Knock it off already

Dear News Media,

When will we start getting to see all those images of Barack Obama's pant legs and stylish shoes? I hear John McCain sports some Ferragamos. What about getting us a look at Joe Biden's shapely calf muscles?

After all, I'm sure you're taking loads of those pictures--getting those pant legs in the side while you go for a shot of a faux-handmade sign that shouts "We Want Change!" or "McCain for my future!" or some other stirring slogan. Right? I'm sure it's just a standard way to frame the shot and has nothing to do with Sarah Palin's possession of a vagina, right?

Look, I don't quite know how to say this, so I'll just say it straight. I don't like defending Sarah Palin against sexist treatment, because frankly, she stands against pretty much everything that feminism stands for. I feel a bit like those justices who had to find in favor of Larry Flynt--you know they didn't really want to do it, but they rose above their personal squeamishness to do their duty. So knock it off. There's no point in taking these pictures.

Treat Sarah Palin like you do Joe Biden, which is only fair. Ignore her.


Sarah Palin is getting all kinds of crap because when Katie Couric asked her to name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v Wade, she couldn't. Who knows the names of Supreme Court decisions? I mean other than Bush v Gore. Or Plessy v. Ferguson. Or Tinker v Des Moines School District. Or Lawrence v Texas.

If you have favorites, by all means, in the comments.

It's not the nihilists

Bunny: That's Ulee. He's a nihilist.
The Dude: Must be exhausting.

David Brooks is a smart guy, so he should know this, but I'm going to tell him anyway, Not all opposition to the bailout plan is created equally. In what passes for his column today, however, he conveniently links it all together, the better to scapegoat the lot of them. It's easier that way.

As I've said before, I'm no economist, and I don't know exactly what ought to be done in this situation. I know that the original plan stunk out loud because it reeked of the tactics Naomi Klein described in The Shock Doctrine and because it made no sense to give a blank check to an administration that was 1) on its way out the door and 2) had already proven itself to be both criminal and incompetent. And I didn't like the latest one because it didn't provide any relief for homeowners who are going through bankruptcy. I hope the failure yesterday moves the negotiators back toward that position--I suspect it won't, but I can hope.

But let's be clear on this. As Nate Silver points out, what killed this bill was the combination of 198 staunch Republicans from safe seats and those Congress members who are in tight races. Now, electorally speaking, it's hard to fault those members who are in tight races--this was a hugely unpopular bill yesterday, although it's less likely to be so today. But what's the deal with those Republicans?Some of the opposition is principled, no doubt, but all of it? Give me a break. As Barney Frank noted yesterday, it's amazing how the exact number of Republicans needed to kill the bill were apparently offended by Speaker Pelosi's speech. I believe in coincidence, but I'm not stupid.

Brooks asks if Frank took into account the 98 Democrats who voted against this bill. He did. Apparently, during the negotiations, the Democrats told their Republican counterparts that they needed a hundred votes to pass this bill, because of Democratic defectors. The Republican negotiators failed to come through. I don't know if they were bargaining in bad faith--it wouldn't be the first time--or if the negotiators were sandbagged by their own party, but this bill didn't fail because of a lack of preparation on the part of the people writing it.

In the end, I think that Brooks is trying to give everyone who voted against this bill a bit of an out by calling them nihilists. They aren't. Those who voted no because there weren't any protections for homeowners took a principled stand, as did those who were adamantly opposed to any bailout from the beginning. But those are the marginal characters in the House--the Ron Pauls and Dennis Kucinichs. It's the partisans in the House who put party first who are to blame, and they're not nihilists. They're just assholes.

Eliot is not impressed with Republicans who argue against corporate fatcats.

Ummm Stanley?

There's a difference between having a sense of humor and being a joke.

He [George W. Bush] may not be an intellectual, but he isn’t dumb and he is shrewd enough to play his “aw shucks” personality for all it’s worth. And he has a really good sense of humor (something Barack Obama seems to lack) and a comedian’s ability to make capital out of his own malapropisms.
Bush may not be stupid, but he is intellectually incurious, which is worse, as far as I'm concerned. And even if your claim about Barack Obama is correct (and it isn't), I'll take a President who is overly serious over one who blithely wanders through his Presidency with nary a thought for the consequences of his actions. If anything, the fact that President Bush is able to look at the state of the union and do anything but commit ritual seppuku shows that his humor is based in the conservative idea that it's fun to point at homeless people and laugh at how smelly they are.

Republicans don't give a crap about you. That's the message to take away from this crappy bailout deal--that if you've been stuck by medical bills, by the loss of a job, by a predatory lender, by any situation where you're about to go into bankruptcy and lose your house, the Republican party is giving you the finger and wants you to sit and spin on it.

They [Democrats] failed in an effort to give judges the power to modify mortgage terms for people who have filed for bankruptcy and Democrats were unable to get approval for part of any profits the government might receive to go to help people facing mortgage defaults.
That's the part of the bailout bill that Republicans fought hardest against. Congressional oversight? Not a problem (which is amazing considering the utterly crappy job Republicans did on that front for the last eight years, and that we're likely to have a Democratic President in 4 months or so). Restrictions on executive pay and golden parachutes? Sure--throw that in there. Giving taxpayers a cut of any profits these companies make in the near future? Awesome idea.

But give a judge the option to change mortgage terms for people who are going through bankruptcy? Nope--went to the wall for that.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating--if you're not rich, and I mean filthy, stinking, don't-know-how-many-houses-you-own rich, and you vote Republican, you're a moron, because that party doesn't care about you or what you're going through in your day-to-day life.The Democrats will at least pay you lip service and throw an occasional bone your way, but the Republicans will kick you in the ribs for even daring to sniff at the bone.

Don't be a sucker this November. It's especially important down here in Florida, because we don't have an income tax. We do better as a state when homeownership is high, so having bankruptcy judges able to keep people in their houses would be a good thing for us. But Republicans don't want that, because they're more concerned with the outsized profits of the financial services industry than they are with the working or middle classes.

There's a fair amount of concern online about just how Joe Biden should approach his debate with Sarah Palin. Palin's horrendous performance in her interview with Katie Couric (savaged here and mocked here) has only made the problem worse for Biden according to many. So, Joe Biden, how can you take on Palin and not come off as condescending, or patronizing or sexist? I have some answers*.

1.) Don't debate Palin--debate McCain. Actually, this is the same advice that Palin was given this morning on CNN. The VP debate really isn't meant to showcase who is better equipped to be second-in-command. The number of people who are swayed by a VP pick are miniscule, and since both VP candidates come from safe states, it's likely that neither is going to be a real factor in the final tally. You aren't competing against each other here--you're just along for the ride, electorally speaking.

2.) Don't sweat the sexism charges. I say this because it won't matter what you actually say or doesn't say on that stage--the McCain campaign is going to charge sexism. It's the no-win situation of all no-win situations. That's why point one is so important--if you're not debating her, then you lessen your exposure, and you make their charges even more hollow, and that's the best you can hope for here.

3.) Don't rise to the bait. Debate moderators are the equivalent of the smarmy kid in junior high who liked to say "let's you and him fight." Jim Lehrer, who is a fine newsman in general, turned into just that kind of jackhole in the debate between Obama and McCain. Gwen Ifill is likely to do the same thing here. If you get into a fight with Palin, you lose, even if you win.

4.) Don't go off script. Don't improvise. That's when you get in trouble. Remember--you are not running for VP so much as you are speaking for Barack Obama. If you screw up, you don't embarrass yourself--you embarrass him. Yes, it's a no-win situation. Yes, it sucks. But that's what you signed up for when you took the gig.

So that's my advice. Add any other advice you might have in the comments.

* There are no guarantees as to the quality of these answers.

I don't always agree with Bill Maher, so no one take this as a tacit endorsement of him in general, but his "New Rules" from last night, the night of the debate, was extraordinarily delightful. Before you go pre-judging any more white people, you better watch this:

I'm afraid I can't get all that worked up over a story about how foreclosures on million-dollar-plus houses are going up. I'm just not that sympathetic. Here's why.

In 2003, Robert Provost snapped up a $2.5 million villa with its own boat dock in Sarasota, Fla. A finance chief for an auto-sales chain, Mr. Provost earned more than $250,000 a year and had an impeccable credit history.

Then he lost his job. Mr. Provost missed one $10,500 mortgage payment, then another. This month, the 53-year-old put his house, a five-bedroom with sweeping views of an intercoastal waterway, on the market for $3.4 million. But the listing has thus far attracted little interest. Mr. Provost says he expects to receive a notice of default from the bank — the first step to foreclosure — in the next month or two.

"A foreclosure would be devastating," he says. "My wife and I would have to start from scratch."
His mortgage payment is roughly a third of my yearly base salary, and I suspect that for him, starting over from scratch won't involve living in a car, or under an overpass, scrounging for cardboard and a marker to make a sign that says "Will Close For Food." Or maybe it will--economic times are tough, and even people who have done well for themselves have been known to make disastrously bad decisions. Somehow I doubt it, though.

Robert Frank wrote this piece, and to his credit, he doesn't lapse into a tale of "oh, the poor rich people, forced by this crisis to scale back." But he doesn't exactly use the same tone that we've been hearing for the last year and a half as the housing bubble was bursting; that "these people should have known they were buying a house they couldn't afford" attitude has quieted down a bit now that it's the upper 5% of income earners who are getting hit.

RIP Paul Newman

He was a hell of an actor, and as this piece notes personified "cool" for a generation. He was Cool Hand Luke after all.

But so far, and I'm sure this will change in forthcoming stories about his life, there's been only passing mention of his activism, especially in the way he made organic food popular. I was a teenager when he started his Newman's Own brand, based on the premise that people would pay a little more not only for a better product, but also if they knew the profits were going to charitable works, as opposed to the pockets of shareholders. And he was right. Newman's Own has been tremendously successful, has sent a lot of money to a lot of good causes, and has done a good deal to improve the quality of a lot of foods. The chocolate-mint Newman-O's and Fig Newmans are perhaps my favorite cookies of all time.

He was 83, and that's a good run for anyone. He did some good in this world, and that is perhaps the highest compliment we can give anyone.

Edit: I post this, then turn on CNN and they do an entire obituary based on this facet of his life. Glad to see it, and if I can find the video, I'll post it.

No rest for the weary

Tonight, the Obama campaign will briefly celebrate a solid debate, and will no doubt continue Joe Biden's prep for his face-off with Sarah Palin. If her appearance on CBS News is any indication of her expected performance, this could get ugly. Or, she could be pulling the biggest sandbagging of all time. I'll relax when we get to January 20 and we have a President Obama in the White House.

But locally, we have other races and other issues to deal with, and with that, I give you a challenge to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Annette Taddeo in the FL-16 race.

Annette Taddeo's campaign pounced on Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Friday for not speaking out more on the Bush administration's bailout plan - but Ros-Lehtinen's camp says otherwise.

A Taddeo release criticizes the Republican's "silence" and says she has received more than $800,000 in contributions from the financial services industry during her 19 years in Congress: "Ros-Lehtinen votes consistently with President Bush to reward Wall Street and remove accountability," it says.
I have no doubt that Ros-Lehtinen doesn't want to delve into the specifics of the bailout plan because if there's anything that the public agrees on more than that King George the Lesser is pretty much useless, it's that no one wants to see $700 billion go to bail out the financial wizards who got us into this freaking mess in the first place.

Early voting starts in Florida on October 20. Get out there and vote, and drag a friend or five along with you. Change can't come soon enough.

Debate wrapup

Okay, so the pundits are saying that it was a tie, and that since this was supposed to be McCain's strong subject and he's behind in the polls, he didn't do well enough. I thought McCain fell flat on his face in small ways a number of times, and Amy said so right from the beginning when McCain mentioned Ted Kennedy's hospitalization and then said something like "I haven't been feeling great lately." Now, his intent was to say that he was feeling hopeful about bipartisanship blah blah blah, but the immediate reaction is that McCain linked himself to an old man (from the other party) whose health is sketchy at best. It's not the sort of thing that will show up right away, but it emphasizes McCain's weakness, which is his age combined with his choice of running mate. When George H. W. Bush chose Dan Quayle, there were jokes about how ill-equipped Quayle was for the job, but Poppy was healthy and there was no expectation that he'd eat it during those four years. McCain may be spry for 72 years old, but he's still 72.

There were other moments where McCain really came across as condescending, and youngish people hate that. We want our asses kissed, even when we're actually ignorant of what's going on, and if younger people--and I include anyone under 50 in that grouping, given that Obama is 47--react badly to that, then McCain will have lost this election decisively.

In the end, though, I think that I was right to post the picture below. Obama had this in the bag, and I expect that when the subject turns to the economy, he'll have it even more, assuming that the McCain isn't below 40% after Sarah Palin shows just how unready she is for prime-time next week.

Not that anyone who reads this blog needs reminding--John McCain's diva-like turn has been in the news almost as much as the WaMu collapse, after all--but I know how us Democrats are. We imagine Barack Obama will have a moment where his answer isn't as strong as we'd like, the mediator will ask a question about an irrelevant subject, and the post-debate spin will make it look like McCain stomped him into the ground. And that all may happen. But just remember--Barack Obama has battled entrenched racism, and overcome a lack of name recognition to build a machine like no one has ever seen to get to this point.

Or in other words, this:

Of course he's not worried!

In today's Sun-Sentinel, the Tallahassee Burea reported that the Division of Elections has 32,000 new voter registrations backlogged after receiving 25,000 this week alone. On top of that, they only expect the number of new registrations to increase as the October 6th deadline approaches. What's more interesting is Crist's response to the backlog:

Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters Wednesday he isn't worried. "I think we'll have a very good election in Florida," said the governor.

Call me paranoid, but I can't help but think "Of course he isn't worried!" With the amount of new voters registering Democrat, this backlog is probably good news for Governor Crist. If the Division of Elections doesn't get all these new registrations processed in time, it just brings him one step closer to a White House that will pat him on the back for doing things like opposing changes to Florida's ban that prohibits gay and lesbian couples from adopting.

I'm crossing my fingers and doing a good luck jig that we get these registrations processed and Florida doesn't botch this one again. Who will join me? I've got an extra rabbits foot.

Obituary Writing

The NY Times has a Q&A with Bruce Weber, one of their obituary writers, on what obituary writing is all about. Most of the Q's are fairly straightforward and the A's are short and interesting. For example, how do living people react to being asked to contribute an interview to their own advanced obituary? (A: not always all that well!), and what is meant by the frequent euphemism "after a long illness"? (A: a combination of ailments too complex or vague to put to print).

The longest answer was for this question:

Q. I have been reading The Times daily since I was about 10 years old. I love the autobiographical obituaries. It is interesting to me that 14 out of 15 are about men who have died, and the 15th is about a woman of note. It is amazing that so few women who die are interesting enough to write about. Tell me about this.
— Bernita Hassall Fadden, Palm Coast, Fla.

A. It's hard to deny that a disproportionate percentage of our obituaries are about men, though I think 14 out of 15 is an exaggeration. (I counted my own recent obituaries, and 8 of the last 50 have been women, including Helen Galland, Mila Schön and Barbara Warren.) I certainly hope this isn't about gender bias, and I don't think it is. For one thing, our departmental discussions about who is and who isn't deserving never touch on a subject's gender, unless it's to note that for a woman (or a man) to have accomplished such-and-such was unusual, as was the case with Mary Garber, whose obituary was written by Richard Goldstein. For another thing, the editor who does most of the daily assigning, Claiborne Ray, is a woman. Prompted by your letter I asked her about the disparity, and she confirmed my instinctive response, which is that the majority of people who are dying these days — that is, older people — grew up at a time when achievement and fame were far more accessible to men than to women. Writing obituaries often makes you feel as though you're reporting on a world that doesn't exist any more, and I can only assume that as time goes on, the number of women who appear on the obituaries pages will grow significantly.

Does the obituary writer protest too much? I don't know: I can see some reason behind his ultimate answer, that the people dying today came from an age when notable courses of life were more likely for men... but only if you define "notable" in a traditionally male way: movers and shakers who stayed movers in shakers all their lives, no matter if they had kids at home. There are many women who did extraordinary things in nursing and teaching, women who did extraordinary things during WWII on the "homefront" working in factories or participating in the ways available to them. But those women were very often absorbed into "home-life" at some point. Does that make what they did early in their lives disappear? "The editor who does most of the daily assigning, Claiborne Ray, is a woman" is such a bad, bad argument, you wonder what has him grasping so. Is it that they know they don't put in the work that would be required to find the exceptional women who, in their third decade, "became wives and mothers" (and stopped being "people"?) ... This makes we think me need a Women's Project, similar to the project to find Holocaust survivors and interview them about their early lives. We need to find older women, women who have been seen as fertility objects for most of their lives, who did amazing things and went amazing places in the 20s, 30s, 40s... and then "disappeared" into motherhood in the 40s, 50s, 60s.

If someone shakes the world at 25 and dies, she is honored in print. If someone shakes the world at 25 and marries at 30, she disappears. The hero's path is different from the heroine's path, but I'm not so sure we ought to regard it less. And the unusual length of this particular reply makes me think that Weber knows it.

What game is John McCain playing at here? One thing is clear--he doesn't have a real sense of what's going on, and he has surrounded himself with a campaign staff that doesn't care what happens to the economic system as long as John McCain wins the news cycle. Notice that I didn't say "wins the election." That's because his people aren't looking that far ahead. They worry about one news cycle at a time, and based on the polls for the last week, that's not really working all that well.

Take, for instance, this story about the current Congressional negotiations about the bailout plan.

Senator John McCain had intended to ride back into Washington on Thursday as a leader who had put aside presidential politics to help broker a solution to the financial crisis. Instead he found himself in the midst of a remarkable partisan showdown, lacking a clear public message for how to bring it to an end.

At the bipartisan White House meeting that Mr. McCain had called for a day earlier, he sat silently for more than 40 minutes, more observer than leader, and then offered only a vague sense of where he stood, said people in the meeting.
That's a clear indication that McCain really doesn't understand what's going on here. Of course, neither do I, but I'm not running for President, and I'm not claiming to have the answers. All I know is that Paul Krugman is worried, but that he didn't like the original plan, and I trust him.

But McCain's actions look like those of a person who felt like he could make a difference with the force of his personality, and then discovered that the problem was bigger than that. Factor in that he's way out of his element--the basis of this discussion is that the government has to get involved, and McCain has always been a firm opponent of regulation--and you get the reaction seen above: no clear public message and no questions to ask in a meeting.

It's not a surprise that McCain is ill-prepared for this discussion--he's ill-prepared for most policy discussions. He's gotten as far as he has by being a sort of anti-wonk, a guy who distills everything down to clichés about "straight talk" and maverickyness, but never really offers much in the way of detail, and his barbecue buddies in the media have gone along with it. I suspect McCain's strong stance on deregulation is based on the fact that it's easier to be against all rules than it is to be for some of them. You don't have to justify your opinion if you're just against regulation. If you're for some regulation, you have to be able to argue detail--why this regulation and not another? McCain just can't do that, because he doesn't know.

No wonder he wants to postpone the debate. His handlers have to know that no matter whether or not the main subject of debate is supposed to be foreign policy, questions about the economic crisis will come up, and that McCain won't be able to give intelligible answers, because "letting the markets work" isn't going to fly this time.

Here's the Genius Ten, a modified version of the Random Ten: take the next song to pop up on your party shuffle and create a Genius playlist from it, then post the first ten songs. No hiding the Johnny Hates Jazz.
Authority Song: John Cougar Mellencamp
Genius Ten:
1. She's a Beauty--The Tubes
2. Stand--R.E.M.
3. Our Lips Are Sealed--The Go Go's
4. Roll With It--Steve Winwood
5. Squeeze Box--The Who
6. Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress--The Hollies
7. Walk of Life--Dire Straits
8. Shock the Monkey--Peter Gabriel
9. Hungry Heart--Bruce Springsteen
10. Lookin' Out My Back Door--Creedence Clearwater Revival
I think I'm going back to the Random Ten next week. This just isn't as interesting to me. Leave your lists in the comments.

Mark your calendars for October 6, because assuming that there's any of Sarah Palin left after her debate with Joe Biden, she'll be in Boca Raton for a fundraiser. Five hundred bones a plate gets you a reception and a dinner at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Maybe by then she'll have come up with some better answers than these.

Part 1: Bush's address to the nation came across as a terroristic threat. "Give us all your money, OR ELSE."

Part 2: John McCain is scared out of his mind. He wants to postpone the first debate because "the economy is in trouble," and, despite the fact that the topic of the debate was supposed to be security issues, there's no way it won't now be about the economy, something about which he knows nothing. If there's going to be some terrorizing going on, I'm glad that at least one of the culprits is himself terrified.

But we ordinary people know that the "Bush Recession" began in 2001 and never let up. All the so-called "growth" in the economy was built on debt, inflated prices, and worthless paper. That didn't help the ordinary person, but it let some rich people get much, much richer. Now that those super-rich are taking it in the nads, they want "we, the consistently recessed" to pay their bad debts? Nuh uh, motherfutcher. You made that mess, you are going to lie in it. (And if the congress gives any other answer, we all should move to New Zealand)

If you're actually scared that something bad might happen if we don't hand over all our present and future wealth to the bu$h-buds and greedheads of Wall Street, you just need to take a step back and see the clear outlines of this con job.

Read the Arun Gupta letter, as seen in Business Week, and Wired.

EDIT/ADDED: Tell all your NY friends to be at Wall Street TODAY at 4pm -- this show of opposition takes place at the same time as the Bush-Obama-McCain-Congressional Leaders meeting at the White House. It looks like they're actually going to go ahead with the bailout plan, and we need to be united as one loud voice shouting, NO.

Annette Taddeo's new ad

Lots of pundits have written off Annette Taddeo's campaign against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, but the Taddeo campaign hasn't been discouraged. In fact, they're expanding the fight--more staff, more outreach, and now they're going up on television. They've given me a bit of a sneak peek at the new ad, and I'm trying to help spread the word.

As I've said in the past, we need more Democrats, and better Democrats in the House of Representatives. Taddeo is a chance for both, and this is a winnable race. If you're a local, especially if you live in Florida's 18th district, volunteer and help get out the vote, and if you're from a safe district, consider sending the Taddeo campaign a few bucks. She's gone into her own pocket already a couple of times, and has done a hell of a job fundraising, so every penny helps. She's progressive on issues that matter a lot to us.

P.S. There's also a Spanish version of the ad.

Sorry, I'm working on about 4 hours of sleep, I have a full day of teaching ahead of me, and I'm getting 48 papers today. This is what you get for the morning blogging.

As Patrolman T.E. Parsons prepared the machine, Cruz scooted his chair toward Parsons, lifted his leg and "passed gas loudly," the complaint said.

Cruz, according to complaint, then fanned the gas toward the officer.

"The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons," the complaint alleged.

He was also charged with driving under the influence, driving without headlights and two counts of obstruction.
Yeah, that was the best joke I could come up with at this time of the morning.

When I started this blog series about three weeks ago, I planned to do a couple of quick posts, but other issues got in the way. They're still in the way, but if I don't do this now, I won't get to it, and with Campbell Brown's righteous rant thrusting sexism back into the spotlight, even for a moment, I felt it was a good time to talk about some of these images.

The collection had more sexist than racist images in it. Part of that is no doubt due to the unreasoning, visceral hatred that the right-wing has for Hillary Clinton expressing itself in sexist ways, but it also has a lot to do, I think, with the fact that sexism is still more socially acceptable than racism is now. There's no contest on this, by the way--people who refer to themselves as progressives will say sexist things or buy into sexist memes that would make them blanch if the subject were a man of color.

But the images that came out during this election cycle were largely from right-wingers, so they tended to fall into a few basic categories: 1) Clinton as male/lesbian; 2) Clinton as emasculating woman; 3) Clinton as sexually unattractive (which informs some of the right's love of Sarah Palin); 4) Clinton stepping out of her assigned role as woman. There's also a set that just wishes to visit violence upon her.

In this first set of images, I think we have examples of 1, 3 and 4. I'm assuming that the "Hillary is a Fembot" is meant more to paint her as unfeeling than as a sexually attractive sex doll with guns in her boobs.

I think these two are examples of number 2. The first obviously plays to the group of men who have been divorced, most likely because their wivesgot tired of putting up with their shit. These men feel entitled to a dinner-cooking, house-cleaning, child-rearing fucktoy, and when women decide they'd rather do anything else but stay married, they become bitches. Hillary Clinton would presumably have become bitch-in-chief. The second image could also be a number 4, because it plays into the notion that women don't have anything to say that's worth listening to, since that's the man's job in this world.

And then these are the ones that wish violence on her. There's a sick glee to these images, and I think it comes from the same attitude that the last set comes from. Senator Clinton's success proves to all women who are stuck with inadequate, hateful men that they don't have to be stuck with them. She's become a very powerful person, more powerful than her husband is these days, and that scares the hell out of these men who can't stand the idea of losing their dominance.

That's why Sarah Palin appeals to these men. Her husband is manly, studly, and the impression that comes from every news story that shows he was intimately involved in the day-to-day of her mayoralty and governorship reinforces the idea that she's really just a figurehead, that she takes orders from him.

The collection is still up, and will be through November 1, on the FAU campus in Boca Raton, the Ritter Gallery. I've really only scratched the surface in this series. Go check it out if you're in the area.

Who are these people?

In this interview, Washington Post columnist Shankar Vedantam discusses a study that found that the attempt by fact checking organizations to correct misinformation received by voters does not actually correct the misinformation, but often times reinforces it. So who are these people who seem either unaffected by facts, or are encouraged to think the opposite . . . well, apparently conservatives:

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: The researchers, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, brought in a bunch of Republicans and told them about the Bush Administration’s claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. And then they provided the volunteers with essentially a correction of that information.

About 34 percent of conservatives believed that Iraq had either hidden or discarded the weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion, but after they heard both claim and refutation, 64 percent of conservatives believed that Iraq had had the weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, the refutation caused more people to believe in the Bush Administration’s claim than they did before.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are there any other examples of that?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: There was one other example – tax cuts increase revenue. This has been a subject of some contention. And, again, the researchers, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, brought in both conservatives and liberals and told them about this claim of the Bush Administration, and then provided them a refutation by several economists, including several who worked for the Bush Administration, both current and past officials.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: People who are arguing against the idea that tax cuts increased revenue.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: That's right, and where 35 percent of conservatives believed the claim that tax cuts increase revenue before they heard the refutation, 67 percent of those provided with both the claim and the refutation believed the claim.

So, again, the refutation strengthened the power of the bad information rather than weakening it.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How is this possible?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: The most plausible explanation seems to be that when conservatives are strongly emotionally invested in that point of view and they hear a refutation, they might start to argue back against the refutation in their own minds. And this internal argument is so strong that it eventually persuades even more of them that the misinformation was accurate.

Vedantam goes on to say that this may also be true for liberals, but the researchers found it primarily in conservatives because the questions asked were “hot-button issues.” Of course, there’s always the off chance that liberals don’t react this way as much because we don’t have to; our party didn’t crown this country’s most dishonest president in history.

Damn, I gotta’ say, what a life conservatives lead. If you lie and no one notices, hurrah! If you lie and someone notices, hurrah again, now even more people in your party believe you.

That’s because, as Colbert brilliantly puts it, you gotta’ look things up in your gut:

and she's not even a cleaning product. Enjoy:

Beware the dishonest lede

Oh CNN, why must you vex me so?

Although Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden routinely mocks his Republican counterpart, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for her onetime support of the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," Biden and his running mate voted to keep the project alive twice.
Here's why it's dishonest. Biden doesn't mock Palin for her desire for federal money the bridge. He--and just about everyone else with any sense--simply points out that her line "I told Congress 'thanks but no thanks'" is a lie. Biden and Obama have never come out--to my knowledge--and talked about the project itself. The funny thing is that the rest of the article points out exactly why Biden wouldn't mock an earmark project. He's asked for plenty of them himself in his many years in the Senate.

As for me, I've never had problems with earmarks. I look at them as the "honest graft" side of politics, and the dollar amounts are a pittance compared to the real budget items, and the local projects often do some good.

The article also neglects one other part of the story. It takes Biden and Obama to task for voting to kill an amendment by Senator Coburn of Oklahoma that would have diverted money for the bridge to Louisiana to fix a bridge down there destroyed by Katrina, but it only tells part of the story. When Coburn offered that amendment, Senator Stevens of Alaska denounced him on the floor of the Senate, and threatened to offer similar amendments to every other earmark that was up for approval. Stevens's fellow Senators, not wanting to lose their pork, killed Coburn's amendment, but the damage was done and the bridge specifically died later on.

Why does that matter? Because earmarks are the grease that gets legislation passed. You want someone to vote on your pet bill, and he or she isn't motivated, you trade them a rec center in their hometown. So Obama and Biden protected their earmarks by siding with Stevens, as so many other Senators did, and you can hardly blame them. A big part of any legislator's job is getting back some of the federal tax money that goes to D.C.

But that's not the way CNN framed the story. They framed it as "Obama and Biden are hypocrites on the Bridge to Nowhere" when that clearly isn't the case, because again, the issue isn't the bridge--it's Palin's lies about it.

A Kind of Looting

It was five years ago that Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof referred to the Bush administration's economic policy as "a kind of looting" in THIS interview.

Has it occurred to anyone that this last grab at 700 Billion dollars is just their attempt to finish the job -- to get ALL the taxpayer money into corporate-class wallets -- while they still can?

I mean, disaster is how they do it: no one has (or can) do a proper accounting of the Iraq war costs, and most of that money was funneled into the profits of corporations. Isn't this disaster just another extortion? Another, "gimme all yer money OR ELSE"?

Let it crash, I say. Hey, maybe the disaster they've created will open up an opportunity for some new innovations to grow. You know, like new jobs for investigators and prosecutors, to bring these avaricious con men to justice.

Update from Brian: I just wanted to add this video I saw over at Balloon Juice. It's Rep. Marcy Kaptur on the floor of the House with her own ideas for reform. I'd like to see the Democratic party follow through on these.


Bernanke says we'll have a recession without a bailout. What the hell have we been in for the last two years?

But more importantly, why are we trusting the story these clowns are giving us?

Ask this question -- are the credit markets really about to seize up?

If they are then lots of business owners should be eager to tell how their bank is calling their 90-day revolving loans, rejecting new loans and demanding more cash on deposit. I called businessmen I know yesterday and not one of them reported such problems. Indeed, Citibank offered yesterday to lend me tens of thousands of dollars on my signature at 2.99 percent, well below the nearly 5 percent inflation rate. That offer came after I said no last week to a 4.99 percent loan.

If the problem is toxic mortgages then how come they are still being offered all over the Internet? On the main page AOL generates for me there is an ad for a 1.9% loan (which means you pay that interest rate and the rest of the interest is added to your balance due.) Why oh why or why would taxpayers be bailing out banks that are continuing to sell these toxic loans?...

Do we need a bailout of American and foreign banks? Show us in detail the reasons for this, and the numbers: make the case.

Is there a market solution to this? If so, why impose a government solution? If not what does that tell us about our entire economic theory?

Is there a less expensive solution?

How do we know this will not just be a downpayment on a much bigger

Is there a solution that provides direct help to those who took out these loans, rather than those who sold them?

If AIG and others are too big to fail, what does that tell us about government anti-trust policy and regulatory policy and inaction?

Why have both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley made clear that they want IN on this deal? Get skeptical and ask the basic questions -- who benefits, how much and what makes this plan so attractive that Goldman and MS want to participate? Ditto for GE. That they are others want to be included should prompt a great deal of skeptical questioning.
I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I'd like some answers to those questions before we cut anyone a check.

Nerdcore Rising

Obviously, I'm a little behind on this, since the teaser for the film has been out for over a year and a half, but let me jump on the bandwagon now. This is a movie I want to see.

Here's how cool it is--it's being screened at the Red Vic in San Francisco this November, and if you can't get behind seeing a documentary about a band who does nerd hip-hop at a worker's collective co-op movie house that serves popcorn with wheat germ on it, then I don't know you.

I read about this film last night on (can't currently find the link), and downloaded MC Frontalot's labum from emusic almost immediately afterward. Listened to it today on the train, and with the exception of one track, a horrible song titled "I Heart Fags," loved every second of it. Trust me--that song is an aberration on an otherwise wonderful album. It's funny, it's scatalogical, it's disgusting and disturbing in places, and it's got a Dalek saying "Exterminate!" on one track. You have to find it for yourself--that's the fun.

If you go here you can request a screening in your area. I assume that if they get enough requests from a location, they'll find a way to get it there. Give it a look.

Financial Crisis

A good suggestion from a caller on Washington Journal this morning: instead of giving money to the banks, credit the possessors of the failing mortgages; that would still lighten the debtload of the banks, but it would also save the homeowners, and maybe even keep some neighborhoods from falling into blight.

The guest this morning "Rep. Mike Pence R-IN" is a douchemonkey who believes the president "is an honorable man" and who sees the current crisis as an opportunity to slash the capital gains tax and basically pass changes that would worsen the problem. And even HE pointed out that "anytime someone tells you you have to make the deal right now, you're not getting the better part of the deal, whether on a used car lot or in Washington..." Well said, douchemonkey, well said!

All of this is reminding me of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, which, despite the title, is in large part about the financialization of the US economy and how it compares to the financialization "stage" of historic empires (Spanish, Dutch, British), all of which fell shortly after shifting their economies from the making of goods to the pushing of paper. (He also mentions that the British Empire struggled in part because it was so committed to its coal-based infrastructure, when the world had moved on to oil... sound familiar?)

I love this refrain I keep hearing that these "financial instruments" are so complex that the people using them had no idea how they worked. Well someone somewhere does: find that person and give me an hour-long investigative report, with lots of charts and graphs and pictures and whatnot. Give us the chance to understand. Or are they scared of that?

Average people and ordinary business-owners seem to have a better sense of how money works than people with MBAs just because our heads aren't cluttered with dishonest trickery. We also seem to have a better sense of when we're being bullshitted, and when something has gone so far that it cannot be sustained. This blog, manned by a poets, artists, writers, teachers was talking about the inevitability of the real estate bust when so-called "experts" were insisting that the sky's no limit.

I think these people need to stop acting like "you just couldn't pooossibly understand" and maybe just try to understand themselves. Then they need to realize that ideology will not save us: practical solutions will. And setting up future disasters in the same mold as this one is NOT a practical solution. Bail out the people who caused them, have them pay no penalty, and this will just happen again and again. And then we'll need a New Deal all over again. (We might already!)

I do not look forward to the fall of the United States. I'm a progressive, and I want to see progress. I want progress in technology. I want progress in health. I want progress in human rights. I want progress in human happiness. The fall of the United States doesn't help any of that, at least not around here. But I'm sure there are people who are looking forward to it: other countries. China, which wants our economic crown. Russia, which wants our military crown. France, which wants our diplomatic crown. And so on. We're getting a "new world order," all right, and it's thanks to a "Bush" -- how appropriate. What will happen to America from this point has a lot to do with what gets decided this week: will we socialize and stabilize like a borin' ol' de-clawed Western European country, or will we radicalize and corporatize, like civil-war fraught, education & healthcare-free, highly-profitable "3rd World" country?

The answer lay in the answer to a deceptively simple question: who are "we"? Are we the ones here to serve the economy, or are we the ones the economy is here to serve?

It's easy to rail on the Bush administration because it gives us so many opportunities, but one of the more egregious--and under-reported--ways it abuses people has to do with the way that legal residents who are accused of terrorist acts are treated.

The Bush Justice Department doesn't have a stellar record on convictions, as anyone who's been following these stories can tell you. Locally, the Liberty City Seven trial is a perfect example. They're the sad sacks who, the government claimed, wanted to wreak all manner of havoc, including blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago. It was a classic case of overreach and entrapment--the person doing the "investigating" turned out to be more of a ringleader than anything else, and a jury found one of the defendants not guilty while hanging on the other six.

Well, that person who was found not guilty is named Lyglenson Lemorin, and he's still in jail, facing deportation. He's a legal resident--he's been here twenty years, since he was a teenager, if my math is correct--and immigration officials want him deported. Now remember, this isn't a case where the jury failed to return a verdict, which would be bad enough. Lemorin was acquitted--the jury took positive action to say "this man did nothing in violation of the law"--and yet immigration officials are looking to punish him, a punishment which would separate him from his wife and three children.

It's one thing to deport a person who is here illegally, or a legal resident who has been convicted of a crime, but to deport a person who has done nothing wrong is shameful. It smacks of an abuse of power and an attempt to cover up ineptitude by the Justice Department.

Stupid Quote of the Day

I know--it's early, and undoubtedly someone, somewhere will say something dumber, but this is my way of getting in first. From David Brooks, I give you Christopher Whalen, a conservative economist:

“The joyous reception from Congressional Democrats to Paulson’s latest massive bailout proposal smells an awful lot like yet another corporatist love fest between Washington’s one-party government and the Sell Side investment banks.”
Yes, that joyous reception that consisted of Congressional Democrats saying things like this and this. Those Congressional Democrats who told Paulson that there wasn't a chance in hell that he was going to get $700 billion, no strings attached, no matter how much he claimed he needed it now. Those Congressional Democrats who looked at an election 6 weeks away and figured out that if they gave Bush what he wanted, that they might just lose their jobs and decided that a little discussion was warranted.

Yeah, I think that puts Whalen in the early lead for stupid quote of the day.

Question of the day

With all this talk of the bailout, the $700 billion to $1 trillion to make the system solvent, I've started to wonder, what if no one will lend us the money? It's not like the US has a credit score worth a damn anymore.

Update: Miami Dade Dems has video.

I've been lax on my Taddeo blogging lately, something I plan to rectify over the next six weeks as we close in on the November elections. Fortunately, Open Left has been on the job, and they posted this part of a speech from Taddeo on the current fiscal crisis.

We will not be forced into acting on a $700 billion bill without even examining what the bill does. The American people need protection so that this emergency does not turn into a boondogive-away to corporate insiders. Congress should send President Bush a bill that includes transaction standards, independent oversight, protections for homeowners, and constraints on excessive executive compensation.

The bill is inadequate because while doing nothing for homeowners, it gives the Treasury Department a blank check for Wall Street - it authorizes purchases "on such terms and conditions as determined by the [Administration]." There would be no guidelines, no standards, no conditions. The Treasury would be permitted to purchase assets at any price it wanted, even if it provided a huge profit to the same corporate entities that got us into this mess in the first place, entities like commercial banks, investment banking firms - even hedge funds -- that have acted recklessly or worse.

I oppose, and call on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to oppose - the Bush Administration's proposed legislation giving the Treasury the power to spend up to $700 billion to buy "mortgage-related assets" from U.S.-based financial institutions, until the proposed bill is strengthened to protect homeowners, and to protect the American taxpayer from sweetheart deals, cronyism and outright waste.

Finally, if the bailout is to be expanded to cover foreign-headquartered companies, then our allies must share the burden. Unfortunately, after seven and a half years of Cowboy diplomacy and a war in Iraq based on lies, we have little if any leverage left with our allies. They have no desire and little incentive to help us in our moment of need. It is time for a new beginning.
The mantra for the progressive left for the last few years has been "more Democrats, better Democrats." In Annette Taddeo, south Florida has a chance to get a two-for-one--more and better. If you have a couple of bucks to spare, reward good behavior and help get rid of one of the Miami 3. And if you're a local, volunteer and get out the vote.

I Love Bernie Sanders

And I wish he were one of my Senators. Why? Because he says stuff like this:

(1) The people who can best afford to pay and the people who have benefited most from Bush’s economic policies are the people who should provide the funds for the bailout. It would be immoral to ask the middle class, the people whose standard of living has declined under Bush, to pay for this bailout while the rich, once again, avoid their responsibilities. Further, if the government is going to save companies from bankruptcy, the taxpayers of this country should be rewarded for assuming the risk by sharing in the gains that result from this government bailout.

Specifically, to pay for the bailout, which is estimated to cost up to $1 trillion, the government should:

a) Impose a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue;

b) Ensure that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

c) Require that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

(2) There must be a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect working families from the difficult times they are experiencing. We must ensure that every child has health insurance and that every American has access to quality health and dental care, that families can send their children to college, that seniors are not allowed to go without heat in the winter, and that no American goes to bed hungry.

(3) Legislation must be passed which undoes the damage caused by excessive de-regulation. That means reinstalling the regulatory firewalls that were ripped down in 1999. That means re-regulating the energy markets so that we never again see the rampant speculation in oil that helped drive up prices. That means regulating or abolishing various financial instruments that have created the enormous shadow banking system that is at the heart of the collapse of AIG and the financial services meltdown.

(4) We must end the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up. Right now, for example, the Bank of America, the nation’s largest depository institution, has absorbed Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage house. We should not be trying to solve the current financial crisis by creating even larger, more powerful institutions. Their failure could cause even more harm to the entire economy.
The bolding is mine. The only thing I would add is that we should also change the laws so that hedge fund managers, whose pay is not considered income for tax purposes, need to be included in section (a)--they helped get us into this mess, and I don't care if they are huge contributors to the Democratic party, they profited handsomely, and they need to pay to help us get out of this mess. If we're going to socialize the costs, we ought to get some social benefits out of the deal.

Weird Day

Here are two quotes from the NY Times Op-Ed page. See if you can tell who is who. Selection 1:

Everyone seems to agree on the need for a big and comprehensive plan, and that the markets have to have some confidence that help is on the way. Funds need to be supplied, trading markets need to be stabilized, solvent institutions needs to be protected, and insolvent institutions need to be put on the path to a deliberate liquidation or reorganization.

But is the administration’s proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for — or even promises of — disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

Selection 2:
Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself — and for his successor — to deploy taxpayers’ money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn’t make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he’s a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. But that’s only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.
Mondays on the NY Times Op-Ed page are generally a study in opposites--Paul Krugman says something brilliant and insightful, and William Kristol drools on the page--and don't get me wrong, Kristol drools profusely at the end of today's column as well--but for this one, brief, shining moment, the two of them are in agreement about one thing, namely, that this "bailout" that the Bush administration is demanding is a really bad idea, at least as it's conceived right now.

I wouldn't like this plan if Paul Krugman were the Treasury Secretary--it gives too much power to a handful of people and has no oversight. Even well-intentioned people can go horribly wrong with that sort of power. But in this case, we're not dealing with well-intentioned people. We're talking about the Bush administration--an administration, I might remind people, who only has four months left in power. If they were overreaching back when they had to run a re-election campaign, they won't let anything get in their way when they've only got a limited amount of time left in office.

These are the people who have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, where private companies have made tons of money while the locals have gotten little or nothing in return, and future taxpayers are footing the bill. There's no reason to believe that this blank check, if it's provided, won't turn into one last, major money grab for the friends-of-George, a money grab that won't benefit us at all. I think they've made more than enough money off of us in the last eight years.

Call your Congressperson and Senators today, and tell them no deal on the bailout as it's currently proposed. You can email too, but calling leaves more of an impression on the office.

I've been good lately

I really have. I haven't been going on curse-laden rants or suggesting that certain members of American society ought to be dangled by their most sensitive parts over pits of erupting magma infested with mutant piranhas (mutated to withstand the scorching temperatures of the magma, of course) which leap to nip at their tenderest areas. But not any more.

"A lot of those people will have to sell their homes, they're going to cut back on the private jets and the vacations. They may even have to take their kids out of private school," said Frank. "It's a total reworking of their lifestyle."

He added that it's going to be no easy task.

"It's going to be very hard psychologically for these people," Frank said. "I talked to one guy who had to give up his private jet recently. And he said of all the trials in his life, giving that up was the hardest thing he's ever done."
Fuck off and die, y'all. Seriously. If you are so out of touch that giving up the private jet is the worst thing you've ever had to deal with, then you just need to die, because you're not a human being anymore. You're the enemy of humanity, and a big part of the reason for the massive suffering that many of our fellow humans endure every fucking day. And I don't want to share the planet with you anymore--you're taking up too much room.

Via John Cole

so that at some undetermined point in the future, I can reward this Congressperson with a campaign contribution.

I don't really want to trigger a world wide depression (that's not hyperbole, that's a distinct possibility), but I'm not voting for a blank check for $700 billion for those mother fuckers....

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.
Via Atrios. And first thing Monday, call your Representative and your Senators, no matter whether they're members of your party or not, and tell them that to give a blank check to the most incompetent Presidency in history when they only have 4 months left in office is not only wrong, it ought to be criminal. Emailing is fine, but calling is more effective--shows more of a commitment.

I'm back

I've been away so long that some readers may not know I was ever here. But I'm back now, and I'm bringing to this blog what I've been posting on my other blog: word and phrase origins (thanks to Amy for the suggestion). Here's the entry for today.

political plum: When a delighted Matthew S. Quay was elected U.S. senator from Pennsylvania in 1887, he assured his supporters that he would "shake the plum tree" for them. From this promise came our expression a political plum, an excellent or desirable thing, a fine job.
From the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

We're in the throes of packing our house and moving, so my posting may be hit and miss until we get settled.

And for good measure, a picture I took last week while ambling through Abraham Lincoln's neighborhood (with apologies to Paul Strand):

If our economic options are either A) give the Bush administration, which has screwed up pretty much everything it has ever touched, a blank check for somewhere between $700 billion and $1 trillion with only four months left in power and B) risk a total meltdown of the entire system, I've got to say that B doesn't look too bad.

So I'm on Facebook and my friend Tony mentions that Pat Buchanan said something about "capitalist pigs having destroyed an aspect of American capitalism." So I went to the Morning Joe website, since that's the only way I get to watch MSNBC (and I watch Rachel Maddow pretty regularly now that way), and what did I find?

It's at 5:20 or so into the feed, and worth seeing with your own eyes.

More from Lilly Ledbetter

I'm really glad that this subject--equal pay for equal work--is getting so much play this election season from the Obama campaign, and not just because it's a winning issue. I'm glad because it's an important issue, and one that hasn't gotten enough press in, well, it seems like in my adult lifetime.

We have a nasty habit in this country of assuming because there aren't demonstrations in the streets every week that we've just gotten past some of the things that divide us. That's why we had people un-ironically talking about this being the first post-racial and post-sexist election season, when in fact, we're not post-anything.

And it would have been real easy for the Obama campaign to have run solely on other issues, like the Iraq War and the economy and never come out as strongly for equal pay or a woman's right to choose--another subject they've taken head-on in commercials this year. It would have been especially easy to do this after John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, given that she stands in opposition to pretty much everything feminism stands for. The Obama campaign could have said "well, that was a freebie" and continued what they were doing, but they haven't. They're actively pursuing women voters by focusing on issues that matter to them--issues of fundamental fairness and equality. And that's a good thing for everyone.

Killing Amendment 2

There are some new Florida polling numbers out, and they're a mixed bag. Gov. Crist is less popular than he has been, but he's still popular by any reasonable standard. Drilling for oil off the coast is popular, and that's a huge switch historically for Florida. I've said before that I oppose it, but that I think it's inevitable, if only because we do a lot more with oil than just refine it into gas for our cars. It's going to stay in demand for the foreseeable future.

And then there's the mixed bag on the disgusting Amendment 2, which really is the equivalent of piling on the Florida LGBT community. In case you haven't been paying attention, there are already 3 laws in Florida that prevent gays and lesbians from marrying each other. But some wingnuts decided that that wasn't quite enough, so we needed an amendment to the state constitution on top of all that, they say, because they don't want some federal judge overturning our local laws. Sorry to disappoint the wingnuts, but if the Supreme Court overturns DOMA at some point in the future, and says that marriage is a personal right, all the amendments to the state constitution in the world won't change that. What Amendment 2 really is is an attempt to push conservative turnout in the presidential election, and given that recent polls have Barack Obama pulling even with McCain down here, I'd say it isn't working.

But the numbers on the Amendment are distressingly close.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman falls short of the 60 percent approval threshold. Voters in the poll support the ballot Amendment 2 by 58-37 percent, with 5 percent undecided. Republicans favor the amendment 74-21 percent, while Democrats oppose it 50-44 percent.
The numbers, as I've been following them, are distressingly close. Support has plateaued in the high 50s and opposition has never climbed above 40%. Turnout will drive a lot of the undecideds, and we need to drive them to oppose this amendment. So if you're a Floridian who reads this blog, please, tell your neighbors to vote against Amendment 2. And go by SayNo2 to see if there's anything else you can do to help defeat this odious amendment.

McCain on Health Care

Shorter John McCain (warning: pdf file): "Let's do for health care what we've done for banking!"

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
This ought to make people shudder on multiple levels. Health care is already messed up in this country, so making it more innovative like we did the banking system is equivalent to making an engine more innovative by putting a stick of dynamite in the manifold.

But the best part of this whole thing is the date on the article--it's the September/October 2008 issue of the magazine. Sort of puts the lie to McCain's claim that he was calling for reform of the banking industry two years ago, doesn't it? Not that McCain has a stellar record in accuracy these days.

Subtle Movement

Here's a curious story, not so much for what it says, but for the framing. Here's the basics. Lawyer is representing a woman who strips for a living. He reduces her legal fees in return for her performing for him. She claims inappropriate touching, though no criminal charges were ever filed. He has his license suspended for 15 months. Now, here's part of the article, with what I found curious highlighted.

CHICAGO - An attorney has been suspended for more than a year for accepting nude dances from a stripper as partial payment for the legal fees she owed him.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission on Thursday said Scott Robert Erwin will begin serving a 15-month suspension for misconduct next month.

Erwin, who practices in the northern Illinois city of DeKalb, and his client mutually agreed that she'd perform nude dances for him in his office as a way to reduce her legal fees, the commission's report said. He credited her for $534 toward his bill for services of various legal matters, the report said.
Notice something there? The only time that the lawyer is mentioned as an initiator is when he credits the dancer for services. But it's not that alone. Notice the way the language creeps--first, the attorney accepts the dances, then the two mutually agreed to the dances, and finally he credits her.

So what's missing? Any real description of how these two came up with this arrangement. Did the dancer make the suggestion or did the lawyer or did they hint around at it like in a scene out of a porn movie?

Great News!


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Local authorities in St. Paul announced today that they will not prosecute journalists who were arrested on misdemeanor charges during the Republican National Convention earlier this month.

"This is an important first step, but many questions remain," said Nancy Doyle Brown from Twin Cities Media Alliance. "We still need answers about why and how journalists got swept up in these arrests in the first place. And more than anything else, we need to ensure that this never happens again. We’ll never know how many important stories never got told because their authors were behind bars, not in the streets."

Nearly two dozen reporters were arrested during the four-day event, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and two of her producers, Associated Press reporters, student journalists, and local TV photographers, among others. Other journalists were pepper-sprayed, and reporters with I-Witness were held at gunpoint during a "pre-emptive" police raid aimed at disrupting protesters. The press release from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's office noted that the city's attorney will use a "broad definition and verification to identify journalists who were caught up in mass arrests during the convention."

"We’re pleased that the St. Paul authorities ultimately acted to uphold the rights of all journalists -- including those citizens using blogs, cheap cameras and cell phones to report news as it happens," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, the national media reform organization. "Our task now is to ensure that our press remains free to report on the events, issues and stories that matter to our country, our communities, and our democracy."
It's crappy that the arrests were made in the first place, and that the St. Paul police acted in such a derisive and abusive manner toward journalists who were only doing their jobs, and I think that it's important to note that dropping the charges is barely a first step toward making this right, but at least the journalists involved won't have this hanging over their heads. And kudos to recent addition to our blogroll as a result of this story from back in during the convention--for really being proactive and out front on this from the beginning. We need more people like them.

"So, billionaires aren’t doing any better in these difficult financial times than we are, according to Forbes, which released its list of 400 richest Americans today."

That's from Sarah Talalay's blog--she's a reporter who focuses on things like sports deals and stadium finance, which is why the rest of her post talks about local sports team owners and how they moved up and down on the list. The image is from the front page of today's Sun-Sentinel, and I grabbed it because it seemed so incongruous. I get her point--that the wealthy didn't really increase their wealth in the past year--but it seems really tone-deaf to me to suggest that they're not doing any better than we are. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I'm still a week from payday and am effectively broke, and won't be doing much better once payday comes. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my car--a two-door, 1999 Hyundai Accent--doesn't have one fully-functioning door handle and that's not likely to change anytime soon. And I know it has a lot to do with the fact that while I'm sitting here grousing about the situation, there are a whole lot of people a whole lot worse off than I am, financially speaking. All I'm asking is that you choose your words with a little more care, even if it is a blog post.

Here's the Random Genius Ten--for the moment, I'm taking advantage of iTunes' new Genius button and creating a list based on the next song to come up on my party shuffle. It reduces the wild swings in musical type, but makes it far more likely that "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls will come up. That song seems to go with everything, at least according to iTunes. Here we go.

Random Song: Why Can't I--Liz Phair
Genius Ten: 1. The Remedy--Jason Mraz
2. Inside Out--Eve 6
3. Lovefool--The Cardigans
4. The Way We Get By--Spoon
5. Your Love--The Outfield
6. Blister In the Sun--Violent Femmes
7. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic--The Police
8. Our Lips Are Sealed--The Go Go's
9. Good People--Jack Johnson
10. Who Are You--The Who
Wow. That's the whitest list I've had in a long time. I may have to go back to the old way if this keeps up. Leave your lists in comments.

Mary McCarthy famously said of Lillian Hellman, "Every word she says is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" I think Sarah Palin may be working to take over Hellman's legacy.

As a vice presidential candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin has railed against federal earmarks, or congressional funding for pork-barrel projects. "In our state, we reformed the abuses of earmarks," Palin recently boasted to a rally in Lancaster, Pa. "We championed earmark reform up there," she said, "to stop Congress from wasting public money on things that didn't serve the public interest."

But musty records culled from the archives of the Wasilla, Alaska, city government reveal that Palin was directly involved in soliciting millions of dollars in earmarks for Wasilla when she was mayor. And she got help from a well-connected Washington lobbyist.
Of course, if you're a Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, the ability to lie with a straight face is a feature, not a bug. Maybe that's the reason McCain cose her--forget the youth, the conservatism, the cynical (and stupid) notion that Palin's possession of ovaries would make Clinton supporters ignore all her odious policy positions. No, what Palin brings to the table is the willingness to say anything with a straight face, no matter how far out of the realm of reality it is.

I think it looks like this:

Judges around the world have long looked to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance, citing and often following them in hundreds of their own rulings since the Second World War.

But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices.

“One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”

Why? As the article explains, it is in large part because other countries don't actually like and admire us anymore. It's also in part because the US Supreme Court doesn't mine the wisdom of other countries in its own decisions -- that makes it an isolated island of ideas in an otherwise interconnected world, and therefore one which is rapidly falling behind.

The article doesn't mention Bush v Gore, but it's hard to imagine that doesn't have a lot to do with it: the US Supreme Court, in 2000, took a shit on democracy itself and decided an election -- the only decision it's ever written which included a warning against using the decision as precedent (wah-?): How do you use a court that does THAT as an authoritative source of legal reasoning?

In the end, the Supreme Court of 2000 will be held to blame for the decline of the USA. Let those jackasses live with that -- we all have to live with the mess they made. The Supreme Court that resulted from the mess (today's court) is even worse. And should McCain actually win this thing, we are one retirement away from the end of Roe v Wade, from a decline not just of US power and authority and economy and civil rights and privacy rights and everything else we've lost, but the absolute loss of the single most important freedom out there: the right to make, without government intervention, the most personal choices about what happens or doesn't happen inside your own body. If there is a woman in this country who is planning to vote for that, she ought to be slapped.

It's going to be really hard to rebuild this country. Time to get started. Obama is our start, people. No dithering. We need this, now.

This has to be near the top of the list: President Bush, please come to Florida.

Have I lost my mind? Not really.

WASHINGTON - The White House says President Bush is canceling a planned trip to Alabama and Florida on Thursday to consult with his economic advisers in Washington....

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said late Wednesday that the president will continue to work with his economic advisers on the serious challenges confronting U.S. financial markets. Fratto says the health of U.S. financial markets is critical to the nation's economy and the president remains focused on taking action to stabilize and strengthen the markets and to restore investor confidence.
Do us all a favor, Mr. President. Do your fundraising, do your politicking, but please, whatever you do, don't try to fix the economy that you had such a personal hand in dropping into the crapper. We can take a visit. We can't take your "help."

The bounce is over

Lots of Democrats were freaking over the last week, and I admit that I've been clicking on Five-Thirty-Eight with some trepidation myself lately, looking at the win probability favoring McCain and resisting the urge to click over to the New Zealand immigration website. But I had a gut feeling that, as the shine came off Sarah Palin, and as it became clear that McCain can't pull in a crowd without her, and especially once McCain said, as the Dow was plunging 500 points, that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, that the poll numbers would turn around. They started a couple of days ago with Research 2000's poll--but that's the one Kos commissions, and you want to be careful about that sort of thing--and then yesterday, the daily trackers were basically even, McCain ahead in some, Obama in others. The momentum is turning. Here's the latest example.

Despite an intense effort to distance himself from the way his party has done business in Washington, Senator John McCain is seen by voters as far less likely to bring change to Washington than Senator Barack Obama. He is widely viewed as a “typical Republican” who would continue or expand President Bush’s policies, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Polls taken after the Republican convention suggested that Mr. McCain had enjoyed a surge of support — particularly among white women after his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate — but the latest poll indicates “the Palin effect” was, at least so far, a limited burst of interest. The contest appeared to be roughly where it was before the two conventions and before the vice-presidential selections: Mr. Obama had the support of 48 percent of registered voters, compared with 43 percent for Mr. McCain, a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error, and statistically unchanged from the tally in the last New York Times/CBS News Poll in mid-August.
The five point lead is good news, but better news is that people aren't buying McCain as a change agent, and with the economy looking ever more problematic, that means McCain is in trouble.

There's other good news--Palin has only helped McCain with the conservative base. There's been no rush of independent women to McCain's side, which means we may have heard the last roar of the PUMA for a while. Obama is tied with McCain among white women--by comparison, John Kerry lost white women to George Bush 37 to 56.

And this I found particularly interesting:
And 75 percent said they thought Mr. McCain had picked Ms. Palin more to help him win the election, rather than because he thought that she was well-qualified to be president; by contrast, 31 percent said they thought that Mr. Obama picked Mr. Biden more to help him win the election, while 57 percent said it was because he thought Mr. Biden was well-qualified for the job.
I find it fascinating because I didn't expect so many people to be so cynical about McCain's pick. I figured that for a question that would fall along party lines, frankly. Voters are generally a lot more cynical about the opposite-party candidate than they are about their own.

McCain is also losing that mavericky sheen he's gotten so accustomed to:
The poll found that 46 percent of voters thought Mr. McCain would continue Mr. Bush’s policies, while 22 percent said he would be more conservative than Mr. Bush. (About one quarter said a McCain presidency would be less conservative than Mr. Bush’s.) At a time when Mr. McCain has tried to appeal to independent voters by separating himself from his party, notably with his convention speech, 57 percent of all voters said they viewed him as a typical Republican, compared with 40 percent who said he was a different kind of Republican.
That's really good news, because the more McCain is seen for what he really is--a dyed-in-the-wool conservative--the more trouble he'll have getting independents to vote for more of the same. It's also a sign that Obama's message is resonating on some level.

One last bit, because this has gone on long enough, I think:
More than twice as many said an Obama presidency would improve the image of the United States around the world, 55 percent, compared with those who believed a McCain presidency would do so. Mr. Obama also gets high marks for “sharing the values most Americans try to live by,” despite concerted Republican efforts to portray him as elite and out-of-touch with average voters. Sixty-six percent said Mr. Obama shared their values, compared with 61 percent who said that about Mr. McCain.
Yup. The elitist tag isn't sticking. Of course, it's hard to make it stick when you've got people like Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild doing the pasting.

Dear Chris Matthews

I don't know what you had for lunch, but please have it again every afternoon from now through November 4.

Making a Deal on Drilling

I've written in the past that I think offshore drilling is inevitable, so with that in mind, progressives ought to get as much as we can from oil companies for the privilege. So I'm glad to see that the Democrats have decided to try to get something in exchange for permission to drill.

The House voted to roll back nearly $18 billion in tax breaks over 10 years for the five largest oil companies and require energy companies to pay billions of dollars in royalties they avoided because of an Interior Department contracting error....

Democrats added a provision at the last minute that makes it a federal crime for oil companies with federal leases to provide gifts to government employees, a response to a recent sex and drug scandal involving the federal office that oversees the offshore oil royalty program and energy company employees.

The Democratic bill also would:

* Provide tax credits for wind and solar energy industries, the development of cellulose ethanol and other biofuels.
* Require utilities nationwide to generate 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind or other alternative energy source.
* Give tax breaks for new energy efficiency programs, including the use of improved building codes and for companies that promote their employees' use of bicycles for commuting.
So this bill keeps drilling 50 miles offshore, rolls back tax breaks for oil companies, and helps alternative energy and conservation. That's a good start, which means, even if it gets through the Senate, that it will be vetoed by King George the Lesser. But that's fine with me. In fact, the Congress could pretty much push everything off until the beginning of next year and it'll be fine.

Via Paul who got it from some website no one's ever heard about.

Just a helpful note to conservatives--you do satire like Spock does cursing. You just don't have the knack.

And in the local news...

While the markets are trying to decide, as my dad used to say, whether to jump up or go blind (don't ask me what that means--my dad was a Texan in the mold of Ross Perot, and often censored his aphorisms for us kids), we're dealing with some issues of our own down here in Florida. We've got a huge budget hole to fill, and with tax revenues coming in lower than projections and the state economy not looking like it's going to recover before 2011-2012, that hole seems like it's getting deeper and wider. But never fear, Floridians--there's one thing you can count on from this legislature. The people in charge are clueless.

But the Republican-led Legislature has no interest in raising taxes, even so-called sin taxes on cigarettes, alcohol or gambling, said incoming House Speaker Ray Sansom of Destin. Sansom said the Legislature is living within its means and that there's an advantage to the budget cuts: Smaller government.

"Today really is a good day for Florida," Sansom said. "I have three [children] in public school. They're getting as good or better an education this year than they've ever had. They're as safe in their schools as they've ever been."
You know something I've noticed about countries that have small governments? They tend toward the banana republic style of government--a dictator at the top who cedes all real authority to whatever corporations are busy exploiting the country's natural resources. I can't say I'm a fan of that style of government. It's a little lax on the regulation side, and I think the last year, if nothing else, shows that we could use a touch more of that in the financial markets.

There will come a point here in Florida when the citizens will decide that they're tired of having the roads stay unmended, of having to wait half an hour for a cop or the fire department to show up, or of seeing 40 students to a classroom because teacher salaries are so poor that the school boards can't keep positions filled, and when that day comes, they'll put people into office who understand that government can actually do some stuff, and do it well, if only you put people in charge who actually believe that. Until then, this is what we have, a government that can't decide whether to jump up or go blind.

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