Friday, September 26, 2008

L'Shanah Tova

It means Happy New Year, or Happy Rosh Hashanah. This is a bit early as the holiday doesn't actually begin until sundown Monday, September 29. By then I will be in Florida to spend the High Holy Days with my 95 year old father, who remains in good health. To be honest, I'm looking forward to time away from blogs, pundits, and politics. Although to be even more honest, South Floridians, especially senior citizens, are highly politicized, mostly Democratic, and very vocal. So, there will be political discussions. Still, I'm looking forward to listening to my dad's friends brag about their grandchildren (and great grandchildren), passing around the pictures, and complaining about the hot weather.

I'm leaving tomorrow, early in the morning, and have a lot to wrap up today; so this is it for a while - at least until next Friday or Saturday. Until then, be good, be kind and be safe!

And may there be some agreement on a rational plan to stanch the financial crisis.

Jim Webb and Democratic Senators Propose Terms of Bailout

Like most average Americans, I'm ambivalent about all the proposed versions of bailout plans now emerging after the bipartisan compromise with the administration on Paulson's plan has so far failed. The problem is that I don't know whom to believe. Waiting too long could indeed lead to an ever growing crisis that spirals further out of control and becomes more expensive to fix, and causes more pain to ordinary working people in the end. Here's what's at stake. As credit continues to dry up, loans are harder to get, credit cards are impacted, and pension plans are threatened. In addition, without the ability of even those with excellent credit ratings who can afford mortgages to get them, the housing market plummets further, which leads to more defaults. In other words, the dominoes tumble, and they tumble globally not just nationally.

Still, a lot of credible economists are not convinced that Paulson's package is the most effective one to fix this. Nor are they convinced this is as dire a situation as Bush and Paulson have painted it. With all the differing opinions swirling around, especially the ones by respected economists, I just don't know what to believe. However, a group of Democrats in the Senate has issued a letter to their leader that has what looks to me like some pretty good points for a compromise plan.

Today, Senator Jim Webb and 8 of his Democratic colleagues made public this letter to Senate Leader Harry Reid. It appears to lay down some sensible provisions for a bailout that would protect taxpayers' money and not turn this into reward that protects irresponsible bankers who caused this mess.
September 26, 2008

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

The undersigned Senators appreciate the time-sensitive nature of the current financial crisis, but want to ensure that several provisions are included in any proposal. While we have not yet seen the proposed compromise legislation, our priority is to ensure that given the impact the legislation would have on U.S. taxpayers, a number of fundamental points must be addressed.

They are as follows:

First, a new regulatory structure must be established to protect our financial system against further instability. Given the time constraints of this crisis, regulation can be put in place following the completion of the current legislation, but should be developed no later than the first six (6) months after passage.

Second, the funds requested by the Treasury Department should be released in installments. A 'tranched' approach would permit the Congress to properly fulfill its oversight role and to monitor the implementation of a new regulatory structure.

Third, limits should be proposed on the compensation of executives at private institutions participating in the Treasury's program. A mechanism could also be put in place to provide for executives to receive increased compensation if they return their companies to profitability and make taxpayers whole. But if taxpayers will be asked to make historical sacrifices, so should the institutions and individuals who facilitated this crisis.

Fourth, in exchange for taxpayer assistance, the government should take equity in the troubled institutions through warrants, contingent shares, or a senior debt instrument in the case of non-publicly traded entity. The goal of the valuation of the contingent shares/warrants received by the government should be to protect the taxpayers from loss to the greatest extent possible and any gains are returned to the U.S. Treasury.

Lastly, foreign central banks, not the U.S. taxpayer, should provide financial assistance to foreign-based institutions and their U.S. subsidiaries.

Jim Webb (D-VA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Ken Salazar (D-CO)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

cc: The Honorable Christopher Dodd
Chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

The Honorable Richard C. Shelby
Ranking Member Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

The Four Horses of the Apocalypse Ride: I Agree With Brian Kirwin

I am absolutely astounded!

I agree whole heartedly with Brian Kirwin on something. And I actually have to capture the moment. I know it won't last. In fact, I am certain that we'll be disagreeing shortly on the nuts and bolts of a plan to shore up the markets and maybe end the financial crisis, but he is on target in what he says in this post on Bearing Drift.
I’m convinced people don’t mind government stepping in to shore up credit markets to make sure the economy doesn’t free-fall. No one’s thrilled about it, but letting the nation crash so it may eventually rebound sounds great on a blog, but this isn’t like sweating out a cold. People will be hurt badly in pursuit of some ultra-libertarian pursuit of economic purity. But in the same day that newspapers report about the bailout, newspapers report this.
Circuit City Stores Inc.’s departing chief executive is receiving at least $1.8 million in a severance deal (AP)
Here, Brian shows that he thoroughly gets it.
Circuit City, a company that’s lost money every quarter but one since early 2007, who fired loads of employees and offered to hire them back at lower salaries, whose stock fell to a 22 year low yesterday, can cough up millions to the guy who led the way to the basement?

Regular folks hurt by a slowing economy don’t get 1.8 million when they’re fired. Folks, that’s the base of Reagan Democrats who have union jobs and conservative values, and they just want to work.People have no problem with rewarding those who do well. Millions for fatcats who did horrible jobs will destroy this bailout.
Brian then goes on to suggest that spending $700 billion to invest in energy development in this country could lead to an economic boom. But saving golden parachutes and bonuses for the very executives who led us into this mess is a deal breaker for both sides.

Now, if Brian and I agree on something either it's because it's really true and we're close to a solution, or it's the unleashing of the four horses of the Apocalypse and the end is very near. Or maybe both!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We Are All Keynsian - Again!

With the collapse of Reaganomics and the end of the Laffer Curve, an economic philosophy written on a cocktail napkin, and especially with the end of faith in a self-correcting free market capable of behaving like a rational person (btw, ascribing human traits to non-human entities is known as the "pathetic fallacy" in logic), some are dusting off their old copies of John Maynard Keynes' "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money." Certainly, David Ignatius, over at the Washington Post, did just that and reminded us of certain Keynsian fundamentals that explained the economic crises of World War I, the Great Depression, and were a prescription for post-World War II economic prosperity.

Most of us remember Keynes from our college economics courses as the guy who advocated deficit spending to "prime the pump" during downturns. And that was certainly part of his argument. But revisiting "The General Theory," what's striking is that it's a book about economic panics and the market psychology that produces them -- and the consequent need for government intervention. Parts of it could have been written this week to describe the cascading defaults of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.

The problem with financial markets, Keynes argued, was that investors were periodically seized by an extreme form of what he called "liquidity preference," which made them wary of putting their money into anything but the safest investments. "It is of the nature of organized investment markets . . . that, when disillusion falls upon an over-optimistic and over-bought market, it should fall with sudden and even catastrophic force," he wrote. "Once doubt begins it spreads rapidly."

That's a pretty good description of what has been happening on Wall Street over the past few months. We've gone from a bubble of overenthusiasm, in which interest-rate spreads took little account of risk, to a state of panic in which financial institutions are so risk-averse that they don't want to lend to anyone. As Keynes observed, "the actual, private object of the most skilled investment today is . . . to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow."

Keynes's revolutionary idea was that financial markets were not inherently self-correcting, as classical economics had argued. Left to itself, Wall Street might remain in a liquidity trap in which the markets would stay frozen and productive investment would cease. So it fell to the government to take actions that would restore confidence and stimulate investment. "I conclude that the duty of ordering the current volume of investment cannot safely be left in private hands," he wrote.
According to Keynes and the post-war generation that built one of the most prosperous periods in world history, the role of the government was indeed to prime the pump and manage the markets by using rational intervention to aid them. The goal was to produce the greatest prosperity for the most amount of people, not to create a gilded age with sharp delineations of haves and have nots. Nor was the goal to destroy the markets. It was to understand that the rational intervention of human beings helped to preserve a true free and prosperous market.

As Ignatius, in his updated re-reading of Keynes, notes, this current market crisis has spun out of control so fast that it even would have daunted Keynes with its sheer size and depth.
What advice would Keynes offer Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke? His first instinct, I think, would be to reiterate that markets, left to themselves, will not solve this sort of crisis. They need government help -- in this case, on a scale that would have daunted even Keynes -- including underwriting mortgage loans, backstopping the market for credit swaps and other steps. But if these measures are taken piecemeal, without broad political support, they may only add to the public's anxiety. Indeed, that's a real worry now: A Wall Street panic may become a Main Street panic.

Keynes's biographer, Robert Skidelsky, makes clear that at every stage of Keynes's career, he tried to think broadly about the social and political consequences of economic policy. That was true in his famous denunciation of onerous German reparations payments after World War I, which he correctly warned would lead to a future war; it was true in the magnanimity of the post-World War II international financial system he helped create at Bretton Woods.

A truly Keynesian rescue plan should do more than bail out foolish investors. How might the pieces fit into a larger design? Well, if the taxpayers are going to acquire a stake in the nation's largest insurance company, perhaps that company can be the cornerstone of a new system of universal private health coverage. If the taxpayers are going to acquire $700 billion in real estate assets, perhaps the eventual profits can fund new investments in infrastructure or energy technology.

Keynes spoke in the finicky English of a Cambridge don, but listen to what he said: "When the capital development of a country becomes a byproduct of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done." Keynes wouldn't have wanted to nationalize that casino; he was an active investor himself. But he reminds us that public purposes are best served by public institutions.
The key assumption, of course, is that these are democratically elected institutions that have the public's faith. To do that, we first have to admit there is a place for the government. Markets are not inherently smart, and government is not inherently evil. Under years of Republican misrule, which produced a corrosive private ideology and public policy, there has been an erosion of trust in government. Reagan and his heirs have made theirs a lasting legacy of mistrust for all government institutions. But in an elected democracy, what they have encouraged us to distrust is ourselves. And they've asked us to deny our ability as a community and a nation to solve our economic problems in ways that benefit the entire public good. They have fostered profound cynicism and greed. And finally it is they who have waged class warfare against the middle class and working people.

It's time to say that the Arthur Laffers, Jude Wanniskis and Milton Friedmans were emperors without clothes, whose ideologies have finally been exposed as the great failure of the last half of the 20th Century.

When Is A Campaign Not Really Suspended?

When is the suspension of a presidential campaign not a real suspension at all? When serial flip flopper John McCain declares to the nation that he's suspending his campaign and wants to postpone the upcoming debate. But at the same time, the campaign keeps right on rolling along, with McCain himself continuing to do interviews, like the one he did with Katie Couric last night, while stiffing a scheduled appearance with David Letterman and meeting with former Hillary Clinton supporter and embittered PUMA Lady Lynne Forrester de Rothschild (yes, that Rothschild) and when his campaign still remains open and active. Huffington Post has a run down of all the campaign activity that has taken place during this campaign suspension.
Across the country, McCain campaign offices are up and running, accepting volunteers, conducting phone banking, literature dropping and other GOTV activities. This held true on a local, state, and even regional level. The Huffington Post called up 15 McCain-Palin and McCain Victory Committee headquarters in various battleground states. Not one said that it was temporarily halting operations because of the supposed "suspension" in the campaign. Several, in fact, enthusiastically declared the continuation of their work. Others hadn't even heard that the candidate for whom they were devoting their time had officially stopped campaigning.

In Ohio, Brenda Lewis of the Greene County Victory Office seemed surprised there was any doubt that the office would be open. "Suspension of the campaign?" she asked out loud, before saying that her colleagues would be phone banking, going door to door, and could use some front desk help as well as assistance getting signs together. Similar level of activities were taking place in the state's Franklin County and Clark County offices.
And closer to home, Lowell reports that the McCain campaign is still robustly working away on GOTV efforts in Virginia. A reader emailed him that the McCain headquarters in Arlington is definitely open for business and encouraging volunteers to come in. And McCain himself is scheduled to do three major television interviews tonight according to Politico's Jonathan Martin.

Excuse me but McCain's latest ploy to be a "game changer" is looking stupider and more cynical by the minute. Unfortunately, the only people being fooled are loyal Republican bloggers and pundits, who, I think, really know in their hearts that they are being played. There are some Republicans in the blogosphere I genuinely admire, but I think they've been dealt a bum hand in having to defend this guy. He's just not the old John McCain of 1999 and 2000.

Palin Not Ready For Primetime So McCain Seeks Debate Delay

Update II: Wonkette chimes in with this.
Here is a brilliant switcheroo! John McCain proposes delaying his debate if he has not singlehandedly resolved America’s financial crisis by tomorrow, so that way he and Barack Obama can debate next Thursday — the night when Sarah Palin and Joe Biden were set to debate. And then once they’ve rescheduled the Palin/Biden debate, John McCain can pull another crazy stunt — announcing his own daughter is fake pregnant, maybe, or firing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or refusing to appear in public in anything but a glittering leotard — and everyone will forget all about this Palin nut and how she withers under intense questioning by Katie freaking Couric. John McCain will personally bomb North Korea in an ancient fighter plane with a Muppet as his co-pilot before he allows Sarah Palin to debate anything besides a goldfish. A dead goldfish.

UPDATE: The Anonymous Liberal pretty much came to the same conclusion as me and does a brilliant job of explaining his line of reasoning. As he points out, Palin's statement that without the bailout this country is headed into another Great Depression might be true but was something no politician should have said publicly. It could become self-fulfilling prophecy and further panic skitterish markets. Also, it practically forces McCain into having to vote for the bailout package. And Palin also should have been better prepped about her running mate's record on the the Commerce Committee. Instead, we now have a sound byte from her where the take home message is that McCain did little to support any regulatory action that might have prevented the meltdown. All this would have received far more airplay had McCain not made a dramatic move to deflect attention from it. BTW, it appears Andrew Sullivan agrees with Anonymous Liberal's analyis.

The chattering class pretty much agrees that John McCain's decision to suspend his campaign and postpone the Friday night debate is a desperate political ploy because his poll numbers are falling and he is not prepared to debate the economy one to one with Barack Obama.

But I suspect the real reason for John McCain's grandstanding about suspending his campaign and postponing the debate has less to do with his own unreadiness or inability than with his running mate simply not being up to speed yet. It's actually her debate they are trying move off the radar. Let's face it, every time they take Sarah Palin even slightly outside the bubble and let her talk to a real journalist, she proves she's just not ready for prime time.

Even in her one on one with Katie Couric, in which Couric promised to eschew gotcha questions, Palin was not up to muster. Just watch.

Palin is perky, she's cute as a button, and about as dumb as one. She couldn't find one example of her running mate having supported any regulation of the financial markets in his 26 year career. Surely the reformer and well known maverick stood up to banking interests at least once or twice. But Palin wasn't even prepared to defend his record. So, the McCain campaign knows it can't let her go up against Joe Biden who is brilliant and a master debater.

ABC has confirmed that the McCain campaign is now suggesting that his debate with Barack Obama be moved to the October 2 time slot in which Palin and Biden were to go head to head. And the vice presidential debate would then be postponed to an unspecified time. I bet the McCain camp is hoping to get lucky and run the clock down without Palin ever having to meet Joe Biden.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and because of McCain's reckless judgment in picking this particular running mate, his campaign is pretty desperate now. The dominoes keep falling.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John McCain Cancels on Dave Letterman

H/t to Huffington Post. This is funny!

Also, claims that the McCain campaign is actually cancelled have been greatly exaggerated, as RK shows with this post. John McCain may be racing back to Washington (ok with a slight detour to the Katie Couric show, as the video shows) but his ground game in Virginia certainly has not been suspended. As Dave Letterman said, "this smells."

McCain Suspends Campaign and Asks for Postponement of Debate: Obama Refuses

UPDATE: The public is not buying McCain's use of the economic crisis to postpone the debate. According to SurveyUSA, 50 percent want to see the debate go on as scheduled, 36 percent believe the debate should occur but the focus should change from foreign policy to the economy, and only 10 percent want to see it postponed.

John McCain has sent shock waves across the media with his announcement that he is suspending his campaign to focus on finding a legislative solution to the economic crisis. He has also asked for this Friday's debate to be canceled. Republicans across the blogosphere, of course, are marching it lock step with McCain's campaign and citing this as evidence that John McCain puts country before politics. It's a brilliant gamble.

It's also not so brilliant horse hockey as skeptical Democrats are pointing out (here, here, here, and here).

One of the salient points, according to TPM, is that Obama actually approached McCain and made the first gesture.
From Obama spokesperson Bill Burton:
At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.
The truth is that if John McCain were serious and if this were anything more than a political stunt, he would have issued a joint statement with Barack Obama suspending both campaigns. This is one more desperate Hail Mary pass. The man can read a poll. Once again, when he's down in the numbers, McCain will make an erratic decision.

More troubling is why you need to suspend your campaign to take a vote? In an age of blackberries, computers, 24/7 news cycles, and electronic communication why can't he multi-task? Does McCain actually think that once he's in the White House he'll get to deal with one crisis at a time in a leisurely fashion? Actually, the crises come fast and furious and you don't get to pick and choose which one to deal with and when. But more important than all this is the fact that Americans really deserve a full debate on the issues precisely because there is a crisis. Voters - no make that citizens - deserve to see each candidate, to hear what each one has to say, to take the measure of each one to see which is the more presidential in demeanor and temperament. CNN once again nails it:

Campbell Brown Demands McCain Campaign "Free Sarah Palin"

Basically Campbell Brown has turned the tables on the McCain campaign and accused them of being the sexists by not trusting their VP candidate to handle the rough and tumble of media interviews and coverage. Indeed, as Brown cleverly points out, it's Sarah Palin who is getting special treatment. Specifically, she's being shielded like a hot house flower who would wilt under the withering treatment of reporters - you know, the exact same treatment that John McCain, himself; Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and even Hillary Clinton receive as candidates.

Campbell Brown calls upon the McCain campaign to free Sarah Palin and let her show her stuff. I agree!

Keith Fimian Not Even a Good Businessman

There's a new anti-Fimian TV ad, which points out that in addition to Keith Fimian opposing a woman's freedom to choose, his much vaunted business experience is less than meets the eye. Fimian's company, apparently, has been sued 40 times and even had an IRS tax lien against it.

H/t to Left of the Hill

That is hardly the type of judgment we need in somebody we send to Congress from the 11th CD.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bush-Paulson Don't Get to Dictate the Terms of Surrender on the Economy!

I think Arianna Huffington, in her column on the Huffington Post, just nailed the view that many of us have about the economic bailout:
Over the past 30 years, Americans have been bombarded with sermons evangelizing for the free market religion of the Right, and the supposed correlation between unregulated markets and progress. In the process, the American people have been demoted from citizens to consumers, and sold a bill of goods (rather than a Bill of Rights) about how the almighty market was the essential foundation of democracy.

In the course of selling us on buying, the market-worshippers shredded the modern social contract, the hard-fought consensus that had emerged since the New Deal, which ordered our political priorities, and expressed both our communal concern for the most vulnerable members of society and our disapproval of huge inequalities. We were now supposed to believe that all could be left up to the soulless, self-correcting calculus of supply and demand. Government involvement was an anachronism, regulatory oversight an impediment.

The last few weeks have demolished that notion. In the battle over the proper role of government, the forces of the Right, the high priests of the church of the Free Market -- including Bush, Paulson, and the Masters of Wall Street -- have suffered a monumental defeat. So why are we allowing them to dictate the terms of their surrender?
'Nuff said.

The Unkindest Cut to McCain

I always knew the McCain campaign would not implode and consume itself in a fiery blast and go down to smoking ruin but would die a slow death of a thousand cuts. Still, George Will just inflicted a pretty big wound on McCain’s campaign today with this column.
Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."
Ok, I don’t agree with Mr. Will or the WSJ about that last sentence. In fact, I believe Obama has a far better grasp of the Street than McCain ever will because the Arizona senator has chosen to insulate himself in a bubble with advisers whose anti-regulatory, free market ideology is largely responsible for this mess to begin with.

Nevertheless, one thing Will and other thoughtful, mainstream conservatives are starting to see, and this is where I agree with them, McCain is temperamentally unsuited to be president.
In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending.
In addition:
Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
McCain’s hot headedness has long been documented and it’s raised questions in the past among his Senate colleagues. Here’s the danger.

John McCain has been given a free ride on national security. The press and public both have assumed that he’s the stronger candidate on those issues and if the economy hadn’t so dramatically grabbed center stage, Americans would be giving their trust to a McCain presidency, especially if the crisis had been a military or national security emergency rather than an economic one. But McCain is no more worthy of trust in the area of national security and for much the same basic reason.

Experience and knowledge aside, does anybody want somebody with John McCain's explosive temper and unpredictable decision-making abilities having his hand so near the button? Would anybody even trust him to the serious job of negotiation with a foreign power? Let's face it, at 3 a.m., the last thing you need in the White House is a hot head having a temper tantrum because somebody he already considers evil has woken him up. What's needed in crisis, whether economic or military is a calm, cool and logical mind not somebody given to quirky bursts of temper.

As Will so aptly points out, experience can be gained. A temperament like John McCain’s cannot be corrected, especially in a 72 year old man so set in his ways. And frankly, his running mate, Sarah Palin, should inspire no greater faith than he does. She lacks experience and temperament. Like McCain, she is incurious, sees the world in black and white, and during her tenure as governor has lashed out and persecuted her enemies, both personal and political – that’s what Troopergate is all about.

So not by a thousand cuts, but George Will may have delivered the mortal wound to McCain’s candidacy, at least among serious, mainstream conservatives who still value their nation’s well being above shallow partisan triumphalism.

Monday, September 22, 2008

When The Rising Tide Drowns You

No doubt it's the economy that's causing the uptick in support for Barack Obama and a sudden wave of anxiety about John McCain's candidacy. Here's some recent results from a couple of polls that illustrate the changing fortunes caused by the economic shocks of the last few days.

Recent polls are looking modestly better for Barack Obama, who appears to have regained a slim lead over John McCain. According to both RK and NLS, Survey USA is reporting that Obama is up by 51 to 45 percent over McCain in Virginia. Women are now breaking for Obama by 55 percent and McCain only has 39 percent. Men in Virginia still support McCain by 50 to 46 percent. And young people go for Obama by 55 percent. Those over 65 favor McCain by 49 percent over 47 percent for Obama. So Virginia remains a battleground state.

An even more encouraging poll was just reported (h/t to Huffington Post) by CNN. According to their results, Americans blame the Republicans by a 2 to 1 margin for the economic crisis and believe that Democrats would be better at handling it than Republicans. Specifically, they trust Obama more than McCain.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll suggests that by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis that has swept across the country the past few weeks — one factor that may have contributed to an apparent increase in Barack Obama’s edge over John McCain in the race for the White House.

In the new survey, released Monday afternoon, 47 percent of registered voters questioned say Republicans are more responsible for the problems currently facing financial institutions and the stock market, with 24 percent saying Democrats are more responsible. One in five of those polled blame both parties equally, and 8 percent say neither party is to blame.

The poll also indicates that more Americans think Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, would do a better job handling an economic crisis than McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. Forty-nine percent of those questioned say Obama would display good judgment in an economic crisis, 6 points higher than the number who said the same about McCain. And Obama has a 10 point lead over McCain on the question of who would better handle the economy overall.
Even better, listen to where Obama has made his recent gains.

Where did Obama make his gains?

"In two core McCain constituencies: Men, who now narrowly favor Obama. And seniors, who have also flipped from McCain to Obama," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

When including only those people most likely to vote, the results are pretty much the same: Among likely voters, Obama has a 4 point lead, 51 percent to 47 percent.

The new CNN poll of polls also shows Obama with a similar advantage — 49 percent for Obama to 44 percent for John McCain.

"The economy has always been considered John McCain's Achilles’ heel, and the CNN poll of polls started to show an Obama edge in the middle of last week — just as the financial crisis began to hit home for many Americans," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
And the Sarah Palin effect may be dimming too.

Another factor could be McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Thirty-five percent of those questioned have an unfavorable opinion of her, up 8 points from our previous survey. And two-thirds believe she and her husband should testify in the Alaska investigation into her firing of a state official.

"Change has always been Obama's strong suit, but McCain and Palin clearly made inroads into that issue during the GOP convention," said Holland. "Palin, in particular, was seen as an agent of change when she made her first appearance on the national stage. That may be changing now."
Palin may well turn out to be what the music industry calls a one hit wonder. The choice of her as a running mate seemed so startling, it indeed was a game changer - temporarily. And in a time of peace and prosperity, the ploy of picking an attractive, young, unknown female as a running mate might have worked. They might even have gotten away with the "two mavericks" theme. Certainly, the media was prepared to be entranced by Palin, and McCain for choosing her.

Then reality threw a bucket of cold water in everybody's faces. In a nation still running up a deficit from a poorly chosen war of choice in Iraq, the federal government is now being called upon to bail out the fat cats, who got so greedy with their tricky and complicated investments, their predatory loans and mortages, their creative and complicated derivates which nobody can decipher, and their lack of liquidity. And the public is downright sour about it.
The poll also sheds more light on how Americans feel about the financial crisis. Twenty-two percent say they are scared about the crisis, with two-thirds concerned. Eleven percent say they are not worried.

Most Americans think that the programs to deal with the financial crisis currently being worked on by Congress and the Bush administration will be unfair to U.S. Taxpayers — but they think those programs will ultimately help the economy.

In general, six in ten believe that federal government should step in and address the financial crisis; 37 percent say the government should stay out. But when it comes to last week's bailouts, support slips to 55 percent — and given the concerns about how future programs will affect taxpayers, it conceivable that public support for the plans that Congress and the administration are working on could fall even lower.
For what it's worth, I think the plan will be both necessary to keep us from total economic collapse and it will be as unfair as President Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson can get away with. Otherwise, why would they try to ram through something like this.
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

In short, the so-called "mother of all bailouts," which will transfer $700 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the distressed assets of several failed financial institutions, will be conducted in a manner unchallengeable by courts and ungovernable by the People's duly sworn representatives. All decision-making power will be consolidated into the Executive Branch - who, we remind you, will have the incentive to act upon this privilege as quickly as possible, before they leave office. The measure will run up the budget deficit by a significant amount, with no guarantee of recouping the outlay, and no fundamental means of holding those who fail to do so accountable
In addition, Bush and Paulson don't want to address CEO compensation packages or relief for ordinary citizens caught up in housing bubble. It appears that when it comes to bailouts, they want to protect the greedy robber barons who caused this, right up to protecting their golden parachutes, while leaving ordinary working people, as usual, on their own to sink or swim. And they don't mind tying a rock to that working stiff's feet to make sure floating isn't an option for him. The rising tide not only isn't lifting all ships, it's drowning the American Dream for ordinary people.

This time, though, I'm not sure it's going to work for the Republicans and their cronies. I believe we can say about Reaganomics, "stick a fork in it - it's done!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Photos from Joe Biden Rally in Loudoun County

Sorry for taking so long to post these pictures, but it's been a very hectic weekend, which included a trip to Roanoke for a Coalition of Labor Union Women dinner on Saturday and a fundraiser for Mark Warner in Haymarket on Sunday.

Anyway, these photos were shot at the Joe Biden Rally in Loudoun County this past Friday.

Joe's wife, Dr. Jill Biden speaking to the crowd about Joe's work on legislation protecting women from domestic violence.
Maryland Senator, Barbara Mikulski, walking with Joe Biden. She too spoke on behalf of Biden and his work to protect victims of domestic violence.

Joe Biden speaking.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Farewell to Sally Ormsby a Great Lady

Eileen Nelson has a lovely and sad guest post up at Not Larry Sabato about the passing of long time Democratic activist and member of the Soil and Water Conservation Board, Sally Ormsby. In addition to her service on the Soil and Water Conservation Board, Sally was an elder in the Providence Presbytarian Church and 2006 recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award from the Fairfax County Federation of Citizen Associations.

Whenever I attended any Democratic event, Sally was always there, always serving in some capacity. She was involved in efforts to make her community and all of Fairfax County a better place for all residents regardless of political affiliation. Here's an excerpt from Eileen's post:
Sally Ormsby understood that to get things done, you get involved. She served her neighborhood, her church, her party, and her community. Look at the list of attendees at any Mantua HOA meeting and she was there (and probably taking minutes). Providence Presbyterian Church elected her as an elder. FCDC relied on her leadership as the Price Precinct Captain for more years than anyone can remember. And, we have all been well-represented by her service on the Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Providence Council.

Sally hosted more meetings and parties at her home than most people running for office ever think about throwing. If you have ever addressed envelops at a democratic mailing, Sally was probably at the next table. She was always one of the last to leave, because she wanted to make sure the job was done.

She coaxed us into making phone calls on Election Day, signed us up to work on Back-to-School Nights, and turned us into Poll Watchers.

She made the best lemon squares.

She was a really nice lady.
Yes, she was a really nice lady. And tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with her family. May she rest in peace and hear the words "Well done faithful servant."

The Stealth Campaign in the 11th CD

My Burke blogging colleague from the right, Bwana, had a great post up, decrying the lack of activity in the 11th CD race for Congress. Indeed, he termed our district the "Stealthy Eleventh." Actually, I'm beginning to see some activity.

Driving up Route 123 on Sunday I saw a bunch of Gerry Connolly signs. Although there seems to be much fewer Fimian signs, they're bigger. Also, I've gotten a robo-call from a Heather about Fimian and a couple of door hanger pieces asking "Where's Gerry?"

I'm not sure why Mr. Fimian can't find Gerry Connolly - perhaps it's because he needs a map of the district he hopes to represent - but I've seen Connolly around quite a bit. In fact, I've never met or seen Keith Fimian except for in a picture on his website. And while I was pulling into a parking space tonight, a nice looking young man who was hanging the lit on doors brushed past at a lightening speed. Normally people smile or stop to chat a minute when you find them near your door.

Meanwhile, Gerry's website has a rather humorous post that apparently shows that he and Fimian do have some scheduled debates and meetings together. In addition to the Prince William Committee of 100 hosting a candidates' program on September 18 at the Montclair Country Club, with Channel 8's Matt Brock serving as moderator, check out the following:
There are also debates scheduled with the League of Women Voters, Prince William Chamber of Commerce and various and sundry other organizations. I imagine each of these groups will be working to raise “awareness” for their respective events in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the one thing I actually couldn't find in any of Fimian's campaign literature, road signs, or even from Heather's robo-call is any mention that he happens to be a Republican. Contrast that with Gerry, whose signs state plainly what his party affiliation is.

Connolly's not ducking but Fimian is running away faster than an Olympic sprinter from his affiliations both as a Republican and as an acolyte of radical theocrat Tom Monaghan. Speaking of who is hiding more, Fimian has yet to answer how he feels about separation of church and state and a woman's freedom to use birth control.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fimian Dissed by McCain Rally Organizers

Left of the Hill has the story. Apparently Keith Fimian, candidate for the 11th CD, expected to have a "huge presence" at the recent McCain-Palin rally held in Fairfax City on Wednesday, September 10. Fimian anticpated that he would participate in the event and perhaps even have a speaking role. Instead here's what happened.
It turns out that "huge presence" was simply Keith walking up and down the line shaking hands with people waiting to get into the event. Not only did he not get to give that speech he was hoping to give, but reliable sources say that the Republican leadership never even gave him much consideration as a potential speaker. So much for the GOP having confidence in Keith Fimian.
Perhaps the the GOP professionals realize he's not ready for prime time yet.

Latest Obama Ad: Honor

H/t to Huffington Post

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin is W Light

I watched Sarah Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson on Friday night. She didn’t’ do badly. She didn’t do well. Her performance was mostly confident and self-assured but she hesitated at crucial moments when questioned about the Bush doctrine or when Gibson pressed her about her support for the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it. As he pointed out the various discrepancies in her statements, she either glossed over them or sought to change the topic. All in all a skilled performance that managed to side skirt her deficiencies to all but the most critical eye. Expect no major melt downs from this canny politician. An occasional flub here or there, which even the most polished might trip up on.

But her self-assured performance left me with an eerie feeling of déjà vu. What other self-confident small state governor, in his first run for the presidency, was also too cocky to know what he didn’t know going into office?

Maureen Dowd, of all people, nails it here.
The really scary part of the Palin interview was how much she seemed like W. in 2000, and not just the way she pronounced nu-cue-lar. She had the same flimsy but tenacious adeptness at saying nothing, the same generalities and platitudes, the same restrained resentment at being pressed to be specific, as though specific is the province of silly eggheads, not people who clear brush at the ranch or shoot moose on the tundra.

Just as W. once could not name the General-General running Pakistan, so Palin took a position on Pakistan that McCain had derided as naïve when Obama took it.
I’m not really a big fan of Dowd’s but I think she’s really spot on in this column with this observation:
She tried to finesse her previous church comments about Iraq, asking worshipers to pray “that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.” Earnestly repeating after her tutors, she said she had meant to echo Abraham Lincoln, that in war we must pray that we are on God’s side rather than that he is on ours. But her original comments sounded more W. than Abe — taking your policy and ideology and giving it the hallowed mantle of a mission from God.
So, now you have it. Sarah Palin is even more like George Bush than John McSame is.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

And Furthermore, Sarah Palin Hates Wolves!

WARNING: SNARK ALERT! Because I just couldn't resist.

Ben has a video up of the McCain-Palin ad, where a pack of wolves circles in on Sarah Palin while a sarcastic woman's voice over accuses the Obama campaign of vowing to destroy Palin as Obama drops in the polls. Ben asks if the ad is racist. Actually it's not. The wolves represent a bunch of lawyers allegedly sent to Alaska by the Obama camp to vet Sarah Palin and dig up dirt on her. It's just nasty and a lie to boot (so, what's one more fib from a campaign that's staking its future on lies). As it turns out, the Obama campaign and the DNC have denied sending lawyers or anybody else to Alaska but the Republicans have, no doubt to finish the hasty vetting job the McCain campaign did when the presidential nominee made his whimsical decision to pick an unknown, untested, but charismatic small state governor to be his running mate.

But it appears that those wolves have more to fear from Palin than visa versa. H/t to Huffington Post.

Poor wolves! Bad Sarah!

Friday, September 12, 2008

John McCain the Unmaverick Unmasked on the View

Ok, I promise you I'll be back with an actual well-written, thoroughly researched and sourced diary over the weekend. For your information, I've been putting my good where it will do the most - volunteering with the Obama campaign. My offer still stands - come to the Obama Headquarters at 11184 Lee Highway, Fairfax City, VA 22030 (at Jermantown Road). (703) 383-0259. on Sundays from 3 to 6 p.m. and I'll be there at the front desk. You can say hello, yell at me, or whatever just as long as you also volunteer some time phone banking, entering data (it's easy - I've done it) or canvassing. For canvassing you actually have to get there earlier. Here's the schedule.

It's 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 noon on Sundays.

In addition, I've been helping a few nights a week with setting up the schedule for those volunteering to do data entry. And I have a day job. So if I've been neglecting my blog it's all in a good cause. I've determined that the practical, though sometimes less flashy skills, are probably the most valuable. So, I've been throwing up lots of videos and links to other sites rather than doing original work. My apologies and I promise I'll try to juggle it all. But I'll probably be back to a full writing schedule some time after the elections. I'm long on thoughts but short on time.

Anyway, here's a great video of the ladies of The View, especially Barbara Walters, and their somewhat skeptical reception to John McCain's claim that Sarah Palin will be a reformer and a maverick. H/t to RK for this.

And now the debunking:
On Friday, when McCain introduced her as his running mate, she said she "championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending," the legislative technique used to slip projects into appropriations bills without rigorous congressional review

But under her leadership, the state of Alaska has requested 31 earmarks worth $197.8 million in next year's federal budget, according to the website of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Palin has recently been publicly critical of requests made in past years by Stevens and others for $223 million in federal funds for a bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Gravina Island, calling it "the Bridge to Nowhere," a derogatory label critics attached to the project.

As a candidate for governor in 2006, she backed funding for the bridge.

After her election, however, she killed the project, saying she would use the federal funds for other purposes.

As mayor of the small city of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin appears to have made use of the system she now decries, hiring a Washington lobbyist, Steven Silver, to represent the town. Years ago, Silver worked as an aide to Stevens.
By now every major newspaper has had a columnist or editorial debunking Palin's claim to be a maverick and reformer. All she really is is an empty suit, although one that could win a bathing suit contest in a beauty pageant. But she's not ready for prime time and you have to question the cynicism and poor judgment of John McCain for plucking her from Alaska and setting her on a national stage.

I'll have more of a round up on McCain and his own faux claims to be a maverick this weekend.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

John McCain's Unpresidential Demeanor

John McCain has long been dogged by his reputation for having an explosive temper. In fact, I wrote about this back in July. Now Aznew, on RK, also has an post questionning McCain's fitness to be president given his problem holding his tongue.

According to Aznew's diary, with a link to a report in a McClatcy news story, McCain even clashed with Dolores Alfond, the chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen and Women, at a Senate hearing in 1992. Here's a brief description from McClatchy, and reported by Aznew, of what happened.
Back in Washington, families of POW_MIAs said they have seen McCain's wrath repeatedly. Some families charged that McCain hadn't been aggressive enough about pursuing their lost relatives and has been reluctant to release relevant documents. McCain himself was a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War.
In 1992, McCain sparred with Dolores Alfond, the chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen and Women, at a Senate hearing. McCain's prosecutor-like questioning of Alfond - available on YouTube - left her in tears.

Four years later, at her group's Washington conference, about 25 members went to a Senate office building, hoping to meet with McCain. As they stood in the hall, McCain and an aide walked by.

Six people present have written statements describing what they saw. According to the accounts, McCain waved his hand to shoo away Jeannette Jenkins, whose cousin was last seen in South Vietnam in 1970, causing her to hit a wall.

As McCain continued walking, Jane Duke Gaylor, the mother of another missing serviceman, approached the senator. Gaylor, in a wheelchair equipped with portable oxygen, stretched her arms toward McCain.

"McCain stopped, glared at her, raised his left arm ready to strike her, composed himself and pushed the wheelchair away from him," according to Eleanor Apodaca, the sister of an Air Force captain missing since 1967.
And here's the actual video of the exchange.

At very best, he's rude and dismissive of people who were working desperately to find their loved ones who were POWs and MIAs in Vietnam. Ms. Alfond looked heartbroken.

Given that McCain would rather run on character and personality than issues, something stated by his campaign manager, Rick Davis, let's indeed look at McCain's personality. He often appears to be a bully to those with less power than him.

Jesus Was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate Was a Governor

This will be uncharacteristically brief because I'm running out the door to volunteer at the Fairfax Obama headquarters where I work every Sunday between 3 and 6 pm as a greeter. I also enter data for them, so the stuff the canvassers bring back, I, and lots of other volunteers, put in the database to be used later on for the GOTV effort. One more pitch, if you haven't done so yet, please volunteer.

Meanwhile, I want to direct your attention to a great discussion on RK about the real importance of community organizers. Since speaker after speaker at the Republican Convention, following Sarah Palin's lead, mocked community service and poor people, it might be useful to read about the value that community organizers bring to underserved communities.

Best quote in the diary was something said on the Diane Rehm show on September 5.
"As a committed Christian I was deeply offended by Sarah Palin and the Republican delegates mocking and belittling community organizers the other night. Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor." - Diane Rehm Show, 9/5/08

Friday, September 05, 2008

The GOP Bubble Universe

While I was watching the GOP Convention this week – and I watched all of it – I kept thinking that they are living in a bubble universe. Listening to the rhetoric, totally divorced from all reality, one would think that we had been living under almost 8 years of President Dennis Kucinich, with Senate Majority Leader Ted Kennedy and Speaker of the House Michael Moore.

Facts, though, are tricky things and you can’t run against a straw administration that doesn’t exist. And the truth is that for the past eight years (longer in Congress) we have had the most conservative administration since Ronald Reagan’s and unlike Reagan, the Bush administration has been able to practice supply side economics, pursue tax cuts for the rich, and roll back regulation on everything from banking to the FDA. And Bush has been able to pursue a reckless foreign policy that embroiled us in an endless occupation in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack no matter how much Republicans want that to be true.

Most economists, including those in the Bush administration, admit that lack of proper oversight of the banking industry led to the mortgage meltdown and housing crisis. Likewise, lack of proper regulation has flooded our markets with tainted lettuce and peppers, unsafe toys, lead in toothpaste, and a host of products that have sickened and killed us, our children and even our pets. Also an administration that thinks government is of no use was not there to perform the duties a government should perform during Hurricane Katrina – though, at least, this time they learned their lesson, mostly out of political expediency.

The truth is the country has not been run by anything approaching liberalism in over 30 years. But in the last nearly 8 years it has been run on the pure ideology of the hard right and if you listen carefully to their speeches for the past three nights, all they promise is more of the same.

Maybe it’s time to actually see what the liberals have to offer. When Clinton was in office, he had a conservative Congress that did nothing but try to obstruct his policies and impeach him. Perhaps it’s time to actually give progressive Democrats a real chance to see what they can do. People in the tradition of Harry Truman, Franklin D Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton. After all, it couldn’t be worse than it already is.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Little Straight Talk About Sarah Palin Straight From Wasilla

I received the following as an email from a friend of mine. It's been making the rounds today. Written by Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla resident, who has known Sarah Palin since 1992, it engages in a little straight talking - the kind we mostly definitely haven't gotten at John McCain's Republican Convention this week. Ms. Kilkenny was quoted in a recent New York Times article, where she describes how Sarah Palin tried to ban a book and fire the town's librarian for standing up to her (something that apparently is a disturbing pattern in Ms. Palin's employee relations).

Anne Kilkenny is a Democrat, who claims to have attended every city council meeting in Sarah Palin's first year as mayor. Admittedly, as a Democrat, Ms. Kilkenny has her biases. However I think this sounded like a fairly evenhanded open letter so I am printing it in its entirety. Many of the things Ms. Kilkenny charges have already been verified. A lot of this is her take on Ms. Palin. But I think it's time for a little truth telling about the candidate who went on televsion last night and gave a highly partisan, simplistic and untrue speech which exaggerated her accomplishments and distorted both Barack Obama's record and what he stands for. In short, her speech was a series of cheap one liners, tossing red meat to a seriously fact challenged base. I'll definitely have more to say about that in the coming days. But here is one view of Sarah Palin from a neighbor from her town.

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe".

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative". During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.

She's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the "old boy's club" when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State's top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he "intimidated" her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club" when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the "bridge to nowhere" after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as "anti-pork".

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as "AGIA" that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned "as a private citizen" against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State's lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior's decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there's a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.


."Hockey mom": true for a few years

."PTA mom": true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since

."NRA supporter": absolutely true

.social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).

.pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.

."Pro-life": mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation

."Experienced": Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.

.political maverick: not at all

.gutsy: absolutely!

.open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.

.has a developed philosophy of public policy: no

."a Greenie": no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.

.fiscal conservative: not by my definition!

.pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.

.pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents

.pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history.

.pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn't make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "Bad things happen when good people stay silent". Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that's life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah's attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.


I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall--they are swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000", up to 9,000. The day Palin's selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90's.

Anne Kilkenny

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's Not About Sarah Palin; It's About McCain's Decision-Making

Despite the all Sarah Palin, all the time coverage, in the end it's not really about the vice presidential pick. It's about John McCain's decision making process. For as long as I've criticized much of the mainstream media, especially the Washington Post, Dan Froomkin, one of their columnists summed it up best - unfortunately he had to go to Huffington Post to do so.

The weekend firestorm about a pregnant daughter, moose stew, and Troopergate pale beside the simple fact that she's a neophyte who is not qualified to be a heartbeat away from the president. Froomkin summed it up best:
Palin would be spectacularly unqualified for the job of vice president even if McCain were immortal. But the prospect of her suddenly being thrust into the leadership of the free world has got to leave everyone but the most loyal, talking-point-equipped partisans deeply chilled.

This is not a question of her politics. And it has absolutely nothing to do with her gender. It's not even strictly speaking a question of experience. Conceivably, somebody with even less experience than Palin could meet what everyone should be able to agree is a basic requirement for the office: That she or he has given serious thought to the national and international issues of our time.

Is there any evidence that Palin is anything other than an utter neophyte when it comes to issues such as Iraq, the economy, health care, and domestic and foreign policy generally?

Palin's lack of the most basic prerequisite for the job should be the dominant message of the news coverage. Instead, her selection was hailed as a "bold move," with her lack of qualifications relegated to the status of a Democratic complaint. Instead, the media establishment has let itself get drawn into a number of alternate story lines, some of them certainly quite fascinating, but none of them as essential.

What possible reason is there to nominate someone so lacking in gravitas for the vice presidency? In this case, of course, it couldn't be more obvious that Palin's selection has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with governance. Palin's gender and her hard-right credentials were clearly seen by McCain's top advisers as just what the campaign needed.

Whether that was a clever or suicidal political calculation remains to be seen. It's certainly looking more and more like it was a reckless one. But it doesn't just strain credulity -- it pulverizes it -- to suggest that she is the best and most qualified person McCain could find for the job.

It's a tremendous failure of political reporting that such patent spin from McCain supporters is being treated like a supportable position. By contrast, it seems to me that anyone suggesting that Palin was selected for anything other than political reasons should be considered presumptively a liar from this point on.
Indeed, the media has mainly obfuscated the issue of her qualifications. In addition, newspaper writers love to throw around phrases like "bold" as much as they can. Usually, the reader gets the picture of some scribe penning the term with glowing approval. Words like "bold" and "reformer" don't tell a whole tale. For example, when President Bush invaded Iraq, cut taxes, created the largest deficit, the press called all those moves "bold." So, when does the reading public catch on that bold could just be another synonym for reckless.

And reformer doesn't tell you what the reform will be. We tend to think of reformer as those brave whistleblowers who take on corrupt systems or fight big city political machines. But reform isn't always a good and positive thing.

In fact, it looks like some of Sarah Palin's reforms are more those of a hard right religious zealot trying to purge society of sin rather than just political corruption. When she first ran for mayor of Wassila, she made her anti-abortion stand the centerpiece of a campaign that had little to do with that issue. She also made her church membership and religion campaign issues.
According to this report:
The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people — Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? — seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.

Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin’s behalf.

Two years after Representative Newt Gingrich helped draft the Contract With America to advance Republican positions, Ms. Palin and her passion for Republican ideology and religious faith overtook a town known for a wide libertarian streak and for helping start the Iditarod sled dog race.
“Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ”

“I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?’ ” recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. “The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”
And for some, Ms. Palin’s first months in office here were so jarring — and so alienating — that an effort was made to force a recall. About 100 people attended a meeting to discuss the effort, which was covered in the local press, but the idea was dropped.

Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.
During the next few days while watching the Republican Convention, when they bandy around the term reformer it might be useful to remember that Oliver Cromwell also was a reformer. But most of us wouldn't want to live under him or the English Roundheads in Puritan Britain.

Sarah Palin Was Not a Member of the Alaska Independence Party - NYT Retracts

H/t to one of my commenters and a blogger, himself, Isophorone, for informing me that reports that Sarah Palin was a member of a controversial secessionist political party, the Alaska Independence Party, are incorrect.

Isophorone sent me this link and I checked further and found that the New York Times, which was my original source, also corrected the report. In fact, here's their statement in total.
Alaska Party Official Says Palin Was Not a Member

By The New York Times

The chairwoman of an Alaskan political party that advocates a vote on the state’s secession from the union said Tuesday that she had been mistaken when she said Gov. Sarah Palin was a member of the group.

A front-page story in The New York Times on Tuesday and articles in other news media reported that Ms. Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party for two years in the 1990’s.

The information in the Times article was based on a statement issued Monday night by Lynette Clark, the party’s chairwoman, who said that Ms. Palin joined the party in 1994 and in 1996 changed her registration to Republican.

On Tuesday night, Ms. Clark said that her initial statement was incorrect and had been based on erroneous information provided by another member of the party whom she declined to identify. The McCain campaign also disputed the Times report, saying that Ms. Palin had been registered consistently as a Republican.

After checking the party’s archives, Ms. Clark said that she could find no documentation that Governor Palin had been a member of the party. She said Ms. Palin attended the party’s 1994 and 2006 conventions and provided a video-taped address as governor to the 2008 convention.

Ms. Clark said that Ms. Palin’s husband, Todd, was a former member of the party.
And yes, Iso, I do know what loshon hora is. I would never knowingly spread a false or harmful rumor and I'm happy to correct any errors. I'm glad the NYT is too. I'm still not sure I buy all the claims that she was vetted as painstakingly as is being presented in the right wing spin, but clearly this one was the MSM's and the left's error.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Horse Race So Far

John McCain’s major intent in rushing his announcement of Governor Sarah Palin to be his veep last Friday, despite the paucity of vetting, was to steal the limelight from Barack Obama after his stirring convention speech and deny him any bounce coming out of his convention. It broke new ground for being classless but it was a clever strategy to get the jump on an opponent McCain knew would be eloquent and inspiring to the millions who turned on their TVs to watch him. Unfortunately, the Hail Mary pass proved to be too clever by half.

Sarah Palin did indeed dominate the news coverage over the weekend leading into the Republican convention. In fact since the GOP had to pretty much cancel their first night, Palin got more airplay than they bargained for and little of it very good. The lefty blogs excoriated her for her lack of experience and then came the pregnant daughter announcement, which caused even the mainstream media and ordinary moms to question her fitness for the VP office and McCain’s judgment for choosing her.

A quick glance at the polls also show that it didn’t even deny Obama his bounce coming out of Denver. Perhaps it could have been even bigger if not for McCain campaign’s determination to grab all the attention. But Obama has broken ahead, depending upon which poll you believe, by anywhere from 5 to 8 points. Here are the breakdowns from Lowell at RK.

Meanwhile, in a demonstration that the once straight talker and his campaign staff haven’t yet sunk to the lowest level of cynicism (the pit is apparently bottomless), Rick Davis, his campaign manager, has actually announced that they intend to make the election about personality rather than issues.
Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain's presidential bid, insisted that the presidential race will be decided more over personalities than issues during an interview with Post editors this morning.

"This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."
Davis added that issues will no doubt play a major role in the decisions undecided voters will make but that they won't ultimately be conclusive. He added that the campaign has "ultimate faith" in the idea that the more voters get to know McCain and Barack Obama, the better the Republican nominee will do.
So much for their hapless supporters in the blogosphere who have been begging the lefties to ease up and go back to discussing issues.

Actually, it’s what we prefer to do. Democrats are more comfortable being policy wonks than cutthroat go for the juggler attack dogs in the Rovian mode. And in an election where the general population is worried about the economy, unhappy about the war in Iraq, believes they are doing worse today than they did four or eight years ago, and wants to see the country go in a different direction, don’t you think it would actually be to the Democrats’ advantage to focus on issues not personality?

But I guess if Rick Davis forces us to, we’ll just have to keep talking about the airhead Alaska governor, her family soap opera, her lack of actual qualifications, and her beauty queen past. And her growing troopergate scandal. And the fact that she once was a member of a weird secessionist group and headed a committee to raise money for Ted Steven's Excellence in Public Service 527 fund. And actually never opposed the Bridge to Nowhere because she wasn’t yet governor when Congress cut off its funds.

Rick, Sen. McCain are you sure you don’t want to discuss the issues instead?

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My GOP readers have spoken. They are tired of Sarah/Bristol Palin all the time. And they're right. There are actually serious issues out there that need to be discussed. For the first time, I even missed discussing the plight of workers during Labor Day. Talk about distraction. So, for your viewing pleasure, here's the newest ad supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. It's from Americans' Rights at Work


How Does Sarah Palin Hurt Keith Fimians Campaign?

You know that Keith Fimian has got to be sweating about Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidate. The last thing Fimian needs is to run down ticket to a campaign that is raising questions about social issues and religious ties.

Fimian has been running a stealth campaign, attempting to mute concern over his own ties to cult-like religious groups such as Tom Moneghan's Ave Maria, which has poured funds into Fimian's campaign. The last thing he needs is for social conservatives and their policies to be front and center during his campaign season.

Fimian was counting on John McCain’s maverick image from 2000, when McCain brought in lots of moderates and independents, to carry his campaign. And Fimian probably was hoping that McCain would pick an uncontroversial running mate like Mitt Romney for the ticket. Somebody who would satisfy the socially conservative base by being pro life but for whom it wouldn’t be a major issue that would grab the spotlight. But the choice of Sarah Palin has raised questions once again about the role of religion in the public square. And it's focusing women on their concern over the accessibility of contraception and safe abortions.

That just isn’t going to play well in the always moderate 11th Congressional District which is trending ever more blue. Tom Davis might have been able to finesse this ticket, but I don’t think Fimian will.

What the ticket does is put issues like the right to an abortion and contraception front and center at a time when Fimian’s whole campaign strategy is to hope that voters in his district don't focus on those issues. Given the Bush administrations recent executive order which would allow health care providers to deny women birth control and abortion options if it violates health care worker’s individual conscience, and this choice of a VP candidate, it’s obvious that in a presidential election year, the GOP thinks it must pander to its evangelical base. It’s them, not Gerry Connolly, who are driving these issues, front and center and complicating Keith Fimian’s stealth campaign for Congress.