Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This is significant

"The decision we are going to have to make is a decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed."

-Ehud Olmert, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, explaining why Israel will have to give up most of the West Bank and accept the division of Jerusalem in order to achieve peace
It's always nice to see people recognize the obvious once they no longer have the power to change it (See Gore, Al), but that doesn't mean that it's any less significant for the outgoing Israeli prime minister to endorse two of the biggest Palestinian demands that have been rejected by Israel (and the United States) for the last 40 years.

Who said what?

When I fell for Matt's similar trick this morning I really wanted to throw up.

Here's the game:

Two quotes on the Bailout bill.

One is President Bush, one is Barack Obama.

Who said which statement?
(I changed the wording on an inconsequential sentance that would have made it obvious)

Statement one:
"Yesterday, within the course of a few hours, the failure to pass the economic rescue plan in Washington led to the single largest decline of the stock market in two decades.

"While I, like others, am outraged that the reign of irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has created the current crisis, I also know that continued inaction in the face of the gathering storm in our financial markets would be catastrophic for our economy and our families.

"At this moment, when the jobs, retirement savings, and economic security of all Americans hang in the balance, it is imperative that all of us - Democrats and Republicans alike - come together to meet this crisis.

Statement two:

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on a financial rescue plan that had been negotiated by congressional leaders of both parties. Unfortunately, the measure was defeated by a narrow margin. I'm disappointed by the outcome, but I assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process.

Producing legislation is complicated, and it can be contentious. It matters little what path a bill takes to become law. What matters is that we get a law. We're at a critical moment for our economy, and we need legislation that decisively address the troubled assets now clogging the financial system, helps lenders resume the flow of credit to consumers and businesses and allows the American economy to get moving again.

I recognize this is a difficult vote for members of Congress. Many of them don't like the fact that our economy has reached this point, and I understand that. But the reality is that we are in an urgent situation, and the consequences will grow worse each day if we do not act. The dramatic drop in the stock market that we saw yesterday will have a direct impact on the retirement accounts, pension funds and personal savings of millions of our citizens. And if our nation continues on this course, the economic damage will be painful and lasting.

The fact that we can do this is NOT A GOOD THING.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: the Dogfish Head IPAs

This week's Awesome Beer of the Week is, in fact, at least three separate beers: The Dogfish Head IPAs (India Pale Ales).

They may seem like obvious choices, given the growth of Dogfish Head over the last few years and the popularity of their 60 Minute IPA in particular, but there's a lot to be said for both the beer and the company that brews it. Founded in 1995 by Sam Calagione after a stint in New York beer bars while supposedly getting a Masters in English from Columbia, Dogfish has become universally recognized and usually revered among East Coast beer drinkers for an experimental style that tends to produce masterpieces and undrinkables by turns. Yet despite this popularity – and an expansion into liquor production and the restaurant business – their brewery has remained relatively small: in addition to being just the 25th largest Craft Brewing company (and not even on the list of larger beer companies), a friend who visited their brewery over the summer informs me that they fulfill considerably less than half of their keg orders.

With the Raison D'Etre and Midas Touch Golden Elixer holding down the extreme side of the continual releases, the IPAs are Dogfish Head's bread and butter. The 60 Minute IPA serves as their flagship beer, while being one of their more accessible brews (along with the Indian Brown, Shelter Pale and Lawnmower Light). Depending on how you look at it, there are at least three, probably four, and possibly way more Dogfish IPAs. It breaks down like this:

•The 60 Minute, weighing in at 6% alcohol with a noticeable hoppy bitterness, is a solid and drinkable IPA. Nothing to complain about, and always cool to see in a store or bar that doesn't cater to beer drinkers.
•The 90 Minute is a slightly stronger 9% with an additional sweet flavor, both of which serve to balance the hops. My favorite of the three, the 90 Minute hits a balance between sweet, bitter and alcohol that makes the beer a complex enough pleasure that it's considerably more than just a better version of the 60 Minute.
•The 120 Minute takes things to an entirely different level, reaching an alcohol content of 18-21%, with a strong sweet character and thicker body. Honestly, it's both too strong and too sweet for me to love (in contrast to most users of Beer Advocate, I tend to prefer lower alcohol beers), and has little of the taste or feel of a normal IPA. But it is an extraordinary beer: though one of the most alcoholic in the world, I was under the impression that it was 12% when I first drank it and was not violently disabused of the notion by its taste. Probably not worth the price more than once or twice, but if you're curious then it's worth every penny.

Above all, however, is the Burton Baton. Last released in limited quantity in February, it can be difficult to find and pricey when you do. But as a mix of the 90 Minute IPA and an English Strong Ale, aged in French Oak for several months, it hits a spot the other three can only dream about. I haven't had enough of it to answer the question for sure, but this is without question one of my favorite beers, and possibly my favorite ever. I can only pray that they'll bring it out again next year.

It's also worth noting that you can send any of these beers (though usually the 60 or 90) through Randal The Enamel Animal, an "Organoleptic Hops Transducer" invented by the folks at Dogfish to add an extra Hops flavor to the beer on-site. Which is to say, they pump the beer through a several-foot cylinder filled with hops right before giving it to you, which adds both a hops flavor and a certain extra crackle to the feel of the drink. Nor does the additive have to be just hops, of course: my favorite beer bar hosted a Randall event over the summer with six separate Randalls, all with different flavors. My favorite by far was the mint – but the mix of mint and hops was pretty fantastic as well.

I'm also probably obligated to mention that Dogfish Head's place in my heart is partly due to its proximity to Lewes, DE, home of my childhood summers – in fact, their website currently features a photo of the Lewes Harbor. As such, it's been pretty cool to see them grow in popularity over the years.

Bailout Fail

And that is a very good thing.

I had written up a pretty long post on the bailout bill before it failed, but just for the record, here are two really strong cases against it. First from one of my favorite economists, Dean Baker:

There is no plausible scenario under which the no bailout scenario gives us a Great Depression. There is a more plausible scenario (but highly unlikely) that the bailout will give us a Great Depression. There is no way that the failure to do a bailout will lead to more than a very brief failure of the financial system. We will not lose our modern system of payments.

At this point I cannot identify a single good reason to do the bailout.

The basic argument for the bailout is that the banks are filled with so much bad debt that the banks can't trust each other to repay loans. This creates a situation in which the system of payments breaks down. That would mean that we cannot use our ATMs or credit cards or cash checks.

That is a very frightening scenario, but this is not where things end. The Federal Reserve Board would surely step in and take over the major money center banks so that the system of payments would begin functioning again. The Fed was prepared to take over the major banks back in the 80s when bad debt to developing countries threatened to make them insolvent. It is inconceivable that it has not made similar preparations in the current crisis.

In other words, the worst case scenario is that we have an extremely scary day in which the markets freeze for a few hours. Then the Fed steps in and takes over the major banks. The system of payments continues to operate exactly as before, but the bank executives are out of their jobs and the bank shareholders have likely lost most of their money. In other words, the banks have a gun pointed to their heads and are threatening to pull the trigger unless we hand them $700 billion.

If we are not worried about this worst case scenario (to be clear, I wouldn't want to see it), then why should we do the bailout?

There has been a mountain of scare stories and misinformation circulated to push the bailout. Yes, banks have tightened credit. Yes, we are in a recession. But the problem is not a freeze up of the banking system. The problem is the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble.

. . .

For the record, the restrictions on executive pay and the commitment to give the taxpayers equity in banks in exchange for buying bad assets are jokes. These provisions are sops to provide cover. They are not written in ways to be binding. (And Congress knows how to write binding rules.)

Finally, the bailout absolutely can make things worse. We are going to be in a serious recession because of the collapse of the housing bubble. We will need effective stimulus measures to boost the economy and keep the recession from getting worse.

However, the $700 billion outlay on the bailout is likely to be used as an argument against effective stimulus. We have already seen voices like the Washington Post and the Wall Street funded Peterson Foundation arguing that the government will have to make serious cutbacks because of the bailout.

While their argument is wrong, these are powerful voices in national debates. If the bailout proves to be an obstacle to effective stimulus in future months and years, then the bailout could lead to exactly the sort of prolonged economic downturn that its proponents claim it is intended to prevent.

In short, the bailout rewards some of the richest people in the country for their incompetence. It provides little obvious economic benefit and could lead to long-term harm. That looks like a pretty bad deal.

And Sirota's take:

If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America. That - and that alone - would be the only thing an objective observer could take away from the whole thing.

Money will have compelled politicians to not only vote for substantively dangerous policy, but vote for that policy even at their own clear electoral peril. Such a vote will confirm that the only people these politicians believe they are responsible for representing are are the fat-cat recipients of the $700 billion - the same fat cats who underwrite their political campaigns, the same fat-cats who engineered this crisis, and want to keep profiteering off it. Any lawmaker who takes that position is selling out the country, as is any issue-based political non-profit group - liberal or conservative - that uses its resources to defend a "yes" vote rather than demand a "no" vote. This is a bill that forces taxpayers to absorb all of the pain, and Wall Street executives to reap all of the gain. It doesn't even force the corporate executives (much less the government leaders) culpable in this free fall to step down - it lets them stay fat and happy in their corner office suites in Manhattan.

Even if they believe that something must be done right now, lawmakers should still vote no on this specific bill, and force one of the very prudent alternatives to the forefront. They shouldn't just vote no on Paulson's proposal - they should vote hell no. Our economy's future depends on it.

Check out his whole post, it's a long one but it gets in to plenty of specifics about the bill.

It looks like they're going to renegotiate and try again tomorrow, but where they go from here will be fascinating. Does Pelosi make a good bill that will bring in the progressive caucus, or does she make it an even more corporate friendly and bring over Republican votes?

What's clear is this: Obama, McCain, Pelosi, Hoyer, Boehner, Blunt and President Bush (the most powerful people on Capitol Hill) all wanted this passed. And it failed.

Whatever happens, it's nice to see the Democratic leadership eating shit after being unable to triangulate their own members.

Best. Monday. Ever.

Some of you may have checked the blog this morning and asked, "No Case of the Mondays, what gives? You remember, that weekly feature you promised us?" Well, the reason is that The Train of Thought DOES NOT in fact, have a case of the Mondays! The Redskins whooped Dallas' ass and nothing makes me happier on a Monday morning than C*wb*ys fans having to eat crow.

Add to it that it was the final meeting between the Skins and Cowgirls in horrible Texas Stadium, the backdrop of so many nightmares over the course of my life. Also add in that Dallas was previously undefeated and not only was there an extra pep in my step today, but I literally ran at a full sprint to work and burst directly through the plate glass doors.

It is for this reason that The Train is in a celebratory mood today (and probably for the rest of the week). I now present to you a song about the aforementioned whooping. 3-1, baby!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Question of the Night

Will I be alone in these blogotubes of ours in predicting a net gain for McCain because of this debate?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Official Train of Thought Guide to the Presidential Debates

And by guide I mean drinking game. They're holding them on a Friday night, what were you really expecting something else?

Your drink for this evening:

Rumsfeld and Coke (Credit to Tushara)

-1 Part Coke
-1.5 Parts Rum

Description: The Rumsfeld and Coke is ill-advised and poorly planned. It's a preemptive strike on your liver, usually with disastrous and unforeseen consequences. It's either with you or against you. If you don't have coke, you can always find another mixer for your Rumseld. You make your drink with the mixers you have, not with the ones you would like to have.

The Rules

Take a drink each time:

-Either John McCain or Barack Obama blames something on too much partisanship, or calls for more Bi-partisanship.

-Either candidate mentions the need for "change"

-John McCain says "my friends" or "friends"

-John McCain talks about how "the surge" worked.

-If Barack Obama talks about how "the surge" worked, drink three times, because you're going to need it.

-Obama puts George Bush and McCain in the same sentance.

-McCain references his time as a POW

-Obama compliments McCain for his service to the country

-McCain references how he suspended his campaign to deal with the economic crisis

-Either McCain or Obama goes over their allowed time, and as the moderator tries to cut them off they say "wait let me finish, this is important"

-Either one of the candidates professes their love for the country of Georgia.

-Either candidate mentions General Petraeus, and their fondness for him.

-John McCain vaguely mentions "reform" or "regulation" as if he supports them.

-Obama says something happened for Wall Street, but not for main street.

-The moderator asks Obama to defend or attack a statement made by another black person.

-Obama mentions Phil Gramm, the Keating 5 scandal, or McCain's love of Deregulation (PLEASE!)


Add any suggestions to the comments, I'll be adding more as I think of them.

Stop Making Sense

Wednesday was far and away the weirdest campaign day that I can remember, featuring truly nonsensical decision making by both Obama and McCain.

First, Barack kicks the day off by calling John McCain and attempting to release a joint statement on the economy. And at that point, he has completely lost me and any concept I once had of a “smart political move”. He is successful, and they release this statement together:

The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis. No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.

Now is a time to come together – Democrats and Republicans – in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.

This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.

Well there you have it. That is quite a lot of words to say absolutely, positively nothing. Just to recap, the economic crisis is the result of an ideology practiced overwhelmingly by the Republican party. So clearly, as a party that has much less responsibility for this mess (the Democrats), it makes sense to reach out to the party that is responsible (The Republicans), and give them legitimacy in their attempts to solve the problem. I think I'm going to stop here. Attempting any further to reason why the Obama campaign did this is making my brain melt.

But then, not to be outdone, the McCain campaign surprises everyone and suspends their campaign, only not really. So he doesn't really stop his campaign, and attempts to cancel tonight's debate so that he can fly into dc and see that the basics of a deal have been agreed to. Smooth.

If he had stuck with it with for a few days he could have at least seen if the media bought his act, but his campaign is so mind numbingly incompetent that even pulling off cheap stunts like this is beyond their grasp.

So we find ourselves with the debate going on as planned tonight, and an absolutely worthless statement saying that both Obama and McCain agree that only Democrats AND Republicans can solve this situation.

I think I'm going to throw up.

The Train of Thought Lounge: Child Rebel Soldiers

Hello and welcome to the Lounge once again. This is a special Tropical Storm Kyle edition, so help yourself to some Tanqueray and Canada Dry as you groove at your computer & stay out of the rain.

Today's jam comes courtesy of Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell, who collectively go as CRS (Child Rebel Soldiers). This song has actually been leaked for well over a year now but while details of a collaborative album are still murky, a video has been made. (props to Alice for bringing the video to my attention!)

Child Rebel Soldiers - Us Placers

Friday Fun with Jetpacks

Check this out:

"A Swiss man has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Background on the Bailout

Not enough time to backtrack completely, but here are a few articles on the bailout and recent events:
  • A background on the financial crisis, and how it relates to John McCain. (Kos also called this the best thing ever written on his site in it's history)
  • A good graph on executive pay:
  • No time for a full post, but let's just go ahead and give this guy the Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week. I love it when conservatives accidentally say what they actually mean.
  • What the hell is Warren Buffet doing? This definitely fails every possible smell test, and we'd be flipping our shits if this was a McCain adviser. I don't care how progressive he is on some things, he needs to be dropped from Obama's team immediately for appearances sake if nothing else.
  • Dean Baker has progressive conditions for a bailout.
  • As of now, there may be a deal on the bailout proposal. The statements coming from the democratic leadership sound an awful lot like their usual routine of excepting essentially the entire GOP bill with several minor changes, and then declaring victory. I'll have more later, but at the moment it's not looking great.

Back to Business

It has been a long week as 6.54 mentioned, but the good news is that commenter wb (who also happens to be my dad) is very much on the road to recovery. Thanks to everyone for all their love and support, it’s really meant more than you can imagine.

Also thanks to those who’ve kept the blog moving during my unexpected absence, and I’ll resume normal posting again shortly. I hear the government is rushing to authorize 700 Billion dollars to help those affected by the financial crisis, so as you can probably guess you'll be seeing some more about that on this site in the near future.

What? You say the government’s only bailing out the rich people affected by the crisis?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Just moments after admitting how little I know about the "economy," I discover that it's a common affliction.

Why is $700 Billion the precise amount needed to bail out our struggling "economy?"

"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Some Totally Uninformed Remarks About the Economy

I know pretty much nothing about economics aside from what this guy on a train told me last week, so, to say the least, there are some questions I'd like answered.

1. Given that we're the richest nation in the world yet don't seem to produce all that much, where does our national wealth come from? I'm pretty sure part of the answer is the ready availability of natural resources during the 18th-20th centuries (lumber, coal, oil, etc.); and part of it is circumstance, like WWII taking place in Europe so we could lend them money to rebuild and profit from their success. But both of those are long gone now, so I'm stuck with the question: what the hell do any of us produce that covers the cost of our lives?

2. No matter what angle I take, I keep running into the same conclusion in my thesis: the patent system was designed during a time when machines were built out of bricks and mortar and metal rods, so it's only natural that it hits insurmountable difficulties trying to regulate a world where a "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter" can be information or a living thing. By the same token, it doesn't seem like today's stock market – or even today's "economy" as a whole – bears any resemblance to the stock market as it could have been conceived or designed to function. Nor does it seem like a coincidence that the two big boom/busts of the last hundred years (assuming that this crash gets real bad) coincided with technological advances that encouraged investors and financial planners to think of money in terms of pieces of paper (in the case of ticker tape machines) or numbers on a screen (in the case of computers and the internet).

PS: NASA funding = $16.8 billion in 2007. Just sayin. We could do this bailout thing or we could colonize mars, straight up. Or better yet, keep up with Japan's plans to build a functional space elevator.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vinny Cerrato is beyond ridiculous

For the past few weeks, I've been planning a comprehensive post on my conflicting feelings when it comes to supporting the Washington Redskins. Ultimately, I'll continue to love and root for the Skins simply because it's what I've done for as long as I can remember. Still, with an insane owner who surrounds himself with yes men, not to mention the abomination that is the team's nickname, you start to feel somewhat guilty to be a Redskins fan.

When it comes to yes men, there is none more demented or powerful than Vinny Cerrato, the recently promoted EXECUTIVE vice president of football operations, which is about a hundred syllables longer than just calling him the general manager just to piss everybody off (JJ pointed out Cerrato's pretentiousness here before).  I wasn't even going to get into the idiocy of him hosting his own radio show, but in only his second segment, he took his well known feud with Washington Post Redskins beat reporter Jason La Canfora to an all-time low by accusing him of calling the NFL to charge the Redskins with tampering.

From the D.C. Sports Bog:

Cerrato: Ok, let me read the tampering rule. It says about head coaches: "During a club's playing season, no club may request permission to discuss employment with a head coach for the current or future season." Last time I checked, Frank, we do have a head coach, and there was no discussion there of anything to do with a head coach or job opportunities. All it was was discussing his opportunity with a guy from NFL Network, Adam Schefter, who that's his job is to talk about these things. And that's what we discussed, about him being fired, which will probably happen today from what everybody's reporting. And there was also mention that I read on Pro Football Talk about him possibly going to Syracuse. So I don't see why Jason La Canfora would call the league office to charge us with tampering.

Michael: Vinny, Vinny.

Cerrato: Yes George?

Michael: Let me ask you this. If it were tampering--and that is a very serious thing--if it were tampering, what would happen to the Redskins?

Cerrato: Well, this George: If we were caught tampering, we would lose draft picks and be fined heavily. Look at the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, a lot of teams that have had these things happen lately. You're gonna get fined heavily. So this guy, one of the reasons I want to do this show, George, is to give my opinion on these things, so when things come up I can voice my opinion. But when a guy is trying to hurt the franchise of the Washington Redskins, I'm gonna stand up and I'm gonna defend the Washington Redskins. Because there is nothing that happened on that, this is just a guy attacking us, and I wish that he would just be professional like the rest of his colleagues that cover the Redskins. Period.

Hanrahan: Vinny, my question is how did you find out that...?

Cerrato: The NFL called.

Hanrahan: Ok, they called you? And what did they say?

Cerrato: They just thought it was kind of a joke. They were just giving us a heads-up that Jason La Canfora called and wondering....I mean, it was ridiculous, you know? Maybe he should be out at practice watching practice, George.

This is just shameful, clear evidence that Cerrato and Snyder have it out for La Canfora. The Washington Post's sports editor responded to the accusations on La Canfora's blog, the Redskins Insider:

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz asked me to share this with you:

We've had some calls and emails about statements made today by Vinny Cerrato, who said on his radio show that Post reporter Jason LaCanfora had called "the league office to charge us with tampering."

Jason did not "charge" anyone with anything. He called the NFL's public relations staff last week to ask how the league's anti-tampering rules would come into play if Vinny Cerrato answered a question during his new radio show about a player or coach under contract to another team. Sports radio hosts are often asked these sorts of questions, and we were curious whether Cerrato would be limited in the way he could respond by virtue of his position as a team GM.

Jason did not make any sort of complaint whatsoever. (In fact, reporters cannot charge teams with violations of NFL rules. Only other teams can file charges like tampering.) He referred to Cerrato's questions about Raiders coach Lane Kiffin only to provide context for the question he was asking. He did not write about the issue.

It's clear that La Canfora wasn't "charging" the Redskins of anything, as he's not even able to do so as a sportswriter (it would have to come from a fellow NFL executive or official). The Redskins brass don't like him because he writes negative things about the team. Guess what guys... that's called journalism, you idiots! He is supposed to provide an unbiased perspective of the team and I think he does that well. Having guys like this in charge of my favorite team is as infuriating as it is insulting.

How can Redskins fans defend behavior like this? The sad truth is that we can't and devoted fans are forced to root for the Skins in spite of their ownership.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What a Week! (But Awesome Beer: Southern Tier Pumking)

I'd like to reiterate Jonesy's ambivalence about the weekend. Three cheers to wb for kicking ass, and pulling through a truly scary situation with dignity and confidence. Here's knocking on wood and sending all best wishes for a speedy recovery.

On a lighter note, this graphic does a pretty good job of illustrating the finances and lifestyles of our candidates:

In case you can't read it, the only car the Obamas own is a hybrid. In the interest of fairness, though, it's worth noting that the McCains also own a hybrid. And they own three fully electric pseudo-cars!

Anyway, in keeping with today's "Week" and "Monday" themes, I think it's high time we designate Monday the Official Train of Thought Awesome Beer of the Week Day, an opportunity to reap and share the knowledge gained during the weekend.

This week's beer is the Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, NY. Rich sugar, cinnamon and an unmistakable pumpkin flavor mingle to create a substance that is, in all important respects, liquid pumpkin pie. The best part is actually the smell: Thanksgiving in a glass. Though they can be difficult to find outside the northeast, the Pumking and other Southern Tier brews (perhaps most notably the Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout) provide a unique experience that expands the already tremendous breadth and depth of beer.

The Train of Thought has got a case of the Mondays

Despite the fact that the Redskins got a huge win, Arsenal is at the top of the Premier League table and the hated Sp*rs are dead last in the league, this weekend still royally blew. And nothing makes a bad weekend seem even worse than Monday's arrival and all of its requisite... Mondayness. It sucks.

That's why I'm starting the first installment in what I hope will become a long-running feature: The Train of Thought Case of the Mondays. Really crappy, really random and only marginally funny, these weekly posts will try to further numb your mind at the start of every week if that hangover didn't do a good enough job of that over the weekend.

This week's installment will require a little bit of background. Basically, this guy in L.A. in the late 90's had a public access show in which he claimed to be God. That's pretty much all you need to know. (probably NSFW)

So cheer up everybody; in a few hours, it will be Tuesday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Frightening Statistic

Remember promises made in 2000 to move to Canada if Bush won? While those bold words mostly turned out to be bluffs, a new TrainStat poll has yielded some incredible results: of those polled (1 likely voter, 9/21/2008), 100% responded that they (he) was planning to (had already) leave (arrived) the country (in China) if McCain wins (or if he loses, bit late for that caveat right?) the election.

In other semi-related news, the Train of Thought now has its first international correspondent.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Unthinkably stupid. Part 2.

I'm honestly not trying to be this lazy, but back in March, I wrote this:

Look, I know a little something about doing stupid things. I had Clemson taking out Kansas and then losing to Georgetown in my NCAA tournament bracket. I spent a solid amount of time with dcjonesy, Lsouth and others this past week rating 80s songs from one to ten based on how well you can pump your first and stomp your foot to them. Several weekends ago when I went out into Adams Morgan wearing a DC United flag as a cape. I bet 25 dollars on the redskins winning the super bowl last year at 50-1 odds. All of that stuff happened within the last couple months, and I haven't even started with the stories that involve my lime blazer. So I think we've established that I know stupid when I see it.

And so I mean it when I say that this is possibly one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. (Or a least to emerge in this election cycle):

[Hillary] Clinton also called on President Bush to appoint "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to recommend new ways to confront housing finance troubles. She said the panel should be led by financial experts such as Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary in her husband's administration, and former Federal Reserve chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker.
It's hard fight through the rage enough to form complete sentences after you reads something like that, but Economist Dean Baker does a pretty good job in his post titled "Senator Clinton Calls for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons to Head Commission on Steroid Abuse":
Actually Senator Clinton's proposal was far more ridiculous. She suggested having former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary and current Citigroup honcho Robert Rubin lead a commission (along with former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker) to analyze the country's current economic crisis.

There is certainly no one more directly responsible for the current crisis than Alan Greenspan, who allowed the housing bubble to grow unchecked for almost a decade. Also, as the country's preeminent bank regulator, he looked the other as the predatory mortgage market exploded.

While Greenspan is undoubtedly villain #1 in the housing bubble story, Robert Rubin has claim to #2 status in his post near the helm of Citigroup. Citigroup provided the secondary market for many of these predatory mortgages with its creative financial engineering and structured investment vehicles.








MIAMI - Barack Obama turned to a team of advisers that shaped America's economy in happier days to fashion fresh ideas for calming the stomach-churning financial crisis that has thundered from Wall Street to Main Street.

Some of the most respected names in the business world were pitching in Friday, including billionaire investor Warren Buffett, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and Paul O'Neill and Laura Tyson, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton.

"In the coming days, I'll work closely to examine the details of the Treasury and Fed proposals and as I do, I'll work to ensure that it provides an effective emergency response," said Obama. While laying blame for the crisis at the feet of Republicans, Obama said he would steer away from partisanship.

"I think it's critical at this point that the markets and the public have confidence that their work will be unimpeded by partisan wrangling, that leaders in both parties work in concert to solve the problems at hand," said Obama.

What a fucking joke.

And I'm sure glad that partisan wrangling won't interfere with his ability to bring in both republicans and corporate shills.

Alan Greenspan must be waiting by the phone in tears.

Everything you ever need to know about Vinny Cerrato

His first words on the first edition of his own radio show:(Via DC Sports Bog)

"Good morning everybody, I'm George Michael," George Michael said around 10:04 this morning. "Now, from the deepest corners of Redskins Park, behind all those secret meeting rooms, behind the 'Do Not Enter Under Fear of Death' room, ESPN 980 presents 'Inside the Red Zone'...with Vice President of Football Vinny Cerrato.

"EXECUTIVE vice president," Vinny Cerrato said.

I hope that one day he's wandering around the Redskins Park when a full speed LaRon Landry divides him in half. And then Derick Frost drives down from Green Bay to punt him in the balls.

It All Comes Down to Football

Strange to hear me posting something about sports, I know, but this really really brings it all together.

Poll: Obama tops McCain as football-watching buddy

"I think he'd be fun to sit back with and hear his experiences, all his stories," said Kyle Ferguson, 28, a Republican from Santa Rosa, Calif., who picked McCain. But reflecting a sense some voters have of McCain based on the complaints of a few Senate colleagues, he added warily, "I bet he'd probably get pretty angry and lit up if his team was losing."

Democrat James Smith, 29, of Asheville, N.C., picked Obama because he believes he and the Democratic senator from Illinois have more in common.

"With McCain, I have such an age difference," said Smith of the Arizona senator, who is 72. But with Obama, 47, he said, "If things went well with the conversation, the football game would be forgotten. There'd be a lot of back and forth."

That is why Obama is going to win this election. Aside from, you know, the disastrous lack of qualifications on the other ticket.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Real Gaffes

Over the last day or so, Talking Points Memo (and others) have been throwing some heavy punches at McCain over an interview he did with Radio Caracol. It sounds like the best case scenario is that McCain either doesn't know the name of the Spanish Prime Minister or thinks that Spain is a Latin American country; the worst case, that he wants to enact some seriously scary and alienating foreign policy. Although an aide has denied that McCain made a mistake, which would confirm a truly cold stance against Spain's relative pacifism in recent years, it's hard to be sure that's what McCain had in mind if you listen to what he said. I'll let Josh Marhall of TPM tell the story, which includes the relevant portion of the interview:

Given the inconsistencies between the aide's statement and McCain's language in the interview, it looks distressingly like they've taken a belligerent, militaristic stance to cover up what would otherwise have been a mid-level gaffe. Not only does this interpretation indicate a shallow inability to take responsibility for the slightest misunderstanding, there's no way to read the story such that McCain gives the tiniest fuck about what people from other countries think. This has already caused a bit of an international incident, as the Spanish Press is not taking this lightly. Just imagine the sort of trouble he would stir up as president of the United States.

To add to his troubles, John McCain said at a rally today that if he were president, he would fire the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The problem is, that's not an action that the president is authorized to take. At least, not yet. As ABC News points out, "while the president nominates and the Senate confirms the SEC chair, a commissioner of an independent regulatory commission cannot be removed by the president." Again, because of the fairly disgusting belligerence and expansion of executive power of the last eight years, it's unclear whether McCain is unaware of the president's responsibilities in this regard or merely wanted to create new ones. And again, let's just hope he was being an idiot.

Then there's Palin, who was showcased at that same rally in Cedar Rapids – they seem to be traveling as an inseparable team now. Shortly after calling the city "Grand Rapids," she answers a question about energy by saying, well, you tell me:

Mmmm. Congress. Molecules. Bags! Export bans not allowed to... keep oil for the hungry... market? What?

Add to this that McCain does not know how to use a computer – I do not understand why that is not one of the biggest issues of this campaign – and Palin apparently chose unbelievably obvious security questions for her now-hacked personal email account and then proceeded to semi-legally but ultra-stupidly use that account for government business...

You know, there's been a lot of talk about "experience" and "qualifications" this election, but for all that gabbing it doesn't seem like we've even asked the question yet. Let's actually have the conversation. Hell, let's just talk about basic competence for a moment.

Sure, it's funny now, but imagine Ciudad de México in flames because of a misguided old "maverick"'s attempt to nuke Madrid.

EDIT: Also, McCain apparently invented the blackberry. Even though he can't use google. Maybe not his greatest week.

Knee surgery Fail

As if the daily bed-wetting and hand-wringing about politics wasn't enough:

For the second straight year, the Washington Wizards will enter a season unsure about the health of three-time all-star guard Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas, who signed a six-year, $111 million contract in July, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday morning and said he expects to miss training camp, the preseason and at least the first month of the regular season.
Arenas recently increased the intensity of his rehabilitation workouts but experienced discomfort in the knee area and the decision was made to have him undergo yesterday's procedure following a meeting with team doctors on Tuesday.

"It really isn't that big of a deal, I was expecting to be out for a few more months anyway," Arenas said. "I just had some floating debris in there that was slowing me down. It was irritating the knee so we decided to go in there and clean it out. This should actually allow me to come back faster."
Well, shit. The debate that ran throughout the off season was whether or not to resign Gil, and at what cost. I was glad that he didn't take the max deal, and I think we all knew what a massive risk Ernie took in resigning him for 7 years. Well, that risk just got even bigger. The question isn't just when he'll come back, the question is whether or not he be the same explosive player that he once was.

And after three surgeries on the same knee, I'm afraid I'm less optimistic than ever that we'll see that Gilbert lighting it up for the wiz. What a crappy situation.

Update: This post is too depressing. Here's a video of Kobe doing the Mutombo finger wave, and then falling over backwards:(Via Basketbawful)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things that make your head explode

This: (Via Ta-Nehisi)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee, will endorse John McCain for president on Wednesday, her spokesman tells CNN.


Forester was a major donor for Clinton earning her the title as a Hillraiser for helping to raise at least $100,000 for the New York Democratic senator’s failed presidential bid.


“This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don't like him,” she said of Obama in an interview with CNN’s Joe Johns. “I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”

Forester is the CEO of EL Rothschild, a holding company with businesses around the world. She is married to international banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. Forester is a member of the DNC’s Democrats Abroad chapter and splits her time living in London and New York.

So the CEO of an international holding company married to "Sir Evelyn de Rothschild" who spends her time in between London and New York thinks that Barack Obama is an elitist?



Um... Yes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Rahm Emanuel... Again!

It's the start of the NFL season, so what better time for another installment of the Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week? And for the first time ever, we have a repeat offender: Rahm Emanuel!

So what did Rahm do this time?

David Sirota:

Here's the snippet (no link because the publication is subscription-only):

"Among the House Democratic leadership, Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is actively advocating that Democrats would be better off having the votes on pending [free trade agreements] this year for a number of reasons, sources said. They said that one of the reasons Emanuel cites is that there are likely more Republican members in this Congress than there will be in the next, which would mean that fewer Democrats would have to take a potentially divisive trade vote now."

Correct: Emanuel - one of the original architects of NAFTA - wants congressional Democrats to pass controversial NAFTAs with Colombia, South Korea and Panama right now, so as to avoid inevitably STRONGER opposition from his own party in the next Congress.

To really fathom how incredible this is, understand that Emanuel - the Democratic leader - is effectively acting as the House Republican whip. He's saying that he wants these bills up for a vote because there are enough Republican votes right now in the House to pass it over current Democratic objections - and there won't be enough GOP votes in the next Congress.
(Emphasis Mine)
Wow, even for Rahm that's disgusting. Trying to jam through unpopular legislation because you're worried that your own party might win to many seats for it to be possible next year... that's sure how you want your party's leadership to be thinking.

This all goes back to a point that Sirota and others made during the spring after Pelosi postponed the votes on these trade agreements. If the congressional leadership wanted the deals dead, they would have been dead. They postponed them not because of principles (or spine, guts, conviction, balls, dignity, whatever you prefer), but because they didn't think they had enough votes to pass them. The question is not if they can make these horrific deals better, the question is when they have enough votes to slam them through congress against the will of the American people. Not if, but when.

But then again it's not like using his power to fuck over the working class is something new for Rahm, either. I can't quite remember, something about dead bodies...

Monday, September 15, 2008

John McCain understands the economy

John McCain, earlier today:
"You know," said McCain, "there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street and it is -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
AP headline a few minutes ago:
Dow Plunges 450 Points to Below 11,000 on Lehman Bankruptcy, Merrill Sale, AIG Woes

A Startling Attempt at Decency

With the news dominated for several days by ongoing financial troubles and the wrath of Hurricane Ike, it doesn’t take much for a story on any other subject to stand out. What was completely unexpected, however, is this one from The Washington Post: “Republicans fault both campaigns for negative ads.” Based on available statistics, the headline caused double-takes and bewilderment in 100% of readers. Could it be, one is forced to ask, that the Republicans have decided to ditch their reliance on smears and attack ads?

This childishly naïve sense of wonder lasts exactly as long as it takes to actually open the story, sadly. Karl Rove makes an appearance on the second paragraph, and his quotes form the backbone of the article. People prone to what Franken called ‘Rove-induced septic shock’ should refrain from reading it, as should children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

Everyone else gets see what Karl Rove thinks is ‘going too far.’ Apparently both campaigns are equally guilty of it, which might come as a surprise to… everyone. Obama says that while he respects McCain’s service to the US, he disagrees with his policies? Wow, that man has gone too far. Palin would be out of her element as VP and has no knowledge of any nation or international level issues? Come on, mentioning that is going too far. Statistics suggest McCain isn’t the youngest man alive? Back off Obama, just too far. Palin believes in creationism? You guessed it, too far.

Rove doesn’t mention what kind of ads don’t go too far, but luckily he has a long career we can pull examples from. In order for Obama to comply with the Rove-certified campaign style, he needs to do the following:

-As we learned in 2004, attacking a war hero’s military record is definitely not going too far. So instead of respecting McCain’s service and disagreeing with his policies, Obama needs to say that he agrees with the policies but thinks McCain did an awful job in Vietnam. He should imply that McCain deserved to be caught by the Vietnamese, and that he got exactly what was coming to him when he was tortured. If McCain ever alludes to the various physical handicaps he still has to this day, Democrats should wave purple band-aids at him. This may seem odious to you or I, but by Rove Republican standards it’s quite alright.

-Obama should then claim that McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi child, Bridget McCain, is in fact an illegitimate daughter. Here he doesn’t even have to do any work, he can just copy and paste from when Rove did this exact thing to McCain during the 2000 Republican primary. Seems a bit nauseating, doesn’t it? It may be vomitous, but it certainly isn’t going too far.

-Next, it’s time to find a picture of John McCain with a child… ugh, can’t do it. In order to avoid the aforementioned septic shock I’m going to cut this one off right here. Suffice to say Rove is a despicable human being, his appearance in the WaPo article is supremely ironic, and in reality it’s time for Obama to step up the pressure, not back down.

Film Vault-"The Day the Earth Stood Still"

Happy Monday everyone...ready for the some fun? Here is a throwback clip to the 1951 classic sci-fi political "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Soon to be a horrible remake done starring Keanu Reeves. If you ever get the chance, go see the movie. I think even youtube has it all up in parts online.

This clip "SPOILER WARNING" is Klattu's speech near the end of the movie..which also shows the awesome looking Glort robot.

Now, there has been much analysis of this speech over the years, and there are certainly parts that are both valid and ridiculous, but I'm curious to see what people think..especially considering when this movie was made post WWII, right at the start of the Cold War.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hand-wringing and Bed-wetting

A moment of truth from Joe Scarborough: (Via Atrios)
MATTHEWS: Now, it'll die, as we said, it'll jump the shark. Two days ago, no, we're all talking about -- you're waving the tabloids around, come on. Two days from now -- I want to ask you, what will we talk about two days from now?

SCARBOROUGH: Whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about, because the McCain campaign is assertive.
David Plouffe of the Obama Campagin (Via Openleft)
"We're sensitive to the fluid dynamics of the campaign, but we have a game plan and a strategy," said Mr. Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe. "We're familiar with this. And I'm sure between now and Nov. 4 there will be another period of hand-wringing and bed-wetting. It comes with the territory."
I've agreed with Plouffe's statements on looking at voter registration rather than polls, and it's his delegate number crunching that won Obama the primary. But to discount recent events from impacting the election itself is ridiculous. I'd like to see where "Let McCain control message for 2 weeks after conventions" was part of their grand strategy plan. The benchmark for success isn't winning this campaign, this should be 5% or higher victory, and there is no excuse for any other result. Some problematic news from the past week(with common sense solutions!):

-Obama is running at a lower percentage than democratic congressional candidates nationwide. Common Sense Solution: Instead of hardly mentioning your party affiliation, do it a lot. And always mention that McCain is a republican. Democrats are popular right now, republican's are not. Save the post partisan bullshit for a time when people don't despise one of the parties.

-If you're explaining, you're losing. Common Sense Solution: Respond, but keep attacking. His houses, NAFTA, Iraq, the economy, it's not like there's a lack of targets. Stay on the offensive and you play less defense. If sports were like politics, the warriors and the wizards would meet in the finals every year.

-Everyone keeps complimenting John McCain. Common Sense Solution: STOP DOING IT! I know he's a veteran. I know he was a POW. What the fuck does that matter when he's screwing over veterans, keeping us in Iraq and tanking the economy? If you start every attack with a compliment, it completely disarms the point you are about to make. Good for a debate, not good at any other time.

Plouffe may be a great numbers cruncher, but if he thinks all is well with the campaign then there's going to be a lot more bed-wetting and hand-wringing on this end. Dismissing criticism by his own supporters with smart ass remarks not only makes him come off as a jackass, but if he'd used rhetoric half that strong attacking the McCain campaign, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Really Excellent Points

From John Cole on Balloon Juice:

The total national debt, as I write this, is $9,679,000,000,000.00 (nine and a half trillion).

The Budget for 2008 is close to $3,000,000,000,000.00 (three trillion).

Our budget deficit for this year is going to range in between $400-500,000,000,000.00 (four hundred to five hundred billion, give or take a few billion).

The total value of wasteful earmarks in 2008 (according to CAGW) will be approximately $18,000,000,000.00 (eighteen billion).

In other words, when McCain talks about earmarks, he is talking about 3% of our annual budget deficit, .6% of our annual budget, and a number too small to even report when discussing our national debt. Or, put another way, he is talking about two months in Iraq, something he wants to keep going indefinitely.

Not only are they lying about Palin’s involvements with earmarks, they are just not being serious about the horrible economic problems we face. These are not serious people.

And on a surprisingly related topic, here's David Sirota on OpenLeft:

The assumption in conservatives "drill, baby, drill!" energy policy is that high gas prices are the result of crude oil supply shortages. Drill more, they say, and that will result in more crude oil supply, which will result in lower prices. Sounds logical...until you realize the gas price crisis has nothing to do with crude oil supply. That's not my theory, that's fact, according to market analysts. As the Associated Press notes upon today's release of a report by Masters Capital Management, "Speculation by large investors - and not supply and demand for oil - were a primary reason for the surge in oil prices."...

This is the oil/gas version of the Enron speculators shutting down power plants in order to artificially jack up prices - and it is precisely what the "drill, baby, drill!" crowd doesn't want to talk about, because that crowd is underwritten by the same oil industry and Wall Street speculators that are making a killing off the status quo.

As the Wall Street Journal today reports on progressive congressional legislation "to scale back how institutions can invest in index funds that track commodities markets," conservatives are desperate to substitute a debate about supply for a debate about what's actually going on. And when Democrats validate the supply nonsequitur by joining GOP calls for more drilling, they not only ignore polls showing the public blames the oil industry, nor do they merely alienate potential swing constituencies who don't want oil and gas rigs in their backyards - they go on record in support of a lie, one that protects the oil industry profiteers and makes the energy crisis worse by focusing all the attention on a non-solution.

Who knew?

More from the McCain Commonplace Book

Additional excerpts from the personal writings of John Sydney McCain. Special thanks to JJ and Nimsofa, who were kind enough to provide the last two. If you guys or anyone else have transcribed any more, feel free to leave them in the comments! Here we go:

26. Man produces maddening ballot which defies laws of space and time- impossible to find Musgrove vs Wicker, drives electorate mad
32. satanic mass in graveyard- eerie ritual to choose VP- divining from the signs- abuse of power, love of pork, mooseburgers- who could it be?
83. pilot experiences dreams in which he repeatedly crashes his plane, THEN realizes that it was not a dream, it was his airforce career
109. unspeakable bridge is constructed without any destination
135. monstrous weddings- gays marrying leaves observer in the clutches of icy fear. He then (kills himself? learns to tolerate others?)
191. Inexplicable madness- ‘turd blossom’ makes statements which cannot be logically reconciled with his own earlier statements. Perhaps he is an elder god? madman? Liar?
347. eldritch document causes insanity in anyone who reads it- bill of rights. Republican reads it, describe what happens next- horrifying ending
602. deficit eventually swells to such size that no one can comprehend its true magnitude. it is stored in an impossible void outside of the universe.
1,887. man cannot remember difference between shiite and sunni. Continually confuses the two. one morning he trips over a skeleton, it is very scary.

From JJ and Nimsofa, respectively:

2,136. Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann and COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS plot a future of socialized medicine and protectionism at GROUND ZERO - Reagan's Ghost goes mad, drowns self in the reflecting pool.
2,138. Democrats push for alternative fuels does nothing to halt global warming. Scientist throw hands in air proclaiming "Our bad. Guess man is not responsible." World burns in firery, then freezing terror. But...Conservative Republicans who voted McCain-Palin are safe living on the incomplete offshore platform trasformed into a shanty town after they could no longer stand to live in an America of such prosperity, higher education, and tolerance of all human beings...under a black president. And maybe, Jesus is there or something, and he's like "i'm back guys! been a long 4000 years, huh? please, please put down those guns and crosses. they BOTH make me very uncomfortable."

Whew, I’m going to have nightmares tonight, for sure.

The LHC is Born!

This morning, the Large Hadron Collider passed one of the last major tests before the system is turned over to collision-based research, as scientists sent a stream of protons, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, around the 17-mile underground ring.

Aside from the rather large tracts of physics that the machine may confirm or disconfirm in upcoming years, this is exciting because of the not-quite-insignificant chance that it will end life as we know it. If ever there was a chance that we'd destroy the universe with some careless overpowered experiment, this is it! In fact, if we believe the Hawaiian botanist who for some reason sued the U.S. government in March to stop the nearly completed construction of the Switzerland-based LHC, "there is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet." Mmmmm.

If this prospect worries you, then I suggest you closely monitor HasTheLargeHadronColliderDestroyedTheWorldYet.com, which promises to deliver up-to-the-minute coverage of the situation (and was probably brought to us by the same people who work tirelessly to give us ThingsIDidLastNight.com).

McCain’s Commonplace Book

Ever wondered where McCain comes up with all of his ideas for campaign trail anecdotes? It might be hard to imagine how he could come up with so many made-up stories and factoids if you haven’t heard of commonplace books. Every great fiction writer born before 1900 has one, and McCain is no exception.

Take a moment to peruse the commonplace book of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft became a cult favorite by writing books about monsters and elder gods and the like, pulling ideas from quick notations. As you can see, Lovecraft had something of a one-track mind:

4 Horror Story- Man dreams of falling—found on floor mangled as tho’ from
falling from a vast height.
5 Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.
17 Doors found mysteriously open and shut etc.—excite terror.
19 Revise 1907 tale—painting of ultimate horror.
125 Man abandon’d by ship—swimming in sea—pickt up hours later with
strange story of undersea region he has visited—goes mad??

On that page alone you can see 221 different ideas that, had Lovecraft lived for another several billion years, would have all become full stories. I’m not sure how much you can write about “a hideous sound in the dark,” or #17 about doors scaring people, but that was his plan. Researchers recently uncovered Tupac Shakur’s commonplace book, and with a little ingenuity and a LOT of bribery, I’ve come into possession of the commonplace book of one John Sydney McCain. Here you can see his plans for future attack ads, rally stories, and more:

1. a mans taxes are raised- unspeakable horror- he goes mad, votes republican
2. scientist gets line of viable stem cells. BUT- were they life? he goes mad, dies
3. vision of a future in which the US has left Iraq, unspeakable horror
4. unearthly dread- souls of defeated republican incumbents haunt voters
5. terrible regret- lobbyists mourn the Demise of republican washington- they wake up- it was all a dream? or was it?
6. Conservative commentator in the basement of ghastly castle- accidentally endorses Democrat- he goes mad
7. man loses his job to outsourcing, but its ok because he gets tiny tax cut? he buys a muffler
8. hideous scene in white house as black democrat from (outside of space and time? accursed terror zone? Chicago?) sits in oval office. all god-fearing Americans go mad.
9. eldritch ritual, candidate accepts nomination in stadium near Greek pillars, indescribable fear
10. Fall of Mankind after warrantless wiretapping is illegalized. Describe chilling process in which one must obtain a warrant. Not for The Faint of Heart.
11. Liberals- endless horror.
12. Dark incantations after evil forces (witches? Communists? atheists?) remove ‘under god’ from pledge of allegiance. Jerry falwell goes mad, dies.
13. prominent republican gets lost on way home- stumbles into hideous unspeakable world where intolerance and deceit are the hallmarks of the republican party- ghastly revelation- he is actually the one from another world
14. child goes to school, learns about evolution. Theory of Evolution is actually black magick cast by profane wizard? terrible possibility
15. hurricane Destroys american city- dodged a bullet- birthday cake- heck of a job.

Terrifying stuff! Transcribing these is a pain, maybe more later from the McCain Commonplace Book.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lying as Political Technology: A Very Depressing Post

To give this post a little personal context, I used to run a blog called "Fuck Truth:", and I tend to cringe when people talk about science as though it's "black and white [with] right answers and wrong answers". Regardless of the arena, I've almost never found truth or its younger sibling objectivity to be all that useful in building a healthy picture of a situation. It's not that a reliance on truth is wrong, exactly, just a little silly. Our use of the concept usually has more to do with intention and effect than fact, and is more closely related to faith or expectation than reality.

Especially in politics. It's not news that people who push a right-wing agenda "lie" regularly and successfully about pretty much anything that will serve their interests. Lying works. It's just politics: Democrats lie too, and often (though it can be a little harder to get away with lying to liberals). It's so effective that you've gotta wonder whether human beings actually like being lied to. Whatever the reason, though, that's just the way things are.

And yet, I was still shocked by Palin's speech at the convention, as well as by the conduct of the McCain campaign and Republican operatives since. McCain and Palin are running on quite precisely what they are not, and overtly and repeatedly lying about verifiable aspects of their records and Obama's positions.

Not that the convention bullshitting was limited to Palin, of course. Mitt Romney mocked Al Gore for flying around in a private jet while pretending to save the environment – a private jet that does not actually exist. The video played during Victoria Blackstone's speech about honoring the flag used actors, not real soldiers, to recreate a state funeral (as with most of the rest of the convention images, the footage was purchased from Getty). And Guiliani remarked that Obama is "the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years", which is false no matter how you measure experience.

But McCain and Palin are way beyond little funny lies like those. Normally, as Phil Gentry notes, politics isn't about anything that can be verified or labeled as true or false. Neither "reformer" nor "maverick" nor "change," for example, are ideas that need much of a basis in actions or facts – you say them, and they sound good, and that's basically the end of it.

Except that Palin's candidacy seems increasingly based on her supposed rejection of the funds for the "Bridge to Nowhere." They keep repeating it, touting her campaign against earmarks as though she's the first person to want government funds to be fairly distributed. Really, though, it's a lie deserving of the name. It's not even close to true: she pushed for the bridge initially, backed off when it became too infamous to attach her name to, and then kept the money for similar projects when it was finally rejected.

She's being called on it too, all across the media spectrum. From TPM:
The McCain camp has made her signature issue shutting down the Bridge to Nowhere. But as The New Republic put it today that's just "a naked lie." And pretty much the same thing has been written today in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the AP, the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday even Fox's Chris Wallace called out Rick Davis on it.

The evidence, if you're the sort to go for evidence, is pretty damning. There's video of Palin encouraging the pursuit of federal aid, a note congratulating her staff on a successful haul, even a photo of her holding up a "Ketchikan is not nowhere" t-shirt:

The thing is, it probably doesn't matter. One of the Obama campaign's newest ads features some of that "evidence" and their latest email was about Palin's "Lies to Nowhere," but non-indoctrinated people tend to believe the thing they hear first, particularly when it's less complicated. We can try to brand McCain and Palin as liars, and it could well hurt their credibility with some voters. But probably not. To quote the the ever astute Atrios, "At this point even Republicans all know it's full of shit, but they don't care. It pisses off liberals! And that's really all they care about."

Or as Hunter puts in a Daily Kos diary,
There is absolutely no penalty for lying, in politics. None. Zip. Nada. Sarah Palin could stand atop a stage and declare herself moon-goddess of Endor, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Yes, the papers would correct her. There would be a few cable stories on how there was no prior record of her being declared a moon-goddess. In the end, however, it would not matter, and it would not matter because Republicans have decided that it does not. For Republicans, there is no longer any moral taboo whatsoever against lying outright. The only relevant question is whether the lie is effective -- not whether it should have been done in the first place.

So what of it, if Sarah Palin says crooked things with a straight face? Name me one Republican who will object. Name me one -- just ONE -- diehard conservative who will be angry at the lie, instead of praising her for it. To hell with facts, there is another election to be won....

[Y]ou would be hard pressed to find even a single, lone Republican in Washington willing to buck the moral collapse of their own party. Such people once existed: they were voted out of office. All that remain are "mavericks" like McCain, figures who will countermand every previous belief in order to regain the support of his own party.

So be it, then. In a way, it's more honest – politics really is about manipulation, after all, and that wouldn't change even if everyone had complete information about the candidates. But really, though, this isn't about honesty or truth or lies or reality. It's about basic respect. Forcing the nation to have these basic disputes about its candidates demonstrates a contempt that borders on hatred.

And facing that level of disrespect is so tiring that making the argument that people should pay enough attention to vote gets harder and harder every election. There's no way out but out: the only real solution is to stay as far away from politics as possible. At some point, the apathetic become correct – and I can't help but worry that that time is now.

But please. Please, prove me wrong.

PS: Anyone else think it's creepy as all hell that the new face of McCain donations is the "McCain/Palin Compliance Fund"? What the hell is with that party?

Walmart places their bets

Sometime over the last year, in Walmart's boardroom, they debated how best to fight the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act in a populist climate that is extremely unfavorable to Republicans. They were left with two choices:
  1. Stick with the Republicans against overwhelming odds this cycle, since they know they own their votes regardless, or
  2. Give up on the Republicans in 2008, and give money to the Democratic leadership, because they believe that they have a better chance of getting the Democrats to screw over the working class than they do getting Republicans elected.
This is the same Walmart that is so nervous about the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act that last month risked breaking federal laws in order to pressure their employees to vote for Republicans.

Yet, last month, it was revealed that Walmart is giving more money to House Democrats than to house Republicans during this election cycle.

They've made their choice.

While Walmart putting Democrats in their pockets is nothing new, it has always been for smaller legislation, and nothing this ambitious. The EFCA fight will be the biggest congressional fight for the Labor movement since NAFTA, and this will be a watershed moment for the Democratic Party.

Will they stand up for the working class, or will they turn their backs once again, and do the bidding of Big Business?

We know what Walmart's putting their money on.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let's get serious...

If for no other reason than the fact that it's Monday morning, the weekend is already over and nobody wants to be awake right now, I present to you...


And just for good measure, a bonus, too-crappy-to-be-featured-in-The Train of Thought Lounge selection from Jermaine Jackson!

Enjoy your week, everybody. I promise I'll try to write about something serious soon. And by that, I mean actually serious, not "Jermaine Jackson" serious.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thoughts on McCain's speech

-I could not have been more disappointed that the craptacular Redskins game didn't preempt his speech.

-The giant screen behind him didn't make much sense, especially when it showed a picture of what appeared to be a mansion. It turns out it wasn't a mansion, it was Walter Reed middle school in California. Why some middle school in California you might ask? Josh Marshall thinks that it was some lazy google image work by someone trying to find a picture of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Whoops.

-The number of POW references was out of control. The movie voice guy repeating how "things change when you see the world from inside a box" 6 or 7 times before he was introduced was kind of creepy.

-The protester had a sign saying "John McCain Votes against vets", is a veteran of the Iraq war and was given a pass by a Ron Paul delegate. An interview with him here.

- When he said that Obama supports giveaways to big oil, that set off alarms bells because I couldn't believe that he'd say something that stupid when they both voted for the 2005 energy bill. Turns out I was wrong, and McCain voted no on that bill. We really need to keep the focus on their plans, and McCain's very real ties to big oil at present, and stay the fuck away from that vote. When looking at people's records its easy to see that McCain is no friend of the environment, and very much a tool of big oil, but it's just annoying that he has a moderately true attack line to parrot all fall. But then again, they don't call him on his countless false attacks, so why should this one matter any more?

-He focused a section of his speech on his dislike for teachers. Not just that, but it sounded like he truly had disdain for them and their work. To great applause, of course.

-Just curious, but for all the bullshitting about Clinton and Obama at our convention... you'd think it would be worth more than a casual mention that the faction of the republican party most accurately described as a movement had a rally of close to 10000 people in the same city.

-I think I'm going to start claiming everything that I do is country first. If movie voice guy can make voting for the Iraq war country first, then I think me watching the Gators play tomorrow is also country first. Country first, the new 35 years of experience.

-You gotta love the McCain "Peace" signs throughout the crowd.

-Unbelievably classless. Anyone surprised? Anyone? Buehler?

-Speaking of classless, Congressman from Georgia calls Barack Obama "uppity". I guess if you hint at it enough, eventually someone says what you actually meant.

-A few lines from his speech:
I fight for Americans. I fight for you. I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market.
Yep, cause with this economic downturn, those who really feel the brunt of it are those who lost their real estate investments. Seriously, how out of touch can you be? I'm just sorry that the Plutocracy 08 movement never caught on. They would have fit right in.
Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that.
It's just too bad that all those "scientists" and "experts" don't know any better. Idiots.
great things are always within our reach. Fight with me. Fight with me.
Along the lines of what Stoller said: Is that a question, a challenge or a threat?

-Atrios adds:
Death is too good for the person who put "my friends" on the McCain drinking game list.
-And one last note. Big ups to Baron Davis for smacking down our beloved Gilbert Arenas for his post on Obama's tax plan (and his post stating that if you're rich, you need to vote Republican):
(I know he said he's gonna raise the taxes on the top income bracket, Gil, but if he uses that money to improve our schools then you won't have to worry about some kids trying to sell pictures of your pool online cause they couldn't get a better job.) LOL
We love you Gil, but maybe you should have a talk with Sir Charles about where that attitude leads you.

It's Friday, and it's time for Happy hour.