Elise Pickering, a member of the Women for John McCain Steering Committee who lobbied for BlackBerry's creator, Research in Motion, earlier this year. (Via the Senate Lobbying Database.)

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As part of an effort to beat back the investigation into whether Governor Sarah Palin fired Alaska's public safety directory Walt Monegan because he refused to dismiss a state trooper involved in an ugly divorce with her sister, Palin's attorney filed papers on Monday claiming that Palin fired Monegan because of his "outright insubordination" regarding policy and budgetary matters. The problem with this explanation: it directly contradicts Palin's own story.

In mid-August, Palin spoke with New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch, who was in Alaska--prior to Palin being named John McCain's running-mate--to do a piece on "the peculiar political landscape" of the state. During his time there, the controversy regarding Monegan's dismissal was in the news in Alaska. And Gourevitch asked Palin about it:

[Palin] said that one of her goals had been to combat alcohol abuse in rural Alaska, and she blamed Commissioner Monegan for failing to address the problem. That, she said, was a big reason that she'd let him go--only, by her account, she didn't fire him, exactly. Rather, she asked him to drop everything else and single-mindedly take on the state's drinking problem, as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. "It was a job that was open, commensurate in salary pretty much--ten thousand dollars less"--but, she added, Monegan hadn't wanted the job, so he left state service; he quit.

First, a McCain aide suggested John McCain invented the BlackBerry. But now, another top McCain aide--Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard--says that McCain (and Sarah Palin) would not be qualified to run a major corporation. Really, she did:

Update: The fallout of this comment has not been good for Fiorina.

John McCain has admitted in his more candid moments that "the issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." So if he wasn't learning economics, what exactly did McCain do as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee from 1997-2001 and 2003-2005?

Not a whole heck of a lot. Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt told Salon last month, "The thing that stands out for his entire tenure is that he has never had a priority, and has never had, to my knowledge, any accomplishment of any kind at all." Think Progress points out that, "When McCain took over his second tenure of Senate Commerce Committee, the United States ranked fourth in broadband penetration. In 2007, two years after he had given up that position, the United States had dropped to 15th in the world."

Think Progress also spoke to Blair Levin, Hundt's chief of staff at the FCC. He points out that McCain actually voted against the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA '93) that "authorized the spectrum auctions that created the competitive wireless market that gave rise to companies like Research in Motion [the creator of Blackberry]."

Conclusion: Not only did McCain not invent the BlackBerry, he was one of only five Senators who voted against a BlackBerry-creating bill.

All Downhill Now

ALL DOWNHILL NOW....Did Sarah Palin peak 10 days ago and we just didn't know it? Maybe! John Sides has the chart.

Republican public relations strategist Marty Youssefiani has worked on numerous House and national races, and when I saw a CNN analysis by his old mentor Ed Rollins the other day on how Palin changed the game, I asked Youssefiani for his take. By way of background, when I spoke with Youssefiani in the late spring, he was fairly convinced that Obama would win the election, on the strength of inspiring the registration of so many new, first time voters.

Ed is right in that [Palin] changed the short term dynamics of the game. But I'm increasingly skeptical about McCain's ability to sustain the energy -- through three debates and this volcanic economy! (I have a hunch McCain may have peaked too early.)
On the other side, Obama can ill-afford to (personally) engage in the nasty game; instead he needs to figure out -- very quickly -- how to close the sale and convince the margins that he is not surface thin. On that note, Biden's (unfathomable pick over Hillary) problem is: unlike Palin, his personal likability factor ranks with that of Ashcroft! He has always come across as mean, bitter and personally angry. He is probably the truly smartest one of the bunch, but time is running out on him and he's got to be careful with Palin.
On the "Bradley Factor": I do think it is very, very real vis-a-vis the polls; however, in my opinion, come Nov 5, the biggest story will be how the genius pollsters missed/under factored the massive new registered voters, which will counter balance the Bradley factor -- in favor of Obama, and, at the end, make the difference. There you have it.

I asked Youssefiani about the conventional wisdom in the past being that young people say they're going to vote, but don't.

Very true. But my hunch is that we are going through a paradigm shift and that all bets are off this year. We're guaranteed to break all voting participation records... The country is following both campaigns closer than ever before (reflected by the Nielson ratings); New registration surge is not waning and if battleground [Virginia] is any indication (requests for 200,000 additional new registration forms) we are in for a tidal wave come November. Sure, I may be wrong, but I like my chances that we are more likely to see an unprecedented wave of more dedicated new/young voters than not -- especially if the economic news continues.

Stamp Tax

STAMP TAX....Dean Baker proposes a simple way to put a modest damper on Wall Street — just enough of a damper, he suggests, to keep irrational exuberance from becoming too irrational:

The basic point is very simple. We impose a modest transactions tax on all financial transactions, for example a tax of 0.02 percent on the purchase or sale of a future contract or a tax of 0.25 percent on the purchase or sale of a share of stock. (The United Kingdom has had a tax of 0.25 percent on stock sales and purchases for many decades.) Such a tax could easily raise a $150 billion a year, enough to pay for a national health care program or a major clean energy initiative.

A tax of this magnitude will have almost no impact on someone who intends to buy and hold a financial asset. No airline is going to be discouraged from hedging on jet fuel futures because of a 0.02 percent tax, nor will any farmer be dissuaded from hedging on her corn crop.

....The only people who will really be hit by the tax are speculators; people who buy futures at 2:00, with the intentions of selling at 3:00. Even a modest tax can put a serious dent in the profits of those whose business is short-term speculation. We will therefore see less of this speculation, but it is hard to see why we should care.

This is sort of like the idea of charging a tiny fee for sending email: normal people wouldn't even notice it, but it's more than enough to make spamming a losing proposition. The difference is that an email tax is technologically impossible, while financial transaction taxes are generally quite simple and reasonably enforceable.

I only have two brief comments. First, I don't know if this is a good idea on the merits. However, I've always had a temperamental aversion to ultra-short-term speculation, so it seemed worth passing along just to spark some discussion. Second, unless I'm mistaken, this wouldn't have had any effect on our ongoing credit crisis, which was fundamentally caused by systemic mispricing of risk and the assumption of insane amounts of leverage, not too much speculation. (Also, perhaps, a bit of fraud here and there, but that's a little less clear.) So this shouldn't be taken as a proposal directly aimed at the current mess.

It still might be worth thinking about, though. Dean has more details in an old paper here.

Viral McCain

VIRAL McCAIN....It's true that David Ignatius, Richard Cohen, and the Washington Post editorial board have become members of the Enough Club recently, all of them penning sad notes about the decline and fall of John McCain ("He has become the sort of politician he once despised," says former McCain groupie Cohen). But a friend emails to say that what's important isn't whether they say it, but whether anyone reads it. And judging from this morning's "Most Viewed Articles" list on the Post home page, people are reading it. And emailing it too. The McCain campaign has evidently decided that it's going to pretend not to care what anyone else thinks, but it looks like there's a chance that this won't work after all. Perhaps my faith in human nature will shortly be restored.

Engaging Iran

ENGAGING IRAN....Should we engage directly with Iran, as Barack Obama suggests? The experts speak:

Five former U.S. secretaries of state said on Monday the next American administration should talk to Iran, a foe President George W. Bush has generally shunned as part of an "axis of evil."

....The five — Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, James Baker and Henry Kissinger — all said they favored talking to Iran as part of a strategy to stop Tehran's development of a nuclear weapons program.

Sure, that's nearly every living former secretary of state in the last 30 years, but who listens to experts these days? Not John McCain! Listening to experts is for wimps.

Mission Creep Dispatch: Katherine McCaffrey

mccaffrey.pngAs 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 Katherine T. McCaffrey, an assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University in New Jersey and author of Military Power and Popular Protest: The US Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico.