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Like a Swiss Watch

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 3:42 PM EDT

LIKE A SWISS WATCH....Let's summarize the past couple of days: (a) Politico reports that La Palin has spent $150,000 on campaign outfits, (b) John McCain's brother calls 911 to complain about a traffic jam and then curses at the operator for telling him to get off the line, (c) the New York Times reports that Palin also spent $30,000 or so on hair and makeup over a period of two weeks, and (d) a white woman who claimed she was attacked by a black Obama supporter admits that the whole thing was a hoax.

But I guess this is no big deal because the McCain campaign was running so smoothly it could afford a few minor glitches like this, right?

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Let the Defenestrations Begin

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

LET THE DEFENESTRATIONS BEGIN....Politico reports on what's going on behind the scenes in Republican circles:

With despair rising even among many of John McCain's own advisers, influential Republicans inside and outside his campaign are engaged in an intense round of blame-casting and rear-covering — much of it virtually conceding that an Election Day rout is likely.

...."If you really want to see what 'going negative' is in politics, just watch the back-stabbing and blame game that we're starting to see," said Mark McKinnon, the ad man who left the campaign after McCain wrapped up the GOP primary. "And there's one common theme: Everyone who wasn't part of the campaign could have done better."

"The cake is baked," agreed a former McCain strategist. "We're entering the finger-pointing and positioning-for-history part of the campaign. It's every man for himself now."

I am so looking forward to this. Is this schadenfreude? Or does that require at least a veneer of pretending that you're not really taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others? I'm not sure. But I'm looking forward to it anyway.

And you know the part I'm really looking forward to? Sarah Palin's role in all this. I expect her to rip McCain absolutely to shreds. On background, of course, but it will be no less vicious for that. Her future, such as it is, lies with the wingnut rump of the party, and she knows what her audience wants: John McCain's blood. And lots of it. They never liked him in the first place, and I expect them to be howling for his head on a platter starting at about 8:01 pm EST on November 4th.

You Are What You Drive

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 1:59 PM EDT

YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRIVE....That latest news from the Kelley Blue Book people:

McCain receives the highest support from full-size truck (66 percent), full-size SUV (61 percent) and luxury SUV (61 percent) owners. Obama leads McCain among luxury station wagon (59 percent), station wagon and sport wagon (55 percent), hatchback (52 percent) and luxury crossover vehicle (52 percent) owners. Among owners of hybrid vehicles, Obama leads with 48 percent of the preferences, nine points more than McCain.

Among brands, McCain is popular with owners of GMC trucks and Chevrolets, clearly part of real America. Obama is popular with owners of Minis, Subarus, and Saabs, obviously denizens of latte-sipping faux America.

Subway Madness

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

SUBWAY MADNESS....Apparently AIG, over the years, has guaranteed several elaborate tax avoidance schemes that allowed local transit authorities to make some extra money via sale-leaseback agreements with banks. Now that AIG is kaput, the schemes are falling apart and the transit agencies may suddenly get billed for tens of millions of dollars. Transit fan Matt Yglesias is pissed:

WTF is happening here? Can't we, in exchange for all the money we're giving AIG, force the company to keep guaranteeing deals that are vital to keeping our public services running? Something about the implementation of this bailout is very troubling and it doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in the future of TARP.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the issue. AIG is still guaranteeing the deals. The problem is that the contracts with the banks terminate automatically if AIG doesn't maintain a high credit rating. Which, needless to say, they haven't. So now the banks are demanding payment.

Which just goes to show how all this stuff trickles down not just to Main Street, but to the subways underneath Main Street too. However, a Treasury Department spokesman says, "Treasury is aware of this situation." That should make us all feel better, right?

Campaign Trail Update

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 1:14 PM EDT

CAMPAIGN TRAIL UPDATE....Barack Obama and John McCain have finally found something they agree on: George Bush sucks. That's called "reaching across the aisle," boys and girls.

Housing Update

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 12:49 PM EDT

HOUSING UPDATE....The latest news on the housing market:

Although prices continued to fall, existing-home sales climbed more than expected during September, marking the highest level of home sales activity in more than a year.

Home resales rose to a 5.18 million annual rate, a 5.5% increase from August's unrevised 4.91 million annual pace, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.

....The home sales increase represents "a nice jump," said NAR economist Lawrence Yun. "Hopefully, this trend can continue."

OK, I admit it. I'm just trying to cheer you up. That "nice jump" appears to be about the only good news around today amidst an ocean of gloom. Here in California, the latest news is that home foreclosures, after jumping about a million percent over the last year, are now down. But only because of a new law that makes banks delay proceedings until 30 days after contacting the borrower. Woo hoo!

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Obama: It's Colorado, Stupid

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 11:20 AM EDT

Colorado is the key to a Barack Obama victory.

At least, that's what the Obama campaign strategists seem to believe. This morning, the campaign sent out a schedule of Obama's remaining campaign stops. After Obama finishes visiting with his ill grandmother in Hawaii on Friday, he will return to the trail. First up, there are stops in Nevada. Next he will head to New Mexico. Then his final campaign stops will occur in Colorado.

Notice, there's nothing on schedule (as of yet) for Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida, the traditional deciders. Instead, Obama is working hard the new swing states, especially Colorado.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign's attitude toward Colorado is, eh, erratic. The campaign pulled its money out of the state. But after doing that, it decided to send McCain to campaign rallies there. And Sarah Palin has recently campaigned in the state. So what does that mean? Do the McCain strategists believe he can win that state by turning out the base with personal appearances rather than by courting swing voters with expensive teleivsion ads? It's a theory.

Schadenfreude Watch: 10.24.08

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 11:11 AM EDT

We've written about the McCain campaign and, by extension, the Republican Party coming apart at the seams before, so let's just make it a regular feature. Today, here's Politico:

One well-connected Republican in the private sector was shocked to get calls and resumes in the past few days from what he said were senior McCain aides – a breach of custom for even the worst-off campaigns.
"It's not an extraordinarily happy place to be right now," said one senior McCain aide. "I'm not gonna lie. It's just unfortunate."

Oakland Ground Zero for Prop 8 Hate Speech

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 12:43 AM EDT

Prop8.jpg Another night of Prop 8 campaigning in east Oakland, this time with supporters and opponents of the ban on gay marriage verbally battling face to face. At least 150 people packed each streetcorner, spilling out into traffic causing tie-ups in traffic and mayhem (I counted 14 police cruisers at one point) with cars honking and both sides yelling back and forth for hours. There was so much energy and anger in the air, people of all races, ages, and backgrounds, so passionate and fervent in their beliefs, taking to the streets. But I kept thinking, what a tragedy, that such energy is wasted on this fight.

Mormon churchgoers have been rallying for Prop 8 at this intersection for several days now and in response neighbors organized via email to counter the message in person with messages of their own. Their message: "Equality for All," "Don't Discriminate, No on 8" and "Say No to Hate, No on 8." The chants were dirtier tonight on the Yes side, along with "Save Our Children" and the "Protect Marriage" there were plenty of "Don't Hate, Be Straight" and "Stop the Virus AIDS" chorus rounds.

Quote of the Day - 10.23.08

| Thu Oct. 23, 2008 10:51 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress on the derivatives market:

"Credit default swaps, I think, have serious problems associated with them."

Ya think? The subprime lending market may have been the trigger for our late financial collapse, but the truth is that the trigger could just as easily been mispriced risk (i.e., irrational exuberance) in a variety of other markets. If subprimes had been regulated better, maybe there would have been a bubble in commercial real estate instead. Or arctic oil drilling. Or online pet food companies. Who knows? Regardless of the trigger, however, it was only when the resulting bubble got multiplied tenfold by opaque global chains of credit default swaps that the bursting of an asset bubble went from routine disaster to worldwide financial meltdown. So yeah: there are serious problems there. Here's more from Greenspan:

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Mr. Greenspan said.

....Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Mr. Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Mr. Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

Hmmm. Maybe not quite so well as he thought.