Does anyone have the number of a good deprogrammer?
Update: Prepare not to be surprised.
The View From Inside the Tank
A READER AT A MAJOR NEWSROOM EMAILS: "Off the record, every suspicion you have about MSM being in the tank for O is true. We have a team of 4 people going thru dumpsters in Alaska and 4 in arizona. Not a single one looking into Acorn, Ayers or Freddiemae. Editor refuses to publish anything that would jeopardize election for O, and betting you dollars to donuts same is true at NYT, others. People cheer when CNN or NBC run another Palin-mocking but raising any reasonable inquiry into obama is derided or flat out ignored. The fix is in, and its working." I asked permission to reprint without attribution and it was granted.
Obama To Start Frosting Hair In Attempt To Look Like a Grown Up
Didn't Dan Quayle try something like this (specifically, exactly this)? I seem to remember it working out poorly.
Despite being relatively young at 47 compared to rival Republican candidate John McCain's 72 years, Obama admitted his hair is ageing and he is willing to embrace his ashen colour.
The Illinois junior senator said he will refrain from dyeing his greying curls because he believes the visible signs of ageing will help him appeal to older voters.
By "refrain from dyeing" I think we can all assume he either means "stop dyeing" or "begin frosting".
In July, a confident Obama said: 'The grey is coming quick. By the time I'm sworn in, I will look the part.'
Biggest Dow Drop In History
Thanks to some extra selling just before the closing bell, the Dow managed to post its worst loss in history today - 777.68 points.
The previous record of 684.81 took place on September 17, 2001, during the post-tech bubble recession. That decline was steeper than today's on a relative basis (7.1% compared to today's loss of 7.0%).
That's $1.1 trillion in market value gone in a flash.
Here's a bold prediction: after a Rosh Hashanah recess filled with calls from livid constituents who've had time to glance at their brokerage accounts and 401Ks and have suddenly gotten religion about the bailout, a very similar bill passes the following morning with broad bi-partisan support.
Bailout Vote Fails In the House
With 0:00 left on the clock, the current vote is 205-228. The tally wobbled around a bit after the buzzer since the vote wasn't formally closed, but the Yeas never got up to the necessary 218.
Markets (already suffering a hideous day) plunged, with the Dow dipping as low as 700 points below yesterday's close before rebounding (a bit).
Update: John Boehner, Roy Blunt, and Eric Cantor are blaming Nancy Pelosi's partisan comments about the bill today for souring a dozen GOP Congressmen who had planned to vote for the bill and didn't.
Unclear to me is why her blue meat speech didn't convince the 94 Democrats who voted against the bill to get on board.
Here's the video of Pelosi's comments, from which I've transcribed the following (with what was presumably the offending passage emphasized):
Nancy Pelosi: Thank you very much mamad speaker for recognizing me and also to the distinguished chairman for his extraordinary leadership which I'll addres in a moment. Madam Speaker when was the last time anyone ever asked you for $700 billion. It's a staggering figure. And many questions have arisen from that request. And we have been hearing I think a very informed debate on all sides of this issue here today. I'm proud of the debate.
$700 billion - a staggering number but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country. Policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton's surpluses. Four years in a row - budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around. And now eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an anything goes economic policy has taken us to where we are today.
They claim to be free market advocates when it's really an anything goes mentality. No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute, and the taxpayer will bail you out. Those days are over. The party is over in that respect. Democrats believe in a free market. We know that it can create jobs, it can create wealth, it can create many good things in our economy. But in this case, in this unbridled form, as encouraged and supported by the Republicans - some in the Republican party, not all - it has created not jobs, not capital. It has created chaos.
And it is that chaos that the Secretary of Treasury and the Chairman of the Fed came to see us just about a week and a half ago. Seems like an eternity doesn't it? So much has happened. The news was so bad. They described a very, very dismal situation. A dismal situation describing the state of our economy, the fragility of our financial institutions, and the instability of our markets. Our equity markets, our credit markets, our bond markets. And here we were listening to people who know of what they spoke. Secretary of the Treasury brings long credentials and knowledge of the markets.
More fearful though to me, more scary were the statements of Chairman Bernanke, because Chairman Bernanke is probably one of the foremost authorities in America on the subject of the Great Depression. I don't know what was so great about the depression, but that's the name they gave it. And we heard the Secretary and the Chairman tell us that this one was a once in 100 years phenomenon - this fiscal crisis was so drastic. Certainly once in 50 years, probably once in 100 years. And how did it sneak up on us so silently? Almost on little cat feet. That they would come in on that day. They didn't actually ask for that much money that night. It took two days until we saw the legislation that they were proposing to help calm the markets. And that was on that day that we learned of a $700 billion request. But it wasn't just the money that was alarming. It was the nature of the legislation. It gave he Secretary of the Treasury czar-like powers, unlimited powers, latitude to do all kinds of things and specifically prohibited judicial review or review of any other federal administrative agency to review their actions. Another aspect of it that was alarming is that it gave the Secretary ... [inaudible] ... that came back from these diffusions of cash to be used at the discretion ... [inaudible]
Pelosi's contention that deregulation caused the mortgage crisis is dumb enough, but the idea that increased government spending during the Bush years was a primary cause is simply idiotic. To the extent that funding included enlarged subsidies to federal mortgage vehicles like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, then government spending did have a hand in it, as those subsidies artificially encouraged home ownership among people who couldn't afford to own homes.
Yes, Clinton's surpluses gave way to Bush deficits (due largely, it's worth noting, to the 2001 recession that was in place when Clinton left office). And yes, the Bush administration (and a complacent GOP Congressional majority) presided over a lamentable and inexcusable bloating of the federal government. But the idea that this was a significant contributing factor to the mortgage/credit crisis strains the limits of creative causality.
Even so, Pelosi's partisan rant - ill-timed, illogical, and irrelevant as it was - doesn't seem like a particularly good reason for intended Yeas to tank the bill.
Update: A full transcript of Pelosi's speech (which was significantly longer than the clip in the video) is available in the extended entry.
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for recognizing me and also to the distinguished chairman for his extraordinary leadership which I'll address in a moment.
Madam Speaker, when was the last time anyone ever asked you for $700 billion? It's a staggering figure. And many questions have arisen from that request. We have been hearing, I think, a very informed debate on all sides of this issue here today.
I'm proud of the debate. $700 Billion. A staggering number. But only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country. Policies that were built on budget recklessness, when President Bush took office, he inherited president Clinton's surpluses four years in a row, budget surpluses. On a trajectory of $5.6 Trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around.
Now eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an anything goes economic policy, has taken us to where we are today. They claim to be free market advocates when it's really an 'anything goes' mentality. No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute and the taxpayer will bail you out.
Those days are over. The party is over. In that respect, Democrats believe in a free market. We know that it can create jobs, it can create wealth, it can create many good things in our economy. But in this case, in its unbridled form, as encouraged, supported by the Republicans, some in the Republican Party, not all, it has created not jobs, not capital, it has created chaos.
It is that chaos that the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Fed came to see us just about a week and a half ago -- seems like an eternity, doesn't it it? -- so much has happened, the news was so bad. They described a very, very dismal situation. A dismal situation describing the state of our economy, the fragility of our financial institutions and the instability of our markets, our equity markets, our credit markets, our bond market. And we are we were listening to people who knew of what they spoke.
The Secretary of the Treasury brings long credentials and knowledge of the markets. More fearful, though, to me, more scary, was the statement -- were the statements of Chairman Bernanke, because Chairman Bernanke is probably one of the foremost authorities in America on the subject of the Great Depression.
I don't know what was so great about the depression, but that's the name they give it. And we heard the secretary and the chairman tell us that this was a once in a hundred year phenomenon, fiscal crisis was so drastic. Certainly once in 50 years, probably once in a hundred years. How did it sneak up on us? So silently, almost on little cat's feet.
That they would come in on that day and they didn't actually ask for the money that much money that night. It took two days until we saw the legislation that they were proposing to help calm the markets. And it was on that day that we learned of a $700 billion request.
It wasn't just the money that was alarming. It was the nature of the legislation. It gave the secretary of the Treasury czar-like powers, unlimited power, latitude to do all kinds of things and specifically prohibited judicial review or review of any other federal administrative agency to review their actions.
Another aspect of it that was alarming is it gave the secretary the power to use any money that came back from these infusions of cash to be used at the discretion of the secretary. Not to reduce the deficit, not to go into the general funds so we could afford other discretion of the secretary. It was shocking. Working together in a bipartisan way, we were able to make major improvements on that proposal, even though its fundamental basis was almost arrogant and insulting.
The American people responded almost immediately, overwhelmingly, they said they know that something needs to be done. 78% of the American people said Congress must act, 68% or so said, but not to accept the Bush proposal. And so here we are today, a week later and a couple of days later, coming to the floor with a product not a bill that I have written, one that has major disappointments with me, beginning with the fact that it does not have bankruptcy in this bill and we will continue to persist and work to achieve that.
It's interesting to me they though that when they describe the magnitude of the challenge and the precipice we were on and how we had to act quickly and we had to act boldly and we had to act now that it never occurred to them that the consequences of this market were being felt well in advance by the American people.
Unemployment is up. Therefore we need unemployment insurance. The jobs are lacking. Therefore we need a stimulus package. So how can on the one hand could this be so urgent at the moment, and yet so unnecessary for us to address the effects of this poor economy in the households of America across our country?
We'll come back to that in a moment. Working together, we put together some standards and I real -- I am really proud of. The first night that night, that Thursday night, when we got the very, very dismal news, he immediately said, if we're going to do this, and Spencer Bachus was part of this as well in terms of if we're going to do this, we must have equity for the American people.
We're putting up $700 billion, we want the American people get some of the upside. So equity, fairness for the American people. Secondly, if they were describing the root of the problem as the mortgage securities, Barney insisted that we would have forbearance on foreclosure, if we're now going to own that paper, we would have forbearance to help responsible homeowners stay in their home. In addition to that, we have to have strong, strong oversight.
We didn't even have to see the $700 billion or the full extent of their bill to know we needed equity and upside for the taxpayer, forbearance for the homeowner, oversight of the government on what they were doing, and something that the American people understand full well, an end to the golden parachutes and the -- and a review and reform of the compensation for C.E.O.'S.
Let's get this straight. We have a situation where on Wall Street people -- people are flying high, they are making unconscionable amounts of money. They privatize the gain, the minute things go tough, they nationalize the risk; they get a golden parachute as they drive their firm into the ground and the American people have to pick up the tab.
Something is very, very wrong with this picture. So just on first blush, that Thursday night, we made it clear, meeting much resistance on the part of the administration that those four things, equity, forbearance, oversight, and reform of compensation. Overriding all of this is a protection of the taxpayer. We need to stabilize the markets, in doing so, we need to protect the taxpayers.
And that's why I'm so glad that this bill contains a suggestion made by Mr. Tanner that if at the end of the day, say in five years, when we can take a review of the success or whatever of this initiative, that if there is a shortfall and we don't get our whole $700 billion back that we have invested, that there will be an initiative to have the financial institutions that benefited from this program to make up that shortfall, but not one penny of this should be carried by the American people.
People asked and Mr. Spratt spoke with great knowledge and eloquence on the budget, $700 billion, what is the impact, what is the opportunity cost for our country of the investments that we would want to make? Ok, now we have it in place where the taxpayer is going to be made whole and that was very important for us. But why on the drop of a hat can they ask us for $700 billion and we couldn't get any support from the administration on a stimulus package that would also help grow the economy?
People tell me all over the market, economic market in the world is rebuilding the infrastructure of America. Roads, bridges, waterways, water systems in addition to waterways. The grid, broadband, schools, housing. We are trillions of dollars in deficit there. We know what we need to do it in a fiscally sound way n. A fiscally sound way that creates good-paying jobs in America the treasury by doing so, and again does all of this in an all American way. Good-paying jobs here in America. We can't get the time of day for $25 billion, $35 billion for that, which -- billion for that, which we know guarantees jobs, but $700 billion.
Make no mistake when this Congress adjourns today to observe Rosh Hashanah and have members go home for a bit, we are doing so at the call of the chair. Because this subject is not over. This discussion. About how we saved our economy. And we must insulate Main Street from Wall Street. As Congresswoman Waters said, Martin Luther King Drive, in my district Martin Luther King Drive, and all of the manifestations of community and small businesses.
We must insulate them from that. So we have difficult choices. So many of the things that were said on both sides of this issue in terms of its criticisms of the bill we have and the bill that we had at first, and the very size of this I share. You want to go home so I'm not going to list all of my concerns that I have with it.
But it just comes down to one simple thing. They have described a precipice. We are on the brink of doing something that might pull us back from that precipice. I think we have a responsibility. We have worked in a bipartisan way. I want to acknowledge Mr. Blunt and Mr. Boehner, the work that we have done together. Trying to find as much common ground as possible on this. But we insisted the taxpayer be covered. We all insisted that we have a Wall Street. We insisted that taxpayers at risk must recover -- any risk must be recovered. I told you that already.
So, my colleagues, let's recognize that this congressional -- this legislation is not the end of the line. Mr. Waxman will be having vigorous oversight this week, hearings this week on regulatory reform and other aspects of it. I hope you will pursue fraud and mismanagement and the rest.
Mr. Frank and his committee will continue to pursue other avenues that we can stabilize the markets and protect the taxpayer. For too long this government, eight years, has followed a right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation. Again all of us are believers in free markets, but we have to do it right. Now, let me again acknowledge extraordinary leadership of Mr. Frank. He has been an exceptional leader in the Congress, but never has his knowledge and his experience and his judgment been more needed than now. And I thank you, Mr. Frank, for your exceptional leadership.
I also -- so many people worked on this, but I also want to acknowledge the distinguished chair of our caucus, Mr. Emanuel. His knowledge of the markets, the respect he commands on those subjects, and -- commands on those subjects, and his boundless energy on the subject served us well in these negotiations.
But this is a bipartisan initiative that we are bringing to the floor. We have to have a bipartisan vote on this. That is the only message that will send a message of confidence to the markets. So I hope -- I know that we will be able to live up to our side of the bargain. I hope the Republicans will, too.
But my colleagues, as you go home and see your families and observe the holiday and the rest, don't get settled in too far because as long as the American -- this challenge is there for the American people, the threat of losing their jobs, the credit, their credit, their jobs, their savings, their retirement, the opportunity for them to send their children to college. As long as in the households of America this crisis is being felt very immediately and being addressed at a different level, we must come back and we will come back as soon and as often as it is necessary to make the change that is necessary. Before long we will have a new congress, a new president of the United States and we will be able to take our country in a new direction. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi on Bailout: "We sent a message to Wall Street: The party is over." (?!)
Lefty Heartache: Erin Brokovich Praises Sarah Palin
We Already Knew Obama Was Useless Off-Prompter
Equally so when he's off-bracelet.
Placeholder Blogging Continues
Today's travel odyssey finally came to a close, but this weekend features a wall-to-wall offline agenda for your humble narrator, so I'm phoning in another post.
With the debate just minutes away, I'll make just one prediction.
If the sickeningly snide and patronizing demeanor showcased by Obama's economic adviser Robert Gibbs in his across-the-dial appearances today are any indication of the new, extra-butch, no-more-monsieur-nice-guy approach Obama's been teasing, expect a devastating backlash after tonight's performance. The number of times I've today alone heard Gibbs use the word "erratic" in various interviews to describe Old Man McCain (faux-masking his disdain for the dottering old fool with that tremendosuly prissy giggle Gibbs sports) leaves me optimistic that this is indeed the bold new course they've charted.
Let's see how that works out.
Old people vote, Barry. A lot more reliably than Gen Yers. And the country's respect for John McCain is likely far less fickle than its amusement at your petulance.
Update: Whether or not Obama had planned on belittling McCain Gibbs-style during the debate, having spent so much time on defense, he didn't have much of a chance to, He did insist on calling him "John" (versus McCain's consistently respectful address of "Senator Obama"), which - combined with his frequent pleas to Lehrer to cut McCain off and give him back the ball - may have been part of an attempt to provoke that hair-trigger temper of McCain's we keep hearing about. If so, it didn't work. Both candidates did well, but McCain's unflappability (even during Obama's plaintive whining to Lehrer) surprised me most. Obama, to his credit, managed to avoid stumbling bewildered through the uh-zone for any long stretches, which suggests he's been watching the game tapes from his debates with Hillary.
Update: Wow. That's quick work. This McCain ad went up before the debate was even over. (Which does beg the question: Could he have really "approved" the message?)
The Wrong Day To Stop Sniffing Glue
Also the wrong day to be stuck in air travel purgatory. It feels like a mildly newsy day in the world of finance and politics...
But alas, I'm confined to Dulles' Terminal A in what's beginning to look like a permanent layover, en route to Charlottesville, without the proper computing tools to tell you what you should think about these things, and - more importantly - who else's thinking about these things is most deserving of your mocking and derision.
Even so, it's a safe bet that it's Harry Reid's.
No juice in the laptop battery, no volume on the overhead TVs, and a Blackberry old enough that it strains to load even the mobile-friendliest sites. There's a Fox News store (drenched in so-tuned flat screens) in the adjoining Terminal B, but it's far enough that if the unspecified mechanical issue is ever fixed, I'd stand a good chance of missing it.
It Ain't Easy Out There For a Community Organizer
The thing most people don't understand about community organizing is that it's actually a very challenging field. For instance, if you used your political office to secure a 6-figure grant to build a neighborhood garden, you'd probably see to it that the funds went to building that garden. This is a rookie mistake.
The correct answer is: Give it to your friends. Friends who may not actually intend to "build" a "garden", but who do have enough sense to launder it through their spouses' shell companies.
You know - the way Jesus and John Adams did it.
A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.
The garden was never built. And now state records obtained by the Sun-Times show $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, the Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, which was in charge of the project for the blighted South Side neighborhood.
Smith wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to K.D. Contractors, a construction company that his wife, Karen D. Smith, created five months after work on the garden was supposed to have begun, records show. K.D. is no longer in business.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan — a Democrat who is supporting Obama’s presidential bid — is investigating “whether this charitable organization properly used its charitable assets, including the state funds it received,” Cara Smith, Madigan’s deputy chief of staff, said Wednesday.
In addition to the 2001 grant that Obama directed to the housing association as a “member initiative,” the not-for-profit group got a separate $20,000 state grant in 2006.
Update: Here's additional evidence of Obama's organizing acumen. If he hadn't showered Karen Smith with taxpayer dollars back then, she may have been less inclined to help finance Obama's Presidential campaign.
$1,550 may not seem like a great return on $100,000, but when you're using taxpayer money, it's all upside, baby!
Consider yourself organized, Englewood.
McCain Asks for Debate Postponement
I guess he's confident the debate commission will grant the request, because if they don't, this would seem to give off the odor of McCain trying (and failing) to avoid squaring off with Obama in the first official round.
John McCain announced that he will suspend his presidential campaign on Thursday to return to Washington to help with bailout negotiations. He urged his opponent Barack Obama to do the same.
The Arizona senator also asked the Presidential Debate Commission to postpone Friday’s scheduled debate with Obama so that he can work on the financial crisis bailout plan now on Capitol Hill.
“America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees. If we do not act, ever corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen,” McCain said.
It puts Obama momentarily on defense, I suppose, forcing him either to follow McCain's lead or to explain why his active Senatorial duties do not (for the next few days, at least) preclude him from extra-currciculars.
Hat tip to Allah, who notes that McCain should be eager about this debate, which ostensibly concerns only foreign policy. But I have a hard time believing that the moderator wouldn't tolerate frequent tangents (if not a wholesale migration) into the economic realm. With that in mind, a postponement preserves what should be McCain's best debate for a time when the public may be less singularly focused on the economy.
Update: And maybe that's why Obama's saying the show must go on.
The begrudging reluctance with which he's willing to return to Washington to do his job as a legislator (while the legislature contends with emergency legislation) is a nice touch.
An Obama campaign official told ABC News the Democratic presidential candidate called McCain this morning to suggest a joint statement of principles.
McCain called back this afternoon and suggested returning to Washington.
Obama is willing to return to Washington "if it would be helpful." But reiterated Obama intends to debate on Friday.
Update: Great chess move or epic fail?
Milk Is Murder
The nation's preeminent anti-eating think tank has hatched another brilliant plan.
As the barbaric act of milking cows hardly qualifies as ethical treatment (it's nothing less than degrading, patriarchal, inter-species sexual harassment), the scholars at PETA have implored a leading ice cream concern to switch to ingredients milked from humans.
PETA spokeswoman Tracy Reiman, irritable from sustained malnutrition, argued the case.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Cofounders
Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.
Dear Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield,
On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters, I'd like to bring your attention to an innovative new idea from Switzerland that would bring a unique twist to Ben and Jerry's.
Storchen restaurant is set to unveil a menu that includes soups, stews, and sauces made with at least 75 percent breast milk procured from human donors who are paid in exchange for their milk. If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers-and cows-would reap the benefits.
Using cow's milk for your ice cream is a hazard to your customer's health. Dairy products have been linked to juvenile diabetes, allergies, constipation, obesity, and prostate and ovarian cancer. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow's milk to children, saying it may play a role in anemia, allergies, and juvenile diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease-America's number one cause of death.
Animals will also benefit from the switch to breast milk. Like all mammals, cows only produce milk during and after pregnancy, so to be able to constantly milk them, cows are forcefully impregnated every nine months. After several years of living in filthy conditions and being forced to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally, their exhausted bodies are turned into hamburgers or ground up for soup.
And of course, the veal industry could not survive without the dairy industry. Because male calves can't produce milk, dairy farmers take them from their mothers immediately after birth and sell them to veal farms, where they endure 14 to17 weeks of torment chained inside a crate so small that they can't even turn around.
The breast is best! Won't you give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost by switching from cow's milk to breast milk in Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Thank you for your consideration.
Executive Vice President
(HT: Tyler Durden)
VP Pick Increasingly Likely To Clinch the Presidency For McCain
Obama's pick, that is.
Drill, Baby, Drill(?)
Very good news, unless Obey's off the reservation or there's another shoe to drop.
House Democrats will allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week.
Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey is telling reporters that language continuing the moratorium will be omitted this year from a spending bill to keep the government in operating funds after Congress recesses for the election.
Republicans have made lifting the ban a key campaign after gasoline prices soared beyond $4 a gallon this summer and public opinion turned in favor of more drilling. President Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling in July.
The Interior Department estimates there are 18 billion barrels of recoverable oil beneath coastal waters now off-limits.
Keep an eye on oil futures too see whether the market believes it. If so, recent history suggests we could see a major sell-off.
Update: Per Pelosi:
"Chairman Obey negotiated the best package he could get with the White House to take a budget standoff off the table so we can address the larger Bush financial crisis,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill “The White House made it clear any new drilling provision was a non-starter. The future resolution of offshore drilling will have to be addressed with a new President."
Bernanke, Paulson, and Cox Babysit the Banking Committee
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and SEC Chairman Chris Cox were on Capitol Hill this morning, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on the mortgage bailout proposal now known as the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).
I can't stomach too much of these showcases (it's mildly painful to witness how shockingly uninformed our federal legislators - even those with financial committee assignments - are on financial matters), but I tuned in for a bit, just in time to hear Chuck Schumer lecturing Paulson on the dynamics of investor confidence, using his trademark forehead-cradling air of despair.
Of particular interest - both to the committee and the market - is the actual method to be used in the valuation and purchase of troubled mortgage assets. Some reverse auction mechanism will be employed, since there's only one buyer (the Treasury) and many sellers (any qualifying financial institution). But since the underlying problem is that these heterogeneous assets are so difficult to value, where does the bidding even begin? Paradoxically, if there were any good answer to that question, the bailout would be unnecessary.
Bernanke believes that the respective banks themselves have a good idea of the fair value of these assets, which would suggest that a reverse auction could fetch close to fair values (which would not only restore market liquidity, but would provide useful marks against which to value non-purchased assets). It seems to me the biggest risk to that relatively good outcome (other than banks not having a good idea of the fair value of these assets) would be a belief among the banks that the Treasury's pockets will in fact be far shallower than the $700 billion headline thus far touted. If auction participants believe there won't be enough to go around, then the reverse auction mechanism will encourage them to bid down these assets to the near-zero fire-sale prices (and the subsequent near total losses, market illiquidity, and ensuing credit market paralysis) that the bailout is supposed to protect against.
With that in mind, it seems to me that the worst option would be to adopt the plan in half-measures, doling out the authorization in individually enacted tranches. Incidentally, that's exactly the option Schumer was arguing for.
Update: This is what I'm talking about.
Sherrod Brown: "Does Wall Street owe the American people an apology?"
There are meaningful and hugely weighty questions about how to structure and whether to implement this massive plan and time is of the essence. Is that an important - or even a sensible - question, much less a good use of that room full of people's time?
From what little I've seen, Mel Martinez appears to be the only one in the room (among the elected officials, anyway) who's done his homework and/or understands the issue and/or cares to ask informed, productive questions.
Oil's Biggest Jump In History
Front-month crude oil futures experienced their largest one-day increase today, closing above $120 per barrel (having briefly touched $130). The $16 jump easily trounced the previous record of $10.75/barrel. Most of the spike occurred during the final 90 minutes of trading and things got so frenzied that the Nymex briefly halted trading in the contract.
Fishing for fundamentals that may have triggered the increase, some market watchers have pointed to a weaker dollar and the perception that the Fed's financial bailout will result in the printing of so much new money that commodities had nowhere to go but up.
Indeed, commodity prices saw an across-the-board rally today, but nothing like what happened to oil. The primary problem was the expiration calendar of crude futures. Contracts for October delivery expire today, meaning anyone with a short position (i.e. anyone betting prices would go lower before the October contracts expired) was left holding the bag. Unless they wanted to arrange for physical delivery of the corresponding barrels of oil to their counterparties, they had to find a way to exit those positions by 2:30 pm.
To some extent, this always happens as we approach monthly expiration dates, but today, it appears that one or more very large players found itself in a huge short position. Sufficiently huge that they were held - ahem - over the barrel by comparatively unmotivated sellers. That trading asymmetry served to drive prices higher and higher as the session wore on and the shorts became increasingly desperate to cover their positions.
This effect is pretty clear if you look at the November contracts, which rose just $7/barrel today. The November contracts become the front-month futures tomorrow morning (and closed the session at the relative bargain of $108.80).
Even so, commodity guru Eric Bolling opined on Fox Business Network that the fallout from today's spike could be ugly. He opted not to speculate about the likely players that got caught in the short squeeze (and likely lost a big pile of money today), but he did express concern about what it might mean if Morgan Stanley and/or Goldman Sachs were among them.
The Paulson Proposal
Below is the full text of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's legislative proposal for the federal government to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets.
Section 1. Short Title.
This Act may be cited as ____________________.
Sec. 2. Purchases of Mortgage-Related Assets.
(a) Authority to Purchase.–The Secretary is authorized to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, on such terms and conditions as determined by the Secretary, mortgage-related assets from any financial institution having its headquarters in the United States.
(b) Necessary Actions.–The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation:
(1) appointing such employees as may be required to carry out the authorities in this Act and defining their duties;
(2) entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;
(3) designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Government, and they shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Government as may be required of them;
(4) establishing vehicles that are authorized, subject to supervision by the Secretary, to purchase mortgage-related assets and issue obligations; and
(5) issuing such regulations and other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to define terms or carry out the authorities of this Act.
Sec. 3. Considerations.
In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for–
(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and
(2) protecting the taxpayer.
Sec. 4. Reports to Congress.
Within three months of the first exercise of the authority granted in section 2(a), and semiannually thereafter, the Secretary shall report to the Committees on the Budget, Financial Services, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committees on the Budget, Finance, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate with respect to the authorities exercised under this Act and the considerations required by section 3.
Sec. 5. Rights; Management; Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.
(a) Exercise of Rights.–The Secretary may, at any time, exercise any rights received in connection with mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act.
(b) Management of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary shall have authority to manage mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act, including revenues and portfolio risks therefrom.
(c) Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary may, at any time, upon terms and conditions and at prices determined by the Secretary, sell, or enter into securities loans, repurchase transactions or other financial transactions in regard to, any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act.
(d) Application of Sunset to Mortgage-Related Assets.–The authority of the Secretary to hold any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act before the termination date in section 9, or to purchase or fund the purchase of a mortgage-related asset under a commitment entered into before the termination date in section 9, is not subject to the provisions of section 9.
Sec. 6. Maximum Amount of Authorized Purchases.
The Secretary’s authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time
Sec. 7. Funding.
For the purpose of the authorities granted in this Act, and for the costs of administering those authorities, the Secretary may use the proceeds of the sale of any securities issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, and the purposes for which securities may be issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, are extended to include actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses. Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.
Sec. 8. Review.
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Sec. 9. Termination of Authority.
The authorities under this Act, with the exception of authorities granted in sections 2(b)(5), 5 and 7, shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act.
Sec. 10. Increase in Statutory Limit on the Public Debt.
Subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof $11,315,000,000,000.
Sec. 11. Credit Reform.
The costs of purchases of mortgage-related assets made under section 2(a) of this Act shall be determined as provided under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, as applicable.
Sec. 12. Definitions.
For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) Mortgage-Related Assets.–The term “mortgage-related assets” means residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before September 17, 2008.
(2) Secretary.–The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Treasury.
(3) United States.–The term “United States” means the States, territories, and possessions of the United States and the District of Columbia.
(HT: WSJ Real Time Economics)
Great Political Moments In the Oil Bubble's Burst Cycle
Today's Paulson-driven rally on Wall Street is taking place despite another surge in crude oil prices.
The price per barrel has soared more than $12 from the early week lows - the most severe rebound since the oil bubble was pierced in mid-July. Guess what else happened early this week.
The ruse began late Monday night, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a 290-page bill and then waved it through less than 24 hours later, 236-189. "Closed" rules prohibited the GOP from offering alternatives. The real game was to give vulnerable Democrats political cover by letting them vote for more offshore drilling -- while also making more drilling all but impossible, thus appeasing the party's green wing.
he bill would allow exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, but only in waters 100 or more miles out in the Atlantic and Pacific. The farthest reaches of the OCS contain resources, but undersea geography and deep water make development very -- if not prohibitively -- expensive. Areas closer to land are far richer and easier to access. Conveniently, Mrs. Pelosi's bill imposes a 50-mile "buffer zone" around the country.
A quick look at the course of crude oil over the last few months offers further evidence that futures prices are reacting rationally to political events. Oil began its swift declines when the President lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling on July 14th. When Congress left for vacation two weeks later without taking up the issue, the Republican "Guerrilla Congress" stayed behind to debate in the dark and make the people's case for defettering domestic energy production. Both of those events appear to have catalyzed major reductions in oil prices.
The disappointing reversal observed this week offers further confirmation that "Pelosi's drilling ruse" was just that.
Holy $#!& The Market's Going To Close Up For the Week [Update: Sort Of]
As long as they hold onto their mid-session gains, all three major indices will have booked an up-week.
Not too shabby for a market that had plummeted 8% by mid-Thursday.
Credit the game-changer.
1,000 points on the Dow in less than 24 hours.
Update: Well, the Dow slipped a bit in afternoon trading, ending the week down 0.3%. The Nasdaq finished the week up 0.6% and the S&P gained 0.3%.
Bipartisan Score Doesn't!
[What an awkward post title...]
A bipartisan group of senators who sought a compromise in the rancorous energy debate won't introduce their bill before lawmakers adjourn for the elections, several Senate aides said Thursday.
Instead, the so-called Gang of 20 will offer a statement of principals outlining their agreement on a host of divisive issues, including expanded offshore drilling.
Since the group won't offer a bill, it's unclear how the energy debate will unfold days before the scheduled Sept. 26 adjournment. Since consideration of the bill was expected to play a significant role in the debate, some senior aides expected Democrats would scrap next week's energy debate, in light of the packed scheduled before the recess and the heightened focus on the economic downturn. But no decisions have been announced, according to a Democratic leadership aide.
Democrats, under pressure to lift a nearly three-decade-old ban on drilling, seemed open to the plan to deflect criticism that they were standing in the way of finding more domestic supplies.
But many Republicans criticized the plan, raising concerns that by offering a compromise to Democrats and their presidential candidate Barack Obama, it would blunt a potent election-year attack that has gained traction at the polls.
Critics of the plan were also concerned that a "compromise" plan would be little more than Congressional lip service that wouldn't open any meaningful amount of new drilling.
That may sound cynical, but it's worth remembering that earlier this week, the House passed a compromise drilling bill that was little more than Congressional lip service that wouldn't open any meaningful amount of new drilling.
With a significant majority of Americans favoring the no-brainer lifting of the Congressional ban on new offshore drilling, there's no good reason for the party advocating that majority opinion to give up all the substantive ground on the debate, particularly in pursuit of purely symbolic bipartisanship.
Anyway, it sounds like the Senate will now not find the time to debate and vote on an energy bill before the recess (they need rest, darn it, they've been back at work for days!), but that seems better than passing a meaningless bill and taking the issue off the table for the foreseeable future.
For a change, the 110th's do-nothingness and partisan gridlock is a blessing.
Gas Crisis To Be Solved at 10 pm Thursday
The months-long drought is finally over.
The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis
Mac, Dennis, and Charlie take advantage of rising gas prices by investing in barrels of gasoline and selling them door to door. Dee and Frank decide to expose Bruce Mathis as a terrorist leader when they find out he plans to give their money to a Muslim community center.
Economic Fundamentals ARE Strong
I really wish John McCain hadn't backpedaled so furiously when Barack Obama smacked him for saying the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. Despite the turmoil in the financial services sector and the debt and equity markets, the plain truth is that the economic fundamentals do remain strong.
Not rip-roaring strong, but solid, and certainly a far cry from the Depression-level crisis that Obama's wishing upon us.
Consider a snapshot of key economic conditions - specifically: real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth, unemployment, and inflation.
In the most recent fiscal quarter (April-June 2008), output/income grew at an annualized rate of 3.3%. That's better than the average growth rate of 3.0% observed over the last 30 years.
As has been widely reported, unemployment has ticked up significantly over the last few months, and now sits at 6.1%.
As has been less widely noted, the number of jobs being lost doesn't account for the size of the increase in unemployment, suggesting that people entering the labor force for the first time (skewing heavily toward teenage minimum-wage workers) are having more trouble finding jobs than usual. Surprising no one who paid attention in Econ 101, this pattern has emerged alongside large percentage increases in the minimum wage.
Even so, after having jumped from 4.9% to 6.1% since January, the unemployment rate is now equal to the 30-year average of 6.1%. And that average rate has been lowered significantly thanks to the low unemployment enjoyed during the Bush years. The 30-year average, excluding 2001-2008, clocks in at 6.4%.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 5.4% over the twelve months ended August 2008. This is a bit hotter than the 30-year compound growth rate of 4.3%. But that above-trend inflation rate is due demonstrably to the now-burst bubble in energy prices.
So-called "core inflation" (excluding food and energy prices) was just 2.4% over the last year. That's significantly lower than the 30-year compound growth in the core rate, which also equals 4.3%.
While the core rate is an economically useful metric, people do of course feel the headline rate, which has indeed been moderately higher than normal over the last year. Happily, that trend has not only ended, but reversed in dramatic fashion. Wholesale oil prices peaked in mid-July and have since fallen more than 33%. Although that doesn't translate immediately into retail prices, the effect can already be seen in month-to-month price increases.
While August's core inflation came in at an annualized rate of 2.4%, headline inflation was negative.
- Economic growth is better than average.
- Unemployment is equal to the average.
- Inflation was briefly worse than average, but has recently not only slowed, but stopped (a trend we can expect to continue in coming months, as tumbling wholesale oil prices continue work their way into consumer prices).
And how do we sustain and encourage further improvement among those metrics?
- Make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
- Eliminate the minimum wage.
- Never utter the words "windfall profit tax" again.
Barack Obama, who seems to think a winning economic strategy consists of simply decrying current conditions with scarier hyperbole, prescribes the opposite on every count.
The Palin E-mail Hack: The Inside Story
Michelle Malkin's got it.
(What a nifty prank. I'm sure the Secret Service is going to let the scamps off with a warning.)
Hillary Clinton was all set to attend a "Stop Iran Now" rally in New York next Monday, hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
I wasn't sure whether it might be a hoax when word of the announcement email went out last night, given the event's other headliner.
But according to Hillary's people, she wasn't aware that she'd have to share the stage with Washington's new it girl when she accepted. And when Hillary found out her limelight would be dimmed by the Alaskan upstart, she pulled out.
Some things are just more important than stopping Iran (now).
The Iceman Runneth?
Bill Richardson, kingmaker.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) tipped actor Val Kilmer to make a run to succeed him in 2010.
"I like the idea," Richardson said about a Kilmer bid, reports People magazine. "Val Kilmer is a New Mexican, he was Batman. You know there have been successful actors going into politics."
Kilmer, known for his work as Batman and in "Top Gun," said he was considering a run in January. The election is 2010.
Richardson added that he hasn't talked to Kilmer about a campaign. "I don't know how serious he is, but you know if he jumps in a race he's got name ID, so it can't be discounted," Richardson said.
Richardson is right that some successful actors have gone into politics. But being an actor with name recognition isn't typically the sole qualification.
Actors who win election to higher office tend to dabble in the broader political arena first. Reagan was SAG president and member of a Presidential campaign before making the plunge. Schwarzenegger chaired Bush 41's Council on Physical Fitness. Fred Thompson worked on the Watergate hearings and later as a lobbyist.
(Clint Eastwood did jump right in, but his mayoralty obviously doesn't count, as Carmel is even smaller than Wasilla.)
Okay, Nan, It's On You
Yesterday, the New York Times admirably called for Democratic Congressional leadership to forcibly remove the ethically defunct Charles Rangel (D-NY) from his hugely influential Ways and Means Committee chairmanship, assuming Rep. Rangel is unwilling to step aside on his own.
He is unwilling.
Sources told NY1 this afternoon that Congressman Charles Rangel will not step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee.
Republicans have called for Rangel to be removed from his post as the head of the committee that writes the nation's tax laws as he deals with his own financial troubles, but NY1 has been told by sources close to Rangel that the Manhattan congressman has never considered stepping down from his leadership post because no member of the Democratic House leadership asked him to.
Rangel met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday.
Oil Basically Free Now
As we wait on the Fed to announce its interest rate decision (at about 2:15 pm ET), let's have a look at the still-plummeting price of oil.
Currently at $91.50 per barrel, front month crude futures have regained their esrtwhile downward mojo, after having moved mostly sideways during August. At today's trading low, prices had shed more than $10/barrel in just two days.
Since their peak two months ago, oil prices have now plunged $56/barrel (or 38%). Year-to-date, oil is actually down 5%. Versus year-ago prices, it's up just 15%. Two months ago, that one-year increase was 99%.
If Wall Street weren't so chock full o' news this week (well... and if the mainstream media were capable of noticing oil price swings when the movement is downward), this would be quite a little story.
The counter-inflationary impact of oil's protracted tumble is likely giving Fed governors additional comfort, as they ponder shifting back to a rate-cutting stance. Following yesterday's turmoil, the market has gone from strongly expecting no change to expecting a 25- or even a 50-basis point cut in the Fed Funds rate.
For posterity, I'll plunk my chips down on a 25-point cut, moving the Fed Funds target to 1.75%. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion...
Update: No change in rates.
Strains in financial markets have increased significantly and labor markets have weakened further. Economic growth appears to have slowed recently, partly reflecting a softening of household spending. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and some slowing in export growth are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters. Over time, the substantial easing of monetary policy, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate economic growth.
Inflation has been high, spurred by the earlier increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities. The Committee expects inflation to moderate later this year and next year, but the inflation outlook remains highly uncertain.
On CNBC, Bob Pisani reported loud boos and cries of, "Worried about inflation - are you crazy?!" on the floor of the NYSE.
"How Come I Would Make the Economy Better" by Barry Obama
Since Obama's background in financial writing has recently been exposed as something less auspicious than we were originally led to believe, the Presidential hopeful actually faxed off a draft of his statement to his 6th grade social studies teacher, to solicit her feedback.
In a worldwide exclusive, this blog is pleased to present the marked-up version of the document returned to Obama's campaign headquarters late Monday night.
(Yes, this is the real text of Barry's essay.)
Market Comes Down With a Case Of the Mondays
You know, the word "meltdown" gets thrown around a lot these days...
It's certainly not a panic, but it's not terribly pretty either. WSJ's Deal Journal has a wrap-up of the weekend doings that preceded today's financial sector tsunami.
Unfortunately, given the potential for conflict, that's all I have to say about that.
On the plus side, oil's off another $5+ a barrel today (extending its 2-month decline to $52/barrel or 35%). The tumult is also stirring chatter about the possibility that the Fed could cut rates at its September meeting on Tuesday (rather than leaving the Fed Funds rate at 2.0%, as has been widely expected).
Obama Lied, Co-Workers Decried
By "suit and tie", "consulting house", and "my own secretary", he meant "jeans", "copyediting sweatshop", and "my own hole-punch".
Charles Rangel Must Relinquish Ways and Means Chairmanship, Says... New York Times?
The Times astutely notes that if he doesn't surrender the gavel willingly, Speaker Pelosi needs to wrest it away from him, given her purview over such things and her (increasingly farcical) claims of presiding over the "most ethical" Congress in history.
The Interview ABC Didn't Want You To See
Mark Levin has posted an unedited transcript of Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin, which reads very differently from what was actually aired.
ABC yanked a bunch of Palin's answers (frequently her most substantive comments) as well as some of Gibson's questions.
Newsbusters annotates the edits, which include just about anything that made Palin sound knowledgeable, that detracted from the thesis that she's an empty-headed warmonger, or that revealed Gibson agreeing with or misquoting her.
Obama's Most Exquisitely Ironic Gaffe-Attack Yet
Since the day McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Obama campaign has thrown its opponents into several briar patches - most notably, concerning inexperience and earmarks - inviting comparisons that Obama shouldn't want (and that the media has thus far been happy to ignore).
Today, Obama raised the art of unforced errors to new heights. After declaring boldly for the severalth time that he's taking the gloves off and rolling up his sleeves and [insert third butch metaphor here], the campaign released a terribly clever ad informing America that John McCain is old. The ad specifically scoffs that McCain "can't send an e-mail." What a dusty old buffoon!
There's only one problem with this line of attack. The fact that McCain (who does read political websites and blogs) can't send an e-mail has less to do with his lack of tech savvy than with his having endured years of beatings and torture.
McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He’s an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can’t raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball.
After Vietnam, McCain had Ann Lawrence, a physical therapist, help him regain flexibility in his leg, which had been frozen in an extended position by a shattered knee. It was the only way he could hope to resume his career as a Navy flier, but Lawrence said the treatment, taken twice a week for six months, was excruciatingly painful.
”He endured it, he wouldn’t settle for less,” said Lawrence, who rejoiced with McCain when he passed the Navy physical. ”I have never seen such toughness and resolve.”
By now, Obama must be getting used to his attacks backfiring. But the unprecedented reading on the ironicometer for this botched attacked stems from the ease with which Obama's hip, wired staffers and/or ad team could've discovered this information using the "information superhighway" (specifically, by making use of "search engine" technology to cull relevant information from the "world wide web").
The quote above is from a Boston Globe story from March 2000. If you run a simple Google News search for articles published before last year, using the terms "john mccain keyboard", this Forbes article from May 2000 shows up on the first page of results.
In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits.
What percentage of 64-year-olds do you suppose were daily e-mail users back in 2000?
This is a quadruple whammy for Obama. The ad 1) is apparently wildly inaccurate, 2) makes Obama look like a jerk for needling McCain (if inadvertently) about his war injuries, 3) reminds people which of these two candidates is a hero, and 4) exposes the delicious tech-idiocy behind this initiative to demonstrate McCain's tech-idiocy.
Update: A fine idea from the comments:
Please, please run a response ad with Meg and Carli
Update: Obama's tech geniuses update the campaign website with a call to help "the victems" of Hurricane Ike. Spell check, champ. It's even older than the interweb.
New Campaign Theme Song Suggestion For Obama
One Thousand Sarahs, by Eddie From Ohio.
Sarah's the kind of girl who's 3 feet tall, but she's built like an Amazon woman.
Sarah's the kind of girl who's 3 feet tall, but she's built like an Amazon woman.
And all the boys think she's pretty.
And all the girls think she dresses swell.
And all the teachers think that she's the smartest one in class,
But I think... she oughta go to Hell.
Sarah's the kind of girl who pierced her ears years before anybody else.
Sarah's the kind of girl who pierced her ears years before anybody else.
And all the mothers say her mother was-
And all the mothers say her mother was a slut
And we couldn't pierce our ears till we turned 12 no matter what
And I think... Well you know what I think.
1,000 Sarahs in my head (1,000 Sarahs in my head)
1,000 Sarahs circling me in my bed.
I thought I got rid of her but she multiplied instead.
1,000 Sarahs, 1,000 Sarahs
1,000 Sarahs, 1,000 Sarahs
I don't like her, I don't like her,
I don't like her and you can't make me!
I don't like her, I don't like her,
I don't like her and you can't make me!
It was fleeting, but we got there. At about 1:49 ET, front month crude futures dipped to $99.99 on the NYMEX (despite Ike churning angrily in the Gulf of Mexico).
It was the first time we've seen oil below $100 per barrel since early April and the ongoing slide now amounts to a 32% decline from the all-time high set less than two months ago.
Erstwhile Pot-Smoking Hippie Senate Candidate Whines About Being Compared With Pot-Smoking Hippies
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who was pulled over and arrested for (and subsequently pled guilty to) marijuana possession in 1972, and who voted in favor of Dennis Kucinich's Department of Peace and Non-Violence (but against funding the troops), is a candidate for U.S. Senate this year. The aging hipster's campaign is so exciting, even Norman Hsu was inspired to contribute to it.
Now, Congressman Moonbeam is crying foul over an ostensibly buzz-harshing ad by Freedom's Watch that lampoons Udall's hard-earned reputation as a stoner and a peacenik.
Mark Udall is not a happy camper, and Freedom's Watch is taking all the credit. As Josh wrote yesterday, the conservative organization is up with a new ad slamming the Democratic Senate candidate for voting for a Department of Peace.
An attorney representing Udall's campaign fired off a letter to at least two television stations in Denver yesterday demanding that the ad, which shows an aging hippie bragging about the legislation, originally sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, near his beat up Volkswagen van, be yanked from the airwaves.
"The offensive representations and slanderous image directly tie Mark Udall to the use and promotion of marijuana. This is an outrageous portrayal that finds no credence whatsoever in fact" Friednash wrote to Cornetta. "Further, there is nothing in the Department of Peace legislation that authorizes the purchase of a van or that says one of the activities of the Department will be smoking marijuana in a smoke filled van."
True... but I'm not sure that was one of the ad's implications (nor is the legality of van purchasing a particularly controversial issue).
Watch the offending ad below.
Charlie Gibson Calls Sarah Palin a "Mannish, Provincial Whore"
And those were his EXACT WORDS.
Update: ABC disappears Gibson's jackassery in time for the encore presentation.
Andrew Kates: 9/11 Victim
On September 11, 2001, a senior managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald named Andrew Kates was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Kates worked on the 105th floor of the North Tower (WTC1). The 37-year old husband and father of three was later profiled in The New York Times, in a piece celebrating A Life Enjoyed to the Fullest.
On the Saturday morning before Sept. 11, Andrew Kates woke up to find his three children bouncing on the bed, all ready to play. "He just looked right at me and said, 'I love our family,' " said his wife, Emily Terry.
He spent every spare moment with his two daughters and son, ages 5, 3 and 1. He gave them piggyback rides around their Upper West Side apartment. They played hide-and-seek. Every weekend last winter, he packed hot chocolate and took the two older ones, Hannah and Lucy, ice skating for hours in Central Park.
An athletic 37-year-old, he had brown hair, green eyes and dimples creasing both cheeks. His son, Henry, looks a lot like him. He managed to see the best in every situation, whether it was at home or on the job at Cantor Fitzgerald in 1 World Trade Center, where he was a senior managing director.
Perhaps it sounds like a cliché, his wife said, but he did manage to enjoy life to the fullest. "He is one of the people I know who had very few regrets about his life."
Andy's widow Emily Terry and their three children, Henry, Lucy, and Hannah shared some of the details about their lives on the one year anniversary of 9/11 in an interview for New York Magazine. Terry discussed the importance of community support, the kindness of fellow New Yorkers, and the haunting impact of Ground Zero.
"I've been enveloped by this community," she marvels. "I just felt like people were taking care of me. I felt like they wouldn't let me fall, wouldn't let me collapse." Congregation members virtually lived with her during the first few months. Suzanne Waltman, a friend and fellow Rodeph parent, says, "People at Rodeph really understood the workload of three children."
At night, the kids often talk about their dad, and when they go to bed at 8 p.m., Terry often falls asleep in their room. "I feel incredibly sad for them," she says. "My son was 11 months when it happened, and yet when he sees a picture of Andy, he says, 'Dad.' Henry saw someone recently from the back who looked like Andy, and he got so excited." She pauses to compose herself. "It sounds so goofy, but on September 11, Henry walked across the living-room floor for the first time." Before the towers collapsed? "Nope."
A patrician blonde who looks elegant even in khakis and a T-shirt, Terry, 39, a native New Yorker who attended Chapin and then Haverford, met her future husband in Boston in 1985. She attended Boston University, earning a master's degree in art history; Andy went through Harvard's M.B.A. program. She left a job at the International Center of Photography after her first child, Hannah, was born. Even though Andy was in a fast-track job at Cantor, they didn't live in Master of the Universe style: Their apartment is a two-bedroom rental (the three kids sleep in one room), and they vacationed every year in relatively inexpensive Lake Champlain.
She finds herself clinging to the unexpectedly kind gestures. She got a visit from an ironworker who found one of Andy's credit cards at ground zero. "The guy tracked me down, and his wife called to say he had made something for us from metal from the World Trade Center." Walking over to the fireplace, she shows off a small cross on the mantel. "I was worried when the man saw my daughter's sign on our door -- WE'RE JEWISH -- that he'd be embarrassed about bringing us a cross. I thought it was really touching."
She's never been to ground zero -- the place haunts her. "I keep coming to this image of this huge hole, which is what it feels like," she says. "Sometimes I'm inside the hole, and sometimes I'm standing at the edge of the hole. But I'm never away from the hole, I'm always near it."
Four years after that first anniversary, Hannah is 11, Lucy is 9, and Henry is almost 6. The five years since Andy's tragic death have undoubtedly not masked the enormity of the loss suffered by Emily and her children, nor the difficulty of growing up without such a loving and dedicated father. Hopefully, family and friends, combined with the community support that Andy's family found in the months immediately following 9/11, have continued to be a source of strength.
Andy was also survived by his brothers Seth and Paul and his mother Judy.
A Harvard Business School obituary remembered Kates as a devoted, successful, athletic, charismatic friend and family member.
Terry, whom Kates married in 1993, said her husband "was very athletic. He was a serious bike rider and swimmer and played tennis. He ran the New York Marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes."
Kates’s interest in business was already apparent while he was an undergraduate at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He and some friends started a business washing athletes’ clothes. He sold the business after he got his degree in 1985.
Terry said that family came first for Kates. "Every Saturday morning, the kids would all come into bed with us," she said, "and we said, ‘We have a lovely family.’ We knew we had an incredible thing going."
"He was a thoughtful husband and a doting father," his brother Paul said. He described Andy as charismatic, with a wide circle of friends. "Everybody he touched, everybody he met - whether it was for three days, three weeks, or three decades - was affected by him," Paul said. "He was always the focus of whatever group he was in."
Terry recalled speaking to Andy soon after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building just a few stories beneath him.
"I got a call from him," Terry recalled. "He just said, ‘A plane hit the building. It’s on fire. I love you very much.’"
Any readers with personal knowledge, remembrances, or other pictures of Andrew Kates, please submit them either by comment or e-mail.
A list of links to tributes to the other 2,995 victims of the 9/11 terror attacks is available here.
Barack Obama Is a Bad Grandson
Why is he running for President when he should be in Kenya tending to his besieged grandmother?
Kenya thieves target Obama granny
Mr Obama's grandmother lives in the village where his father was born
Kenyan police have stepped up security in the village of US presidential candidate Barack Obama's grandmother, after a break-in at her home.
The police believe the thieves were trying to steal a solar panel from Sarah Hussein Obama's tin roof.
Obama: This Election Is About Non-Americans
Maybe Obama has let that BBC poll of 22 foreign countries go to his head.
Now, more than ever, the Citizen Of the World candidate wants you to know his chief concern is for folks who don't technically constitute any part of his intended constituency.
Barack Obama spoke on Wednesday night about a subject that often gets short shrift on the 2008 campaign trail: immigration. The Democratic candidate made the speech to a crowd of Hispanic leaders at black-tie dinner capping the end of a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gathering in Washington.
After spending a few minutes talking about his opponent and his other policy proposals, Obama got his loudest cheers with these lines: "This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hand. They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform."
So when Obama says, "This election is about you!" he's not talking about "you" per se.
Noted Goonily Bespectacled Critic Fears Palin's Goony Spectacles
By Roger Ebert
[Sarah] Palin is a shallow, chirpy person with those vaguely alarming eyeglasses. Now her fans all want a pair. Remember back when women wore glasses that departed their ears in plastic swoops and swirls? My theory is, anyone who wears glasses that look weird is telling me something I don't want to know.
One, two... Sarah's comin' for you...
Obama Dissects the Subtle Nuances Of His Botched Metaphor For David Letterman
Ah... Sarah Palin isn't the pig. She's the lipstick. John McCain's policies are the pig.
It's an Illinois thing. We rubes in New York (not to mention Wasilla) wouldn't get it.
“Let me ask you a question here, have you ever actually put lipstick on pig?” Letterman asked Obama, a reference to a recent campaign controversy over Obama’s use of the phrase.
“The answer would be no. But I think it might be fun to try,” Obama said. “This is sorta silly season in politics. Not that there’s a non-silly season but it gets sillier. It’s a common expression in at least Illinois. I don’t know about in New York City. I don’t know what you put lipstick on here.”
Obama drew laughter from the audience and a cringe from Letterman with his joke. Obama continued: “In Illinois, the expression connotes the idea that if you have a bad idea, in this case I was talking about McCain’s economic plans, calling them change, calling them something different doesn’t make them better. Hence lipstick on a pig is still a pig.”
He then calmly explained his use of the expression. “Keep in mind, that technically had I meant it this way she [Palin] would be the lipstick…The policies of John McCain would be the pig.”
Unclear is whether the residents of Lebanon, Virginia (a roomful of whom burst into laughter and applause at the zinger) are sufficiently familiar with this old-timey Illinois phrase to have immediately parsed Obama's now clarified meaning, or whether they too fell prey to the coarser implication drawn by so many softer-headed Americans who assumed it must've had something to do with the similar, much-celebrated line from Palin's acceptance speech.
If you made the same mistake, don't feel bad. I didn't even get John Kerry's joke about President Bush (not stupid, lazy military recruits) getting stuck in Iraq, until he explained it to me.
It's reassuring to know that Obama would never call a female opponent a pig and - in pursuit of a more elevating brand of politics - stoops only far enough to denigrate the Governor as "lipstick" for her male running mate.
It's slightly less reassuring to know that he actually thinks we'll buy this (and especially that we'll buy his shock that anyone might infer the more cynical linkage). Obama's waxing indignant that people could possibly read Palin=Pig into his folksy metaphor, yet that group of His own devotees all seemed to take it that way. Absent that tinge of derision, the well-worn "lipstick on a pig" idiom isn't typically such a raucous clapter line.
McCain Overtakes Obama In Betting Market
Barry Dice Clay
Archie Bunker. Stanley Roeper. Al Bundy...
If there's one thing we know, it's that America loves misogynist comedians.
In 2008, another such star was born. Below is a compilation of some of his finest comedy stylings.
This new brand of politics sure is refreshing and civil.
"You know, you can put lipstick on a pig," Obama said, "but it's still a pig."
The crowd rose and applauded, some of them no doubt thinking he may have been alluding to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's ad lib during her vice presidential nomination acceptance speech last week, "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
Nice work, champ. That's just the demographic you want to further alienate.
Palin the Tormentor
I rarely remember my dreams, but for the past week, GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has been haunting me. Night after night, she appears in my dreams, always as a scolding, ominous figure.
When I mentioned my Palin dreams to Slate colleagues, they volunteered their own. One Obama-supporting colleague dreamed she had urged her young son to kill Palin with a string bean. Another dreamed she was at a fashion show and Palin served her crème fraîche on little scooped corn chips. A third says, "In the Sarah Palin dream I keep having, she has superhuman powers but is not really a person at all. In fact, she is more like the weather with glasses and an up-do, pushing clouds around and pitching lightning bolts."
In this spirit, we invite Slate readers to send us their dreams about Palin. E-mail them to IdreamofSarah@gmail.com. We will publish the most interesting
Is there any better indicator that Palin was a brilliant pick than that she's literally a nightmare to liberals?
That Slate post contains another noteworthy nugget:
Palin's supermom abilities provoke envy and anxiety in women, especially other working mothers.
Is there any evidence that Palin's ability to succeed professionally while raising a large family actually provokes "envy and anxiety in women" or is this reaction among working mothers simply knowable a priori?
By extension, should we assume that Obama's academic pedigree and success in swiftly climbing the ladder provokes envy and anxiety in black people? On the contrary, Obama's backstory and unlikely rise, we are assured (largely by his two books on the subject), are a source of inspiration. I wonder why it doesn't work the same way for Palin.
Update: Oh, that's why.
(HT: HA Headlines)
Oil Plummet Nears 30%
In less than two months, oil prices have tumbled very nearly 30%. As of Tuesday midday trading low of $103.46 per barrel, front month futures were 29.9% lower than their mid-July high of $147.50.
So far, the collapse in oil prices has basically stuck to the bursting bubble script, so it's potentially worth noting that the -30% mark was roughly where the Nasdaq bubble burst took a breather. After fluctuating around that level for a few months though, the hemorrhaging doubled to 60% and more.
But let's assume we don't see oil take a comparable secondary dive to $60 per barrel. (With multiple named storms still stewing in the Atlantic, humility in cheap oil expectations is probably well-advised.) Still, if prices were to level off where they are now, the difference in the inflation picture (compared with how it looked just 60 days ago), not to mention the outlook for corporate earnings, consumer spending, and economic vitality in general, is stark.
As of today, the one-year change in crude prices is +34%. A steep twelve month increase, but nothing compared to mid-July, when it was +99%. That's a fairly radical change in assumptions for anyone forecasting operating costs, purchasing power, or output growth.
Falling oil prices represent a welcome, all-boat-lifting swell tide (save oil company boats, of course). Swifter growth + lower inflation = happy economy.
Update: The 30% mark has now been officially surpassed. Since putting up this post, oil prices have continued to tumble toward $100 (currently $102.50). Think this has anything to do with it? (HT: Ed Morrissey)
McCain Drinks Obama's Milkshake
Republican John McCain raised about $5 million in Chicago Monday night, or about $1 million for each hour he spent in Democrat Barack Obama's home town.
Money raised here goes to RNC, to be spent in four battleground states. It will be spent on McCain's behalf, but not by McCain. Little or none of it will be spent in Illinois.
About That 3 am Call...
Let it go to voice mail. It's probably Biden drunk dialing you.