Saturday, October 04, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Barack & Michelle

When Barack called it their 15th anniversary (it's actually their 16th), he made Keith's "Worst Persons" list. But apparently it was Michelle who forgot their 15th last year. That's Barack buying her flowers yesterday--they're celebrating in Chicago today. Then a wedding photo, the family this year, and Barack and Michelle after the first debate last Friday. Happy Anniversary!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin Lies About Darfur

Of all the "misstatements" and lies VP candidate Palin told or repeated in last night's debate, there is one that is truly immoral.

Palin made a big point of saying she supported a measure in Alaska for that state to divest its portfolio of investments in Sudan, because of that nation's sponsorship of those committing genocide in Darfur. She made it sound as if she backed it, it passed and was now being carried out in Alaska.

It's all lies. Her administration opposed it. Her lack of support--says a co-sponsor--caused the measure to fail.

It's all in this report from ABC News, supported by fact-checking from the Washington Post.

Her revenue commissioner testified against the bill in the legislature, even though it had bipartisan sponsorship. The Democratic co-sponsor was Les Garra, and he told ABC News: "I walked out of that hearing livid," Gara recalled of the February meeting. Because of the Palin administration's opposition to the bill, "We could not get a vote in that committee," he explained. At no point did Palin come out in support of the effort, Gara said.

There was some softening of total opposition later, when the move proved controversial. But the fact is that nothing has yet been done, and right now Alaska holds $22 million in Sudan-linked investment.

Sarah Palin's Alaska is investing in genocide. And before some 70 million Americans, she lied about it.

Update: Two other Palin matters before we forget her for awhile. First, Bill Clinton pointed out in his speech in Florida last week that the next President will need to concentrate on the economy and other domestic crises for at least his first two years, and it will be up to the vice-president to mend fences with world leaders. Think about that for a minute...

Second but not least, Jonathan Turley pointed out Friday evening on Rachel Maddow that VP candidate Palin is the first candidate for president or vice-president who is refusing to honor a lawful subpoena during the campaign. Why is this not a major issue?


The House passed the economic rescue package, with some additional Republican votes but even more new Democratic votes, after Barack Obama assured these members that there were provisions in the bill that would allow him to help homeowners and give money back to taxpayers, should he become President.

On the campaign trail, Obama ended his comments on the bill with this: "And the final thing is understanding even if this rescue package works exactly as it should, it’s only the beginning, it’s not the end. Because we still have 150,000 new people who lost their jobs this month, 750,000 since the beginning of this year. We still have a healthcare system that’s broken, we’re still overly reliant on oil from the Middle East and so we’ve still got these structural problems; the fundamentals of the economy aren’t sound and we’re going to have to do a lot of work moving forward.

So if we can stop the bleeding with this package, implement it effectively, and then move forward to deal with the broader problems on Main Street, then hopefully we can get our economy back on track."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Obama in Wisconsin

Obama in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Thursday.
Photo stolen from Al Rodgers (he also has some
interesting debate response captures.) Click photo
to enlarge.

Obama is Winning

Once again, instant polls, focus groups and many pundits--including Republicans-- agreed that Joe Biden won the vice-presidential debate. By maintaining a camera presence and repeating talking points, vp candidate Palin "survived." But as CNN's Bill Schneider said, "Palin's answers do not lack confidence, they lack coherence."

Biden answered questions and Palin's attacks, while Palin avoided answering the moderator's questions and could not defend McCain policies. Biden was most effective in linking McCain to Bush, and in countering Palin's insistence that McCain is a "maverick." Here are the operative quotes from the New York Times account:

“The issue is how different is John McCain’s policy going to be than George Bush’s,” Mr. Biden said. “I haven’t heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush’s. I haven’t heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush’s. I haven’t heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush’s. I haven’t heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush’s."

“He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education — he has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college,” Mr. Biden said. “He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that generally affects the things that people really talk about.”

The debate's one authentic emotional moment also belonged to Biden--a moment that Huffpost blogger Leah McElrath wrote: "Joe Biden did more for the equality of the sexes with his honest display of paternal emotion during the vice presidential debate than Sarah Palin's presence on the executive ticket has or will ever do." Biden appeared to choke up as he talked about his young son, injured in the auto crash that killed his wife just after he was first elected to the Senate:

“The notion that, somehow, because I’m a man, I don’t know what it’s like to raise two kids alone, I don’t know what it’s like to have a child you’re not sure is going to make it,” Mr. Biden said. “I understand as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it’s like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They’re looking for help.”

In one of the first published "reviews," columnist E. J. Dionne began: "Early in last night's vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin said that she might not answer the questions as moderator Gwen Ifill posed them. This was the Alaska governor's way of saying she was going to stick to the talking points she had stuffed into her head, no matter what the subject. " He concluded: At the time of her selection, voters were often compared with 'American Idol' watchers who put personality and stage presence above everything else. But it turns out that Americans take the presidency very seriously. And surviving 90 minutes on a stage with Biden did not transform Palin into a plausible president."

Both Obama and Biden showed in their debates that in serious times, they are serious people, and they are ready to confront the grave challenges we face.

But what also impressed me about the instant polls is that they tended to mirror the percentages by which Obama is ahead in the polls. Even Thursday, McCain lost ground in the polls. His campaign is leaving Michigan completely--a state that two weeks ago looked to be the crucial battleground. For the first time, it's all suggested to me that America may have already made up its mind who will be President.

Boomers for Obama

Boomers and seniors care about issues affecting their lives, like health care. But they also care passionately about the future of today's young, and beyond. This 11 minute video addresses both sets of concerns, along with some Obama biography. It's so well done that by watching it you can learn not only why Barack Obama should be President, but something about the boomers and seniors in your life. It's 11 minutes well spent for everyone.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Senate Steps Up

After the House shocked the markets and the world with the chaos surrounding their proposal and the vote on it Monday, the Senate decided it was time for the adults to deal with it.

And deal they did. The Senate bill has lots of stuff, some of it strengthening oversight and other elements of the House bill that Democrats especially required in order to support it. But statesmanship requires some politics, too, so this bill was loaded with popular programs Senators wanted to vote for anyhow. But along with some of the goofier earmark-like provisions the media passed around on Wednesday, there were provisions that actually will help the economic recovery. For instance, says the NY Times:

Instead of siding with a $700 billion bailout, lawmakers could now say they voted for increased protection for deposits at the neighborhood bank, income tax relief for middle-class taxpayers and aid for schools in rural areas where the federal government owns much of the land.

The approximately $150 billion in new tax breaks, which offer incentives for the use of renewable energy and relieve 24 million households from an estimated $65 billion alternative-minimum tax scheduled to take effect this year... "

Those tax incentives for renewable energy are themselves important, as Tom Friedman has been saying for months, especially to new firms and established ones ready to jump into the renewable energy business, but needing the same sort of help that such industries get in other western countries. And they aren't even new--they have been on the books but were expiring, and Congress hadn't yet renewed them.

As for the bail-out part of it, Paul Krugman is among those who think this bill is necessary, but at best it just stops things from getting very much worse. More will be probably needed to turn things around. On the Senate floor, Obama said "This is what we need to do right now to prevent the possibility of a crisis turning into a catastrophe....passing this bill can't be the end of our work to strengthen the economy, it must be the beginning."

"Now, the fact that we're even here voting on a plan to rescue our economy from the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street, and some in Washington, is an outrage," Obama said. "It's an outrage to every American who works hard, pays their taxes, and is doing their best every day to make a better life for themselves and their families. And understandably, people are frustrated. They're angry that Wall Street's mistakes have put their tax dollars at risk. And they should be. I'm frustrated and angry, too."

But he used the analogy he has developed on the campaign trail--when your neighbor's house is on fire you first put it out, or it could spread to yours. Then you deal with how it caught on fire.

"We're in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money. And if all that meant was the failure of a few banks in New York, that would be one thing. But that's not what it means. What it means is, if we don't act, it will be harder for Americans to get a mortgage for their home or loans they need to buy a car or send their children to college. What it means is that businesses won't be able to get the loans they need to open a new factory or make payroll for their workers. And if they can't make payroll on Friday, then workers are laid off on Monday."

"In other words, this is not just a Wall Street crisis, it's an American crisis."

Obama spoke for 13 minutes on the Senate floor, and his speech sums up the situation. John McCain was also present, but didn't speak. Obama, McCain and Senator Biden all voted for the bill, which passed 74 to 25. The House is expected to be ready to vote on Friday. So far its leaders are optimistic it will pass, but assurances are that it won't be put to a vote until it is certain to pass.

Meanwhile, today's set of national and battleground state polls shows Obama with significant leads.

To the Rescue

After the market meltdown on Monday centered their attention, on Tuesday government officials and legislators quickly put together the pieces of what they hope will be the rescue package for the financial system.

Some critics of the $700 billion bail-out proposal asked for two fairly simple changes they believe will help greatly. One is an accounting change that the SEC agreed to make. The other is a increase in the amount insured by Federal Deposit Insurance, which Barack Obama endorsed Tuesday morning, followed by John McCain and the Bush administration, and which will now be part of the new rescue package to be introduced and perhaps voted on in the Senate Wednesday.

The Senate bill includes some tax cuts and items on energy that legislators say will make the plan more acceptable to already chastened House Republicans. But no details of the plan were available as of Tuesday night.

(For those with long civics class memories, this little trick is possible because, even though the Constitution says that bills on fiscal matters have to originate in the House, this new bill is appended to legislation that the House has already passed.)

The hope is that the Senate will pass this, followed Thursday or Friday by the House. But, you know, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hope is on the way

Barack Obama before many thousands in Detroit.
He'll be in Nevada today, and back in Michigan Thursday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Happens Next?

The bail-out bill aka rescue plan was brought to a vote today because Congress is off for the Jewish holiday tomorrow, and the idea was to reassure the stock markets as soon as possible. Ha ha ha. So if there is still a stock market after tomorrow, Congress gets back to work on Wednesday, reconvening officially on Thursday. Then what happens?

Probably the same bill with some face-saving modifications will be introduced, unless widespread opposition is expressed tomorrow to the extent that it would be a predictable failure. If it isn't reintroduced, or if it fails again, then...

One idea making the rounds is that the Democrats write their own bill and pass it. That will probably take us into next week. Bush is speaking to the nation tomorrow morning when nobody will be listening, except Wall Street, which is who he is really speaking to. If he can announce some executive measures to loosen credit for awhile, the immediate crisis may simmer down. In which case, a Democratic bill makes very good sense, politically as well as economically.

Because the Dems have the votes to pass it, it will then also be a dare to Bush to veto it. This prospect may in fact scare enough Republicans into voting for a slightly modified version of the current bill, or another compromise proposal. Robert Reich suggested in a TV interview that this might be a much more modest and more targeted rescue, amounting to a billion and a half bucks. While all of these are possibilities, the extent of the political revulsion to the idea of a Wall Street bail-out as expressed and assessed on Tuesday--especially in light of the extreme drop in the stock market-- may be the deciding factor. What Bush says in the morning may even influence these decisions, if there's any actual action in it.

Some have argued all along that if the Bush administration really believes the situation is as dangerous as they say, they will come up with administrative measures that deal with the immediate situation, while Congress works in a more deliberative manner to address larger and longer-term consequences. If indeed the administration is going to do that, tomorrow morning would be the time to announce it. Simply pressuring Congress to come back and vote on the same bill is unlikely to work. Meanwhile, the din of competing ideas to address the crisis will only get louder.

Black Monday

The House of Representatives unexpectedly voted down the $700 billion bail-out rescue bill--so surprisingly that John McCain had already taken credit for its passage.

The stock market promptly lost 777 points, with a value of $1.2 trillion.

It was considered a "catastrophic" political defeat for Bush and Republicans, who failed to come up with the votes they promised in the House. However, it may have brought a little sobriety to Wall Street execs and traders, who earlier in the day reportedly fretted that the package wasn't big enough or sweet enough for them.

Barack Obama counselled calm, assuring voters that a rescue package will eventually pass. He continues to insist that this economy must be rebuilt from the bottom up, by changing the emphasis of government from favoring Wall Street and the wealthy, to providing programs (jobs, health care, tax relief, clean energy economics), oversight and incentives that favor Main Street and working families.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's Your Economic Future

Obama's new one minute ad.

The Big Deal

In a brief speech on the Senate floor, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, said: “It’s not just going to be Wall Street. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has told us if the credit lockup continues, three million to four million Americans will lose their jobs in the next six months.”

This quote from a Sunday NY Times story signals what Americans are going to hear as a bail-out agreement is expected to be announced Sunday, and the House is expected to vote on a bill Monday, then the Senate. Administration and Congressional negotiators said that there are no major outstanding issues. But just how much CEO pay will be restricted, for example, or how much help there will be for those facing housing foreclosures, won't be known until the bill is written.

But negotiators felt it was necessary to get this done before the Asian markets open Monday. House Republicans, who stopped a deal on Thursday, are said to be on board now. Senators Obama and McCain had input and were kept informed by phone.

Still ahead however is selling the deal to individual members of Congress, and to the deeply skeptical American people.

Update: It took until Sunday night for House Republicans to sign on, but they finally did. They were careful not to call the plan a bail-out, but a working out of the problem. Just as House Speaker Pelosi described it not as a bail-out but a buy-in. Members of Congress are digesting the more than 100 pages of the final bill, while their leaders are counting votes. More will be known about that tomorrow.

2nd Update: The first of many economic analyses in the New York Times.