Blogs

McCain's Rescue Plan

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:56 PM EDT

McCAIN'S RESCUE PLAN....It's now clear that John McCain's $300 billion homeowner rescue plan really does envision paying mortgage lenders full face value for their subprime loans, even though they've all cratered badly during the housing bust. How do we know? Because his website originally said that mortgage lenders would be required to write down their loans, but that language was removed on Wednesday. It was "a simple mistake," the campaign said.

But here's what I don't get: why? This was plainly a middle class pander, and not one that McCain would have been obligated to follow through on. This kind of stuff changes at the detail level all the time. So why include such a blatant giveaway for Wall Street? Even if you have some technical reason for thinking it's a good idea, it doesn't make any political sense at all. What's going on?

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...And Some Growing Increasingly Sane

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:36 PM EDT

While some conservatives grow increasingly batty, some are growing increasingly sane. And by "increasingly sane," I mean increasingly cognizant of some of the Republican Party's troubling undercurrents that have brought it to this point. Here's David Brooks.

Here's the relevant excerpt transcribed:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. . … Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

(Via Think Progress)

On Right-Wingers Going Crazy...

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:14 PM EDT

Two notes on Kevin's observation that right wing writers are descending into hilarious self-caricature as Obama pulls ahead in the polls.

(1) Kevin notes that the right wing blog The Corner is now posting about "Obama being a secret Maoist." He's not kidding. Here's an actual quote, written with high seriousness: "[Obama] fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist." And, no, they aren't kidding. It makes me wonder: as someone who now wants the federal government to own America's bad mortgages, what kind of communist is John McCain?

(2) The right wing isn't just becoming more and more divorced from reality as their electoral prospects worsen. It's also becoming more racist and more susceptible to crazy conspiracy theories. One of them is actually claiming, sans evidence, that Bill Ayers ghost wrote Dreams of My Father.

Like I said yesterday, this is going to get hilarious before it's over.

Are You Hot or Not?

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

Researchers in Israel have come up with a mathematical formula to answer the question. Using a computer program called the "beautification engine," you can basically feed a picture of yourself into the machine, and it will pop out the new and improved you. (I, for one, would rather not know how much better I could look. I can't see that being any help to my self confidence. But I digress...) The formula is based on 68 responses from men and women in Germany and Israel who were asked to rate the beauty of a set of facial images. Now, this is not the kind of science that will win anyone a Nobel Prize, but at least one revelation seems to have come out of it: James Franco is apparently the most perfect male specimen on the planet. His agent must be busy this morning...

Doonesbury, Cont'd.

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 11:18 AM EDT

Here's yesterday's strip:

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And here's a link to today's. The crusade continues.

Calendars Show Gov. Palin's Foreign Policy Experience: About 20 Meetings for About 12 Hours

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 11:17 AM EDT

In her first interview after John McCain picked her to be the GOP's vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claimed that her foreign policy credentials were enhanced because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." She also pointed out that she had experience dealing with trade delegations. Later, asked by CBS News' Katie Couric if she had ever participated in negotiations with Russia, Palin said, "We have trade missions back and forth. We—we do—it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia ."

But the calendars tracking Palin's official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules—obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska's Open Records Act—indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials. And in many instances, these interactions were cursory or ceremonial and did not involve policy details. According to the schedules released, Palin spent roughly 12 hours over the course of 19 months on these meetings. (This doesn't count what happened during a four-day trip she took to Kuwait to visit members of the Alaska National Guard. The schedules for those days do not detail whom she met.) The calendars show no meetings between her and a trade delegation from any nation.

It's possible that the calendars are not fully accurate reflections of what happened—perhaps some meetings ran longer (or shorter) than scheduled. And it's possible that in her off hours, Palin pored over Foreign Affairs, held unofficial chats with foreign officials, and sought out foreign policy experts. Also, there is a six-week gap in her calendars—from mid May through the end of June 2007—due to what her office calls a "computer failure." But according to the schedules, throughout her stint as governor, Palin has devoted merely a few hours to anything of a foreign relations nature, and most of her contact with foreign officials came through discussions with Canadian officials about a natural gas pipeline involving a Canadian company.

Here is a complete list of all of Palin's official calendar entries for events or meetings in which she had to interact with a foreign representative. The missing weeks aside, this list represents the sum of the foreign policy experience she obtained while serving as governor.

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The Rumble in the Corner

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 2:51 AM EDT

THE RUMBLE IN THE CORNER....As regular readers know, I'm a fan of NRO's The Corner, which I think of as sort of a direct pipeline into the conservative id. Lately, as an Obama victory has become more and more likely, the Cornerites have started going completely around the bend, venting their frustration in lunatic conspiracy theories and manic love notes that are increasingly untethered from the real world. This afternoon, after reading their latest bunch of posts about Obama being a secret Maoist, I thought maybe I should finally write something about it. In the end I was too lazy to do it, but luckily Hilzoy came through with a post that hits all the high points I was going to make anyway. Go check it out to get a sense of how the impending doom of an Obama victory is sending conservatives into cloudcuckooland.

But why are they going so stone batty? My theory is that Obama is driving them crazy the same way that Ali drove Foreman crazy in the Rumble in the Jungle. You remember that fight, don't you? Foreman was the heavy favorite, a brawler who had dropped Joe Frazier in two rounds and seemed likely to beat Ali to a pulp. But Ali won by playing mind games on Foreman. He sat on the ropes, took hit after hit, and then taunted Foreman in the clinches to hit him even harder. An enraged Foreman kept swinging wildly, but nothing worked. Ali took everything he could dish out, and the furnace-like heat finally did Foreman in. In the eighth round, drained and exhausted, he was knocked cold by an Ali combination that ended the fight.

The same thing is happening to McCain and his supporters. They're throwing everything they have at Obama, and he's just taking it. Nothing seems to have an effect, so they keep swinging ever more wildly. But that isn't working either, and it's driving them crazy. Who is this guy? Why won't he go down? It's enraging. They just can't believe they're losing to this punk. And so they become ever more unhinged, making up wilder and wilder stories and becoming more and more enraged when they can't get any traction with them. At this rate, their next stop is a padded cell at Arkham.

Personally, I wish Obama were doing more than playing rope-a-dope: it's going to win him an election, but it might not win him the war. Still, it is pretty likely to win him the election, and it's driving lots of conservatives crackers at the same time. We could do worse, I guess.

Another Finger in the Dike

| Thu Oct. 9, 2008 12:59 AM EDT

ANOTHER FINGER IN THE DIKE....A couple of days ago we learned the startling news that AIG has already blown through $61 billion of its $85 billion bailout cash. What to do? Answer: give 'em more money:

The Federal Reserve Board said Wednesday that it would provide up to $37.8 billion to the embattled insurer the American International Group to help it deal with a rapidly dwindling supply of cash.

....A.I.G. said Wednesday that it would use the $37.8 billion from the Fed to improve the liquidity of its securities lending business, which is losing cash rapidly. By stopping that flow, A.I.G. said, it would be able to preserve more of the Fed loan and use that money more effectively to wind down the affairs of A.I.G.'s troubled structured finance division, known as the financial products unit.

"Financial products unit" = credit default swaps, just in case the terminology is a little opaque here. That one unit was basically responsible for bringing down the entire company.

Top 5: New Music

| Wed Oct. 8, 2008 10:33 PM EDT

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In this edition, Kanye reacts to a broken heart by putting tarps on all his furniture, Pitbull steals an Italian techno track and makes it even better, Chad Vangaalen lets his freak-folk flag fly, The Streets returns with a delicate ballad, and Brightblack Morning Light whisper something about the spirit of the Buffalo, or something.

1. Kanye West – "Love Lockdown"

I'm not immediately loving this song like I (and everybody else) did with "Stronger" and "Good Life," for instance, but I'm definitely fascinated by it. Musically, this is about as minimal as possible, just three tuned bass drum noises, joined later by simple piano chords and what sounds like African percussion. It's nowhere near as leftfield as M.I.A.'s triple-time African drum tribute, "Boyz," but it's still pretty crazy, and the video's dreamlike imagery only adds to the strangeness.

2. Pitbull – "Krazy"

Didn't I write a while back about how dance beats are taking over hip-hop? Well, this is the most extreme example yet: a few years back, Italian producer Frederico Franchi put out a storming track called "Cream," whose simple, wobbling melody and thudding breakbeat made it totally infectious. (It was one of the first tracks featured in an epic Simian Mobile Disco DJ set I wrote about last year.) Along comes Miami rapper Pitbull to put some raise-the-roof lyrics over the top, and you've got one of the most fun (and unlikeliest) hits of 2008.

After the jump: Canadians croon, Mikey Skinner hits the skids, and hippies hypnotize me.

More Capitalization

| Wed Oct. 8, 2008 6:36 PM EDT

MORE CAPITALIZATION....Speaking of capitalization, I see that Justin Fox answers a question today that's been on my mind for a while. The bailout plan passed last week was designed to buy up troubled assets, but are the powers it gives to the Secretary of the Treasury so broad that the funds can be used to directly recapitalize banks instead? Apparently so:

Did anybody else notice that when Hank Paulson was describing in his press conference today what the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act enables Treasury to do, the first thing he listed was "to inject capital into financial institutions"?

That wasn't how Treasury initially advertised its Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was sold as a way to get the market for mortgage securities moving (or, to use the jargon, liquid). Lots of academic economists objected that liquidity wasn't the problem, it was insolvency. What Treasury needed to do was recapitalize financial institutions and take equity stakes in return.

....Yesterday Ben Bernanke hinted that a change in emphasis might be in the offing for the TARP. And today Paulson seemed to confirm it....I take it as one more sign that we're headed toward a Swedish solution of our banking crisis — recapitalization and temporary nationalization of much of the banking system. This is the right thing to do, I think. But I'm still a little bit confused as to why Paulson had to back into this instead of asking for it in the first place. Maybe because he thought President Bush would never sign a bill to nationalize the banks? Just a thought.

Very interesting.