| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 2:48 PM EDT

DRUDGE....Many years ago I had the bright idea that if you really wanted to understand everyday Americans, you ought to read the National Enquirer regularly. So I did for a few weeks — and then gave up. It was just too boring.

I feel the same way about Drudge. I read him from time to time because I know that other people do, but I always drift away because there's really nothing much there. He only occasionally has exclusive news, and most of what he does have comes from sources inside MSM newsrooms and consists of a few sentences blurbing a story that shows up in its full form an hour or two later at the MSM site itself. Big deal. His roundups of basic news are no better than just reading a few front pages yourself. Sure, conservatives like him because he helped bring down the Clintons, but he hasn't done much since then. For the rest of us, it's basically kind of a boring site.

In other words, count me in Steve's camp. I mean, I get it, but I still don't get it. Why do people still read the guy? Isn't he sort of the disco of right-wing news sites?

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TED Spread Update

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

TED SPREAD UPDATE....Our old friend the TED spread is a simple gauge of financial market jitters. (More here.) You will therefore be unsurprised to learn that, for the fourth time in the past year, it's spiking. Even at high prices, nobody wants to make short-term loans to banks. Can you blame them?

Sarah Palin's Yahoo Accounts Hacked

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 1:34 PM EDT

palin-screenrab.jpgSo, you know those Yahoo accounts Sarah Palin was using to keep her official business safe from subpoenas? Turns out they're not so safe after all. Palin's Yahoo accounts ( and were successfully hacked last night and you can see the screengrabs here. Since then, the accounts have been deleted, which could be considered destruction of evidence if a court chose to pursue it.

The evidence, at first glance, looks pretty solid that the accounts were authentic. Photos of Palin's family were pulled from e-mails, plus a "sent" e-mail to aide Amy McCorkell was confirmed by a call to McCorkell herself, reports Wired.

Who knew the GOP was so in favor of government transparency? Maybe the McCain/Palin team is a real "maverick" ticket after all.

Soothing Words for a Crisis

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 12:45 PM EDT

SOOTHING WORDS FOR A CRISIS....Pretend you are an ordinary American. I know that's hard: as a reader of an elitist coastal blog you're barely even an American at all. But pretend. You just spent a hundred bucks yesterday to fill up your gas tank. You didn't get a raise this year. You've got some unpaid bills you're juggling. Your neighbor across the street just got laid off. Property taxes are coming due next month. Your car is making a funny noise. You just got a memo from HR telling you that the paycheck deduction for healthcare premiums is up again and your take-home pay will be $100 lighter next week.

You turn on the TV. At the commercial break there's a two-minute ad from Barack Obama about the meltdown on Wall Street. If you actually sit through it, here's what he says he's going to do to make things better:

  • Provide a $1000 tax cut for the middle class

  • End the "anything goes" culture on Wall Street

  • Fast track a plan to end our dependence on Mideast oil

  • Crack down on lobbyists

  • End the war in Iraq

Jonathan Stein comments: "It is everything Obama has been criticized for being on the stump these past several weeks: thoughtful, measured, and post-partisan. It takes no jabs at John McCain or George W. Bush. In the last few days, though, Obama and his ads have hit harder; obviously the campaign felt the content of this ad is too serious to be presented in that style. Key question: Does it hold your attention?"

Well, ordinary American, what do you say? Does it?

Mission Creep Dispatch: Winslow Wheeler

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

wheeler.jpgAs part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, DC, and author of Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages US Security.

It's Not Just the Bases—or the Nukes

The sprawl of American bases, both wanted and unwanted by their international hosts, is an important consideration in understanding and then limiting the obnoxious overreach of the American empire. But as with nuclear proliferation, the other issue the left in American politics has latched onto, even were the matter to be solved to the complete satisfaction of the advocates (which I would strongly welcome), there would be hardly a scratch on the foreign policy and defense ills that drag America down.

Consider the following:

Campaigning in Wonderland

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 12:02 PM EDT

CAMPAIGNING IN WONDERLAND....Yesterday — or was it the day before? It's getting hard to keep track — Sarah Palin told a fib about the teleprompter breaking down during her acceptance speech. Megan McArdle comments:

What I don't get about this lie is the pointlessness. I expect politicians to lie. But I expect them to tell the standard sort of lies about how they will give us all $5 solar cars by 2010, and never, ever sleep with their staff. This seems like some sort of bizarre compulsive disorder.

There was a period during Bush's first term when his administration acted the same way. I don't mean the big lies, I mean the drumbeat of minor misrepresentations about almost everything. I remember there were times when I'd listen to something one of them said and think, the truth would have actually served them better. But for some reason they made up a less effective lie instead. It was like a reflex with them.

The same thing is starting to happen with the McCain campaign. Most of his lies are easy to understand. But now they've drifted into this kind of pointless stuff that doesn't even seem to provide any real benefit. I guess they're just creating their own reality.

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History of Russia

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

HISTORY OF RUSSIA....American conservatives have been complaining for years about the teaching of American history to our impressionable youth. We should make our kids proud of America, not fill their heads with the Trail of Tears and Jim Crow and whatnot.

Apparently Vladimir Putin feels the same way about the teaching of modern Russian history and has endorsed a new textbook that emphasizes Russian greatness. Don't like it? Pavel Danilin, who wrote one of the chapters, has this to say:

"You may ooze bile but you will teach the children by those books that you will be given and in the way that is needed by Russia. And as to the noble nonsense that you carry in your misshapen goateed heads, either it will be ventilated out of them or you yourself will be ventilated out of teaching.... It is impossible to let some Russophobe shit-stinker (govnyuk), or just any amoral type, teach Russian history. It is necessary to clear the filth, and if it does not work, then clear it by force."

Sounds like a man of action. It's nice to know that Russian pedagogy is in such good hands.

McCain Attacks Wall Street Greed - While 83 Wall Street Lobbyists Work for His Campaign

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 11:25 AM EDT

In the past few days, as the economic crisis has deepened, Senator John McCain has been decrying the excesses of Wall Street. At a campaign rally in Tampa on Tuesday, he vowed that he and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, if elected, "are going to put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street." He noted that the "foundation of our economy...has been put at risk by the greed and mismanagement of Wall Street and Washington."

He blasted CEOs who "seem to escape the consequences." He denounced Wall Streeters who "dreamed up investment schemes that they themselves don't even understand" and who used "derivatives, credit default swaps, and mortgage-backed securities" to try "to make their own rules." He excoriated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for gaming the system. And he slammed financial industry lobbyists for misguiding members of Congress. "I can promise you the days of dealing and special favors will soon be over in Washington." On Wednesday morning, after the federal government committed $85 billion to prevent the collapse of the American International Group (AIG) insurance conglomerate, McCain again assailed irresponsible corporate executives. "We need to change the way Washington and Wall Street does business," he proclaimed.

McCain has been quick with fiery, populist-tinged speeches. But one thing has been missing: any acknowledgment that McCain's own campaign has been loaded with the type of people he's been denouncing. (The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for comment; we will update the post if they do.) As Mother Jones previously reported, former Senator Phil Gramm, McCain's onetime campaign chairman, used a backroom maneuver in late 2000 to slip into law a bill that kept credit default swaps unregulated. These financial instruments greased the way to the subprime meltdown that has led to today's economic crisis. Several of McCain's most senior campaign aides have lobbied for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And the Democratic National Committee, using publicly available records, has identified 177 lobbyists working for the McCain campaign as either aides, policy advisers, or fundraisers.

Of those 177 lobbyists, according to a Mother Jones review of Senate and House records, at least 83 have in recent years lobbied for the financial industry McCain now attacks. These are high-paid influence-peddlers who have been working the corridors of the nation's capital to win favors and special treatment for investment banks, securities firms, hedge funds, accounting outfits, and insurance companies. Their clients have included AIG, the newest symbol of corporate excess; Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy on Monday sending the stock market into a tailspin; Merrill Lynch, which was bought out by Bank of America this week; and Washington Mutual, the banking giant that could be the next to fall. Among these 83 lobbyists are McCain's chief political adviser, Charlie Black (JP Morgan, Washington Mutual Bank, Freddie Mac, Mortgage Bankers Association of America); McCain's national finance co-chairman, Wayne Berman (AIG, Blackstone, Credit Suisse, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac); the campaign's congressional liaison, John Green (Carlyle Group, Citigroup, Icahn Associates, Fannie Mae); McCain's veep vetter, Arthur Culvahouse (Fannie Mae); and McCain's transition planning chief, William Timmons Sr. (Citigroup, Freddie Mac, Vanguard Group).

When cable news shows air footage of McCain railing against greedy execs and the lobbyists who rig the rules for the benefit of Wall Street dealmakers, there ought to be a crawl beneath him listing these lobbyists. (Talk about a fair and balanced presentation.) Short of that, here's the list of the McCain aides and bundlers who have worked for the high-finance greed-mongers McCain has pledged to take on. So far, it seems, none of them have been cast out of the campaign. If McCain were serious about his outrage, he might throw these money-changers out of his own temple.

What Does Deregulation Beget?

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 11:09 AM EDT

The fact that a conservative approach to Wall Street — down with regulations! down with oversight! — has led to America's financial mess appears to be sinking in. But don't forget that deregulation has screwed up much more than Wall Street. The conservative hands-off approach has neutered nearly every science-based agency in the federal government these last eight years. That's the point of Chris Mooney's "Return of the Geeks." Check it out. No surprise, Bush Administration hacks prioritized deregulation of industry over science and oversight, to disastrous results.

Conservatives love to slam "big government." But the lack of effective regulation and oversight has led to problems in a number of areas, many of which Mother Jones has covered. Check out "The Ungreening of America: How the Bush Administration Is Rolling Back 30 Years of Environmental Progress." Also, you can read about the pernicious effects of deregulation in the areas of airline safety, food safety, the telecom industry, the FDA and food imports, mining, and nuclear garbage and nuclear safety.

Maybe it's time for regulation to make a comeback.

McCain, Champion Deregulator

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 9:59 AM EDT

Listen up. Yesterday I called bullshit on John McCain's brand-spanking-new zeal for regulation. Why should we believe a life-long deregulator when he says he's the man to bring tight, effective controls and safeguards to Wall Street? Why should we believe a man who voted consistently against accountability in the financial sector when he says stuff like, "In my administration, we're going to hold people on Wall Street responsible. And we're going to enact and enforce reforms"?

Answer: we shouldn't.

I want to make it as clear as possible that what John McCain is advocating in the face of these new developments in the economy is completely antithetical to his actual beliefs.

Here's McCain speaking to the Wall Street Journal in May 2007:

"You are interviewing the greatest free trader you will ever interview, and the greatest deregulator you will ever interview."

Here's McCain addressing the housing crisis in March 2008:

"Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital."

And here he is speaking again to the Wall Street Journal, apparently a receptive audience for regulation-bashing, in March 2008:

"I'm always for less regulation. But I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight. I think we found this in the subprime lending crisis -- that there are people that game the system and if not outright broke the law, they certainly engaged in unethical conduct which made this problem worse. So I do believe that there is role for oversight.
"As far as a need for additional regulations are concerned, I think that depends on the legislative agenda and what the Congress does to some degree, but I am a fundamentally a deregulator. I'd like to see a lot of the unnecessary government regulations eliminated, not just a moratorium."

You see where that got us.