Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blaming minorities for the financial crisis

I just want to go on record with a brief post about this, even though it's pretty old news, because when the historians pore over my blog I don't want to have been silent on the subject:

The idea that the primary culprits for the housing crisis are minorities and/or bleeding heart liberal concern for minorities is an idea I'd never have thought could survive in nature. It's the kind of idea I imagine could only be produced after the construction and activation of an $8 billion Large Wingnut Collider. And even then, only for a fraction of a second, before it collapses under the weight of its own wrongness.

But no it's apparently quite hearty. In fact pretty much anywhere you hear or read a conservative opining about the root causes of the financial crisis, you will hear about the Community Reinvestment Act and how poor brown people hoodwinked the mortgage industry. It's not even a fringe view.

Perlstein, Gordon, and Yglesias have the details.

LCD Soundsystem called it

New York, you're perfect
Don't please don't change a thing
Your mild billionaire mayor's
Now convinced he's a king.

And indeed, it looks like Mayor Mike is not about to let some two-term limit get in the way of his threepeat.

I wish I had strong feelings about this one way or the other, but I have no knowledge of New York City politics. All I know about Bloomberg is that he was mayor when I moved here, and I haven't detected much improvement or deterioration since then. Oh, and his reelection campaign was a brutal display of financial power. There was grousing about running up the score.

[Update: Uber-crook Tom DeLay is on Hardball talking to Chris Matthews about the importance of government transparency, in the course of defending the GOP's bailout bill ambush. So foul.]

Maybe it would be interesting to have a competitive race, but my sense is that the absence of municipal news from the front page of the Times means Bloomberg is doing a good job. The constant barrage of anti-smoking propaganda has been the one personal initiative of his I'm aware of, and now that I've quit (no, I don't give him any credit) it won't be so annoying.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More on the No vote

This is incredibly frustrating.

The Republicans are going to stick to their story that they opposed the bailout because it lacked sufficient protections for the American taxpayer. They're going to attempt this even though they are simultaneously claiming that the overly partisan tone of Nancy Pelosi's floor speech was responsible for the dearth of Republican votes.

All of the Republican leaders at their press conference today: Putnam, Boehner, Blunt and Cantor, did their bit of righteous indignation at the partisanship of Nancy Pelosi. Cantor, when it was finally his turn to speak, actually waved around a printed out copy of her speech like it was DNA evidence in a murder trial. Nevermind that Pelosi's tone is a completely separate reason from any provision of the bill. The way you know Cantor either doesn't understand or is negotiating in bad faith about the legislation at hand is that his brilliant "third way" insurance proposal didn't make any fucking sense.

I'm not entirely sure what happened today. It looks like the sheer unpopularity of the bailout among voters weighed heavily on a lot of incumbents currently in tight races. People who opposed it are finding this to be proof that the system works, but I'm not at all sure. In general it's good if policy is responsive to public opinion, but this situation seems like a textbook exception to this rule. For representatives who are convinced (as many claim to be) that federal dollars are needed to stave off another Great Depression, the bailout shouldn't require popular support to get their vote.

Watching Boehner and co speak last night, I was struck at how noncommittal they seemed about their ability to deliver Republican votes. Boehner declined to guess at the numbers. They said they'd be "making clear" to their members that they'd be voting yes, etc. etc., but they did not marry it. Minority whip Blunt said before the vote “We’ll do everything we can to make sure members of both parties [???] in substantial numbers vote for this bill.”

It makes enough sense to me why the Republicans would not want to give Democrats full bipartisan support for anything, even in legitimate crises like this. Lots of people have been pointing out that it would have been nice if Democrats had this reflex in 2002-3, and I agree with the sentiment even though if the parallels aren't there. But I thought they were just going to just put up enough resistance to make it Democratic-branded legislation. Now it looks like a Republican-branded legislative impasse followed quickly by a Republican-branded implosion of the stock market.

Complicating my reading about this crisis has been the terribleness of so much of the coverage by the liberal blogosphere. I'm not going to name names but pretty much everyone except BooMan has either been consistently anti-bailout for stupid reasons or, worse, used to be outraged until Krugman relented and Republicans started playing the spoiler.

Oh well. The silver lining is that this should be excellent news for Barack Obama.

House appears to be voting no on bailout

Fucking idiots. S&P down 7%.

Barney Frank deals with the GOP "Nancy was mean to us" excuse nicely:

Scariest financial news of the day

Yeah, yeah, Wachovia's a goner. No real shocker there.

This, on the other hand...

AdAge reports the banking crisis is threatening to take a rather surprising hostage: McDonald's big-budget coffee rollout. Tightening credit conditions, have prompted Bank of America to halt loans to McDonald's franchisees. They need the capital to frantically build coffee bars in the chain's 14,000 locations for what was planned to And although it won't derail the launch altogether, it is likely to delay it nearly into summer -- hardly optimal timing for a hot-beverage introduction. It also could force the company to postpone a huge marketing push it's been planning to support the java drive, as the company generally waits until 60% of its stores have been outfitted to undertake a national ad push. The fast feeder maintains that everything is on track. According to an internal memo from McDonald's executive Cindy Fuller, Bank of America's franchisee-loan program, known as "Eagle," had reached funding limits faster than expected. She warned that market volatility was affecting the bank's ability to "fund additional growth."

McDonald's has been killing it lately. Just monster same-store-sales numbers. Plus, it's McDonald's! Yet BofA isn't able to fund new coffee bars for their franchisees. Not at all good.

via Briefing.com

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mets miss the playoffs on the last day, again.

You know how sometimes when you have a nightmare, but you forget some of the details until you go to bed the next night? Pretty much the same situation today with the last day of the regular season coming against the Marlins, with an occasionally surprising but unreliable lefty on the mound for the Mets.

Last year, Tom Glavine wasted no time putting the faithful out of their misery. This year, it was a close game throughout, with the Mets falling behind by two before tying in the bottom of that very inning with a Beltran two-run home run. Having regained the momentum, Charlie Manuel called on the inexcusable Scott Schoenweis to maximize the Marlins' chances of hitting one out (which Wes Helms did). Luis Ayala was then brought on to surrender another solo homer to Dan Uggla. The Mets threatened but didn't score in the bottom of the 8th and 9th, and that was all she wrote.

Seriously, I want the Wilpons to fire Minaya and get someone who knows what they're doing.

Bill Clinton

What a scumbag. He's on Meet the Press, talking about how great McCain is for not asking for special treatment because he was a POW. I'm fine with him saying nice things about John McCain, but how about sticking to things that aren't blatantly false? You couldn't watch the Republican convention for more than five minutes without hearing a graphic retelling of the beatings he took at the hands of the North Vietnamese. I don't blame McCain for this, but the last thing any Democrat needs to be doing is reinforcing the absurd idea that he is honorably declining to exploit his captivity every chance he gets. He used it to explain his fondness for ABBA, for Christ's sake.

Then Bill is asked about Obama, and he starts with his "unlimited potential," like he's a fucking sophomore small forward declaring for the NBA draft. Brokaw picks up on the seemingly less-than-ringing endorsement, and asks why he thinks Obama isn't "great" yet. Then Bill goes into "I'm not allowed to say what I really mean so here's how I'm going to hint at it" mode, and he mentions right off the bat that Obama was a state senator five years ago. But of course, Bill assures us, as soon as he becomes president (a prospect he characterizes as probable but no sure thing), he will surely improve people's lives in such a way as to reveal his greatness.

Next time I see Bill Clinton on teevee talking about Barack Obama, I want him to pause from lavishing superlatives only long enough to savage John McCain as a dishonest and mentally deteriorating asshole. I think painting the "O" campaign logo on his face would also be a nice touch, to prevent the kind of confusion that could arise from interviews like this about which candidate he supports.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Santana comes up huge on three days rest

Complete game shutout, three days after he threw 125 pitches over eight innings, dominating the Cubs. The game took just over two hours. The Mets are still mathematically alive in the division and within a half game of the Brewers for the wild card.

The Cubs just jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Milwaukee on a Daryle Ward home run. Sheets is pitching for the Brewers, so the Cubs may have to make that stand up.

Chris Matthews is insane

McCain is apparently just like some boxer called "The Mongoose"? Archie somebody?

Oh man. Tweety is dialed in. He's asking a guest repeatedly if John McCain is "too troll-like"! Troll-like! Also "kind of a codger." That's awesome.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Questionable message

This ad takes numerous clips from the debate of Obama saying John McCain "is absolutely right" about this or that (before getting to his disagreements). It then asks the viewer to consider whether someone with this pattern of agreeing with John McCain can be trusted to lead. I'm having a hard time figuring out how this works as a McCain ad.

Rudy Giuliani, Shadow Veep

MSNBC just announced that the post-debate spin matchup will be Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani. It was also Rudy Giuliani on the campaign plane this morning.

Weird that he would pop up like that at the same time Sarah Palin is getting thrown to the wolves.

Anyway the debate went pretty well I thought. I'm still surprised at how much less demented John McCain seems when he's not reading a prepared speech. He's still quite spry.

Obama seemed to be on offense more often, although there were times where I wished he'd stop trying to interrupt, on the theory that whatever McCain is going to say won't be that good and it makes BO look anxious.

Also, of all McCain's many deliveries of the "criminal or paternity" bear DNA joke, this one was far and away the angriest. People were too scared to laugh.

Through the looking glass

Fox calls out the AP for an unfair attack on... Joe Biden.

h/t County Fair.

Cognitive dissonance

When the bailout plan was first conceived, the reaction to it in the liberal blogosphere was extremely negative. The argument was that any bailout would necessarily be a handout from everyday Americans to the rich Wall Street assholes who were themselves responsible for the mess, and that would be bad. The whole notion that there is a "credit crisis" was largely derided as a ploy to get Uncle Sam to reach for his billfold faster.

Now that it appears it's going to be Republicans, including possibly John McCain, that are providing the opposition to the plan, everyone's worried about the consequences of inaction.

Sure, the bailout has been chopped into installments and made more taxpayer-friendly, but it's still a massive transfer of wealth from the Treasury to a bunch of struggling banks, which a lot of people were screaming bloody murder about on principle just a few days ago.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thanks for playing

WaMu eats it.

Or rather, JP Morgan eats WaMu at the government's behest.

Omar Minaya needs to be fired

That's it. Send him packing.

The Mets depth in the outfield, the infield, the bullpen and the rotation has just been horrible. Starting Fernando Tatis was bad enough. Counting on Fernando Tatis was totally inexcusable.

Argenis (pron. Are-Heinous) Reyes? What is this poor guy doing in the stadium, let alone the starting lineup? .218/.259/.245 over 110 at bats probably means that even for a second baseman he can't hit.

The bullpen issues are well known. My pet peeve in that department is Scott Schoenweis, but there's a lot of suck to choose from.

And then there's the rotation, where after Santana there were no sure things. Maine was good, but not great and then he got hurt. Oliver Perez is still liable to give up 5 runs at a moment's notice. Mike Pelfrey looks much improved; gotta give him credit there. But Pedro hurts to watch these days. He's done. He's a liability.

That makes our "playoff" rotation (and I mean that to have the Jim Mora inflection) Santana-Pelfrey-Perez as far as I can see, which might not be that bad, but it's not that good either and behind them it's just scary.

Last night's loss and what looks like it's going to be tonight's loss to the Cubs have been especially painful, but it just...

Wait a second... Ryan Church just tied it by going around the tag into home. That was awesome.


Mets win! Mets win!

I hope they sign Omar to a long term deal pronto. Robinson Cancel? Ramon Martinez? The guy's a visionary.

Palin as "Nell"

Man that's cold.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mittens Counterfactual

Generalissimo Kos makes an under-appreciated point:

But think, what if McCain had picked Mitt Romney as his veep choice, like so many of us were fervently hoping?

Sure, the rollout wouldn't have give McCain a fraction of the attention and excitement that Palin generated. The GOP ticket's (now evaporated) post-convention bump would've been smaller, and maybe Romney would've been less effective at revving up the fundy base.

But right now? Romney would be kicking ass. The media would treat him with deference as an economic expert, and let's be honest, he does looks straight out of central casting for the role of "serious businessman who we should defer to on the economy". McCain wouldn't have to hide him. Romney could make the media rounds, being taken seriously no matter what GOP gibberish he spouted. Rather than flail and cower, a McCain/Romney ticket would look sure-footed and confident, projecting gravitas in a time of uncertainty.

As I think I wrote at the time, I was not among those who were all but begging John McCain to pick Romney. I just never saw the comically hapless figure that others did. And that was well before the financial crisis had moved to the front pages. You have to think he's looking at that ABC/WaPo 52-43 print and laughing his billionaire ass off.


That's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Hi, I'm corrupt Republican Tom Feeney..."

I was just sitting here having having a cup of coffee. Just reading the paper, next to some fruit, in a douchebaggy lavender open-collar dress shirt... Anyways I just wanted to tell you, the good people of FL-24, that I'm really sorry about that Abramoff thing. I didn't know what the deal was. Really.

Via Chris Cillizza, who writes:
Politicians, as a rule, don't like to apologize, and they certainly don't like to apologize in front of tens of thousands of viewers. And, there is recent evidence that a mea culpa by an endangered politician doesn't make things better...

Oh no, I'm sure "I embarrassed you" (he actually says this in the ad) is actually a stunningly effective bit of political messaging. But time will tell.

“Obviously, the ‘mea culpa’ ad is not a huge genre in American politics,” said Ken Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project, a University of Wisconsin project that collects and codes political ads. “If someone has done something bad enough that they think they need to apologize for it with a television ad, they’ve usually decided not to run.”

Supremes for the win

Adam Serwer, today:
Troy Davis will be executed tonight for a crime he most likely didn't commit. Davis was implicated in the murder of police officer Martin McPhail in Georgia. Since Davis' conviction, 7 out of the 9 witnesses in the case recanted. Two witnesses confessed to fabricating their accounts, three of the four who testified at trial have signed affadavits recanting, and others have implicated the ninth witness, a Sylvester "Red" Coles, as the real gunman.

CNN, just now:
The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.


h/t Tristero

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pull yourselves together!

William Greider's "Paulson Bailout a Historic Swindle" is a pretty good case study in liberals going absolutely bananas about the proposed remedy to the financial crisis. It worked poor Bradrocket into such foaming rage that he threatened to withhold his vote for Obama if he acquiesced to the $700 Billion Blank Check.

A few points:

1) A lot of people, Greider included, are overstating the extent to which the people who actually work "on Wall Street" were the primary beneficiaries of the housing/credit bubble. Yes, they made a lot of money, but the total amount of wealth creation from the rise in housing prices and the overextension of credit was huge and widespread. The dot-com bubble was actually not as major as the housing bubble, and a lot of people sold houses from 2002-2006. If profiting from asset price inflation per se is a sin, there was plenty of sinning going on off Wall Street as well.

2) Related to this tendency to be blinded by the hubris of super-rich people is overstating the extent to which large capital infusions for major financial institutions benefit the executives of the banks personally. Yes, they make huge amounts of money, but it's not as though the $700b is going right into Jamie Dimon's expense account. It's overcompensation, not rampant embezzlement. That money is going on the balance sheets of the banks, in place of their Monopoly money Level 3 assets, so they can slow down their deleveraging and relieve the market of some forced selling. This isn't being proposed solely to make super-rich people feel super-rich again. I'm not sure how many cents on the dollar the Treasury will eventually recover, but if Barney Frank suggests (as he did this morning on TV) that it could be approach breakeven then I'm convinced it's at least plausible.

3) The spite factor seems to loom large as Greider dwells on the fact that the government could, if it wanted to, crush all these banks like so many grapes:

Government can apply killer leverage to the financial players: accept our objectives and follow our instructions or you are left on your own--cut off from government lending spigots and ineligible for any direct assistance. If they decline to cooperate, the money guys are stuck with their own mess. If they resist the government's orders to keep lending to the real economy of producers and consumers, banks and brokers will be effectively isolated, therefore doomed.

Yeah, no kidding. The government could doom the banks, but that's not the object of the game now, is it? That would be counterproductive in the extreme. Everybody likes a solvent banking system, not just bank CEOs. It's pretty much Paulson's talking point from his tour of the Sunday shows, but the American taxpayer is already in dire financial trouble. I'm all for Congressional hearings when this is over, but people need to realize that massive bank failures would also suck in their own way.

Most Americans come out behind in their dealings with both Wall Street and Washington, but neither can just be given up on. You can't call John McCain the second coming of Herbert Hoover while also insisting that the banking industry be left to its own devices. Yes it's a blank check. Yes it's a taxpayer giveaway to investors. What taxpayers get in return is a new, substantially-less-doomed financial system, which can survive to be thoroughly overhauled afterward.

I'd like to see some strings attached to the money, but the Democrats' decision to focus on executive pay limits almost makes me wish they had just laid down completely. What a feckless, superficial demand. The big question is how should the deal be structured to minimize moral hazard and economic damage to those who didn't own this crap. That the funds are to be administered at Hank Paulson's discretion doesn't strike me as prima facie evidence that those goals won't be met.

Given how many much smarter people whom I usually agree with oppose this plan, it's likely I'm wrong about it. But from where I'm sitting (i.e. in the financial industry), the outrage is completely out of proportion and largely misdirected.

The Politico has a roundup of economist skepticism about the plan, but there's some pretty notable concessions made by two of the quoted skeptics:

Prof. Zingales of U. Chigago, in the linked piece entitled "Why Paulson is Wrong": "The Paulson RTC will buy toxic assets at inflated prices thereby creating a charitable institution that provides welfare to the rich—at the taxpayers’ expense. If this subsidy is large enough, it will succeed in stopping the crisis."

Nouriel Roubini: “He's saying, ‘Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.' This is not a monarchy.” (Roubini told the New York Times that despite these concerns, he also thought the plan could help stave off a recession.)

And the Financial Times likes it outright. But other than that, it is quite unpopular.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yeah... Those aren't getting preserved.

Star Tribune: "Federal judge orders Cheney to preserve broad range of records from time as vice president."

I hear Lockheed Martin custom built the OVP paper shredder with the lasers they were going to use for Star Wars.

The Walkmen - In the New Year

h/t Metacritic

Bob Schieffer nails it

I didn't think his questioning of Paulson was especially tough, but Bob Schieffer's editorial bit at the end of FTN was pitch perfect. I'll try to find the video, but basically he said that whatever needs doing to fix the current crisis, the fact that it was created without any laws being broken suggests we need better laws.

I'm less worried than most of left blogistan (especially Prof. Atrios) seems to be that Hank Paulson's m.o. in all this is to enrich his former peers at the big banks. It obviously seems fishy that there's a section in the proposed legislation that would forbid any kind of congressional or judicial review of any action Paulson might take, and I'd like to see that clause nixed, but you can't blame him for trying.

I like the sound of some alternative plans, put forward by Krugman and others, that provide the government greater upside when things improve. But there's also something necessarily messier about government equity ownership as opposed to government ownership of this crappy debt.

What I'm more concerned about is getting some meaningful regulation on mortgage origination, securitization, credit ratings, bank leverage, etc. The banks will not want it, but this is the moment where their political influence is at its absolute nadir. They are desperate for government help, and are in no position to put up much of a fight. So as long as any bailout is accompanied by (if not conditioned on) those reforms, I don't really care about the particular form it takes.

I do share Prof. Atrios's appreciation of this (sadly anonymous) email from a congressional Dem to Matt Stoller. My favorite graf:

I also find myself drawn to provisions that would serve no useful purpose except to insult the industry, like requiring the CEOs, CFOs and the chair of the board of any entity that sells mortgage related securities to the Treasury Department to certify that they have completed an approved course in credit counseling. That is now required of consumers filing bankruptcy to make sure they feel properly humiliated for being head over heels in debt, although most lost control of their finances because of a serious illness in the family. That would just be petty and childish, and completely in character for me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

SEC short-selling ban

What Ritholtz said:

"This is nothing short of a total panic by people who have no clue what they are doing."

Much better

Nate Silver's projections now produce an Obama win 62% of the time.
The recent improvement really has been showing up in pretty much all
the national numbers and in enough state polls to move the needle
significantly even since 10 days ago.

I never wrote about this, because the subject had become so painful
and it requires a link to Mickey Kaus, but in those dark hours when
McCain had a 5 point lead the Feiler Faster thesis was a great source
of comfort.

And what do you know, some combination of the Palin Effect (positive)
being in large part replaced by the Palin Effect (negative), the
financial collapse, and people simply coming to their senses, BO is
back on top. The only problem: still plenty of time for him to give it

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bess Levin is a national treasure

From her open letter to Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein and Morgan Stanley's John Mack:

You fuckers didn't want an actively regulated market when you were splicing and dicing toxic debt and selling this shit as if its shinola to unwitting third world countries who have difficulty with potable water (which I'm cool with, no playa hatas here). Then, the market bitch slaps you one down day after five years of offering up its fake breasts for you to snort the toxic lines of cocaine that is shit debt like Tony Montana and you get your undescended testicles in bind and go crying to the paradoxically named Chris Cox.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States


Seems oddly familiar

Well last night I was at the Yankees game, but my eye kept wandering up to the out of town scoreboard. I assumed something was wrong with it because it kept showing WAS 1, NYM 0 even as the inning kept getting later. This is even though the Mets are in a close playoff race and were facing a scrubby LHP who last looked like a good pitcher when he was a Los Angeles Dodger. Imagine my surprise when I got home and discovered the problem was not with the scoreboard or its operator, but the Mets offense.

When I saw the highlights, there were a lot of hard-hit balls with runners on base that just happened to have been directed right at the Washington outfielders. But you know what the answer to that problem is? Home runs!

At least even in the worst case scenario it won't be as big a disappointment as last year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pakistani Army threatens to shoot

You have to admire their spunk, but the only thing shooting at U.S. troops is going to accomplish is to turn their soldiers from solid to liquid state in a matter of seconds. The smart move is to pretend not to see the guys in night vision goggles.

Via ThinkProgress

Bankruptcy: Officially bad for morale

As one would expect.

"He did this."

Welcome back, Brian

The 50 Cent of the liberal blogosphere is back in action.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Is an "immediate tsunami" bad?

24/7 Wall St.:
Bond king Bill Gross of Pimco believes that a failure of Lehman (LEH) will lead to "the risk of an immediate tsunami.. related to the unwind of derivative and swap-related positions worldwide in the dealer," according to Reuters.

The reason Mr. McIntyre here is writing that a Lehman failure "will lead" as opposed to "would lead" is because the government isn't going to put itself on the hook for Lehman's liabilities in any takeover plan, as they did in the case of Bear Stearns. Without that backstop, there's apparently just no way that BofA, Barclays, or any other of these relatively solvent banks can buy Lehman without violating their fiduciary duty to their own shareholders. They just hold too many crappy assets.

I don't know what's going to happen when the market opens tomorrow, but it seems there's a real possibility it joins Fannie and Freddie in the penny stock category.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rest in peace, DFW

I checked out Atrios and saw he'd written an uncharacteristically long post about why his blog was called Eschaton. I wondered what brought that on, and then scrolled down and the immediately preceding post was a link to this:

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 tome "Infinite Jest," was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.

Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the Claremont Police Department, said Wallace's wife called police at 9:30 p.m. Friday saying she had returned home to find her husband had hanged himself.

Claire and I went to see him do a reading from "Consider the Lobster" at the Strand bookstore a couple of years ago. It's a collection of short stories, and he read "The View From Mrs. Thompson's," which is about 9/11, and it was the quietest crowded room I've ever been in. When we left I told Claire my fondness for him was "officially hero worship," and I meant it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

GOP I love you but you're bringing me down

David Brooks is just mad-dogging the Republican party these days. Matt Yglesias noted two earlier comments, a reference to the GOP as "intellectually unfit to govern" and another deeming it short on "experts," both variations on the Republicans-are-stupid theme, but neither fleshed out to Yglesias's satisfaction.

Yesterday's column seems to offer a more in depth criticism of at least the pure, uncut version of conservative ideology, and it seems to have been practically plagiarized from Jacob Hacker (note to Dr. Hacker: time to scrub the John Edwards endorsement):

If there’s a thread running through the gravest current concerns, it is that people lack a secure environment in which they can lead their lives. Wild swings in global capital and energy markets buffet family budgets. Nobody is sure the health care system will be there when they need it. National productivity gains don’t seem to alleviate economic anxiety. Inequality strains national cohesion. In many communities, social norms do not encourage academic achievement, decent values or family stability. These problems straining the social fabric aren’t directly addressed by maximizing individual freedom.

I don't know how much government can do on the social norms front, and national productivity gains should have only been expected to alleviate economic anxiety if they were matched by commensurate increases in incomes, which they haven't been, but other than that it's good stuff.

What's a bit hard to take is being asked to seriously consider that the Republican party is actually going to "modernize" and recant all that stuff about supply side tax policy and cutting/privatizing Federal entitlement programs. I don't care if Reihan Salam and idiot boy Ross Douthat make noises about the middle class. It's not going to happen, at least not until they start getting marginalized as a political party so badly that it's their only chance at survival, and as is becoming depressingly clear that hasn't happened yet.

A blast from the past

Ran across a ZDnet article dated October 13, 2000, entitled "Deflating Bandwidth Glut Predictions".

It's a treasure trove of dot-com era craziness. One of the main arguments in support of the idea that there was no oncoming glut of network capacity (which of course there was) was that so many providers were still spending billions to add more capacity as quickly as possible. The very fact that companies like Lucent (still alive but not well) and Global Crossing (went into and out of bankruptcy) were making the investments was presented as evidence that those investments were sound.

As you would expect, the telecom execs quoted in the piece disputed the notion that the network had been overbuilt:

"If you believe the Internet is going to be the dominant force driving bandwidth demand, then you realize that no matter how big a pipe you have, you will fill it," said Jian Li, senior director of emerging technology at Qwest.

That's right, internet demand = infinite demand. If you need harder numbers to be convinced, some guy at Nortel has them in spades:

Based on these factors and other online usage trends, Ramani calculates bandwidth demand will grow to 100 to 200 times today's rate in the next four to five years. At the same time, even if next-generation equipment makers were able to light their total arsenal of fiber in the next five years, capacity would only increase by about 70 times existing levels, he said.

You might be tempted to question the rigor of any calculation that produces a range of "100 to 200 times", but who is the author to say he knows bandwidth demand better than sellers of bandwidth? Finally, a defense that sounds eerily topical:

Ramani said predictions of bandwidth surpluses also fail to acknowledge that the public network is segmented into several regions. "They treat the entire network as if it's one big black box," he said.

This is apparently a common refrain at the tail end of massive asset bubbles, because it's exactly what the National Association of Realtors says today about residential real estate: "Every market's different!"


January 15, 2002 - More than two dozen North American carriers are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Long-haul carriers owe some $75 billion in debt, with some $7 billion of interest required this year alone. According to the Financial Times, some 436,000 jobs have been eliminated from the global telecom industry this year. Bandwidth prices are dropping by as much as 80% annually and long-distance prices in the United States have fallen to as low as 2 cents per minute.

Manna from MSM heaven

What an excellent press day looks like:
  • Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin is not groveling, as was feared after the McCain camp said it wanted interviews that showed "deference." Gibson actually kind of overtly quizzes her on the "Bush doctrine" among other topics, pressing her for answers that are clearly never going to deviate from the ones she was given. It was a stupid gotcha question, even if you'd still like it not to be way over the vice president's head.

  • The AP's headline is "Palin Tries to Defend Qualifications in Interview", prompting TPM to hand their AP-criticism duties over to the Pantload. (n.b. "riding the tire swing" is the former's term for writing pro-McCain copy.)

  • WaPo's Anne Kornblut, before getting to the humiliating bill of particulars in the Gibson interview, puts Palin on blast for linking Iraq to 9/11, a link that has "been rejected even by the president himself." This is even though the audience for the remarks in question was an Iraq-bound brigade including her son. I don't have a problem with it, exactly (although that lie was better corrected when it was Bush telling it to the country), but it's a nice surprise. [Update: Bill Kristol is hopping mad about this one, which is always a good sign]

  • The AP's Charles Babington, whose piece on Obama's convention speech was so negative that Keith Olbermann wanted to fight the guy, now writes an "Analysis:" piece that begins "The 'Straight Talk Express' Has Veered Into Doublespeak." It's literally a story about how much McCain and his campaign have been lying, which is about all one could hope for.

  • All one could hope for... except the fabled expose of Cindy McCain's drug habit, "A Tangled Story of Addiction"! The web version is five pages. The interview that appeared to have been scrubbed earlier today is just one source for what I'm sure is a very fair and evenhanded account of Cindy McCain's drug addiction, the inappropriate measures John McCain took to score for her, and the lives it ruined.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If there has to be an undeserving MVP...

Sky Kalkman, now of SB Nation saber site Beyond the Boxscore, throws cold water on the whole "Carlos Delgado for MVP" bandwagon. Sky points out what everyone already knew: based on season-long stats, Delgado has no business even being mentioned in the MVP conversation. His cumulative stats are not impressive, and even his second-half stats pale in comparison to those of Albert Pujols, who has quietly hit .362/.467/.655 this year while providing better defense and baserunning than Delgado.

I completely agree that there's no real argument for Delgado being the best player in the National League, but I've also been paying enough attention to the MVP award process to know that's hardly a disqualifier. The year that Shannon Stewart was traded to the Twins from the Blue Jays midseason, and then (not thus) the Twins went on a ridiculous run to the playoffs, Jayson Stark opined that he deserved consideration. If he did, then after the second half he's put up (.295/.387/.628), Carlos Delgado should too.

Sure, in principle it would be nice to see the MVP award get awarded a bit more regularly to the actual best performance over a season. It's downright stupid that players on non-playoff or (gasp) sub .500 teams are disqualified just because their teammates happen to suck. But why return to sanity now, when the potential beneficiary of the stupid system is a Met?

Plus, despite my earlier, horribly wrong, assessment that his career was overcooked, I like the guy personally for some reason.

Lehman Brothers deathwatch

There are rumors it's going down for reals today or tomorrow, in some form of takeover, a la Bear Stearns.

I just hope it's not today so people don't make tawdry, "financial 9/11" type comments.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Playing offense

The Politico:
South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Take a Load Off, Fannie

There's pretty wide agreement that the government takeover of Fannie and Freddie, in and of itself, kinda had to be done. Still, the privatized gains/socialized losses phenomenon is pretty galling. All the more so given that, even in the face of these massive-even-for-Wall-Street liabilities taxpayers are absorbing, the chances of even reasonable sounding banking regulations getting passed seems pretty dim.

via DealBreaker

Paul Begala can't take it no mo'

I've never been that big a fan, but he did real good work here. I don't know if the outrage was really sincere or not, but it was convincing, and I appreciated it.

He really made John King look like an asshole, too. He had already started in on the "false debate" line when King had only gotten out "We've got 56 days..." out of his mouth. It's as if he knew that King was going to leave the question open.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Reports of United's death

Pretty funny, unless you were the guy who sold at $3.00. If markets are so efficient...

Saturday, September 06, 2008


So the conventional wisdom on the VP debate is pretty well congealed: "Joe Biden is in big trouble because if he's too combative he'll look like he's picking on the poor little lady."

Serious people really come out and say this on television. It's annoying enough but today I heard someone mention that Biden also has to avoid going too easy on her, because that will be seen as condescending towards women. Obviously, the commentators who keep talking about how Biden has to play nice don't have to worry about that.

So while Joe Biden is "boxed in" and has to "navigate between the Scylla of belligerence and Charybdis of condescension" (okay that's not really a quote), no one seems to be mentioning that when Sarah Palin was asked about the Iraq War in March 2007, she said she hadn't really been following it that closely.

Word is Joe Lieberman has been brought in to coach her on the finer points of accusing Democrats of treason.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Gov. David Paterson on Colbert

I haven't really closely followed Eliot Spitzer's replacement, but he just did an appearance on Colbert and the guy is extremely funny and smart.

Will it be enough to get me to care about state politics now? Outlook not so good.


I had dutifully composed a medium length post for today on my iPhone (not being home), but then I got an incoming call and it didn't survive.

The gist was that McCain's speech was awfully dull but that may not matter because the shiny creationist object that is Sarah Palin is dominating the zombies' attention anyway.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wow is she unpleasant

They're doing the postgame on the Palin speech. Chris Matthews thinks it will play in Scranton. I'm not so sure. She was pretty tough on the O-man. Tougher than she should have been, I think. The lines devoted to mocking Obama clearly got the lion's share of the speechwriters' attention. They did pretty good.

But there were so many of them, plus the bit about voting for John McCain out of spite for Harry Reid, whom not enough people know to be much of a lightning rod... it just seemed offputting even coming from a hockey mom (of five!) from Alaska.

Eugene Robinson said afterward that her speech was good where she talked about her biography, but not when she was on the attack, or as he put it "when he wasn't the real Sarah Palin." I don't know how any pundit gets comfortable talking about the "real" Sarah Palin at this point. For all we know that was just the speech she wanted to give.

It's entirely possible that my sensitivity to criticism of Democrats is higher then the average American's, but I don't feel the same way about Rudy Giuliani's speech. Rudy did a phenomenal job. Pat Buchanan was practically foaming at the mouth when asked to comment. He talked about Rudy "tearing and ripping" and it was a pretty good description.

I appreciated that, in addition to all the ridiculous and offensive attacks, he made the effort to dig up some legitimate ones. The public financing reversal was a big story, so you'd expect that. But he called him out for caving on FISA, which is a little suprising/galling since the shift was toward the Republican side, and the "undivided Jerusalem" statement which was quasi-accidental and had to be walked back the next day, was a true gaffe.

Josh Marshall wrote that Rudy "seems to get genuinely angrier the longer the speech goes on," which is definitely true. But that works for Rudy. We know he's mostly in it for the crowd's love. He went on so long they had to scrap Palin's introductory video.

Anyway. A for Rudy. B+ for Palin.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Lieberman hours away from his Zell Miller moment

The Caucus's Kate Phillips:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s speech tonight will likely be a testament to his deep alliance and friendship with Senator John McCain, but it also will likely fray even further — if not sever — his longstanding affiliation with the Democratic Party.

One would hope. There's been rumblings about Harry Reid stripping him of his committee assignments or whatever but the slim Senate majority created a disincentive to antagonize him. As we get closer to an election that's almost certain to result in more than 49 proper Democrats, and as Lieberman prepares to speak at the Republican convention, where he is sure to accuse Obama of treason and extol the manly virtues of John McCain, I think it's time to start treating him as hostile.

Finding good snark in the unlikeliest of places

Richard Cohen: "Still, you have to admit that in all that time, especially since Palin became governor about two years ago, no Russian invasion force has come across the strait, maybe because she was in charge of the Guard, maybe because she herself is a hunter and an athlete."

Via Yglesias

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pat Buchanan's 1992 RNC speech

I was reading a Slate article that tries to establish where McCain's use of "my friends" ranks as a rhetorical tic in American political history, and it makes a reference to Pat Buchanan's convention speech at the 1992 RNC. It had 6 instances of "my friends," but is pretty interesting for other reasons as well.

As someone who finds himself agreeing with a lot of what Buchanan says on MSNBC, I sometimes let myself forget that he's the same Pat Buchanan who was too hot for the Republican party in the mid-90s. This is right after the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton. Stirring stuff:

"Like many of you last month, I watched that giant masquerade ball at Madison Square Garden--where 20,000 radicals and liberals came dressed up as moderates and centrists--in the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history."

"And what does Hillary believe? Well, Hillary believes that 12-year-olds should have a right to sue their parents, and she has compared marriage as an institution to slavery--and life on an Indian reservation. Well, speak for yourself, Hillary."

and my favorite:

"In New York, Mr Gore made a startling declaration. Henceforth, he said, the 'central organizing principle' of all governments must be: the environment. Wrong, Albert!"