Tuesday, September 30, 2008
While some think MSNBC has taken a turn toward the left recently (perhaps they're wrestling for the steering wheel with Fox News), Rachel doesn't believe her personal agenda drives show content.
"I certainly have beliefs and opinions, just like anybody does," she said. "But I don't have an agenda. This wasn't like, great, an opportunity to impose 'X' on the world. I think of this as a chance to talk about the news on TV for an hour each day. How awesome is that?"
[O]ver the past five years, banks and securities firms gave an average of $231,877 in campaign contributions to each Representative voting in favor of the bailout, compared with an average of $150,982 to each Representative voting against the bailout – 54 percent more money given to those who voted Yes.
Monday, September 29, 2008
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled by a 4-3 vote that Ohio's early voting rules that allow new voters to register AND cast an absentee ballot on the same day are permissible. Previously, a voter needed to be registered for at least 30 days to cast such a ballot.
This should certainly help with some of the anticipated long lines that might be even longer this year, given the determined efforts of both parties in registering as many new voters as possible. It's hard to understand why the GOP filed suit against the state of Ohio for trying things to make life easier for voters.
You don't think they were hoping to disenfranchise some of these new voters, do you?
Sen. Barack Obama expressed confidence Monday that lawmakers would come through with a financial rescue package, while John McCain's campaign accused Obama and Democrats of putting "politics ahead of country."
Among 38 incumbent congressmen in races rated as "toss-up" or "lean" by Swing State Project, just 8 voted for the bailout as opposed to 30 against: a batting average of .211. By comparison, the vote among congressmen who don't have as much to worry about was essentially even: 197 for, 198 against.Seems that in the end, it was more about getting re-elected than it was saving our economy. Why am I not surprised?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The dirty little details of the multiple flaws (there may be as many as six different ones, depending on who you ask) aren't readily available, because the researchers who outlined their findings as a security conference last week are trying to keep a lid on it while vendors work on a fix.
What is known is that clickjacking is similar to cross-site request forgery, but it's just different enough that current CSFR security controls built into browsers, sites, and web apps are essentially worthless.
The coin lamp requires that you deposit cash before it will work. What an inventive way to get my kids to turn off the light when they leave the room. If they don't, it's a perfect lesson in values and reward.
Leave it on, guys. And thanks for helping to pay the electricity bill!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Rich is especially incensed on the topic of McCain riding into Washington on his white horse, determined to save the country from the looming financial meltdown. Best excerpt:
By the time he arrived, there already was a bipartisan agreement in principle. It collapsed hours later at the meeting convened by the president in the Cabinet Room. Rather than help try to resuscitate Wall Street’s bloodied bulls, McCain was determined to be the bull in Washington’s legislative china shop, running around town and playing both sides of his divided party against Congress’s middle. Once others eventually forged a path out of the wreckage, he’d inflate, if not outright fictionalize, his own role in cleaning up the mess his mischief helped make. Or so he hoped, until his ignominious retreat.
The question is why would a man who forever advertises his own honor toy so selfishly with our national interest at a time of crisis. I’ll leave any physiological explanations to gerontologists — if they can get hold of his complete medical records — and any armchair psychoanalysis to the sundry McCain press acolytes who have sorrowfully tried to rationalize his erratic behavior this year. The other answers, all putting politics first, can be found by examining the 24 hours before he decided to “suspend” campaigning and swoop down on the Capitol to save America from the Sunnis or the Shia, or whoever perpetrated all those credit-default swaps.
I read a book in which he and A. E. Hotchner wrote about how they improbably started their Newman's salad dressing business, and how they truly broke the rules as a start-up in this industry. It was their approach that tickled me - they had nothing to lose, so why not do it the way they wanted, and have a lot of fun in the process?
The result was a huge success, with multiple product lines, and almost a quarter billion dollars donated to charity. And he had fun doing it. That was the essence of his foundation.
A statement from his foundation: “While his philanthropic interests and donations were wide-ranging, he was especially committed to the thousands of children with life-threatening conditions served by the Hole in the Wall Camps, which he helped start over 20 years ago. He saw the Camps as places where kids could escape the fear, pain and isolation of their conditions, kick back, and raise a little hell. Today, there are 11 Camps around the world, with additional programs in Africa and Vietnam. Through the Camps, well over 135,000 children have had the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be."
But I digress. A new study shows that people tend to lie more in email than in written form. I assume that means with a pencil, pen, or papyrus.
The premise of the study (involving a pool of money and almost everyone lying to a certain extent) makes for an interesting read. Click here if you want the dirty details.
- It was good to see a debate structured to allow the candidates ample time to explain their positions beyond 30-second sound bites. I especially liked the way each candidate had an opportunity to speak directly to his opponent after the initial 2 minute back and forth. Much better format than each candidate just having a couple of minutes before the moderator started giving warnings on time.
- The demeanor of the debate matched the demeanor of the campaigns. Obama was smart, focused, relaxed, and in command of his facts. McCain was aggressive, testy, and at times dismissive of Obama's answers. I can understand when you don't agree with your opponent, but you don't need to be sarcastic and/or condescending in your responses, especially in this forum.
- Part of what Jim Lehrer tried to do was to get the candidates to talk to each other. Obama did this on occasion, although not as much as I would have liked, but McCain wouldn't look at Obama or address him directly all night. What was that about? Having been a trained interviewer/interrogator for 15 years, I can tell you that eye contact, or the lack of it, can mean several things. It could be fear (people and animals drop their eyes as a sign of submission), so maybe McCain was afraid of Obama. It might have been that McCain was either angry or afraid he couldn't control his emotions, so we wanted to remain detached. Or it could be the result of something I've noticed about McCain in the past - he tends to do best when facing an enemy, real or imagined, and I've seen him demonize the other side to set up the "me vs. them" dynamic that he favors.
- Obama had a very good grasp on foreign policy and world events, and I liked how to spoke holistically about the roles other issues played in the eventual world dynamic. For McCain, I heard a lot of discussion about winning, and I'm glad I didn't have the phrase "Senator Obama just doesn't understand" in any drinking game, because I would have been blotto by the midpoint of the debate.
- I detected an undercurrent of disdain or derision from McCain when he was challenged by Obama on issues or positions. It was almost like McCain thought his 26 years of experience exempted him from being challenged, and there was a whiff of "what's this new whipper-snapper know about any of this - I was making these decisions when you were still shooting hoops in high school" in the air.
- Obama did a good job of pointing out, and then reinforcing, his priorities - energy independence, tax cuts and an economic approach that would favor 95% of the population instead of the top 2%, and addressing the health care mess. McCain kept harping on tax cuts for all (he was careful to not provide details or demographics), earmarks (although cutting $18 billion in earmarks won't pay for his $300 billion in tax cuts), and drilling/nuclear as a fix for energy (again, we only have 3% of oil reserves but 25% of consumption, so that math doesn't work, and his $300 billion in tax cuts means he's going to have a hard time funding new nuclear plants, especially with the $700 billion financial bailout in the works and his commitment to spending $10 billion a month in Iraq for an undetermined amount of time). I found it interesting that McCain only mentioned "change" once during the entire debate, and never even uttered the term "middle class". Perhaps he doesn't realize they exist.
- McCain kept using the term "check my record" or "I have a long record" as a way for people to know where he stood, but he only did that when convenient. When Obama hit him with his legacy of tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation, and trickle-down economics that have led to the current financial crisis, suddenly McCain was a maverick who didn't win Miss Congeniality from his party, but his record shows broad support for the GOP strategy. His claims of being a hawk on spending don't jibe with how he's supported the Bush administrations budgets and spending plans that have caused the massive growth in spending that McCain now claims he will reverse.
- One observation post-debate: listening to the talking heads weigh in with their opinions on what I had just seen (please, spare me), they all seemed to have superficial comments that I don't think would sway undecideds. Two things stuck out, though - first, Joe Biden was great in his summary and statement of position, and he seemed to be on every network. Where was Sarah Palin? I didn't see her anywhere, and that's disappointing. It's time to put her out there to do VP-level things. Secondly, this blew by me during the debate, but Keith Olbermann pointed it out - McCain mentioned better training our interrogators to extract needed information from terrorist so that we "never have to torture again". Say what? Weren't you the guy who said the US doesn't torture? Sounded like you just admitted we've been torturing folks, John. Thanks for the 411 on that.
Friday, September 26, 2008
That theory was countered by another student who suggested that if you take your foot out of a bucket of water, the hole that is left is the amount that we're remembered.
John McCain's "suspension" of his campaign and subsequent visit to Washington to provide leadership reminded me of the water bucket. Now that's he's off to Mississippi, the difference he made in the financial crisis can best be described as that hole.
Now that's leadership.
The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
But, what - exactly - did he "suspend"?
His surrogates are all over television, attacking Obama. His campaign ads are still running and his Internet fundraising is still operational. McCain's press crew is fully operational. He spent the day with Rick Davis, his lobbyist campaign manager. And all of his campaign offices are still open and fully operational.
And now comes word via Jonathan Martin at The Politico that McCain will spend the evening doing interviews on ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Sounds like the only thing John McCain wants to put on hold is the debate with Barack Obama. And who could blame him? He's got a lot of explaining to do to the American people about how the GOP and their cronies got us into this mess.
He seems to think that McCain suspending his campaign (except for the television appearances made by his proxies, the commercials still running in swing states, and the fact that none of his campaign offices stopped what they were doing) ranks right up there with Eisenhower's "I will go to Korea" pledge.
However, as Daniel Larison, writing in The American Conservative (no kidding) notes:
Gingrich likens [McCain's stunt] to Eisenhower’s “I will go to Korea,” but unlike Eisenhower and the Korean war McCain has no credibility concerning the crisis he is supposedly addressing. In the end, knowing when you can contribute something and knowing when to avoid complicating an already difficult situation by intruding on ongoing negotiations is what separates grandstanding from leadership. It is what separates the simple egomaniacs from the ambitious pols who nonetheless have some idea what public service is. McCain’s belief that he is indispensable in a time of crisis is the surest sign that he is unfit for any office in republican government, much less the chief magistracy of the Republic.
In a larger sense, this zeal for quick profits and easy money reflected an oblivious too-good-to-be-true culture in which we drove larger cars but demanded more oil drilling from everyone except ourselves. We expected both expanded government entitlements and lower taxes.
Our government borrowed ever more money from foreign creditors, because it was a collective reflection of our own profligate financial habits. Of course, we should reform Wall Street and Washington — and punish severely the crooks in both places. But Americans should remember that Frankenstein was not the name of the monster but of its creator.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"It is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once," he said. "I think there's no reason why we can't be constructive in helping to solve this problem and also tell the American people what we believe, and where we stand, and where we want to take the country."
He continued, "So in my mind, actually, it's more important than ever that we present ourselves to the American people and try to describe where we want to take the country and where we want to take the economy, as well as dealing with some of the issues of foreign policy that were initially the subject of the debate."
They are particularly rabid sports fans, quite aggressive, and they expect their home teams to play smash-mouth, take-no-prisoners ball.
So it comes as a surprise that the whole place had a freak out over wieners. That's right. The baseball stadium was evacuated after a suspicious package was found outside - a package of hot dogs.
...and the home..of the...braaaaave.
David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.
Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"
Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."
"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"
"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
The McCain campaign's new urgency about the financial crisis didn't entirely clear his schedule this morning. My colleague Amie Parnes reports that he made it to his scheduled morning meeting with Lady Lynn de Rothschild, a Clinton backer who recently came out in support of him. All while Obama was waiting by the phone for a returned call.
Frankly I have had it, and I know a lot of other women out there who are with me on this. I have had enough of the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin. It has to end....By treating Sarah Palin differently from other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves.
Free Sarah Palin.
Free her from the chauvinistic chains you are binding her with.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself." -- The 2008 Republican Party Platform, adopted earlier this month.
I'm just sayin'.
On the topic of restricting executive pay as part of the financial bailout, a White House spokesman said:
With respect to executive pay, again, I'm not going to get into specific, point-by-point details on what our views are on that, other than the Secretary of Treasury said it would make more difficult to make this plan work and effective if you provide disincentives for companies and firms out there who are holding mortgage-backed securities and other securities from participating in the program. You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them.
Careful how you deal with them? How about you LET THE FUCKING FREE MARKET HANDLE IT then? If they want taxpayer funds to bail out their incompetence, they give up equity, they accept limits on executive compensation. If they don't want those conditions imposed on them, they don't take our money.
Simple, right? And if they don't take our money, who cares? They are strong and successful! And the taxpayers don't have to give up a dime. Everyone wins!
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s.
This transactin is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
Summary: Rush Limbaugh baselessly asserted of Sen. Barack Obama: "Do you know he has not one shred of African-American blood?" Limbaugh continued: "He's Arab. You know, he's from Africa. He's from Arab parts of Africa. ... [H]e's not African-American. The last thing that he is is African-American."
I agree with Al Franken. Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot.
He posits that the TSA is effectively looking for two distinct classes of contraband: the kind that will get you in trouble if you try to bring it on a plane (knives, bombs, guns) and the kind that they will happily take away from you and throw in the trash as you stand there (bottles of liquid, scissors, corkscrews).
Real terrorists probably won't try to smuggle in a gun or bomb via TSA screeners, because getting caught would put a crimp in their plan - security doesn't need to catch EVERY gun or knife, because just the threat of being caught is a good deterrent.
For the other class of contraband though, there is no penalty - if I'm trying to sneak liquid explosives or something in my water or shampoo bottle and they find it, they'll just toss it away and I can try again, and again, and again until I get it through. Now, security needs to find it 100% of the time to be considered effective.
I hadn't really thought of it from that perspective, but I am now.
No plan from Obama? No way. To the contrary, Senator Obama has talked at length about reforming Wall Street, getting CEO pay packages under control, instituting new regulations to protect homeowners. In short, what everybody wants: stabilizing the economy.
Does anyone think it’s just a little weird to be stampeded into a $700 billion solution to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by the very people who brought us the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
How about a second opinion?
Monday, September 22, 2008
The EPA has decided that there's nothing to see here. Please move along.
Pay no attention to the fact that the pesky chemical in question, perchlorate, turns up in at least 395 sites in 35 states. And ignore scientific studies that conclude that perchlorate exists "at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses".
Everyone is brushing off the Democrats who believe the EPA has caved to the Defense Department. The Pentagon is outraged that anyone would think that.
What could possible make anyone think this administration is less than honest?
Much of what the NRA passes off as Obama's "10 Point Plan to 'Change' the Second Amendment" is actually contrary to what he has said throughout his campaign: that he "respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms" and "will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns."
The NRA, however, simply dismisses Obama's stated position as "rhetoric" and substitutes its own interpretation of his record as a secret "plan." Said an NRA spokesman: "We believe our facts."
Perhaps so, but believing something doesn't make it so. And we find the NRA has cherry-picked, twisted and misrepresented Obama's record to come up with a bogus "plan."
John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate 23 days ago. Since then, Ms. Palin has not held a single news conference with the national media....Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who once referred to the media as his base, has himself become inaccessible. He promised to hold weekly news conferences as president but has not held a news conference as a candidate in more than a month. A candidate who stiffs the media on the campaign trail isn't likely to perform better once in office.
When the Times reported that senior campaign advisor Rick Davis had accepted over $2 million in lobbying fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop more strict regulation of the two entities, they were reporting the truth.
Steve Schmidt, a top McCain strategist, responded harshly, stating on a conference call that the Times was no longer a journalistic entity. Schmidt called it a "pro-Obama advocacy organization" and claimed the paper "attacks" McCain every day. Schmidt went on: the Times is "an organization completely, totally 150-percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate" and has "cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition" to get McCain.
Funny thing, though. Neither Schmidt or Davis pointed out any errors in the Times story. Not one.
Let's be clear here - the poll results don't say it's the Bush administration. They don't pin it on any particular department or agency. They blame Republicans.
The same polling shows that most people believe Barack Obama would do a better job of pulling the country out of this crisis than his opponent, McCain in the Membrane.
Let's see...Republicans are to blame. People believe the Democrat would do a better job in fixing what the GOP has done to destroy our economy.
Tell me again why you're considering voting Republican?
In 2007, Wall Street's five largest firms - Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley - paid out a record $39 billion in bonuses.
Shareholders in those firms lost over $79 billion in stock declines during that same period.
The Treasury Department wants to use $1,000,000,000.00 of your tax dollars to buy out the bad paper the surviving firms still own. This same Treasury Department is resisting efforts by House Democrats to impose pay limits on Wall Street executives and others in the financial service industry.
Your tax dollars at work. And I'll bet you don't see a dime of return.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Got a message for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Hey lady. How ya doing? Me too. It’s going around. Listen, the couch is over there and you might want to lie down and take a Zen moment to get over your bad self. You had a nice run: your moment in the sun, complete with an SNL skit featuring your Doppelganger, Tina Fey, but now the honeymoon is over and you should moose up and use this quiet time to devise an actual stance in lieu of a pose. I’m sorry to be the one to have to say this, but you are so earlier-this-month. It’s your partner, John McCain, who’s back in the news. And not in what you call your good way.
His iron grip on what is generally regarded as reality slipped like the manual transmission on a Model T Ford with a faulty handbrake parked on a San Francisco hill facing up. He’s reverted to his pre-convention state of fumbling and foundering and flummoxing and falling into a fevered form of flabbergast. And it’s that nasty old economy that’s the piranha in his pants biting his big white furry butt. Again.
Earlier this year he said he didn’t know much about it. And it’s not that hard to believe him. If he could point out three distinct differences between Lehman Brothers and the Jonas Brothers, I’d be as shocked as a giraffe on a glass escalator after too many fermented Blackberries that the Arizona Senator either did or didn’t invent. You might say he takes an arm’s length approach to the economy. You might also say that arm length is extended enough to qualify for frequent flyer miles.
It was drinking the Daily Gallup Kool-Aid that transformed Dr. Unconcerned into Mr. Proactive. But even with the makeup and the rubber mask, the role still seems a bit off kilter on a man who is so notoriously free market that he escorted the French philosopher Laissez- Faire out of range of the security cameras, fed him a handful of Rufies, then locked him in the evidence room behind a file cabinet wrapped in a pile of piano blankets.
Responding to the recent Chernobyl-sized meltdown on Wall Street, the Bush Successor Wannabe insisted that, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” demonstrating a cluelessness you don’t normally associate with folks still in possession of a pulse or not related to one of the judges on “So You Think You Can Dance.” But totally in line from a guy not sure of how many houses he owns. And I have a quick question here: When you own seven houses, how big do your pants pockets need to be to accommodate all your keys? He should do what I always do: Trade four houses for a hotel.
McCain jumped off the Deregulation Express so fast, that Jamaican Bolt guy probably tried to buy his shoes. His cure for what ails us calls for empanelling a blue ribbon study group like the 911 Commission, sounding like reform the same way that a pneumatic jack-hammer sounds like a dial tone. He put off proposing concrete solutions, such as equipping tourists with steel umbrellas to repel falling hedge fund brokers, but maybe he’s squirreling that one away for his fact-finding commission. He did talk about dismantling the Old Boy Network in Washington, and that could actually work. Especially when you consider the Senator’s current standing as Ranking Old Boy.
The government (i.e. taxpayers) [should get] an equity stake in every Wall Street financial company proportional to the amount of bad debt that company shoves onto the public. So when and if Wall Street shares rise, taxpayers are rewarded for accepting so much risk.
Kevin Drum has an even better idea:
So here's another idea. Instead of an equity stake, we offer ailing banks the following deal: the taxpayers will buy your toxic waste for 20 cents on the dollar. (Or 10 cents or 30 cents. Whatever.) We'll hold it for a maximum of 24 months, at which point you can buy it back from us at, say, a 10% premium, and then sell it off yourselves. If you choose not to buy it back, Uncle Sam will sell it off. If we sell it at a profit, we'll keep the upside. If we sell it at a loss, you guys will make up the difference. The payback terms will be, oh, let's say three points above LIBOR over five years.
And what control do the banks have over how much we sell this stuff for? None. They have to trust us to get the best possible price. To coin a term, they have to give us a blank check. Seems like a fair exchange.
The Ohio jobless rate continues to spiral upward, to 7.4% in August. That's the highest rate in sixteen years. 445,000 of our neighbors are out of work. 106,000 of them joined the ranks just in the past twelve months.
Where are the job losses most acute? Manufacturing, again. Cars, refrigerators, and other durable goods just aren't needed as much as they were when, you know, we all had jobs and disposable income.
George Zeller, an alleged economic research analyst based in Cleveland, seems to be wishing upon a star when he plainfully laments, "It would certainly help if we get a recovery in the auto industry."
Perhaps it's time for George and the rest of us to stop wishing for a return to the glory days, and start fielding some useful ideas on building our future. The auto industry is going to continue to pare down in order to survive. Any industry that revolves around fossil fuel products will eventually circle the drain unless they adapt and overcome.
It's time for Ohio leadership in business, education, and government to step up with their plan on how we're going to retrain, retool, and rededicate the resources of this state to prepare for the next economy.
It's past time for Ohio citizens to get off their collective asses and embrace the concept of lifetime learning, understanding that the days when you could learn one thing and ride that bus to retirement are long gone.
And it's about damn time we offered tax incentives for companies and technology groups that bring their future-looking business models to Ohio, where they should be graded yearly by the number of jobs they create (and retain) and how much they grow their business in the process. They should lose their special tax status when they don't hit those targets.
It's time for Ohio, and everyone here, to execute. No more promises. No more rhetoric. Let's get it done.