Prepping For Watching the Biden/Palin Debate, Understanding Gibberish

What do you do to prep for the debate? Stock up on moose meat? Well, I’™m reading everything, including all of the potential answers Palin could make. There’™s a new site on the web that gives it all to me, and lets me practice translating that gibberish Sarah Palin is known for. You know it’™s a code only moose can understand, don’™t you?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, I’™m not sure if I’™m going to have a drinking game or anything during the Biden/Palin debate. That just might get dangerous, and it’™s a school night, after all. But I am prepping for the debate. First, I’™m reading articles like this one on the ABCNews web site, so I know everything about these two master debaters that I can get my hands on. But I’™ve got another task.

You see, I’™m thinking when Sarah Palin was answering those questions from Katie Couric and saying sentences that really didn’™t make sense, she must have been speaking another language, or in code Maybe only the Fundamentalist Christians can understand her. Heck, in that code she speaks in she could have been saying that when she’™s elected they’™d go ahead and build that Bridge to Nowhere and use it for the rapture or something, as a sort of stairway to heaven or something. But if she said it in code, how would we know? This is serious, but I’™ve got an answer. Practice. Yeah, we’™re talkin’™ ‘™bout practice!

Practice at what? Well, now we have the Sarah Palin Interview Generator. It will produce the question and then the patented gibberish to match. I’™m going to spend hours at this thing, so I’™m definitely going to be ready for the big show Thursday night in St. Louis. Here’™s a sample from the Sarah Palin Interview Generator:

Q: How will you fix the economy?

A: The economy and putting it back on the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not just let one party try to kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite. I don’™t know if the task is from Alaska that we work with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’™s in their country, also. They understand the dangers of terrorists having a stronghold in regions of their country, also. They understand the dangers of terrorists having a stronghold in regions of their country, also. And I asked President Karzai, ‘œIs that what you are seeking, also? That strategy that has much to do this with you.

OK, cracking this code may be harder than it appeared at first glance. Maybe we need some help from Tina Fey or something. But, then, how does one tell Tina Fey from Sarah Palin? What if Tina does the debate instead and nobody could tell?

Enquiring minds want to . . . well, ‘œknow’ is a relative term, isn’™t it?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Gingrich the Culprit? And Other News

Turns out Newt Gingrich was doing more than advising Republicans in Congress, he was whipping up their fury against the Wall Street Bailout plan, then went on television a couple times and said nothing of his role. Typical Republican liar. So, a nonelected man played a key role in harming American finances. Is that terrorism?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Who pushed the Republicans in the Senate to vote against the economic bailout? Evidence is surfacing that Newt Gingrich was whipping the Republican House members to vote against the measure, mere moments before he came out reluctantly in favor of the measure. Yeah, the evidence is showing the man is twofaced. That should be no surprise to any of us, as he has been a Republican for a long time. That’™s part of the initiation or something. Here’™s Sam Stein at HuffPo, quoting from Andrea Mitchell’™s appearance on MSNBC’™s Morning Joe:

Gingrich was whipping up votes for the opposition, Mitchell said, apparently without the knowledge of the current GOP leader, John Boehner, who was responsible for recruiting enough support from his caucus to help ensure the bill’™s passage. Ultimately, the GOP was only able to rally roughly a third of its members.

‘œNewt Gingrich,’ she said on MSNBC, ‘œI am told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute, when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know, it was socialism ‘” and then at the last minute [he] comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place.’

Indeed, as Mitchell noted, shortly before the bill’™s failure, Gingrich ‘œreluctantly’ came out in favor of its passage: ‘œTherefore, while I am discouraged at the final collapse of the Bush Administration, and frustrated by the Democrats’™ passion for the taxpayer’™s money, I would reluctantly and sadly vote for the bailout were I still in office.’

Of course, Gingrich says nothing later on the day of the failed bailout vote about his role in the matter. He continues with his lying to Greta Van Susteren on her show on FoxNews:

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You mentioned Senator McCain. He came back ‘” he got criticized some, and the term political stunt ‘” I’™ll use that, my word, to describe what I think how people are calling it. What was ‘” was his returning to Washington a contribution to trying to find a solution or not?

GINGRICH: Well, the Republicans in the House are the most conservative element in Washington. And they were firmly opposed to the bill, and nobody was paying any attention to them because they thought they could run over them. When Republican leader John Boehner went down to the White House with Senator McCain and they went around the room, everybody else had cut the deal. Everybody else was in on the fix. They got to Boehner, and he said, We can’™t go along with it, the House Republicans. And McCain said essentially, I’™m with Boehner.

At that point, Barney Frank and other liberal Democrats blew up because they thought that they had a deal. They thought the administration had basically sold out the House Republicans and was going to deliver them, and they suddenly realized that with Senator McCain siding with Congressman Boehner, that they had to negotiate. That was on Thursday.

Watch Greta’™s interview with Gingrich: Pt. 1 | Pt. 2

There was a long, painful, hard negotiation. And the fact is that they dramatically improved the bill. I said this morning if I had been in the Congress, I would have hated it, it makes me very angry, but I would have voted yes. And I said that because I watched Congressman Roy Blunt and Congressman John Boehner and Congressman Cantor and Paul Ryan really improve the bill significantly. It was still not a good bill, but it was dramatically better.

That would not have happened without John McCain’™s involvement. And by the way, on the other side, I don’™t believe Senator Obama delivered a single vote in the House today to try to help pass this. I think he once again was voting present.

Not only does Gingrich refer to his role not one little bit, when evidently he played a major role in whipping up the fury of the House Republicans, but he comes back and criticizes Obama for not helping enough to pass the bill. What, was he disappointed his work to defeat the bill didn’™t have a good enough opponent? Man, this guy is duplicitous. But we knew that. Back to the Morning Joe Show, Mike Barnicle says Gingrich did this as a prelude to his own candidacy for President in 2012. Harming the Us economy as a campaign trick? That sounds like a McCain-like stunt.

If Gingrich thinks his stunts in Congress are going to help, someone ought to remind him how his party was hurt when they shut down the government during the Clinton Administration. Right now, the public is blaming Republicans for everything going wrong in the economy, and I’™m betting Gingrich’™s work is tying them to economic failure. Where the Republicans are tied to economic failure, so will be John McCain.

In other news, John McCain has kicked Maureen Dowd off of his campaign plane. That’™s just petty, grouchy old man stuff.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

McCain to Repeat the Supension of His Campaign?

It is hard to believe, but goaded by FoxNews commentators who praised McCain’™s failed stunt of last week, where he suspended his campaign and threatened the Presidential debates, McCain strated he is considering doing so again. The old dog is not learning new tricks.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Not really! Are they sure? Well, he mentioned the possibility when interviewed by FoxNews. Here’™s the link at TalkingPointsMemo.

His quote is, ‘œI’™ll do whatever is necessary, and I’™ll put my Presidential campaign on the back burner if necessary.’

No, this isn’™t some sort of time travel to last week.

Wow! This guy doesn’™t learn.

Meanwhile, back at the Gallup poll, McCain ranks as less effective than Congress in addressing the bailout.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

The Unraveling of the McCain Campaign

The McCain campaign can’t buy a break, and the failure of the Bailout McCain took credit for is part of that. The actions of McCain staffers, Palin, McCain himself, they make the campaign look like it is staffed by fools. They have not resorted to playing the blame game after claiming to be above politics on the issue of the bailout.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

As noted in today’s New York Times story, John McCain had just as much as the American people from a bailout passing yesterday. He desperately needs to get the subject of the economy off the minds of Americans. He’s falling further in the polls, both the FoxNews/Rasmussen and the LA Times/Bloomberg. Heck, there’s even a second poll joining the outlier putting Obama slightly ahead in North Carolina. No, it is not looking good for Mr. McCain, and everywhere you look the wheels are coming off.

McCain’s campaign, against the evidence, think McCain acted heroically this last week in the face of the finaicial crisis. As I note here, McCain’s words from Sunday through Monday, when the bailout McCain staked his campaign on failed, were all over the map. No central message whatsoever. It gets worse when one looks at the video of McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin defending McCain’s actions this past week. The guy sounds like Sarah Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric. (Hey, is that metaphor about Palin and Couric going to replace the example of the South Carolina Beaty Pageant contestant as an example of incoherence?) I’m betting Holtz-Eakin would love to quit his job and go back in time to think up new excuses for the failed reasons the Bush Administration chose for invading Iraq. That would surely be an easier job than defending the erratic behavior of John McCain.

At the same time the McCain campaign can’t seem to coordinate between John and Sarah. Sarah Palin goes off message, so McCain says it’s OK because she was only talking to a voter. McCain, meanwhile, wants to solve the healthcare crisis using clinics in WalMarts – a nice idea, but you just don’t SAY that people will get their healthcare at WalMart. He’s opening himself up to ridicule left and right. Ridicule? Ridicule? Time to note that Sarah Palin knows of no other case ever to come before the Supreme Court other than Roe v. Wade. That part of the Couric interview hit the cutting room floor. So there’s the reason the McCain campaign wasn’t slamming Couric, there was more out there showing Palin as unprepared.

So, what’s the main thrust of the last several days of action? It is the same as it was in the first debate between Obama and McCain. Obama is steady and Presidential, McCain is an unpredictable and angry old man. I sincerely hope this bailout gets settled later this week. While McCain surely deserves to lose this election, both for his performance and for the future of our country, it is a bit sad seeing him make such an utter fool of himself.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Stampeded by Fear, Scammed by Lies: The Bailout and the Bush Credibility

Republicans defeated the bailout measure in the House yesterday, and not satsfied with throwing the nation into turmoil, they lied about it, whining about being insulting and then placing the blame on those who voted for the bill, the Democrats.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The Republican leaders of the House of Representatives grabbed a half dozen bags of sincerity, looked directly into every TV camera they could find, and lied.

The House had just defeated, 228–205, a bupartisan $700 billion bailout bill. But it was the Democrats who were the subject of vicious rhetoric.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “poisoned our conference,” screeched Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Republican minority leader. He said the House would have voted for the bill “had it not been for the partisan speech the Speaker gave on the floor of the House.” Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) specifically said that Pelosi’s speech changed the minds of about a dozen Republicans who voted against the bill. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), waving a copy of Pelosi’s speech, screamed out, “Here is the reason I believe why this vote failed!” The speech, he said, “frankly struck the tone of partisanship that frankly was inappropriate in this discussion.” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior advisor to Sen. John McCain, was equally blunt–and equally wrong. The bailout failed, he said, because “Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”

But it wasn’t the Democrats who brought about the bill’s defeat. The Democrats voted 140–95 for the bill; the Republicans voted 133–65 against the bill. Sen. Barack Obama supported the bill; Sen. John McCain didn’t seem to take a strong position either way. Nevertheless, the viciously partisan Republican leadership, eager to paint anything Democratic as vicious partisanship, couldn’t even get a majority of their own members to agree to the bailout, one that now had added protections for the taxpayer.

What infuriated the Republican leaders was Pelosi’s accurate portrayal of the Bush–Cheney Administration’s economic policies as “built on recklessness, on an anything-goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision and no disciple in the system.” While driving America into the deepest deficit in its history, the Administration had usurped its own campaign lies that breathlessly panted the fear that the enemies of American consumers are “tax-and-spend liberals,” as if it was one word.

There are several reasons why this version of the bailout failed. Every member of the House is facing re-election in less than six weeks, and their constituents are angry. They’re angry at the government’s lack of oversight and regulation, supported and encouraged by Bush and McCain, that helped bring about the crisis. They’re angry at the failing mega-mammoth financial institutions that sacrificed the middle class to a horde of unbridled greed and incompetence. They’re angry at corporate executives who make millions while their companies are failing, and then get multi-million dollar “golden parachutes” that let them float into retirement, while the average taxpayer’s 401(k), with only a few thousand dollars may now be worth only half what it once was. They’re angry at “house flippers,” aided by easy-to-get mortgages and some unscrupulous real estate brokers, who made minor fortunes and helped raise housing prices to the point where middle-class families could no longer afford to own a home in an economy that was being held up by toothpicks.

But, most of all, consumers and members of Congress are furious at President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and their Neocon gaggle who no longer have credibility. For seven years, the Bush–Cheney Administration has used fear as a bargaining weapon.

Six weeks after 9/11, the U.S. had the PATRIOT Act, a 342-page law, which few members of Congress read before voting for it, that pretending to stop terrorists essentially stripped much of our constitutional protections. And the people and their elected leaders agreed to it.

Using the tactics of fear, the Bush–Cheney Administration lied to the people, almost abandoned the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and invaded Iraq, which had no connection to 9/11. And the people and their elected leaders agreed to it.

For the morally bankrupt Bush Corp., dissent is unpatriotic, un-American, and maybe even treasonous. “You’re either with us or against us,” President Bush told Americans. Because the people didn’t want to be seen as opposed to America, they and their leaders agreed to being bullied. “Support the troops,” Bush told Americans, but meant “Support me and my policies.” And Americans didn’t want to be seen as not supporting America’s soldiers, even if the Bush–Cheney Administration, didn’t give the troops pay raises, adequate body armor or medical care.

We are, said the Bush–Cheney Administration, “compassionate conservatives.” But, Katrina put an end to that lie.

This is an Administration that believes the environment is important only if it doesn’t interfere with private business. For years, Bush said he believed global warming doesn’t exist, and if it does it wasn’t caused by mankind. Only under the crushing weight of scientific evidence did Bush reluctantly have to modify his beliefs.

Almost eight years of incompetence and lies, with the President’s credibility lower than that of Three-Card Monty dealers in New York City, led Americans to finally realize they have been scammed. Bush had cried out “fear” once too often.

But, it wasn’t the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War, or the destruction of the environment that brought about the people’s anger. It was their self-interest. In Bush’s Wild West economy, Americans have seen inflation, increased unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies; they have seen their retirement plans dwindle in the vapors of economic chaos. The vote against the bailout was simply political reality by members of Congress who no longer were about to be stampeded by fear, scammed by lies, and whose own self-interest is to be re-elected.

[Walter Brasch's latest book is the second edition of Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com, bn.com, and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com]

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

24, Starring John McCain as Jack Bauer

John McCain’™s comments on the financial crisis in just over 24 hours reads like a Jack Bauer script, only less noble and with tortured positions instead of tortured terrorists. First he takes credit, then he doesn’™t, then he exhorts action, then he blames Obama for his own meddling. He’™s a comic book character, but can’™t figure out which one.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Well, by now we know John McCain is today’™s action hero, far more powerful than Chuck Norris or Mike Huckabee. Heck, I would compare him to Jack Bauer of 24, except Jack Bauer has friends and actually saves the day. They’™ve both got that scruffy look, and Jack Bauer has been tortured in the line of duty as well. Of course, they’™re both Mavericks, and they both get the babes.

But I digress. Today’™s feature consists of some quotes from the last 24 or 36 hours or so. Ergo the title of this post. I’™m still trying to figure out the coherence of these McCain quotes. The first comes on Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, with McCain claiming he was not acting the hero this past week, but that he is satisfied with the bailout package. From JohnMcCain.com:

Stephanopoulos: ‘œWhat role did you play? How were you helpful do you believe in the process?’

John McCain: ‘œI will let you and others be the judge of that. I did the best that I could. I came back because I wasn’™t going to phone it in. America is in a crisis of almost unprecedented proportions. I should be doing whatever little I can to help this process. I’™m a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. I got to get in the arena when America needs it, and if that judgment wants to be made whether I helped or hurt, I’™ll be glad to accept the judgment of history. But I’™m never going to not get engaged when the taxpayers and middle class of America are in danger of losing everything literally that they’™ve worked all their lives for. I’™m going to be out working on it. I won’™t claim a bit of credit, okay, if that makes them feel better. But I’™m going to be there working and trying to help solve this crisis. And I’™m proud of John Boehner and Roy Blunt and Adam Putnam and all of the guys and men and women, Marsha Blackburn and others who in the House of Representatives stood up and got into these negotiations and became part of the solution.’

Let’™s call that Noon yesterday, for the sake of argument. McCain boasts of his duty to his country, to be there trying as hard as he can, then he gets all humble and thanks all the other stalwart warriors he served with. Oh, and what’™s that ‘œif that makes them feel better’ thing if not petulence at not being recognized as the biggest hero since the Green Lantern?

This morning in Columbus, OH Mr. McCain was not so shy about taking a whole bunch of credit for the bailout package. He was talking at a rally, admired by his adoring fans. He was playing rock star instead of fielding softball questions on TV from George Stephanopoulos. Mr. McCain seems quite pleased with himself, taking a great deal of credit, along with his party, for the plan that will save the country. Of course, he gives Barack Obama zero credit. That’™s the way John McCain is, after all. He’™s a loner, much like Pee Wee Herman. From JohnMcCain.com.

We need reform in Washington and on Wall Street. When the financial crisis threatened the economic security of all Americans, I laid out principles to protect hardworking Americans. I believed that inaction was not an option.

I put my campaign on hold for a couple days last week to fight for a rescue plan that put you and your economic security first. I fought for a plan that protected taxpayers, homeowners, consumers and small business owners.

I went to Washington last week to make sure that the taxpayers of Ohio and across this great country were not left footing the bill for mistakes made on Wall Street and in Washington.

Some people have criticized my decision, but I will never, ever be a president who sits on the sidelines when this country faces a crisis. Some of you may have noticed, but it’™s not my style to simply ‘œphone it in.’

I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. I believe our leaders belong ‘œin the Arena’ when our country faces a challenge. I’™ve never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I’™m not going to stop now.

Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn’™t want to get involved. Then he was ‘œmonitoring the situation.’ That’™s not leadership, that’™s watching from the sidelines.

So, later on Monday John McCain found out that his Action Comic personna didn’™t do a whole lot of good with the House of Representatives, at least. A whole bunch of his fellow Republicans disappointed him and decided to vote ‘œNo’ on that little bill Mr. McCain worked so very hard for. Sobered, John McCain, perhaps knowing he was on National television, gives a couple brief remarks in DesMoines. He doesn’™t blame his fellow Republicans, it seems, the ones in the House he gave cover to last Thursday. He doesn’™t even blame Barack Obama this time. Of course there is no responsibility to be laid at John McCain’™s own feet, either. He is both Teddy Roosevelt and Teddy Bear here. Here’™s those words, from JohnMcCain.com:

‘œI was hopeful that the improved rescue plan would have had the votes needed to pass because addressing a credit crisis is of vital importance to families, small businesses, and every working American who must be assured that their assets are safe and protected and that our economy will continue to function.

‘œToday, I’™ve spoken to the Federal Chairman Bernanke, Secretary Paulson, Congressional leaders and now it’™s time for all members of Congress to go back to the drawing board.

‘œI call on Congress to get back obviously immediately to address this crisis. Our leaders are expected to leave partisanship at the door and come to the table to solve our problems. Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process. Now is not the time to fix the blame. It’™s time to fix the problem.

‘œI would hope that all our leaders, all of them, can put aside short-term political goals and do what’™s in the best interest of the American people. Thank you.’

If you read between those lines, you’™ll see that McCain thinks the guys who voted against this did so for political reasons. Watch carefully over the next few days to see if McCain doesn’™t blow his top, as his narrow and stilted morality leads him to accusing people of playing politics all the time, especially when people disagree with him. . . . politically. It’™s part of the blame game, subtle in this last quote, but ready to burdst out in a fit of temper, like the Incredible Hulk or something. Maybe Ahnold can give him lessons.

Finally, John McCain’™s people blame Barack Obama for a crisis he did not make, and one in which he did not promise to fix with his surper powers. Barack Obama merely caucused with his fellow members of conference, deferring to those elected to lead each party. When asked, Obama attended meetings, but Barack Obama did not use his laser vision to not read the proposal, as did John McCain, he did not leak to the press that he spent the day talking on the phone to the waiter down at the little Chinese restaurant, as did John McCain, and he did not suspend his campaign from a coat hanger at the Hays Adams Hotel, as did John McCain. Yes, John McCain thinks Barack Obama was at fault, even though it is John McCain’™s friends on the GOP side of the aisle who didn’™t vote for McCain’™s masterful plan. From Politico:

‘œFrom the minute John McCain suspended his campaign and arrived in Washington to address this crisis, he was attacked by the Democratic leadership: Senators Obama and Reid, Speaker Pelosi and others. Their partisan attacks were an effort to gain political advantage during a national economic crisis. By doing so, they put at risk the homes, livelihoods and savings of millions of American families.

‘œBarack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill.

‘œJust before the vote, when the outcome was still in doubt, Speaker Pelosi gave a strongly worded partisan speech and poisoned the outcome.

‘œThis bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.’ ‘” McCain-Palin senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.

There you go, four quotes in little over a 24 hour period. John McCain, like Jack Bauer, has solved his crisis. At first he didn’™t know who to blame for forcing him to put on his superhero costume, but by the end of the 24 hours, he knows to blame Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and those dreaded Democrats.

Time for McCain to step aside and let the real heros take the stage. I may not like the bailout package, but I’™m scared enough right now to want something. The one they voted on today directed the restructuring of mortgages in those mortgage backed bonds bought up by the Treasury. Beyond what this ‘œinvestment’ Mr. Paulson discusses for the taxpayers, I’™m thinking it is wise to renegotiate tens of thousands of loans that are headed towards default. If you buy them for 25 cents on the dollar, save half of two thirds of the loans, then sell those mortgage backed securites back for 40 cents on the dollar, that just might do the economy some good. Frankly, I don’™t care about the Golden Parachute stuff so much, just making sure people on the bottom get to keep their houses, while we also make sure to protect liquidity. Let’™s just make sure McCain isn’™t involved in any of this next attempt at passage of a bill.

Who are those real heros? The leaders of the House and Senate. McCain needs to let them do their job. And he needs to get a message and keep to it. Maybe John McCain needs to help in tutoring BatGirl on how to debate without speaking in tongues.

Monday, September 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Bailout Imbroglio: Politics, Power, Pulpits, & Profit

The failure to pass bailout legislation is a symptom of a larger issue…one that percolates in the background. Good governance must promote a social structure that insists the nation be neutral while accepting the soul’s autonomy. Preserving our American identity hangs in the balance.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

We’re in uncharted waters with a leaky boat and a storm on the horizon…but the GOP wants us to know that Nancy Pelosi is a mean-spirited partisan.

Let me see if I can get this straight. The Republican president of the United States sends the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Chairman to Capital Hill with a message of impending economic doom…asking the party in power to put aside partisanship and pass necessary legislation.

The party in power (Democrats) holds its nose and puts together a bill premised upon the gravity of the situation, endures John McCain’s grandstanding at the eleventh hour, allows him to characterize his involvement as critical to the success of the process, spends hours meeting with those in the GOP who want to amend the bill, comes to an agreement on a bill the GOP leadership can support, and then brings the bill to a vote.

In that vote, over sixty percent of Democrats support legislation that was requested by the head of the opposition party, two thirds of the presidents fellow Republicans jump ship and oppose the bill, and the GOP house leadership wants Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to shoulder the blame?! Well there you have it…nothing illogical about that, right?

Frankly, I’ve personally reached the point at which I’m opposed to any attempt to glue what remains of our failed government back together. Unless and until politicians are held accountable for the consequences of their actions, I’m in favor of pulling the rest of the metaphorical china from the cupboard and smashing it all on the floor. I say as much because I don’t think anything will change until the American public is forced to face reality…even if that means standing in line for a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup.

Look, let’s be honest as to what all of this GOP partisanship is about. From their self-serving perspective, it’s power and money…and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to obtain both. Voters, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to be drawn into an ideological struggle to define morality. Taken together, this is the underlying formula for the disaster we’re witnessing.

Instead of a candid discussion on the merits of rescuing our financial structure, the political combatants have spent years defining our differences in terms of good versus evil; right versus wrong. While voters blindly engage in this theoretical tug of war, the real battle for dominance is waged in the trenches…replete with lobbyists looking to commit larceny in tandem with their trusted troopers…the political elite.

The unseen metrics of today’s maelstrom center upon the pursuit of profit. Those house Republicans who opposed today’s legislation tell us they are concerned about main street. In truth they, in concert with their corporate benefactors who want the government to insure their success without foregoing the profits that may eventually result from the government’s intervention, see main street as a peripheral player.

Let me explain. If the bail out takes the current form, the companies that avail themselves of it will have to forego the upside of the very assets that have made them a ton of money during the housing bubble and now leads them to the edge of financial ruin. Conversely, if the legislation is structured as an insurance mechanism, they receive the financial assist they need without foregoing the future profits that may ensue with the passage of time and an improved economy.

In other words, house Republicans are carrying the water of Wall Street while telling us they’re looking out for the interests of taxpayers. You see, one need only look at the proposal that came from the Bush administration…a virtual blank check to assist their wealthy benefactors…to understand their intentions. Only when the legislation, as modified by the Democrats and a handful of Republicans, became apparent, did the GOP revolt materialize. It did so at the behest of their capitalist (and opportunist) friends who stood to see their profit potential handed over to the American taxpayer.

Don’t be fooled…the motivation of many in the GOP, who voted against this bill, has little to do with those of us living on Main Street. The proof is found in today’s vote…and the reality that a bail out is inevitable. The acrimony simply centers on who gets the lion’s share of the benefit.

(more…)

Monday, September 29th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

2008 Election: Wall St., White Knights, White Noise, & White Light

The 2008 election is about many things. Sadly, the manner in which pivotal issues are presented to voters is often hidden beneath the acts of self-appointed white knights and the din of white noise. It’s imperative that we find and follow the white light at the end of the tunnel.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Best as I can tell, John McCain and the term “maverick” is simply another way of describing the “cowboy diplomacy” we’ve endured for nearly eight years under George W. Bush. The move by John McCain to suspend his campaign and race to Washington on his white horse is all too familiar. The only distinction that remains between these two men is that John McCain has yet to find his “dead or alive” moment.

Frankly, McCain’s antics are reminiscent of an impetuous and aged diva demanding one last leading role…despite the fact that his sphere of influence has waned and he can no longer deliver his lines coherently…let alone a last minute deal. The degree of miscalculation on the part of McCain is astounding…and informing.

To understand the magnitude of his tin ear, one need look no further than the brick wall he encountered upon his descent into Washington. While McCain imagined himself as the negotiator in charge, his Republican congressional counterparts were moving towards full-scale mutiny. A moments perusal of the alternate proposal offered by a number of conservative house Republicans provides ample evidence of the disconnect.

Here’s the bullet points directly from the House GOP plan:

* Rather than providing taxpayer funded purchases of frozen mortgage assets, we should adopt a mortgage insurance approach to solve the problem.

* Currently the federal government insures approximately half of all mortgage backed securities. (MBS) We can insure the rest of current outstanding MBS; however, rather than taxpayers funding insurance, the holders of these assets should pay for it. Treasury Department can design a system to charge premiums to the holders of MBS to fully finance this insurance.

* Have Private Capital Injection to the Financial Markets, Not Tax Dollars. Instead of injecting taxpayer capital into the market to produce liquidity, private capital can be drawn into the market by removing regulatory and tax barriers that are currently blocking private capital formation. Too much private capital is sitting on the sidelines during this crisis.

* Temporary tax relief provisions can help companies free up capital to maintain operations, create jobs, and lend to one another. In addition, we should allow for a temporary suspension of dividend payments by financial institutions and other regulatory measures to address the problems surrounding private capital liquidity.

* Immediate Transparency, Oversight, and Market Reform. Require participating firms to disclose to Treasury the value of their mortgage assets on their books, the value of any private bids within the last year for such assets, and their last audit report.

* Wall Street Executives should not benefit from taxpayer funding. Call on the SEC to review the performance of the Credit Rating Agencies and their ability to accurately reflect the risks of these failed investment securities.

* Create a blue ribbon panel with representatives of Treasury, SEC, and the Fed to make recommendations to Congress for reforms of the financial sector by January 1, 2009.

OK, one can view McCain’s misguided judgment from two perspectives. First, one could speculate that McCain believed he could go to Washington and convince these house Republicans to abandon their ill-conceived alternative…a goal fully contrary to the tenuous relationship he has had with the conservative wing of his party. Secondly, one might assume that McCain thought he could convince those who had been working to craft an acceptable revision of Secretary Paulson’s proposal to abandon it and embrace a brand new approach.

By any rational calculation, neither of these goals were plausible. The fact that John McCain admitted on Tuesday…one day before suspending his campaign…that he hadn’t even read the three page Paulson proposal only magnifies the seeming suspension of judgment. With that said, it’s even hard to imagine the basis upon which McCain felt his ploy could succeed.

Notwithstanding the above, there is another possibility…one that is far more concerning. That explanation is that the house revolt was part of an orchestrated performance intended to raise the stakes and allow McCain to be seen as the taxpayers white knight rushing in to champion the introduction of a new plan at the eleventh hour and rescue us from the excesses of government intervention. Yes, part of me finds this hard to imagine since today’s outcome seems to have failed to demonstrate that McCain has played any pivotal role in reaching or reshaping the agreement that will ultimately be approved.

Regardless, I realize the GOP believes they can once again dupe the voting public into thinking they have our interests at heart. It’s my hope that this latest stunt will elicit what will eventually be seen as the defining phrase of this campaign, “Give me a frickin’ break”. If so, it will be the pivotal moment in the rejection of a fully flawed economic philosophy.

Returning to the above proposal from the house Republicans, I want to highlight a couple points. The premise of the plan is intended to suggest that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for the bail out. On its surface, this is a noble endeavor. Unfortunately, the means they propose to achieve this objective is to remove what little regulatory oversight exists and grant further tax breaks to Wall Street. Essentially, the goal is predicated upon the belief that unbridled greed will lead the financial markets to dig their way out of a mess that was created by that very unbridled greed.

The plan completely fails to recognize the immediacy of the need for capital. In this convoluted approach, it will take a tremendous amount of time for the players to raise capital and it does nothing to identify the worthless paper, those who are holding it, and the means to remove it from the equations that facilitate the flow of money from those who have it to those who need it.

The lending bottleneck we’re facing is partially predicated upon uncertainty. That uncertainty comes from fears about the solvency of other financial institutions and the reticence it creates. Until there is more transparency in the balance sheets of the players and their uncertain liabilities are purged, the skepticism will continue and the motivation to lend money won’t exist.

One must also recognize that the addition of an insurance mechanism provides little motivation to correct flawed lending practices. In many ways it provides an endless means to create and dump ill-advised debt. If lenders believe the government will insure whatever paper they write, where is the motivation to stop writing bad paper? To do this, all they have to do is pay the insurance premiums. To pay those premiums, all they have to do is add it to the costs that borrowers will pay…borrowers who are taxpayers. Hence, this model simply encourages the financial industry to do more of the same…and to pass the costs onto the public.

In the end, the proposal is laughable…but that leads me to identify the sentence that best expresses the fundamental objective of this approach…unrestrained profits for the wealthy.

(more…)

Friday, September 26th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Execs Get Golden Parachute; Taxpayers Get Golden Shower?

The Bush administration is carrying the water for Wall Street executives with regards to their greed for more unchecked compensation. Voters need to let their elected officials know that they are unwilling to take another golden shower in order to enable more golden parachutes.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The more I see and hear about the bail out of Wall Street, the more I oppose it. Here’s the issue. Taxpayers are being asked to ante up for the good of the nation…and to do so with minimal information and even fewer details. At the same time, the White House is suggesting that any limitation on executive compensation may lead companies to decline participation in the program. I’m calling B.S. on this one.

From The Washington Post:

After 7 1/2 years of drift, President Bush has finally returned to his compassionate conservative roots with a heartfelt plea to Congress to help a needy and deserving group: those Wall Street CEOs who, for all their hard work, have been unable to lift themselves up by their wingtips.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (R-Goldman Sachs) made the rounds of the talk shows on Sunday, pleading for financial executives to be allowed to keep their multimillion-dollar compensation packages even if their companies need to be rescued by the $700 billion federal bailout.

“If we design it so it’s punitive and so institutions aren’t going to participate, this won’t work the way we need it to work,” Paulson, whose net worth is said to be north of $600 million, told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

“To have this program work, we don’t want to make it punitive and make it difficult,” Paulson advised George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

It was a message of mercy and humanity – who, after all, would be so cruel to deny executives their eight-figure bonuses merely because they drove their companies into insolvency? – and administration officials and Republican lawmakers joined the cause of the unappreciated CEOs.

Give me a frickin’ break…just how stupid does the Bush administration think we are. Further, if this isn’t a ploy to manipulate voters, just how damn stupid is the Bush administration? Let’s look at the logic.

First, if we assume that Wall Street is perilously close to collapse, then they need our help, right? Second, if they aren’t willing to accept our demands for fair executive compensation, we have every right to deny them our help. Thirdly, if they have the ability to forego our help in favor of their huge compensation packages, then they aren’t in that bad of shape, right? Fourth, if these companies can put their self-serving interests first, why in the hell should voters forego theirs in order to bail them out. Fifth, if the Bush administration can’t reach these same logical conclusions, then they have no business managing a lemonade stand…let alone the largest bail out in U.S. history.

Honestly, it’s time for voters to call the bluff of the administration that drug us into this mess. If we’re going to get screwed, let’s get screwed on our own terms. There is no plausible rationale to grant unlimited authority to the very people who pushed us into the financial abyss. Beyond that, there is absolutely no justification to take an unwanted screwing, write a huge check for it, and thank the Bush administration for putting it to us.

Truth be told, we have no assurances that this bail out will work. For two years, the Bush administration has told us the economy is sound and that we aren’t in a recession. Two weeks ago they assured us that the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seizure was the answer to our problems. In short order, they bail out AIG after telling us the bail outs were over and these companies needed to seek their own solutions. Days later we’re told the sky is falling and we need to bend over.

No way…no how…I’m happy to let it burn to the ground before we give Wall Street a free pass. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. If they want more of our money, it’s on our terms or to hell with them. Let’s see who blinks first.

ONE ADDITIONAL POINT:

We’re hearing a number of insiders suggest that homeowners bear some responsibility for this predicament. The argument contends that too many of us bit off more than we could chew. OK, I’ll accept that there’s some truth to that contention…but it isn’t the whole story. The whole story needs to consider the fact that the average American has spent the last seven years working harder and producing more…for less money.

The fact of the matter is that millions of Americans gambled on the historical data that home prices will rise. When they did, many of them did so because they needed money and the only means available to obtain it was to borrow against the equity they thought they had in their homes.

Yes, that may have been shortsighted and imprudent…but so too is it detestable that our elected officials failed to be good stewards of the economy. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans didn’t trickle down…and the few jobs that were created weren’t enough and they weren’t higher paying jobs. Instead, far too much of the Bush tax package was invested in high risk financial gimmicks designed to create easy profits.

If we’re going to assess blame, then let’s not forget where the bulk of it belongs. It belongs squarely on the backs of those who have promoted a morally bankrupt economic philosophy that concentrates wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the hard work of the many.

There’s one additional saying that applies to the current situation of our greedy cash chasing countrymen…”bet –em high and sleep in the streets”. All that’s left to be said to our Wall Street friends is, “Welcome to Main Street…and don’t forget to bring some cardboard boxes and a warm blanket”.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Defrosting The Denial – The Bitter Bite Of 700 Billion Deaths

It’s said that grief is a five stage process. As we embark upon a 700 billion dollar bail out, I suspect the American people are just beginning this journey. At the moment, denial seems to be the order of the day. I fear the next four steps will be far more difficult.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Americans should be heartened by the plan to stabilize the struggling financial industry. We Americans like action as it soothes the angst created by a stock market in free fall, a housing industry in the tank, a shrinking supply of job prospects, and a general sense of uncertainty as the 2008 election approaches.

As much as I’ve tried, I simply can’t find the reasons for optimism. Frankly, it has all the feel of the death of a loved one…that unease one has in the pit of one’s stomach…an eery recognition that the die have been cast and there’s nothing that can be done to change the trajectory. At times like this, it’s not unusual to grasp at straws…playing games with ourselves in the hopes of turning back the clock and washing away the events we find so troubling. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen.

As I’ve attempted to make sense of my own thoughts, I kept coming back to the thoughts of death and the steps psychologists tell us we go through to deal with the grief it brings. If one ascribes to this theory, the first step is denial. Truth be told, I find that an apt description of where we’re at. Rather than focus on our loss, we point our thoughts towards the proposed bail out. In fact, I suspect there is comfort in the sheer size of the endeavor…so much so that the bigger it is, the better we may feel.

It’s akin to sitting in a chair while mom consoles us and applies a bandage to cover our skinned knee…only in this case the injury is far more serious and the salve is far more ethereal. I suspect it will take time for us to adjust our mindset…a mindset that’s been carefully crafted over a number of years with the rhetoric of rah rah…rhetoric that tells us we live in the promised land…that we can do no wrong…that we will prevail because it is God’s will…that our actions are inevitably and invariably enlightened.

Yes, we’re the nation that survived a civil war, the nation that overcame the great depression, the nation that won two world wars, the nation that promoted democracy to the detriment of communism, and the nation that has been the envy of the world. In as much as history predicts the future, we Americans have an expectation that tomorrow will simply affirm yesterday and all will be well. Unfortunately, our optimism is predicated upon ignoring the historical plight of virtually all other societies.

I’ll recount a story I’ve told many times…since this may actually be the moment at which its full magnitude can best be understood. When I was in high school, I had a Social Studies instructor who was quite the character. In fact we called him Wild Bill. He was a colorful man who was well-traveled and full of stories one might expect to find in a Hemingway novel. At the same time, he possessed a keen understanding of the big picture…one of those thinkers who could quickly make sense of the obscure and connect all of the dots.

One day, while I was seated in his class, he proceeded to impart some of his insights, and for whatever reason, the sheer significance of his hypothesis was seared into my brain. As he spoke of the world and the interactions of societies and nations, he paused, as if to question whether he should allow his thought to escape his lips…and then as one would expect, he let rip the following, “The day is coming when the wealth we have in the United States will be challenged. At some point, the family in South America or the family in Asia is going to say, –we want a refrigerator too’, and the intertwined nature of the world will force us to address their demands. The disparity that exists today cannot be sustained forever.”

In retrospect, it’s difficult to know the basis for his prescient thought. My own suspicion is that it was a combination of recognizing the advantages of being an American traveling in a world filled with poverty and his own appreciation for the excesses that are an integral part of human nature. In other words, I think he was sure that our freedom and our wealth would not go unnoticed as we Americans traveled the world and allowed others to witness the essence of the American dream and seek to make it their own.

Returning to grief, I would suggest that the denial we’re experiencing is, in fact, predicated upon our first recognition of Wild Bill’s prediction…the moment at which the rest of the world has made its demand for a refrigerator. Yes, it’s been building for a number of years…but not in a manner that slaps us in the face and says wake up. One need only look at the globalization of manufacturing, our shift towards a service economy, our inability to supply our ever expanding energy needs, our growing reliance upon imports, and our inability to compete given the fact that our standard of living (wages) must be factored into all of our transactions with the rest of the world.

So where does this leave us today? Well, if one accepts the validity of the grief model in explaining our current predicament, we’re barely beginning our march towards the final stage of our journey, acceptance. Right now, 700 billion makes us feel better because it is the language we understand…a money driven construct. Unfortunately, we’re still attached to the notion that the dollar can dictate value to the rest of the world…and while that may well be a valid view, it remains to be seen for how much longer.

Optimists like to point to the debt ratio of other nations in order to dismiss the significance of this bail out and our unrestricted deficit spending. However, the fact that we’ve doubled our debt in eight years can’t be ignored. At some point, the advantages the dollar has afforded will no longer exist and the more debt we assume, the sooner it will erode.

You see, it isn’t just 700 billion for Wall Street…it’s 700 billion annually for importing oil…it’s half a trillion and counting for an endless war…and it’s entitlement programs that cannot be sustained. Even more concerning, it’s a housing market that may never again be the primary wealth creation mechanism for the average American. Absent this key component, the engine of the American dream may have eclipsed its life expectancy.

I suspect one could reasonably argue that the last seven years prove as much. Truth be told, the money that has kept our economy from acknowledging the shadow of a global reality came from artificial interest rates that allowed Americans to keep spending by borrowing against their expanding, though contrived, home equity. As the world waits to see the shake out, there is little reason to believe that confidence in the American economy will be fully restored. As the inevitable autopsy is completed, the endemic toxicity of our superficial economy will cause a shift away from contact with the infectious dollar.

As we move into anger, the second stage of grief, we will likely face our greatest test. Try as we might, blame will come with anger and there will be calls for accountability as we cling to our hopes of preserving the American dream. As we watch the world advance around us, the heat of our anger will eventually give way to a cold reality…a reality that will put ice in the lemonade of our global neighbors…and leave us wondering if we can stand the bitter bite of the lemons we’re left with.

Look on the bright side…if we survive this most sour sojourn…there’s only three more steps to navigate – bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |
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