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September 29, 2008

Report criticizes Gonzales, deputy in firings of U.S. attorneys

Re: Report criticizes Gonzales, deputy in firings of U.S. attorneys - Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON -- Former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and his top deputy, Paul McNulty, “abdicated their responsibility” in the 2006 firing of U.S. attorneys, were strikingly aloof and ill-informed about the process and offered the public reasons for the dismissals that were “inconsistent, misleading and/or inaccurate,” Justice Department investigators concluded today.


But the authors also said they were unable to get at the truth in all cases because of a lack of cooperation from the White House in offering up documents and testimony about the role of officials there in the dismissals.

Clip: Demolition accomplished

How prescient.  This from before the House voted no on the current bailout proposal.

Clip:   Demolition accomplished - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist  - New York Times Blog:

So what we now have is non-functional government in the face of a major crisis, because Congress includes a quorum of [Republican] crazies and nobody trusts the White House an inch.

September 28, 2008

Enjoy while it lasts

In Oregon, we begin voting by mail in three weeks.  Obama is well-positioned for these last 3-5 weeks before voting, depending on where you are, with most national polls at 5-6 points up, but the most recent Gallup at 8 up (all well outside the margin of error); Independents giving Obama a win in the debate by 2:1 and a 60:40 advantage on “lessons learned from the Iraq war”.

Polling-based Electoral Vote predictor, FiveThirtyEight shows Obama with 325 electoral votaes, an 80% probability of a win and estimated 51% of the popular vote:

0928 Bigmap

That is reinforced by the favorability polling showing Obama-Biden well ahead (note how bad Palin has become):


September 20, 2008

Bush: Security > Constitution

In the clip here: The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan, Andrew Sullivan makes the crucial point, not when he repeats he phrase “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”, but rather the one where he says, “The President takes an oath to defend the Constitution, not to defend the security of the country.”  And this gets the heart of the lawlessness of the President, who has put his own ideas ahead of, and in violation of, the Constitution.

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Re:A Nation of Village Idiots

Just to put things in perspective ....

Re: James Moore: A Nation of Village Idiots:

Let's just consider the money. The public bailout of insurance giant (becoming a dwarf) AIG is estimated at $85 billion. According to one report, that's more than the Bush administration spent on Aid to Families with Dependent Children during his entire time in office. That amount of money would also pay for health care for every man, woman, and child in America for at least six months.

Nice baseline.  Let's flesh that out a bit: the $1T bailout means more than 80 years of AFDC, or healthcare for all for more than 5 years.  Double those figures if you add back the costs of the unnecessary war in Iraq: 160 years of AFDC and 10 years of healthcare for all.

Re: Estimating the cellphone effect: 2.8 points

Interesting possibility.  They studied the polls that are done with and without including cellphones.  Those with cellphones find a 2.8% improvement to Obama's numbers, which impacts state-by-state electoral college estimates.

Re: Estimating the cellphone effect: 2.8 points:

...including a cellphone sample improves Obama's numbers by 2.8 points. (Or, framed more properly, failing to include cellphones hurts Obama's numbers by approximately 2 2-3 points).

The difference is statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gallup, Pew and ABC/WaPo have each found a cellphone effect of between 1-3 points when they have conducted experiments involving polling with and without a cellphone supplement.

A difference of 2-3 points may not be a big deal in certain survey applications such as market research, but in polling a tight presidential race it makes a big difference. If I re-run today's numbers but add 2.2 points to Obama's margin in each non-cellphone poll, his win percentage shoots up from 71.5 percent to 78.5 percent, and he goes from 303.1 electoral votes to 318.5

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Re: $1 Trillion

Re: The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

That's how much Paulson's plan might cost. That's a lot of zeros. But, hey, no one said socialism was cheap, did they?

To put that in perspective, the US budget is just under $3T, so a 30% increase in one year; also equivalent to the Iraq War cost; if it occurs in one fiscal year, would be by itself more than double the current world-record, history-making deficit, therefore resulting in a tripling of the deficit.

But, the cost is a result of rampant  conservative de-regulation and un-regulation that undid the Great Depression-era protections and societal-wide risk limitations while introducing new financial instruments with no controls at all.  It is a cost of unconstrained free-marketism.

This is not a cost of socialism, it is a cost of preventing collapse of  the world-wide financial system, which we all need.

A solution is clearly not the unregulated free-marketism of the right since that is what got us into the problem in the first place!    It is a cost of the hubris and folly of 30 years of conservative economic dogma that rests on simplistic formulations unconnected the way real individuals, groups of people, and institutions work.  Sort of the opposite of the US Constitution which is a marvelous blend of idealistic goals coupled with realism about limits to constrain natural societally counter-productive tendencies so you can obtain those idealistic goals.  Just the sort of economic system FDR helped us build and which conservatives dismantled to our $1 Trillion dismay.

Update: For the record, I'm not saying I think the barely outlined solution hinted at in the papers is the best/right one, but I do think that whatever the solution, it'll cost these kinds of numbers.  The cost derives from having to fix the errors in conservative economic thinking and policies that led us here, not from the particulars of solutions.

Update 2: Gak!  The bailout (if this is legit) lets the Treasury Secretary spend $700B with NO OVERSIGHT!

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are
non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Update 3: A reasonable counter-proposal that provides taxpayer upside, is based on mechanisms we and other countries have used before, helps homeowners and suggestions for containing future problems.

September 18, 2008

Re: McCain-Palin's Economic Incoherence

Re: McCain-Palin's Economic Incoherence:

Shying and plunging from conservative economics to incoherent populist boilerplate:

The real lesson of this quotation is that the Republicans have no good language for discussing recent events.  They're not allowed to say anything that sounds like “showing sympathy for Wall Street,” so they have to find someone else to show sympathy for but they can't turn to traditional Democratic rhetoric about how an unregulated capitalist economy is failing us.  Citing the construction bonds is like worrying that the financial crisis will postpone the retirement of many professors. Yes that is true but it's odd (though not unprecedented) if that's the first thing that comes to your mind or for that matter to your talking points.

The real take-home message about the “McCain-Palin's Economic Incoherence” is that it reflects McCain's unreadiness to be President -- just as so many other elements in his campaign, it shows his lack of leadership or preparation.  He's caught by surprise about basic policy issues and doesn't have a coherent response because he fundamentally hasn't developed himself, or accumulated people around him to develop for him, sound policies and responses that he can tap. 

Turns out his “strength” is impulsiveness not readiness, and recklessness not thoughtfulness.  He's not a maverick, he's a loose cannon.

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September 17, 2008

My best guess

Here's my best guess at the actual state of play in the Electoral College today.

Re: The best single summary

Re: The best single summary:

This [economic crisis] is a deep and very wide crisis - rooted in Americans' refusal to accept that in a globalized world, their free lunch is over. And so they borrowed for free lunches on the basis first of stock speculation and then real estate insanity - and the absence of any sober conservatism in fiscal and economic policy enabled them.

When you wrote “absence of any sober  conservative ... economic policy”, you get right to the heart of the conundrum for a conservative political philosophy.  The grounding values of “less government” and “free markets” make for easy philosophy, but it provides no framework for how to actually govern.  What would be a “sober conservative economic policy” that would have regulated, taxed and limited the various interlocking pieces of investment banking, mortgage banking, insurance and so forth.  It was, after all, the conservative philosophy of unregulated free markets that created the problem at hand by relaxing banking and allowing cross-holdings and not creating a payment system àlà the FDIC to provide a trust fund to insure the problems we are bailing out today.

Same conundrum for conservatives in solving the healthcare crisis: it is the very nature of the free-market for-profit lightly regulated insurance system that excludes as many people who might actually need the insurance, so their count swells, so how would more of it solve itself?

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