Kevin Drum - October 2008

ZZZZZZ

| Wed Oct. 22, 2008 9:52 AM PDT

ZZZZZZ....An apparently well known jihadist has posted a message suggesting that al-Qaeda should mount an attack on the U.S. in order to help the election chances of John McCain:

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

...."If al-Qaida carries out a big operation against American interests," the message said, "this act will be support of McCain because it will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaida. Al-Qaida then will succeed in exhausting America till its last year in it."

Yawn. I imagine that al-Qaeda will continue mounting attacks on the United States whenever it's actually capable of doing so and regardless of who's president. Screw 'em.

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Rat, Meet Sinking Ship

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 11:13 PM PDT

RAT, MEET SINKING SHIP....The New York Times reports that the McCain campaign has stopped making "hybrids," ads that are jointly sponsored by both McCain and the Republican Party. The official reason is that the law requires hybrids to promote both the presidential candidate and the rest of the party, which muddies the McCain campaign's famously laserlike messaging machine. Henry Farrell isn't buying:

While mixed messages are a significant problem, I (as an admitted naif on these issues) would have thought that getting completely swamped by your opponent's advertising is a rather bigger one. Isn't a more plausible interpretation of this decision that the RNC are finally pulling the plug on their subsidization of the McCain campaign, and the McCain folks are trying to put the best face that they can on it?

That sounds like a pretty plausible interpretation to me. After all, the RNC can read poll averages as well as the rest of us. The latest from RealClear Politics is below.

Slush Fund?

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 9:53 PM PDT

SLUSH FUND?....Politico reports that the Republican National Committee has apparently spent $150,000 (so far!) to outfit Sarah Palin for the rigors of vice presidential campaigning. Her expenses included $5,000 on hair and makeup, $5,000 at Atelier for men's clothing (for Todd? Track? Levi?), and $140,000 on a series of shopping trips to Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barney's, Bloomingdale's, and Macy's. Matt Yglesias comments:

I'm a little bit surprised to learn that expenditures of that sort are legal. They appear on the disclosure forms, so apparently they are, but this seems to open the door to candidates using party committee money as a personal slush fund.

This just goes to show how cynical our younger generation has become. I'm sure that after the campaign is over the RNC plans to donate the clothing to homeless shelters in small towns around the country where they don't have stores like Saks or Barney's. That's no slush fund. It's just people helping people.

Damn Kids

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 5:25 PM PDT

DAMN KIDS....From the Wall Street Journal today, Ron Alsop writes about the upcoming generation of "millennials" who are starting to enter the workplace:

If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it's that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation's desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

...."They really do seem to want everything, and I can't decide if it's an inability or an unwillingness to make trade-offs," says Derrick Bolton, assistant dean and M.B.A. admissions director at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. "They want to be CEO, for example, but they say they don't want to give up time with their families."

Damn coddled kids these days. Who do they think they are? For comparison, here's how kids viewed corporate work half a century ago. It's from The Organization Man, published in 1956:

On the matter of overwork they are particularly stern. They want to work hard, but not too hard; the good, equable life is paramount and they see no conflict between enjoying it and getting ahead. The usual top executive, they believe, works much too hard, and there are few subjects upon which they will discourse more emphatically than the folly of elders who have a single-minded devotion to work. Is it, they ask, really necessary any more? Or, for that matter, moral?

....Out of necessity, then, as well as natural desire, the wise young man is going to enjoy himself — plenty of time with the kids, some good hobbies, and later on he'll certainly go for more reading and music and stuff like that. He will, in sum, be the apotheosis of the well-rounded man: obtrusive in no particular, excessive in no zeal.

Damn coddled kids those days. Who did they think they were?

Bailout Watch - 10.21.2008

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 12:11 PM PDT

BAILOUT WATCH....The latest financial bailout news:

The Federal Reserve, continuing its expansive campaign to try to keep cash flowing through the financial system, unveiled a new program today that acts as a backstop to money market mutual funds....The Fed said this morning that it will lend up to $540 billion to new special entities that will stand ready to buy up that short-term debt from money market mutual funds.

Well, we're now guaranteeing money funds, the commercial paper market, interbank lending, and commercial deposits up to $250,000. There are so many term lending facilities available I can't even keep track of them. We're buying up toxic assets from banks and providing them with $250 billion of new capital (so far) whether they want it or not. What's next? Guaranteeing the pork belly market?

It's no wonder that even Ben Bernanke now favors a fiscal stimulus package that he'd normally hate. There's really not too much left to do, is there?

Five Words

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 11:10 AM PDT

FIVE WORDS....Five words I hope to hear a lot less of after November 4th:

  • acorn

  • right

  • airs

  • moose

  • bush

These are, of course, all perfectly ordinary words that have done nothing to deserve criticism. But life is unfair. I still don't want to hear them. Feel free to leave other candidates in comments.

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A Prediction

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 11:07 AM PDT

A PREDICTION....Two weeks from right now we will all be desperately waiting for someone to leak the early exit polls even though we know perfectly well that early exit polls don't mean a thing.

John McCain's Problem

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 10:30 AM PDT

JOHN McCAIN'S PROBLEM....Today's New York Times poll graphically illustrates the biggest problem John McCain had going into this election. Normally, a Republican would run right in the primary and then tack to the center during the general election. But McCain, who has always been distrusted by the hardcore conservative wing of the party — the social conservatives especially — couldn't do that. In order to consolidate their support, he had to tack to the right for the general election, most spectacularly with his choice of Sarah Palin as VP.

But this has been disastrous. McCain's biggest electoral advantage was always his appeal to independents, and as he's moved to the right independents have abandoned him in droves. In the last month, his favorable rating among independents has gone down 3 points and his unfavorable rating has skyrocketed an astonishing 20 points. In other words, nearly every single independent who didn't already have an opinion about McCain has decided in the last month that they don't like him. The New John McCain has been the biggest flop imaginable.

I honestly don't know what he could have done differently to avoid this. One argument, I suppose, is that conservatives would have ended up voting for him regardless, so he should have ignored them and gone after the independent bloc like a laser. But I'll bet that wouldn't have worked either. Conservatives were genuinely uncomfortable with McCain, and if he had aggressively courted the independent vote Rush Limbaugh would have been skinning him alive 24/7 and James Dobson would still be telling his followers to stay home this year.

Was there an answer to this dilemma? I can't think of one. McCain's rock this year was very, very hard, and his hard place was very, very rocky. He was just plain screwed.

He Said, She Said

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 10:04 AM PDT

HE SAID, SHE SAID....Ezra Klein provides an example of news media "faux objectivity" outside its normal haunts of political reporting:

Take, for instance, this (very good) New York Times review of two books on meat. In the first paragraph, we're told, "Raising and processing cattle on an industrial scale is an environmental catastrophe (among other things, the United Nations has accused the world's livestock industry of being responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transportation fleet)." Emphasis mine.

The UN didn't "accuse" the livestock industry of anything. They published research showing that livestock production is a more significant contributor to carbon emissions than transportation is. If the author has methodological problems with the research, he should say so. If he accepts the research, then he shouldn't suggest it's an accusation — it's an empirical conclusion.

This view has become so widely accepted among blogosphere press critics that I feel like it deserves at least a little pushback. The problem here is obvious: the impact of livestock on GHG emissions is a complex subject, and for reviewer Michael Shae to take a firm position on the methodological precision of this UN study might well require weeks of research. Maybe more. And in the end, it might turn out that no firm conclusion is even possible. But for present purposes he's just writing a book review, and the UN report only takes up one sentence of his review. So unless he's already very well versed in this topic, he only has two choices: (a) leave out the anecdote entirely, or (b) tell his editor he needs a few weeks to check out a fact. Since (a) poorly serves his audience and (b) just isn't feasible, his only real choice is to note the report and its provenance without taking an authorial stand beyond that.

This kind of thing happens all the time in news stories. Maybe the word "accused" was a bad choice in this piece, but any replacement would only be marginally better and still wouldn't provide a firm take on the issue — because that's the one thing Shae really can't do. Quite often, the best you can do is to simply report various takes on an issue and leave it at that.

More Conservatives for Obama

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 8:59 AM PDT

MORE CONSERVATIVES FOR OBAMA....James Joyner on Ken Adelman's endorsement of Barack Obama:

While Colin Powell, Lincoln Chaffee, Susan Eisenhower, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Jim Leach, Richard Riordan, Bill Ruckelshaus, and others can be dismissed as outside the conservative movement, Adelman can not. Perhaps, at some point, people will take these complaints about McCain and the direction of the party seriously rather than as an excuse for character assassination.

Hey, even BoJo agrees! Unfortunately, he sort of ruins his endorsement at the end by suggesting that if Obama wins maybe this will finally put an end to all that incessant complaining by blacks about how they're treated in America. But that's BoJo for you. Londoners sure do have odd taste in mayors, don't they?