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McCain's Headwinds

| Wed Oct. 15, 2008 12:32 PM EDT

McCAIN'S HEADWINDS....Via Ezra, Matt Taibbi and Byron York have an IM conversation for New York magazine:

B.Y.: I've just finished an article for National Review — the actual magazine — about the headwinds McCain faces. I was going to look at three, and then I started to list them. I stopped at ten. New Gallup numbers out today show that George W. Bush's job approval rating remains at 25 percent, while his disapproval rating has ticked up to 71 percent. How hard is it to succeed a two-term president of your own party who is at 25-71? We don't know because it's never been done.

M.T.: Yeah, that's a damned shame, too. I feel really badly for the guy. I suppose you think the media coverage is also a headwind?

B.Y.: Actually, I did not list media coverage among the headwinds. I listed the succeed-a-two-term-president problem, the right-track/wrong-track problem, the Republican-Democrat-enthusiasm gap problem, the Republican-Democrat-I.D.-gap problem, the financial meltdown, Iraq, Republican gloom on Capitol Hill, Obama's fund-raising advantage, and McCain's historical problems with the GOP base.

M.T.: But all of those "headwinds," or almost all of them, are the direct result of McCain having supported policies that are now unpopular. There is absolute justice in his facing a "headwind" from the financial meltdown, from the unpopularity of the Iraq war, and so on. How is that a "headwind"? That's just self-created unpopularity.

The rest of the conversation is even more entertaining as York tries to insist that Fannie Mae and CRA are the real causes of the credit crisis. Live by the smear, die by the smear.

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Gamma Quadrant Update

| Wed Oct. 15, 2008 12:26 AM EDT

GAMMA QUADRANT UPDATE....What's that, you say? Barack Obama is palling around with terrorists? That is so last week. Here's a more recent tour of the Gamma Quadrant:

One: Bill Ayers really wrote Obama's book, Dreams From My Father. Two: Obama had an underage, gay affair with a pedophile. Three: It's entirely possible that Obama was involved with bombing the South African rugby team while he was at Columbia in the 80s. Four: Obama, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright (via a chain of associations too Rube Goldbergesque to summarize) were engaged in a conspiracy to teach Pan-African "cultural nationalism" to Chicago schoolkids during the 90s. Five: Obama was having an affair with one of his fundraiser babes in 2004 until Michelle found out and banished the woman to a "little Caribbean island."

There's no evidence yet that Obama was actually the secret love child of Malcolm X, but I'm sure we'll find it soon enough if we just keep digging.

Playing Pattycake?***

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 9:31 PM EDT

PLAYING PATTYCAKE?....The stock market was down today, but shares in banks that got capital infusions yesterday are up, up, up. The LA Times reports:

Investors' verdict on the Treasury's $250-billion plan to buy stakes in banks: They love it.

That may make taxpayers even more suspicious about these deals. If there was supposed to be some pain involved for shareholders in this partial nationalization, it's not showing up in the stocks. Of the nine big banks expected to get the largest cash infusions, most saw their shares surge today — the third straight advance — even as major market indexes slipped.

Sure, maybe this means less than meets the eye. Maybe the details don't matter, and investors just figure bailout = good and therefore it's time to buy. But check out this tick-tock from the Wall Street Journal about how yesterday's meeting at the Treasury Department went:

A final deal between regulators was hashed out in Mr. Paulson's office Sunday afternoon....The top bankers were then told to show up for a meeting Monday at 3 p.m., but were given few details. Expecting an uproar over the plan, government officials secretly planned to break off the first meeting, giving CEOs time to vent, talk to their boards, clear their heads, and reconvene at 6:30 p.m.

In Mr. Paulson's call with Morgan Stanley's Mr. Mack, the CEO asked the Treasury secretary the reason for the meeting, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Paulson responded, according to a person familiar with the matter: "Come on down, we'll tell everyone at the same time," adding, "I think you'll be pleased."

....U.S. officials argued the plan represented a good deal for the banks: The government would be buying preferred shares, and thus wouldn't dilute their common shareholders. And the banks would pay a relatively modest 5% in annual dividend payments.

The meeting ended at about 4 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., all of the [term sheets] had been turned in and signed by the CEOs. No second meeting was held.

It sure doesn't sound like the bankers put up much of a fight, does it? They've shown precious little willingness to sacrifice for the common good before now, so my guess is that they decided this was indeed a pretty good deal. Count me among those taxpayers who are more suspicious about this deal than I was yesterday.

On Bitch Magazine, Female Bodyguards, and More Feminist Superheroes

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 7:17 PM EDT

Over the last few days, quite a few articles about women have been messing with my mind. In a good way. With all the gloom and doom out there, it's crucial to be reminded that we chicks are still in the trenches making art, fighting the power, and refusing to shut the 'f' up.

First, Bitch magazine. Sadly, and to my chagrin, this is a mag I've never read, though I keep reminding myself to. Running after two kids and living the vida loca freelance life, I pretty much only read print mags I'm comp'd for (meaning: They send it to me free either because I've written for them or because they hope I'll reference them in my own work). My beloved New Yorker is the only magazine I remember to pay for anymore. I actually sigh with pleasure when it arrives, carve out precious time to read it in peace, and feel sad when I get to the cartoon contest at the back. (More is another must read. I love it so much, I spoofed it. I've written for them, so when my comp runs out I'll move my keister to subscribe. There's also MoJo, of course, which goes without saying). Pre-munchkins, I subscribed to 12 mags, read books galore, and saw every indecipherable foreign movie, too. Damn, where'd my life go? I can't wait to get old and be a burden to those two life-drainers. Maybe I'll fake early onset...something.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Bitch magazine.

From womensenews:

Bill O'Reilly v. the First Graders

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 7:01 PM EDT

On Friday my son took a field trip with his first grade class to throw flower petals at his teacher as she exited City Hall in San Francisco, a newlywed. The class took a city bus down, surprised her and her bride, then had pizza. My son described the adventure as mostly boring, waiting around on the steps of City Hall with handfuls of flower petals. But he was very happy for his teacher, who he has quickly grown to love. When asked about the event, he gave a six-year-old's answer about people loving and caring for each other. He then moved on to Legos and more important things.

What my son (and I) didn't understand is that what he took part in was, according to Bill O'Reilly, "A new outrage in San Francisco," and that "opponents of gay marriage are up in arms, but the school administrators say it's no big deal." Ah, a teaching moment. Yes, kids, monsters are real. You'll know them because they'll be the ones taking up "arms" against an elementary school.

A story on the event, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, has attracted more than 1,400 comments, many of them censored by the Chron—I assume because they contain threats and curse words—as well as homophobic diatribes more suitable for publication, like O'Reilly's. I'd like to thank Mayor Newsom (who performed the wedding) for standing up for the issue of gay marriage, even as I beg his pardon for complicating matters by allowing my kid to play a small, meaningful part in a legal and beautiful celebration.

I also want to be clear to the monsters and bigots out there that you're not scary. Hateful, yes, but you don't scare us.

—Eddie Scher

The Termites That Sank New Orleans

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 6:37 PM EDT

399px-Coptotermes_formosanus_shiraki_USGov_k8204-7.jpg A new study in American Entomologist suggests termites damaged New Orleans dikes enough for Hurricane Katrina to knock them over. The researchers first noticed termite trouble five years before Katrina struck. They found Formosan subterranean termites in floodwall seams made of bagasse—the residue from processed sugarcane. Formosan termites love the stuff.

After the 2005 breaches, the researchers inspected 100 seams, including three areas with major breaks. Seventy percent of the seams in the London Avenue Canal had been attacked by insects, and two major dike breaks occurred there during Katrina. Twenty-seven percent of seams in the ravaged 17th Street Canal also showed termite damage.

The Formosan subterranean termite is an invasive species native to China, where it damages levees. Besides eating at bagasse seams, the termites may have contributed to the destruction of the levees of New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels that funneled water and undermined the levee system. Ooops. . . The authors suggest that New Orleans' 350 miles of levees and floodwalls be surveyed for termite damage.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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Madonna Says Her Anti-Palin Threats Are a "Metaphor"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 6:25 PM EDT

50-year-old singer Madonna kicked off her latest tour last week in New Jersey, and made headlines for mentioning everybody's second-favorite Vice Presidential candidate. I mean Palin. Madonna apparently shouted to the crowd that the Alaska governor "can't come to my party! Sarah Palin can't come to my show!" Later, Madge even performed what appeared to be an impromptu, albeit non-rhyming, rap of some sort (see video above) in which she threatened to "kick [Palin's] ass." Perhaps more troublingly, during the song "Get Stupid," a video screen features a montage of bad guys like Hitler and Robert Mugabe, and Senator McCain pops up as well; Obama is included in the "good guys" section along with John Lennon and Gandhi. I'm not sure that's the equivalent of a consistent pattern of whipping up xenophobic, racist hatred at your political rallies until the assembled wingnuts demand the beheading of your opponent, but it has ruffled a few feathers, and the singer was asked about the comments at the premier of, uh, a movie she directed. Madonna directed a movie? Wow. Anyway, she said the "trash talk" was just "a metaphor," since Palin's "in the Republican Party, I'm in the Democratic Party." See a video of those comments (and more!) after the jump.

Report from Las Vegas: Obama Inching Ahead As a "Recession-Proof" Local Economy Falls Behind

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 5:46 PM EDT

These days, the city that lives off the fat of high-stakes risk is also suffering its consequences. Las Vegans can no longer deny the fact that their major industry is not, as so many once claimed, immune to financial downturns. Casino traffic and income in Nevada are declining. (According to one theory, while people still gamble when they're broke, they do it closer to home.) The foreclosure crisis has hit this state hard; you can now drive by subdivisions in which a majority of the houses look dark and uninhabited. New arrivals are finding that they can furnish their homes with what's been thrown away by departing residents.

The latest polls are showing Obama pulling ahead of McCain in Nevada. Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason Dixon poll of likely voters has 47 percent for Obama, 45 percent for McCain, and 6 percent undecided. According to Hugh Jackson, who runs an excellent local progressive blog, the Las Vegas Gleaner, these local polls are notoriously unreliable. And the narrow point spread may be statistically insignificant. Still Congressional Quarterly's election map just shifted Nevada from the "toss up" category to "leaning Obama." And there's certainly been a big change from the Review-Journal's poll two months ago, which had McCain leading Obama 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

The Revolution Lives

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 5:43 PM EDT

THE REVOLUTION LIVES....Conservatives have been mostly at sea over the banking crisis, and I figure one of the reasons is that even modern movement conservatives have been unable to argue with a straight face that the solution to a systemic global credit crisis is the right wing's usual economic cure-all: tax cuts. This isn't entirely true, of course, as we saw a couple of weeks ago when the wingnuts in the Republican Study Committee held up the bailout bill because they thought that eliminating the capital gains tax ought to be a part of the package. Still, that one desultory effort aside, there's just been no way to plausibly pretend that extending the tax cut revolution was a serious answer to preventing financial meltdown.

Until now! Check out my abridged version of John McCain's latest economic plan:

Lower Taxes On....Suspend Tax Rules That....Accelerate The Tax Write-Off For....Reduce Capital Gains Taxes For....Eliminate Taxes On....

There's nothing like that old time gospel, is there? You name a problem, and the answer is tax cuts for the well-off. For more detail and less snark, Robert Gordon and James Kvaal have you covered here.

The ACORN Controversy: A Tough Nut to Crack

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

For years, conservatives have grumbled about voter registration efforts aimed at low-income citizens, particularly those mounted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), claiming these campaigns are rampant with fraud and corruption that benefits Democrats. On Tuesday, this low-grade battle became a headline-making clash, as the McCain-Palin campaign blasted ACORN and the Obama-Biden campaign and ACORN responded in kind.

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, the McCain campaign put the chairmen of its "Honest and Open Election Committee," former Republican Senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman, front and center before the national media. The pair asserted that the election is in danger of being compromised, accusing ACORN of submitting thousands of phony voter registrations nationwide. They noted that they had sent a letter to the Obama campaign, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, and top state election officials proposing the creation of joint election observation teams. "Each campaign would list every precinct where either fears there is a potential for voter intimidation, fraud, or mistrust of the tabulation process on Election Day," the letter reads. "Each campaign would be responsible for recruiting a volunteer for each named precinct. The Republican and Democratic volunteers would work jointly as an observation team." (It is already routine for campaigns and parties to send election observers, often trained lawyers, to polling locations on Election Day. Representatives of local media outlets are commonly on hand as well.)

Danforth and Rudman's letter ends, "Let's talk." The Obama campaign isn't interested. It points out that the campaigns already dealt with this issue in an exchange of letters in September that generated little media attention. At that time, the McCain folks notified the Obama campaign of its joint observation teams idea and a week later the Obama campaign responded harshly: "This seems a starkly political maneuver to deflect attention from the reality of the suppression strategies pursued by national, state and Republican party committees." Nothing further occurred.