The Bailout Is Bad!!

This bailout is sounding worse and worse as I peruse these internets.
Accountability is for peons

By Fester:

I don't like the bail-out for Wall Street as the assumption behind the bail-out is that it is merely a liquidity problem and not a systemic problem. If it was a liquidity problem, the radical steps of the Federal Reserve over the past year and low interest rates should have been more than sufficient to float everyone through the rough patch. Even more is the accountability measures that are in the draft legislation shown on Calculated Risk:
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.
So Congress will have a report from the Bush Administration. It is not like the Bush Administration has ever lied in a report, suppressed evidence, skewed evidence or engaged in extraordinarily deceptive practices on major policy initiatives worth several hundred billion dollars such as Iraq. Congress may write a Sternly Worded Letter if it receives Bullshit.
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. (my emphasis)
Great, this is effectively a Slush Fund to dwarf all slush funds. Again, it is not like we have seen an Administration ever use government resources for political purposes. The Justice Department and the the Treasury are above reproach --- it is absurd to think that there could be any abuse of power. $700 Billion dollars are unrestricted spending with absolutely no oversight. It is only the good graces and manners of Sec. Paulson that we can rely on. I don't count on anyone's good graces with that much money.

Accountability is for peons.

Update: Still more here.

Obama on McCain

You go Obama. Tell the truth about McCain!

Quote Of The Day

The decisions that will be made this weekend matter not just to the prospects of the U.S. economy in the year to come; they will shape the type of capitalism we will live in for the next fifty years. Do we want to live in a system where profits are private, but losses are socialized? Where taxpayer money is used to prop up failed firms? Or do we want to live in a system where people are held responsible for their decisions, where imprudent behavior is penalized and prudent behavior rewarded? For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system. The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists.

Doug Elmendorf

H/T Grasping Reality

Krugman: "No Deal"

Paul Krugman doesn't like the bailout. Neither do I. Can't we make those rich bastards that screwed everything up pay?
No deal

I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal. Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets.

As I posted earlier today, it seems all too likely that a “fair price” for mortgage-related assets will still leave much of the financial sector in trouble. And there’s nothing at all in the draft that says what happens next; although I do notice that there’s nothing in the plan requiring Treasury to pay a fair market price. So is the plan to pay premium prices to the most troubled institutions? Or is the hope that restoring liquidity will magically make the problem go away?

Here’s the thing: historically, financial system rescues have involved seizing the troubled institutions and guaranteeing their debts; only after that did the government try to repackage and sell their assets. The feds took over S&Ls first, protecting their depositors, then transferred their bad assets to the RTC. The Swedes took over troubled banks, again protecting their depositors, before transferring their assets to their equivalent institutions.

The Treasury plan, by contrast, looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything’s OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers’ money at the financial world.

And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving.

I hope I’m wrong about this. But let me say it again: Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check. Otherwise, no deal.

Insomniacs Unite!

Some Joyful Noise. Derek Trucks.


The Massive Bailout: Question...

If the bailout costs $1 trillion dollars, and there are 300 million people, then do I now own a $3333 dollar stake in those companies?

Rachel Maddow: Hot!

I don't remember exactly when I saw her first, probably on Countdown. She impressed me. She seemed smart and funny, hip and square, liberal and serious. Can I also call her adorable?

When folks got smart enough to give her a show, I was happy.

Right now, as far as I'm concerned, she is the best thing on television. I hear her ratings are nothing to sneeze at either. Yeah, she's hot!

So, here's to America. If we're smart enough to give Rachel Maddow a show, we should be smart enough to get Barack Obama elected.

This all bodes well.

Carry on.

Us and Them II

Here's the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans justify breaking the law when it is morally right, and then fight for exoneration based on the morality of their illegal action.

Democrats justify breaking the law when it is morally right knowing full well there is disagreement, and then take the consequences.

I can't remember where I saw it, or who it was, but a high ranking military officer said, referring to the ticking time bomb scenario, that if you choose to torture someone based on the TTB scenario, fine, BUT you must be willing--willing--to face prosecution for your actions. If you are so sure of your righteousness, then you believe you will probably be exonerated if prosecuted because the torture worked; and you very well could be exonerated. Republicans would say they deserved exoneration in this case simply because the torture worked. Democrats would fight for exoneration knowing they were in trouble, even though the torture worked.

Sarah Palin's Troopergate is being quashed by the Republicans. I just heard Tucker Carlson say that the trooper, since he was a jerk, should have been fired. He was dangerous, tasing kids and drinking beer in the car. Hell, if I was Governor, I might want to fire him too!

But, the problem is, he was disciplined for those things prior to Troopergate. The Troopergate thing is about abuse of power--Palin's illegally pushing for the firing of a completely different person (the trooper's boss who wouldn't fire him)--not whether or not some trooper should be walking around armed.

Therein lies the difference. A Democratic Governor would maybe fire (illegally) the trooper, but if caught, would succumb. A Republican Governor would claim the firing was righteous because the trooper was a dick, so, leave me alone!

Democrats, apparently, have a thing for the law (of course so do the 10 Alaska Republicans on the committee that approved the subpoenas in Troopergate that are being ignored).

Republicans (except those mentioned above, and I assume many more), apparently, have a thing for rising above the law and claiming the mantle of righteousness in spite of the law.

For Democrats, it's about preservation of the law.

For Republicans, it's about preservation.

Update: I have nothing to support this. But I still think I am right.

America's Legal Influence: Not Worth Much

A story in the NY Times on how our legal system is the laughing stock of the world. Money quote:
But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices.
Judges around the world have long looked to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance, citing and often following them in hundreds of their own rulings since the Second World War.

But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices.

“One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”

From 1990 through 2002, for instance, the Canadian Supreme Court cited decisions of the United States Supreme Court about a dozen times a year, an analysis by The New York Times found. In the six years since, the annual citation rate has fallen by half, to about six.

Australian state supreme courts cited American decisions 208 times in 1995, according to a recent study by Russell Smyth, an Australian economist. By 2005, the number had fallen to 72.

The story is similar around the globe, legal experts say, particularly in cases involving human rights. These days, foreign courts in developed democracies often cite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in cases concerning equality, liberty and prohibitions against cruel treatment, said Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of the Yale Law School. In those areas, Dean Koh said, “they tend not to look to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
h/t Eric Martin

Reich on The Bailout of all Bailouts

Like many, Bob doesn't think the giant bailout is a good idea. I don't really know, but I do know that I feel bad paying for someone else's mistake. Bob's idea sounds good to me. Read it here. Updated: Reich responds to himself (2nd blockquote)
Here's the spicy part though:
In other words, watch your wallets. The tab here could be very high. If everything goes extremely well, markets move upward, and the risky loans become far less risky, it's possible that taxpayers (that is, the Treasury) might actually make money. But if the bottom falls out, American taxpayers could be on the hook for trillions of dollars. What then? The federal debt soars. What then? Interest rates go out of sight. What then? Foreigners lend us less money. What then? We're cooked.
The Bailout of All Bailouts is a Bad Idea

Talk today about the Bailouts of All Bailouts eased market fears and generated a giant rally on the Street, but how realistic is it?

On Capitol Hill, Senator Charles Schumer suggested that government inject funds into financial companies in exchange for equity stakes and pledges to rewrite mortgages and make them more affordable. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Hank Paulson reportedly is considering an agency like the Resolution Trust Corporation, established during the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s, to take bad debts off the balance sheets of financial institutions.

Problems are: (1) It's not likely to do all that much good because no one knows how much bad debt there is out there. Even if the government bought a lot of it, investors and lenders still couldn't be sure how much remained. After all, big banks have already written down hundreds of billions of bad debts, and that hasn't restored confidence in the Street. As the economy slows, bad debts will grow. Again, the problem isn't a liquidity or solvency crisis; it's a crisis of trust.

(2) However much bad debt there may be, that amount is surely far greater than the $394 billion of real estate, mortgages, and other assets that the old RTC bought from hundreds of failed savings-and-loans -- thereafter selling them off form whatever it could get for them. The Bailout of All Bailouts would therefore put taxpayers at far greater risk than they are even today, and require an unprecedented role for government in reselling assets. Another major step toward socialized capitalism.

A better idea would be for the Fed and Treasury to organize a giant workout of Wall Street -- essentially, a reorganization under bankruptcy, for whatever firms wanted to join in. Equity would be eliminated, along with most preferred stock, creditors would be paid off to the extent possible. And then the participants would start over with clean balance sheets that reflected new, agreed-upon rules for full disclosure, along with minimum capitalization. Everyone would know where they stood. Bad debts would be eliminated. Taxpayers wouldn't get left holding the bag. And there would be no "moral hazard" incentive for future financial wizards to take giant risks with other taxpayers' money.

Congress, the Fed, and the Administration shouldn't be giving more help to Wall Street. Policymakers should focus instead on people who really need a safety net right now -- workers who have lost or are about to lose their jobs, who need extended unemployment insurance and health insurance for themselves and their families; homeowners who have lost or are likely to lose their homes, who need additional help meeting mortgage payments and reorganizing their debts; and people who have lost or are in danger of losing their savings or pensions, who need better insurance against possible loss.

The only way Wall Street's meltdown doesn't spill over to Main Street is if policymakers begin to pay adequate attention to the people whose wallets really keep the economy going, and who merit more help than the Wall Street tycoons whose carelessness and negligence have put it in such jeopardy.

The Coming Bailout of All Bailouts Bill: A Better Alternative

If you think the Bailout of All Bailouts (whose details will be worked out over the coming week) won't saddle American taxpayers with billions, if not trillions, of risky obligations, you don't know politics -- especially in an election year when members of Congress are eager to get home to campaign; when the incumbent lame-duck president (who was he?) has all but vanished, leaving his hapless Treasury Secretary, a former investment banker, to take the lead and the heat; when voters are in high anxiety over the economy and Wall Street is melting down; when the executives of every financial powerhouse in America have staked lots of money on campaigns in both parties and have indundated Washington with lobbyists.

In other words, watch your wallets. The tab here could be very high. If everything goes extremely well, markets move upward, and the risky loans become far less risky, it's possible that taxpayers (that is, the Treasury) might actually make money. But if the bottom falls out, American taxpayers could be on the hook for trillions of dollars. What then? The federal debt soars. What then? Interest rates go out of sight. What then? Foreigners lend us less money. What then? We're cooked.

Some Democrats will try to make the best of the emerging Bailout of All Bailouts Bill, seeking to tack a stimulus package on it. In my view, they'd be better advised to hold out for a different approach.

Paulson is right that it makes sense to allow the big banks to wipe their balance sheets clean of as many bad loans as they can identify, and put them into a special agency that then sells them for as much as possible. The agency would bundle or unbundle the risky loans, slice and dice them as needed, with the goal of getting the most for them on world markets by creating a market for them.

But there's no reason taxpayers need to be involved in this.

Whether you call it a reorganization under bankruptcy or just a hellova fire sale, the process should resemble chapter 11 under bankruptcy. Any big financial institution that wants to clear its books can opt in. But the price for opting in is this: Investors in these institutions lose the value of their equity. Executives lose the value of their options, and their pay (and the pay of their directors) is sharply limited. All the money from the fire sale goes to making creditors as whole as possible.

Meanwhile, policymakers work on a new set of regulations to ensure transparency on Wall Street -- governing disclosures, minimum capital requirements, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and better ensurance against stock manipulation -- so that, once the bad debts are off the books, the new numbers can be trusted.

I repeat: This isn't a crisis of solvency or liquidity; it's a crisis of trust.


You Know What I Love About My Job?

The always helpful, caring PTA, without which my school would be arts poor!


"Take These Flyers Home"

You know what I hate about my job? Handing out all the fliers from the Raiders, YMCA, summer camps, special interest crap, after-school classes that suck but someone wants to make money, and any other marketing foisted upon me and my students. Why in hell do I have to take my time and collate 2-10 pieces of paper (not to mention the homework I give) and hand it out to 20 kids. What a waste of time! And paper.

My principal handed out a COPIED calendar that was in flux. I suggested the many online calendar programs she could use and post to, and allow us to see it and keep up to date. This handout thing is the same. Make all this crap available as PDF docs, or just html that can be captured, I don't care. But don't ask me to spend 15 minutes getting a bunch of marketing together so I can be used as your delivery boy.

Pay for your advertising, like any other business! Pay me! Or I might recycle your flier!

Update: Fixed the spelling errors I found.
Update II: Fixed the spelling errors someone else found (how embarrassing!)

Educational Research: Still Mostly Crap

There are some education researchers out there who have not spent one minute teaching in a school. Here is a little post exposing those researchers, and how their research causes trouble, but generates $$.
Chubb, Moe, Hoxby, Peterson, Ballou, Podgursky, Hanushek, and Greene. None of these academics have a background in education, and their analyses of education have invariably focused on the macro-level, studying it as a system rather than investigating the actual processes of teaching and learning in classrooms and schools, or viewing education from the ‘bottom-up.’ As they ignored the world of the classroom and educational scholarship, academics in the field of education in turn largely ignored them, failing to understand fully and confront vigorously the challenge posed by their work. This was a critical failure, as this cohort is marked not simply by a common ideological perspective, but by an unrelenting focus on the advocacy of that ideology in the policy arena. They have had an impact on educational policy out of all proportion to their numbers and the probity of their research.
Rat’s Choice: Market Theory’s Colonization Of Education

Filed under: Education by Leo Casey @ 2:04 pm

Throughout most of American history, teaching has been a low status, poorly remunerated profession, reflecting the general social denigration of “women’s work.” Within the American academy, this devaluation of teaching took the form of treating schools of education as cash cows that bring in significant amounts of revenue which are diverted to other, more prestigious schools in the fields of medicine, law and business. These practices have led, in turn, to the underdevelopment of education as an academic discipline: far too often educational research fails to achieve the same intellectual rigor and the same scholarly quality as its sister fields in the social sciences. There are, of course, outstanding education researchers, but they should not blind us to the general state of the discipline. Today, one finds scholarly educational conferences and journals featuring too many pale imitations of work in philosophy, psychology, political science and sociology, with little more the prefix “The Pedagogy of…” to justify the claim that they are studies of education.

The underdevelopment of education as an academic discipline has political consequences. Over the last decade, the educational research field has been colonized by a relatively small but ideologically uniform and politically aligned group of political scientists and economists whose names are now well-known — Chubb, Moe, Hoxby, Peterson, Ballou, Podgursky, Hanushek, and Greene. None of these academics have a background in education, and their analyses of education have invariably focused on the macro-level, studying it as a system rather than investigating the actual processes of teaching and learning in classrooms and schools, or viewing education from the ‘bottom-up.’ As they ignored the world of the classroom and educational scholarship, academics in the field of education in turn largely ignored them, failing to understand fully and confront vigorously the challenge posed by their work. This was a critical failure, as this cohort is marked not simply by a common ideological perspective, but by an unrelenting focus on the advocacy of that ideology in the policy arena. They have had an impact on educational policy out of all proportion to their numbers and the probity of their research.

Within the academic disciplines of political science and economics, this cohort of academics are adherents of a school of thought known as rational choice theory — or as other political scientists and economists are fond of calling it, rat’s choice. [Moe is actually one of the leading theorists of rational choice in political science.] Rational choice theory can be best understood as the application of a particular view of human nature — what is commonly called ‘economic man’ or ‘Hobbesian man’ — to political, social and economic phenomena: it assumes that all human beings are rational calculators and maximizers of their individual self-interest, and that as a consequence, they engage in a constant competition, reminiscent of Hobbes’ “war of all against all,” to seek comparative advantage over other individuals. With this simple model of human nature and human action, it was possible for rational choice theorists to quantify and turn into a statistical study virtually all important social phenomena they studied.

Rational choice theory grew in influence in academia with the emergence of Reaganism and Thatcherism, in large measure because it was an academic expression of the laissez-faire market ideology of those two political movements. In more recent years, its following and sway in political science and economics began to wane, even as it extended its purview to a discipline of education where it was poorly understood. The emergence of behavioral economics, pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, demonstrated that real world economic decision-making departed significantly from the models of rational choice theory, and brought the model into real question in the field of microeconomics where it had the earliest and strongest influence. In political science, a movement known as perestroika has launched a powerful challenge to the dominance of rational choice mathematical modeling studies of narrow questions far removed from the burning political questions of the day. More and more, social scientists have turned to other models of social action which have a level of nuance and complexity lacking in the models of rational choice.

There are many telling criticisms of rational choice theory. In a study of the ‘pathologies’ of rational choice theory in political science, for example, Yale’s Ian Shapiro and Donald Green showed that when applied to voting behavior, rational choice theory arrives at the conclusion that a rational person will not vote, since his or her individual ballot has virtually no chance of actually deciding who will win the election — there is thus no utility in voting. All manner of ex post facto justifications are then undertaken by rational choice political scientists to square this conclusion with the real world of electoral behavior. But as interesting as these criticisms may be, our purposes here do not require a comprehensive recounting of the ‘pathologies’ with rational choice theory. What is important in the field of education is the way in which rational choice theory smuggles into its model, via its foundational assumptions about human nature, its invariable conclusion that the market is the answer to every question. Simply put, if you start from the premise that human beings are ‘market’ and ‘Hobbesian’ men, it should surprise no one that you conclude that the market is the ideal form for organizing all human interaction, including education. In advocating for market policies in education, rational choice theorists are employing arguments which are elaborate tautologies, reaching conclusions about the superiority of market forms of organization that are implicit in the premises they brought to the question.

In this post and one that will follow, I will take one aspect of rational choice theory and its take on education — collective action and its view of teacher unions — and show how the general analysis laid out above is applicable.

To this end, it is worthwhile to examine a particular device of rational choice theory which is widely used by its adherents — a game theory model known as the prisoner’s dilemma. The idea here is to create a simplified, hypothetical situation which can be tested empirically with actual experiments to understand the potential and limits of collective action. In the prisoner’s dilemma, the police have arrested two suspects to a crime, but lack the evidence to convict them. They must, therefore, obtain a confession in order to gain a conviction, so the two suspects are separated and questioned by the police, who offer each a deal to rat out the other. There are four possible results — prisoner A confesses but prisoner B does not, prisoner B confesses but prisoner A does not, both prisoner A and prisoner B confess, and neither prisoner A nor prisoner B confess. If one prisoner confesses and the other does not, the one who takes the deal goes free and the other prisoner gets 10 years of prison; if both prisoners confess, they each get five years in prison; if neither confess, they each get 6 months on a minor charge. When tested in experiments, researchers found that despite the obvious benefits of both prisoners maintaining solidarity and refusing the deal to turn state’s evidence on the other, both prisoners would regularly take the deal as the rational choice, since it guarantees that the worst case scenario for them is five years and the best case scenario is walking free. This shows, rational choice theorists argue, that solidarity is not rational, and that collective action will not be voluntarily undertaken by human actors. What passes for solidarity and collective action is a form of ‘rent seeking,’ in which individuals take advantage of other individuals in the name of collective action.

But consider for the moment the hypothetical situation which is being constructed in the prisoner’s dilemma: it is a classic Hobbesian formulation, taken to its most logical extreme. The human actors are completely separated from each other, denied all human interaction and placed under the control of an all-powerful entity. That under these circumstances, it is at best extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to sustain solidarity and collective action is hardly surprising — it is really a foregone conclusion, given a hypothetical scenario that most closely resembles a totalitarian state. In the real world, human actors have all manner of means to communicate with each other and to arrive at voluntary agreements to engage in collective action, and they have important communal resources that they bring with them. Thus, even under the conditions of the Jim Crow South that were, for African-Americans, a reign of terror and authoritarian rule, the civil rights movement was able to mount a sustained and successful campaign of years of collective action because of the communal networks of African-American churches and the skills of organizers from the American democratic left. Similarly, unions are organized and sustained under difficult and trying circumstances, from Gilded Age America to apartheid South Africa to Communist Poland, because workers used the pre-existing communal networks of ties of ethnicity, race and religion, as well as skills of democratic organizers, to build their labor organizations. There are numerous examples here, from community organizations and neighborhood associations to popular, democratic and labor political parties. The history of American teacher unionism follows this pattern, with ethnic and religious networks, the support of other unions and networks of democratic Socialist and other left organizers playing decisive roles in its formative stages. What all of these examples have in common is that collective action grows out of communal ties and networks which are already in place. It was Aristotle, and not Hobbes, who got human nature right: men and women are ‘political animals,’ by which Aristotle meant that it is our nature to form and live in communities [the polis], and that we realize our human potential in what we do together to promote our common good. Education is a public good, and not a commodity to be bought and sold on the marketplace.

Next Post: What’s Wrong With The Rational Choice Theory of Unions

Riordon Endorses Obama

Yes, the former Republican mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordon, is backing Obama. Here is the story.

Where Is Spain, John McCain?

This, I think, is extraordinary. McCain seems to be very, very confused. Or old. Or stupid uninformed. Remember, McCain graduated 894 out of 899 at the Naval Academy.

The reign in Spain falls mainly on McCain

This is pretty extraordinary: McCain did an interview with a Spanish national radio network, in which he either:

(1) Refused to meet with Spain's prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero because he equates Zapatero with "enemies of America" like Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro; and/or

(2) Refused to say he'd meet with Zapatero because he didn't know who Zapatero was; and/or

(3) Failed to realize that Spain isn't in Latin America.

The interview was conducted in English but translated simultaneously into Spanish. If you understand Spanish you should definitely give it a listen. After some questions about the economy and immigration the interviewer asks McCain about his views on Venezuela. McCain replies with some predictably harsh words about Hugo Chavez's disregard for human rights and free market principles, and points out that unlike Obama he has said he'll refuse to meet with Chavez or other enemies of America without preconditions. He's then asked about Bolivia and says identical things about Evo Morales. A bit later, he's asked about Cuba, and he says the same things about Raul Castro.

Finally at the end of the interview he's asked what seems like a completely pro forma question about whether if he's elected he'll invite the head of the Spanish government, Zapatero, to the White House. McCain, without responding to the question, says that he's willing to meet with Latin American leaders who want to promote democracy, respect human rights etc. He then tries to change the subject by talking about what a great job President Calderon of Mexico is doing in fighting the war on drugs.

Clearly taken aback, the interviewer repeats the question, saying yes she understands, but is McCain willing to meet with "the prime minister of Spain, Zapatero." (McCain is doing an interview with Spanish national radio, so you'd think he might have done five minutes of prep work on subtle issues such as "who is this country's current leader?"). McCain merely repeats what he said before about wanting to work with Latin American leaders, but not being willing to meet with enemies of America etc.

So she asks a third time, does this include Zapatero. McCain dodges the question, saying he needs to study the issue, but that he wants to meet with Latin American leaders who support the same goals he does.

With something close to evident exasperation, the interviewer says, "Yes Senator, but now we are speaking of Europe, not Latin America" (it's clear she's getting the impression that McCain doesn't know where Spain is). But McCain repeats the same answer a fourth time! The interviewer gives up and the interview ends.

It seems, from the bits of his voice you can hear behind the translation, that McCain is tired and confused, and perhaps he simply doesn't know who Zapatero is, and is afraid of making a "gaffe," where he unwittingly agrees to meet with some crazy leftist dictator of an obscure banana republic. Or maybe "Zapatero" sounded suspiciously like "Zapatista" to him.

Anyway it's too bad this is complicated by translation issues, because it's really shocking to hear how confused and dodgy his answers at the end of the interview are.

Obama In Espangnol

Democratic Quotes Of The Day

“All of a sudden it’s my goodness there’s greed on Wall Street, my goodness we need common sense regulation,” Biden said.


“Look, if John cares so much about this now, where was he a week ago?” Biden asked. “Where was he a month ago? Where was he 5 years ago? I’ll tell you where he was, he was bragging to the folks on Wall Street, to the executives who now he calls ‘greedy.’ He was bragging to them how we’re going to shred the regulation that fetters them, that ties them down.”
Joe Biden

"The old boys network? The old boys network? In the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting."
Barack Obama

Daniel Koretz on NCLB Testing

From eduwonkette:
Daniel Koretz is a professor who teaches educational measurement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. Below, he weighs in on the NYC Progress Reports that were released yesterday.
Here is a taste:
In the ideal world, where tests are used appropriately, I give parents and others the same warning that people in the testing field have been offering (to little avail) for more than half a century: test scores give you a valuable but limited picture of how kids in a school perform. There are many important aspects of schooling that we do not measure with achievement tests, and even for the domains we do measure—say, mathematics—we test only part of what matters. And test scores only describe performance; they don’t explain it. Decades of research has repeatedly confirmed that many factors other than school quality, such as parental education, affect achievement and test scores. Therefore, schools can be either considerably better or considerably worse than their scores, taken alone, would suggest.
September 17, 2008
Guest Blogger Daniel Koretz on New York City's Progress Reports

Daniel Koretz is a professor who teaches educational measurement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. Below, he weighs in on the NYC Progress Reports that were released yesterday.

eduwonkette: One of the key points of your book is that test scores alone are insufficient to evaluate a teacher, a school, or an educational program. Yesterday, the New York City Department of Education released its Progress Reports, which grade each school on an A-F scale. 60 percent of the grade is based on year-to-year growth and 25 percent is based on proficiency, so 85 percent of the grade is based on test scores. Do you have any advice to New Yorkers about how to use - or not to use - this information to make sense of how their schools are doing?

Koretz: This is a more complicated question in New York City than in many places because of the complexity of the Progress Reports. So let’s break this into two parts: first, what should people make of scores, including the scores New York released a few weeks ago, and second, what additional should New Yorkers keep in mind in interpreting the Progress Reports?

In the ideal world, where tests are used appropriately, I give parents and others the same warning that people in the testing field have been offering (to little avail) for more than half a century: test scores give you a valuable but limited picture of how kids in a school perform. There are many important aspects of schooling that we do not measure with achievement tests, and even for the domains we do measure—say, mathematics—we test only part of what matters. And test scores only describe performance; they don’t explain it. Decades of research has repeatedly confirmed that many factors other than school quality, such as parental education, affect achievement and test scores. Therefore, schools can be either considerably better or considerably worse than their scores, taken alone, would suggest.

However, there is another complication: when educators are under intense pressure to raise scores, high scores and big increases in scores become suspect. Scores can become seriously inflated—that is, they can increase substantially more than actual student learning. This remains controversial in the education policy world, but it should not be, because the evidence is clear, and similar corruption of accountability measures has been found in a wide variety of different economic and policy areas (so widely that it goes by the name of “Campbell’s Law”). High scores or big gains can indicate either good news or inflation, and in the absence of other data, it is often not possible to distinguish one from the other. As you know, this was a big issue in New York City this year, in part because some of the gains, such as the increase in the proportion at Levels 3-4 in 8th grade math, were remarkably large.

New York City is a special case. It is always necessary to reduce the array of data from a test to some sort of indicators, and NYC has developed its own, called the Progress Reports, which assign schools one of five grades, A through F. My advice to New Yorkers is to pay attention to the information that goes into creating the Progress Reports but to ignore the letter grades and to push for improvements to the evaluation system.

The method for creating Progress Reports is baroque, and it is hard to pick which issues to highlight in a short space. The biggest problems, in my opinion, lie in the estimation of student progress, which constitutes 60% of the grade. The basic idea is that a student’s performance on this year’s test is compared to her performance in the previous grade, and the school gets credit for the change. It sounds simple and logical, but the devil is in the details. (For a non-technical overview of the issues in using value-added models to evaluate teachers and schools, see “A Measured Approach”.)

To keep this reasonably brief, I’ll focus on three problems. First, the tests are not appropriate for this purpose. skoolboy made reference to part of this problem in a posting on your blog. To be used this way, tests in adjacent grades should be constructed in specific ways, and the results have to be placed on a single scale (a process called vertical linking). Otherwise, one has no way of knowing whether, for example, a student who gets the same score in grades 4 and 5 improved, lost ground, or treaded water. The tests used in New York were not constructed for this purpose, and the scale that NYC has layered on top of the system for this purpose is not up to the task.

And that points to the second problem, which again skoolboy noted: the entire system hinges on the assumption that one unit of progress by student A means the same amount of improvement in learning as one unit by student B. This is what is called technically an interval scale, meaning that a given interval or difference means the same thing at any level. Temperature is an interval scale: the change from 40 to 50 degrees signifies the same increase in energy as the change from 150 to 160. There is no reason to believe that the scale used in the Progress Reports is even a reasonable approximation to an interval scale. It starts with the performance standards, which are themselves arbitrary divisions and cannot be assumed to be equal distances apart. The NYC system assigns to these standards new scores that nonetheless assume that the standards are equidistant—so, for example, a school gets the same credit for moving a student from Level 1 to Level 2 as for moving a student from Level 2 to Level 3. Moreover, the NYC system assumes that a student who maintains the same level on this scale has made “a year’s worth of progress.” That assumption is also unwarranted, because standards are set separately by grade, and there is no reason to believe that a given standard, say, Level 3, means a comparable level of performance in adjacent grades. (There is in fact some evidence to the contrary.)

The result is that there is no reason at all to trust that two equally effective schools, one serving higher achieving students than another, will get similar Progress Report grades. Moreover, even within a school, two students who are in fact making identical progress may seem quite different by the city’s measure. There may be reasons for policymakers to give more credit for progress with some students than for progress with others, but if one does that, you no longer have a straightforward, comparable measure of student progress.

And finally, there is the problem of error. People working on value-added models have warned for years that the results from a single year are highly error-prone, particularly for small groups. That seems to be exactly what the NYC results show: far more instability from one year to the next than could credibly reflect true changes in performance. Mayor Bloomberg was quoted in the New York Times on September 17 as saying, “Not a single school failed again. That’s exactly the reason to have grades…It’s working.” This optimistic interpretation does not seem warranted to me. The graph below shows the 2008 letter grades of all schools that received a grade of F in 2007. It strains credulity to believe that if these schools were really “failing” last year, three-fourths of them improved so markedly in a mere 12 months that they deserve grades of A or B. (The proportion of 2007 A schools that remained As was much higher, about 57 percent, but that was partly because grades overall increased sharply.) This instability is sampling error and measurement error at work. It does not make sense for parents to choose schools, or for policymakers to praise or berate schools, for a rating that is so strongly influenced by error.

We should give NYC its due. The Progress Reports are commendable in two respects: considering non-test measures of school climate, and trying to focus on growth. Unfortunately, the former get very little weight, and the growth measures are not yet ready for prime time.

Still More Lies From Palin

Sully, love him, hate him, or just be confounded by him, he's one sharp dude. He is busy taking down every lie Palin told to Hannity. Here's this minute's takedown:

This is indeed odd. Here is Palin answering Hannity's question about her decision to accept the vice-presidency:

"It was a time of asking the girls to vote on it, anyway. And they voted unanimously, yes. Didn't bother asking my son because, you know, he's going to be off doing his thing anyway, so he wouldn't be so impacted by, at least, the campaign period here. So ask the girls what they thought and they're like, absolutely. Let's do this, mom."

But here's the official tick-tock of the announcement from McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker on August 29:

"Later that morning, John McCain departed for Phoenix and Governor Palin departed with staff to Flagstaff, Arizona. Governor Palin, Kris Perry, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter proceeded to the Manchester Inn and Conference Center in Middleton, Ohio. They were checked into the hotel as the Upton Family. While there, Governor Palin’s children, who had been told they were going to Ohio to celebrate their parents’ wedding anniversary, were told for the first time that their mother would be a nominee for Vice President of the United States of America."

So did Palin ask the girls to vote on it or not? If they were told that they were on a plane to celebrate their parents' wedding anniversary, the decision had already been made, right? So Palin was lying to Hannity, right? The girls were not asked, let alone asked to vote. They were told. Or am I wrong?

No, your not wrong. She's a liar, and you should ask her those religion questions!

: Lame, unbeleivable explanation requiring further investigation....

Deference? To Palin? To Religion? Hah!

Andrew Sullivan writes:
David Skeel considers Palin's faith. I think Biblical literalists do make the issue harder. If a candidate publicly says that the earth was made 6,000 years ago, for example, and asserts that that is literally true, I do think it makes that candidate's public statements about science and research subject to discussion.

I assume that Palin is a literalist. But I don't know for sure, and since we are not allowed to ask her any questions about her faith or her record, it's very hard to know what to say. I'd like to know, for example, if she favors the Federal Marriage Amendment. I know McCain doesn't. But I have no idea what Palin's position is. More to the point: I am not allowed to find out. None of us is allowed to find out. We are required to show "deference". But how can deference tell us what we need to know to make an informed decision?
Gee, ya think she might be a literalist? Of course she is. Wasilla Assembly of God believes the end is coming, and Alaska is the refuge!

And what's with your deference, Sully? Come on Palin (I'll ask) do you think the earth is 6,000 years old? Do you believe the bible is the literal truth? If you do believe that nonsense then you are unfit for office, unfit to teach, unfit to parent, unfit to be believed. I have ZERO deference for religion or religious beliefs. I only mention it though when our country might be run by one of the wacko's.

Palin is a right-wing religious wing-nut. Fuck her religion. I'm voting for presidents and shit. Religion has nothing to do with it! What does she think is true? And if it goes against science and secularism, fuck her unconstitutional outlook! Our leaders should not fear god (because there ain't no god)!

Deference. Overrated.

God Most Important In Palin's Life, Town & Mind (hacked emails)

Here is a screen shot of a hacked email to Sarah Palin. Find them all here.

Republicans Are Socialists!

With the public bailing out the financial institutions, we have entered a phase of Republican Socialism. Yes, the "ism" they love to hate, wrap around Democrats, and laugh at, is now what they are. And they have become financial socialists by declaring war; war on Iraq, the middle class, poor people, schools, intelligence, believability, reality, truth, regulation and much more.

Folks, especially you right-wingers who like to come here to see what we on the left think of you and yours, wake up. McCain, and the Republicans, are not helping you. They are making you less safe, less solvent, less secure in your person and your wallet; they think you are stupid.

Grow a pair and vote for the brains, not the celebrity, real man, hockey mom (with $2500 coat) that you think are so American. The founders were educated elites, and would want you to be too.

Alaska: Refuge From Armageddon

You knew this already, right? Sarah Palin believes in a personal god, one that controls everything, and when our world ends, Alaska will be a place of refuge for true believers.

These people are fucking crazy! You can be angry with me for disrespecting Wasilla Assembly of God, and I don't care! They deserve no respect. Hell, they refer to the rest of the country as the Lower 48. It's the Lower 48 that feed you!

Watch, weep, worry, then tell someone how scary Republicans really are (but don't speak in code like they do).
h/t Raw Story

Update: Here (My friend the witch doctor...)is some detail on what she was talking about in part of the video.
Update II: Detail of the withcraft...
The full Transformations video featuring Pastor Muthee’s story has recently been removed from YouTube but the rest of the story is detailed in a 1999 article in the Christian Science Monitor, as well as on numerous evangelical websites.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a “divination” centre called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Pastor Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town’s ills, and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

Says the Monitor, “Muthee held a crusade that “brought about 200 people to Christ”.” They set up round-the-clock prayer intercession in the basement of a grocery store and eventually, says the pastor “the demonic influence – the ‘principality’ over Kiambu –was broken”, and Mama Jane fled the town.

According to accounts of the witchhunt circulated on evangelical websites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned.

John McCain Will Let You Die (not on purpose!)

Over at The Edge of the American West there's a post exposing how horrible it would be to need a doctor if McCain becomes president.

I have grown sick of shadows, so I’m going to get a torch.

John McCain’s health care plan is rubbish. So says everyone. Most of the summaries I’ve seen have focused on the fact that twenty million will likely lose their employer-cushioned coverage, and that the individual market is horrible to those who have been ill, or for those who are obese.

The plan is rubbish, for all the reasons cited. But it’s rubbish for more reasons. It’s rubbish because it’s made of rubbish.

The individual market is horrible to those have been ill, but when it’s stated like that, it sounds like something only the sick or chronically ill will have to worry about.* And most of the people writing about it are either young, and eminently insurable on account of being young, or have comfortable employer-based insurance. I don’t think they get quite how much the individual market sucks for a normal person.

So let’s play pretend, because let’s be clear: this is a bad idea for everyone.

John McCain is elected, and the health care coverage of twenty million people gets dropped. Two of those people, Jack and Jill, are a couple in their fifties. Jack and Jill are in excellent health and middle class. Absolutely no chronic conditions. Great CON. Neither of them smoke. And we’ll assume that they’re also of normal weight.

Let’s play on eHealthInsurance.com. Jill is 52 and Jack is 56. For $400 a month, they can get coverage. This is not nice coverage. This is coverage that tends to have a multi-thousand dollar deductible, no prescription coverage, no doctor’s visits coverage. If they want an HMO-style plan with co-pays and prescription coverage, call it $1100. (And of course, their risk is evaluated individually.)

But let’s make it a little more realistic. Jill is overweight. Not obese, mind you. Let’s say she has a BMI of 27. This varies a bit by company, but add 25% onto her premium. Jack smokes. He’s been trying to quit, but he picked up this habit back in the 60s and it’s been hard to kick. Jack is probably now uninsurable. (Were he younger, figure another 25%)

Actually, they probably both are. In their fifties, they’re bad risks. When they had employer-based coverage, this wasn’t a big deal, because their own personal risk wasn’t evaluated. It is now.

And we’ve spotted them perfect health and perfect health histories, mind you. According to this study, the average American adult fills nine prescriptions a year. Someone in her fifties: 13. So surely it’s not insane to think that someone in her fifties might be on one or two medications.

Now, we can assume that the market will change a little bit, and that Jack and Jill might have a tax credit to play with. That isn’t going to make them younger, or a better risk. This plan is cruel to boomers.

So who in this country is this plan supposed to benefit?

The Lies Of McCain/Palin: Video!

Five minutes of debunking the lies. Thanks CNN (surprise!)

Obama On The Financial Breakdown


Prediction 3

Colin Powell will endorse Obama before its too late.

Poverty and Education, Yglesias Style

Good post from Matt exposing conservatives as educationally challenged. Money quote:
Countries like Denmark and Finland are basically poster children for the interrelatedness of social policy concerns, something conservatives are usually keen to deny preferring instead to believe that if we just squeezed teachers harder the schools would be great. But the child poverty rate in Denmark is 2.4 percent and in Finland it’s 2.8 percent. In the United States it’s 21.9 percent.
Go read it.

Obama vs. McCain on Science!

Check out a side-by-side comparison of answers to 14 top science questions posed to Barack Obama and John McCain here. It's worth a look.

RFK Jr. on Palin (and on RFK)

Robert Kennedy Jr. says of Palin's acceptance speech:
Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that "some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies."

It might be worth asking Governor Palin for a tally of the other favorites from her reading list.
Um. Wow. Fuck you Sarah Palin!

Krugman On McCain Presidency

“Ben Bernanke and (I think) Hank Paulson understand we could have another Great Depression if we work at it hard enough. I think Phil Gramm might be just the guy to do it.”
Paul Krugman, on Countdown 9/15/08
The reason for the statement was Krugman's belief that Phil Gramm will undoubtedly be in a McCain administration, probably Sec. of Treasury. Gramm is responsible for this financial failure, and Krugman believes Gramm has more failure left in him.


Alaska's Oil: Easy Money

hilzoy's got your Alaska pro-family bullshit all explained...


by hilzoy

Justin Rood at ABC News:

"Evangelicals and social conservatives have embraced McCain's vice presidential pick for what they call her "pro-family," "pro-woman" values. But in Alaska, critics say Gov. Sarah Palin has not addressed the rampant sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence and murder that make her state one of the most dangerous places in the country for women and children.

Alaska leads the nation in reported forcible rapes per capita, according to the FBI, with a rate two and a half times the national average  a ranking it has held for many years. Children are no safer: Public safety experts believe that the prevalence of rape and sexual assault of minors in Alaska makes the state's record one of the worst in the U.S. And while solid statistics on domestic violence are hard to come by, most  including Gov. Palin  agree it is an "epidemic."

Despite the governor's pro-family image, public safety experts and advocates for women and children struggled when asked to explain how Palin's leadership has helped address the crisis. And current and former officials from Palin's administration confirmed that an ambitious plan to tackle the crisis has apparently sunk into doldrums after arriving at the governor's office.

"She's really done a lot of work on oil and gas, but when it comes to violence against women and children. . . we haven't been on her radar as a priority," said Peggy Brown, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. (...)

Some members of Palin's administration were focused on the issue of sexual violence. Officials in the Department of Public Safety were devising an ambitious, multi-million-dollar initiative to seriously tackle sex crimes in the state, but Palin's office put the plan on hold in July.

Days later, Palin fired its chief proponent, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, after he declined to dismiss a state trooper Palin accused of threatening her own family members. Palin has said she fired Monegan because she wanted to move his department in a "new direction," and he was not being "a team player on budgeting issues." The dismissal is now at the center of a hotly-contested investigation by the state legislature.

The status of the plan, which would have "fast-tracked" sex crime cases via a dedicated group that included specially-trained investigators, judges and prosecutors, is unknown. "I'd ask the governor," said one official with knowledge of the plan. Numerous inquiries to Palin's campaign spokeswoman went unreturned."

Unlike most states, Alaska gets most of its revenues from oil. For this reason, as the Boston Globe reports, "in her 20 months in office, Palin's toughest financial decisions involved dickering with the Legislature on creative ways to spend and salt away the billions of dollars in oil revenues pouring into the state treasury." With the price of oil skyrocketing, she has been able to send every Alaskan thousands of dollars. It's safe to assume, therefore, that the reason for not pursuing the new sex crimes initiative was not lack of funds; it was lack of interest, plus the need to punish the guy who wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law.

On behalf of victims of sexual violence everywhere, I'd like to congratulate Sarah Palin on her clear grasp of what truly matters: personal vendettas, not preventing sex crimes and domestic violence.

The end of socialized capitalism? Don't bet on it.

Bob Reich, my local hero, has the skinny on the financial meltdown. My title says it all. Read here.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Why Wall Street is Melting Down, and What to Do About It

Hank Paulson didn't blink, so Lehman Brothers went down the tubes. The end of socialized capitalism? Don't bet on it. The Treasury and the Fed are scrambling to enlarge the government's authority to exchange securities of unknown value for guaranteed securities in an effort to stave off the biggest financial meltdown since the 1930s.

Ironically, a free-market-loving Republican administration is presiding over the most ambitious intrusion of government into the market in almost anyone's memory. But to what end? Bailouts, subsidies, and government insurance won't help Wall Street because the Street's fundamental problem isn't lack of capital. It's lack of trust.

The sub-prime mortgage mess triggered it, but the problem lies much deeper. Financial markets trade in promises -- that assets have a certain value, that numbers on a balance sheet are accurate, that a loan carries a limited risk. If investors stop trusting the promises, Wall Street can't function.

But it's turned out that many promises like these weren't worth the paper they were written on.

That's because, when the market was roaring a few years back, many financial players had no idea what they were buying or selling. Worse, they didn't care. Derivatives on derivatives, SIVs, credit default swaps (watch this one!), and of course securities backed by home loans. There seemed no limit to the leverage, the off-balance sheet liabilities, and what credit rating agencies would approve by issuers who paid them to.

Two years ago I asked a hedge fund manager to describe the assets in his fund. He laughed and said he had no idea.

This meant almost no limit to what was promised. Regulators -- Alan Greenspan in particular -- looked the other way.

It worked great as long as everyone kept trusting and the market kept roaring. But all it took was a few broken promises for the whole system to break down.

What to do? Not to socialize capitalism with bailouts and subsidies that put taxpayers at risk. If what's lacking is trust rather than capital, the most important steps policymakers can take are to rebuild trust. And the best way to rebuild trust is through regulations that require financial players to stand behind their promises and tell the truth, along with strict oversight to make sure they do.

We tell poor nations they have to make their financial markets transparent before capital will flow to them. Now it's our turn. Lacking adequate regulation or oversight, our financial markets have become a snare and a delusion. Government only has two choices now: Either continue to bail them out, or regulate them in order to keep them honest. I vote for the latter.

Biden On Barack

This is why Biden was a great choice:

Barack Obama believes that progress in this country is measured by how many people have a decent job where they’re shown respect. How many people can pay their mortgage. How many people can turn their ideas into a new business. How many people can turn to their kids and say “It’s going to be okay” with the knowledge that the opportunities they give will be better than the ones they received.

That’s the American dream. That’s what the people in my neighborhood grew up believing. And I want our kids to have the same dream.

Barack Obama starts from that vision of progress and will do what it takes to get us there.

That’s why his tax cuts - benefit the middle class. That’s why he’ll make it easier for families to afford college for their kids. That’s why he says everyone should be able to have the same health care that members of Congress have. That’s why his energy plan will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, bring down gas prices, and, in the process, we’ll create five million new green jobs. Those are the changes we need.

Yes, this campaign is about change, but it’s about even more than that. It’s about what we value as a people. It’s not just about a job, it’s about dignity. It’s not just about a paycheck. It’s about pride. It’s not just about opportunity. It’s about respect. That’s why Barack and I are in this race.

We know we need change if we’re to restore dignity, pride, and respect. We know America’s best days are ahead of us, and we know why we’re here.

We’re here for the for the cops and firefighters, the teachers and assembly line workers, the engineers and office workers, the small business owners and the retiree.

All of the folks who play by the rules, work hard, and do what is asked of them. They deserve a government as good and an economy as strong as they are.

h/t The Plank

Hitchens On Obama: Almost

Chris Hitchens, a confounding bastard (in both a good way, and a bad way) has an article at Slate. Here is the juicy stuff:
Meanwhile, and on Pakistani soil and under the very noses of its army and the ISI, the city of Quetta and the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas are becoming the incubating ground of a reorganized and protected al-Qaida. Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the "good" war in Afghanistan with the "bad" one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.
You know, Hitch, us liberals aren't afraid of war. Hell, many of us have fought, and died in wars. Some of us declared them! If it turns out that we need to go into Afghanistan, we go, as Obama said we must. And you rightfully seem respectful of his position on its merits.

But, just because you think it's some sort of (pre-facto) validation of your position doesn't make it so. The Democratic position is for wars of necessity, not wars for, well, whatever we went into Iraq for (oil?).

President Obama Will Kick Your Ass!

Quote Of The Day: tomeg

Will somebody please explain to me why, as McCain declares, the meltdown on Wall Street is a result of too much government regulation; in terms a six-year-old would understand??

tomeg, TNR commenter

Chicken Little Anyone?


Us and Them

To the right, Sarah Palin is a hero (I'm on the left, so I don't know why).

To the right, Obama is an inexperienced, too-young community organizer from a "machine" town (Democratic machine, that is) who will talk you to death instead of fight.

To the left, Obama has shown himself to be bright, accomplished, thoughtful, and influential (Bush has already done a couple of the things Obama said he would do as POTUS).

To the left, Sarah Palin has shown herself to be a liar--AND WE NOTICED--a breeder prior to marriage (2 generations of said breeding in the family, incidentally) though touting the no breeding before marriage line.

What to make of this? I think the elite, effete left should move to the small towns of America, mochas in hand, and kick the living shit out of them.

Small Town Values

Over at Kos Devilstower has a great post on small towns and the hay Republicans are attempting to make with Palin. Best paragraph:
What McCain and Palin offer is a chance to indulge in the ugliest aspects of small town culture. It's a heady opportunity to sneer at the achievements of those who have excelled. It's an open offer to stand at the political podium and throw trash at those leftist extremists who actually think that everyone is just as American and just as patriotic as Jane and Jimmy Middleamerica. It's an exciting enticement to wallow in public hate flavored with the forbidden spice of racism.
Read the whole thing by expanding:

Small Town Values

Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 06:00:05 AM PDT

It's a joke that probably goes back to the folks who settled outside that upstart new city of Ur. Some city slicker -- one of those Euphrates coast elitists -- comes out to farm country and thinks he's going to pull one over on the locals. Two hours later, the fast-talking urbanite finds himself standing out in a field hunting the rare Mesopotamian snipe while the rural folks gather around a barrel of ale to laugh.

Having come from a small town, I can tell you that these jokes have lost none of their appeal to folks who live away from the bright-lights, big-city centers. Heck, there's a big chunk of our national culture built around these ideas. It's been the backbone of television shows and movies from Green Acres to Doc Hollywood. And small town folks are not without some justification in rolling their eyes over their antics of their city neighbors.

I've had plenty of chances to see how folks from large cities think about the country. I've watched people pass up some terrific opportunities when those opportunities were located in towns of of less than fifty thousand people. I've seen them snicker about the kind of people that could live in such a place. When you hear someone like Sarah Palin talk about "small town values" and see people across the country nod in agreement, it's because they feel that all those "fly over" states are too often lumped into one big pot of losers, and that even when some big city type deigns to make a pitstop somewhere between East Coast and West, they wouldn't think of stepping into the pig shit they're sure covers the streets of every town whose population is a notch under a million.

What is there to do in a small town? The same thing there is in a large city. There are the same books, the same movies, the same sports, and for the most part the same social activities. There's also ready access to wilderness and outdoor activities that folks from the cities often drive for hours to find. What's not there in small towns? Well, for the most part there aren't any night clubs where people are going to be impressed by your ride or your suit, and the local selection of shoes probably doesn't include anything being worn this week on the CW (and if that's how you judge the sort of place you want to live, then frankly I'd just as soon you stay in the city).

The people at the GOP convention weren't able to define small town values when pressed on the subject, but I can give you my definition: small town values mean judging people more on their actions, and less on their possessions.

But there's a flip side to this, a nasty counter current that's all too stir.

Sticking up for your small town can very quickly go from not wanting to be looked down on by urbanites, to believing that cities are populated by an admix of "elitist snobs" and "welfare queens." Defending the things close to you can turn into attacking the things you've not had the opportunity to participate in, even when those things are as valuable as world travel, a top quality education from one of those "elite Ive League" shools, and wide-randing experience with people of different social and ethnic backgrounds. Being a local booster can easily become parochialism. Cheering on those like yourself is nothing but the first step into bigotry.

Many conservatives have been enthralled over the last decade with some of the statements from Bill Cosby. They like Cosby's damnation of the culture adopted by some poor inner city African-Americans (who rural conservatives believe make up the vast majority of urbanites). Cosby's assault on "funny names" and "gangsta" culture serve as confirmation for everything that conservatives have ever believed: blacks have as much chance as anyone, they just throw away their opportunities. Nowhere is this more readily accepted than in small towns, because the next stop from sticking up for yourself, is looking down on someone else. Cosby's words fit like a hand inserted into the glove of every pre-conception small town folks ever had about the big city.

And that's the "small town values" that John McCain and Sarah Palin evoke. It's not an appeal to the ideals of people who generally make less and have less than their urban relatives. It's not a call to equality regardless of social position or geographic location.

What McCain and Palin offer is a chance to indulge in the ugliest aspects of small town culture. It's a heady opportunity to sneer at the achievements of those who have excelled. It's an open offer to stand at the political podium and throw trash at those leftist extremists who actually think that everyone is just as American and just as patriotic as Jane and Jimmy Middleamerica. It's an exciting enticement to wallow in public hate flavored with the forbidden spice of racism.

In its own way, it's a testimony far louder than any delivered by Bill Cosby that this kind of small town culture -- that conservative culture -- is just as dangerous, and just as endangered, as any in this country. When you look at something like the web page of Levi Johnston with it's proud declaration of being a red neck and it's joyful talk of "kicking ass," you're looking at a culture that's sick. When a candidate for vice-president denigrates the value of community service, you're looking at a culture that's sick. When you drop in on a GOP meeting and find boxes of "Barack Waffles" decorated by racist stereotypes and buttons bearing phrases like "If Obama is president, will we still call it the White House?" you're looking at a culture that's sick.

It's sick, partly because it's a culture that's based on the assumption that some Americans are more equal than others, partly because it's a culture that denigrates education and achievement, partly because it's a culture that prefers convenient fictions to uncomfortable facts. But mostly because it's a culture that's forgotten what small town life teaches most clearly -- that none of us can make it on our own, that we have to depend on our community for both acceptance and support, and that the best way to ensure that the community will be there for you is by being there for others.

Hard as it is for some on both sides of the divide to believe, small town people are exactly as smart, dumb, good, bad, close-minded and curious as those who live in the cities. Small town values are American values, but no more American than "New York City Values" or "San Francisco Values." In fact, their values are the same values.

The only reason to think otherwise is a GOP that's become utterly dependent on spreading the poison of divisiveness and bigotry as their only means to survive.

Doctors Want McCain's Medical Records!

This Is Not A Dream

By Mike Luckovich

This Is Not A Fucking Game!

by Mr. Fish

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h/t c&l

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