Calling Tina Fey

SP: Oh, I think they’re just not used to someone coming in from the outside saying you know what? It’s time that normal Joe six-pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency, and I think that that’s kind of taken some people off guard, and they’re out of sorts, and they’re ticked off about it, but it’s motivation for John McCain and I to work that much harder to make sure that our ticket is victorious, and we put government back on the side of the people of Joe six-pack like me, and we start doing those things that are expected of our government, and we get rid of corruption, and we commit to the reform that is not only desired, but is deserved by Americans. |source|

...I posted this after the first answer. It keeps getting funnier, because you just can't read Palin on the page without hearing Tina Fey. Follow the link.

...and this just sort of pisses me off:

SP: Well, I have a degree in journalism also, so it surprises me that so much has changed since I received my education in journalistic ethics all those years ago. But I’m not going to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrelful. I’m going to take those shots and those pop quizzes and just say that’s okay, those are good testing grounds. And they can continue on in that mode. That’s good. That makes somebody work even harder. It makes somebody be even clearer and more articulate in their positions. So really I don’t fight it. I invite it.

First of all, we all know that Palin doesn't welcome or invite any kind of criticism, so that's a lie. But leave that aside. She's talking here about so called "gotcha!" questions. Ok, I'll bite. What's wrong with them? In the normal case, the problem is that the gotcha question distracts from investigation of real issues. (see Russert, Tim) But that doesn't mean that every question attempting to catch out a politician is unethical.

Just to take one example, I would have expected a former small town mayor and current governor to know about the Kelo decision. The fact that she doesn't know about Kelo makes me wonder how her years of executive experience could possibly count in her favor.

Too many facts

We still don't know if Palin can name a Supreme Court case, but...

...now with my own damn video to embed.

Thou shalt not blink

House Republicans now declare that Pelosi's partisanship had nothing to do with their votes. The new talking point is that the House Republicans just needed the Democrats to throw them a bone, some kind of sweetener. What do they want? The latest is an increase in the FDIC insurance limit to $250,000.

Sounds good to me, since that's something that Dems have long supported and, hey, Obama has been calling for it.

Whatever you say about the House Republican caucus, one thing is for sure. They are tough, tough negotiators.

The agony of David Brooks

David Brooks continues his journey through the stages of grief, frequently circling back to denial. But he really skewers the GOP in his most recent column. My favorite bit:
House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century.

But I am confused by this:
What we need in this situation is authority. Not heavy-handed government regulation, but the steady and powerful hand of some public institutions that can guard against the corrupting influences of sloppy money and then prevent destructive contagions when the credit dries up.

So, we need a steady and powerful hand that isn't heavy handed? Thank God conservatives continue have a clear message for America!

Wingnut Econ through the years

So, as of Tuesday's close, the Dow is lower than on the day George Bush took office in 2001.

I doubt any of our conservative interlocutors from 2004-5 are still reading this blog, but just in case any of them are, I'd like to go into the wayback machine and recall that, throughout the Bush presidency these folks made the claim that Bush had turned the economy around through his two-pronged approach of tax cuts and prayer.

Liberals argued that the ballyhooed recovery, such as it was, was only benefiting the Americans whose personal fortunes put them at the very top end of the economic scale. And, more to the current point, we pointed out that recovery wasn't based on strong fundamentals, but instead was a phantasmal recovery based on a fairly disturbing housing bubble.

Wingnut economists and bloggers, while occasionally acknowledging the housing bubble, refused to believe that this was the engine of their pseudo-recovery. And here we are, when the whole thing has predictably melted down, the market is back where we started, and things are looking grim. And the wingnut response?

Yep, you got it. Blame Democrats for the housing bubble.

More music of the collapse

For some reason, this song has been going through my head today.

(I'd skip in 90 seconds if I were you)


Troopergate continues

Item: Looks like Murlene Wilkes honored her subpoena after all. If Jason Leopold's reporting is accurate, then her testimony indicates that Todd Palin met with Wilkes about Wooten's compensation case and instructed her to reverse judgment and deny Wooten's claim. Moreover, Wilkes complied with Todd Palin's instruction because it was made clear to her that her firm would lose it's state contract if she did not.

Item: Speaking of Leopold's reporting, this statement from John Cyr from the PSEA seems to me to trump the snow machine story.
“Out of nowhere [Wooten’s] workers comp claim was contravened, which basically means he got a letter saying he wasn’t entitled to benefits anymore,” Cyr said in an interview. Documents show that a state lawyer intervened in the case. Wooten “hired an attorney and filed a counterclaim against the state. Eventually, in November 2007 there was a settlement. Part of that settlement included an operation on [Wooten’s] back in California. This was a serious injury and he was flat broke and had to file for bankruptcy because his claims were denied. There was absolutely a personal vendetta against this trooper by the governor and the governor’s staff.”

Item: Frank Bailey, the senior aide who was placed on administrative leave after it was revealed that he had pressured employees in the Alaska Division of Public Safety to fire Wooten, went back to work last Thursday.

Item: On Friday, Palin's chief of staff Mike Nizich and six other state employees fail to honor subpoenas from Branchflower. Get this. The Attorney General advised them that honoring legislative subpoenas is optional.

Item: Speaking of the Attorney General, Colberg spent last week vacationing in Kansas, as it was one of only four U.S. states he had never been to.

Bonus content:

Addendum: Apparently Jason Leopold a reputation as a fabulist. Well, I don't know. I take the same attitude toward his reporting that I take toward everybody's. That is, I assess it in relation to what else I know, and when possible, do a little bit of digging to find relevant documents. In the present case, the general shape of Leopold's story is consistent with what I know, and I'm pretty well informed about the scandal. His scoop has to do with the content of Wilkses' testimony, and nobody else has that. So we'll see. That said, nothing about Leopold's account of Wilkses' testimony differed from what she was expected to say, so I take Leopold's story very seriously.

Wonder of wonders

I'm going to watch the CBS Evening News tonight to see the latest Palin interview clip. It has been just over six years since I last watched a network newscast of my own volition.

In other Palin news, Troopergate continues. I'm working on updating the timeline and will probably throw up a catching up with Troopergate post in the next few days. Remember, the investigator's report is due on October 10. In case you didn't know, that's my Pop's birthday. He'll be old.

...it's a joint appearance with both Palin and McCain. Apparently, when a voter asked Palin a question and she didn't know the answer, that was "gotcha journalism". Speaking as a voter, that's good to know. I wouldn't want to cross any boundaries.

Blogging to resume shortly

As you know, early last week we suspended The Bellman blog in order to better deal with the current crisis. Beginning this Wednesday at 8 am blogging will resume.

Next move

In the wake of today's events let's be clear about four facts. One, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were happy with the plan that went before the House today. Two, the plan under discussion was the best hope for finding a bipartisan compromise -- any move toward the right will lose Democratic votes, any move to the left will lose Republican votes. Three, Republicans dislike the compromise plan but would almost universally support a plan with absolutely no chance of working. Four, Democrats dislike the compromise plan but would almost universally support a plan with a better chance of working.

It's time for the Democrats to finally and at last admit that the House Republicans must be shut out of all policy discussions. The question is no longer "How do we get crazy people to cast a sane vote?" but is rather, "What is the best approach?"

The verdict of professional economists is clear. Significant institutions of the financial sector must be temporarily nationalized in order to accomplish recapitalization and allow the spiral to unwind with minimal disruption of economic activity. The House Democrats can and should pass such a plan. Then we can have a real negotiation between the Senate, the House Democrats, and the Department of the Treasury.

Krugman, who is very smart, said that he supported the Paulson Plan despite its flaws because it's politically impossible for Democrats to pass an economic recovery plan without Republican cover. But if we know anything, we know that so-called Republican cover is a mirage. The GOP wasn't ever going to do anything except blame Democrats for cleaning up the mess. So let's clean it up the right way, and then have an argument on the merits.


I'm home watching the vote while answering a flood of email, and let's just say that the deal doesn't seem to be a deal. In other news, the stock market is dropping like a fucking rock. It's down 200 points in the last five minutes, 700 points for the day.

Update: The 200 points came back, holding steady at a 500 point loss. The Speaker has held the vote open, and the Dems at least, seem to be strong arming their dissenting members to switch their votes to yes.

Update: The vote fails in the House.

Update: Final numbers are in for the markets. The Dow dropped 777 points, which is about 7% of total value. The S&P, which people say is more relevant to this sort if issue, lost 8.8% of its value.


We know that working class white voters are having trouble coming around to Obama. We also seem to know that the reason comes down to the fact that Obama is an unfamiliar figure to those voters. He isn't like them, and isn't like their neighbors. And then here's Bill Clinton saying the same thing, seemingly reinforcing a negative frame.

Except that what Bill Clinton is really doing is acting as a role model for those voters. He hadn't met Obama until recently he says. All he know was that Hillary, who he trusts, thought the guy was really capable, and so he checked him out. He did, and he was impressed too.

The blame game

Shorter Andy McCarthy: How dare government bail out government!

Have no doubt about it, the geniuses who brought us Bush, Iraq, deregulation, exploding deficits, executive overreach, torture, growing inequality and a shrinking economy have decided that the correct response to the current financial crisis is to blame the Democrats for their commitment to the necessity of cleaning up the mess.

Well. What can you say?

McCarthy's own words reveal just how disconnected from the world of grown ups the conservative movement has become:
So in addition to rewarding irresponsible lenders and borrowers, we taxpayers are now to be "protected" by buying the toxic debt of states, cities and municipalities. It's one thing to throw a life-line to the credit industry; local governments, by contrast, have the ability to cut spending drastically or raise taxes if their inhabitants want government services.

Good to know that he supports having elected officials pay an electoral price for their support of failed policies, but the real news here is McCarthy's total lack of understanding of the problem faced by government at the state and local level.

To begin with, many states have laws on the books which prohibit them from running a deficit. In practice, one thing this means is that funding problems at the state level get passed down the line to local government.

And it turns out that there are some structural differences between government at the local and federal level. For example, unlike the federal government, municipalities lack the power to expand or contract the money supply in response to economic circumstances. This makes them like businesses in that they can experience cash flow problems. Moreover, like businesses, there are practical limits on how much money a local government is able to borrow.

Well, McCarthy says, too bad for them. Who needs schools, police, roads, courts, elections, trash collection, or any of that crap? Not Andy!

In the short run, the Democrats have been doing what they have to do to avert economic disaster. Starting January 21, the Democrats will work around the clock to repair the underlying damage that the Republican Party has done to our financial system. In the long run, that's all going to go for naught if the failed economic ideology of American conservatism is allowed to escape from this debacle with the slightest shred of legitimacy.

McCain is fucked



Monday morning outer-space thread

Three Chinese astronauts made a jubilant return to Earth on Sunday after successfully completing the country's first-ever spacewalk, an event the premier said was "a stride forward" in China's space history. | link |

Trailing an orange pillar of flame, a rocket designed and built by a company founded by a Silicon Valley billionaire became the first privately developed, privately financed rocket to reach Earth's orbit today, potentially blazing a much cheaper pathway to space. | link |

and, by contrast
Those who keep tabs on NASA's fortunes worry that the agency's plan to return Americans to the moon in a decade won't amount to more than a cluster of plywood frames in a hangar. As NASA marks its 50th anniversary Wednesday, space experts say NASA is adrift, its future disturbingly murky. | link |

(unofficial) Palin debate predictions thread

The nature of the McCain campaign means that we've got to prepare for both stunt and non-stunt debate possibilities. My predictions are below. Yours are in comments.

Non-stunt prediction: Pundits will declare that Palin wins while losing and it won't be obvious that they're wrong. Up to a point, there's an upside to sputtering incomprehensible strings of buzzwords. Low information voters will make up a version of what you're saying that makes sense to them, and that narrative is apt to be more convincing than anything you might have come up with yourself. Another way of putting that is to say that low information voters aren't going to be familiar with any specifics you might come up with, so you're better off letting them connect the dots with examples from their own lives. The bar has never been all that high for Palin. She doesn't have to make sense. She just has to make about as much sense as a regulation issue Republican. Less maybe.

Stunt prediction: Monday at 8am Palin resigns as Governor of Alaska and issues a press release stating that she is bringing her team down. Tuesday, the McCain campaign, through Ed O'Callaghan in Alaska, issues an inscrutable press release stating that the campaign will henceforth cease advising Palin, limiting communication to such items as are necessary to coordinate actions. At the debate, Palin still doesn't know much about a disturbing range of issues, but is feisty, assertive, and coherent. Stakes out a far-right socially conservative agenda beyond anything McCain is proposing. Non-bible verse line of the night, "Well, John has his views and I have mine and we'll continue to negotiate."

Official Proliferation Post

During the debate, I was struck by both candidates' allegiance to the policy of non-proliferation. As we have discussed here and here, the policy is at best one of slowing proliferation, not stopping it.

I think it's ironic that McCain insists that the United States needs nuclear power to deal with the threat posed by global warming, yet would literally bomb Iran should they build a single nuclear power plant.

At one point in the debate, McCain smiled and I think he was tempted to burst into song.

Is the entire developing world supposed to keep burning carbon-rich fossil fuels while the United States and Europe move to cleaner technologies? Such a policy will not stop global warming.

I was also disappointed that neither candidate talked about the threat that climate change poses to our national security. I don't think that's too complex a talking point for a debate that spent a lot of time talking about tax policy.


Official Presidential Debate Post

What did y'all think?


Just say it, Byron

Do It, Nancy [Byron York]

When it comes to the bailout plans, from a Democratic perspective: If it is House Republicans who are the problem, who cares what they think? Isn't it a distinguishing characteristic of the House that the majority can pretty much do what it wants? It's the Senate where the minority can make lots of trouble and slow down the process. In the House, we have seen Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants steamroll over Republican objections time and again in all sorts of legislative matters. Before Pelosi, we saw a Republican majority do similar things. So if Pelosi wants the bailout to happen, and House Democrats are united behind her, why don't we have a bill? | corner |

Meaning what, exactly? Do you, Byron York, think that the revised Bush plan is a good one and that you want it passed, despite public sentiment and the resistance of your own party? Or do you, Byron York, think it's a bad idea, and politically unworkable, and just want to watch the Dems melt down?

Personally, I haven't been convinced that the bailout is necessary, despite my vanishing 401k. I kind of hope they can't agree on how to spend 700 billion dollars.

What about you, Bellman readers?



[Origin: 1450. From Middle English 'ensuren', to assure, from Old French 'enseurer', variant of 'assurer']

To make sure or secure; as, to insure safety to any one.

2. Specifically, to secure against a loss by a contingent event, on certain stipulated conditions, or at a given rate or premium; to give or to take an insurance on or for; as, a merchant insures his ship or its cargo, or both, against the dangers of the sea; goods and buildings are insured against fire or water; persons are insured against sickness, accident, or death; and sometimes hazardous debts are insured.

3. Ensure.


[c.1385, from Anglo-Fr. 'enseurer', from 'en-' make + O.Fr. 'seur' sure probably infl. by O.Fr. 'asseurer' assure]

1. To make certain of.

2. To be careful or certain to do something; to make certain of something.

3. To betroth.

4. Insure.

RE: Palin and Couric

Journalistic standards do not allow mainstream media analysts to simply say "Oh my fucking God!" and be done with it, so we can expect some real artistry in the reaction pieces.


Good news to you I'll tell

It makes the electorate ripe for Sen. McCain's populist message, Mr. Hart said, recalling the classic movie, "Network," where TV news anchor Howard Beale urges viewers to proclaim, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

"John McCain has become the Howard Beale of this election," Mr. Hart said. |The Fever Swamp|

The thing is, Beale was off his rocker when he said that, and had previously pledged to commit suicide on the air. Moreover, one of the points the movie is making is that being mad as hell doesn't do much good, since anger is as easy to manipulate and market as anything else. Easier, really.

But, you know, any port in a storm.

The President is currently confusing me

I'm serious.

Taking his ball and going home

The McCain campaign announced today that it wasn't going to campaign any more, and would halt his political advertising and fundraising.


It would seem that John Sidney McCain III's staff have decided the best way to win the debate scheduled for Friday is not to attend. I assume that their election strategy is to have his name removed from the ballot.

Here's a plan that doesn't cost $700 billion

PFNC doesn't intend just to build shelter. It wants to build communities, and McCarthy said the group expects to have the first pilot community on the ground late next year.

"That was our goal, more than just four walls and a roof but to kind of raise the standard of living in Juarez and other places," Nava said.

The shipping containers, which can be hauled by truck, rail or ship, are designed to stack. PFNC envisions a cluster arrangement, eight side by side and four high, with apartment-type balconies and staircases in the corners.

Clusters could be arranged into squares, creating "a safe little plaza in the middle where we hope to build a soccer field or a playground, some safe area for families to be," Nava said.

PFNC wants to set up programs with maquiladoras to offer housing as an employee benefit, helping cut the high rate of worker turnover, now between 7 percent and 10 percent a month, McCarthy said. The company is working with a Mexican law firm that has handled work-to-own housing programs.

"This is not a rental-type situation or free housing while you work here," McCarthy said. "Rather, the employer takes on some of the burden in setting up the financing program to transfer ownership to the employee."

That's important because PFNC needs large orders to keep costs down so low-wage workers can afford the home. The incentive for employers: Studies show housing for employees dramatically increases retention, and having more workers in a given area will reduce the number of buses maquiladoras run to take people to and from their jobs. |CNN|

Gotta say, I can't quite decide whether or not to be horrified by this story. I mean, there's obviously something sketchy about snapping your finger and saying, "I've got an idea, let's house the Mexicans in shipping containers!" On the other hand, the present living conditions of those workers are abominable.

Fun time with Meg and Ed

Before I go any further, how about some love for The Anchorage Daily News? Their coverage of Troopergate is beyond excellent. Lately, they've been posting videos of the briefings that GOP fixer Ed O'Callaghan and McCain spokesperson Meg Stapleton have been giving to the Alaska press. Quite a hoot.

The best line from today's installment came early when Stapleton explained that there's no reason to worry about the independence of the Personnel Board because, as Stapleton drolly intoned, "The governor has no power to remove a member of the Personnel Board except for cause."


But even though that's the best line, this exchange is classic:

Reporter: Will the governor be testifying?
O'Callaghan: The governor is embracing Mr. Peteumenos' investigation wholeheartedly. She is an open book in this matter. If requested by Mr. Peteumenos to be interviewed, she will be interviewed.
Reporter: Given that she's an open book, her testimony will be public then?
O'Callaghan: Uh, our understanding is that Mr. Peteumenos has requested that the investigation be confidential as long as it is going on, and we intend to honor that request.
Reporter: One of the concerns that you guys cited as well as Van Flein cited about the Legislative Investigation is that Mr. Branchflower is conducting secret interviews, emphasis on the word secret. Isn't that what Mr. Peteumenos is doing?
O'Callaghan: Mr. Peteumenos is going to determine how to run his investigation, and we are going to respect his wishes.
Reporter: But you brought up the issue of secret interviewing of witnesses. It was your side of the issue that brought up the secretness of Branchflower's investigation, and you're saying that's all right if it's Peteumenos.

By the way, if there was any actual news made, it was probably O'Callaghan's claim that nobody from the governor's office or the McCain campaign had instructed any witnesses to defy subpoenas. Apparently, it just so happened that all of the various members of the Palin adminstration independently decided not to comply. Good to know.


Troy Davis

The Supreme Court has decided to let an innocent man live through the weekend. Hard to believe that counts as a victory for justice, but it does.

Pay as you go

dr proposes: A tax on capital gains with a thirty year sunset and all revenue directed at repairing the massive hole that the Paulson Plan is going to blow in the budget. Think of it as a mortgage.

Twists and turns

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting this morning that Governor Sarah Palin has now pledged to cooperate with the Personnel Board's investigation into troopergate. As you may recall, just last week her attorney filed a motion to have the personnel board complaint dismissed for lack of probable cause. Before that, Palin sparked the Personnel Board's investigation by filing an ethics complaint against herself in an attempt to change venue and avoid the independent investigation authorized by the Legislative Council.

Addendum: CNN falls hook line and sinker for the gambit. Under the headline "Palin 'ready to cooperate' in firing probe, lawyer says" their lead for the story is "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's lawyer met Monday with the independent counsel hired by the state to discuss the investigation into Palin's firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner, campaign officials said." That almost makes it sound as if Palin is cooperating with a real investigation rather than running her own pseudo-investigation as part and parcel of her ongoing attempt to cover-up the truth of the matter.

Bonus Content: Palin's truth squad takes Troopergate questions:

The new talking point appears to be, "Governor Palin is an open book."

...also worth noting, the truth squad (it's actually GOP fixer Ed O'Callaghan and McCain spokesperson Meg Stapleton), keeps emphasizing that the seemingly debunked insubordination charge. I think what this shows is that a lot depends on how narrowly you define the scope of the investigation. If the question addressed is narrowed to, did Governor Palin exceed her authority by firing Commissioner Monegan -- excluding, that is, all questions about whether Palin coordinated a campaign to pressure Monegan to perform an illegal act, and whether this was part of a more general pattern -- then those staff emails emails would seem to establish a prima facie cause for the firing and, as a matter of law, that might serve as a complete defense for Palin. The defense relies crucially on Palin's office being so out of control that she can't exert effective oversight over her chief of staff, but whatever.

One more thing: Over at TPMMuckraker, Zachary Roth seems to second -- albeit with reservations -- the Associated Press's analysis that, "the probe is effectively killed until January, when Sarah Palin will either be vice president or return to the governor's mansion in Juneau."

I don't think so. To begin with, I'm not sure how important the statements of those witnesses would have been to the investigation. Most had already made sworn statements to Colberg, and those statements are in Branchflower's hands. My understanding is that Branchflower was provided with Frank Bailey's cell phone records, which were the only documents subpoenaed. Moreover, if the report explains the missing testimony by dispassionately laying out the facts of the cover-up -- just as French did the other day -- then the absence of testimony may prove damaging in itself. Especially if, as seems likely, Branchflower is able to show that some of the statements given to Colberg are materially false or incomplete.

The important thing to keep in mind how much wrongdoing we know to be on the record. DPS records all incoming calls, so Branchflower has tapes of numerous calls from the Governor's staff -- especially Bailey -- about Wooten. The calls themselves show a pattern of pressure to have Wooten fired, but it goes further than that. Among the fruit of those recordings is evidence that the governor's staff had improperly accessed confidential information contained in Wooten's personnel file, and that the governor's staff interceded in a workers compensation proceeding. We also know that this pattern of wrongdoing goes beyond Frank Bailey, at least as far as Todd Palin who, even according to the official defense, passed a copy of Wooten's personnel file to Bailey. For those keeping score, that's a pattern of illegal acts, a conspiracy, and a cover-up.


As economic uncertainty mounts, America asks "Didn't Todd take a bookkeeping course once?"

The extent of Todd Palin's involvement in issues is partly obscured by the refusal of the governor's office to release documents detailing internal communications with him. In a recent response to a citizen's public records request, the office refused to turn over 1,100 e-mails but released a log showing that 44 of those held back were sent to "T. Palin." The log showed him copied on e-mails regarding, among other issues, the union that represents state troopers and a parental-consent abortion bill.

Todd Palin's communications with Walter Monegan, a former public safety commissioner, have entangled him in a legislative investigation into whether he and his wife, along with several top officials, pressured unsuccessfully for the firing of state trooper Mike Wooten. The first couple had accused Wooten, who was in a child-custody battle with Sarah Palin's sister, of threatening behavior. Monegan did not fire Wooten, and the governor removed Monegan from office in July.

Last week, the McCain campaign said Todd Palin would refuse to comply with a subpoena to testify in the investigation.

He did step in when KTUU-TV, the dominant broadcast station in Alaska, aired a segment describing the many personnel complaints the Palins had brought against Wooten. Todd Palin called to complain. The segment's producer, John Herbst, later resigned after he was reprimanded for failing to treat elected officials with "respect." |WaPo|

And so it comes to this!

Was going to post something about Apple's treatment of the iPhone app store to take a break from politics, but when I went to John Gruber's site for some of the source material, he was actually posting about politics... perhaps to take a break from posting about Apple.
Newt Gingrich, on the Bush administration’s “hurry up and immediately approve a $700 billion bailout” push, and the Democratic congress’s apparent willingness to go along with it:
Congress was designed by the Founding Fathers to move slowly, precisely to avoid the sudden panic of a one-week solution that becomes a 20-year mess.

And so we’ve now reached the point where I’m in full agreement with Newt Gingrich on the most pressing political debate of the day.

Senator Bernie Sanders:
For years now, they’ve told us that we can’t afford — that the government providing healthcare to all people is just unimaginable; it can’t be done. We don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have the money to wipe out poverty. We can’t do it. But all of a sudden, yeah, we do have $700 billion for a bailout of Wall Street.

In just one week.


Item: "Pakistani troops fired at two US helicopters that intruded into the restive North Waziristan tribal region, forcing them back to Afghanistan, a media report said on Monday" - The Times of India

Item: "Pakistan's president, prime minister and other Cabinet members were supposed to have been at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad when a massive truck bomb detonated outside, killing 57 and injuring 266, Pakistan's head of the Interior Ministry Rehman Malik said Monday." - CNN

In response to a question

I'm don't know what all Will Rogers had in mind when he said that politics is applesauce, but I do know a few things. For one, you make applesauce with a lower class of apple than you'd use for a pie. Applesauce, cornbread, beans and greens was still a common enough meal down in Oklahoma when I was growing up, though it wasn't the sort of thing you'd serve at the beginning of the month. Relatedly, the Iron Law of Oklahoma Political Economy (ILOPE) states that the applesauce/pork ratio at the dinner table strongly correlates to imputed bank balance.

Hey buddy, can you spare a trillion?

The question of the day is whether the Paulson Plan is a starting point for negotiations or a declaration of what the administration intends to do. This morning's news of the Fed's reclassification and escalated oversight of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seems to indicate that Paulson is steaming ahead full speed.

Another way to ask the question is to ask whether the technocrats, now exiled for nearly eight years, can push hard enough to insure that reasonable policies are adopted. Krugman seems to speak for the emerging consensus among the technocrat peanut gallery in his column today.
The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention...the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? |Krugman|

Part of the answer, probably, is that Wall Street is really happy with the Paulson Plan. To the extent that confidence will carry us through the crisis, that counts in its favor.

One thing is clear. If the Democrats have any chance at all of significantly modifying the shape of the government's response to the financial crisis, taking that chance requires that they come up with a clear alternative and invest significant political capital in getting their own plan through.

Another thing that's clear is that John McCain, just as he did during his many years chairing the Commerce Committee, is abdicating all responsibility of any kind. His plan, as he revealed Thursday and Friday, is to stand on the sideline and blame "Washington insiders." Count on him to double down on that message.

The conventional wisdom is that the crisis helps Obama because the Democratic brand is so strong on the economy. Maybe so, but McCain is betting that no matter what the government does, it will be unpalatable to most voters. If there's a fight over policy, as there should be, McCain is going to characterize it as Democrats holding the economy hostage to special interests and back room deals. It's no surprise, to me at least, that McCain released a Rezko ad this morning. Expect more of the same as we push past the moment of crisis and focus on fixing blame for the increasingly severe economic downturn.


Predatory bailout?

The defense of the Paulson Plan, as I understand it, is that the assets the government is planning to buy are going to appreciate in value and so this isn't just a trillion taxpayer dollars given away to the investor class, but is also a great opportunity. In other words, the idea is that the market has undervalued these assets and that whoever buys them will make a handsome profit down the road.

And that all sounds great, but you have to ask why the assets are undervalued. Krugman rejects the plan on the grounds that it only makes sense if you assume that the problem is a liquidity problem. I think his point is that Paulson seems to think that demand for mortgage derivatives has collapsed because of a lack of investment capital rather than because of a fundamental problem with housing stock.

And, of course, if that's what Paulson thinks then the Fed Chief is off his rocker, because there clearly is a fundamental problem with housing stock. There was a bubble. It collapsed.

My guess is that Paulson's assumption is a little bit different. He's merely assuming that the debt will be collectable. In short, the plan makes the government the collection agency of last resort. I can think of reasons why Norquist and Rove would approve, but the rest of us should question whether this is the best or only place where leverage could be applied.

And another thing: How much would it cost to make the paper good? $700 billion will pay a lot of bills. In 2006, the average mortgage payment was about $1600. To make the math easy, let's assume the figure is now $2000. On that assumption, the $700 billion could be used to make 350 million monthly mortgage payments. That works out to five mortgage payments per home-owning American household. As long as the plan is to throw money at the problem, why not pay everyone's mortgage through the final day of the Bush Administration?

Name that tune

"The crisis on Wall Street started in the washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling, and he was right square in the middle of it!" -- John S. McCain

That's a Rezko dog whistle if I ever heard one.



[Origin: 1950-55. From Greek 'psēphos', pebble, ballot (from the ancient Greeks' use of pebbles for voting) + -logy]

The study of elections.



Past noticing that the accusations against him were at least as troubling as the accusations against Wooten, I haven't paid any attention to the controversy surrounding Monegan's short lived replacement Chuck Kopp. But maybe I should have. Andrew Sullivan is right to flag this:
Subsequent events suggest that the price of support for McCain by the fundamentalist Christian leadership would be a vice presidential candidate of their liking. Gov. Palin was a logical choice for Franklin Graham, whose ties to Alaska include a palatial, by Bush Alaska standards, second home in Port Alsworth: a community that has often served as a retreat for Christian fundamentalist leaders.

But Gov. Palin did not promote a socially conservative agenda during her first two years as governor and some Alaska right-wing commentators called her an economic liberal. Send us a sign, national fundamentalist Christian leaders seemingly said, that proves your credentials. In firing Monegan and hiring Kopp, Palin would have gained a controversial measure of revenge in a family dispute and established her standing as a Christian conservative politician.

Kenai City Police Chief Chuck Kopp was a rising star in Alaska's Christian conservative movement. He was a frequent speaker at local religious and patriotic gatherings. He was school board president of Cook Inlet Academy, the fundamentalist Christian high school in Soldotna his missionary-educator father founded. Kopp also was on the board of Port Alsworth's Tanailan Bible Camp, also founded by his father. |Alan Boraas|

Nat King Cole fuck yeah

Been a long time since we talked about music. What sounds are y'all spinning these days?

Methinks (you know the rest)

Ross Douthat is verklempt. He calls that "the sleaziest, most dishonest anti-McCain ad imaginable." I think his imagination is less fertile than mine.

As to the narrow question of the formal truth of the discrete claims made in the ad, maybe someone with better Spanish than me can weigh in.

In any case, it seems to me that it's difficult to know what to think about the general truthiness of the ad because it's difficult to know what McCain's position on immigration is. Certainly, at the time of the inflammatory Limbaugh quotes cited in the ad, McCain was on the anti-nativist side of the debate. But he has since gone on record saying that he would vote against his own bill, and living here in Michigan I can attest that there are pro-McCain ads on the air which take a very hard line against illegal immigration.

I'm inclined to say that this makes the ad reasonably fair even if it turns out to be factually inaccurate, but I'm not sure how strongly I'd be willing to endorse that assessment. If the ad is indeed factually inaccurate, Obama probably ought to pull it. But he could and should replace it with an ad using the same Limbaugh quotes and emphasizing McCain's cave-in to the far right nativist wing of the GOP.

Another question about the revolution

I'm thinking about getting a DVR.

Will I be first against the wall?

Miracle cure?

Krugman points us to "the Sept./Oct. issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries."

John S. McCain:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.


Troopergate Timeline

UPDATE: The most up to date version of this post is The Bellman: Super duper Troopergate Timeline

Below is a timeline of the troopergate scandal. I'll continue to revise and promote as seems necessary.

[7/13/08] Palin abruptly fires Monegan, replacing him with Kenai City Police Chief Chuck Kopp, a prominent member of Alaska's Christian conservative community.

[7/18/08] Palin, first beginning to face allegations that the firing was improper, says “We would never prohibit, or be less than enthusiastic about any kind of investigation. Let’s deal in the facts, and you do that via investigation."

[7/22/08] Chuck Kopp, Palin's hand picked successor to Walt Monegan, admits to having been reprimanded for sexual harassment during his tenure as Kenai police chief.

[7/24/08] Despite apparent proof to the contrary, Palin denies having known about Kopp's letter of reprimand.

[7/25/08] Kopp steps down.

[7/29/08] Palin pledges cooperation after the Legislative Council votes 12-0 to hire independent investigator Stephen Branchflower.

[8/12/09] Despite criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature, Palin directs Attorney General Talis Colberg to conduct his own investigation in advance of Branchflower's.

[8/13/08] AG's investigation uncovers tape of close Palin aide Frank Bailey phone call pressuring DPS to fire Wooten.

[8/14/08] Palin admits staff, including Colberg, made at least 20 calls and that "the serial nature of the contacts could be perceived as some kind of pressure, presumably at my direction."

[8/15/08] Branchflower begins work on his investigation.

[8/20/08] Frank Bailey placed on paid leave pending outcome of the investigation.

[8/29/08] Palin tabbed as McCain's pick for VP.

[9/1/08] Because Colberg and the rest of her staff are all subjects of the investigation, Palin hires a private lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, to represent her office.

[9/2/08] Van Flein challenges authority of legislature to conduct investigation, demands move to Palin appointed Personnel Board.

[9/3/08] In an effort to secure jurisdiction for the Personnel Board, Palin files an ethics complaint against herself.

[9/4/08] Citing concerns over jurisdiction, Frank Bailey and other Palin aides cancel previously scheduled appointments to give sworn testimony to Branchflower.

[9/5/08] PSEA files complaint on Wooten's behalf as evidence emerges that Frank Bailey had access to confidential information contained in Wooten's personnel file.

[9/5/08] Representative John Coghill airs first accusations of partisanship, initiates campaign to have Hollis French ousted as manager of the investigation.

[9/9/08] After reviewing Coghill's allegations, Legislative Council Chair Kim Elton refuses to remove French.

[9/9/08] Lt. Governor Barnhill sends a letter to Legislative Council Chair Kim Elton offering administration cooperation with subpoenas in exchange for agreement that administrative employees have right to access confidential employment files.

[9/11/08] Thomas Van Flein alleges that Branchflower is acting unethically, demands that he stop deposing witnesses.

[9/12/08] Responding to Barnhill's offer of 9/9/08, Kim Elton notifies Barnhill that the Legislative Council accepts the administration's interpretation of law regarding personnel files.

[9/13/08] After Branchflower presents evidence that the governor's office attempted to intercede in a Workers Compensation proceeding, the majority Republican Senate Judiciary Committee votes to subpoena 13 witnesses, including Todd Palin and several high ranking members of Palin's administration.

[9/13/08] Barnhill acknowledges Elton's acceptance of the deal, and lays out his plan for scheduling interviews with Branchflower.

[9/16/08] Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that the McCain has sent high-powered GOP fixer Edward O'Callaghan to Alaska to coordinate the troopergate cover-up.

[9/16/08] While still claiming executive privilege for all other correspondence, Palin produces emails purporting to show that Monegan was fired for insubordination relating to the budget.

[9/16/08] Palin rescinds pledge to speak to Branchflower.

[9/16/08] Five Republican members of the state legislature file suit seeking an injunction to halt Branchflower's investigation.

[9/16/08] Citing lack of probable cause, Palin submits a filing asking the Personnel Board to dismisss the ethics complaint she filed against herself.

[9/17/08] Attorney General Colberg announces that state employees will not honor subpoenas.

[9/18/08] Todd Palin announces that he will not honor subpoena.

[9/19/08] Todd Palin and two administrative employees fail to comply with subpoenas.

[9/19/08] Murlene Wilkes, the contractor charged with handling workers compensation claims, does appear, changing her statement to indicate that Todd Palin had met with her and instructed her to deny Wooten's worker's compensation claim, under threat of losing her firm's $1.2 million contract.

[9/19/08] ABC News uncovers documents which appear to contradict Palin's account of Monegan's alleged insubordination.

[9/25/08] With no explanation offered, Frank Bailey returns as director of boards and commissions.

[9/25/08] Attorney General Talis Colberg files suit to have the Legislative subpoenas quashed on the grounds that they were improperly issued.

[9/26/08] Palin chief of staff Mike Nizich and six other state employees fail to comply with subpoenas issued by Branchflower.


A not so fresh wrinkle

Todd Palin, special assistant Ivy Frye and deputy chief of staff Randy Ruaro failed to show up for scheduled depositions today, but Murlene Wilkes -- the contractor charged with handling workers compensation claims -- has agreed to testify and should be doing so as I write this. Of the thirteen subpoenas issued by the Judiciary Committee, four have been satisfied and six remain to be served.

But don't take my word for it. Take it from Hollis French.

Quite the partisan firebrand, isn't he?

French's statement today shed light on something I hadn't fully understood before. As you may recall, days before the Judiciary Committee met to issue subpoenas, Lt. Governor Barnhill sent a letter to Legislative Council Chair Kim Elton offering cooperation if Elton would aggree with Barnhill's interpretation of the law regarding the handling of personnel files. That much I knew. What I didn't know was that on September 12 -- the day the subpoenas were issued -- Elton accepted Barnhill's offer, and that Barnhill sent an email in reply indicating that he would begin working with Branchflower on Tuesday September 16 to schedule statements for those witnesses who had not secured private counsel. The deal was scuttled by Coghill.

...perhaps I should add, for those few of you who may not choose to devote seven minutes to watching French deliver his statement, that I'm not putting together any puzzles here. He's up there at the podium going through the letters, calmly documenting the cover-up.

An internal government document obtained by ABC News appears to contradict Sarah Palin's most recent explanation for why she fired her public safety chief, the move which prompted the now-contested state probe into "Troopergate."
The document, a state travel authorization form, shows that Palin's chief of staff, Miki Nizich, approved Monegan's trip to Washington D.C. "to attend meeting with Senator Murkowski." the date next to Nizich's signature reads June 18.
Monegan said he didn't know why Palin' chief of staff approved a trip that confounded her other aides. "It sounds like it's a breakdown of communication internal to the governor's staff," he said. |Justin Rood|

And speaking of loose ends: No word yet on whether Wilkes showed up this afternoon or not, but here's some essential background reading on her role.

...KTUU also has a good story about Wilkes' role, including more details about the testimony Branchflower has collected so far regarding the workers compensation claim:
Last Friday, Branchflower said a former employee of Harbor Adjustment Service, Johanna Grasso, contacted a tip line. Grasso testified under oath regarding a conversation she had with Wilkes about a worker's compensation claim from Wooten.

Wooten is the governor's former brother in law, who went through a bitter divorce with governor Palin's sister.

At the hearing, Branchflower read from Grasso's testimony.

Grasso wrote, "Well I remember at one point in the conversation she had mentioned or said something to the effect that either the governor or the governor's office wanted this claim denied and I remember my response being, why? I don't care if it's the president that wants the claim denied I'm not going to deny it unless I have the medical evidence to do that."

Grasso says the conversation with Wilkes occurred in the Spring of 2007. |KTUU|

And what's so significant about that (beyond the underlying wrongdoing) is that Wilkes, the first time she spoke to Branchflower, denied that there had been any interference from the governor's office.

...lastly, if you look at the troopergate timeline, one of the things you might notice is that the revelations about Grasso's testimony came out after Barnhill's offer of cooperation, but before Coghill's decision to scuttle the deal. Draw your own conclusions.

The things you learn

The asserted extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States extends to, "Any island, rock, or key containing deposits of guano, which may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States."

Asked and answered

The Alaska lawmaker in charge of the abuse of power investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin promises the probe will be finished before the election, after all.

State Sen. Hollis French said today the investigator's report on the governor will be completed by Oct. 10, even though key witnesses won't testify. |ADN|

Friday reviews

Braid (video game)

It's about time travel. It's a moving watercolor painting. It's a poetic reinterpretation of Super Mario.

If you have an xbox, you have to try this game. The demo is free. Go. Do it now.

Burn After Reading (movie by those guys)

It's funny, it's awesome. Unless you feel that they should only be doing the dark movies like Miller's Crossing (my favorite) and No Country for Old Men, you will probably like it.

Fringe (TV show starring Joshua Jackson1)

I thought this was the promised American version of The 11th Hour. But no, it's just the X-Files with an old-school cranky Doctor Who thrown in (They know it, too. they defensively bring up Doc. Who references just to distance themselves from it.... It's weird.)

Oh, and spoilerz alert. It's pretty clear the Doctor Who guy cloned and/or designed his son, who will of course be the key to the whole "pattern." 


1 -- These days, he wouldn't last one minute on the Creek.

You can ask

Mudflats confirms something I suspected after reading the Uniform Rules and enabling legislation last night. While the Alaska Legislature has subpoena power, the short term consequences for defying a legislative subpoena are almost non-existant.
Todd, along with other witnesses, can stall without penalty for months, pushing this investigation well past election day. To bring contempt charges, which are punishable by a fine up to $500, or up to six months in jail, the full Legislature must be in session. That happens after Christmas.

I'm not quite sure where this leaves the investigation. Branchflower could release a report based on the testimony he has been able to gather, or he could table the inquiry until the legislature meets in full session. One thing to note, I think, is that the issue of improper access to personnel files will have to be adjudicated somewhere as a result of the PSEA complaint.

Palin email trivia

Wondering how a hacker was able to gain access to Sarah Palin's yahoo account? According to the latest reports the hacker guessed Palin's security question.

The question: Where did you meet your husband?
The answer: Wasilla High

Bonus Palin email trivia: After breaking into the account the hacker set Palin's password to 'popcorn'

Usability complaint Friday

Today is the day that I say goodbye to Firefox. It's just too unstable. In a typical day browsing on my mac, the program will crash three or four times. On its own that would be bad enough, but there's a kicker. Every time Firefox crashes, it loses track of all bookmarks made during the session. Which means that when I bookmark something I'm not giving myself a very good chance of being able to find that thing in the future. Absolutely intolerable. So long, Firefox!


To fetch a pail of stupid

Let me tell you some things about Party A and Party B:
  • Party A exchanged vows with Party B in a church wedding in front of family and friends.
  • The state of California does not recognize their relationship.
  • As far as Party A is concerned, she is a bride.
  • Party A and Party B consider themselves to be part of a movement.
  • Because their relationship is not recognized, Party A cannot sign up for Party B's health benefits.
  • This leaves Party A and her two children without health insurance.
  • Although their stand has been called frivolous, they feel that their rights have been violated.
  • Party A and Party B feel like a a bride and groom.
  • Party A and Party B do not get irony.

A new evasion

I'll keep checking around, but it appears that the letter (pdf!) announcing Todd Palin's refusal to comply with the Legislature's subpoena contains a novel twist in the cover-up effort:
1. Mr. Palin objects to the Subpoena on the ground that the Judiciary Committee lacks authority to issue subpoenas or otherwise investigate matters relating to the Office of the Governor, the Department of Administration, or the Department of Public Safety. Pursuant to Rule 20 of the Uniform Rules of the Alaska Legislature, the Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction is limited to "the programs and activities of the Alaska Court System and the Department of Law, and the legal and substantive review of bills referred to it for that purpose." Pursuant to Rule 20, the State Affairs Committee is the legislative committee with jurisdiction over the Office of the Governor, the Department of Administration, and the Department of Public Safety.

Who even knows where to start with that? How about here. The current Chair of the State Affairs Committee is Bob Lynn. We know we can count on him to run an unbiased investigation because he's one of five legislators who filed suit a few days ago attempting to stop the independent investigation.

As to the rest, I'm not quite sure what to say. I never understood why the subpoenas came from the Judiciary Committee in the first place. What is clear is that it was always the plan:
French told the council the investigator will go to work gathering evidence and then could come back to lawmakers if "some people just won't talk." The House and Senate judiciary committees could then issue legislative subpoenas to compel testimony.|7.29.08|

The Legislative Council does have broad powers and it's pretty easy to imagine ways for the legislative council to use those powers to accomplish this result. I can't find a copy of the enabling motion, but surely it could have given special jurisdiction to Judicial Committee.

Here's a question for the lawyers. Have you ever heard of a court taking it upon itself to interpret and enforce the rules that a legislature has set for itself?

Don't be afraid, you can call me

Overall, researchers found an increase in oxidative stress such as a significant increase in free radicals and oxidants and a decrease in antioxidants. Agarwal says that equals a decrease in sperm's quality, including motility and viability. Evidence of oxidative stress can appear under other conditions, including exposure to certain environmental pollutants or infections in the urinary genital tract. |CNN|

The crucial question remains unanswered. Are we talking about slow swimmers whose leisurely journey up the fallopian tubes will fade into memory before they see egg one, or are we talking about messing with the genome? Makes a difference, I'd say.

Wanna wanna let it burn

The distractions of the campaign can make you forget how maliciously irresponsible the Republican Party has become:
"Once again the Fed has put the taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars to bail out an institution that put greed ahead of responsibility and used their good name to take risky bets that did not pay off," said Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, a member of the Senate Banking Committee.

A spokesman for Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the committee, said the senator "profoundly disagrees with the decision to use taxpayer dollars to bail out a private company" and is upset the government has sent an inconsistent message to the markets by bailing out AIG after it just refused to save investment bank Lehman Brothers from bankruptcy. |CNN|

Opposition to a clearly necessary step speaks for itself. Truth be told, the likes of Shelby and Bunning are probably glad Congress wasn't consulted. What they're doing now is warming up for the post-bailout fight about the extent of regulatory oversight. Care to guess which side they'll be on?

And by the way, how do you square the circle of blaming greed for this crisis? There are no significant allegations of shoddy accounting or fiduciary irresponsibility. At every level, from home buyers accepting sub-prime loans to lenders offering those loans to derivatives traders betting on the security of those loans to insurers backing those bets, every actor was doing exactly was free market absolutists like Bunning and Shelby thinks that they should be doing. They were seeking to maximize profit.

I'm no economist, but the basic shape of the current crisis is clear enough. It begins with a wide range of policies with generally bipartisan support that overly favored investment in housing, investments which were almost entirely based on credit. Next, the decades long Republican campaign against regulation meant that there was limited oversight over the financial sector's handling of this huge mountain of debt. Throw in the bankruptcy bill and a weak economy, and Bob's your uncle.

This is what is sometimes called a cascading failure. No one thing caused it. Instead, the interaction of several independent factors brought about the crisis.

What's striking is that despite the complexity of the cause, the blame is abundantly clear. At almost every step, the underlying explanation for how we got into this mess is the laissez faire economic ideology that Republicans have been campaigning on for decades. I mean, can you even believe that derivatives remain substantially unregulated seven years after Enron?

The thing you have to understand is that, in America, 'zapatero' is a word we use to refer to everything opposed to the American worker

Paul Campos has me a little worried:
With something close to evident exasperation, the interviewer says, "Yes Senator, but now we are speaking of Europe, not Latin America" (it's clear she's getting the impression that McCain doesn't know where Spain is). But McCain repeats the same answer a fourth time! The interviewer gives up and the interview ends.

It seems, from the bits of his voice you can hear behind the translation, that McCain is tired and confused, and perhaps he simply doesn't know who Zapatero is, and is afraid of making a "gaffe," where he unwittingly agrees to meet with some crazy leftist dictator of an obscure banana republic. Or maybe "Zapatero" sounded suspiciously like "Zapatista" to him. |LGM|

The suggestion at the end maps on to my working theory. Hell, I half expected McCain to rear back and snap, "HIS NAME is Subcomandante Marcos!"

The real issue here isn't the factual error, or even the international incident, but is rather the way that McCain brought it all on himself by losing touch with what was going on around him. This wasn't a senior moment and the stress of the campaign did not bring on a NAFTA flashback. What happened was that McCain made a quick, erroneous, judgment and stubbornly refused to reconsider it.

The interviewer said "Zapatero" and McCain hear "Zapatista." Perfectly understandable. Ask me five questions about leftist Latin American leaders, drop "Zapatero" on me, and my brain might well decide that the Latin American associations win and spit out "Zapatista."

The rubber hits the road when the correction comes. Rather than being open to the reporter's attempted clarification, McCain sticks with his gut and repeats his answer. As the reporter tries twice more to get McCain back on track, he quickly becomes irritable and impatient. As far as he's concerned, the subject is closed and it's time to move on.


Somewhere, One-Eye is watching

Consider this the game thread.


The internet activist group 'anonymous', famed for its exposure of unethical behavior by the Scientology cult, has now gone after the Alaskan govenor and republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

At around midnight last night some members affiliated with the group gained access to governor Palin's email account "gov.palin@yahoo.com" and handed over the contents to the government sunshine site Wikileaks.org. |WikiLeaks|

Where to start with this? First, the hacking of her personal account was wrongful and inappropriate. The account was known to exist, investigators were aware of it and had power to subpoena it. In a case like this, vigilantism has no excuse.

That said, there's not a lot in the emails posted so far at WikiLeaks. Probably the most interesting detail is the revelation of a second yahoo account, which wasn't hacked. Apparently WikiLeaks has more emails, so we'll see what comes out.

As you would expect, both email accounts have now been deleted. I suppose it's possible that deleting the accounts could get Palin in trouble for obstruction of justice, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Documenting the partisan witch hunt

The Republicans are out in full force again today alleging that the investigation has been politicized. The latest talking point? John Fund suggests that Branchflower's investigation be replaced by an independent counsel.

Let that one sink in.

And now, via Mudflats, I yield to floor to Alaska State Rep Les Gara.
Here are a few things they failed to say. There are a few small facts that make it hard to style this as a Democratic investigation. One is that Alaska is a Republican State. We have a Republican Governor and a Legislature of 34 Republicans and 26 Democrats. This summer the Legislature’s Legislative Council voted 12-0 (8 Republicans and 4 Democrats) to hire an investigator, and appointed Democratic Senator Hollis French, a well-respected former prosecutor, to find an investigator. Governor Palin stated she and her employees would comply with the investigation. French then hired Steve Branchflower, a former DA who most recently was hired by legislative Republicans to run the state’s Office of Victims rights.

And on Friday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 (2 Democrats and 1 Republican in favor); and the House Judiciary Committee issued a 7 - 0 (5 Republicans, 2 Democrats) advisory vote, to issue subpoenas to witnesses the McCain camp had previously stopped from testifying.

Over the last two days McCain’s outside operatives have vilified former prosecutor Hollis French - as an Obama supporter who must have called this investigation to hurt the McCain ticket. But French was appointed to oversee the investigation by a 12 - 0 Legislative Council vote, and is probably the state’s most respected legislator - by Republicans and Democrats alike. He’s so popular the Republican Party couldn’t find anyone to run against him this year. |Les Gara|

Addendum: Something I hadn't noticed before. Let me go ahead and quote a bit of the CNN article linked above.
"As state employees, our clients have taken an oath to uphold the Alaska Constitution, and for that reason, they respect the Legislature's desire to carry out an investigation in support of its lawmaking powers," Attorney General Talis Colberg, a Palin appointee, told the investigation's manager in a letter released Wednesday. |CNN|

Leave content aside. Apparently Colberg is no longer recused from the matter. Why, then, is Thomas Van Flein getting his salary paid by the state of Alaska?

I want to say two words to you. Just two words. Paper shredding.

Down in Tulsa, my grandfather Gus pulled his family through the Great Depression managing a gas station. Uncle Bob sometimes mentions "the farm", but my father's memory doesn't go back that far. I've been wondering, what if the bottom drops out? What's a good job to have? I don't want to say the sky is falling, but basic institutions of the market are failing almost daily. The ground under the foundations looks sandy.

In related metabellman news, this blog is accepting applications for resident economist.

To return to our strengths, we're going to need a name for the next historical era. I suggest, "the contraction". Got something better?

Bonus Content: Humbly submitted to you as the official song of the contraction:

Creeping totalitarianism

Have you heard? The Obama campaign is keeping tabs on supporters. Or maybe there is a secret underground network made up of millions of supporters. I'm a little unclear on the wrong here. Will update.

...it appears that the problem is the latter. Dastardly deeds have been exposed. Dastardly:
WGN also was flooded with calls and e-mails shortly before and during an Aug. 27 interview with Stanley Kurtz, a conservative writer who has examined Obama's ties to Ayers.

"WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears," read the first message confronting the station, an e-mail that also provided detailed background information on Kurtz, Obama and Ayers.

The WGN alerts were sent primarily to Obama supporters in the Chicago area but were quickly posted to electronic message boards and Web sites, spreading them worldwide. Many of those who called to complain were from outside Illinois, and they flooded the station's switchboard in a way a WGN producer called "unprecedented."

On Monday night, Zack Christenson, executive producer of "Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg," said the response was about the same. "It's just constant, constant phone calls, and the e-mails are pouring in," he said, adding that the extra volume of calls made it more difficult to run the show.

Obama's campaign describes the system as a grass-roots truth squad that arms supporters with information. But others see an attempt to stifle free speech. |The Trib|

Morning wisdom

Just as a gaffe must be true, it appears that an aphorism must be false. For example, "A watched pot never boils." I've checked that one out, and I'm here to tell you that it does not pass the 100% truth test. A true thing we might have said is, "An empty kettle never boils" or "If you've left an empty kettle on the burner for a significant amount of time, it's probably best to turn down the heat and wait a few minutes before trying to add water."


Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy

Anybody who has been paying attention knows that the Troopergate investigation has bipartisan support and that Palin has been engaged in a no holds barred cover-up for weeks. And yet, a CNN.com article published this evening allows allegations of partisanship to go unchallenged.
The five Republican state lawmakers who filed suit said the two Democrats and the former Anchorage prosecutor leading the probe "are unable to hold the balance between vindicating their own political interests and the interests of those who are being investigated."
The lawsuit alleges that Elton, French and Branchflower "are conducting a McCarthyistic investigation in an unlawful, biased, partial and partisan political manner in order to impact the upcoming Alaska general and national presidential elections." |CNN|

This kind of uncritical stenography is shoddy journalism, but it's also the world we live in. The Obama campaign is staying so far away from Troopergate that they aren't even on the media's call list. The predictable result is that Palin's attack dogs are given a free hand. And hey, guess what, Palin is accusing the Obama campaign of politicizing the investigation.

Here's a tip for the Obama campaign. Call Tony Knowles.

Here's a tip for CNN. For your next story, call Tony Knowles.

Update: Isikoff on Maddow again. Two interesting reports. First, the McCain campaign has heavyweight lawyers on the ground in Alaska acting as advisors to Thomas Van Flein. No real surprise there. The second one is great. Remember when Thomas Van Flein, in an attempt to change the venue of the investigation to the Palin controlled Personnel Board, filed an ethics complaint against the governor? Well, according to Isikoff he has now filed to have his complaint dismissed.

...and as long as I'm updating, I found the transcript of Isikoff's Friday appearance. Here's the relevant part:
ISIKOFF: Right. Right. And just sort of adding on to that, what was so intriguing about this little rabbit trail in this, is that Branchflower said that when he first called the head of the workman‘s compensation office, or the contractor who is handling it, the woman denied that there had been any pressure put on Wooten‘s worker‘s compensation claim.

He then checked with other people in the governor‘s office and they, too, denied that there had been any pressure.

And then he gets a phone call on his tip line from the woman who actually handled the claim. And she said I have some information for you—pressure was put on this case.

So there do seem to be some real contradictions in what people are saying. And, you know, look, it‘s the old Washington adage applied here to Alaska—it‘s often the cover-up that seems—that is worse than the crime.

I think what‘s at least raised today by Branchflower‘s presentation is that people had not been truthful with him. |source|

Double Plus Update: The news is pouring in. The Speaker of the House of the Alaska State Legislature has called for the Legislative Council to come into session no later than September 23rd. This is the same body that authorized the investigation unanimously on July 28th. It's not clear to me yet whether the Speaker is acting at the direction of Palin or is intending to provide another demonstration of the investigation's non-partisan bona fides, but I'd say it's worth marking your calendar. And, yeah, we've got primary sources (pdf!) on this.

...Ok, it's clear that Harris is a Palin apparatchik. His Chief of Staff is Palin's former Legislative Directore. More importantly:
Democratic state Sen. Kim Elton, chairman of the Legislative Council, the 14-member panel that authorized the probe, had no immediate comment on Harris' request. Under an unusual power-sharing agreement, the council is made up of 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. |MSNBC|

For Example

dr: Do you like football? Yes? What team do you root for?

sp: Go Blue!

dr: Did you root for the Wolverines before you came to school here?

sp: Not really.

dr: Why do you root for them now?

sp: Well, everybody does. I mean, they're the school team. You're always hearing about them on the radio and tv.

dr: Did anyone force you to root for them?

sp: No...

dr: So, since you said earlier that all unforced choices are free choices, then you'd agree that you made a free choice to root for Michigan.

sp: Yes.

dr: And yet it would have been very difficult to make a different choice. You are constrained by the social and media environment around you. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

sp: I don't see why you say it would be hard to make a different choice. I could root for any team I want.

$28, 500?

That's the cost per plate at tonight's big Obama fundraiser. I don't quite know how to square that with the $2000 limit on personal contributions. My best guess, based on a quick peek at Section 441a of the ever so helpful FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN LAWS Compiled by THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (PDF!) is that part of what these sorts of events offer is a smorgasbord of political committees which allow attendees to package donations up to the aggregate limit of $37,500. But I don't think much of that guess, and anyway it doesn't jibe with my own bake-sale experiences. Anybody got a clue?

Also, the headlines keep talking about Streisand, but the other musical guest is Ben Harper. Which, I'm not a huge fan or anything, but better than Streisand and anyone who has ever followed the Dead has got to admire this.

Lying liars explained

Why do Republican politicians lie? Because it works with a certain class of voter.

RIP David Foster Wallace, cont.

I've tried a couple of times to write a full post, but keep coming up short. At any rate, I wanted to link to this from the NY Times Obit, which I just can't get past:
James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor’s suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. The elder Wallaces had seen their son in August, he said.

“He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.” |NY Times|

Though I am an immense fan of his work, I never met David Foster Wallace. I did, however, study with Professor Wallace, and T.A. for him in both medical ethics and introduction to ethics. Seeing that quote there I can't help but be reminded of the many times these sorts of cases were discussed in class, and the extraordinary compassion and empathy that Professor Wallace consistently displayed when talking about these sorts of cases.

And that's where I get stuck.
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