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October 2008

John McCain: Dishonest and Dishonorable

Special Joe Lieberman edition outsourced to Steve Benen:

The Washington Monthly: LIEBERMAN HASN'T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO HIMSELF.... Joe Lieberman adopted the role of Republican attack dog early on, but as the election draws near, he's hoping the political world has a very short memory. Lieberman, a self-proclaimed "independent Democrat" who was chosen by McCain to make the case against Obama at the Republican National Convention in early September, said his comments have been within bounds.

"When I go out, I say, 'I have a lot of respect for Sen. Obama. He's bright. He's eloquent.'"

My hunch is, Lieberman sees the direction of the political winds, and hopes to convince Democrats that while he's been a McCain sycophant, he's always been "respectful" towards Obama.

Lieberman, in other words, has to hope Democrats haven't been paying any attention at all. The party is supposed to forget, for example, when Lieberman argued that Obama doesn't put "country first." And the time Lieberman said it was a "good question" to ask whether Obama is a "Marxist." And the time Lieberman ironically accused the Obama campaign of "sleazy tactics." And the time Lieberman, at the Republican National Convention, falsely accused Obama of trying to undermine the troops

"Respectful"? Nice try, Joe.

The FT Endorses Obama

Nice to see: > / Comment & analysis / Editorial comment - Obama is the better choice: US presidential elections involve a fabulous expense of time, effort and money. Doubtless it is all too much – but, by the end, nobody can complain that the candidates have been too little scrutinised. We have learnt a lot about Barack Obama and John McCain during this campaign. In our view, it is enough to be confident that Mr Obama is the right choice. >At the outset, we were not so confident. Mr Obama is inexperienced. His policies are a blend of good, not so good and downright bad.... This ought to have been a close call. With a week remaining before the election, we cannot feel that it is. Obama fought a much better campaign... a campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCain’s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect. Nor should one disdain Mr Obama’s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the country’s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset. >Mr Obama’s purposes do seem mostly right.... We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform. This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of rival schemes.... Mr Obama is most disappointing on trade. He pandered to protectionists during the primaries, and has not rowed back. He may be sincere, which is troubling.... >In responding to the economic emergency, Mr Obama has again impressed – not by advancing solutions of his own, but in displaying a calm and methodical disposition, and in seeking the best advice. Mr McCain’s hasty half-baked interventions were unnerving when they were not beside the point. >On foreign policy, where the candidates have often conspired to exaggerate their differences, this contrast in temperaments seems crucial.... McCain... has offered risk-taking almost as his chief qualification, but gambles do not always pay off. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, widely acknowledged to have been a mistake, is an obtrusive case in point. Rashness is not a virtue.... >[S]hould he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint. How could he not? He is expected to heal the country’s racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody’s taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides.... The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job.

The Financial Meltdown...

Nikkei 225:

Path Finder

S&P 500:

Path Finder

FTSE 100:

Path Finder

Political Science Electoral Might Have Beens

Kevin Drum asks:

Kevin Drum - Mother Jones Blog: A Wee Question: n 2004, John Kerry lost the popular vote by a couple of percentage points and the electoral vote by 120,000 votes in Ohio. Now, suppose Kerry were running this year and therefore had the following three advantages over his previous self: (a) he was running after eight years of Republican rule instead of four, (b) the economy sucked, and (c) he had a fantastic fundraising advantage over his Republican opponent. Question 1: how well do you think Kerry would do? Question 2: how well do you think Obama is going to do this year? Question 3: how big is the difference between the answers to Q1 and Q2?

In 2004 Bush won by two, while Douglas Hibbs's simple-minded bread-and-peace model predicted that Bush would win by seven. Thus Kerry ran five points ahead of his fundamentals.

Today Hibbs's fundamentals say that Obama is going to win by three. But he has to win by eight to beat Kerry relative to the point spread.

John McCain: Dishonest and Dishonorable

There is always a convincing argument that there always need to be some good people need to be working for bad politicians:

Yelü Chucai, after all, joined Genghis Khan--and convinced him that he should conquer China and rule it, rather than simply raiding it and burning it until all north China was one gigantic horse pasture.

But I have an email about Douglas Holtz-Eakin stating:

Someone needs to tell Holtz-Eakin he can't say this sort of crap and then expect to rejoin polite society once the election is over:

Holtz-Eakin: The American people continue to learn more about Barack Obama. Now we know that the slogans "change you can believe in" and "change we need" are code words for Barack Obama's ultimate goal: "redistributive change." In a previously uncovered interview from September 6, 2001, Barack Obama expressed his regret that the Supreme Court hadn't been more "radical" and described as a "tragedy" the Court's refusal to take up "the issues of redistribution of wealth." No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.

Porsche's Raid on Volkswage

Andreas Hippin: Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Porsche SE, maker of the 911 sports car, plans to raise its holding in Volkswagen AG to 75 percent next year and outlined steps for reaching that goal in a way meant to reduce the stock's volatility in the past two months. Porsche now owns 42.6 percent of Volkswagen's common stock, has cash-settled options for another 31.5 percent and is sticking to plans to obtain a stake exceeding 50 percent by December, the Stuttgart, Germany-based carmaker said today in a statement. The disclosure is aimed at giving "short-sellers the opportunity to close their positions unhurriedly and without bigger risk."...

"Porsche wants to decide the time and the terms under which it consolidates Volkswagen," said Christoph Berger, 31, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Cominvest Asset Management. "Today's statement explains to a certain extent the Volkswagen share-price development over the past few weeks. Hedging against options sold to Porsche has probably driven the share price more than fundamental factors." About 15 percent of Volkswagen's common shares as of last month were on loan, mostly for short sales, according to London- based research firm Data Explorers.

Volkswagen shares fell 23 percent, the most in almost two decades, on Oct. 20 as short sellers bet the price will decline once Porsche gains control. A month earlier, the stock rose the most in at least 19 years as market turmoil prompted investors to close short positions.... Short-sellers borrow stock on expectations they can repurchase the shares later at a lower price.... Hedge-fund traders have wagered that the difference between Volkswagen's common shares, which carry voting rights, and its preferred stock, which doesn't, will narrow in favor of the latter. Of 39 analysts covering Volkswagen, 32 have ``sell'' recommendations on the stock. Only one advises investors to buy the shares.... Common stock in Volkswagen... is up 35 percent this year... preferred stock... has dropped 56 percent to 44.24 euros this year....

The German state of Lower Saxony is the second-largest investor in Volkswagen with a stake of more than 20 percent. The Volkswagen supervisory board voted Sept. 12 to retain a company- charter provision giving any shareholder with 20 percent a blocking vote on major decisions, protecting the state's say over the company.

Ah. Memories of the Northern Securities Panic of 1904...

Taylor Rule Says: Put Interest Rates at Zero

In an email from Macroeconomic Associates:

The economic outlook has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, as credit conditions have deteriorated further, equity prices have plunged, and economic data have come in weaker than expected. These developments prompted us to release the interim forecast last Friday, which showed a deeper recession, a higher path for the unemployment rate, and a lower path for inflation. This commentary considers the monetary policy response to such a dire forecast using the benchmarks offered by our forward-looking and backward-looking policy rules. These rules suggest that there is a risk that the FOMC could lower the federal funds rate to zero.

Stock Market Crash of 2008: Japan Edition | Reuters

Elaine Lies of Reuters:

Nikkei falls 6 pct to 26-yr low, on yen, bank fears: TOKYO, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei average slid 6.4 percent on Monday to its lowest close in 26 years, as the yen rose to batter exporters such as Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and banks tumbled on concerns they would need to beef up capital.... Pledges from Prime Minister Taro Aso for more steps to ease the strains on banks and strengthen rules on short-selling did little to ease the panic in the markets. "We need something that surprises the market in a good way, perhaps something like the government intervening to sell yen," said Masayoshi Okamoto, head of dealing at Jujiya Securities. "If we don't have something like this, today's low -- the 26-year low -- won't be significant at all."

In its fourth straight negative day, the Nikkei .N225 shed 486.18 points to close at 7,162.90, its lowest close since October 1982 -- when Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President and Sony Corp released the CD player. At one point it fell as far as 7,141.27. The benchmark has lost 36.4 percent so far this month and 53 percent this year...

Obama Has an Eight Point Margin in Real Virginia

Nice to see:

Poll Gives Obama 8-Point Va. Lead: Barack Obama has opened up an eight-point lead over Republican John McCain in Virginia, and the Democrat is entering the final week of the campaign with several core advantages when it comes to turning out his supporters.... By wide margins, Virginia voters think that Obama is the candidate who would do more to bring needed change to Washington, who understands the economic challenges people are facing and who is the more honest and trustworthy of the two rivals....

In a Washington Post-ABC News Virginia poll taken late last month, Obama clung to a slim 3 percentage-point edge among likely voters. As an example of the gains he has made since that poll, Obama is now tied with McCain among college-educated white men, overcoming what had been an almost 30-point deficit for the Democrat. A Democratic presidential nominee has not carried the state since 1964...

Douglas Hibbs Predicts: Obama by Three

Douglas A. Hibbs, Jr. (2008), "Implications of the ‘Bread and Peace’ Model for the 2008 US Presidential Election," Public Choice (September):

Douglas Hibbs predicts: Obama by 3... with a standard error of the estimate of 4.3... using data since 1952.

Of course, the standard error of the estimate for the past four elections is: 8.3

Path Finder

I don't want to think about the significance level at which one rejects the null hypothesis that Hibbs's equation fits as well after 1990 as it did before.


Run Like the Wind, Mr. Skittles! (Kathryn Jean Lopez Edition)

TBogg did not write:

Invasion of the Obama Snatchers: Writing from her negro-proof panic room a sweaty, disheveled, and quite possibly drunk Kathryn Jean Lopez types out a warning, inserts it into a hamster ball with Mr. Skittles the Wonder Hamster and then lobs it through a cracked door in the hopes that, God willing, it is not too late to save America.

Run like the wind, Mr. Skittles!
Godspeed and good luck:

The Corner on National Review Online: Did You See This One? [Kathryn Jean Lopez] IBD/TIPP Poll - Posted 26 Oct 08-(Obama 44.59%, McCain 43.66%): I repeat: This presidential election is not over. Nor are the Senate races over. And I might point out: We're going to want as many Republicans in the Senate as possible whomever is president. We're going to need every member potentially swayed by conservatism we can get.... There will be fights with the White House in either administration! We'll have more of a fighting chance with, say 43 or 44 Republicans and a Palin veep.

The first problem is that the October 26 IBD/TIPP poll shows a 3.2% Obama lead:

Path Finder

The second problem is that the IBD/TIPP tracking poll appears to sample only 120 likely voters each day and then averages a full week of daily samples to produce its estimate. The sample is small--hence random sampling error is large--and the sample is old--kinda defeating the purpose of a tracking poll.

Third, there is something very wrong with IBD/TIPP's sampling. On October 23 their sample of 18-24 year old likely voters--all those interviewed between October 16-22 inclusive--reported a 52% edge for McCain among that age group: IBD/TIPP Economic, Presidential Election, and Political Polls -- IBD/TIPP Tracking Poll: Day Eleven

In Some Alternate Reality Much Better than This One, Tom Campbell Is Head of the California Republican Party

And Tom Campbell comes out opposed to proposition 8:

Andrew Sullivan: The Republican Case For Marriage Equality: Tom Campbell, a Republican and former five-term U.S. Congressman, makes the case:

Republicans believe deeply that government should be limited. Government has no business making distinctions between people based on their personal lives. That's why, as a Californian and a Republican who has held elective office at the federal and state levels, I will be voting No on Proposition 8.

Same-sex couples already exist, so do different-sex couples. Californians in these relationships are our firefighters, nurses, police officers, and small business owners. They pay taxes and contribute to our economy and our society. Californians come in different shapes and sizes; that's what's made our state great. If two people want to make their relationship more stable, and commit more deeply to each other, that can only be good for California. That's true whether the couple is gay or straight.

Europe's Recession

Ralph Atkins:

Survey underlines grim outlook for eurozone: The eurozone economy contracted sharply in October as the global bank crisis slammed the brakes on business activity and blackened the outlook for the 15-country region, a closely watched survey indicated on Friday. The steep fall in eurozone purchasing managers’ indices, which showed private-sector output falling at the fastest rate since the launch of the euro in 1999, suggested the region was facing prolonged recession-like conditions, which could last well into next year.

“The financial crisis has developed rapidly into an economic crisis, with the eurozone economy contracting at the fastest rate for over 10 years,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, the research company that produces the survey. The indices are regarded as offering a good guide to trends in economic activity, providing a more up-to-date snapshot of activity than gross domestic product data. An index figure below 50 is taken to indicate a contraction in activity....

The scale of the deterioration suggested several factors had combined into a lethal economic cocktail. Eurozone growth started to slow last year as a result of a stronger euro, higher official borrowing costs and then surging oil and commodity prices. “What I fear at the moment is that you have a natural progression from the downturn that was already in place with the extra hit from the financial market crisis ... It has exacerbated problems that were already there,” said Mr Williamson.... Eurozone GDP fell by 0.2 per cent in the three months to June...

Circular Firing Squad of Flying Republican Attack Monkeys!!

Oliver Willis says "W00t!" and sends us to Tim Shipman:

Republican fears of historic Obama landslide unleash civil war for the future of the party - Telegraph: Aides to George W.Bush, former Reagan White House staff and friends of John McCain have all told The Sunday Telegraph that they not only expect to lose on November 4, but also believe that Mr Obama is poised to win a crushing mandate. They believe he will be powerful enough to remake the American political landscape with even more ease than Ronald Reagan did in 1980. The prospect of an electoral rout has unleashed a bitter bout of recriminations both within the McCain campaign and the wider conservative movement.... Mr McCain is now facing calls for him to sacrifice his own dwindling White House hopes and focus on saving vulnerable Republican Senate seats which are up for grabs on the same day.... A private memo on the likely result of the congressional elections, leaked to Politico, has the Republicans losing 37 seats.... former White House official who still advises President Bush told The Sunday Telegraph: "McCain hasn't won independents, nor has he inspired the base. It's the worst of all worlds. He is dragging everyone else down with him. He needs to deploy people and money to salvage what we can in Congress."

The prospect of defeat has unleashed what insiders describe as an "every man for himself" culture within the McCain campaign, with aides in a "circular firing squad" as blame is assigned.... One wing believes the party has to emulate David Cameron, by adapting the issues to fight on and the positions they hold, while the other believes that a back to basics approach will reconnect with heartland voters.... Modernisers fear that would leave Republicans marginalised.... Mr Frum argues that just as America is changing, so the Republican Party must adapt its economic message and find more to say about healthcare and the environment if it is to survive. He said: "I don't know that there's a lot of realism in the Republican Party. We have an economic message that is largely irrelevant to most people. Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything. The Bush years were largely prosperous but while national income was up the numbers for most individuals were not. Republicans find that a hard fact to process."

Other Republicans have jumped ship completely. Ken Adelman, a Pentagon adviser on the Iraq war, Matthew Dowd, who was Mr Bush's chief re-election strategist, and Scott McClellan, Mr Bush's former press secretary, have all endorsed Mr Obama. But the real bile has been saved for those conservatives who have balked at the selection of Sarah Palin.... Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's greatest speechwriter and a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, condemned Mr McCain's running mate as a "symptom and expression of a new vulgarisation of American politics." Conservative columnist David Brooks called her a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party".... Rush Limbaugh, the doyen of right wing talk radio hosts, denounced Noonan, Brooks and Frum. Neconservative writer Charles Krauthammer condemned "the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama", while fellow columnist Tony Blankley said that instead of collaborating in heralding Mr Obama's arrival they should be fighting "in a struggle to the political death for the soul of the country"....

Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush, dismissed Mrs Palin's critics as "cocktail party conservatives" who "give aid and comfort to the enemy". He told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"... Mr Nuzzo, who believes this election is not a re-run of the 1980 Reagan revolution but of 1976, when an ageing Gerald Ford lost a close contest and then ceded the leadership of the Republican Party to Mr Reagan. He said: "Win or lose, there is a ready made conservative candidate waiting in the wings. Sarah Palin is not the new Iain Duncan Smith, she is the new Ronald Reagan." On the accuracy of that judgment, perhaps, rests the future of the Republican Party.

Where I Will Be on Election Night

The place to see and be seen: Patrick Nielsen Hayden's and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light:

Watch the election results with Bruce Schneier: On Election Day, Bruce Schneier will host an election-results-watching thread here on Making Light. As Bruce says, “Watching the results come in is fun, but it’s more fun in the right group.” Bruce continues:

Even if we know the next president by 7:00 EST when Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida close, there’s a lot out West to stay awake for, like Darcy Burner in WA-8, CA’s Proposition 8, and Mark Begich in AK. I’ll get the party started at 5:00 EST, although—depending on what kind of GOTV work I’m doing—I don’t promise to be around for another couple of hours. But we’ll get going fast and furious by 7:00, and stay around until every vote is counted or we all fall asleep—possibly into the next day.

Dissect the exit polls, debate statistics, ridicule pundits, advance theories, and—hopefully—repeatedly celebrate. So wherever you are, alone in front of the computer, at a party in front of a television, or at one of the zillions of parties around the country, spend the night here as well. Prizes will be awarded to the people who best predict the presidential winner in each state and the popular vote margin, the winner of every Senate race, the winner of the 11 governor’s races, and the winner of the close House races. Predictions must be posted by 6:00 PM EST to be eligible.

Bruce Schneier is, of course, one of the smartest people on the planet, a tireless voice of well-informed common sense on security issues and their broader implications, and probably the single person I’d most want to be listening to as meaningful numerical and statistical data flows in. Particularly if there’s any chance that there’s anything squirrelly about those numbers.

Remember, Bruce Schneier doesn’t need a keylogger; he’s standing right behind you.

Teresa and I will be around too, until the last dog is dead and the big picture filled in. We’ll keep a link to the Schneier election thread on top of the front page all night long. If and when discussions of particular subtopics seem to require their own space, we’ll start new threads to accommodate them.

Join us for what we suspect will be a memorable evening on Making Light.

The Recession Gathers Speed...

I say that the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee should decide this week whether the recession began in November or June. I don't see how waiting any longer will give us any more information useful in deciding between those two dates. And I don't see any justification for waiting--other than that perhaps one does not want to announce a recession call just before an election.

Yves Smith:

Real Economy Crunch Arrives: Layoffs Rise Sharply: When Goldman announced layoffs last week (3200 people, or 10% of its staff), it said there was no longer any place to hide. Unemployment claims are increasing at a pace that has caught some economists by surprise, indicating that the real economy downturn is picking up momentum at a rapid pace. Because many jobs, even low-level ones, entail training in company specific procedures (just think of the computer-related activities), employer has seemed reluctant to fire staff, and some had cut hours rather than axeing them. Now many businesses apparently no longer have that luxury...

Christopher Rugaber:

Unemployment Claims Rising Faster Than Expected As Recession Deepens: Goldman Sachs, Chrysler and Xerox all announced they were cutting workers by the thousands, adding to the woes of an economy beset by tighter credit and wobbly banks.... The Commerce Department will release its first estimate of third-quarter economic performance Oct. 30, and Wall Street analysts project it will show the economy contracted by 0.5 percent, according to Thomson/IFR. Many economists expect the decline to continue into the current quarter and the first three months of 2009, if not longer. The classic definition of a recession is at least two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before a House committee, said he could not see "how we can avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment"...

Louis Uchitelle:

Spending Stalls and Businesses Slash U.S. Jobs: Layoffs have arrived in force, like a wrenching second act in the unfolding crisis. In just the last two weeks, the list of companies announcing their intention to cut workers has read like a Who’s Who of corporate America: Merck, Yahoo, General Electric, Xerox, Pratt & Whitney, Goldman Sachs, Whirlpool, Bank of America, Alcoa, Coca-Cola, the Detroit automakers and nearly all the airlines. When October’s job losses are announced on Nov. 7, three days after the presidential election, many economists expect the number to exceed 200,000. The current unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is likely to rise, perhaps significantly.

“My view is that it will be near 8 or 8.5 percent by the end of next year,” said Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at Global Insight, offering a forecast others share. That would be the highest unemployment rate since the deep recession of the early 1980s. Companies are laying off workers to cut production as consumers, struggling with their own finances, scale back spending. Employers had tried for months to cut expenses through hiring freezes and by cutting back hours. That has turned out not to be enough, and with earnings down sharply in the third quarter, corporate America has turned to layoffs.

“People have grown very nervous,” said Harry Holzer, a labor economist at Georgetown University and the Urban Institute, tracing cause and effect. “They have seen a lot of their wealth wiped out and as they cut back their spending, companies are responding with layoffs, which hurts consumption even more.” The unemployment is widespread, with Rhode Island the hardest hit. For Dwight and Rochelle Stokes of Phenix City, Ala., the layoffs are a family event. He lost his job two weeks ago as an aviation mechanic at the Pratt & Whitney jet engine facility near his home — a few days after his wife lost hers as a cosmetologist at Great Clips, a family-owned barbershop and beauty salon. “It got really slow in July and August,” Ms. Stokes said. “I would sit there for two hours, and some days we had only 10 clients, four of us for 10 clients.”

The broadening layoffs are most pronounced on Wall Street, in the auto industry, in construction, in the airlines and in retailing. The steel mills, big suppliers to many sectors of the economy, are shutting 17 of the nation’s 29 blast furnaces — a startling indicator of how quickly output is declining as corporate America struggles to adjust to the spreading crisis...

Another Reluctant Obama Supporter...

The right-wingers I know who are jumping on the Obamawagon right now are doing so for two reasons:

(1) The non-vetting of Sarah Palin.

(2) McCain's idiotic take on the financial crisis.

Here is Pithlord:

Pith and Substance: My Last Post on the US Presidential Election: There is much to like about John McCain. I have long thought his foreign policy instincts and advisors are dangerous, and that electing him would amount to endorsing a utopian-interventionist view of the world. At the same time, though his domestic policy positions are basically non-existent, I thought he would be useful curbing a Democratic Congress. My first-favourite result would be Obama as President and a Republican Congress, but since that was impossible, I thought that a McCain Presidency might be the lesser of two evils, at least on days when I convinced myself that budgetary considerations would keep McCain from giving way to his most interventionist impulses.

I understand that everyone on the left thinks McCain is running the most egregiously negative campaign in history. Phooey. While I don't really think the Ayers and Wright associations are that big a deal (they were useful to Obama at the time, but I trust his opportunism). On the other hand, they are perfectly reasonable subjects to give him trouble on. Neither McCain nor Obama are decent candidates for bodhisattva or saint, but by the standards of democratic politics, they are moderately honourable.

But this latest mortgage plan just shows that McCain disdains public policy too much. He proposes to buy mortgages -- not at the price their owners are willing to part with them as in the Paulson panacea, but AT BOOK VALUE! That is downright insane. The only possible excuse is that McCain just made up this policy on the fly during the debate, and has no idea what he is talking about. And that is not much of an excuse.

Obama is academically inclined, risk averse and fundamentally conventional. McCain is not quite so bright and a risk addict. I think the world would be better off with Obama.

Why Is It Likely That McCain Will Lose?

Paul Krugman:

Op-Ed Columnist - Desperately Seeking Seriousness - Maybe the polls and the conventional wisdom are all wrong, and John McCain will pull off a stunning upset. But right now the election looks like a blue sweep.... Yet just six weeks ago the presidential race seemed close, with Mr. McCain if anything a bit ahead. The turning point was the middle of September, coinciding precisely with the sudden intensification of the financial crisis after the failure of Lehman Brothers. But why has the growing financial and economic crisis worked so overwhelmingly to the Democrats’ advantage?

As someone who’s spent a lot of time arguing against conservative economic dogma, I’d like to believe that the bad news convinced many Americans, once and for all, that the right’s economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right. And there’s certainly something to that. These days, with even Alan Greenspan admitting that he was wrong to believe that the financial industry could regulate itself, Reaganesque rhetoric about the magic of the marketplace and the evils of government intervention sounds ridiculous.

In addition, Mr. McCain seems spectacularly unable to talk about economics as if it matters. He has attempted to pin the blame for the crisis on his pet grievance, Congressional budget earmarks — which leaves economists scratching their heads in puzzlement....

But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is... Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign. Think about the themes of the McCain campaign so far. Mr. McCain reminds us, again and again, that he’s a maverick... a free-floating personality trait... [not] tied to any specific objections on his part to the way the country has been run for the last eight years. Conversely, he has attacked Mr. Obama as a “celebrity,” but without any specific explanation of what’s wrong with that — it’s just a given that we’re supposed to hate Hollywood types. And the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate clearly had nothing to do with what she knew or the positions she’d taken — it was about who she was, or seemed to be....

[Y]ou can’t blame Mr. McCain for campaigning on trivia... it’s worked in the past.... Bush got within hanging-chads-and-butterfly-ballot range of the White House only because much of the news media, rather than focusing on the candidates’ policy proposals, focused on their personas.... And let’s face it: six weeks ago Mr. McCain’s focus on trivia seemed to be paying off handsomely....

The McCain campaign’s response to its falling chances of victory has been telling: rather than trying to make the case that Mr. McCain really is better qualified to deal with the economic crisis, the campaign has been doing all it can to trivialize things again. Mr. Obama consorts with ’60s radicals! He’s a socialist! He doesn’t love America! Judging from the polls, it doesn’t seem to be working. Will the nation’s new demand for seriousness last? Maybe not — remember how 9/11 was supposed to end the focus on trivialities? For now, however, voters seem to be focused on real issues... right now... reality has a clear liberal bias.

I think Paul is wrong. Yellow-dog Republicans I know who are... shall we say... familiar with what they call the spin machine and I call the Slime Machine are... bewildered.

George W. Bush was not a friendly guy you would like to have a beer with, they say--but we had no trouble getting the media to paint him as one. Al Gore was not a serial liar, they say--but we had no trouble getting the media to paint him as one. John Kerry was not a flip-flopper and was a genuine war hero, they say--yet we had no problem getting the media to paint him as a flip-flopper and to spend hours and hours talking about how maybe the swift-boat crazies were right. By contrast, they say (not me), John McCain is a genuine and honorable war hero who at every stage does what he thinks is right for the country no matter what partisan allegiances are, and who lets the chips fall where they may--yet the media story on McCain is, they say, that he is a befuddled old man who has let unscrupulous and dishonorable Republican sleazebags seize control of his campaign. By contrast, they say (not me), Barack Hussein Obama is an inexperienced blank slate on whom all of the different factions of the Democratic Party have projected their fantasies--yet the media present him as the cool thoughtful smart moderate one when they should be presenting him as the risky one who just happens to give a good speech.

What is going on, they ask? Why have things changed? Why--though they do not put it this way--did Republican slimemasters have such an easy time getting the media to tell unfavorable lies about Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 1990s, about John Kerry and Al Gore in the 2000s, about George W. Bush in the 2000s, and yet now Republican slimemasters are having such a difficult time getting the media to tell what they see as the truth about John McCain and Barack Hussein Obama in 2008?

I have two theories:

(1) Economic conditions shape voter preferences, and media personalities take their interpretive keys from voter preferences--their narratives don't drive but rather reflect coalescing voting patterns. Consider Sam Wang's charts of the 2004 and 2008 elections:

Path Finder

Path Finder

Voter preferences don't seem to be well-tied to the media narratives of who is "winning" the campaign. Republicans lead in the spring. Democrats lead in early summer. The race comes back to neutral in August. And then in September and October swing voters make up their minds based on whether they think the economy is doing well. So under this theory nothing much has changed.

(2) Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush were in the business of running the Nixonland con on the American people--of persuading voters that politicians like the Clintons, Gore, and Kerry who advanced policies that were in voters' interests were in fact strange and untrustworthy elitists who spent their private time laughing at middle Americans. Because the Nixonland con feeds into the press's cynical front-page predisposition, they are happy to observe, snicker, and assist. By contrast, John McCain was in the business of running a different game--not persuading the American people that Democrats were elitists who laughed at them but instead persuading reporters that he, John McCain, was a uniquely honorable non-political politician. When McCain switched to running the standard Republican Nixonland con on America he upset the previous narrative about John McCain--and rubbed reporters' noses in the fact that he had been running a con on them for the previous decade. While the press is happy to observe, snicker, and assist in cons run on others, it is outraged by cons run against itself. Hence the fact that reporters who still echo the "McCain is an honorable man, not a normal politician" line are now sneered at and scorned by their peers.

I think voters would like to be serious, but don't know how. And the media doesn't provide them with a way to be serious--serving as trusted intermediaries to tell Americans about candidates' likely policies and their likely effects is the last thing from reporters' minds. Recall New York Times editor Jill Abramson's sorry excuse that the Times hadn't run stories about issues because the reporters competent to cover policy substance were all dragged off to write about the financial crisis.

Paul is optimistic about the future of the press corps. I am not. I think that the Republican slime machine and their friends the Heathers in the press corpes will be back--that this year the normal rules of political-journalistic slime have been temporarily interrupted.

We do, I think, still live in Nixonland. The words of Guy Fleegman are still our best guide to the future.

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Elizabeth Holmes/Wall Street Journal Edition)

Naughty-naughty, Elizabeth Holmes. You can do better than this:

McCain Accuses Obama of Overconfidence: Elizabeth Holmes reports from Mesilla, N.M. on the presidential race.

John McCain slammed Barack Obama Saturday for being overconfident about his lead in the polls and predicted election night would feature a Dewey-Truman scenario. “What America needs now is someone who will finish the race before starting the victory lap,” McCain said to the crowd of several thousand at a rally here. “Someone who will fight to the end, not for himself but for his country.”

In remarks dripping with sarcasm and disdain, the Republican presidential candidate said brought up a story from the New York Times that said former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta has already penned a copy of Obama’s inaugural address. “I’m not making it up,” McCain said. “An awful lot of voters are still undecided but he’s decided for them that well, why wait, it’s time to move forward with his first inaugural address.”

Obama spokesman Bill Burton quickly refuted the attack. “While this charge is completely false and there is no draft of an inaugural address for Senator Obama, the last thing we need is a candidate like John McCain who just plans on re-reading George Bush’s,” he said.

Where is the paragraph that says: "McCain's charge was, of course, false. What he claimed to be a draft of Obama's inaugural address was a speech written last spring by John Podesta when he was a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The New York Times's Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker misreported the story"?

The Republican Circular Firing Squad of Flying Attack Monkeys Commences!

Stephen Suh:

Cogitamus: Get Some Popcorn And A Comfy Chair - It's Going To Be A Great Show: The increasingly public war between a McCain faction and a Palin faction within the McCain/Palin campaign, let alone within the Republican party at large, should give hope to those of us who have been worrying about the effects the GOP's various voter suppression tactics may have this year. Clearly the top levels of the Republican party - the people who would know these things - are convinced that their efforts to deny Americans their right to vote are not going to be enough to stem the tide....

While we cannot be complacent... we can start to have fun watching Republicans finally turn their vitriol upon each other as they wage a public civil war to determine who will be the face of the GOP after this election.... Speaking about the campaign's devolution into warring factions, a Palin partisan said

Her strategy was to be trustworthy and a team player during the convention and thereafter, but she felt completely mismanaged and mishandled and ill advised.... Recently, she's gone from relying on McCain advisers who were assigned to her to relying on her own instincts.

That's USDA-inspected, Grade-A, 100% Angus delusion.  It's also proof that while the dolchstosslegende may have come to us from Weimar Germany, it's purest expression is found in contemporary right wing Americans. The McCain faction isn't going down fighting, though, and they have their own stories of being stabbed in the back....

What's especially enjoyable about the Republican Civil War is that it will be fought out in the open.  Not only will everyone involved in the McCain campaign viciously fight to preserve their careers at the expense of each other, each of the party's factions will wage all-out war with each other to assign responsibility for their monumental failures this year.  McCain and Palin will serve as lightning rods, but the war is over much more than just the two of them.

McCain's national standing is of course destroyed.... Palin's future is much more interesting.  The extremist wing of the Republican party - by that I mean those who are extremists compared to the extremism of the party as a whole - will rally around her.  She'll have four years to get some coaching and do some studyingg.... However, there is a difference between having the opportunity to be coached and to study, and actually following through on it. The Palin faction has already settled on McCain's supposed unwillingness to let her intrinsic political skill come through - hindering her starburst-ability, as it were - as their explanation for Palin's unfavorable numbers and poor performances. The available evidence suggests that no one believes this more than Palin herself.  It will be difficult for Palin's supporters to publicly claim that the election would have turned out differently if she had only been allowed to "be herself," while privately convincing her that she... does need to work on presenting herself as a reasonable human being.... All of this will be wasted money and time.  Every dollar and minute spent attacking one another and/or painstakingly remaking Palin's public image is one less dollar, one less minute spent attacking the Constitution and American citizens' ability to live civilized, decent lives. It's about time.

Abe Greenwald of Commentary trying to reduce the Republican share of the vote in 2012 below 20%:

Commentary » Blog Archive » Thoroughly Impressive: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was excoriated for her concern about the views of a man whose intimates include an anti-American terrorist and an anti-American pastor, is now being excoriated for daring to speak the one simple truth that could rescue liberal values from the tag-team clutches of multiculturalism and Jihad.... Palin-Bachmann 2012?...

John Moody of Fox News--the guy who tells the front men and women how to lie today:

Moment of Truth « FOX Forum « It had to happen. Less than two weeks before we vote for a new president, a white woman says a black man attacked her, then scarred her face, and says there was a political motive for it. Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old white volunteer for John McCain’s presidential campaign, says she was mugged at an ATM machine in Pittsburgh (my hometown) by a big black man. She further says he threw her down, then disfigured her by carving the letter “B” into her face with a sharp implement when he saw that she supported McCain, not Barack Obama.

Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination. That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election. If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator  Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting...

Marc Ambinder:

On Clearance, Terrorists, Palling Around And Such - Marc Ambinder: In response to this morning's post about an anti-Palin faction developing with the McCain campaign and among Republicans, Randy Scheunemann, McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, e-mails:

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


11 Days Out, And The Whispering Begins - Marc Ambinder: Call it a circular firing squad, or internal dissension, or simply the natural evolution of a campaign that is disappointed with how the endgame is playing out. There's a faction within the McCain campaign has begun to whisper about Gov. Sarah Palin to reporters. The faction includes staff members and advisers who consult with staff members....

This faction has come to believe that Palin, perhaps unwittingly subconsciously or otherwise, has begun to play Sen. McCain off of the base, consistently and deliberately departed from the campaign's message of the day in ways that damage McCain. ("palling around with terrorists" was a line that escaped HQ's vetting... Palin's criticism of the campaign for pulling out of Michigan was greeted by anger internally... Palin's expressed opinion that Rev. Wright is a legitimate issue -- which subtly knocks McCain for not raising it -- was perceived as an attempt to preemptively blame McCain's wobbliness for his loss, which would theoretically enhance Palin's standing with the base.)  The complaints extend all the back to Palin's vice presidential vetting. Major disclosures, issue positions and associations did not come up, and the campaign was so overwhelmed with new information early on, it largely abandoned an effort to defend them individually. This is the claim, anyway. For the record, senior adviser Mark Salter, accurately identified everywhere as the aide who is closest to McCain, calls this scenario "bullshit."...

Even those McCain aides who harbor doubts about Palin are quick to say that there are many Palin defenders among the staff, and that there is an almost universal belief that the media has treated her most unfairly. People close to McCain say he has come to view almost every attack on Palin as unfair, although it has not escaped his attention that his campaign has lost control of her public image, and that far too many news cycles have been dominated by Palin. (Salter denies this.)

A Sunday morning quarterback still makes a persuasive argument for picking Palin. In this environment, the Republican candidate could only win if he consolidates his base and wins a majority of persuadable votes.... Though McCain at one point wanted to pick Joe Lieberman, he'd have cut a leg from the stool and replaced it with one that, aside from his party affiliation -- independent Democrat -- has no real appeal among independents anymore.... Republican delegations made it clear that they'd walk out on McCain. We still don't know why McCain decided that the risk wasn't worth taking -- that's for another Draper piece -- but we know that he suddenly shifted back to someone who had impressed him early on, someone who, at the time, could check the two boxes: excite Republicans and convert independents and persuadables.

Whether the vetting was complete or rushed, whether Palin and her advisers were completely forthcoming about her record.... again, wait for the Draper piece. The point here is that the choice was defensible. That almost every piece of information that has come out subsequent to the pick has hurt Palin can be interpreted in several ways: either the media was preordained to crush her spirit from the beginning, or the McCain campaign didn't know about them, or they've been distorted beyond any sense of the rational....

The discovery of that the RNC billed $150,000 for the purchase of clothing and accessories for the Palin family brought these submerged tensions to the surface. People close to Palin and one person who has direct knowledge of the clothing purchases say that they cannot imagine that they added up $150,000  -- there's no way, in other words, that the clothing that was bought for Palin amounted to that total. (Palin hints at the this here.) Palin herself at first did not seem happy at the prospect of being dressed in the new clothes...



CNN Political Ticker: A second McCain source tells CNN [Sarah Palin] appears to now be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign. “She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser, “she does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: divas trust only unto themselves as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”

A Palin associate defended her by saying she is “not good at process questions” and that her comments on Michigan and the robo calls were answers to process questions. But this Palin source acknowledged that she clearly is trying to take more control of her own message, pointing to last week’s impromptu press conference on a Colorado tarmac....

[T]wo sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was first picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and missteps could have been a lot worse. They insisted she needed time to get briefed on issues on the national and international stage she was not familiar with and has never dealt with, and on McCain’s long record...


Palin allies report rising campaign tension: Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her.... Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline. "She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions. "I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said....

Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated. "These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves," a McCain insider said, referring to McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, and to Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush aide who has taken a lead role in Palin's campaign. Palin's partisans blame Wallace, in particular, for Palin's avoiding of the media for days and then giving a high-stakes interview to CBS News' Katie Couric.... "A number of Gov. Palin's staff have not had her best interests at heart, and they have not had the campaign's best interests at heart," the McCain insider fumed, noting that Wallace left an executive job at CBS to join the campaign....

[O]ther McCain aides, defending Wallace, dismissed the notion that Palin was mishandled. The Alaska governor was, they argue, simply unready — "green," sloppy and incomprehensibly willing to criticize McCain.... Her dodging of the press and her nervous reliance on tight scripts in her first interview, with ABC News, became a national joke — driven home to devastating effect by "Saturday Night Live" comic Tina Fey. The Couric interview — her only unstaged appearance for a week — was "water torture," as one internal ally put it. Some McCain aides say they had little choice with a candidate who simply wasn't ready for the national stage, and that Palin didn't forcefully object....

"The campaign as a whole bought completely into what the Washington media said — that she's completely inexperienced," said a close Palin ally outside the campaign who speaks regularly to the candidate. "Her strategy was to be trustworthy and a team player during the convention and thereafter, but she felt completely mismanaged and mishandled and ill advised," the person said. "Recently, she's gone from relying on McCain advisers who were assigned to her to relying on her own instincts." Palin's loyalists say she's grown particularly disenchanted with... Schmidt and Wallace, and that despite her anti-intellectual rhetoric, her closest ally among her new traveling aides is a policy adviser, former National Security Council official Steve Biegun. She's also said to be close with McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann.... When a McCain aide, speaking anonymously Friday to The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, suggested that Palin's charge that Obama was "palling around with terrorists" had "escaped HQ's vetting," it was Scheunemann who fired off an angry response that the speech was "fully vetted" and that to attack Palin for it was "bullshit."...

[RT]he final straw for Palin and her allies was the news that the campaign had reported spending $150,000 on her clothes, turning her, again, into the butt of late-night humor. "She never even set foot in these stores," the senior Republican said, noting Palin hadn't realized the cost when the clothes were brought to her in her Minnesota hotel room. "It's completely out-of-control operatives," said the close ally outside the campaign. "She has no responsibility for that. It's incredibly frustrating for us and for her"...

Kevin Drum:

Kevin Drum - Mother Jones Blog: Let the Defenestrations Begin: am so looking forward to this. Is this schadenfreude? Or does that require at least a veneer of pretending that you're not really taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others? I'm not sure. But I'm looking forward to it anyway.

And you know the part I'm really looking forward to? Sarah Palin's role in all this. I expect her to rip McCain absolutely to shreds. On background, of course, but it will be no less vicious for that. Her future, such as it is, lies with the wingnut rump of the party, and she knows what her audience wants: John McCain's blood. And lots of it. They never liked him in the first place, and I expect them to be howling for his head on a platter starting at about 8:01 pm EST on November 4th...

New York Times/CBS News Death Spiral Watch (Obama Inaugural Address Watch)

In my experience, Jackie Calmes is good and careful. Peter Baker is neither. I blame Peter for the New York Times getting this one wrong.

Matthew Yglesias:

Matthew Yglesias: The Wages of Sloppy Journalism: Earlier today, The New York Times “reported” that “Mr. Podesta has been mapping out the transition so systematically that he has already written a draft Inaugural Address for Mr. Obama, which he published this summer in a book called The Power of Progress.”

This is false.

Podesta published a book this summer, The Power of Progress, that was written with John Halpin. The book contains, as a literary conceit, a hypothetical inaugural address for a progressive president. The book was in the works for over a year, and the “inaugural address” section was submitted to the publisher in March before Obama was the nominee and when, indeed, Podesta was supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Nevertheless, CBS News reports:

Taking aim squarely at what McCain’s campaign feels is the presumptiveness of Barack Obama, McCain was referring to a report in the New York Times that says John Podesta has already drafted an inaugural address for Obama.

“There’s ten days left in this election, maybe Barack Obama will even have his first State of he Union address ready before you head to the polls,” McCain continued. “I guess I’m a little old fashioned about these things. I’d prefer to let the voters weigh in before presuming the outcome.”

The Obama campaign says the charge is “completely false,” and points out that the address McCain is referring to appears in a book Podesta wrote before Obama was the nominee.

It’s true, as CBS News is reporting, that the Obama campaign says the charge is completely false. However, it’s also true that the charge is in fact completely false. If when candidates launched false attacks, news organizations reported the falseness of the attacks in a straightforward manner, then they might not be so eager to launch them.

There is no excuse for CBS News.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (David Broder Edition)

Atrios reminds us of what David Broder wrote, a year ago:

Davide Broder: Why Is This GOP Strategist Smiling?: Polls showed the Republicans on the losing side of almost every issue and the 2008 presidential race.... But Tom Cole, the 58-year-old Oklahoma representative who this year took on the responsibility for running the GOP's congressional campaign, was remarkably sanguine.... Hillary Rodham Clinton... was beating Rudy Giuliani, the current Republican front-runner, 51 percent to 43 percent... Bush's approval rating at 33 percent... congressional Republicans'... at 29.... Democrats are trusted more than Republicans when it comes to handling Iraq, health care, the economy and the federal budget, the poll said, and the two parties are tied on terrorism -- supposedly the Republicans' strong suit.

So how could he be reasonably satisfied with his party's prospects? The answer: The Democrats are also looking like dogs.... Congress as a whole rated only 29 percent.... People think it has been spinning its wheels.... Cole... [s]peaking of the Democrats, he said, "My God, they're dragging themselves down to our level."... "The American people are rising up in disgust," Cole said, "and incumbents will pay. It's not anti-Republican anymore. It's anti-Washington."...

[T]he crucial question at the moment... is Bush's veto of... SCHIP.... Cole claims that Republicans will be protected by asserting that they favor the concept and are prepared to support a less expensive compromise. "All of us are for the program," he said, "but we can't support a bad bill." I think that is a tough sell politically. But I'm more persuaded by his argument that Republicans have little to fear from a Hillary Clinton candidacy.... "There are Democrats sitting in 61 districts that Bush carried; 47 that he carried twice. We are on the offensive in those districts," he said.... Cole has history on his side. In 1992, as he notes, incumbents were hammered, 24 of them losing in November, 17 others failing in their primaries. The Republicans achieved a net gain of 10 House seats that year.... Cole is out to make history repeat itself...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps.

I Call Bullshit on David Frum

If David Frum really believed that one-party government was a danger, he would have been supporting Bill Clinton in 1996, Al Gore in 2000, and Democratic senators and representatives in 2002, 2004, and 2006. He wasn't. And now he thinks that it's time once again for Republicans to campaign by once again saying things they don't believe.

Can we please have an opposition to the Democrats that says things that they do believe, rather than things that they don't? Is that too much to ask?

David Frum writes:

Sorry, Senator. Let's Salvage What We Can: John McCain is losing in a way that threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him. A year ago, the Arizona senator's team made a crucial strategic decision. McCain would run on his (impressive) personal biography. On policy, he'd hew mostly to conservative orthodoxy.... [I]n August, McCain tried a bold new gambit: He would reach out to independents and women with an exciting and unexpected vice presidential choice. That didn't work out so well either. Gov. Sarah Palin... did, however, ignite the Republican base.... And so, in this last month, the McCain campaign has Palinized itself to make the most of its last asset. To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical and a socialist. Sure enough, the base has responded.... But... [the] strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core... has alienated and offended the great national middle.... You have to go back to the Watergate era to see numbers quite so horrible for the GOP.

McCain's awful campaign is having awful consequences down the ballot. I spoke a little while ago to a senior Republican House member. "There is not a safe Republican seat in the country," he warned. "I don't mean that we're going to lose all of them. But we could lose any of them." In the Senate, things look, if possible, even worse. The themes and messages that are galvanizing the crowds for Palin are bleeding Sens. John Sununu in New Hampshire, Gordon Smith in Oregon, Norm Coleman in Minnesota and Susan Collins in Maine... the certain loss of John Warner's Senate seat in Virginia, the probable loss of Elizabeth Dole's in North Carolina, an unexpectedly tough fight for Saxby Chambliss's in Georgia -- and an apparent GOP surrender in Colorado....

A beaten party needs a base from which to recover.... [T]he Senate will have to play the same role after this defeat. That's especially true because of two unique dangers.... There's a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style... the culture of the left-wing blogosphere.... Every available dollar that can be shifted to a senatorial campaign must be shifted to a senatorial campaign.... [I]t is not far-fetched to hope that we can hold 45 or 46 of our current 49 Senate seats.... We need a message change that... warns of the dangers of one-party... government.... It's the only argument we have left. And, as the old Washington saying goes, it has the additional merit of being true.

Joe Lieberman: Dishonest and Dishonorable

October 24, 2008:

Lieberman Says He Keeps Campaign Comments Within Bounds: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, one of John McCain's closest political allies, said Friday he does not believe that Barack Obama is unprepared to be president. "I'm saying he is less prepared than McCain," Lieberman said.... "When I go out, I say, 'I have a lot of respect for Sen. Obama. He's bright. He's eloquent.' Someday, I might even support him for president, but now in the midst of this series of crises, John McCain is simply so much better prepared that that's who I am proud to support"...

August 12, 2008:

Lieberman: Obama Has Not Always "Put The Country First": "In my opinion, the choice could not be more clear: between one candidate, John McCain, who's had experience, been tested in war and tried in peace, another candidate who has not," Mr. Lieberman said. "Between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not"...

It's amazing what having John McCain choose somebody else for Veep and then going eight points down in the polls will do to you, isn't it Joe?

Resign, Joe, resign.

The McCain Campaign Pays Randy Scheunemann $300K a Year!?

John McCain: dishonest and dishonorable.


Economists for Obama: Palin's Makeup Artist Made 5 Times as Much as Holtz-Eakin: After reading in the NYT caucus blog that the top paid person in the McCain campaign for the first 2 weeks of October was Amy Strozzi, Pailin's traveling makeup artist, I decided to see what McCain's domestic policy advisor (and former head of the CBO) Doug Holtz-Eakin had earned.

It took me a while to figure out how to get around the FEC website but I finally found the right pdf. So it turns out that Strozzi, who earned $22,800 made 5 times more than Holtz-Eakin who only earned $4525.12. Interestingly, Randy Scheunemann, McCain's foreign policy adviser made nearly three times as much at $12,500.

How long has Scheuenemann been on the payroll? And has he been double-dipping as well?

Run Like the Wind, Mr. Skittles! (Mark Levin of National Review Edition)


Invasion of the Obama Snatchers: Writing from his negro-proof panic room (which doubles as the laundry room when his wife send him out to get milk) a sweaty, disheveled, and quite possibly drunk Mark Levin types out a warning, inserts it into a hamster ball with Mr. Skittles the Wonder Hamster and then lobs it through a cracked door in the hopes that, God willing, it is not too late to save America.

Run like the wind, Mr. Skittles!
Godspeed and good luck:

Mark R. Levin: The Obama Temptation: I honestly never thought we'd see such a thing in our country... a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security.... [E]ven some conservatives... support for Barack Obama... unpersuasive and even illogical... the pull... Ken Adelman, Doug Kmiec, and others... are utterly incoherent... such as Colin Powell and Charles Fried, find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way.

There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated.... The messiah complex.... Special Obama flags.... A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it.... Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name.... An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.

Even the media are drawn to the allure that is Obama... open and brazen in their attempts to influence the outcome of this election.... [A]ll evidence of Obama's past influences and radicalism — from Jeremiah Wright to William Ayers — have been raised by non-traditional news sources. The media's role has been to ignore it... dismiss it and those who raise it... to protect Obama from legitimate and routine scrutiny.... So in the tank are the media for Obama that for months we've read news stories and opinion pieces insisting that if Obama is not elected president it will be due to white racism. And, of course, while experience is crucial in assessing Sarah Palin's qualifications for vice president, no such standard is applied to Obama.... Charles Gibson and Katie Couric sought to humiliate Palin. They would never and have never tried such an approach with Obama....

[M]y greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue.... Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles... diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism.... Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it.... [H]e insists that the American Dream has arbitrary limits, limits Obama would set for the rest of us — today it's $250,000 for businesses and even less for individuals. If the individual dares to succeed beyond the limits set by Obama, he is punished for he's now officially "rich." The value of his physical and intellectual labor must be confiscated in greater amounts for the good of the proletariat.... It is the misery of his utopianism imposed on the individual.

Unlike past Democrat presidential candidates, Obama is a hardened ideologue.... He seeks "fundamental change."... The question is whether enough Americans understand what's at stake... and, if they do... whether they care. Is the allure of a charismatic demagogue so strong... it ensnared Adelman, Kmiec, Powell, Fried, and numerous others. And... while America will certainly survive, it will do so... as a different place.

By Contrast, a Good Piece by Marc Ambinder: John McCain and Millard Fillmore

Marc Ambinder lays out the issues now:

GOPWars: Who Survives --> What The Party Looks Like - Marc Ambinder: To the extent that geography correlates with ideology among congressional Republicans, a major sweep by the Democrats could really be in a position to completely break the gluons that bind the broader party together. The GOP will lose a disportionate number of seats in the Northeast, Midwest and West and keep a disrportionate number of seats in the South. So the remnant of the party, as it were, will be right-wing Southern conservatives.... even more so that it is now.

Additionally, if there's an enormous Democratic sweep, the odds of a reverse sweep two years from now are slim. 2010 won't be like 1994, where Republicans allegedly punished a Democratic Congress and president for the health care debacle and gays in the military. (Would the nation dump 70-80 Republicans over two years only to return them to power two years later?)

One way to read the defeat of John McCain is that the Republican Party today is in a position analogous to that of the Whig Party in 1852, with John McCain having the same problems gaining the nomination this year that Millard Filmore did back then:

Millard Fillmore: Wikipedia: [P]arty harmony became one of his primary objectives [as president]. He tried to unite the party by pointing out the differences between the Whigs and the Democrats (by proposing tariff reforms that negatively reflected on the Democratic Party). Another primary objective of Fillmore was to preserve the Union from the intensifying slavery debate.... [He] announced his support of the Compromise of 1850... helped shift a critical number of northern Whigs in Congress away from their insistence upon the Wilmot Proviso.... [N]orthern Whigs... refus[ed] to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act... deprive[d] him of the Presidential nomination in 1852.... On the fifty-third ballot, the Whigs nominated another war hero, Mexican-American War General Winfield Scott, as their nominee for President.

John McCain didn't want to be Millard Fillmored.

That meant that, once McCain had decided not to accept John Kerry's plea that he be his running mate in 2004, McCain had to tack hard right--he could not afford to give the Republican Southern wingnuts any excuse to do to him what the Northern Whigs had done to Fillmore in 1852. In the short run it worked. In the long run it did not work. McCain won the nomination by destroying his reputation as a bipartisan maverick and an honorable man. But now he finds himself with the very difficult problem of expanding his vote beyond the Republican base while having to explain why:

  • his issue positions today are so different from his issue positions in 2001-2004.
  • his running mate today is not his preferred running mate--Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.
  • his issue positions today--the continuation of George W. Bush's policies in every dimension--are good for a country that has seen George W. Bush's policies fail for eight straight years.

After 1852, the Whig Party collapsed. Out of its ashes arose the Northern sectional Republican Party. Is the Republican Party now collapsing--will the legacy of the race-baiting sins of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan see it consume itself and see from its ashes arise an Evangelical Sunbelt sectional post-Republican Party?

There is one big difference between 1852-1860 and 2008-2016. The North then was 70% of the country. The Evangelical Sunbelt today is 20% of the country.

Do Gravitons Cause Decoherence?

Sean Carroll writes:

Quantum Hyperion | Cosmic Variance: The orbit of Hyperion around Saturn is fairly predictable; happily, even for lumpy moons, the center of mass follows a smooth path. But the orientation of Hyperion, it turns out, is chaotic — the moon tumbles unpredictably as it orbits, as measured by Voyager 2 as well as Earth-based telescopes. Its orbit is highly elliptical, and resonates with the orbit of Titan, which exerts a torque on its axis. If you knew Hyperion’s orientation fairly precisely at some time, it would be completely unpredictable within a month or so (the Lyapunov exponent is about 40 days). More poetically, if you lived there, you wouldn’t be able to predict when the Sun would next rise.

So — is Hyperion oriented when nobody looks? Zurek and Paz calculate (not recently — this is fun, not breaking news) that if Hyperion were isolated from the rest of the universe [except for the gravitational pull on it by Titan and Saturn], it would evolve into a non-localized quantum state over a period of about 20 years. It’s an impressive example of quantum uncertainty on a macroscopic scale.

Except that Hyperion is not isolated from the rest of the universe. If nothing else, it’s constantly bombarded by photons from the Sun, as well as from the rest of the universe. And those photons have their own quantum states, and when they bounce off Hyperion the states become entangled. But there’s no way to keep track of the states of all those photons after they interact and go their merry way. So when you speak about “the quantum state of Hyperion,” you really mean the state we would get by averaging over all the possible states of the photons we didn’t keep track of. And that averaging process — considering the state of a certain quantum system when we haven’t kept track of the states of the many other systems with which it is entangled — leads to decoherence. Roughly speaking, the photons bouncing off of Hyperion act like a series of many little “observations of the wavefunction,” collapsing it into a state of definite orientation.

So, in the real world, not only does this particular moon (of Saturn) exist when we’re not looking, it’s also in a pretty well-defined orientation — even if, in a simple model that excludes the rest of the universe, its wave function would be all spread out after only 20 years of evolution. As Zurek and Paz conclude, “Decoherence caused by the environment … is not a subterfuge of a theorist, but a fact of life.” (As if one could sensibly distinguish between the two.)

But gravity works--presumably, at some level--by massive objects constantly bombarding each other with gravitons, so we are also averaging over all the possible states of gravitons that we are not keeping track of, aren't we? That should cause decoherence too, shouldn't it?

I am confused. Not as confused as I am about the powers of the Vice President of the United States as President of the Senate, but confused.

Joe Lieberman: Sarah Palin Not Ready to Be President on Day One

Brian Lockhart:

Lieberman: Working hard for McCain: STAMFORD - U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman Friday continued to stand by Republican John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate. But when asked by The Advocate if Palin is ready to be president from day one, Lieberman said: "Thank God she's not going to have to be president from day one. McCain's going to be alive and well."...

Asked if there was nothing he had heard out of the McCain campaign he felt he had to speak out against, Lieberman told reporters: "You have contributed to the demeaning of our politics by this kind of focus. Give me a break." "I'm prepared to be held accountable for my own comments on the campaign trail but I can say, if you gave me the time, all sorts of excesses that have gone on by the four major national candidates"...

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Marc Ambinder Edition)

Marc Ambinder:

A Note To The Younger Staffers On The Two Campaigns: We in the media, those of us who've followed this for a year, certainly engage emotionally with this story...the presidential race. But we can also be very flip and casual about something you take very seriously. I take back nothing I've written. But you've lived in 24/7 in the service of one of the candidates, and for many of you, it is the biggest thing you've ever done in your lives and your their devotion to the cause is intense.  I talk with many of you -- ssh, don't tell your bosses --  I know how long it's been since you've gotten a good night's sleep, visited your girlfriend or boyfriend, eaten a home cooked meal, etc.

It is an awesome thing to do... to try to help elect the next leader of the free world... regardless of which side you're on.    If things play out the way they appear to be playing out, the next twelve days are going to be really tough for those in the McCain campaign, especially those of you who've stuck with him through thick, thin, thin, thin, think and thin, it's an incredible testament to your willingness to fight for a cause.  We need more of you -- and whatever happens in the next 11 days, we ought to try not to forget your dignity.

Ross Douthat:

The Absence of Policy: One of the many fascinating things about Robert Draper's Times Magazine story on the McCain campaign is what isn't included in its account of the attempts to brand (and rebrand, and rebrand) John McCain's candidacy: Namely, any real discussion of policy. From Draper's account, the McCain campaign staff has gone around and around trying to figure out how to sell their candidate - as a fighter! as an experienced leader! as a maverick! etc. - but hardly ever seemed to have spent much time thinking about how these narratives would mesh with or be reinforced by the actual policy agenda the campaign was advancing...

I strongly, strongly oppose what Ambinder says to the staffers of the McCain campaign, for the reasons that Ross Douthat lays out. What we need in America are people who think hard about what a future for this country would be and work hard to elect candidates who will bring that good future into being.

We do not need more careerists--people who work for a candidate because they want the privilege to eat the White House Mess--we need fewer.

We do not need more followers--people who work for a candidate because they think he or she, personally, is a great guy--we need fewer.

At this moment nobody has a clue what policies McCain would follow, on anything, because McCain's preferences on nearly all issues of policy are weak and unstable. All we know about McCain is that he thinks (a) Russians must be confronted with armed force everywhere, (b) American soldiers must never return home in defeat, and (c) he likes to make big bets on poker hands where he has not looked at his own hole cards.

All those still working for the McCain campaign at this point are followers or careerists. They should look at themselves in the mirror hard, and figure out whether they are the kind of people who should play any role in deciding on the future of America.

The Panic of 1873

Thomas Levenson directs us to:

Bad Andrew (and George): Sullivan (and Will) Can2019t Do Economics « The Inverse Square Blog

Bad Andrew (and George): Sullivan (and Will) Can’t Do Economics « The Inverse Square Blog: mage:  The Panic - Run on the Fourth National Bank, No. 20 Nassau Street [New York City, 1873.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a00900 Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (George F. Will Edition)

Outsourced to Thomas Levenson:

Bad Andrew (and George): Sullivan (and Will) Can’t Do Economics « The Inverse Square Blog: [T]his quote approvingly retailed by Sullivan from Will should win some kind of prize for the most ideologically blinkered thought (sic) of the year:

Hundreds of billions of dollars that the political class would have liked to direct for its own social and political purposes have been otherwise allocated. That allocation, by government fiat rather than by market forces, must reduce the efficiency of the nation’s stock of capital.

It’s hard to know where to begin with so much idiocy crammed into so few Augustan words.

Just two thoughts:

First:  those billions that the notional “political class” would have liked to direct to its own ends did not exist as politically available funds until the crisis occurred.

The notion that in the real world any Congress would have said, hell, just increase the deficit by 150 percent or so to buy cupcakes on the moon is nonsense.  I’d like to think that Will (or Sullivan) knows this, but I’m not in fact sure that either of them do.  Spending too long repeating half-learned shibboleths from decades before tends to reduce your ability to connect ideas with observations of the real world.

Second:  Look at that last sentence in the quote again.  A more or less minor error slips in when Will seems to conflate real and financial capital — true beginners buffoonery. For a bigger howler, consider his complaint about government vs. private sector capital allocation.  If “market forces” were so effective at allocating capital, we would, of course, not be in the position of bailing out private market players right now.


Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

More Prominent Republicans Line Up Behind Obama

Added to Colin Powell, we have a bunch.

Susan Davis of the WSJ:

Washington Wire - : Obamacans: Prominent Republicans Line Up Behind Obama: Prominent Republicans have endorsed the Illinois senator over rival John McCain. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld is endorsing Obama today at a press conference in Salem, N.H. Weld was a public supporter of Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries. In a statement, Weld called Obama a “once-in-a-lifetime candidate who will transform our politics and restore America’s standing in the world.” On Thursday, former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson endorsed Obama at the state capitol. “I think we have in Barack Obama the clear possibility of a truly great president,” he said. “I would contend that it’s the most important election of my lifetime.”

Scott McClellan, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush, also endorsed Obama Thursday. USA Today reported that McClellan told CNN in a taping to be aired this weekend that Obama has “the best chance of changing the way Washington works.” Ken Adelman, a prominent conservative on foreign policy matters announced his support for Obama on Tuesday, telling the New Yorker that his decision was based on temperament and judgment. Adelman called McCain “impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird” in his handling of the U.S. economic crisis. He also was unsettled by McCain’s choice of running mate. “Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office—I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency,” Adelman wrote.

UPDATE: Add Charles Fried, a Harvard Law professor and former Solicitor General in the Reagan administration, to the list of Republicans supporting Obama. Fried’s vote for the Democratic ticket is particularly harsh, as he was associated with the McCain campaign. Fried voted absentee for Obama this week, and informed McCain campaign general counsel Trevor Potter of his decision in a letter where he stated he could not support McCain in large part because of his selection of Palin as his running mate.

But where are the economists?

Marty Feldstein?
Glenn Hubbard?
Greg Mankiw?
Eddie Lazear?
John Taylor?
Michael Boskin?
Ken Rogoff?

Ken Adelman's description of McCain on the financial crisis--“impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird”--is dead-on. It's time for anyone who wants a voice in American policymaking over the next generation to climb on board and divorce themselves from the 90 members of the 100 Pro-McCain Economists Club.

Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Kathleen Parker Edition)

I really thought this was Ahab making a joke. I really did:

If I Ran the Zoo: Decline and Fall of the American Op-Ed: In this morning's Post, Kathleen "Save the Males" Parker expresses her ancient POV:

...And though it isn't over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree [when he selected Sarah Palin]. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman's power, made the wrong call? Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire...

It's not a joke. Well, it is, but it's not Ahab's joke.

Shakespeare can write a play about a Roman politician lured from his duty to his doom by a beautiful manipulative and self-centered woman. But that's not the story of John McCain and Sarah Palin--McCain is just a man who likes to bet big on poker hands without bothering to look at his hole cards.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Cry "Havoc!" And Let Slip the Basset Hounds of Attack Politics

Was anybody who wrote for National Review ever sane? Or were people just pretending?

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

The Corner on National Review Online: re: Unleashing Fred [Thompson]: You know, he could bring out some crowds in some battleground states. If I were the McCain campaign, I'd beg him to campaign all next week.

They don't have any money to pay for a bus. They spent it all on Sarah Palin's wardrobe.

National Journal Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Yet Another Stuart Taylor Edition)

We all remember that, to its eternal shame and disgrace, National Journal did not fire Stuart Taylor after he denounced our NATO allies for being "already in an overwrought tizzy about the supposed mistreatment of the 158 detainees at Guantanamo Bay..."

Stuart Taylor is back.

The stupidest moment is his denunciation of Jacob Weisberg:

"Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him," Weisberg asserted in August.... This is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that.... This is not to deny that an Obama loss could plausibly be attributed to race-based voting...

That is the stupidest moment in Taylor's column.It is not the ugliest moment. It is not the ugliest moment by far:

National Journal Magazine - Racism Marginalized -- Even If Obama Loses: An African-American candidate with left-of-center views and less than four years in the Senate appears poised to win the presidential election over a seasoned white war hero who was until lately a media darling.... So, is the racial-grievance crowd celebrating? Hardly. Instead, the obsessive search for ever-more-elusive evidence of widespread white racism and sneaky appeals to it goes on.

The McCain-Palin campaign has certainly showed an ugly side.... [But] the ugliest race-tinged comment by any prominent leader during this campaign came not from a Republican but from Rep. John Lewis... [who] accused McCain and Palin on October 11 of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division," likening them to George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who created an "atmosphere of hate [in which] four little girls were killed." Lewis should be ashamed of himself. It is precisely to avoid stirring up racial division that McCain has passed up what could be one of his most powerful and legitimate issues: Obama's long and close former relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a leftist demagogue given to anti-American, anti-white, hate-filled ravings....

The search for evidence of racism among white voters has been equally tireless and almost as tendentious.... An Associated Press/Yahoo poll in September found that one-third of whites harbor negative attitudes about blacks. That's a lot. But less attention was given to the fact that 58 percent of those with "negative attitudes" said that they would vote for Obama.... Consider the poll's finding that "given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said that the word 'violent' strongly applied."... [T]he answers might have had something to do with the statistical fact that blacks commit seven times as many homicides (and several times as many other violent crimes) per capita as whites.

Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg perceived veiled racism when 14 percent of whites in another poll said yes when asked whether they feared Obama would "favor blacks over whites." But Obama has long supported overt racial affirmative-action preferences that do favor blacks over whites....

Racism-spotters also make much of the "Bradley effect"... seen as proof of white voters lying to pollsters to hide their racism. A more plausible hypothesis might be that they opposed the black candidate on the merits but feared being falsely perceived as racist by the pollsters....

"Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him," Weisberg asserted in August.... This is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that.... This is not to deny that an Obama loss could plausibly be attributed to race-based voting, given all of the reasons one would expect him to win: the financial crisis and recession; two unpopular wars; Republican disarray; the erratic McCain campaign; and Obama's first-rate intellect, calm temperament, gigantic fundraising advantage, and big lead in the polls.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Aimai Wakes Up at 3:39 AM and Starts Blogging

Post the first:

If I Ran the Zoo: Its Official: You Made Me Do It is the Slogan of the GOP going forward: Guess "thou shalt not extort" wasn't implicit in the ten commandments? You'd think with all the other ones the mormons have they might have tried it.

SAN FRANCISCO – Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California made an offer to businesses that have given money to the state's largest gay-rights group: Give us money or we'll publicly identify you as opponents of traditional unions. Supporters of same-sex marriage called the tactic "an attempt to extort people" and "a bit Mafioso"...

Post the Second:

If I Ran the Zoo: Flail: The more I look at the McCain Campaign and its robo-calls the more it reminds me of this in bizzarro world. As far as I can see McCain's "Barack is Fixing Your Bicycle" site would look like this:


Post the third:

If I Ran the Zoo: Tbogg Sums It Up For Us: "Marty Peretz must flip through resumes looking for people who list self-abasement under 'hobbies'." (Glad I didn't take that freshman seminar with Marty. But it explains a lot about the responses from the students who did.)

Post the fourth:

If I Ran the Zoo: Why Isn't This Illegal?: Voter intimidation? Why isn't someone suing Romero and his bosses for intimidation and harrassment?

Post the fifth:

If I Ran the Zoo: Good Thing There's Nothing Much Going On: Since I see that the top three posts at this moment at the NRO's Corner are on celebrities--who is and who isn't, and following up on the overall Basset Hound thing whether Fred Thompson should "be unleashed." I don't know, is he house broken? Worth a read just for its pricless evocation of IOKIYAAR as Jay Nordlinger gratefully accepts Robert Downey Junior into the fold precisely because his outlaw, druggie, ways put him in jail where he learned to be less sympathetic to the unfortunate. See, you can lie, cheat, steal, and do drugs and be a "good conservative" as long as the lesson you draw from this is that more people should suffer and die in prison.

Go see.

Now I want to hear some of those Marty-Peretz-taught-my-freshman-seminar stories...

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps (IPD/TIPP Polling Edition)

Nate Silver: What's Wrong With This Picture? (a.k.a. Nate the Poll Nazi Strikes Again): From the latest IPD/TIPP poll.... That's right... IBD/TIPP has John McCain ahead 74-22 among 18-24 year olds. Who knew the kids were groovin' on J-Mac these days?

IBD/TIPP puts an asterisk by this result, stipulating that "Age 18-24 has much fluctuation due to small sample size"....

Suppose that the true distribution of the 18-24 year old vote is a 15-point edge for Obama. This is a very conservative estimate; most pollsters show a gap of anywhere from 20-35 points among this age range. About 9.3 percent of the electorate was between age 18-24 in 2004. Let's assume that the percentage is also 9.3 percent this year. Again, this is a highly conservative estimate. The IBD/TIPP poll has a sample size of 1,060 likely voters, which would imply that about 98 of those voters are in the 18-24 age range.

What are the odds, given the parameters above, that a random sampling of 98 voters aged 18-24 would distribute themselves 74% to McCain and 22% to Obama? Using a binomial distribution, the odds are 54,604,929,633-to-1 against. That is, about 55 billion to one. So, there is an 0.000000002% chance that IBD/TIPP just got really unlucky. Conversely, there is a 99.999999998% chance that one of the following things is true:

  1. They're massively undersampling the youth vote. If you only have, say, 30 young voters when you should have 100 or so in your sample, than the odds of a freak occurrence like this are significantly more likely.

  2. Something is dramatically wrong with their sampling or weighting procedures, or their likely voter model.

My guess is that it's some combination of the two -- that, for instance, IBD/TIPP is applying a very stringent likely voter model that removes you from the sample if you haven't voted in the past two elections, which would rule a great number of 18-24 year olds out.

A pollster could get away with a turnout model like that in 2004 (when IBD/TIPP did well in estimating the national popular vote), when the split in the youth vote was relatively small between John Kerry and George W. Bush. They can't get away with that this year, when the split is much larger.

But the basic takeaway is this: you should absolutely not assume that just because someone has published a poll, they have any particular idea what they're doing. Pollsters should be treated as guilty until proven otherwise.

John McCain's Palling Around with Terrorists

John McCain: dishonest and dishonorable.

John Dinges:

John Dinges: McCain's Private Visit With Chilean Dictator Pinochet Revealed For First Time: John McCain... sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions.... In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile's military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet.... According to a declassified U.S. Embassy cable secured by The Huffington Post, McCain described the meeting with Pinochet "as friendly and at times warm, but noted that Pinochet does seem obsessed with the threat of communism." McCain, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition in Chile.... At the time of the meeting, in the late afternoon of December 30, the U.S. Justice Department was seeking the extradition of two close Pinochet associates for an act of terrorism in Washington DC, the 1976 assassination of former ambassador to the U.S. and former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. The car bombing on Sheridan Circle in the U.S. capital was widely described at the time as the most egregious act of international terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil by a foreign power....

Other U.S. congressional leaders who visited Chile made public statements against the dictatorship and in support of a return to democracy, at times becoming the target of violent pro-Pinochet demonstrations.

Senator Edward Kennedy arrived only 12 days after McCain in a highly public show of support for democracy.... Mark Schneider, a foreign policy aide and former State Department human rights official who organized Kennedy's trip, said he had no idea McCain had been there only days before. "It would be very surprising and disappointing if Senator McCain went to Chile to meet with a dictator and did not forcefully demand a return to democracy and then to publicly call for a return to democracy," Schneider said....

McCain's presence in Chile was apparently kept as quiet as possible. He and his wife Cindy arrived December 27 and traveled immediately to the scenic Puyehue area of southern Chile to spend several days as the guest of a prominent Pinochet backer, Marco Cariola, who later was elected senator for the conservative UDI party. The trip was arranged by Chile's ambassador to the United States, Hernan Felipe Errazuriz. According to a contemporary government document obtained from Chile, Errazuriz arranged for a special government liaison to help McCain while in Chile for the "strictly private" visit, and described him as "one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy."

Errazuriz also arranged the invitation for the McCains to stay at the farm of his wealthy friend, Marco Cariola, according to Cariola, who did not know McCain previously. The McCains spent the three and a half days fishing for salmon and trout and riding horses. The area is one of Chile's most beautiful tourist attractions, with dozens of crystal clear lakes and rivers surrounded by luxurious estates such as the Cariola farm where the McCains were staying. On December 30, McCain traveled back to Santiago for a 5 pm meeting with dictator Pinochet, followed by a meeting with Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, a member of the country's ruling military junta.

McCain's meeting with Pinochet in 1985 are described in a U.S. embassy cable, based on McCain's debriefing with embassy officials:

Most of his 30-minute meeting with the president, at which foreign minister [Jaime] Del Valle and a ministry staff member were present, was spent in discussing the dangers of communism, a subject about which the president seems obsessed. The President described Chile's recent history in the fight against communism and displayed considerable pride in the fact that the communist menace had been defeated in Chile. The President stressed that Chile had stood alone in this battle, and complained that United States Foreign Policy had left them stranded. The congressman added that talking to Pinochet was somewhat similar to talking with the head of the John Birch Society....

There is no indication that the subject of human rights or return to democracy was raised with Pinochet.... [T]hree years later Pinochet was defeated in a plebiscite in which he was the only candidate, and free elections a year later restored democratic government. A healthy list of U.S. congressmen traveled to Chile in support of the transition to democracy, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar. McCain, by then a first term senator, did not return to Chile.

In addition to the Chilean document and the U.S. cable cited above, at least four other declassified documents refer to McCain's meeting with Pinochet and his interest in Chile.

McCain campaign press office said no one was available to comment on the story.

Former ambassador Errazuriz, reached by phone, said repeatedly "it is not true" that McCain met with Pinochet, that he would have known about it if it had, and that the state Department cable was possibly a fabrication.

John McCain Denounces Sarah Palin's Wardrobe Expenses

John McCain: "The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly..."

Jim Kuhnhenn of AP:

GOP spent $150,000 in donations on Palin's look: WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the Republican Party decided to coordinate expenses with John McCain's presidential campaign, who knew it would be color coordinated. The Republican National Committee spent about $150,000 on clothing, hair styling, makeup and other "campaign accessories" in September for the McCain campaign after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined the ticket as his running mate. The RNC now says the clothes belong to the party committee while the McCain campaign says the clothing will go to a "charitable purpose" after the campaign.

The expenses include $75,062 spent at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and $41,850 in St. Louis in early September. The committee also reported spending $4,100 for makeup and hair consulting. The expenses were first reported by The RNC also spent $4,902 at Atelier, a stylish men's clothing store in New York. Other purchases included a $92 romper and matching hat with ears for Palin's baby, Trig, at Pacifier, a baby store in Minneapolis....

Most of the expenses were initially incurred by Jeff Larson, a Republican consultant who was the chief executive of the host committee for the Republican National Convention in early September. Federal Election Commission records show that the RNC reimbursed Larson for the expenses -- a total of $132,457. Larson is a partner with FLS Connect, a firm that has been retained by the McCain campaign and the RNC to undertake a phone calling campaign on behalf of McCain. Media reports have linked the firm to negative calls.... Larson's previous company worked for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, conducting phone calls in South Carolina opposing McCain....

The RNC is allowed to spend up to $19 million in "coordinated expenses" with the campaign.... The clothing and styling was part of that, but most was spent on postage for campaign mailings.

So why did the RNC and not McCain's committee pay for the accessories?

The 2002 campaign finance law that bears McCain's name specifically barred any funds that "are donated for the purpose of supporting the activities of a federal or state office holder" from being used for personal expenses including clothing. A quirk in the law does not specifically mention party committees, however.... Lawrence M. Noble, former general counsel at the FEC.... "If it is covered (as a personal use expense), the argument that we were going to give it to a charity doesn't help," he added.

Fifteen years ago, McCain himself complained that restrictions on political contributions for personal use at that time were too broad and he wrote an amendment to tighten the law. "The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly," he said on the Senate floor in May 1993.

Understanding the Financial Crisis

Amanda Terkel strikes a blow for Truth, Justice, and the American Way by watching C-SPAN:

Think Progress: Cox, Greenspan, Snow Agree: Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae Did Not Cause The Financial Crisis: According to conservatives, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s audacity to loan to low-income Americans is to blame for the current financial crisis. During the final presidential debate, for example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called the lending giants “the catalyst for this housing crisis.”

Today in a House Oversight Committee hearing with former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, SEC chairman Christopher Cox, and former Treasury secretary John Snow, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) revived that argument. He also tried to tie the crisis to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), holding up a chart called “Follow the Money Trail.” He pointed that Obama has been the largest recipient of donations from Freddie and Fannie. (Actually, he’s the second highest.)

Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) chastised Mica for trying to turn the financial crisis into a political issue. He noted that Freddie and Fannie “certainly played a role” in the current situation, but then asked the witnesses, “Do any of you believe that they were the cause of this financial crisis?” All three men said no.... Federal housing data back up this conclusion — that “the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.” As Center for American Progress Senior Fellows Michael S. Barr and Gene Sperling explain, Freddie and Fannie weren’t even securitizing subprime mortgages en-masse until 2005:

The subprime boom was led by investment banks and mortgage brokers, not by government-sponsored enterprises. Fannie and Freddie became unhinged in the middle of this decade when they tried to play catch-up. Their shareholders and managers pushed them to recover the securitization market share they had lost to unregulated investment banks getting absurd AAA ratings for packaging subprime dross. From 2005 to 2008, Fannie Mae purchased or guaranteed $270 billion in loans to risky borrowers — triple the amount in all its earlier years combined.

As Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker has written, “Fannie and Freddie got into subprime junk and helped fuel the housing bubble, but they were trailing the irrational exuberance of the private sector. They lost market share in the years 2002-2007, as the volume of private issue mortgage backed securities exploded”...

The Information Age

A Correspondent recommends Elaine K. Swift, The Making of an American Senate: Reconstitutive Change in Congress, 1787-1841. But only pages 1-26 are up at Google Books.

Chance that I will buy the book? 0%.

Chance that I will find time the next time I am in the Berkeley library to hunt down the book? 10%.

Chance I would at least skim through the entire book if were all available on Google Books? 80%.

Elaine K. Swift and the University of Michigan Press have lost 7/10 of a reader for the book by their decision to make only a limited rather than a full preview available on Google Books.

Academics and academic publishers who want readers, be warned.

Early Voting in Indiana

Ben Smith relays a story:

Early voting: Here's an early voting story from a medical student in Evansville, Ind.:

I squeaked in just before the 7pm deadline to find two very frustrated poll workers and a line of a couple dozen people, due to problems with the computerized voting system not accepting people's driver's licenses. It was taking about 7-10 minutes per person just to get the computer to accept them as valid and to print out their ballot, causing very long delays.

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president...

Paul Krugman on the Stupidity of the Washington Post

From <>:

Its a conspiracy, I tell you: The folks at Crooked Timber are having some fun with right-wing bloggers who say things like this:

Why the crescendo of economic collapse right before the election? Why didn’t the media and congress act just as concerned some time ago or wait until sometime after the election to go into crisis mode? The timing of the current financial crisis seems too planned and calculating to be just a coincidence. Polls show that people’s number one concern right now is the economy and that for the most part, voters believe Democrats are somewhat more likely to help with the economy. Could it be that the liberal media and those in Congress, knowing that, is blaring the bad economic news from the rooftops in order to manipulate voters into voting for a Democrat? If so, it won’t be the first time.

But why should we be surprised? Before the 2004 election, there was a lot of talk on the right about how George Soros would engineer a financial crisis to swing the election:

Here’s the real worry: Could the master currency trader manipulate the financial markets to create a panic, collapsing the stock market or the U.S. dollar on the eve of the November election?

Still, these are all marginal people, aren’t they? Saying this kind of thing, surely, would get you shunned by the sensible news media. Except it doesn’t. Just over a month ago the Washington Post gave Donald Luskin, who was one of the main proponents of the Evil Soros Conspiracy theory, space on the front page of its Outlook section to explain that the economy was doing OK.

As I have said before, why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Justin Fox Quotes John Maynard Keynes

Justin writes:

The Curious Capitalist: What I didn't realize until yesterday, though, was how long the debate has been going on. John Maynard Keynes explicitly addressed all these arguments in 1936 in chapter 22 of his General Theory (I've read Chapter 12 about 10 times, but apparently never got to Chapter 22). He wrote at length about those who thought the Fed and other central banks should have nipped the late-1920s boom in the bud with tighter monetary policy, and concluded that they were all wet:

The right remedy for the trade cycle is not be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and thus keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.