Blogs

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.

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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.

PBS's Frontline Special on Obama and "That One"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

Even though yours truly ended up on the cutting room floor, I'm still plugging for y'all to watch tonight as PBS profiles the two presidential candidates. And gets folks who are apparently much smarter than me to opine on the choice. Ahem.

Watch a preview here.

The Recession Cometh

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:22 PM EDT

THE RECESSION COMETH....Atrios points us to the latest from Nouriel Roubini, the Cassandra of the banking crisis:

Nouriel Roubini, the professor who predicted the financial crisis in 2006, said the U.S. will suffer its worst recession in 40 years, causing the rally in the stock market to "sputter.''

"There are significant downside risks still to the market and the economy,'' Roubini, 50, a New York University professor of economics, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "We're going to be surprised by the severity of the recession and the severity of the financial losses.''

The economist said the recession will last 18 to 24 months, driving unemployment to 9 percent, and already depressed home prices will fall another 15 percent. The U.S. government will need to double its purchase of bank stakes and force lenders to eliminate dividends to save them from bankruptcy, Roubini added.

This actually sounds about right to me. Another round of recapitalization strikes me as at least a 50-50 probability; forcing banks to suspend dividends sounds like a painful but necessary move; and there's really no question that we're headed into a fairly deep recession. In fact, what really surprises me is that it's only in the past week or so that newspapers have stopped running fatuous headlines along the lines of "Is U.S. Slipping Into Recession?" Of course the U.S. — and the rest of the world — are slipping into recession. Frankly, I think that's been obvious for months, but certainly nobody sentient could have doubted it anytime after mid-September.

And my arcane concerns about the current account deficit notwithstanding, massive stimulus is pretty obviously the right fiscal response to this now that monetary policy has been mostly played out. Along those lines, check out Steve Teles for some good ideas on what a stimulus package should look like. "Right now the Democrats are in danger of doing the obvious," he warns, "which will be bad economics, bad government, and bad politics. Someone needs to get them thinking bigger." Get to work, blogosphere!

Dueling Definitions of "Palinize"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:13 PM EDT

Sarah Palin is quickly becoming a figure of speech as well as a figure of fun. Definitions of "Palin" words are still evolving, but here are two contenders from DailyKos and National Review:

1) Palinize, from DailyKos:

"Palinizing is above all the art of distraction, with the goal of diverting attention away from a fault (in Palin's case, ignorance) and towards the glittering veneer of hollow talking points which dazzle but do nothing in terms of answering the question presented."

and,

2) Palinize, from National Review:

"Palinize: to slander and caricature a working-class female public figure for the noble advancement of liberalism."

Could Palin, like Gerry (of "gerrymandering" fame), someday make it into dictionaries?
—Katie Flynn

ACORN's Wild Success Quantified

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

I'll have a lot more on this ACORN controversy in bit, but thought I'd point this out now. ACORN claims it has registered 1.3 million new voters this election cycle, mostly low-income people, people of color, and young people. On a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign today, campaign manager David Plouffe said the AP found 9 million newly registered voters across the whole country.

If these numbers are correct, a single organization has registered 15 percent of all new voters this election. That's a simply stunning number.

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Anchorage Daily News Calls Palin a Big "Orwellian" Liar

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Hometown audiences can be harsh--especially when they are disappointed. After the Alaska Troopergate report was released and declared that Governor Sarah Palin had abused her office, Palin maintained that she had been exonerated. Not so fast, says the Anchorage Daily News. Here's how the newspaper responded to Palin's claim:

Sarah Palin's reaction to the Legislature's Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.
She claims the report "vindicates" her. She said that the investigation found "no unlawful or unethical activity on my part."
Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.
Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."
In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law.
....If she had actually read it, she couldn't claim "vindication" with a straight face.
....Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.
....You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?
Bottom line: Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.

It's hard to accuse the Anchorage Daily News of being part of the Eastern establishment liberal media conspiracy that is supposedly out to destroy Palin. So how will the McCain-Palin spinners spin this one?

Fighting Extradition, "Merchant of Death" Cites Guantanamo

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

viktorbout.jpg

The world's most infamous (translation: successful) black market arms dealer was arrested last March in Thailand, taken down by an international sting operation spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, Russian Viktor Bout has been held in a Bangkok prison, awaiting extradition to the United States, where he will face terrorism charges. The trial, if it ever takes place, is likely to be somewhat thorny for the U.S. government, which contracted with Bout-controlled firms to transfer weapons and supplies into Baghdad in the months immediately following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But let's forget about that for now... Bout's attorney is pulling out all the stops in his effort to prevent his client's extradition. The latest tactic? Remind the world of what the Americans have been doing to prisoners held on terrorism charges—namely, locking them up and throwing away the key. Thai lawyer Chamroen Panompakakom today pointed a Bangkok courtroom's attention to the case of Hambali, an Indonesian Al Qaeda leader also captured in a Thailand. In 2003, he disappeared into Guantanamo and has yet to stand trial. There's little doubt of Bout's guilt. He was caught red-handed in the act of selling surface-to-air missiles to what he believed to be members of the Colombian FARC. But if he manages to evade the U.S. legal system, it could well be the latest perversion of law to result from Guantanamo: Bout avoids his day in court, while Guantanamo's inmates would love nothing more than to have theirs. Oh, the irony....

The Coming Conservative Backlash

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 1:47 PM EDT

THE COMING CONSERVATIVE BACKLASH....In today's column, David Brooks is already predicting a conservative backlash against upcoming liberal overreach. Sheesh. Can we please have our liberal overreach first? I'm looking forward to it.

Personally, though, I'm skeptical. I hope I'm just being my usual pessimistic self, but I'm skeptical anyway. Take this from Ezra Klein, for example, about the new Paulson bailout plan:

The liberals were right. Not the Democrats. The liberals. They were right that deregulation had gone too far....They were right that government intervention on a massive scale was needed to stabilize the capitalist system. They were so right, in fact, that Hank Paulson and George W. Bush couldn't hold the line, and will now sign into law the most profoundly socialist measure this country has seen since the 1930s.

Maybe. And this is basically what prompts Brooks to predict a social democratic renaissance hellscape, which will eventually degenerate into....something....and then produce an inevitable backlash.

But, really, is this bailout the most profoundly socialist measure this country has seen since the 1930s? In a technical sense, maybe it is (though conservatives would probably argue the case for Medicare), but I have my doubts that it's a harbinger of social revolution. The government isn't nationalizing banks, after all. They're taking what amounts to roughly 20% nonvoting stakes. And my guess is that in a couple of years, when the markets have settled down, they'll sell those stakes off and everything will return to normal. Hopefully it will be a more tightly regulated normal, but it won't necessarily have an enormous impact beyond the financial sector.

I hope I'm wrong about this. I'd like to see the social democratic renaissance that Brooks is so itchy about. But although I know that comparisons to Japan and Sweden aren't really fair since both countries are already pretty socially democratic compared to ours, it's still the case that massive bank failures in those countries in the early 90s didn't fundamentally change their characters. I have my doubts that it will happen here, either, unless Barack Obama turns out to be a far more dynamic leader than I expect him to be. I sure hope he proves my skepticism wrong, and if he does I'm perfectly willing to accept the conservative backlash in 2024 that goes along with it. We could get a lot done in the meantime.

Robot Cars

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 1:14 PM EDT

ROBOT CARS....Matt Yglesias, riffing off a Tim Lee piece, says that self-driving cars could free up lots of parking spaces. Which is true, I guess, but seems sort of like saying that cold fusion would be great because it would allow us to build smaller cooling towers. If we ever do build a genuinely self-driving car, it means we're only a stone's throw away from nearly human-level artificial intelligence. More efficient parking will be the least of our worries at that point.