Blogs

Listen to New Oasis Album for Free at (Sigh) MySpace

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 5:13 PM EDT

mojo-photo-oasis-dig.jpgOh, MySpace, how I hate you, let me count the ways. Your layout is nonsensical and counterintuitive, making even the simplest tasks an exercise in frustration. Your 96kbps streaming mp3s sound crunchy and terrible, and start right up at unexpected volumes when you click over to a profile. Your culture of friend-accumulation feeds a fame-for-being-famous culture that's making our children morons. But you got slightly more tolerable this week, after retooling your music player widget and announcing MySpace Music, which is basically an agreement with major labels to allow streaming of full songs and albums on the MySpace site. This has been mostly Imeem's zone for a while, although as this article in Time comparing the services points out, MySpace will get music directly from labels, while Imeem relies on fans to upload songs. So I guess Imeem will continue to be the quirky place to find old Cure songs, while MySpace will have the inside scoop on brand new music, like, say, the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul, which you can listen to in its entirety right now over here.

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Next Steps

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 4:44 PM EDT

NEXT STEPS....Clay Risen speculates on what's next if the Paulson plan passes on Friday:

In a way, all the Paulson plan does is get us back to where we were a few weeks ago, when we were focused not on bank closures but housing foreclosures....But there's a silver lining here: Maybe now policymakers will set aside their concerns about moral hazards and recognize the risk that unhealthy mortgages pose to the rest of the economy.

Well, I wouldn't count on that happening anytime soon. Maybe next January, though.

As has often been the case these days, Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard, former chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, has been a voice of reason on this dilemma. In today's Wall Street Journal, he co-wrote a piece with his Columbia colleague Chris Mayer proposing that "all residential mortgages on primary residences ... be refinanced into 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 5.25% (matching the lowest mortgage rate in the past 30 years)." They argue that we should then place them with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Such a move would directly help out homeowners, and in turn reassure credit markets worried about the wobbly mortgages underlying all those asset-backed securities we've heard so much about.

....This isn't the final step, of course. If one looks at the economy as a heart-attack patient, the Paulson plan is the CPR. A refinancing plan would be the bypass surgery and recovery. Beyond that, just as a heart-attack survivor needs to make serious changes in diet and exercise, we need a thorough round of regulatory reform — including a restructuring of the regulatory system — to help make sure this doesn't happen again and to prepare ourselves for the unknown tumult that a globalized financial infrastructure will bring.

I'd add some broader macroeconomic reforms to that list too, but obviously that's going to take time and lots of political capital. But we can hope.

Sarah Palin Crossbow

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:15 PM EDT

Behold.

Ohio-based Lakota Industries introduces the Sarah-Cuda, a pink camouflage crossbow for "women who face the challenges of adversity and demonstrate the courage and strength to survive in today's world, yet have the caring heart and tenderness of good wives, mothers, sisters and daughters."

Sounds like her, too!

10 percent of Sarah-Cuda proceeds go to the National Association for Down Syndrome.

Eleven Answers

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:15 PM EDT

ELEVEN ANSWERS....Tyler Cowen rounds up some criticism of the Paulson bailout plan:

There is the O'Neill plan....Or the Soros plan. And here is a "SuperBond" plan to recapitalize the banking system. And then there is the Phelps plan....Not to mention the French plan. Or how about the Wright plan.

You remember the old joke, don't you? Ask ten economists a question and you'll get eleven different answers. Has that ever been more true than during our current credit crisis?

Bailout's Handouts

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:45 PM EDT

Wondering why the Senate version of the bailout passed so easily? Why, sweeteners of course! Good government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has broken down the package of tax breaks that were tacked onto the bill (which has ballooned to over 450 pages), and it's clear that at least some of them are being used to placate skittish Senators by handing goodies to their constituents. Examples include a $478 million tax break for movie and TV studios, a $33 million economic development tax credit for businesses in American Samoa, a more favorable depreciation timetable for motor sports race track owners, and an excise tax exemption for manufacturers of wooden arrows meant for children.

McCain Reportedly Pulling Out of Michigan

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

As the polls pull away from him in Michigan, John McCain is reportedly pulling all TV ads in the state and moving most staff to more competitive battlegrounds. The move means that McCain is not playing offense in any 2004 Kerry states except New Hampshire, which has just four electoral votes.

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Obama Up in Florida: Local GOPers Meet Secretly To Worry

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:04 PM EDT

Four recent polls showing Barack Obama moving ahead of John McCain in the all-important state of Florida--and leading McCain there by 3 to 8 points--have sent Sunshine State GOPers into a (secret) panic. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Florida Republican leaders hastily convened a top secret meeting this week to grapple with Sen. John McCain's sagging performance in this must-win state.
Their fears were confirmed Wednesday when four new polls showed Sen. Barack Obama leading, a reversal from just a few weeks ago when McCain was opening up an advantage....
With some grass roots organizers complaining about coordination problems with the campaign, Republican Party chairman Jim Greer gathered top officials at the state headquarters in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon. He swore the group to secrecy.
When asked about it by the St. Petersburg Times, Greer confirmed the meeting. He largely declined to discuss what was said.

Or what they are planning. Note to Democrats, rent Recount--just in case.

McCain Wants Afghanistan "Surge;" U.S. Commanders Do Not

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Let's assume for a minute that the Iraq "surge" was primarily responsible for this year's reduction in violence there. A debatable point, but say it's true. Why shouldn't we just do the same thing in Afghanistan? That's the question on McCain's mind lately. "The same strategy that [Obama] condemned in Iraq," McCain said at last Friday's debate, referring to the Iraq surge, is "going to have to be employed in Afghanistan."

Hey, if it worked in one place, it'll work somewhere else, right? Not quite, say U.S. commanders (here and here). In a comforting departure from the adage that generals are always preparing to fight the last war, new CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, are warning that things aren't that simple and that lessons learned in Iraq don't necessarily translate.

As Petraeus told the New York Times yesterday, "People often ask, 'What did you learn from Iraq that might be transferable to Afghanistan?' The first lesson, the first caution really, is that every situation like this is truly and absolutely unique, and has its own context and specifics and its own texture."

McKiernan seconded the thought with this explanation to the Washington Independent:

[Afghanistan] has very harsh geography. It's very difficult to move around, getting back to our reliance on helicopters. It's a country with very few natural resources, as opposed to the oil revenues that [Iraq] has. There's very little money to be generated in terms of generated in Afghanistan. The literacy rate - you have a literate society in Iraq, you have a society that has a history of producing civil administrators, technocrats, middle class that are able to run the country in Iraq. You do not have that in Afghanistan. So there are a lot of challenges. What I don't think is needed - the word that I don't use in Afghanistan is the word 'surge.' There needs to be a sustained commitment of a variety of military and non-military resources, I believe.

All this said, McKiernan has also asked for more troops. Surge or not, Afghanistan is heating up and the next president will have to figure out how to best to proceed.

Bill O'Reilly Sees Himself as Proof of God

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

Or, more accurately, he sees his rise to the top of the media world as proof of God. No joke. From his new book, called A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity:

"Next time you meet an atheist, tell him or her that you know a bold, fresh guy, a barbarian who was raised in a working-class home and retains the lessons he learned there.
"Then mention to that atheist that this guy is now watched and listened to, on a daily basis, by millions of people all over the world and, to boot, sells millions of books.
"Then, while the non-believer is digesting all that, ask him or her if they still don't believe there's a God!"

As if you needed any more proof that this man is a complete egomaniac...

(Via Oxdown Gazette)

Stevens Case in Trouble?

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

STEVENS CASE IN TROUBLE?....The government's case against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who is accused of accepting free renovations to his "chalet" from a campaign donor, is in trouble because the prosecution has been withholding evidence from Stevens' defense team:

The potentially exculpatory material involves remarks by the executive, Bill Allen, a key prosecution witness, who said he believed Stevens would have paid for the renovations if Allen had ever billed him. Attorneys for the government did not disclose those remarks until late yesterday.

In court this morning, prosecutor Brenda Morris acknowledged that the information should have been provided earlier but also argued that Stevens's lawyers could still cross-examine Allen on what he had said.

"We admit we made a gross error, Your Honor," Morris said. ". . . But there is no harm to the defendant."

Well, this puts me in a pickle. The overall fact pattern suggests to me that Stevens really is guilty. On the other hand, prosecutorial misconduct is a cancer. It's far more widespread than anyone ever likes to acknowledge, and one of the reasons is that judges usually let prosecutors off the hook for their misconduct with little more than a stern talking to. Frankly, having a high-profile case tossed out as a warning to the feds might not be such a bad idea. The judge will decide later today whether to declare a mistrial.