Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The credibility of the charge depends on ignoring several important facts:
-- There has been a great deal of deregulation in our economy over the last 30 years, but none of it has been in the financial sector or has had anything to do with the current crisis. Almost all financial legislation, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Improvement Act of 1991, adopted after the savings and loan collapse in the late 1980s, significantly tightened the regulation of banks.
-- The repeal of portions of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 -- often cited by people who know nothing about that law -- has no relevance whatsoever to the financial crisis, with one major exception: it permitted banks to be affiliated with firms that underwrite securities, and thus allowed Bank of America Corp. to acquire Merrill Lynch & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to buy Bear Stearns Cos. Both transactions saved the government the costs of a rescue and spared the market substantial additional turmoil.
None of the investment banks that got into financial trouble, specifically Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., were affiliated with commercial banks, and none were affected in any way by the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
It is correct to say that there has been significant deregulation in the U.S. over the last 30 years, most of it under Republican auspices. But this deregulation -- in long-distance telephone rates, air fares, securities-brokerage commissions, and trucking, to name just a few sectors of the economy where it occurred -- has produced substantial competition and innovation, driving down consumer costs and producing vast improvements and efficiencies in our economy.
The Internet, for example, wouldn't have been economically possible without the deregulation of data-transfer rates. Amazon.com Inc., one of the most popular Internet vendors, wouldn't have been viable without trucking deregulation.
-- Republicans have favored financial regulation where it was necessary, as in the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while the Democrats have opposed it. In 2005, the Senate Banking Committee, then under Republican control, adopted a tough regulatory bill for Fannie and Freddie over the unanimous opposition of committee Democrats. The opposition of the Democrats when the bill reached the full Senate made its enactment impossible.
Barack Obama did nothing; John McCain endorsed the bill in a speech on the Senate floor.
-- The subprime and other junk mortgages that Fannie and Freddie bought -- and the market in these mortgages that their buying spawned -- are the underlying cause of the financial crisis. These are the mortgages that the Treasury Department is asking for congressional authority to buy. If the Democrats had allowed the Fannie and Freddie reform legislation to become law in 2005, the entire financial crisis might have been avoided.
Read the whole thing here.
When asked to comment on the crisis Barak Obama lied and presented an analysis that was complete falsehood. Read Greg Mankiew's explanation here.
And then there is this from Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron:
The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.
Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.
This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.
Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.
The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.
Read the whole thing here.
On the other hand there is something to what David Brooks wrote in today's NYT:
We’re living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world fueling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.
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.
Read the whole thing here.
Certainly the immediate internationalization of capital flows brought on by the computer age has introduced a lot of instability into national economies, but is Brooks' call for "the powerful hand of public institutions" to regulate the flow of capital desirable.
Time after time, over the course of the past half century and more public officials and institutions have shown that they cannot be trusted. Corruption, incompetence, and most of all ideological zeal have perverted and undermined nearly every initiative undertaken by government. International agencies have performed even less well. It is for good reason that many Americans feel that the "powerful hand of public institutions" is far more to be feared than desired.
I am one of them.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I stood and watched as it dived time and again. Finally it emerged with a fish in its beak.
Good for the bird -- bad for the fish. That's nature's way. A tiny drama of life and death here at the harbor.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The likelihood, as this is written, is that Obama will be elected president and the Democrats will expand their congressional majorities. Possibly even to the 60 votes they need to effectively control the Senate.Read it here.
In that case, Democrats might be able to move toward nationalized health care finance. Their card-check bill will promote unionization and do to much of the private sector what union contracts have done to the Detroit Three automakers. Higher taxes and overregulation could reduce economic vitality and creativity. Comparable worth laws could have bureaucrats setting private sector salaries. America could move some distance to becoming another France.
Scary stuff, kids..., really, really scary stuff.
We are living in very exciting times -- at long last, we've broken the stranglehold that a variety of silly Blank Slate theories have held on the arts, humanities, and social sciences. To some, this may sound strange, but things have decisively changed within the past 10 years, and these so-called theories are now moribund....He then charts the incidence of use of various buzzwords [examples: "social construction", "psychoanalysis", "postmodern", "marxist", etc.] associated with these theories in academic journals. Two points leap out from his analysis.
First, there was a precipitous decline in the use of these terms in the 1990's.
I noted this at the time and ascribed it to the collapse of the Soviet Union and a consequent decline in the attractiveness of Marxism, which seemed to me to underlay the victimological approach that characterized all of these theories, but the "Agnostic" article points out that the appeal of Marxism began to decline as early as the 1980's when the Soviet Empire was still intact.
[A]side from Marxism, which peaked in 1988, and social constructionism, which declined starting in 2002 *, the others began to fall from roughly 1993 to 1998. It is astonishing that such a narrow time frame saw the fall of fashions that varied so much in when they were founded. Marxism, psychoanalysis, and feminism are very old compared to deconstruction or postmodernism, yet it was as though during the 1990s an academia-wide clean-up swept away all the bullshit, no matter how long it had been festering there.
I tend to apply a functionalist analysis to intellectual history -- ideas tend to persist and flourish if they serve a function for the broader society and its institutions. They cease to have appeal once they become dysfunctional. The mid-twentieth century expansion of the social sciences, for instance, served the interests of the national security state as well as providing a vehicle for the rise of a new elite (the self-styled "best and the brightest") that based its claims to authority in academic credentials. The rise of ethnic, feminist, and gay studies served the interests of the various "liberation movements" (power grabs) that emerged in post-war America by providing them with grievance narratives that sustained a sense of group cohesion as well as a rationale for their claims to privilege and power. The apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt served the interests of the Republican and Democratic Parties respectively.
"Agnostic" points to two exceptions to the general collapse of theory. These are "Orientalism" and "post-colonialism" both of which have obvious utility for opponents of American foreign policy. Because powerful groups find these ideas congenial and useful they survive while other theories are abandoned. This perspective suggests that the general collapse of theory came about because they are no longer useful to powerful political and social interest groups. "Agnostic" does not develop this idea, nor will I at this time, but it is something that I plan to think about.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Basically, Obama tried to lay the blame exclusively on George Bush and Republican demands for deregulation, but this is not the way things went. Mankiew points out that the problems go back as far as the Johnson administration, that the primary pressure to ignore sensible business practices came from the Clinton administration and prominent Congressional Democrats, and that there is plenty of blame to spread around.
Read it here.
Basically what we have here is a failure of government oversight and an abuse of political power, primarily on the part of Democrats, and now they have the gall to demand more regulation and oversight.
A very good actor and a much better man -- Paul Newman is one of those people who made a difference. A generation of serious actors who were also serious people is passing. Newman was one of the last. I survey the entertainment scene today and find very, very few who can match them either as artists or as people.
Goodbye Butch, rest in peace. You done good!
Read about him here.
I had not intended to watch the debates -- I already knew for whom I was voting and why -- but finally I broke down. "She Who Must Not Be Named" settled in comfortably in the living room and watched the FOX News broadcast.
We were both amazed and impressed. John McCain was terrific! He was confident, dynamic, well informed, totally in command of the facts and the presentation. In his performance he laid to rest all those whisper campaigns about his age and infirmity, eccentricity and erratic temperament the Democrats had been spreading. It was a wonderful performance by a man who looked and sounded entirely presidential. By contrast, Obama looked weak and petulant and inexperienced, reduced to mouthing talking points rather than drawing on a wealth of experience and deep understanding. At times he looked and sounded flustered, but had obviously improved over his previous performances. The contrast between the two men was dramatic. McCain blew him out of the park.
Then came the spin. "She" and I were both astounded. It was as though the commentators watched an entirely different debate than we did. Frank Luntz' panel thought Obama had won -- among the talking heads conservatives were unenthusiastic and liberals were practically giddy with delight. The consensus was that Obama had won. Wha?!?!?!?!?!?
"She" headed off to bed in disgust. I remained up to watch the post-mortems to try to figure out just how these people could come to what seemed to me to be a strange and perverse conclusion. Gradually, the reasoning underlying the journalistic consensus emerged. McCain may have won the debate, but Obama had won the pre-debate. Time and again commentators brought up, not the debate inself, but McCain's suspension of his campaign, which they all felt was a terrible blunder, and that overshadowed what actually took place in Oxford. Their feeling was that McCain had dug himself such a deep hole that the election was, to all intents and purposes, over. His only hope was to totally demolish Obama. So to the commentariat it didn't matter what McCain did on stage -- if Obama survived the night he was the overall winner. Obama's poor performance didn't matter. He was coherent enough and touched on enough popular talking points [corporations are bad, Bush is an idiot, and the government must shell out money to the average citizen] to win the day.
Over the next few days we will see if that judgment holds. I fear that it will -- that the MSM's consensus that the election is already over will take root in the public perception, and a terribly inadequate figure will coast to victory. We saw that happen in 1960 and again in 1976, and both times the results were not pretty. At times like this I fear for the future of the republic.
A lot of people here in rural Pennsylvania raise honeybees. I ran across this hive while wandering through fields in Schuylkill County.
This little guy lives in a garden in Reading.
Wildflowers in northern Berks county.
Cooling off on the Ben Franklin Parkway
Last weekend Love Park in Center City Philly was taken over by skateboarders.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
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
email@example.com 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
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
Read it here.
My basic reaction to the congressional hearings on the Paulson Proposal is pretty much the same as Jonah Goldberg's.
If we need to further capitalize the banks, create short term rules or cobble together other backstops, fine. But Paulson's plan basically says, "I am the Lord thy God," and that's crazy. Also, it seems to me that Newt and the editors of NR are right when they worry that the Paulson plan essentially opens the door to unending government control of capital markets and that, too, is just crazy. Even if I completely trusted the wisdom of Paulson and his bureaucrats — which I don't — there's no way that I trust the Dodds, Franks or the next Treasury secretary.Read it here.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I have a new favorite artist [at least for this week]. His name is Luis Martinez, born in El Salvador, raised and educated in Sydney, Australia. He, unlike the "new urbanist" social engineers who are the latest manifestation of urban elite snobbery, understands, appreciates and effectively portrays the emotional dimension of suburban life. Check out a gallery of his work here.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Playing off Obama's recent admonition for his followers to "get in the faces" of voters, Bruge writes:
"Me fine droogies, what we are after now is the old surprise visit," explained Obama. "A real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultracampaigning. Stomp some hope and change into their filthy little rassoodocks for a nice, warm vibraty feeling all through your guttiwuts."
"But enough of words, actions speak louder than," said Obama, pulling a bowler-clad campaign volunteer to the stage by his suspenders for a demonstration. "Action now. Observe all."
After swinging a hobnailed boot into the aide's yarbles, the stadium crowd erupted in cheers.
"I'm siii-inging in the rain, just siii-inging in the rain," noted Obama, cheerfully dancing around the hunched-over aide. "Welly welly well what have we here? A naughty neighborman what has him a McCain yard sign?"
"Looks like a job for me old woodly comrades Hope and Change," he added, gleefully drubbing the man with his trademark twin baseball bats to the crowd's rhythmic chants of "Yes We Can, Yes We Can."
"We are the Droogs we've been waiting for," he concluded as the P.A. system struck up Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the new official campaign song. "Lets get 'em boys!"
Read it here.
Iowahawk is by far the most sophisticated humor site on the web. While you are there, check out his other recent posts.
Read about it here.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
From up high [about 1500 feet] Pennsylvania farmland looks a bit like Middle Earth, don't you think? That hill in the center of the image is "Donat" [named after the family that owns the land] and is a landmark used by bird watchers who with few exceptions refer to it as the "Doughnut."
Speaking of birdwatchers -- right now the Fall raptor migration is in full swing and that always brings out a crowd of people who like to scan the skies -- people such as these perched at the South Lookout. Of course the main purpose of being there is to look at raptors, but sometimes I find the watchers more interesting than the watched, especially when the broadwings were passing through.
Broadwings are soaring birds who ride high up on the thermals and are almost always too far away to photograph. Even through binoculars they often appear as a cloud of tiny specks. While I was there three bald eagles also passed through but they were all too far away to get a good shot. An American kestrel came close, but was traveling far too fast and too erratically to keep in frame. So, rather than posting ambiguous pictures of tiny dark blobs against the sky, I'm giving you pictures of the groundbound humans.
Here's an example of my bird pictures.
Hawk Mountain attracts student interns from all over the world. Here's one of this year's crop. Now isn't she more interesting to look at than some silly hawk? Yeah, I thought so too.
Finally, birdwatching is often a family affair and on that day there were lots of young couples with kids around. I'm not sure whether putting the really young offspring out on a precipice is a good idea, though.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So Joe Biden, as he is wont to do, said something stupid -- equating a tax raise with a demonstration of patriotism [here]. Sarah Palin saw an opening and POW! [here]. Now I'm starting to see why she's called "the barracuda" -- she has awesome political instincts. By the time this is over there will be little chunks of Joe and Barry littering the landscape.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
"Sure," I replied. "How long will you be?"
"Just a few minutes."
"Hmmmm, just a few minutes," I thought. "Just enough time for me to take a few quick pics."
Here is some of what we saw at the garden center.
The Times reports:
Read the whole thing here.
Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view, according to the Royal Society, putting the august science body on a collision course with the Government.
The Rev Michael Reiss, a biologist and its director of education, said it was self-defeating to dismiss as wrong or misguided the 10 per cent of pupils who believed in the literal account of God creating the Universe and all living things as related in the Bible or Koran. It would be better, he said, to treat creationism as a world view.
Leaving aside the question of whether Creationism can be defined as a "world view" I wonder why it matters at all whether anyone other than evolutionary biologists believe in it or not. In practical terms a belief in Creationism or Intelligent Design has little or no effect on the way one conducts his or her personal or professional affairs -- and that includes public officials. So why the hoo hah?
Monday, September 15, 2008
What seemed to be of over-riding importance just a few months ago has now been pushed onto the far back burners, and new issues are moving to the fore constantly. The point is that issues come and go and what is most important is the character and quality of the people who will be responding to them. The focus on the candidates and not the issues is entirely appropriate.
I would, however, issue one caveat. The dirty little secret of electoral politics is that presidents don't really run the country. They are powerful actors, but there are others, most of which are not subject to public scrutiny. An unrelenting focus on the presidency draws attention away from the other actors -- out of control bureaucrats, ideologically driven members of the judiciary, representatives of foreign governments and special interests, etc. who are also major determinants of policy. They deserve just as much attention as the presidential candidates.
Only one candidate, John McCain, has promised to promote transparency in government. One can hope that if elected he can use the bully pulpit to draw aside the veil, to name names [or as he put it "to make them famous"], and to educate the public on just how the nation is managed. One thing is sure, without prodding from the White House, the MSM will blithely ignore or under-report the real operations of government.
A power sharing deal was reached last Thursday in Zimbabwe, opposition sources told me, and newswires are now reporting. South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated the talks, announced then that the agreement would be signed today — with the delay scheduled presumably to allow negotiators to see whether donor nations find the deal good enough to resume sending aid to Zimbabwe.Sounds good, doesn't it? This is what liberal transnationalists have been urging for a long time. Let the Western powers stay out, impose economic sanctions, allow the M'beki government in South Africa to negotiate a settlement, and wait for Mugabe [who is in his eighties] to die.
Details remain sketchy, but it appears that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will become prime minister and chair a council of ministers, while longtime despot Robert Mugabe will remain president and head the cabinet. Mugabe’s party, ZANU PF will have 15 ministers and Tsvangirai’s party, MDC, will have 16 ministries (including three from a breakaway faction of the MDC run by Arthur Mutambara).
But, as Bate points out, the political settlement is largely cosmetic. In Zimbabwe real power lies with the military and Mugabe retains complete control there. The higher ranks are all staffed by members of his ZANU-PF party which will most likely continue to control Zimbabwe after the mad old dictator's death or retirement.
What seems to be happening is a simple charade being enacted for the benefit of Western governments in hopes of convincing them to lift economic sanctions and supply economic aid. One indication of how things will work under the new arrangement is new legislation regarding currency transactions. The Zimbabwe currency is worthless and only foreign currencies carry any value. The government has prohibited all but 1250 vendors from dealing in foreign currencies. The licenced vendors will then kick 25% of their export earnings back into the Party's coffers to provide it with a source of foreign currency. This is thugocracy at its purest.
Read the whole thing here.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Read the whole thing here.
There are real questions that Americans need to hear Palin answer. But they're ill-served by the game the media has played so far. Rather than real insights into this woman, we get exchanges that will lead to arguments about whether she's a religious fanatic - arguments based on a comment she never made.
This is completely destructive to the public debate. As Barack Obama says: Enough.
For decades the Left stubbornly asserted the innocence of the Rosenbergs and cast despicable aspersions on those who had prosecuted them. These assertions were widely repeated in the mainstream media and even made their way into history classes and texts. It was not until the end of the Cold War, at which time Western scholars were granted access to internal Soviet records which contained damning evidence of Soviet espionage activities in the United States, that some on the Left grudgingly admitted that the prosecutions had perhaps been justified. But still a substantial number of scholars and commentators continued to promote the lie that the Rosenbergs had been the innocent victims of a Right-wing witch-hunt.
Well, as Emily Litella used to say -- "never mind".
Martin Sobell, one of the Rosenbergs' co-defendants, has finally fessed up. In an interview with the New York Times he admitted that he and Julius Rosenberg were in fact Soviet agents who had transferred American military secrets to the Soviet Union and that Ethel Rosenberg had been fully aware of their actions.
Read about it here.
Of course, this is the New York Times, so don't expect to find any reference to the innocent victims of these despicable traitors, the lives and careers destroyed by their sympathizers and apologists, or the damage done to our national security. Instead, they hold to the fallback position taken by many left-wing scholars that while Julius Rosenberg may indeed have been guilty, his wife was the victim of a conspiracy by right-wing prosecutors run amok.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
First, an establishing shot -- the view out across the valley. Yeah, I live in Paradise.
As I neared the bottom of the hill I saw these, not that they were hard to find. These guys are really noisy, and so were the resident crows who were cawing alarm at their presence. The fall migration is in full swing and a small flock of Canada geese had decided to stop for a rest.
I was trying to sneak closer to get some closeup shots of individual geese when I heard a great roaring sound from above. A few seconds later one of my neighbors came tearing down the hill on his ATV. Naturally the geese took flight, heading out across the valley toward the rising sun. If they had gone the other direction I could have gotten a better picture, but as it was this was the best I could manage. I had to ramp up the contrast just to make them stand out against the trees.
Later, as I headed home a second, smaller flight came over, but once again they were between me and the sun so the shot is a little washed out.
After that I really took my time returning home, trudging slowly along, scanning the skies, hoping for another overflight, but it was not to be. Maybe tomorrow..., up on Hawk Mountain my luck will be better.
The Anchoress speculates on just what will be said at that meeting here. Check her out -- she's one of the best bloggers out there and her take is hilarious.
Once the Clintons are on-board, the Democrat campaign is going to change. Look for it to plumb new depths of outrageous and despicable behavior. There will be hard and mean times ahead. John and Sarah are tough cookies themselves and able to withstand a lot of abuse, but for those of us who wish them well, the next couple of months are going to be tough to take. Just be ready for it -- things are going to get really, really nasty and disgusting and every time you think things can't get any worse, they will.
So screw up your courage and stand fast -- do whatever you can to counter the tidal wave of abuse that will be coming our way -- and keep the faith.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
"She" has become a die hard Ravens fan, and I can't really blame her. She had never paid much attention to football before coming to Baltimore and here she is surrounded by fanatical black bird brains. I, however, remain loyal to the heroes of my youth -- the Pittsburgh Steelers. It appears that I am not the only one.
This morning I took a walk along the waterfront south of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and here, just a few blocks from the Ravens Stadium, deep in the heart of enemy territory, I ran across this.
The guy's got guts.
It's not exactly a "terrible towel" but it's close enough to be a sight for sore eyes -- a little bit of the Steeler nation south of the Mason Dixon line. And it was a relief -- I was getting more than a little tired of all the purple on display here over the past few days.
Read the whole thing here.
Obama has been evolving toward McCain’s positions rather than vice versa. Take Iran. At first, to Obama it posed little threat; now it is a danger large indeed—as McCain insisted all along. Obama used to ridicule the surge and claim it had failed; now he assures us that it has worked beyond our wildest dreams. Obama was opposed to oil drilling, and was silent about coal and nuclear power. Now suddenly he has dropped mention of inflating our tires, and is referring to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear production as legitimate means to wean ourselves off foreign oil. In political terms, all this is wise, since voters ultimately want to be reassured about centrist positions rather than worry over consistency. As Anbar quiets and we leave, expect him to suggest his pressure and criticism were responsible for the Iraqi government’s turn-about.
On matters like abortion, capital punishment, gun control and FISA, Obama again moves closer to McCain rather than vice versa. Apparently, he realizes that no northern Democratic liberal has been elected since JFK, nearly a half-century ago—an amazing fact in and of itself—and so has to follow the Bill Clinton centrist route, which can be accomplished by a variety of measures.
Thus Biden is playing up his distant Scranton childhood; Michelle is muzzled; Ayers, Pfleger, and Wright are no doubt somewhere in suspended animation; and Obama has suddenly dropped all talk of reparations, oppression studies, America’s tragic history, typical white people, etc. And when he does start in on his preemptory “they’re going after me” stump whine, he doesn’t mention race, only his name and the faux charge of being a Muslim. Again, if he continues, in another month he won’t sound like a Pelosi liberal anymore, and perhaps eat into the working class white voting block.
That is the genius of the American electoral system -- it enforces moderation on major party candidates, no matter how radical their initial promise. Ideologues rail against it, academics denounce it, and managers find it endlessly frustrating, but the messy processes of mass democracy have served the nation pretty well for more than a century and a half.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Prior to the Democratic National Convention the race was locked into a remarkably stable pattern. For several days Obama had polled 45% to 46% of the sample while McCain had polled 43% to 45% of the sample. The gap between the two candidates ranged from 0% to 2% with McCain never taking the lead.
This pattern did not break until the last day of the Democratic Convention when is suddenly shifted into a new stable pattern. On August 28th Obama opened a six point lead and over the following seven days that lead held. Obama consistently polled between 48% and 50% and McCain polled between 41% and 43% and the gap between them held steady at six to eight points.
You can see why Democrats were so jubilant in the post-convention period. Obama had indeed gotten a significant bounce and it was proving to be stable, even through the Republican Convention. On the day that McCain gave his acceptance speech Obama's lead was seven points, 49% to 42%. You can also see why McCain felt that he had to shake things up. Sarah Palin's nomination was just such a move, and it seems to have worked.
Since then things have begun to shift once again. On the first day after the convention closed McCain recovered to his previous position, polling 44% and following with 45% today. Obama's position also changed, declining to 47% today, the first time in over a week he has polled outside his post-convention range.
Right now the polls are in a state of flux. We may have returned to the pre-convention situation where the two candidates are running close to each other with a very slight advantage to Obama. Or, McCain may have evened the race or perhaps gone ahead. Certainly the momentum is in his favor. Time will tell.
One other point to note is with the undecided/neither vote. In every poll prior to the Republican National Convention undecided/neither polled 10% to 11% of the respondents. This remained stable despite a dramatic shift in support for Obama and McCain. This changed suddenly, however, with Hurricane Gustav. Since then the undecided/neither has polled 8% of the respondents with the exception of one day when it rose to 9%. This shift took place before the Republican Convention opened and has remained stable since.
Much is uncertain in these figures. To some extent the stability of patterns is due to the smoothing effect of calculating rolling three day averages, but three points do stand out. The Democrats got a significant boost from their convention, the Republican convention seems to have canceled most or all of that boost, and Hurricane Gustav helped a significant number undecided or alienated voters to make up their minds.
In other words we seem to be back to where we were before the conventions, only with more people paying attention. It's too early to say whether or not Palin's or McCain's speeches made much of a difference if any.
Zogby has released a new poll showing McCain-Palin ahead of Obama-Biden by 3.8% [49.7% to 45.9%]. The poll was taken on Sept 5-6, well after the Republican Convention and shows gains for both campaigns. In the previous week McCain-Palin gained 2.6% and Obama-Biden gained 1.3%. As of Sept. 6 undecided/neither was only 4.4% so there are few independents left to convince. Both sides have firmed up their support.
The polls internals are interesting. The Palin pick seems to have hurt McCain among independent woman voters, who have moved toward Obama, but this is more than compensated by pick-ups among men and among Catholic women and "values" voters.
Zogby reports and analyzes the poll results here.
What does this add to our understanding of the campaign? Simply this: the race is still very close and the number of uncommitted voters is diminishing fast. From this point on nearly all of the gains made by one campaign will come at the expense of the other. The Democrats seem to be firm and the disaffected Hillaryites are overwhelmingly breaking for Obama, but with the Palin pick Republicans, too, are united, gaining strongly among undecided Catholics and conservative men. This is not good news for the Democrats. As I have pointed out many times before, the historical record is clear -- in a head to head confrontation in national elections, with both parties united, the Republicans nearly always win.
And finally there is the Rasmussen Poll reported today which shows that the race between Obama and McCain is tied at 46% [with leaners they are tied at 48%].
On Sept 7th Gallup's tracking poll has McCain ahead of Obama by three points [48% to 45%], a five point swing from the previous day.
The USA/Gallup has McCain four points [50% to 46%] ahead of Obama among registered voters and leads by a whopping ten points [54% to 44%] among likely voters. What is more the Palin nomination has energized Republicans 60% of whom are now enthusiastic about voting for the Party ticket.
It is quite clear -- Sarah is having a major impact on the race -- the question is, how much of this is just convention bounce and how much is lasting?
Time will tell..., stay tuned.
MSNBC is removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as the anchors of live political events, bowing to growing criticism that they are too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign.
David Gregory, the NBC newsman and White House correspondent who also hosts a program on MSNBC, will take over during such events as this fall's presidential and vice presidential debates and election night.The move, confirmed by spokesmen for both networks, follows increasingly loud complaints about Olbermann's anchor role at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Olbermann, who regularly assails President Bush and GOP nominee John McCain on his "Countdown" program, was effusive in praising the acceptance speech of Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
Read it here.
Of course, it's not clear that Gregory will be much of an improvement. NBC may be toning down its act, but it is unlikely that the anti-Republican bias of the past few years will end. The "liberal network" is not going to change its spots.
There seem to be three basic ways of interpreting this action on the part of NBC.
1. This may be just a business decision. MSNBC has not performed well in the ratings; its product has not sold, and moderation may be an attempt to stem the tide and revivify a failing network. Throughout the entertainment media [and make no mistake, news as presented on cable TV is an entertainment venue] liberalism has been a hard sell. In radio [think Air America], in the recording industry [anyone remember the Dixie Chicks?], in films [any of the recent anti-war efforts that has tanked at the box office], and now on TV, left-wing posturing has turned off viewers and listeners. It is not surprising that a profit-seeking corporation should, whatever the ideological biases of its executives, bow to market realities.
2. This may be a matter of political tactics. Olberman and Matthews over-the-top partisanship have proved to be politically counter-productive, especially in the wake of Sarah Palin's nomination. Republicans have been able to generate a great deal of public sympathy by pointing to NBC's biased coverage and in response the network may simply be moving its most irritating figures into the background and replacing them with someone [Gregory and perhaps Rachel Maddow] who may be a more effective spokesperson for the network's far-left agenda.
3. Olberman and Matthews [who has hinted that he might want to run for the Senate from Pennsylvania, challenging Arlen Specter and might be leaving anyway] have simply been too uncontrolled and eccentric in their recent presentations, openly feuding with other NBC personnel. More importantly, both men have been criticized by both Republicans and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. Both Steve Schmidt [McCain's top strategist] and Terry McCauliff [Hillary!s hatchet man] have strongly criticized Matthews and Olberman. It may just time to ease them out. Network executives have stated that the two men's roles at the network will in no way be diminished, but that's just like saying "heck of a job Brownie".
Take your choice. I suspect that all of these considerations are at play here.
Can't say I will be sad to see them go.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Sarah was baptised Catholic but as a teenager joined the Assembly of God (Pentacostal) Church [popularly called "Holy Rollers"], but left the congregation in 2002 and joined the Wasilla Bible Church which she now attends. WBC is a conservative evangelical church and quite respectable.
Except for the national spotlight, Wasilla Bible Church resembles thousands of conservative evangelical churches across the country. Its statement of faith says its members believe that the Bible is the "inspired, inerrant word of God." It offers a half a dozen ministries devoted to children and families, including a chapter of MOPS, a popular nationwide support group for Christian mothers of preschoolers. The sermons of its ministers steer clear of politics and hot-button social issues and dwell instead on scripture. Its membership is largely conservative.Read it here.
To listen to what Sarah hears in that church go here where you can listen to its weekly sermons.
So, what's wrong with the Democratic nominee once again being a lawyer?
After all, legal minds are trained to think precisely and evaluate both sides of an issue.
The problem is that lawyers usually do not run companies, defend the country, lead people, build things, grow food or create capital.
If this year Democrats were looking for populist candidates from diverse backgrounds and training who talked and thought differently from those of the past, then why didn't they nominate someone who was not trained in writing legalese and working the government legal labyrinth?
Read it here.
I didn't get any new pictures this week so once again I will dip down into the archives for pictures past.
Another view from the hill. What makes this picture work for me is the lone hawk cutting across the valley.
A colonnade in Center City Philly. We'll be there again in a couple of weeks and I plan to do a lot of wandering around with a camera. Gotta restock the files.
Ugh! They're everywhere..., they're everywhere.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
So what's the situation now?
Two tracking polls have Obama ahead by a substantial amount.
Gallup, tracking after the Republican convention started, but before "The speech", has Obama ahead by a whopping seven points, 49% to 42%. This is essentially unchanged since the Democrats got their election bounce. On the 26th of last month Obama jumped out to a six-point advantage and has since then held a 6-8 point advantage in every subsequent poll. Tomorrow we will see the first small indications of how much difference Palin's speech has made.
Rasmussen has Obama ahead by a smaller, but still comfortable, five point margin, 50% to 45%. Here the breakout date was the the 29th of last month when Obama broke a tie and jumped out to a four-point margin. Since then he (and this is the important point) his numbers have hovered around 50%. If he holds that level of popularity he will not lose.
Now you can see why McCain felt that he had to shake up the race. He and Obama seem to have settled into a rut that would lead to a Democratic victory in November.
Has picking Sarah made any difference? It's too soon to tell.
A Democracy Corps poll, released today, showed Obama beating McCain by six points, 49% to 43%. [This is a Democrat campaign poll and therefore suspect. It was probably released to counter the effect of the CBS News poll discussed below.]
There is also a CBS News poll released today that has the race in a dead heat; both candidates at 42%. Like the Democracy Corps poll it was taken after Sarah Palin's choice was announced, but before her speech.
These two national polls pretty much illustrate the current situation -- either the choice of Palin has not changed the race or it has strongly benefited the McCain campaign. We don't know yet which and won't for two to three more days.
Preliminary results, however, suggest that Palin's choice has firmed up support among Republican women, has had little effect on male voters, and has caused independent and moderate women to move toward Obama. These results, however are very preliminary, are tainted to some extent by advocacy group participation, and have yet to be analyzed in detail [What effect, for instance did Gustav and Labor Day have on the polls?].
For a detailed numerical description of the polls and commentary on them go to Pollster.com.
Keep your eyes on the polls for the next few days -- they'll give you some idea of how things are shaping up. The danger of the Palin pick is that she will be more of a cult figure than a plausible national candidate. Women I have talked to here in Baltimore are divided. Some like her, but most tell me that they are worried about her open religiosity. Three times today I heard the word "theocon" muttered. If that image takes root, Sarah will command an adoring following comprising about 1/4 to 1/3 of the electorate, but that is all.
Things are starting to get interesting.
Today's Rasmussen poll, one third of whose respondents were contacted after "the speech" shows a remarkable shift in opinion. Obama now leads McCain by only one percentage point, 46% to 45% [two if leaners are included] . If there is a real shift, McCain's percentages should improve over the next two days as pre-speech respondents drop out of the poll and post-speech ones are added.
The Gallup tracking poll is also out. It, too sees the race narrowing with Obama's lead slipping from seven to four percentage points. This too should continue to narrow over the next two days.
Looks like this race is once again tied.
John McCain has picked for a running mate someone who gives me real hope for the years ahead, and a new generation. Sarah Palin talked tonight about an America of individual responsibilities, a country proud to win its wars and defend its interests – not a vale of groaning victims waiting for rations of relief from Washington.Democrat Taylor Marsh: (Pajamas Media)
Sarah Palin made her party proud last night in a speech that delivered her to star status. ... Republican elites can relax, while the conservative base basks in the babe who takes the senior out of the senator. McCain’s hail Mary Palin can deliver a speech.Michael Crowley (New Republic)
Several moderate-Democrat friends of mine have been emailing--few if any would ever vote for McCain--but all agree that Palin was very strong. The more liberal among them are a little panicked.Jim Sleeper (Talking Points Memo)
if you didn't sense last night how deeply Sarah Palin channeled some of the country's deepest, most powerful currents of pent-up indignation and yearning, you don't sense the trouble we Democrats are in.
Rhetorically, she was the anti-Obama,. She was stirring precisely because she was so artless, matter-of fact, and "American" -- with no cadences or grand, historic resonances, but with plenty of mother wit and shrewdness. Credit her as much as the speechwriters..
The two currents she tapped -- the ones that roared up from so deep in the crowd that you could feel them riding on love more than hate -- weren't the ones unleashed by her or Rudy Giuliani's disparagements of Obama.
They were riptides of deeply wounded pride and groping loyalty, a yearning for vindication of something that is not to be disparaged at all.
The gang at National Review Online discuss the speech here.
We didn’t get a Reagan this year. We got a Thatcher.
Here's the speech in its entirety:
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Watching Sarah speak the thought kept running through my mind: "I'm looking at, not just the first woman Vice President, but the first woman President of the United States." This is an immense talent on display tonight. When you consider just how brutally she's been assaulted by the bullies of the press and saw how she responded, not being intimidated, not being flustered, not being vindictive, but unleashing her sweet smiling inner barracuda, you gotta admit SHE ROCKED!
One of the most frequently repeated canards of recent decades has been the assertion that conservative men do not tolerate strong women. George Will demolished that point years ago when he pointed out that conservative men worshiped at the feet of Maggie Thatcher, the "Iron Lady" of British politics. Tonight we saw the lie refuted once again. Conservative men all across the country fell in love with a lipstick wearing pit bull.
What is even more impressive -- about half way through the speech her teleprompter broke down, and she didn't even miss a beat. She just kept on going. Wow!
"She Who Must Not Be Named" is out of town on business, and when she called last night I mentioned what my friend had said. "Oh yes!" She replied. "I've walked there with my friends many times. There's a nice coffee shop at the far end." "Hmmmmm," I thought.
So early this morning I grabbed a camera and some reading material and set out to explore the new south side of the harbor. Here is some of what I saw.
With nothing stirring in the harbor the surface was smooth and I could get some nice reflection shots.
Then the ducks came. Ducks!!! Why is it always ducks?
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The daughter of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer outside a Chicago bar.
Ashley Blazer Biden, 21, of Wilmington, Del., was with a group of people on a North Side street where several bars are located when someone else threw a bottle at an officer, police said.
When police tried to arrest another person, Biden blocked the officer’s path and made intimidating statements, officer JoAnn Taylor said.
Biden was later released and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 20.
Sen. Biden’s spokeswoman, Margaret Aitken, declined to comment, calling it a private, family matter.
Read it here.
"Blazer"! Who calls their kid "Blazer"? Couldn't they have settled on a more normal name like "Trig".
Anyway, this incident clearly shows that the obnoxious bloviator from Baja Pennsylvania is a terrible parent and therefore unfit for any national office.
I wonder if Obama fully vetted this clown before putting him on the ticket.
And shame on the LA Times for reporting what is obviously a "private, family matter."
Read the whole thing here.
Sarah Palin is a living reminder that the ultimate source of political power in this country is not the Kennedy School or the Davos Summit or an Ariana Huffington salon; even now, power emanates from the electorate itself. More precisely, power in 2008 emanates from the working class electorates of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Sooner or later, the Obama camp will realize that the beauty pageant queen is an enormously talented populist in a year that is ripe for populism. For their own sake, it had better be sooner.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Check out this Kossack:
I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to destroy the Republican Party as it exists today as well as everything it stands for.
If health insurance for all, an end to the Iraq War, an end to torture and illegal wiretapping, and a sane energy policy can be obtained at the price of destroying one teenage girl, her family, and the surrendering our self-respect I see that as a cheap trade.
Go talk about nobility of purpose to those 4,000+ dead American soldiers in Iraq.
Or this one:
Read the whole thing here.
Are you telling me you would not destroy the love a family holds for one another, even if it meant letting someone who would destroy the constitution become president?
None of use would use these tactics in a perfect world. It is not a perfect world. It is a fallen world. We have to judge costs and benefits, not moral absolutes. I know this is the way to fanaticism and destruction—believe me I do. But, when we face opponents such as the ones we face . . . what else is there for us to do?
What choice do we have? When faced with monsters, we have to be monstrous ourselves.
What they don't realize is that the Left has been monstrous for a long, long time.
I'm at a Republican National Coalition for Life event Sarah Palin was supposed to appear at; she's cancelled. These are pro-life people rallied by her selection and it would have been an excellent, welcoming forum.
According to some of the biographical materials I have read Sarah has a habit of doing this, to the point where some in Alaska were calling her "No-Show Sarah". Her excuse was always that she had to take care of family matters. I don't know whether she or the campaign was responsible for this screw-up, but she has missed a golden opportunity for a good rollout. These people are her base and as such deserve her consideration.
Phyllis Schlafly is not amused [here]. This is amateurish, dangerous stuff. Somebody in the campaign has to hobble the mavericks.
Over four pages, the summit conclusions strongly condemn Russia's "disproportionate reaction" in Georgia, describe as "unacceptable" its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and call on other states "not to recognise this proclaimed independence".Read it here.
That's it. The only accomplishment Europe could point to was that they, for the first time, had been able to agree on the wording of a statement. Nothing more. Oh yes, there was some vague talk that business as usual could not be sustained until the Russians withdrew from Georgia, but Russia just brushed that aside.
If we have learned anything in the past quarter century, it is that nothing good takes place in international relations unless the U.S. does it. A strong and active American administration makes the whole world better -- a weak and passive one sits and watches as broad swathes of the world descend into chaos and terror.
This night, though, the subject was Sarah. He had assembled the usual crowd of inside-the-beltway navel gazers and they all agreed that Senator McCain had taken a terrible risk in choosing a nobody from the provinces who had not been sucking up to them for years. Sarah, they said, was obviously a blind choice, made out of desperation, who had not been vetted [in other words, they didn't know all about her, so obviously McCain couldn't].
The WaPo, however, runs a story today by Dan Balz and Robert Barnes [here] in which they snow that Sarah and all the leading candidates were subjected to an extensive vetting process and that McCain's preference for her coalesced over time and was not a last-minute decision.
Another detailed report on the vetting process [here].
Beldar's back and blogging up a storm [here]. He's going Sarah 24/7.
A Beldar comment on Ann Althouse regarding the bizarre and disgusting tone of criticism directed toward Sarah in recent days:
People don't hate with this much rage and intensity unless they're threatened in some very distressing way. The notion of a conservative, attractive, competent, rifle-shooting, corruption-fighting hockey mom/governor is making a lot of people feel very, very threatened.He's right. Democrats, and particularly the left loons are desperate. Also check out his review of Sarah's biography here.