Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's The Economy...Stupid.

Ah, the mantra of the Clinton campaign team back when the dollar was actually worth 67 cents...

So, wanna know what the government is selling? "To provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy and financial system and protecting taxpayers, and for other purposes." More here.

When it comes to the current meltdown, one of the more interesting items found as of late: "A banking system in crisis after the collapse of a housing bubble. An economy hemorrhaging jobs. A market-oriented government struggling to stem the panic. Sound familiar?"

Perhaps another upside?: "Barron's analysis of the plan indicates that taxpayers and their proxy, the Treasury Department, will fare well in the bailout and should actually turn a profit over the years ahead."

Extra: The New York Times' web site ran photo No. 1 (below) with regard to Congress' work on the bailout. Apparently, it struck the wrong chord with some, so they went with No. 2 (bottom). I wonder why...?

(Photo No. 1)Barney "Bailout" Frank: Swearing that
he helped
us get where we are with this mess today?

(Photo No. 2) Ben "Bailout" Bernanke: How low will it all go?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This Isn't Going To Be Good For Anyone...

The FBI: Coming to a bank near you?

"The FBI is investigating four major U.S. financial institutions whose collapse helped trigger a $700 billion bailout plan by the Bush administration, The Associated Press has learned."

Your tax dollars at work.

"A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (By Ben Heine.)

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is visiting the United Nations and using the opportunity to spew more ___________ (fill in the blank). The weasel says the world can take a flying leap. Iran is going to build all the nukes it wants. Note to Iran: You know that "doomsday clock" on the wall? You don't really set the time on it, Israel does.

Extra: Since we're on the topic of things that are bad for you, how about the 2,300-calorie Baskin-Robbins "Death Shake?"

Death with a straw.

Before I Go Any Further...

Let me introduce you to a new blog from an old friend, Steve Harvey.

Steve Harvey.

Steve not only has a the solid journalism bona fides, but he also distinguished himself during his decades at the Los Angeles Times with two solid, regular features:
  • "Only in L.A.," which was a collection of offbeat and often funny items that he and readers collected throughout their travels (and travails) in Los Angeles. It was often the most-read column in the Times.
  • "The Bottom Ten" -- If you're familiar with the typical, pro forma newspaper sports columns examining and extolling the Top Ten teams in college and pro football then you'll understand Steve's take on "the worst of the worst." Each week, the column (which also was syndicated for a while) takes a humorous poke at the cellar-dwellers. Like "Only in L.A.," "The Bottom Ten" is filled with quirky observations and cracks.
So, welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Harvey. I know your presence will make it a better "place."

Extra: "The Best of Only in L.A.: A Chronicle of the Amazing, Amusing and Absurd," by Steve Harvey, is a great read...much fun. I highly recommend it.

The book.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Can The System Be Beat (Or Beaten)?

Time for some educated guesses.

At least someone understands the difference between a free-market and a socialist economy.

That's one way to get a leg up on the economy.

Here's another...

Wanna beat rising gas prices? These folks had an idea...

I still love the fact that Hugo Chavez is still choking on it. Nope, couldn't beat the system.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez bet on Lehman Brothers.
result? Check out his new presidential limousine.

Lehman Brothers on the ropes? Down for the count? Perhaps if the company had followed in the footsteps of -- the Lehman Brothers themselves -- it might not have happened.

What does it say about the economy when airlines are considered good investments?

Well, at least today's buggy whip industry still feels good about itself.

Extra: Speaking of gas prices...ever wonder how they impact our economy? (See below.)

Of Bailouts And Such

Let me be among the first to congratulate you (well, the second after the guy with the orange tie) on your purchase of some of America's most notable financial institutions.

Now that you're a mover and shaker, I'd like to welcome you to annual stockholders meetings, chi-chi airport waiting lounges and to the best tables at the finest restaurants.

Now that you're a rich, stockholder-type, you can afford
to eat at some of the more hoity-toity restaurants.

By the way, not only are you now a proud stockholder, but you'll also be happy to hear that your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (and probably several generations beyond that) will also be paying for the $1 trillion bailout of this nation's stalwarts of capitalism.

The Dow Jones may be climbing -- albeit temporarily -- out of its spiral, but don't look for things to turn around soon.

I'm just glad to know some Smart Guys are on the case...yikes!

Extra: In what can only be described as Mugshot o' the Week, I (with the help of The Smoking Gun) present, the AIG shirt guy hoping for a bailout.

What's $1 trillion between friends?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Challenges Accepted

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Says he'd be happy to debate our candidates.

  • Put him in a suit and in the state capitol, he's still Conan (the Barbarian...not the talk show host)...aka: The Governator.

Rush Limbaugh: On any given day, more people listen to
him than any presidential candidate will enjoy during an
entire campaign. The Barack Obama ad falsely accusing
Limbaugh of racism could come back to haunt the senator.
Extra: What's in Iran's water, anyway?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Not All Bad News...

The Dow Jones climbed out of its hole today, saw its shadow and...

Today's Dow Jones Industrial Average...better
than yesterday's...or the day before that...

Bill Gates (left) and Jerry Seinfeld:
Some people thought it would work.

  • And it's good news if you're an ad agency doing spots for the McCain or Obama campaigns. After all the heated rhetoric, conventions, stump speeches, etc., no real movement in the polls.
  • If you get to charge Sen. Joe Biden a buck for every time he says you're his favorite, here's some good news.
Extra: Out of all the economic tumult this week, is there actually a plan to get things going again? Just asking...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

They Know Better Than The Rest Of Us...

Being a frequent traveler to the East Coast -- NY and DC in particular -- I'm always struck by the parochial views held by our fellow Americans...specifically those in power.

Among the more prevalent provincial notions: If you didn't attend one of the Ivys (and God help you if it wasn't one of the elite Ivys), your ideas are worth a little less, your politics are a bit less important, and your experiences are not quite as valid as someone who exists in the upper strata.

A league of their own.

So when an ordinary folk like a Reagan or Palin comes along -- someone who wasn't tapped at birth for Skull & Bones or doesn't stop for drinks at the Hawk 'n' Dove after a floor vote -- there's a resentment among the elite...even if they're on the same side.

I'm not saying Gov. Sarah Palin is the best there is...heck, like everyone else I'm still trying to figure her out. But when David Brooks writes about how much better it would be if the rubes went back to Backwater, Alaska, and leave the governing to The Smart Guys, it makes me cringe.

If you haven't noticed, Brooks and a host of other well-educated and well-heeled sophisticates haven't exactly taken us to the Promised Land. Sure, the last eight years have been a disaster due to some incompetent leadership, but there's a lot of blame to be shared all around. The politicians, the pundits, the policy wonks...the list goes on. It's a list, by the way, heavily populated with The Smart Guys.

This isn't a screed calling for the total abandonment of the East Coast Establishment. I'm just wondering if The Smart Guys back east might consider the fact that people who graduated from state schools, whose parents aren't in the social register, or who aren't fixated on rubbing elbows with other elites might have something to say -- something good -- about how this nation should be governed.

Extra: The current financial crisis...? Hmm, let's see...created by boring, naive folks from Flyover Country who "cling to their guns, religion and xenophobia," or The Smart Guys who know better than the rest of us bumpkins?

Bits & Pieces

I've been sifting through my are a few things worth checking out:
  • From Philly's own Fatima Ali: "We don't have to wait until after the election for a race war. We're in one now." You've got to read the whole thing to believe it.
  • Remember that carbon offset effort the Democrats undertook in tandem with their convention in Denver? "The program, set up by the DNC Host Committee through the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau and rolled out about a week before the convention started, raised a total of $18.34 worth of Canary Tags, offsetting 0.9 tons of carbon emissions." (According to AspenDailyNewsOnline.) I suppose almost nothing is better than nothing at all.
  • If you're going to threaten to blow up "The San Francisco Tribune," you might want to make sure it actually exists -- first.

That's one way to cook 'em.

The recognizable Chevy Chase (Maryland).

Sammy Hagar.

Extra: I grabbed this photo from terrific blog I discovered today. Makes you wonder if Eddie Murphy might need a new PR person.

Eddie Murphy got a big head: Photographed
along the 405 Freeway, Southern California.


A safe alternative to Wall Street?

That mattress stuffed with money is looking safer and safer all the time.

On the international front, Europe, Asia and all points in between and away are living and dying with the American markets.

From the BBC: "Lehman's collapse has continued to reverberate: Central banks around the globe have pumped funds into the money markets, including $50bn (£28bn) from the US Federal Reserve, £20bn from the Bank of England and 70bn euros ($100bn; £56bn) from the European Central Bank. US insurer AIG saw its shares slump by more than 70% at one point amid continued uncertainty over its future. Global stock markets fell heavily for a second consecutive day."

Skittish is putting it mildly.

Just a week or so ago, the 24/7, Internet-fueled newscycle was all about Sarah Palin or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, it seems like the presidential campaigns, storm damage and even oil prices (down, thankfully) have been relegated to mere mentions in most newscasts and headlines.

Now it's all about the money.

It's always about the money.

I spoke with a leading economist and former U.S. Treasury official today about the current situation in the markets. Usually a cheerful, optimistic guy, he was -- to say the least -- worried and as unsure as anyone else. Without repeating our conversation (which I didn't have permission to quote), I'll just say that his immediate outlook appeared bleak. However, he did seem to feel that a change for the better could be just a few months ahead. Again, without getting into specifics or breaking any confidences, I will just say that he believes new political leadership will make the necessary changes.

We'll see...

Extra: With just one point separating Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in the polls right now, it will be interesting to see who is able to take ownership of economic issues and provide leadership on key matters.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Tough Times Are Far From Over...

After Monday, it's not if someone will be
wearing a barrel,
but who will be wearing a barrel.

When the New York markets open on Monday morning, it is likely we will see events unfold we've never seen before in most of our lifetimes. I'll let the news services describe what is about to take place:

  • From The New York Times: " In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer, people briefed on the deals said."
  • From the BBC: "Preparations are being made for Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the US, to file for bankruptcy. The two strongest potential buyers appear to have pulled out of talks to rescue Lehman - the latest victim of the American credit crisis. If no new financing comes before Wall Street opens, it will have to seek "Chapter 11" bankruptcy protection. This could result in a severe shock to the global financial system, as banks unwind their complex deals with Lehman."
  • From The Wall Street Journal: "Insurer American International Group Inc., succumbing to relentless investor pressure that drove its shares down 31% on Friday alone, is pulling together a survival plan that includes selling off some of its most valuable assets, raising more capital and going to the Federal Reserve for help, people familiar with the situation said. The measures are aimed at staving off a downgrade by major credit-rating firms. AIG executives worried that such an action would set off a chain reaction that could be fatal to the firm. The insurer, which has already raised $20 billion in fresh capital so far this year, was seeking to raise an additional $40 billion to avoid a downgrade."
  • From The Financial Times: "The U.S. dollar tumbled and Treasury debt and gold prices jumped on Monday after talks to sell Lehman Brothers faltered, leading to grave uncertainties about other banks and shaken confidence in the financial system."
Extra: Up till now, the focus of the two presidential campaigns has been on personalities. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can focus on economics.

Worth Considering...

It's Sunday and it's time for a few things I think are worth your time:

Roberts' new and noteworthy tome.

  • Tonight's John Batchelor radio show(s). You can listen via the following outlets -- Sunday in New York, WABC-AM 770 7-10 P ET; Sunday in Washington DC, WMAL-AM 630 7-9P ET; Sunday in San Francisco, KSFO-AM 560 7-10P PT; Sunday in Los Angeles, KFI-AM 640 7-10P PT. (Check local listings and Internet connections for a show near you.) Russell Roberts is slated to be one of Batchelor's guests.

Roberts and Batchelor: Live tonight.

  • Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, while losing in the PR wars to McCain-Palin, has continued to rake in the dough. This past month, he and his VP pick, Joseph Biden, scooped up more than $66 million -- a new record. Remember, "money is the mother's milk of politics" and these babies are staying well-fed. The GOP faithful shouldn't worry too much...they do have some pennies stashed away in jars in the coat closet.
Extra: "Triangulation."

Live From New York...Again?

Tina Fey (left) as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary
Clinton opened Saturday Night Live's new season tonight.

Tonight kicked off the 186th season of NBC's Saturday Night Live, the comedy sketch show that began during the early 19th Century as a means of dispelling melancholy and smallpox outbreaks throughout the settlements in the Louisiana Purchase.

Back in those early days, of course, the skits were funnier and the musical guests were better. Eventually, by the late 20th Century, what passed for "funny" was essentially elementary school potty humor. The musical offerings, while occasionally worthwhile, usually attempted to brand the latest pre-fab, cookie-cutter audio artists as "the next big thing." They hardly ever were.

In tonight's installment, Olympic champion/man-fish Michael Phelps guest hosted (only less wooden than most athletes who have appeared on SNL) and Lil' Wayne -- no doubt the younger brother of Big Wayne and their dad, Sizable Wayne -- was the, um, musical guest?

Ready for prime time?: (L to R) -- Lil' Wayne,
Michael Phelps, Amy Poehler. (photo courtesy NBC)

The opening skit featured Amy Poehler in her recurring role as Hillary Clinton and Tina Fey -- the SNL alumna/sitcom impresa (if that's really a word...) -- as her doppelgänger Sarah Palin. It was spot-on in every way. One of the better openings in years...

The show's other skits were fairly strong, with SNL's trademark "Weekend Update" promising a strong season ahead.

Extra: Sad to report that David Foster Wallace, the noted novelist, died at age 46 on Saturday. From the New York Times: "David Foster Wallace, whose darkly ironic novels, essays and short stories garnered him a large following and made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, was found dead in his California home on Friday, after apparently committing suicide, the authorities said.Mr. Wallace, 46, best known for his sprawling 1,079-page novel 'Infinite Jest,' was discovered by his wife, Karen Green, who returned home to find that he had hanged himself, a spokesman for the Claremont, Calif., police said Saturday evening. Mr. Wallace was a professor in the English department at Pomona College in Claremont."

Wallace gave a particularly interesting commencement address at Kenyon College back in 2005 that is worth reading.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Marching To Someone Else's Drummer

It's now Day Two of the "lipstick on a pig" ordeal for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and, once again, his campaign is not in control of the agenda.

The first two times it was because of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The first, on the day after Obama's triumphant acceptance speech in Denver, GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain stole practically all of the Illinois senator's thunder by naming Palin as his choice for running mate. Then, for several days after Palin's speech at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., she continued to dominate news cycle after news cycle.

Now, at just about the time Obama and his choice for VP, Sen. Joe Biden, should have been closing the gap/bounce created by the GOP convention, Palin struck again. Only this time she didn't speak the words that served as a gut shot to the Obama-Biden campaign. No, this time the Democrats' candidate did it to himself. Recalling Alaska's First Hockey Mom's now-famous line from her speech about "the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull -- [being] the lipstick," Obama in a stump speech said, "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."

Sen. Barack Obama: Wishing he hadn't
said that...

The GOP, pundits, talk radio and anyone else with an axe to grind against the Obama-Biden campaign let go with both barrels. On a day when the Democrats might have hoped to start laying out their agenda, clear of the RNC convention, they were forced to use air time, print space and their finite number of blogs/Web sites defending Obama, spinning and lashing out.

Meanwhile, McCain-Palin went about their business.

Extra: Obama appeared on David Letterman's show tonight to dispel the idea that he was saying Palin was a pig. There are no videos immediately available, but this old Top 10 list is still worth considering.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Did He Really Say That?

A word to the wise: A World War II era poster
provides a history lesson for today's candidates.

Wait a minute.

Did Sen. Barack Obama really say that? As they say in TV sports...Let's go to the tape!

From Ben Smith's blog over at POLITICO.COM:

Obama: 'Lipstick on a pig'

Amie Parnes reports from Lebanon, VA:

Obama poked fun of McCain and Palin's new "change" mantra.

"You can put lipstick on a pig," he said as the crowd cheered. "It's still a pig."

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink."

"We've had enough of the same old thing."

The crowd apparently took the "lipstick" line as a reference to Palin, who described the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull in a single word: "lipstick."

UPDATE: The McCain campaign is now saying Obama called Palin a pig, which he didn't. The Obama campaign notes that "lipstick on a pig" is a fairly common idiom Obama often uses, as in a recent Washington Post interview. McCain has also used the phrase.

Though on a day when Obama's surrogates were joking that Palin's record can't be concealed with lipstick, it was hard for those following the campaign not to hear the echo.

UPDATE: Obama aide Anita Dunn responds to the McCain campaign's claim that Obama compared Palin to a pig:

Enough is enough. The McCain campaign’s attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy – the same analogy that Senator McCain himself used about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan just last year. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.

Well, it's all there for you to judge.

Victor Davis Hanson over at National Review Online's "The Corner" took this view of it:

Was McCain the stinky old fish?

In all the furor over the Obama "pig" quote, commentators forgot to examine his entire attack:

"You can put lipstick on a pig. "It's still a pig."

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink."

When read in the entire context you can see what he seems to mean with his dual animate male/female references and why he probably evoked two metaphors: most would think that Obama is talking about both on the ticket and his anger how each has expropriated his change motif.

So in that sense he appears both to insult the 72-year old McCain as the "old fish" that is still going to "stink", and to refer to Palin, who had famously evoked the metaphor of lipstick in a nationally televised address, as still the pig despite the lipstick.

The fact that he used two metaphors to attack the two, and used expressions referring both to age and Palin's recent use of "lipstick" don't seem to be accidents and that's why the cooing crowd got the old fish=McCain;lipsticked pig=Palin immediately.

I'll leave it to others to deconstruct the historical use of pig as a sexist term in the recent climate of generic attacks on Sarah Palin.

PS. The VP nominee was just announced and already Biden has called her "good looking" and now “a step back for women”; most know what he intended, but like most Bidenisms they come out wrongly and confirm a popular perception that he suffers from logorhhea and that there is a different standard of reference applied to Palin due to her sex.

Someone in the campaign has got to manage the ex tempore carelessness.

These are the days when you have to watch what you say.

Extra: Tomorrow I'll run a poll asking how long it will be before we're already tired of the campaigns...

Will He Be Known By The Company He Keeps?

In a photo that accompanied a 2001 article, William
Ayers strikes a pose atop the U.S. flag.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama continues to gingerly step around the questions regarding his relationship with Vietnam War-era protester/terrorist William Ayers.

Ayers, who was a leader of the domestic terrorist group Weather Underground, played a key role in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. (Ayers summed up the organization's ideology as follows: "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.") Currently a professor of education at the University of Illinois, he also is know as fellow Weathermen terrorist Bernardine Dohrn's husband and a supporter of Obama. According to the Web site,, "In his 2001 screed, Fugitive Days, Ayers recounts his life as a Sixties radical, his tenure as a Weatherman lieutenant, his terrorist campaign across America, and his enduring hatred for for the United States. 'What a country,' Ayers said in 2001. 'It makes me want to puke.'"

Willaim Ayers: Seen better days?

According to, "In the mid-1990s, Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn hosted meetings at their Chicago home to introduce Barack Obama to their neighbors during his first run for the Illinois Senate. In 1999 Ayers joined the Woods Fund of Chicago, where he served as a director alongside Barack Obama until the latter left the Woods board in December 2002. Ayers went on to become Woods' Chairman of the Board. In 2002 the Woods Fund made a grant to Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center, where Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn, was employed."

During the Democrats' Pennsylvania primary debate, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his ties to Ayers --
  • STEPHANOPOULOS: "Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"
  • OBAMA: "George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George. The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those, either. So this kind of game in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, that somehow their ideas could be attributed to me, I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't."
Now, Jake Tapper over at his ABC News blog, "Political Punch," links to Ayers' blog/comic strip. I normally don't quote/copy articles or blogs wholesale, but Tapper's comments -- along with his use of Ayers' strip -- are better served by its complete inclusion/use.

In a Not-Remotely-Comic Strip, Bill Ayers Weighs In on What He Meant By 'We Didn't Do Enough' to End Vietnam War

September 09, 2008 11:06 AM

In a four-panel not-even-remotely-comic strip, William Ayers, the former member of the Weather Underground and associate of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., weighs in on his blog on some of the controversy he's been causing.

It reads:

"From his Chicago home, Bill Ayers responds to the 'We didn't do enough,' statement, a soundbite echoing ad nauseam through the media."

Says the Ayers cartoon: "It's impossible to get to be my age and not have plenty of regrets. The one thing I don't regret is opposing the war in Vietnam with every ounce of my being.

"During the Vietnam war, the Weather Underground took credit for bombing several government installations as a dramatic form of armed propaganda. Action was taken against symbolic targets in order to declare a state of emergency. But warnings were always called in, and by design no one was ever hurt.

"When I say, 'We didn't do enough,' a lot of people rush to think, 'That must mean, "We didn't bomb enough s---."' But that's not the point at all. It's not a tactical statement, it's an obvious political and ethical statement. In this context, 'we' means 'everyone.' "The war in Vietnam was not only illegal, it was profoundly immoral, millions of people were needlessly killed. Even though I worked hard to end the war, I feel to this day that I didn't do enough because the war dragged on for years after the majority of the American people came to oppose it. I don't think violent resistance is necessarily the answer, but I do think opposition and refusal is imperative."

Several pundits and scholars are currently digging into the Obama-Ayers (and more to come) stories. Stay tuned...

Extra: Those doing a great job digging into these ties and keeping the stories alive include John Batchelor, John Fund and Hugh Hewitt.