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Goose Meet Gander

GOOSE MEET GANDER....Matt Yglesias says he's willing to go along with the Treasury's plan to bail out Wall Street if that's what it takes to rescue Western civilization:But tactically, I think it'd be crazy to just hand this package over...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:41 PM EDT

GOOSE MEET GANDER....Matt Yglesias says he's willing to go along with the Treasury's plan to bail out Wall Street if that's what it takes to rescue Western civilization:

But tactically, I think it'd be crazy to just hand this package over for the President's signature. Every time progressives in congress try to get something done for working people, conservatives either block it or else hold it hostage to some nutty tax cut. Why not tie this bailout to something like the second stimulus package of enhanced food stamps, extended unemployment insurance, and enhanced aid to state governments straining under the yoke of Medicaid payments?

This does seem like a good opportunity to yoke all this stuff together, assuming that the legislation is ready to go. Would Republicans really be willing to hold up the entire bill just because they hate the idea of spending federal money on actual workers? I doubt it. Let's yoke away.

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The Other Bailout

THE OTHER BAILOUT....As a followup to the previous post, I will, of course, note for the record that if Uncle Sam can afford to spend a trillion bucks or so rescuing Wall Street, it would be nice if they could...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

THE OTHER BAILOUT....As a followup to the previous post, I will, of course, note for the record that if Uncle Sam can afford to spend a trillion bucks or so rescuing Wall Street, it would be nice if they could spend a trillion bucks shoring up all the poor saps losing their homes because they can't make the payments on those option ARMs they were talked into buying during the boom years. We could do it if we wanted to, and the risk wouldn't even be appreciably different from the Wall Street bailout. The feds would have to make distinctions (just as they will with overleveraged banks), and some homeowners would qualify for a rescue package while others wouldn't. The ones who qualified would get loan relief, which most of them would eventually make good on, in the form of restructured financing. People would be helped, the subprime crisis would get attacked at its roots, and although it would cost a lot of money up front, in the long term the price might end up being fairly modest (by present-day brobdingnagian standards, that is). Moral hazard is an issue, but no more than it is for the bank bailout.

So: why are we willing to fund an enormous RTC-like agency to bail out bankers, but not an enormous RTC-like institution to bail out ordinary people? Lack of lobbyists? Republican ideology? A desire to punish irresponsibility regardless of the disastrous sytemic consequences? Or what?

Polling Tidbits: Sarah Palin Now Least Popular of the Big Four

If Democrats are good at anything its wailing, beating their chests, and tearing their garments (no, that isn't like "flagging...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:18 PM EDT

If Democrats are good at anything its wailing, beating their chests, and tearing their garments (no, that isn't like "flagging the molecules"). But it's clear now the despair over Obama's supposedly doomed presidential chances was silly. The main reason? Palin is simply not the giant-killer we thought she was. Take a look at this chart (via Wonkette). Due to weeks of unrelenting vetting by the media (i.e. sustained negative press), she now has the lowest approval rating of any member of either ticket.

palin_approval.png

And this is the end-result of hiding her from the press. Can you imagine what would have happened if the McCain campaign had treated her like an adult and put her in front of reporters?

In other numbers-related news, the quant geeks over at FiveThirtyEight.com report that the possibility of a 269-269 electoral tie is climbing. The reason is relatively simple: the election is nearing but the race is still close in key states, meaning that the likelihood of one of the two candidates winning in a blowout is going down. FiveThirtyEight points to one tie scenario above all others:

...there is one specific scenario that is driving this outcome. That is the scenario wherein Barack Obama wins the Kerry states plus Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, but loses New Hampshire. Of the 320 times that our simulation ended in a tie, this particular scenario was responsible 294 times. Indeed, we presently have Obama winning precisely the Kerry states plus Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, so all that would be needed to make a tie occur is to flip New Hampshire back to McCain, and entirely reasonable possibility.

What an absolute horror show that would be.

Is McCain More the Populist than Obama?

Is John McCain out-populisting Barack Obama? On Friday morning, McCain, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, delivered a speech...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:01 PM EDT

Is John McCain out-populisting Barack Obama?

On Friday morning, McCain, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, delivered a speech on the financial crisis. He tore into Wall Street and Washington, proclaiming, "The crisis on Wall Street started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling." And he named names. He blasted Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

These quasi-public corporations led our housing system down a path where quick profit was placed before sound finance. They institutionalized a system that rewarded forcing mortgages on people who couldn't afford them, while turning around and selling those bad mortgages to the banks that are now going bankrupt. Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy.

McCain noted that years ago he had tried to reform these institutions and had run smack into Washington's same-old/same-old:

At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Moreover, McCain accused Obama of having been pals with Freddie and Fannie. Obama, McCain pointed out, has taken large amounts of campaign contributions (a total of $165,400) from donors associated with the two institutions. In addition, Obama put a former Fannie CEO, Jim Johnson, in charge of his vice presidential search committee. McCain also charged that Obama has been receiving policy advise from Franklin Raines, another former Fannie CEO. The Obama camp says Raines is no adviser to Obama and that earlier this week Raines sent an email to Carly Fiorina, a McCain adviser, informing her of this. Still, McCain declared:

To the Rescue

TO THE RESCUE....The feds have finally decided to stop screwing around and rescue Wall Street once and for all:Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced plans Friday to quickly set up a "bold" government program to take over troubled mortgage assets from...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 12:53 PM EDT

TO THE RESCUE....The feds have finally decided to stop screwing around and rescue Wall Street once and for all:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced plans Friday to quickly set up a "bold" government program to take over troubled mortgage assets from financial institutions, along with other efforts to step up the purchase of mortgage-backed securities.

....President George W. Bush warned that a "significant" amount of taxpayer funds will be put at risk with the government's plan to bolster shaky markets, but said intervention is necessary to keep the financial system from grinding to a halt.

A year ago (like most people, I imagine) I wouldn't have supported something like this. The credit markets were freezing up because banks had trillions of dollars in assets tied down in complex debt vehicles that, thanks to the tanking subprime market, no one could value. That made every bank suspect and every extension of credit a huge and unknown risk. But eventually, I figured, all the SIVs and CDOs would get unwound, the assets would be slowly and painfully revalued, and life would continue.

Well, it's a year later and that hasn't happened. I still don't understand all the gory details, but the SIVs haven't gotten unwound and no one knows how much the subprime toxic waste they contain is really worth — and there aren't any signs that that's going to end soon. And that in turn means the credit markets are still frozen.

So I'm all in favor of the feds stepping in. Sure, I'd like to keep punishing all the corrupt bankers and boiler room operators who caused this, but I'd like to avoid a global depression even more. In the end, the bankers are going to take a massive hit on this regardless, the feds will probably break even or maybe make a few dollars on the toxic assets, and (I hope) some eyes will be opened about the need to regulate this stuff in the future. For now, though, it's time to unstop the global economy and get things moving again.

I notice that the SEC has also halted short selling in a few hundred financial stocks, just like John McCain wanted. That's maybe not a bad idea, but I wonder if it's really necessary now. With the announcement of the rescue plan, stocks are booming and the short sellers are taking a bath. The rescue is a fundamental solution, and I suspect that's really all we needed. Short selling probably would have taken care of itself.

Hey Rush Limbaugh: Keep Digging

I enjoyed this. Rush Limbaugh is quoted in a new Spanish-language Obama ad that ties John McCain to the...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

rush_limbaugh.jpg I enjoyed this.

Rush Limbaugh is quoted in a new Spanish-language Obama ad that ties John McCain to the nativist fringe of the Republican Party. The ad itself isn't exactly fair — McCain has showed a willingness to kowtow to that nativist fringe, but he's still probably the GOP's leading advocate for a humane approach to immigration reform. But Limbaugh doesn't believe in that humane approach, and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published today, he isn't standing up for John McCain's record on immigration issues.

Instead, he's arguing that he isn't as big a jerk as the quotes in the Obama ad make him look. Limbaugh notes the quotes and then provides the full paragraphs from which they came, with the mistaken belief that somehow the context proves he isn't a bigot. In fact, the context just reinforces the original point. See for yourself.

Supposedly out-of-context quote:

"...stupid and unskilled Mexicans."

Supposedly exculpatory context:

"If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine 'cause those are the kinds of jobs Nafta is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do -- let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."

Second supposedly out-of-context quote:

"You shut your mouth or you get out!"

Supposedly exculpatory context:

"And another thing: You don't have the right to protest. You're allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. You're a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you're going to jail."

Turns out, the full paragraphs are just as xenophobic and hateful as the isolated quotes. Why? Because Rush Limbaugh is xenophobic and hateful. Funny how that works.

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French Pique-Nique Update

Flash: The French are dropping plans for a picnic tax (per earlier blog). It's elitist. Apparently the rich don't pique-nique and the pollution of the non-rich isn't important. Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award....

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:41 AM EDT

Flash: The French are dropping plans for a picnic tax (per earlier blog). It's elitist. Apparently the rich don't pique-nique and the pollution of the non-rich isn't important.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Vote Your Fears

People who react strongly to bumps in the night, spiders, or the sight of a victims are more likely to support more defense spending, more government resources for fighting terrorism, and tighter immigration controls. This according to a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln published in the current issue of Science. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and tested...

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:15 AM EDT

711px-Menschliches_Auge.jpg People who react strongly to bumps in the night, spiders, or the sight of a victims are more likely to support more defense spending, more government resources for fighting terrorism, and tighter immigration controls. This according to a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln published in the current issue of Science.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and tested 46 people who identified themselves as having strong political opinions. The subjects were shown threatening visual images—pictures of a spider on a person's eyeball, a dazed person with a bloody face, an open wound with maggots in it. The subjects' skin was monitored for electrical conductivity—an indicator of emotion, arousal, and attention. As a separate physiological measure, the subjects were surprised by a sudden, jarring noise, while measurements were taken of their blink reflex.

Those with the strongest eye or skin reactions to unexpected noises or threatening pictures tended to endorse political positions emphasizing protecting society over preserving individual privacy. These people were found to be more willing to sacrifice their privacy in return for what they perceived as government protection. Conversely, the subjects who reacted less strongly were more likely to favor policies that protect privacy and encourage gun control. . . It's all in the biology. Even for disbelievers of biology.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Palin Without a Prompter....Part 7

PALIN WITHOUT A PROMPTER....PART 7....Have I used up my quota of two Sarah Palin references today? No? Then check out this phenomenal answer she offered up at a townhall meeting today about ? well, I'm not sure what it's about....

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 12:39 AM EDT

PALIN WITHOUT A PROMPTER....PART 7....Have I used up my quota of two Sarah Palin references today? No? Then check out this phenomenal answer she offered up at a townhall meeting today about — well, I'm not sure what it's about. But it's energy related in some way:

"Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first."

Be sure to click on the video to see the whole thing. It's priceless watching Wolf Blitzer tactfully admit that it's "not exactly easy to understand what she was saying" before he tries to tease out the "nuggets" in her answer. You almost feel sorry for him.

Rev Run's Affirmations

Words of Wisdom, a recently published book from Rev Run of Run DMC, is part Stuart Smalley, part Russell Simmons; sort of a pocket-sized, bathroom-reading, Christian alternative to Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power, a book that made rounds in hip hop circles a few years ago. I was reluctant to pick the book up because I prefer to think of Run as he...

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 10:04 PM EDT

reverend-run.jpgWords of Wisdom, a recently published book from Rev Run of Run DMC, is part Stuart Smalley, part Russell Simmons; sort of a pocket-sized, bathroom-reading, Christian alternative to Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power, a book that made rounds in hip hop circles a few years ago.

I was reluctant to pick the book up because I prefer to think of Run as he used to be: an MC for one of the most influential and popular New York hip hop acts of the 80s. It's Run, after all, who convinced me that I needed to wear white hi-top sneakers with bright, fat laces to my middle school every day. Today, it's safe to say he's convincing folks to do a lot more than just wear cool kicks: