Sunday, December 28, 2008

I didn't know she said things like that

TPM: In an interview with the New York Times, Caroline Kennedy became somewhat annoyed when asked to describe the moment when she decided to seek Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. "Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman's magazine or something?" said Kennedy. "I thought you were the crack political team."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jennifer Palmieri: Perfect for the Obama administration

So Jennifer Palmieri, the acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, for whom Matt Yglesias writes since his departure from the Atlantic, apparently received threats to her loved ones from Democratic advocacy group Third Way. She hasn't said so explicitly, but it's the only plausible explanation for why she decided to commandeer Yglesias's blog at 10:30pm last night to write the following:

This is Jennifer Palmieri, acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Most readers know that the views expressed on Matt’s blog are his own and don’t always reflect the views of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Such is the case with regard to Matt’s comments about Third Way. Our institution has partnered with Third Way on a number of important projects - including a homeland security transition project - and have a great deal of respect for their critical thinking and excellent work product. They are key leaders in the progressive movement and we look forward to working with them in the future.

As Atrios and others have noted, this is insane. The word "creepy" appears frequently in the 538-and-counting comments from outraged readers, and that's putting it lightly. Everybody who reads Yglesias's blog knows (or knew, until Palmieri bigfooted him) that his views are his own. The only "audience" for her Special Note was the delicate flowers at Third Way, whom nobody's heard of or cares about anyway.

But wait, maybe there's a reasonable explanation staring us in the face: Palmieri is apparently being considered for a job in the Obama administration, namely as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and what better way to angle for such a position than by gratuitously pissing off liberals? Clearly, a president-elect so eager to enrage his biggest supporters that he'd have the Purpose Driven Asshole give the invocation at his inauguration would read this Special Note and wonder who is that fresh-faced go-getter?

More seriously, this Third Way thing doesn't have anything to do with Obama, but it's worrisome that someone as stupid and pliant as Ms. Palmieri seems to be is running the country's most influential liberal advocacy organization. After all, the reason she's the acting CEO is that the regular CEO is running Obama's transition team.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Harry Reid's core competencies

Sure, the Senate Majority Leader might not actually be any good at leading the Democrats' Senate majority, but if you're a dubiously qualified member of a political dynasty who wants an appointment to a vacated seat, Harry Reid's your man.

It's true that Caroline Kennedy hasn't been a deadbeat or anything, and she's actually a legitimate New York resident, which Hillary wasn't. But give me an effing break regardless. It's just a staggering display of bandwagon-jumping, and it would speak very badly of Gov. Paterson if he's actually considering rewarding it with a U.S. Senate seat she has no business occupying.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A word about the Mets' reliever moves

Well, I wasn't exactly lobbying for Francisco Rodriguez, but there's a big difference between the 5 years/$75 million that it was supposed to have taken and the 3 years/$37 million that it actually took. At that price it's hard to complain. The guy is pretty good, after all.

It's even harder to complain after seeing that the Indians had to go over $10 million/yr to get Kerry Wood, whose injury problems have been very real instead of just seemingly inevitable like K-Rod's.

And the 12-player JJ Putz deal seems borderline brilliant, as it appears that Endy Chavez might have been the most valuable player the Mets gave up. Heilman was going to do be assigned to mop-up duty at best, and I don't know of any particular reason to be worried that Mike Carp is the next Jeff Bagwell. Plus the throw-ins Omar got along with Putz are kinda interesting. Outfielder Jeremy Reed was once considered an elite prospect. Sure, he's not anymore, but at 27 it's not like he couldn't become a Chavez-caliber role player. And Sean Green, while unspectacular, gave up fewer home runs in 2008 than Heilman gave up in a bad inning.

I still don't like Santana, Maine, Pelfrey, ?? and ??? as a starting five, but I'm glad Omar didn't give A.J. Burnett what the Yankees did, and if he had to go out and get two famous Closers, at least he did it about as efficiently as one could hope for.

Velazquez drops out

Well that's disappointing.

Right at the start, Nydia Velazquez seemed plausible because she was Hispanic and a woman.

But in truth, she had been dropped out of the Hillary Senate sweepstakes by most informed observers a while ago -- partly because of a long ago suicide attempt, partly because of some grumbles about her votes on Israel that could have threatened the Jewish support a Democrat needs in NY in a competitive race, partly because she just didn't seem like a candidate that could be sold statewide.

None of those sound like especially good reasons to me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Wilpons lost money in the Madoff scheme

CNBC just announced that the Fred Wilpon's Sterling Equities had "accounts" with Bernard Madoff (actually pronounced Made-Off), whose brokerage firm turns out to have been a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Still, it was a better decision than signing Mo Vaughn.

Bloomberg has the story here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cramer wasn't recommending Bear stock

Bad Rap Alert!

Foreign Policy has a list of the 10 Worst Predictions of 2008. I like that Bill Kristol gets the top spot, even though a lot of people thought HRC would roll Obama. But their #2 pick is a travesty.

My view of Jim Cramer's predictive abilities, and, yes, personal integrity have dimmed this year, but it's simply not fair to accuse him of recommending Bear Stearns (BSC) as a stock pick on March 11. What he was saying, accurately, was that it wasn't necessary for the caller to close his account with Bear's brokerage operation. Even as Bear shareholders got almost wiped out, Bear clients simply became JPMorgan Chase clients, and were no worse off for it.

Would he have said the same thing if he knew what kind of shape Bear was really in at the time? Probably not, but the fact remains that he was not telling people to buy the late BSC. Foreign Policy should stick to its guns!

via AMC's twitter feed

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Profiles in Discretion: Rod Blagojevich

You don't see political careers explode that spectacularly very often. When you've got a governor on tape saying, explicitly, "I want money" in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat he's authorized to fill, and pointing out how much leverage he has, since if they don't pay, he can always appoint himself to the Senate... Well, you're just being greedy if you ask for that governor to also be a Republican.

Monday, December 08, 2008

WSJ: "Mark-to-Market Likely to Remain"

Good. Suspending it was an unusually bad idea.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blacks vs. Gays

Or BVG, when the movie gets made. Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz have a good op-ed on the Prop 8 fallout. The key point is that we shouldn't be too surprised to "discover that one oppressed group does not necessarily support the goals of another oppressed group." They also point out that the dominant party in a two-party system is of necessity a coalition of subgroups, majorities of which are bound to oppose each other on certain issues.

So the scapegoating of the 70% of black Californians who voted Yes, as either traitorous Democrats or ungrateful beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, is intensely stupid. Still, I'm not sure how sympathetic I am to those African-Americans who find the appeal to the civil rights movement "galling."

On the one hand, those who oppose gay marriage almost certainly don't see a fundamental similarity between the two, and the "Who had it worse?" contest is not close. But it's hard to see how the analogy could be taken as a sign of disrespect. People probably wouldn't compare their cause to another unless a) they also supported that cause, and b) the other cause was successful. Otherwise it's not a terribly useful analogy. And it should be possible to argue that two historical injustices are similar in principle without implying that they are responsible for equal amounts of human suffering.

Later the authors attempt to peel back the layers of the onion that is African-American opposition to gay marriage:

Furthermore — and perhaps even more painfully for those of us who support gay marriage and all that it represents — Christian teaching on marriage is not the only reason so many blacks supported Proposition 8. Although it has come as a shocking realization to many in this community, a host of sociological studies confirm that many blacks feel a significant aversion to homosexuality itself, finding it morally and sexually repugnant.

I don't know what community they're referring to, but I'm not sure why anyone would be shocked by those studies. That "significant aversion" is also called homophobia, and it can be identified in many whites too! It doesn't become some new phenomenon when it's found to be especially prevalent among black people.

My suspicion is that this gut feeling preceded the religious dictates that legitimized it, and that at this point Romans 1:27 is mostly a convenient fig leaf that spares people of all races from having to come out and say "Because it's just gross, is why!"

That's crucial because, in arguing that a large minority population must retain its narrower set of rights than that afforded everyone else, they know they need a better reason for it than the squick factor. Gay marriage opponents who are black shouldn't be expected to have a better explanation for themselves than those who aren't, but they all should have a better one than that.

British Sea Power - "No Lucifer"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Don't do the Big Dog like that

The New York Times ran a story headlined "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors"

Now, I don't think I was the only person to read that and think that the investors were irked by something Bill Clinton said in his speech. But that's not really the thrust of the story at all. Clinton just said nice things about the guy who organized the event and paid him his $200k to be there. I don't think "investors" should have been too surprised by that.

What the story actually tries to demonstrate is that the organizer in question, a guy named Vinod Sekhar, is a sketchy character. If it manages to accomplish even this, it does so barely. The most damning accusation by anyone quoted in the piece is that the only reason he hired Clinton to appear is because "[h]e just wants to get new investors." Well golly. That's almost as bad as the charge of living in a rented house, which I'm pretty sure is legal. And yeah he settled some lawsuits (one from Bruce Willis) but the guy doesn't have a criminal rap sheet or anything.

So the story is actually about some disgruntled investors of Sekhar's who don't like him and disapprove of Clinton's shilling for him. And the Times runs with the headline "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors"?

I'm sure Bill Clinton will do something embarrassing or controversial soon enough, but there's no need to just make shit up.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I guess real estate didn't take

A little under nine months. That's how much time passed between the breaking of the Eliot Spitzer prostitute story and his first column for Slate. The title of this business column is "The Best Policy." That would of course be a reference to the old saw: "Committing adultery is the best policy." Anyway I have a few gripes with the debut column itself:

1. I don't think the fact that international buyers now trust the Chinese to manufacture aircraft (instead of, say, shoes or consumer electronics) is terrible news for America.

2. Using $7.8 trillion figure for the "cost" of the bailouts is pretty misleading. Yes, he specifies that it includes guarantees but he nonetheless talks about the money as if it's been "spent." The government hasn't spent anywhere near that much money. The difference between taking a loss and being exposed to a loss is very big.

3. Spitzer writes:

For years, we have accepted a theory of financial concentration—not only across all lines of previously differentiated sectors (insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, retail brokerage, etc.) but in terms of sheer size. The theory was that capital depth would permit the various entities, dubbed financial supermarkets, to compete and provide full service to customers while cross-marketing various products. That model has failed..."

This is nonsense. If anything the "financial supermarket" model has been vindicated. Look at the biggest of the survivors: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citi... all of them are supermarkets, with retail branches and investment banking operations. Bear and Lehman were pure investment banks, as was Merrill (which didn't end quite as badly). And now the remaining pure investment banks are looking to get into the retail business, because deposits are the readiest source of funding these days.

The problem isn't that the banks were supermarkets, it's that their proprietary trading, and the amount of risk they took on in general, was wildly irresponsible. But that mismanagement didn't flow necessarily from the diversity of business lines, and there are better ways to address it than to try to arbitrarily cap banks at a certain size. Reserve requirements can be imposed, better underwriting standards can be enforced in the mortgage industry, the rating agencies can be blown up reformed, etc.

I don't have a problem with "true competition with winners and losers; companies that disappear; shareholders and CEOs who can lose as well as win..." But it's worth separating the practices which are intrinsically flawed and prone to causing financial catastrophe from those that aren't.

Anyway I'm not a huge fan of the piece. It's pretty interesting, though, I'll give him that. I'll continue to read him even though he's a scumbag.

The HRC-Tweety nexus

A non-trivial drawback, as I saw it, to the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was that it would render large swaths of Hardball with Chris Matthews utterly unwatchable. But if Matthews is going to run for Arlen Specter's Senate seat, that means Tweety's fevered speculation about Hillary-Bill-Obama dynamics won't be a staple of every episode of the show from 2009-10. That's good news.

He might win, too.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The coveted SF endorsement

So there's apparently a good chance that, when Hillary resigns her seat post-inauguration, Gov. David Paterson will select my congresswoman, Nydia Velazquez, to fill her Senate seat and I'm hoping that he does so.

For one thing, she's clearly a twofer on the identity politics front, which is the cause of most of my optimism and some of my enthusiasm for her selection. But since she's been my representative I've checked to make sure she votes the right way on important stuff and sure enough, she has. It reminds me of an Alec Baldwin line from 30 Rock, where he's talking to the young white male NBC page Kenneth and informs him that, politically speaking, he's actually a latina woman. That's me.

My only beef with Rep. Velazquez was that she, along with I believe every other New York politician, supported Clinton in the primary. (I wrote her a letter sometime after Super Tuesday urging her to abandon ship and throw her support to Obama, but she took no heed.) And she also was a bit of a villain in David Einhorn's book, having failed to do anything as chair of the Small Business Committee over the utterly corrupt Small Business Administration (which pretty clearly falls in her purview), even after he made his case to her staff.

But on the whole, good peoples. And all the alternatives are either unknown or annoying. Andrew Cuomo? No gracias.

BTW the place to go for the latest on all the Paterson-stalking and nomination-jockeying is Elizabeth Benjamin's blog, which is the rookie of the year in my RSS reader.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Why would they stop covering for him now?

Josh Marshall explains the MSM's idea of "candor": "Let's go over this very slowly. For Bush to blame the failure of intel for his decision to invade is not a concession at all, and it is not an admission of failure on his part. Rather, it is the opposite of these things. It is an evasion of responsibility for what happened."

Not only will there not be adequate accountability for the Iraq War, there will hardly be any at all. Obama or no Obama, the vast majority of Americans don't have any appreciation for how thoroughly criminal the Iraq War was/is.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

That's not very gangster

Reading ESPN (the worldwide leader in coverage of controversial black athletes), it turns out shooting himself in the leg was a very bad thing for Plaxico Burress to have done. I mean it's obviously something that one should studiously avoid doing but for an NFL wide receiver in particular, it's bad. A short list of the consequences:

- Getting charged with criminal possession of a weapon.
- Possibly getting put on the non-football related injury list, which would mean he couldn't return and wouldn't get paid.
- Badly damaging the repeat chances of a 10-1 Giants team.

And I'm sure there are more. This is on top of what must be the lingering discomfort of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Personally I think injuries sustained in nightclub violence should really be covered by the NFL's workman's comp package.

Just what I wanted to hear!

Jack Curry:
In addition to Minaya’s trade targets, the Mets are also evaluating the free agents Kerry Wood and Trevor Hoffman because they will be cheaper to sign than Rodríguez or Fuentes. Rodríguez will pursue a five-year, $75 million contract, and Fuentes could ask for a three-year deal for at least $30 million.

A 5yr/$75m contract for a relief pitcher is just bananas, in this or any other environment. Provided this story is actually true and not just part of the media strategy for the negotiation of a catastrophic free agent signing, I'm glad to hear that Omar thinks so too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yeah, longest and most abusive

[From Atlanta airport, where I'm trying to get my $7.95 worth out of 2 hours of access]

The Washington Generals of cable news has apparently decided he's had enough:

FOX News Channel’s (FNC) Alan Colmes will relinquish his role as co-host of Hannity & Colmes at the end of the year.

In announcing his decision, Colmes said, “I approached Bill Shine (FNC’s Senior Vice President of Programming) earlier this year about wanting to move on after 12 years to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network. Although it’s bittersweet to leave one of the longest marriages on cable news, I’m proud that both Sean (Hannity) and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years.”

This one's for you, Alan:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gone 'til December

Leaving the country for Thanksgiving week. Light posting if any until next Monday.

Paul Mirengoff is clear-eyed

Of the three legs (globules?) of the Powerline stool, Paul Mirengoff is the one resting somewhere near reality. In the course of addressing Kathleen Parker's column that laid the blame for the collapse of the GOP at the feet of the Christian conservatives, or "oogedy boogedy branch" of the party, he writes the kind of thing that you will simply never, ever hear out of Hinderaker:

I'm not a member of the religious right, and the social issues that preoccupy it are less important to me than economic and foreign policy/national security issues. But considering the public's low regard in 2006 for key aspects of Republican foreign policy and its low regard in 2008 for Republican handling of the economy, no serious observer can claim in good faith that the religious right was our main problem in the past two elections. A pundit should be able to distinguish between (1) her own prejudices (even if they are shared by her friends, acquaintances, and readers) and (2) the nation's pulse.

Fortunately, we Republicans have plenty of time to sort out our differences. It's going to be a while before anyone cares much about what we have to say.
[Emphasis added]

Hear, hear! But how does such a realist (by conservative standards) feel about sharing a blog with a guy who recently wrote this:

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn't raise his standards, he will exceed Bush's total before he is inaugurated. [Emphasis added]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shaq's Twitter feed is kind of a must-read

About two hours ago: "Did anyone hear about da guy on da web dat commited suicide, my prayers go out to his family"

Good business press

Mike Santoli of Barron's (and CNBC) puts it in perspective:

The virtually unwitnessed level of damage in a short period almost defies hyperbole. After Thursday's drop to an 11-year low on the S&P 500, the index was farther below its all-time high than at any time since 1949. The year 2008, had it ended then, would rank as the worst since 1872 at least. The S&P hadn't been as far below its 200-day average since 1932. Nearly 40% of S&P 500 stocks were below $4 billion in market capitalization, the minimum new stocks must meet to be added to the index.

He sounds compelled by the value case, but concludes with a recommendation of not an equity ETF but a corporate bond ETF (because stocks are still that scary).

via Ritholtz

Matt Yglesias has no (0) use for businesspeople

Yglesias on what the business press thinks:

The basic business outlook is very focused on the key role of the executive. Good, profitable, growing firms are run by brilliant executives. And the ability of the firm to grow and be profitable is evidence of its executives’ brilliance. And profit ultimately stems from executive brilliance. This is part of the reason that CEO salaries need to keep escalating — recruiting the best is integral to success.

This is overstating the case. First, you have to separate the opinion pages of the business press (WSJ, Kudlow, IBD), which do spend a lot of time justifying income inequality, from the news and analysis pages, which aren't nearly as starry-eyed about celebrity executives. And really, no one actually spends much time arguing that profit "ultimately stems from executive brilliance." That's a blatant straw man.

By the end of the post, Yglesias is arguing (again) that there is literally nothing to being the chief executive of a major corporation, and that it's all a question of where the interchangeable parts happen to be resting on the grand roulette wheel of capitalism.

There's no need for liberals or opponents of excessive executive compensation to make arguments this facile. I wonder what Yglesias would think about the theory that all political commentary is basically interchangeable, and the authors who get jobs at The Atlantic and CAP just happen to have been lucky enough to be cranking out the right copy at the right time. Probably wouldn't care for it.

It's not easy to measure CEO performance against some baseline "replacement level" of executive effectiveness. Determining exactly how much credit Steve Jobs deserves for Apple's success is kind of a silly exercise, but the correct answer is not zero.

Massive deficit spending? Oh, hell yeah.

Having watched Obama's weekly YouTube address (something I don't plan on doing every week, as much as I like him), I'm pretty convinced that there really is going to be a very New Dealish public works program at the top of the agenda. This is different than when he was saying it during the debates, where who among us doesn't support Green Collar Jobs (Clinton's TM, actually). He's on the hook for one now. There has to be what looks like more or less a plan to employ 2.5 million people building schools and bridges and solar installations and such. That's not something that can be readily climbed down from, given the scrutiny he's been getting.

Late this week Floyd Norris, in a column which was bad for multiple reasons, scolded Obama for resigning his Senate seat and failing to craft a "bipartisan stimulus package that Bush could sign," saying he "missed an opportunity to exert leadership." And because it's not permissable to point out that George W. Bush is still very much president and maybe he shouldn't be taking so many pictures with women's college basketball teams or whatever they have him doing, this "It's on Obama now" meme has gained traction. So his coming out today with the 2.5 million jobs figure and the 2011 deadline that falls comfortably within his first term is a substantial ante.

Politically, there shouldn't be that much resistance. It should be very popular. It will be interesting to see what the intersection is, if any, between the future of the Big Three and the infrastructure program. I think that could be a nice job-and-face-saving way of winding down some unprofitable companies.

But however the thing turns out, I think it's definitely a good idea. The alternative prospect, of John McCain in office trying to cut non-defense government spending is chilling. Also, Obama's reported selection of Tim Geithner makes me happy as a (maybe the) big fan of the much-maligned financial bailouts. One reason the government should be comfortable borrowing even more than it already has is that everyone still thinks we're good for it. The US government's cost of borrowing is the yield on Treasury bills, and it hasn't been this low since the 1950s. Rather incredibly, we're still a safe haven for capital.

For all the applause (or hand wringing) about the Clinton, ex-Clintonites and Sensible Centrists populating his administration, this is a strong signal that Obama is not going to worry too much about prudish notions of "fiscal responsibility." He's going to run the FDR playbook, or as Rahm put it "throw long and deep." Here's hoping.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"We'll be blowing less smoke than usual this evening."

CNBC begins its 8pm special report with the anchor saying "Well we can't understate anything tonight."

What? You guys have been understating the extent of the problems? Never.

A sampler of dubious market analyses

Rather than venture any guesses as to just how bad things are going to get (very bad), and when they'll start getting better (later), I'll identify three reasons that aren't why the market is in free fall:

Josh Marshall - Obama wasn't sworn in two weeks ago
If I were really convinced that the government response to the crisis has been so bad, I'd be tempted to subscribe to this (maybe not publicly). But I'm not sure what the damning evidence is supposed to be. Hank Paulson asked for a lot of money. Got a chunk of it. Spent what he got. The markets continued to tank. What would Obama have done on November 5th to avert the stock price declines that followed? I mean the market knows he's the guy, so it's not a question of "visibility." There has to be some big policy change between what we have in real live 11/20/08 and alternate immediate-swearing-in reality version of same. I don't have a great idea what that would be and why it would be better. And in general, trying to pin blame for stock market declines definitively on just one person or thing is a huge waste of time.

Ezra Klein - [Ford and GM sold off on] Henry Waxman's glorious victory
Not crazy, but they were higher not long after the vote was made public, on a report that an auto bailout was going to happen. They only tanked when news came that nothing was going to happen on that front until December at earliest. Plus everything was getting sold heavily late in the day. Including the two publicly traded car companies that are on if not teetering over the brink of bankruptcy.

Daniel Henninger - The secular war on Christmas
Yes, really. As in people not saying "Merry Christmas." And obviously that's not just the stock market he's talking about. He means the real economy. It's a freakin' root cause. Nothing is too stupid for the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. [Read Brad at the link. This one really did a number on him.]

Waxman v. Dingell

So the H-Dog took the first round yesterday in the Steering Committee. Today is the whole caucus vote. Here's Jay Newton-Small's senior leadership source:

Member A, a Democratic Committee Chairman, routinely votes against the Party's position on defining issues, endorses the Republican candidate for President, spends months campaigning with that nominee, denounces Barack Obama as "naive" and "dangerous" and keynotes the Republican convention.

Member B, also a Democratic Chairman, raises more than $2 million to elect Democrats to Congress, helps expand the majority, helps deliver two new congressional seats in his home state and votes with the Party 97 percent of the time.

Which one gets an intraparty challenge for the gavel of the Committee?

Small adds: "In other words, many -- likely a majority -- in the Dem caucus don't feel Dingell deserves to lose his gavel."

But obviously the relevant comparison isn't between Dingell and Lieberman, now, is it? It's between Dingell and Waxman. The decision to let Lieberman keep his chairmanship was bad enough on its own merits. Now it's being used as an argument for letting another suboptimal committee chairman (for entirely different reasons) stay where he is?

It's not a question of whether Dingell "deserves" to keep his seat. It's a question of his representing Michigan, which puts him in a terrible position to facilitate climate change legislation. So here's hoping that Henry "The Ratface Killah" Waxman carries the day in the caucus at large. I read somewhere that the steering committee vote was relatively more Pelosi-influenced and therefore Waxman-friendly than today's vote will be, so it may be another disappointment.

He did it! Waxmania!

Get used to this face, America:

Schadenfreude by proxy

So the mall business isn't a great place to be these days. The second biggest operator in the country, General Growth Properties (GGP) is trading at about $0.30 a share, and reportedly just hired bankruptcy counsel, which rarely augurs well. While a sad commentary on the state of the American consumer and a case study in how overleveraged companies underestimated risk, the silver lining in the GGP story, if you're still a little bit raw about the whole Iraq War thing, is that Tom Friedman's wife is a member of the Bucksbaum family which owns a quarter of the company. So much for the family fortune.

Hence the Atrios headline: "Suck on this, Tommy Friedman"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My favorite Hollywood liberal

I like Tim Robbins and don't care who knows it. Highlights from his open letter to the Commissioner of the New York Board of Elections, who accused him (falsely, it appears) of trying to vote at the wrong polling place:

I would like to publicly apologize for being such a dim-witted dilettante on Election Day. I was under the naïve assumption that I could vote where I voted in the last two elections...

I must also thank you for sending your letter not to me but to all the major newspapers in the New York area and across the internet. I understand it was your way of clearing up this matter and for that I am grateful. I am particularly appreciative of your sending a copy of my voter registration card with my home address and driver's license number to all the newspapers and, by extension, to millions across the internet...

I was thinking of returning that favor by publishing your home address in this letter but then I thought that maybe one of the thousands of New Yorkers that were taken off the voter rolls in the last two months might not understand what a patriotic upstanding man you are and might show up at your doorstep with the misguided assumption that you are a petty vindictive corrupt scumbag.

Good stuff.

via Elizabeth Benjamin

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lieberman skates

One drawback of the Democrats' having won two election cycles fairly convincingly is that it gets harder and harder to accuse our dear leaders of being pathetic and hopeless. But letting Joe Lieberman remain the chairman of an important committee in the 111th Congress... that really smarts.

I don't think it's purely the absence of sweet, sweet retribution that has me so disappointed, either, although it could be 70% of it. It's that I can't believe it isn't a net negative to let your party's nominee and your party get so thoroughly slimed by somebody, and then pass up the opportunity to inflict as much damage as possible on that person's political career. More than that, actually. They're letting him retain authority that a) he hasn't made any use of so far, and b) could so easily be transferred to an actual Democrat.

If Reid et al could make a convincing case for the move on political/agenda-enacting grounds, I'd love to hear it. But they aren't going to be able to make that case in public (it has to be about not seeking "retribution" and "looking forward") and I don't even know what it would be in private. Nobody that follows senate committee assignments is going to switch parties over one. The people who don't follow committee assignments probably wouldn't be shocked to hear that a guy got demoted by the party that he said was essentially traitorous. And what's he going to do? Vote against Obama's domestic agenda out of spite? Everybody would know was his rationale, if he did it, and it would probably be the definitive end of him in 2012 (hopefully he'll be out anyway).

I just don't think you have to assign a huge amount of weight to the ultimately ephemeral notion of self-respect to think the need for its preservation outweighs the political downside of treating Joe Lieberman like the Republican mole he is. In fact, you'd think there'd be some downside in legitimizing the Republican mole by publicly declaring him a Democrat in good standing... when he's literally no longer a Democrat.

Again, they probably know what they're doing. But it's just staggering.

I'm going to have to stop reading the MSM accounts of this. Time's Jay Newton-Small:

In supporting Lieberman's continued inclusion in the Democratic caucus, [Obama] may have effectively defanged his toughest potential opponent in the Senate Democratic caucus. If Lieberman is anything, as he proved with John McCain, he's loyal — and now he owes Obama a big one.

Would that be bigger than the "big one" Lieberman owed Obama for endorsing him in his competitive 2006 race against the duly nominated Democrat? Because that little chip was already cashed in, in exchange for Lieberman's endorsing John McCain, and asking Americans to consider just why Obama was favored by Hamas. Joe Lieberman is nothing if not loyal!

Monday, November 17, 2008

File under: You've got to be kidding

In a not nearly tongue-in-cheek enough post, Steve Benen suggests Eliot Spitzer as a possible SEC chair:

Yes, he hired a call girl, but so did Sen. David Vitter (La.), and he's still a sitting Republican senator in good standing, who apparently plans to seek re-election. Yes, he committed adultery, but so did Newt Gingrich (thinking about running for president), Rudy Giuliani (thinking about running for governor), and John McCain (the most recent Republican presidential nominee). Do we
have to exclude Spitzer from addressing the issues on which he has considerable expertise?

Yes. Yes, we do. Not so much because of his exploits as Client #9, although there's enough pragmatist in me to think it should at least be taken into consideration.

The better reason not to trust Eliot Spitzer with an incredibly important and (at least until this crisis subsides) high profile position is his use of the NY State Police to dig up dirt on Joe Bruno, the Republican leader in the state legislature. That was very bad. It was enough to make me not like Eliot Spitzer anymore, which made things a lot easier when he did something that was less germane to his job performance but vastly more damaging to his career. It wasn't quite like, say, Karl Rove's successful efforts to get Don Siegelman jailed on bogus charges, but it was still a flagrant abuse of power and a perversion of the criminal justice system.

Also, despite his "expertise" in financial regulation, his actual track record in terms of prosecutions is extremely poor. At the time I was annoyed by (overwhelmingly right-wing) critics who said he was just doing it for the glory of perp walks and press conferences, but none of the high-profile Wall Street cases he brought actually resulted in prosecutions, which would have made it a lot easier to defend him from those accusations.

There are plenty of qualified, reform-minded Democrats who could serve as SEC Chair, and all of them would be better choices than Eliot Spitzer.

h/t Noam at Eschaton

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Boldly shrill or Unreadably awful?

I've tried following Corrente semi-regularly recently and I've now reached the conclusion that it's the most bloodcurdlingly awful liberal blog out there. Go ahead. Try a few posts. I dare you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Political activism? No fair!

I was disappointed that Prop 8 passed in California, and as I wrote before I don't have much sympathy for the Mormons who don't like that they're being demonstrated against. The argument that the No side should "protest" black people as well, since they voted at a 70% clip for the measure, is idiotic on its face as being black is not tantamount to membership in an organization that can be readily protested against.

But there's also something pathetic about this Pandagon post whining about how those damn Mormons played dirty by actually campaigning in support of the measure:

In the NYT article, ”Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage,” the details emerge about the win-at-all-costs strategy that seems less about pure belief and faith than political activism and bullying.

First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

And the bottom line is that the full-frontal assault by Yes on 8 came down to the fact that the Mormons were willing to go door to door in a systematic manner-- to make the difference. See how they did it below the fold.

What follows is the bill of particulars of their organizing efforts, and by the end of the post there's a certain amount of grudging admiration for the Mormon ground game (not to be confused with the Mormon passing game as practiced on Saturdays by BYU).

But still, there's this sense in the reaction to the passage of Prop H8 that something bizarre and nefarious happened to revoke gay people's civil rights, when a much simpler explanation presents itself in that laws permitting gay marriage are still not wildly popular. They're getting much more so, but even in California it was expected to be a close vote based on the polls, with the bad guys having a slight edge, and sure enough it was 52-49.

So go ahead and give the Mormons hell, and challenging their tax-exempt status sounds like a good idea to me, but spare me the whining about how they played dirty when all they did was successfully defend relatively favorable political terrain.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What getting it right looks like

Peter Schiff, we salute you.

Christie Whitman gets her proper gloat on

I'm not a big fan of Christine Todd Whitman. She was George W. Bush's EPA chief, which is a bad thing to have been, she doesn't have many admirers in Lower Manhattan, and in general I take a dim view of moderate Republicans on the theory that they should know better.

But I really got a kick out of watching her come back like Lazarus to tell them all how wrong they were to insist that the party had to continue catering to its fundie base. She apparently wrote a book when Bush was still popular arguing that the craziness had to stop, and is now calling out the critics by name. She actually uses the term "fundamentalists" too, and likens them to "hostage takers"[!]. Who doesn't love that? Too bad she stopped short of calling them the Taliban wing.

Her conclusion:

Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same.

Don't hold your breath.

h/t TBogg

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Please, God, no.

Joe the Plumber now has a website. The URL?

Who will secure my dream of never hearing about this clown ever again?

Yglesias is responsible for bringing this to my attention, and I'm slightly irritated with him for it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Robotic what? headline:

08:32 - IRobot says that Congress has allocated $2 mln for it to develop its next-generation robotic platform warrior 700
Co announces that Congress appropriated $2 million to further develop the company's Warrior 700. "This funding will allow iRobot to expand its product line, which continues to evolve as the need for unmanned ground vehicles grows worldwide."

I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that the award is only $2 million. This is the company whose sole commercial product, I believe, is the Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner, and it's more than $2 million of R&D from there to the Terminator. Unsettling nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stomach hurts

If I were running a hedge fund, especially one that was down twice as much as the market this year, I'd be more than a little bummed to see that Bess Levin had obtained a copy of my investor letter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Billy effing Beane: Matt Holliday to the A's

Well that's disappointing. Billy Beane has reportedly acquired Matt Holliday from the Rockies in exchange for Closer Huston Street (whose last year sucked, as I know from bitter fantasy league experience), young SP/RP Greg Smith, and OF prospect Carlos Gonzales.

Holliday should have been made a Met this offseason, dammit. A Met! He was worth paying for in talent, and the way you know that is that Billy Beane is usually the guy who sells the star for the prospects rather than the other way around. This time he's a buyer and he did it before any of the lesser lights from richer teams, like our very own Omar Minaya, even got their acts together.

But I'm sure Fernando Tatis's bat has plenty of offense left in it. Really.

h/t Eric Simon

Allied Capital finally cuts its dividend

Oh yes. Allied Capital (ALD) finally announced that the pyramid scheme (they don't use that term) has finally stopped growing, and they've cut the dividend. The stock is down $3.18 to $4.12 (for the non-financially savvy, when the amount of the decline is similar to the remaining price of the stock, it's called "a very bad day").

David Einhorn was absolutely right, people. He wrote a book about it (i.e. how ALD was a fraud) a while ago. It's time for the Allied apologists (one of whom I did a post on earlier) to admit that they were some combination of stupid and dishonest, and that they were wrong and they're sorry, unless they put their money where their mouth was in which case they already got what was coming.

From $30 to $4. What can you say now?

["Better safe than get investigated" disclosure: I work at a firm that used to have a short position in ALD.]

Al Franken now just 204 votes behind

Per the Minnesota SOS. I really, really would love to see him eke out a 10 vote victory or something and watch that shifty little homunculus Norm Coleman find another line of work. In the meantime, it's gratifying to see the pre-recount gap closing as the posts over at Powerline get more and more alarmed.

In a month or so I want to hear one of these insufferable Jon Meacham-style pundits talk about how we're a center-right country that just happens to have Al Franken representing a midwestern state.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The soft bigotry of low expectations

Apparently the Bush White House is really transitioning the shit out of the place, at least judging from the number of reports like this:

It's also heartening to see how closely and amicably the current White House is working with the incoming one to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. In a moment of economic crisis at home--and continued threat of terrorism from abroad--chaos is something the country simply cannot afford as it hands power from one administration to the next. And here, President Bush deserves enormous credit.

Enormous credit? What interest does he have in making things worse for the Obama administration? I mean he's a Republican, but his political career is over for all sorts of reasons. He's off to fill his coffers, so if anything he has an interest in making sure the economic crisis isn't needlessly prolonged by a disoriented executive branch. I guess it would be fair play if they removed the "O" keys from all the keyboards or something, but I don't see Bush as deserving of special commendation for not encouraging that.

Still, I myself sometimes struggle to avoid giving Bush credit, to paraphrase Chris Rock, for not doing stuff that you're not supposed to do. You're not supposed to start unnecessary wars, so stopping at just one shouldn't garner much applause. But for so long it looked like the operating principle of the Bush administration was "Fuck everything up as much as you can" that now as it starts to wind down, really, really small demonstrations of sanity, competence, or concern for the public good seem like counterintuitive, man-bites-dog stories.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I resent your objections to my bigotry.

In India:
The rise of an intense brand of identity politics, with India’s many communities mobilizing for political power, has intensified the problem. An accusation that a piece of art or writing is offensive is an easy way to whip up the sentiments of a particular caste, faith or tribe, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an Indian political scientist, points out. He calls it “offense mongering.”

In the United States:
It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election... Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

Should have burned the money

Pretty in-depth breakdown of the bullpen situation over at Yahoo (which is kind of the Mets of internet companies). The thing that jumped out at me was that Scott Schoeneweis is owed $3.6 million for next year.

That's just inexcusable. That I do not forgive.

At least Omar's apparently willing to eat "some" of that contract to move him, but I hope he's hungry, because for a guy who somehow managed to keep his ERA under 4.00 last year, Schoeneweis is as bad as it gets. And in general, a relief pitcher has to be decidedly good to be worth much more than the minimum.

Photo by Cobalt

Friday, November 07, 2008

Play Free Bird!

Or the Zelda theme. Whatever.

via TechCrunch

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Now is the time for pettiness

Why is there even discussion about what to do about Joe Lieberman?

This scumbag was re-elected representing the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, running against the duly nominated Democrat as the de facto Republican in the race. He just finished stumping across the country for the Republican nominee. He should be treated as hostile and efforts should be made to have a real Democrat replace him in 2012. Ned Lamont wasn't a very good candidate, but he still put up a pretty good showing despite his batshit crazy opponent getting endorsed by Barack Obama and other national Dems, and of course the GOP, which provided the bulk of his votes.

There are limits to what the Democratic leadership can do to him, but it should definitely explore them.

Financial cops

DealBreaker's occasionally rightward political bent can be annoying at times, but I tend to agree that this is what the financial "police force" would look like. I still appreciate the sentiment Dodd was trying to get across. This isn't 'Nam. There are rules.

Brian Fuentes has his people talk to Omar's people

Via Eric Simon, who says of the 4 year/$44 million proposal (from Fuentes): "Knock that down to three years at the same annual salary and I'm a buyer. Sure as hell beats five years and $75 million for Francisco Rodriguez."

I agree completely. I wrote this past year that Fuentes was not some just some shmoe who happened to get some saves for a club that had no other options. He's good enough to be a real upgrade over Sanchez/Heilman/Feliciano/who the hell knows. But he's also 33 years old, which means the line has to be drawn at three years. No exceptions of the sort they made for Pedro (and look how that turned out).

Waiting on Rahm

I lean slightly towards the "good sign" camp on what the offer of the chief of staff position to Rahm Emanuel portends for the Obama administration. But one thing I don't understand is why the offer was made and then allowed to just hang out there unaccepted while Rahm agonizes about whether he wants the job or not. I mean I appreciate it's not necessarily a no-brainer career move for him, but it still seems like it would have been preferable for the Obama people to keep it quiet, and have Rahm keep quiet, until he'd accepted.

There we go. I guess it was only one day...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008



That'd do nicely

For the record, I wholeheartedly approve of this Javier Vazquez rumor. I'm not sure what the specs are on Citi Field, but if the fences are deep it would make him an even better fit. He's capable of mowing down hitters but his mistakes tend to go a long way. And obviously he's not exactly a young man anymore so I'd like for the contract to be 3 years max, but I'd rather see Minaya put the money to work in the rotation than end up in some godawful bidding war for Francisco Rodriguez.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Leveraged long

On the presidential race I'm staking out the relative high end of the prediction spectrum:

On the close Senate pickups I think I'm on the more pessimistic side, except for Franken (who doesn't seem like a lock by any means). Good guys first:

CO - Udall beats Schaffer*
NH - Shaheen beats Sununu
MN - Franken beats Coleman
OR - Merkley beats Smith
NC - Hagan loses to Dole
GA - Martin loses to Chambliss
KY - Lunsford loses to McConnell

* This race hasn't been close for a while but it bears mentioning because Schaffer, from what I've seen from their Meet the Press debate and certain Youtubes, is almost comically unappealing.

h/t to Ross Douthat for the embeddable prediction map.

Best "To be sure..." graf ever.

John Hinderaker of Powerline (Check the spiffy new masthead. Excuse me but are those Greek columns of the sort Hindrocket personally ridiculed Obama for having as a backdrop to his nomination speech? If it's grandiose for that occasion, isn't it necessarily ridiculous to have as the full-time masthead of your hilarious right wing blog?) wrote a post today entitled "Ray of Hope," which contains relatively upbeat polling data for McCain. But he can't bring himself to get too enthused:

"The [sic] is the strongest evidence we have of a late McCain surge, although lots of other polls aren't picking it up. Here's the real problem: even if these numbers are right, it's hard to see how McCain can get to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. Assume that he wins all the states where he is now leading. Assume further that he wins all six of the above states, although the Fox/Rasmussen surveys show him trailing by significant margins in two. Assume that in addition he pulls upsets in Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, where the latest Rasmussen poll has him down by six... Even on all of those rosy assumptions, he's still not to 270. He needs two more states."

Keep hope alive, John.

CNN leaving no wingnut behind

Another lying asshole gets a seat on the CNN gravy train.

h/t Atrios

Dept. of Safe Predictions

Krugman: "You might think, perhaps hope, that Republicans will engage in some soul-searching, that they'll ask themselves whether and how they lost touch with the national mainstream. But my prediction is that this won't happen any time soon."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Immersion Scarf

Disconcerting evidence that technological advancement has reached a plateau of sorts:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Credit where credit's due

Fred Hiatt:
To suggest, as Mr. McCain has, that there is something reprehensible about associating with Mr. Khalidi is itself condemnable -- especially during a campaign in which Arab ancestry has been the subject of insults. To further argue that the Times, which obtained the tape from a source in exchange for a promise not to publicly release it, is trying to hide something is simply ludicrous, as Mr. McCain surely knows.

Which reminds us: We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.

via Attaturk

As Beutler points out, when even Marty Peretz cries foul...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phillies win the World Series

That was a good Phillies team. I thought it was pretty obvious before the season started, which helped in the end because it made the Mets post-ASB division lead seem like a flukish occurence rather than reversion to the mean.

I'm not at all happy about it, but Chase Utley is a freakishly valuable player. Ryan Howard didn't even have as good a year as he easily could have, despite all the RBIs. The pitching staff wasn't exactly deep, even after the acquisition of Blanton, but Hamels and Myers had great seasons, and Lidge was wild but still pretty dominant all year.

I think the Mets could pass them this offseason but they can't do something stupid like spending the whole wad on an Elite Closer with a Nickname. Forget that. If you're going to dig deep for a pitcher it should be Sabathia. I don't even want Sheets or Burnett for injury reasons, with the latter being on parole for his 2008 but the former still always hurt.

Whatever big name(s) get acquired, I hope Minaya takes care to avoid a repeat of some of this season's uglier scenarios like starting Damion Easley at first or bringing Scott Schoeneweis into a regular season game.

I'm pretty sure it's going to be a beatdown

There it is. I'm on record. While I see the obvious utility of not expecting a huge victory, I just can't bring myself to seriously believe otherwise. What I should do is bet on McCain via Intrade, getting approximately 7:1 odds, so that if the unthinkable happens there will at least be some financial compensation for it.

But I'm going to save my money because I don't think there's even a 15% chance McCain's going to win. The only states in which McCain has a double digit lead are extremely red: Wyoming, Tennessee, South Carolina etc.. Obama has a double digit lead in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon. And the battlegrounds include such decadent liberal enclaves as Indiana and North Carolina. The cake is baked.

It doesn't look like the Dems are going to get to 60 in the Senate. Al Franken has a tiny lead, if any. Ronnie Musgrove is in big trouble in Mississippi, which is understandable considering it's Mississippi, and Jim Martin is losing in Georgia, which is understandable considering he looks like a Fraggle.

Jeanne Cummings has, on occasion, shown a weakness for stupidity

It burns.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"He barbecued for us at his Arizona cabin..."

Josh Marshall still leads the league in both sensitivity to and hatred for fawning McCain press coverage. So with the phenomenon of "tire swinging" (TPM's official term for McCain-flattering) winding down, it has to be kind of a bittersweet moment for Marshall. On the one hand, a big reason why it's winding down is because it looks like McCain's going to lose, which is a good thing. But at the same time, being the world's foremost scholar of John McCain knob-polishing was a pretty good gig.  

Fortunately Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times decided to give JMM one last bravura performance, a fittingly wistful retrospective on the early days of the Straight Talk Express, "as if she were Streisand to McCain's Redford."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Stevens: Oh yeah he did that

The road to 60 senate seats gets a little less steep as Uncle Ted Stevens is found guilty on all counts:

The jury found Stevens guilty of "knowingly and willfully" scheming to conceal on Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from an Alaska-based oil industry contractor... The 84-year-old senator from Alaska had asked for a speedy trial in the hopes of clearing his name and improving his chances for re-election to a seventh term. He is in a tight race against his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich.

No word on jail time. People get incarcerated every day for less, but he's an old and powerful white person so I'm sure they'll come to some accommodation.

Short post

Howard Fineman is a moron.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bachmann taped an apology ad

Excellent. Apparently Michele Bachmann knows that the Hardball rant was extremely damaging, and she's made an ad in which she apologizes for it.

This is like that Tom Feeney thing, but even better because he was just involved in a far-reaching scandal, whose stain was old but hard to get out. She, on the other hand, either forgot or didn't know that most Americans, even the ones in her heavily Bush-supporting district, aren't raving lunatics who want Democrats investigated for disloyalty.

It hasn't been released yet. Looking forward to seeing it.

"This is cleared by HQ."

High-ranking McCain campaign spokesman (and Ahmed Chalabi's lobbyist) Randy Scheunemann, in an email to Marc Ambinder:

Just read your post. This is on the record. This is cleared by HQ. It is a fact that Barack Obama was palling around with terrorists. It was a fact before Governor Palin said it in a fully vetted speech and it is fact today. It is bullshit to claim or write anything else.


"Tokyo Rose of Al Qaeda"

That's what the totally hopeless Republican challenger to incumbent Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) decided to call him at a "debate" of sorts arranged by Iowa Public Television. Aiding and abetting terrorists, etc.

After the cameras were turned off, Harkin calmly told Reed: "you're a nice young man and I thought you had a political future ahead of you but that just ended your political career right there" and walked away. Reed said nothing.

This is of apiece with my new favorite down-ballot story of the 2008 campaign: the self-immolation of Michelle Bachmann, whose seat went from being a comfortable Republican hold to a tossup at best.

I mean this Reed clown was doomed already, but Bachmann is an incumbent who was doing fine until her crazy rant on Hardball. Then all of a sudden she's in a dead heat (she's actually polling slightly behind now) against an opponent who's now a national cause celebre. It doesn't matter that his name is Elwyn Tinkelberg. It just matters that he's not Michelle Bachmann. The system works!

h/t TPM

Not bad, Joe. Not bad.

There's a new McCain ad (web or "real" I'm not sure but what difference does it make at this point?) that's focused entirely on Joe Biden's "tested" gaffe.

Given his track record, I think it's a tremendous credit to Biden that it's October 24 and this is the first McCain ad he's starred in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not an especially shiny silver lining

McCain's silver lining certainly lies in Florida where the race is more competitive, especially among seniors. Among Floridians 55 years old and above, Obama leads by only two percentage points, a number that's statistically insignificant.

If the good news for McCain is that Florida seniors only favor Obama slightly, the bad news must be very, very bad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hitting harder now

Back when things weren't looking quite so good on the polling front, there was a lot of speculation that the Obama campaign was just too reluctant to really go after McCain aggressively. Well I'm no expert, but to me this ad appears to be filmed from the viewpoint of an old man staggering around the Oval Office with his vision going dark at the edges:

Strong stuff.

Straight Talk Air bans Joe Klein

When there was a "debate" (I still can't believe it) about whether or not it was okay for the federal government to intercept the electronic communications of Americans without obtaining a warrant, Joe Klein was on the wrong side of it. Moreover, he took the wrong side without even first familiarizing himself with the laws involved, and only admitted as much in a fit of pissy self-justification ("I have neither the time nor inclination…" etc.) after taking heaps of well-deserved abuse.

But since then, he's done a lot to endear. My rough estimate is that, since maybe June or July, 80% of Joe Klein's posts that have included the words "John McCain" have also included one or more of the following: "shameful," "shameless," "dishonorable" and "despicable." It's not a love-fest anymore. Not even a little bit.

For his trouble, he's now been banned from McCain's campaign plane. Keep up the good work, Joe.

Band of Horses - Our Swords

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Claire McCaskill has pretty serious game

Just watched Claire McCaskill on "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer, appearing opposite fellow Missourian Roy Blunt, the Republican minority whip. (The Blunts and the McCaskills, it turns out, have something of a political blood feud going on. Blunt's son Matt beat McCaskill for governor in 2004 and his father Leroy unseated McCaskill's mother Betty Anne in a 1978 statewide race. Wikipedia is awesome.)

She's not my favorite Democrat by a long shot. In fact, she's one of my least favorite. I could look up specific quotes or votes to defend my antipathy to her, but it's basically that she's further to the right than I would like. Entirely predictable, given that she was elected to the Senate from a reddish state.

But for what she offers up: a center-left domestic agenda served with heaping helpings of respect and admiration for cultural conservatives, she does it with a great deal of skill. Her pitch seems a little bit corny to my effete sophisticate taste, but not that corny. I can get over my innate distrust of someone so wide-eyed and cheerful because she's also capable of being sharp and convincing.

She was one of the first senators aboard the Obama bandwagon, officially announcing in mid-January, just after his loss in New Hampshire. This reflects both sound political instincts and the the simple fact that Obama's political style really is incredibly similar to her own.

With Obama still (and I hate the recent downtick in the national trackers) looking likely to beat John McCain on November 4, that's probably a good style to have. I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about the prospect, but if I had to put money right now on who the first female president will be, I'd bet on her.

Colin Powell's endorsement is worthless

Colin Powell was wrong about Bush, wrong about Iraq, and is still not abjectly apologetic about either. When Tom Brokaw played the clip of Powell saying "Dick Cheney will be a great vice president" etc. at the 2000 RNC, his question was whether Powell regretted making that speech. The real question to ask after that clip is why anyone should assign any value to his endorsement of any subsequent presidential ticket. As digby said, only the Villagers will care, and they will care deeply because Colin Powell is very serious.

Joe Scarborough made the point in the roundtable that the effect on the news cycle itself will help Obama because McCain needs as much positive attention as possible, but I still resent being asked to care what Colin Powell thinks about anything until he owns up to what he did.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What if they really, really deserve it?

Charlie Cook:
Devastating back-to-back election cycles are truly rare: They have happened only twice in the past 80 years (40 elections) -- to Republicans in 1932 and 1934 and to Democrats in 1950 and 1952. Usually, when voters kick the heck out of one party, their anger is satisfied and they move on. Voters rarely come back the very next time and kick the same party hard again.

via Sam Boyd

He's just so damnably folksy!

Buffett takes to the pages of the NYT (note: not the WSJ) to tell America to get long:

Let me be clear on one point: I can't predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven't the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

Think about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sherrod Brown: More like this

As I've written before, I understand that Obama can't really do things like, say, encourage his supporters to watch Fox News on election night so they can breathe in the sobs and wails of Hannity and O'Reilly like so much expensive perfume. But thank God not every Democrat in national politics is so constrained.

You'd think the junior senator from what is still notionally a swing state might have to be a little more circumspect about getting his culture war on, but he was widely considered the most populist member of the '06 Democratic class and he beat the incumbent Republican DeWine handily.

Anyway it's good to see. The post itself (on one of Fox's own blogs) is also worth checking out for the comments. A sampler:

FOX News is the ONLY fair, unbiased network out there. It's the only channel I watch to get BOTH sides of the stories. All the other channels bash McCain and give Obama a "pass" on the very legitimate concerns we should all have about Obama's judgement!

Take the Kool Aid away from Sarrod and let's prove the polls ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!!
The numbers are skewed - the the LEFT is gonna be SHOCKED!!
The stock market is UP- Bad news for Barry.
And at the McCain-Palin rally today, when the crowd said "The Pledge of Allegiance"- you should have heard them ROAR "One Nation UNDER GOD!!!"


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Overheard on "Hardball"

"If they're unable to convict him, I think he's got a real shot, yeah."

- Unknown pundit on Ted Stevens' (R-AK) prospects, should he beat what sounds like a pretty solid corruption case.

Don't forget to turn in your secret decoder ring

Christopher Buckley's career as an Obama-supporting National Review contributor lasted four days, which has to be considered a pretty good run.

I'm kind of sympathetic to the NR readers who inundated him with hate mail though. Sensible centrist David Broder types love nothing more than wringing their hands about ideological rigidity, but backing the other party's nominee for president is not small potatoes.

Buckley whines:
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

First of all, the problem with "fatwahed" isn't that it's spelled wrong it's that it's not even the right part of speech. I thought conservative intellectuals were supposed to know that sort of thing.

Regarding "the concept of diversity," for the purposes of the Republican base it means not using the n-word. It doesn't involve sending hard earned dollars to the National Review for the opinions of an Obama supporter, no matter who his daddy was.

I'm sympathetic to the angry emailers because nothing pissed me off about Joe Lieberman quite so much as being told by ostensibly disinterested parties that it's a shame the Democratic party wasn't a "big enough tent" for poor Joe. As if parties are supposed to include members who are prone to suggesting that it (i.e. the party) is rife with terrorist-sympathizing traitors. (Incidentally, he's now not only campaigning with McCain, he's writing op-eds for the endangered Norm Coleman. What an other-team player!)

Granted, Buckley hasn't as far as I know gone that far in his criticism of Republicans, but as litmus tests go supporting the right presidential candidate doesn't seem too unreasonable. Why would someone who's even considering voting for Obama want their work for Rich "Starbursts" Lowry anyway?

You're better off without'em, Chris. Suck it up and take the hate mail like a man.

And another thing: If you offered to resign, especially in an email entitled "A Sincere Offer" as Lowry claims then you resigned and you shouldn't title your ensuing post "Sorry Dad, I Was Fired."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shane Victorino

As role players go, that guy is pretty damn good.

I don't much care who goes to the World Series from the junior circuit. I was thinking that Manny vs. the Red Sox would be entertaining, but now it's not at all clear that the Sox will hold up their end of the bargain.

Breaking - Matt Stairs, professional hitter. 7-5 Phillies


It's painfully clear that people just do not give a rat's ass who Sarah Palin fired or why when she was governor of Alaska. It was a one day story that won't have any influence on who the next president is or how much Obama may or may not win by. It's nice that the investigation wasn't suppressed, but you can only lead a horse to water.

She is predictably arguing that the report doesn't say what it says. Conservatives(!), to the extent they engage the issue at all, argue that a government official with firing power can fire whomever they want for whatever reason, including political affiliation (U.S. Attorneys) or personal vendetta (Monegan). But there's not even a debate about the investigation really going on.

On the positive side, the indifference may owe something to the fact that her public image as a ditz is, with Tina Fey's help, already so deeply ingrained. That's a bad image for a potential vice president to have, but it makes it harder for people to register stories in which she's also a ruthless tyrant.

Plus there's the possibility that it's just getting lost in the overarching, McCain is in dire, dire straits narrative.

What is the deal with the McCain campaign?

Not many people I know are Republican operatives, and it would be kinda rude to ask the one who is, but what the hell is the McCain campaign doing?

Lindsey Graham, a guy in the inner circle if ever there was one, comes out and promises strong new language on taxes, but none is forthcoming. The candidate gets his first jolt of positive press in ages by scolding the crazy-cat lady who called Obama "an Arab," and then today turns around and declines to distance himself from a comparison of Obama to Osama bin Laden. And this is all while fighting a rearguard action against Bill Kristol, who was, deliciously, human anchor Sarah Palin's biggest champion. (The only bad thing about a Pfotenhauer-Kristol Smackdown is that it's never bloody enough. Oh and there's Kristol flying off the top turnbuckle with a devastating Knee-o-con on an unsuspecting but richly deserving Tucker Bounds! This is the kind of carnage they should make Pay-Per-View.)

I have to believe that the people running the McCain campaign are at least a little bit good at what they do. I'm not just going to settle on "Because they're total hacks that can't do anything right" as an explanation. But any secret strategy in an encrypted file on Steve Schmidt's laptop must involve doing a lot of stuff that doesn't make immediate sense.

Ambinder is harsh: "It's never good to overpromise to Mike Allen on Saturday, back track a little on Sunday, fail to give Lindsey Graham the message, whet everyone's appetites, offer new rhetoric Monday, throw your own campaign under the bus, facilitate your burned surrogates' leaking to the New York Times, and have nothing to put up against your opponents' four new policy proposals."

Michael Scherer on Levi Johnston

Michael Scherer is one weird dude. It's usually the totally undiminished McCain love, and maybe that's why this jumped out at me, but I don't think so. Here's the opening of his post entitled "Levi Johnston Was Nervous at First, But Then He Was Like, 'Whatever'":

Easily one of the best, non-political stories of this election cycle has been the tale of Levi Johnston, an 18-year-old kid from Alaska, who was living his life, going to high school, watching his friends tend to his MySpace page, playing hockey, and hanging out with his girlfriend, Bristol, until everything suddenly changed.

Wanting to give this as charitable a reading as possible, I assumed that by "best" he meant "ickiest," but the rest of the post suggests he was genuinely enthusiastic about it.

Bob Wright was talking about the Bristol-Levi story and said it was Bad For America because should they form a loving, cohesive family it would be a positive example of out of wedlock pregnancy. I don't even care about that angle, but there's still something kind of embarrassing about it for everyone involved. Not least of whom being the VP candidate mother who's such a big believer in abstinence-only education.

By sheer coincidence, Josh Marshall wrote a post within an hour of Scherer just to muse about how bizarre the thing was:

I was taking a few moments to think over the most surreal moments of the campaign so far. And this was certainly high on the list: John McCain's tarmac embrace of Levi Johnston, Wasilla's high school hockey star who impregnated Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol ...

Totally unprovoked "Man wasn't that f'ed up?" reminisence. Now whether or not you might personally use something more euphemistic than "impregnated" when describing the situation, Scherer's unalloyed, and by all appearances unironic glee can't be that common a response.

Week off to a good start

The G7 meeting seems to have done the trick (at least on the equity markets), Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for economics (can't wait to read the wingnuts' bleating about that one), and the ABC/WaPo poll has the presidential race at 53-43 ("Even McCain's supporters are now less enthusiastic about his candidacy, returning to levels not seen since before the Republican National Convention.").


Friday, October 10, 2008

Bill Ayers for Secretary of Education

Some good news

Gay hedge funders across Connecticut can take some solace in the fact that, while they may be down 37% YTD, they are now allowed to get married.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

GWB Unit

Commenting on the McCain campaign's receipt of multiple cease and desist requests from popular musicians, Yglesias points out that one problem may be that it's looking in all the wrong genres:

It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but I think conservative politicians would actually do better to turn to the world of commercial hip-hop, where key conservative values like greed and violence are frequently lauded.

Indeed, was there ever a more thugged out president than George W. Bush? Were it not for the lack of demographic overlap between hip hop fans and even potentially Republican voters, I think Trick Daddy would have had the ideal theme song for his 2004 reelection campaign:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Middle Class

Rachel Maddow is going after McCain for never using the term "middle class" during last night's debate. He didn't say it in the first debate either, and Obama hit him for it.

I don't object to this being a Democratic message but on the merits it's very stupid. One of Rudy Giuliani's most annoying lines, and he used it constantly, was that Democrats never used the words "Islamic terrorists." Well Democrats aren't inclined to use "Islamic terrorists" out of a desire to be clear that it's the terrorism that is the problem rather than the Islam, and out of respect for people who might consider it a contradiction in terms. It's a semantic dispute not a national security dispute.

Republicans, for their part, don't talk about the "middle class" very much because Republicans like to stress that we're all one big American family, baby. This whole navel-gazing exercise of looking at a three-tiered distribution of wealth where some are "rich" and others "middle class" (and let's not even get into the poor), especially for taxation purposes, is irredeemably flawed. You logically can't do it because any definition of rich is too low.