governmental) groups. It's hypocritical for Republicans to make fun of people for doing what Republicans are always saying they should do—lifting themselves up by their bootstraps. If you want government to to do less, you ought to want community organizers to do more. And as Roland Martin pointed out yesterday on CNN (video below), community organizers are the people assisting Americans hit by the housing crisis and the sputtering economy:

Palin and Giuliani got a good laugh from a friendly crowd, but a lot of Americans won't be in on the joke.