Archive for 2008 September

The GOP Goes for Broke — Listens to Limbaugh

Yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, a writer named Zev Chafets extolled the power of Rush Limbaugh to inspire the right-wing Republican base. He said (here) that Limbaugh

got his way with the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Limbaugh now
believes, with more than a little justification, that the pick was an
effort by McCain to satisfy him and fellow conservatives. And he is
indeed satisfied. In an e-mail last week, Limbaugh informed me that,
post-Palin, his support for the McCain ticket was "balls to the wall."

This is a very big deal. A satisfied Limbaugh means an enthusiastic
Limbaugh, and an enthusiastic Limbaugh could be the difference in a
close race. Between 14 million and 20 million people listen to
him every week, by far the largest audience in talk radio. His show
energizes the Republican base, but, even more important, it appeals to
a great many conservative Democrats and independents of the kind McCain
needs to win swing states.

Absolutely true. Limbaugh was a huge fan of Palin — "Guns, Babies, and Jesus!" he crowed, when she was named to the ticket. "Hot damn!" (By the way, Limbaugh was a huge fan of going to war in Iraq for oil, and now hugely opposed to the bail-out. Could he be equally wrong this year, as he was in 2003?

Yes, says David Brooks (here) in The New York Times. Unlike Limbaugh, he fairly distributes the blame, from President Bush ("who has squandered his influence with Republicans as well as Democrats"), to Henry Paulson ("an inept legislator"), and including House leaders Barney Frank ("media darling") and Nancy Pelosi (for giving a speech as if she was "at a Democratic fund-raiser").

But most of all he blames the "the loudest and angriest voices" on the right — talk radio hosts, whom he calls "nihilists."

They showed the world how much they detest their own
leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did
the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep
recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion
shift against them.

House Republicans led the way and will get
most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their
single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago,
they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support.
Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their
party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most
American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio
with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as
the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken
responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The
short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the
existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

Perfect example. Some quotes from yesterday’s Rush Limbaugh show as the market takes its biggest fall in decades. (As a Wall St. disaster-maker, Bush is now bigger than 9/11.)

Limbaugh blames the Democrats, of course, mentions Bush, and then like Nero with his fiddle, happily blathers on, pointing the finger at everyone but himself, as the market melts down…

There
goes the Dow, down 603.49 since the thing has failed.  This is a
monumental day.  There is so much to learn in what happened here
today…  This tells me that the Democrats easily holding the
House and Senate is not a slam dunk.  This tells me that a lot of
Democrats in the House really fear not being reelected, and you see how
those Democrats voted.  So, folks, once again, the lesson is ignore the
conventional wisdom…
I
shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to say it anyway.  Screw the market!
…When the government fails to pass a socialism
bill and the market goes south, let it go south.

You got it, Rush…

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A Great Speech for Tough Times

As some of us have been fearing, the Dow is down nearly 600 points today. If the bail-out fails to pass in Congress, chances are it will fall much further. We may be in for some truly hard times ahead.

This is not a time for happy talk, but it is a time to think of great speeches to buck us up.

Almost everyone has heard the great Tom Joad speech from the John Ford/Henry Fonda movie (which is viewable here). It’s virtually identical to a version Steinbeck wrote for the stage (passage available here).

Some consider it the greatest movie speech of all time. Even if you haven’t actually seen the movie, or the play, or read the book, you’ve probably heard some version of the words Tom Joad says to Ma Joad as he leaves her to find his own way into the world:

I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be ever’-where – wherever you
can look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be
there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be
in the way guys yell when they’re mad – I’ll be in the way kids laugh
when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when the people
are eatin’ the stuff they raise, and livin’ in the houses they build –
I’ll be there, too

But how many have heard the great buck-up speech from another American classic, A Death in the Family?

Let me share one moment from it. You won’t regret it: nor, most likely, ever fully forget reading this.

In this scene, a hard-working brother, Andrew, speaks from the heart to his sister, Mary, giving her all he can, after she has suffered the grievous loss of her husband:

See here…it’s bad enough now but it’s going to take a while to sink in. When it really sinks in it’s going to be any amount worse. It’ll be so much worse you’ll think it’s more than you can bear. Or any other human being. And worse than that, you’ll have to go through it alone, because there isn’t a thing on earth any of us can do to help, beyond blind animal sympathy.

That’s why you’re going to need very ounce of common sense you’ve got. Just spunk won’t be enough; you’ve got to have gumption. You’ve got to bear it in mind that nobody ever lived is specially privileged; the axe can fall at any moment, on any neck, without any warning or any regard for justice. You’ve got to keep your mind off pitying your own rotten luck and setting up any kind of a howl about it. You’ve got to remember that things as bad as this and a hell of a lot worse have happened to millions of people before and that they’ve come through it and that you will too. You’ll bear it because there isn’t any choice–except to go to pieces. You’ve got two children to take care of. And regardless of that you owe it to yourself and you owe it to him.

…it’s kind of a test, Mary, and it’s the only kind that amounts to anything. When something rotten like this happens. Then you have your choice. You start to really be alive, or you start to die. That’s all.

The book was written by the great writer, critic, and screenwriter James Agee, and was the basis of a play called All the Way Home. (Have to see that some day.) Here’s a picture of James Agee, a favorite writer of my late beloved Grandmother’s, and (I’m beginning to think) a source for some of her wisdom.

Agee

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Sarah Palin and the Dinosaurs

Is Sarah Palin a full-blown creationist who believes, 19th-century style, that the earth is only 6,000 years old? Or is she a little more evolved than that? Here’s some first-hand testimony from an Alaska resident:

I first met Alaska Governor and GOP
Vice Presidential aspirant Sarah Palin when she was on the City of
Wasilla Planning Commission. I appeared at one of their meetings, along
with my boss at that time,
now-convicted ex-Allvest CEO, Bill Weimer.
We were presenting a proposal Allvest was working on, in conjunction
with a Wasilla-based mental health clinic, to open a community
corrections project there, and needed a facility permit.

At
that time, I remembered her, because she seemed to be the only person
on the commission who had actually read our proposal. It was obvious
from her questions.

Of
the encounters I’ve since had with Sarah Palin, two that brought up her
faith, have become important, in light of the possibility that she
might someday soon be in charge of thousands of thermonuclear weapons.

In
June 1997, both Palin and I had responsibilities at the graduation
ceremony of a small group of Wasilla area home schoolers. I directed
the Mat-Su College Community Band, which played music, and she gave the
commencement address. It was held at her church, the Wasilla Assembly
of God.

Palin had
recently become Wasilla mayor, beating her earliest mentor, John Stein,
the then-incumbent mayor. A large part of her campaign had been to
enlist fundamentalist Christian groups, and invoke evangelical
buzzwords into her talks and literature.

As
the ceremony concluded, I bumped into her in a hall away from other
people. I congratulated her on her victory, and took her aside to ask
about her faith. Among other things, she declared that she was a young
earth creationist, accepting both that the world was about 6,000-plus
years old, and that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same
time.

I asked how she
felt about the second coming and the end times. She responded that she
fully believed that the signs of Jesus returning soon "during MY
lifetime," were obvious. "I can see that, maybe you can’t – but it
guides me every day."

Our
next discussion about religion was after she had switched to the less
strict Wasilla Bible Church. She was speaking at, I was performing
bugle, at a Veterans ceremony between Wasilla and Palmer. At this time,
people were beginning to encourage her to run for Governor.

Once
again, we found ourselves being able to talk privately. I reminded her
of the earlier conversation, asking her if her views had changed. She
was no longer "necessarily" a young earth creationist, she told me. But
she strongly reiterated her belief that "The Lord is coming soon."

As always in the blogosphere, draw your own conclusions. My sense is that Palin simply doesn’t care about science or fact (as evidenced by her repeated repetition of the Bridge to Nowhere Lie, among others). I loved Tina Fey’s line in the Saturday Night Live routine last night in which Palin, visiting New York, talked about "that goofy Evolution Museum" — that is, the Museum of Natural History.

That’s about right, I suspect.

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McCain Seethes: Obama Keeps His Cool

As a fellow debate watcher said last night, Obama is an "organized thinker" — his small points inevitably lead to large conclusions. (For instance, in the debate last night he noted that the United States consumes 25% of the world’s annual oil production, but only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves. This means that offshore drilling will not solve our energy problems — no matter how many times Republicans call for more drilling.)

As a thinker, McCain is as much a loose cannon as he is a maverick. This explains why he’s good in a town hall format, where he can jump from one point to another, but not so good in speeches, where the speaker needs to build a platform on which to stand and make his logic clear.

This difference leads to frustration for McCain in debates. You saw it against Romney, and we saw it last night against Obama. As he clenches his jaw and glares, you can see him wanting to devastate the younger man, but his shots (such as the jibe about bear DNA research) go wild as often as not. Obama ignored most of them, simply correcting the outright lies (such as McCain’s complaint that Obama would raise taxes on families making $42,000 a year). This only makes McCain madder.

As Larison points out at The American Conservative:

Halperin grades
Obama as having done better than McCain.  The CW [conventional wisdom] has now been firmly
entrenched.  The telling thing is that this has happened in a debate
for which a lot of us assumed McCain wasn’t very well-prepared (he was
busily grandstanding in D.C. saving the world, after
all) and focused on a subject where McCain is supposedly some grand
master and Obama is allegedly a novice.  Obama proved that the idea
that he is somehow not well-versed on foreign policy is nonsense.  From
here on out, McCain is in a lot of trouble.  In future debates he can’t
just keep saying, “Earmark reform, drill, baby, drill, maverick” and
expect people to pay attention to what he says.

Obama_mccainxx

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McCain Wins Debate, McCain Campaign Says

Believe it or don’t: proof (from an ad placed in the Wall Street Journal) below, which was posted this morning, before the debate.

Obvious question: If McCain can win the debate by saying he won the debate, why can’t he win the war in Iraq by saying he won the war in Iraq — and then leave? Worked for Richard Nixon…

Mccainwinsdebate

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George Bush vs. The Joker

I love this movie and I love this kind of humor…

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Meanwhile, Back on Earth…

What is happening with carbon emissions is genuinely scary (and here we’re talking about the known risks, not the unknown risks). Here are the conclusions of the just-released Global Carbon Project report for 2007:

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are growing 4x faster since 2000 than during the previous decade, and above the worst-case emission scenario of the Intergvernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

–Less Developed Countries are now emitting more carbon than Developing Countries.

–The carbon intensity of the world’s economy is improving slower than previous decades.

–The efficiency of natural sinks has decreased by 5% over the last 50 years (and will continue to do so in the future), implying that the longer it takes to begin reducing emissions significantly, the larger the cuts neeed to stabilize atmospheric CO2.

–All these changes have led to an acceleration of atmospheric CO2 growth 33% faster since 2000 than in the previous two decades, implying a stronger climate forcing and sooner than expected.

The chart below puts these factors together for recent years. Note especially how the ocean is becoming less efficient as a carbon sink. That’s because the increasing velocity of winds in the Southern Ocean around Antartica is dampening the efficiency of carbon uptake — a factor attributed to global warming and the still-increasing hole in the ozone layer.

Humanperturbationofcarbonbudget

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McCain Wants To Postpone Debate: Quips Fly

John McCain announced today he was suspending his campaign and wants to postpone the Presidential debate scheduled for this Friday until next weekend, which would mean putting off the Vice-Presidential debate until who-knows-when. 

This incited a veritable rainstorm of quips, which are still coming in:

Barney Frank: "It’s the longest hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys."

David Letterman (whose interview tonight with McCain was postponed as well): "This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone’s putting something in his Metamucil… He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she? What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!"   

Anonymous Democratic Strategist: "If you were wondering how bad McCain’s pollster was telling him things are, there’s your confirmation."

Commentator sj at Rod Dreher: "This is Tonya stopping to tie her shoelace."

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George Will: GOP the Most Leftist Administration in History

George Will, the alleged intellectual who still questions the science of global warming, also questions the need for a bailout, arguing, essentially, that it’s socialism with a conservative face. (Or as David Brooks calls it, progressive capitalism.) Will appears so ticked he can’t even bear to mention the name of George Bush, whom he has so often defended with so little justification, and lays this disaster for conservatism at the feet of John McCain, who is only running for President.

Clearly right-wingers are drawing lines and preparing to settle scores. The hatred will burst into full flower as soon as the results are in. But with that said, one must concede that Will does have a point…that Steve Brodner, the New Yorker satirist, brilliantly animates from the other side of the political spectrum.

The government is preparing to take over Wall Street: Should we be celebrating?

Here’s Will, from a bitter column called McCain Loses His Head:

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is
government control of capital. So, is not McCain’s party now conducting
the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never
acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson,
asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to
socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary.
That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that
government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does
McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?

And here’s Brodner’s version of the same concept, depicting a victory parade for Henry Paulson. In his words (from a caption):

It is a burnt offering to Wall Street along with a prayer that it will
not decide to seize up. It can also be seen as miles of ticker tape as
Paulson rides down the Canyon of Heroes in the big
Farewell-to-the-Reagan-Era-And-Go-Get-Lost-And-By
The-Way-We’ll-Hang-Onto-That-Golden-Parachute-And
The-US-Constitution-Too-Thank-you Parade

Parade

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Meet the New Boss: Progressive Capitalism

I’m not a big fan of David Brooks, and think he’s far more of an ideologue and less of a free-thinker than he realizes, but when he’s right, he’s right. We as a nation have turned a corner.

For better or worse, a new era awaits us: Progressive Capitalism

Over the next few years, the U.S. will have to climb out from under
mountainous piles of debt. Many predict a long, gray recession. The
country will not turn to free-market supply-siders. Nor will it turn to
left-wing populists. It will turn to the safe heads from the investment
banks. For Republicans, people like Paulson. For Democrats, the guiding
lights will be those establishment figures who advised Barack Obama
last week — including Volcker, Robert Rubin and Warren Buffett.

These time-tested advisers, or more precisely, their acolytes, are
going to make the health and survival of the financial markets their
first order of business, because without that stability, the entire
economy will be in danger. Beyond that, they will embrace a certain
sort of governing approach.

The government will be much more
active in economic management (pleasing a certain sort of establishment
Democrat). Government activism will provide support to corporations,
banks and business and will be used to shore up the stable conditions
they need to thrive (pleasing a certain sort of establishment
Republican). Tax revenues from business activities will pay for
progressive but business-friendly causes — investments in green
technology, health care reform, infrastructure spending, education
reform and scientific research.

If you wanted to devise a name
for this approach, you might pick the phrase economist Arnold Kling has
used: Progressive Corporatism. We’re not entering a phase in which
government stands back and lets the chips fall. We’re not entering an
era when the government pounds the powerful on behalf of the people.
We’re entering an era of the educated establishment, in which
government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework
for capitalist endeavor.

After a liberal era and then a conservative era, we’re getting a glimpse of what comes next.

Another example: the Los Angeles Times reports today (see here) that massive changes, staff cuts, and risk reduction is expected on the Street.

Last week’s bankruptcy filing of Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. and
shotgun engagement of Merrill Lynch & Co. to Bank of America Corp.
— after the demise of Bear Stearns Cos. in March — signal the most
dramatic reordering of Wall Street since the Great Depression.

Even if the huge government intervention announced late last week
succeeds in stemming the current crisis, Wall Street’s basic business
model will be revamped, many in the business say, with its earnings,
workforce and appetite for risk greatly reduced and its swashbuckling
ethos ratcheted back.

The new era of subdued expectations is likely to affect not only
traditional investment banks but also hedge funds and private equity
firms, which gained high profiles in recent years.

[pic courtesy of Brian T. Murphy, who took it for his brother, who works on the Street]

Wall_street_nyse

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