Blogs

McCain: More of Nothing on the Financial Crisis

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

Should we start counting the days before John McCain has anything real to say about the current financial crises? In a speech on Tuesday, he offered not a single concrete proposal. Today, as Barack Obama was delivering a speech on the financial crisis, McCain issued the following statement:

On Tuesday, I addressed the housing crisis and its devastating impact on our financial markets and the household budgets of millions of hardworking Americans. The fact is that there are about 4 million homeowners in danger of losing their homes. We have a responsibility to take action to help those among them who are deserving homeowners, and as I said this week, I am committed to considering any and all proposals to do so. Any action must further look to the future to make certain this never happens again.
As I said on Tuesday, I believe the role of government is to help the truly needy, prevent systemic economic risk, and enact reforms that prevent the kind of crisis we are currently experiencing from ever happening again. Those reforms should focus on improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets -- both of which were lacking in the lead-up to the current situation.
However, what is not necessary is a multi-billion dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Senators Clinton and Obama have proposed. There is a tendency for liberals to seek big government programs that sock it to American taxpayers while failing to solve the very real problems we face.
This is a complex problem that deserves a careful, balanced approach that helps the homeowners in trouble, not big banks and speculators that acted irresponsibly. I again call on our lending institutions, where possible, to step up and help Americans who are hurting in this crisis.

Again, not one specific proactive idea. McCain is quick with the usual anti-Democratic rhetoric. And he has a populist point about no bailouts for irresponsible corporate actors rings. But does he intend to spend the next seven months campaigning as Mr. No? McCain notes that he is willing to consider proposals placed before him. He's apparently not interested in coming up with any of his own. Is that a model of economic leadership that will play well in the fall?

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Poll: Age Is a Liability for McCain

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 11:50 AM EDT

All joking aside, age is a serious issue that John McCain is going to have to overcome this fall. According to a new NBC/WSJ survey, 29 percent of respondents feel this country isn't ready for a president over 70. McCain, who was born August 29, 1936 at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, is currently 71 and will be 72 by election day. If elected, he would be the oldest first-term president in American history. If he runs against Obama, the 25-year age difference between the two will be the largest-ever difference between major party candidates.

By contrast, the same survey showed that 20 percent of respondents said the country is not ready for a female president and 18 percent said it is not ready for an African American one. This is consistent with an early 2007 poll that showed being 72-years-old on election day is as much of a disadvantage as being homosexual. No joke.

Can the Bush Administration Run a War? (You Know the Answer)

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 10:42 AM EDT

Can the Bush administration run a war?

That is, of course, a rhetorical question. But if you needed any additional proof of the obvious answer, The New York Times provides it in a fine example of front-page investigative reporting that shows how a fledgling firm run by a 22-year old and by a licensed masseur has been the American military's lead supplier of arms--and shoddy and ineffective arms, at that--to the Afghan army. It's a tale of incompetence and absurdity. Due to the Times' probing, the company has been suspended by the military. But the real question is, will anyone in the military lose their job because of this massive foul-up? From Iraq to Walter Reed to this, Bush's adventures overseas have revealed how screwed up the military can be. That ain't a surprise. But heads ought to roll. Paging Congressman Waxman.

Update: That didn't take long. Waxman's House Oversight Committee has called the company's top brass, plus officials from State and Defense, to come testify.

Remix Manu Chao's New Song

| Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:39 PM EDT

mojo-photo-manuchao.jpgI'm always stoked when artists put out a capellas from their songs (for easier DJ tricks and mashupping), and it's even more fun when you get the individual instrument tracks, all split up for your amateur-song-rearranger pleasure. This "here, take it all" attitude is still kind of rare, weirdly enough: you'd think every artist out there would take advantage of the free "wikimixers" out there on the off chance of coming up with an even more awesome version of their song.

Well, at least Spanish-French singer Manu Chao gets it. He's sponsoring a remix contest for his latest song, "Politik Kills," which in its original version is a loping reggae number, complete with Chao's typically hypnotic guitar work, although the first thing I might do is take down the level of the vocals which are a bit on the polemical-lecture side for me. But no biggie. Eighteen new versions have already been posted on his website, including dubby ones from Chris Blackwell and Prince Fatty, as well as a shuffly south-of-the-border style mix from Mexican Dubweiser & Kinky. Watch a fan-made video for the original after the jump, and check out the remixes and download the individual tracks here.

—Party Ben

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user thetripwirenyc.

U.S. Spies Have Serious Job Gripes, Survey Finds

| Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:30 PM EDT

cia.jpg

The shadow world of intelligence portrayed in the movies bears little resemblance to reality. Need proof? Just reference the third annual Intelligence Community Employee Climate Survey (.pdf) released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). If the halls of the CIA really are full of Jack Ryans, you'd think the survey results would be a little more positive. Instead, they show that the nation's spooks aren't that different from you and me—they suffer the same office politics and bureaucratic inflexibility that have bedeviled workers since time began.

The ODNI puts a positive spin on the survey results, highlighting that some 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement "the work I do is important," and 81 percent acknowledged "I like the kind of work I do." But lest we are overly encouraged by such statements (after all, many people like the kind of work they do even if they hate their jobs), a deeper look at the survey results shows serious issues with how intelligence employees perceive things like performance incentives, job training, recruitment, and the competence of their colleagues.

Some choice data points:


  • Percentage who agree that steps are taken to deal with poor job performers who cannot or will not improve: 28
  • Percentage who say pay raises reflect job performance: 28
  • Percentage who say promotions are based on merit: 41
  • Percentage satisfied with ability to advance: 46
  • Percentage who say that leaders generate motivation and commitment in workers: 45
  • Percentage satisfied with policies and practices of senior leaders: 47
  • Photo used under a Creative Commons license from ford.

    "John McCain's Slacks Don't Reach His Ankles"

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:28 PM EDT

    This site is absolutely hilarious. Keep clicking through. And remember, John McCain tips 9%.

    It's a reaction to this site about Obama. Also good, but not as funny.

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    McCain's Free Ride (in the MSM) on Rod Parsley

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

    John McCain has still not had to deal with his Rod Parsley problem. One reason he's been able to avoid controversy about his campaign connection to a megachurch pastor who has called for the eradication of the "false religion" of Islam is that major media outlets have not covered this story.

    Media Matters, a liberal news-watching outfit, reports that a March 25 search of the Nexis database shows that

    The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, NBC, ABC, and The Wall Street Journal have not reported on Parsley or noted his comments in the context of McCain's campaign. A March 17 USA Today article reported only that Parsley was "accused of urging war on Muslims."

    MM adds, "The media have devoted extensive coverage to Obama's supporters, but have failed to report the controversial comments of supporters of McCain." And McCain's campaign press office refuses to take my calls regarding Parsley. On this matter, the Not-So-Straight Talk Express has so far gotten a free ride.

    HRC Says Wright Would Not Be Her Pastor; So Who Would Be?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

    In Pennsylvania Tuesday, Hillary Clinton spent the day personally fanning the flames of the Obama-Wright fire. "He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

    That's a fair point, but the the logical follow-up is, who would Hillary have chosen as her pastor? Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet delved into that question in our September/October 2007 issue:

    When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.
    Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan. ...
    That's how it works: The Fellowship isn't out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

    Read the rest here.

    —Justin Elliott

    Astroturf Axelrod?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:39 PM EDT

    axelrod.jpg You've probably never heard of ASK Public Strategies. It is the highly secretive, private sector-focused twin to David Alexrod's political consulting firm AKP&D Message & Media. Axelrod, of course, is Barack Obama's chief strategist. Through ASK, Axelrod "discreetly plots strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients to tilt public opinion their way," according to a new BusinessWeek investigation.

    Lots of political consultants do private sector work. Hillary Clinton's top strategist, Mark Penn, is worldwide CEO of a massive PR firm called Burson-Marsteller which is infamous for working with nasty corporate clients (Blackwater, for example) and for pioneering the use of "pseudo-grassroots front groups, known as "astroturfing," according to a 2007 Nation article.

    Looks like astroturfing is Axelrod's stock-in-trade, too. According to BusinessWeek, here's a description of the work his company has done for electrical company ComEd:

    Wall Street Welfare

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:33 PM EDT

    75470977_5b3f379082_m.jpgGeorge W. Bush is not exactly known for his magnanimity—think SCHIP. For American homeowners, especially those facing foreclosure, his aversion to government assistance programs must be particularly vexing. Last year, Bush declared that government should not "bail out... those who made the reckless decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford." Recently, he has decided that his modest tax rebates for families and businesses are adequate help for squeezed homeowners, and he opposes legislation in Congress that would provide more support.

    But despite the rhetoric, there is still one place Bush and his Fed chair are willing to socialize—Wall Street, where investment bank Bear Stearns was bailed out last week. On Monday, the terms of the Fed's deal with JP Morgan to purchase Bear Stearns assets were readjusted—the Fed is now coughing up only $29 rather than $30 billion—but the American taxpayer still gets a raw deal.