"Our Drum Is Broken" So Let's Vote For Obama

We can't expect the world to dance to our drum; it's broken!

Krugman Says Bailout About $1 Trillion Short!

Big rescue money

Via Yves Smith, an important article in FT Alphaville about the inadequacy of the bailout so far: despite the big-sounding numbers, financial institutions are losing capital faster than governments are putting it in.

I’d add a couple more data points: Japan’s bank bailout in 1998 was more than $500 billion, in an economy whose dollar GDP was only about 1/4 that of the United States today. Do the math. And the just-announced IMF loan to Iceland is $2.1 billion — that’s for a country with only 300,000 people. Both of these numbers seem to suggest that an eventual outlay of $2 trillion is in the realm of possibility.

Just saying.

Palin's Goin' Rogue!

This Politico story is a little scary, or funny, I'm not sure. It sure looks like Sarah is positioning herself to take the mantle of Conservative Diva Moron and Presidential Candidate in 2012. Oy vey!
"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.
Go read it at Politico.

Palin Is A Diva

From CNN:
"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."
So, she has no "relationships of trust", but we are supposed to trust her and McCain? I think the Republicans are going to have to do something about this if they ever want to win anything again.

The Bailout Is For Banks, Not Citizens

A banker basically said the following:
In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry is that it has no intention of using the money to make new loans. But this executive was the first insider who’s been indiscreet enough to say it within earshot of a journalist.
Banks are apparently oging to use the money to make investments and get even richer. Go read the New York Times article.


Gifted And Talented Education: Not!

I saw this definition of GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) on a district website:
GATE provides integrated services during the regular school day, in the classroom (not outside, in extra classes, after-school, or "more of the same"). This includes differentiated instruction (more advanced/challenging tasks in student-specific areas, for part of the time; more on this next time) and peer grouping opportunities (by topic, not as a rule).
I wonder if the parents realize that "differentiated instruction" and "peer groupings" are not an extra that gifted kids get. It is the norm in all classrooms because kids are at different levels, necessitating differentiation. Also, the differentiation is usually used to bring low kids up to grade level, not to extend the knowledge of those who are already at or above grade level.

NCLB throws 2 sets of students under the bus: The lowest kids get thrown under in favor of the low kids because we can get low kids up to proficient easier than the lowest of the low. We also throw the brightest under the bus because they don't need anything extra to score well on the state test, so why bother enriching them.

This is a common complaint I hear from teachers and parents of gifted students. I have always tried to challenge my gifted students by offering different homework as well as differentiated instruction. But, my hands are a bit tied due to the fact that I, yes I, am the one who provides GATE instruction. I don't see any of the money allotted for GATE. I don't see any GATE program because it doesn't exist. Indeed, calling GATE enrichment "differentiated instruction" and "peer grouping" is dishonest, as there is differentiated instruction and peer grouping already; it is a standard teaching practice. Any teacher worth his or her salt (salt used to be used as money. We may be heading back to that system!) already differentiates instruction. How the hell else are you going to teach the disparate group inhabiting your classroom each day?

People, parents: Get details. Don't settle for some term you are not sure of. Demand an in depth explanation. Ask how the program works (remember, there is no program, so the answer to this question would be very illuminating). Ask for the plans and costs and materials that are exclusive to GATE (there are none, so again, the answer will be interesting).

Public schools are run by citizens. Get on it!

What's Uuuuuuaaaaaaapp?

Remember those "What's aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh" guys in the commercial a few years ago?

A New Low

This from some Republican scumbag:
Malkin Award Nominee
"I'm not doubting she is ill. But believe me, if you think this guy would leave the campaign trail for an hour if he felt he were running from behind, he wouldn't do it. Not unless he thought it helped him to do so...Man. I hope his numbers don't start to drop. He might have to hold a pillow against her face and maybe later break into tears the way Hillary did. Only I suspect hers were genuine," - Dan Riehl, on Obama visiting his sick grandmother in Hawaii.
Hold a pillow against his own grandmother's face? Yes, this is what the right has become.

McCain Surrogate: We Will Invade Iran!

Well, almost....
McCain Surrogate -War With Iran Is Certain

By Cernig

Republican William Grayson, president of a San Francisco hedge fund company and former general counsel for the San Francisco Republican Central Committee - and "cleared by the McCain campaign to serve as a McCain surrogate":
"Let me assure you of this," Grayson said after the student presentation on foreign policy. "The next president, whether it is Senator Obama or John McCain, will go to war, and he will go to war with Iran.

"They are very busy developing nuclear weapons. They will use those nuclear weapons against Israel or any of its allies, and that is a war that we're going to fight," Grayson said.
This in a speech to students at Dominican University, CA.

His opposite number, Tony West, there as a representative of the Obama campaign said simply:
"I do not believe it is a foregone conclusion that this nation will go to war with anybody in the next four or eight years."
Well no, it isn't - at least not if McCain and his couterie of angry neocon nutters are kept out of the White House.
h/t Newshoggers

Quote Of The Day

"You go your whole life desperately clinging to this 'sense of honor' thing, and sure, sometimes you fail, in fact sometimes you fail miserably, but you're pretty much as honorable as the next guy. Then the election comes up towards the end of your life and you do and say literally anything to get elected... AND you lose. If you win, you get a chance to reshape your legacy, people talk about the things a president did during his presidency. But when you lose, that's all anyone's ever going to remember about you: the guy who was a stone cold war hero in his youth and then turned into a two dollar whore to try to win an election. Then he died."
h/t LG&M


Lucy Calkins: Waste Of Time And Money!

The 2nd grade had to take their writing test this week. Since we are using Lucy Calkins, because it is the curriculum of sanction, our kids work was high scoring and incredibly shallow! Let me explain:

I have mentioned before how LC uses ridiculous terms for things that already exist in academia; things like expository text, and narratives. LC gives these forms of writing new and stoopid names; expository text becomes "how to", narratives become "small moments". So much for academic language. Of course my students know the correct terms as well, and I tried to explain that some teachers and students like to call things different names because they think it will make it easier. I said easy isn't necessarily better, and since they are students, they should learn the real terms. They agreed.

The writing assessment they had to take was a "how to". We teachers had to demonstrate how to plant a seed using cups, dirt, water, and a bean. We teachers first got together to make sure we were all going to demonstrate this seed planting the same way. 1)Put dirt in the cup 2)Make a hole with your finger, and put in the seed 3) Cover the seed with dirt and 4) Pour water over the planted seed.

The kids watched me as I did it, talking as I went along to make sure they heard each step, and heard my "transitional" words; words like "next" and "then" and "finally". They watched. They got it. No problem.

Now, they have to write their "How To" thing (we don't even know what to call it besides a "How To"). Of course most kids were able to regurgitate each step with only slight variations. Only a couple kids forgot a step or two.

Then we have the scoring rubric (inherent problem, scoring by rubric). There are 2 measures: Conventions/Mechanics and Content. C/M are things like punctuation, spelling, capitals and the like. Most kids did pretty well, but of all the mistakes in all the papers, these were the majority. For content (their work regardless of C/M mistakes) most kids did very, very well. Why? Because a fucking monkey could do it!

Now before you get all upset with my salty language, let me tell you what I think is the reason for the reworked rubric and the LC push. Since my district has not met its AYP, we got sanctioned. We had to adopt a new curriculum as part of NCLB (I dragged this truth out of the Superintendent in a faculty meeting. He did not like having to answer it truthfully). We adopted LC. If we were to show a decline in scores, LC might get blamed, as well as us. But, since LC is the sanction (IOW, the government's baby and the district's preference) the district will not allow that to happen. So, to make sure children score high, students get the kind of test I described above.

There is no thinking in the test we gave. The kids did not have to create anything, analyze anything, think about anything. They had to remember something they saw me do once, and then reproduce it. Kids have great memories. Just ask one about the TV show they just watched; they will tell you everything!

My concern is this: When the CST test comes in May, "How To" will not be there. There might be an example of expository text, but it will not be called "How to" and it will not have a little picture next to each step (which, after teacher complaints, is now not necessary, but advised). The kids will now have a worse chance of doing well on the CST which is the Holy Grail of tests in California schools. And, since teacher accountability is tied to these tests, my job is in danger! [I know evaluating a teacher based on the scores of his students is forbidden in California, but not for long, I think]

There is no teaching going on with this. Okay, maybe a decent teacher can create lessons out of this crap, but why? We must limit their intake of knowledge so they can look good on paper. I do not like it. You parents should not like it. And don't get me started on how we teachers have to score these things.

I said don't get me started!

We sit down as a grade level and read papers from another class (not our own). We then give a first set of scores, from 1-4. Each paper then has 2 scores, one for conventions/mechanics, one for content. We then pass the paper on to another teacher on the team. They read it, score it, and then look to see how close they are to the other teacher's score. If the scores are within 1 point of each other, the final score is the lower. If the scores are too divergent, a third teacher reads the paper, not looking at the other 2 scores (that have been blocked with a post-it). They then give their score, look at the other 2, and, if they are within 1 point of each other, go with the low. You go low because it makes the teacher look good when the scores go up next time (I find this dishonest, wrong, and criminal). BUT, if the scores are too divergent, we do not have plan. The district does not have a plan. There is no plan when 3 scores are too divergent!

This lack of conformity, or standardization, makes for crap statistics. But, we will submit these scores, with their inherent bugaboos, and then study the score data and use it to inform our instruction. At least that is the plan. But bad data inform nobody about nuthin'! And what the fuck do we think we are going to learn by giving 2 scores to 7-year-olds?

I can glean what my students need just by looking at all 20 words on their paper. I do not need to aggregate the data, do a chi-square and then an ANOVA to see that Johnny forgets silent "e" when regurgitating in print what he watched me do live. I can tell that he forgets to capitalize just by looking at his paper for 3 seconds.

There is no joy in this kind of work anymore. I cannot be spontaneous (well, a little, but if I get caught, I might get dinged)or deep, or even exploratory with my students. They have to learn this stuff because, well, because they have to, dammit!

We spent 2 hours reading these papers and learned nothing. I will never look at the scores I had to write in 3 places, and then on some bubble sheet the district gets. They are meaningless to me, and to most. That is why I am sure that all the testing is not so much for the kids, but for the politicians who want to be able to show they are doing something to close the achievement gap. The only problem is, they just might be widening it.

Talk to your kid's principal. Ask him/her about Lucy Calkins. Ask why academic language is discouraged. Ask how the aggregated-yet-largely-bogus data will be used. Report back to me!

We Live In A Constitution-Free Zone!!

Did you know you could be arrested because you live 100 miles from the border? So do 66% of your fellow countrymen! Read on......
ACLU highlights 'Constitution-Free Zone' 100 miles from border
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday October 22, 2008

This past summer, Craig Johnson joined dozens of other activists in a San Diego-area park to protest the expansion of a fence along the US-Mexico border.

An associate professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, Johnson says he took his two children, aged 8 and 10, to Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach in June. Scores of border patrol agents were on the scene, Johnson said, and some were recording license plate numbers from protesters' cars parked a more than a mile away from the border.

It seems that Johnson's participation in the anti-fence demonstration may have landed him on a government watch list that has inhibited his ability to travel freely between the US and Mexico. A professor of Music, Johnson said he traveled to Tijuana about a week after the protest; upon returning to the US, Johnson says he was handcuffed and arrested by customs agents after a listing associated with his name pegged him as armed and dangerous.

"I was thoroughly and aggressively searched. ... Every inch and crack and crevice of my body was poked and prodded," Johnson said. "I was in complete bewilderment of what was going on; I felt violated and frankly was embarrassed."

Prior to that visit, Johnson said he had traveled regularly between the US and Mexico for a variety of reasons without facing any harassment. After the June visit, Johnson said he did not cross the border again until October, when he decided to go simply to see whether he could re-enter the country easily. He was subjected to the same harassment.

"It took me four months to return to Mexico," he said. "Not because I'm afraid of traveling outside my own country, but rather because I'm afraid of returning home."

Johnson spoke Wednesday at a gathering organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is highlighting the extent to which the Department of Homeland Security is expanding the authority it claims at US border crossings to infringe upon Americans rights.

The ACLU says a "Constitution-free zone" exists within 100 miles of the US border, where DHS claims the authority to stop, search and detain anyone for any reason. Nearly two-thirds of the US population lives within 100 miles of the border, according to the ACLU, and the border zone encompasses scores of major metropolitan areas and even entire states.

Customs and Border Patrol, a component of DHS, was authorized by Congress to operate within a "reasonable" distance of the border, and that distance has been set at 100 miles in regulations governing CBP, the ACLU says. The authorization has been in place for decades, but complaints about abuses of the extended border zone began to ramp up as CBP was expanded and folded into DHS after 9/11.

Also of concern, according to the group, is the border patrol's use of massive databases and watch lists to screen travelers. Much remains unknown about how those lists are compiled and it is exceedingly difficult for a person to be removed from the list once he or she is added to it.

ACLU affiliates around the country have fielded dozens of calls from people claiming they were harassed by border agents, and the group believes there are untold numbers of other victims who are afraid to come forward.

No lawsuits have yet been filed against DHS or CBP, but the ACLU says its attorneys in border states are preparing cases.

"Part of what we're trying to do is to draw our own line in the sand here and say this has to stop," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, said Wednesday. "We cannot determine two-thirds of America as a Constitution free zone."

DHS 33 "interior checkpoints" that are monitored by the border patrol, according to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report. The ACLU assumes more checkpoints have been established since then, and group affiliates have complained about checkpoints as far as 93 miles from the border.

ACLU lobbyists are working with members of Congress to rein in DHS's border authority. Caroline Fredrickson, the group's chief legislative counsel, praised a measure introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold and others to ban suspicionless laptop searches at the border.

"We need to restore the Constitution to the Constitution-free zone," Fredrickson said.

Wednesday's event also featured a video testimonial from Vince Peppard, another San Diegoan who faced trouble from border agents. Peppard said he was stopped at least 20 miles inside the border on a return trip from Mexico. He refused to open his trunk "on a matter of principle" and was detained for about 30 minutes.

"I didn't feel like I was in the United States," he says. "I felt like I was in some kind of police state."

The ACLU posted a video of Peppard on YouTube:

Obama To McCain: STFU!

There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation – we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Virginia and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

We have always been at our best when we've had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose – to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.

This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven't seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed the same divisions and fear tactics and our own petty differences to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?

Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success?

This is one of those moments. I realize you're cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you're disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what's been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe – to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together.
-Barack Obama, 10/22/08

Morning Polls

From fivethirtyeight.com:
AM Polls Show Surprisingly Large Leads for Obama

New polling this morning from the Big Ten polling consortium and Quinnipiac University present a view of what the world might look like if Barack Obama wins in a landslide.

The Big Ten polls have Obama ahead by double digits in ten Midwestern states: he leads by 10 in Indiana, 11 in Pennsylvania, 12 in Ohio, 13 in Wisconsin and Iowa, 19 in Minnesota, 22 in Michigan, and 29 in Illinois.

Quinnipiac has Obama ahead by 14 points in Ohio, 13 points in Pennsylvania, and 5 points in Florida.

The thing to recognize about polls like these is that they may tell us less about the individual states and more about where the particular pollsters are calibrating the horse race. The numbers you see in our current state-by-state projections assume that Obama will ultimately prevail on election day by about 5 points. But what if Obama were to win by 10 or more points instead, where several pollsters now have the race? You'd probably see results which look something like these.

So the best way to regard these numbers is in the same way that you might have regarded the Pew poll from earlier this week, which had Obama at a +14 nationally. If you regarded that number as an outlier -- and I wouldn't blame you one bit if you did -- you should probably regard these numbers as outliers too. If you regarded that number not so much as an outlier but as a best-case scenario -- and that's how I tend to regard it -- you should probably regard these numbers as a best-case scenario also.

With that said, the trendlines in these polls are interesting. Quinnipiac has had a slight (1-2 point) Democratic lean this election cycle, but only in the last month or so have they started to produce some of these "shock and awe" numbers for Obama. And when the first round of Big Ten polling was conducted in mid-September, it had not been particularly favorable to Obama.

-- Nate Silver at 8:12 AM

Who's The Elitist?

Senator Obama was doing press interviews by telephone in a holding room between events. Sometime later as he was getting ready to begin his event, he asked me if I was photographing his shoes. When I said yes, he told me that he had already had them resoled once since he entered the race a year earlier. Providence, R.I., 3/1/2008.
Callie Shell
h/t Sully


Bin Laden Wants An Impetuous Republican For POTUS

From Attackerman via Obsidian Wings:
Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."
Read the whole thing
Not Afraid of McCain's Secret Plan to Get Bin Laden

by Eric Martin

On the heels of my post yesterday pointing out that both Russia and al-Qaeda have an interest in seeing America continue with Bush administration foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere, we get this confirmation via Spacktackerman:
Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."
This should come as no surprise, really. The CIA concluded that bin Laden attempted to swing the election for Bush in 2004 with the release of a videotape in the last weeks of the campaign. Despite McCain camp claims that Obama is soft on terrorists, and an appeaser who thinks that all terrorists need is "a good talking to," bin Laden and al-Qaeda fear an Obama administration more than a McCain administration. As Matt Duss observed:
Bush’s war on terror has been a propaganda, recruiting, and training bonanza for Al Qaeda.

Given that the only difference between McCain’s and Bush’s approach to the war on terror is that McCain promises more of it and harder, it’s not really difficult to guess which of the candidates a new Al Qaeda intervention would be intended to help.
Let's just hope it doesn't come to that, regardless of the electoral implications.

How Mavericky Is The Maverick?

Pretty mavericky, it seems. Here is a study that shows the history of maverickiness in American politics. It shows McCain is less mavericky than Chafee, and Obama is less liberal than McCain says! To sum it up, politicians lie!

h/t crooked timber


Tuesday Cartoon Depression

h/t Cousin Alan

Palin: Dishonest Crook

Alaska funded Palin kids' travel:

Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business. The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for... a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.... As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters — Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 — by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor's schedule. But some organizers of these events said they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to a request by the governor to allow the children to attend....

On Aug. 6, three weeks before Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain chose Palin his running mate, and after Alaska reporters asked for the records, Palin ordered changes to previously filed expense reports for her daughters' travel. In the amended reports, Palin added phrases such as "First Family attending" and "First Family invited" to explain the girls' attendance....

In October 2007, Palin brought daughter Bristol along on a trip to New York for a women's leadership conference. Plane tickets from Anchorage to La Guardia Airport for $1,385.11 were billed to the state, records show, and mother and daughter shared a room for four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House hotel, which overlooks Central Park. The event's organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter...
h/t Grasping Reality

Too Big To Fail = Too Big.

From Bob Reich:
If They're Too Big To Fail, They're Too Big Period

According to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the biggest Wall Street banks now getting money from the government are just "too big to fail.” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke uses a different euphemism – he calls them “systemically critical.” The point is that if any of them goes down, it could take the whole financial system with it. So we taxpayers have to keep them up.

We’re hearing the same argument elsewhere in Washington for saving General Motors. It’s just “too big to fail.” So Congress is considering a bailout that would keep GM afloat and sweeten a merger between GM and Chrysler.

Pardon me for asking, but if a company is too big to fail, maybe – just maybe – it’s too big, period.

We used to have public policies to prevent companies from getting too big. Does anyone remember antitrust laws? Somewhere along the line policymakers decided that antitrust would only be used where there was evidence a company had so much market power it could keep prices higher than otherwise.

We seem to have forgotten that the original purpose of antitrust law was also to prevent companies from becoming too powerful. Too powerful in that so many other companies depended on them, so many jobs turned on them, and so many consumers or investors or depositors needed them – that the economy as a whole would be endangered if they failed. Too powerful in that they could wield inordinate political influence – of a sort that might gain them extra favors from Washington.

Maybe the biggest irony today is that Washington policymakers who are funneling taxpayer dollars to these too-big-to-fail companies are simultaneously pushing them to consolidate into even bigger companies. They’ve prodded Bank of America to take over Merrill-Lynch and Countrywide. JP Morgan to acquire Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. And now they’re urging General Motors to absorb Chrysler.

So we’re ending up with even bigger giants, with even more power over the economy and politics, subsidized by taxpayers, and guaranteed never to fail because they’re just ... too big.
Let's hope we can fix this thing starting in January!


Monday Cartoon Fun: Ouch!

By Mr. Fish

The Bailout Isn't Working According To Secretary Reich

If you want to understand what's going on with the bailout you must read Robert Reich's blog. Of course, since I do, and post his stuff right here, you can come here! But go there too! This post says the little guy's (us, not Bob) getting screwed, and the big guys should take the hit. Duh!
The Meltdown (Part IV)

The Dow is see-sawing but the reality is that the Bailout of All Bailouts isn't working. Credit markets are largely still frozen. Despite all the money going directly to the big banks, despite all the government guarantees and loans and special tax breaks, despite the shot-gun weddings and bank mergers, despite the willingness of the Treasury and the Fed to do almost whatever the banks have asked, the reality is that credit is not flowing. It's not flowing to distressed homeowners. It's not flowing to small businesses. It's not flowing to would-be homeowners with good credit ratings. Students are having a harder time borrowing for their tuition. Auto loans are drying up.

Why? Because the underlying problem isn't a liquidity problem. As I've noted elsewhere, the problem is that lenders and investors don't trust they'll get their money back because no one trusts that the numbers that purport to value securities are anything but wishful thinking. The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of recent years -- the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt instruments, and so on -- has undermined all notion of true value.

Many of these fancy instruments became popular over recent years precisely because they circumvented financial regulations, especially rules on banks' capital adequacy. Big banks created all these off-balance-sheet vehicles because they allowed the big banks to carry less capital.

Paulson is recapitalizing the banks -- giving them money directly rather than relying on reverse auctions -- largely because he's come to understand that the banks have taken on so much debt that the reverse auction system he told Congress he would use(designed to place a market value on these fancy-dance instruments) will leave too many banks insolvent.

But pouring money into these banks, expecting they'll turn around and lend to small businesses and Main Streets, is like pouring water into a dry sponge. Nothing will come out of it because Wall Street is so deep in debt that the banks are using the extra money to improve their balance sheets. They're hoarding it because their true balance sheets -- considering the off-balance sheet vehicles they created over the past several years -- are in such rotten shape.

In other words, taxpayers are financing a massive effort to save Wall Street's balance sheets from Wall Street's previous off-balance-sheet excesses. It won't work. It can't work. The entire effort is merely saving the asses of lots of executives and traders who got us into this mess in the first place, and whose asses should not be saved at taxpayer risk and expense.

What to do? Immediately require the Treasury to stop the broad Wall Street recapitalization, and require Wall Street to lend the money directly to Main Street. At the same time, force Wall Street to write down its true balance sheets: Let the executives and traders take the hit. Let their shareholders and even their creditors take the hit for Wall Street's collosal irresponsibility. This is the only true way to restore trust. It's also the only way to save Main Street's small businesses, homeowners, students, and everyone else.

Hitchens Says: No More Palin!

Christopher Hitchens, the guy we love to hate, has a reasonable suggestion: Stop covering Palin until she gives a press conference. Read it
Speak Up!
Stop covering Palin until she gives a press conference.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Oct. 20, 2008, at 11:07 AM ET

The new line of the day, taken by many conservative intellectuals, is that criticism of Gov. Sarah Palin is essentially a blend of snobbery and sexism. This, I presume, is intended as a sort of strike against the considerable number of conservative commentators, from David Frum to Christopher Buckley, who have openly said that the woman is not qualified to be vice president. There is, of course, also the question of whether she is qualified to be governor of Alaska. Writing about her when she was first put forward by Sen. John McCain, I rather feebly took the line that one should give her the benefit of the doubt and not be condescending, but it does now begin to look as if most of what she claimed for herself, from the "bridge to nowhere" to the "troopergate" business, was very questionable at best, and much of what her critics said was essentially true.

The emphasis on experience is in many ways the wrong one (rather as it has been when directed at Sen. Barack Obama). The problem with Gov. Palin is not that she lacks experience. It's that she quite plainly lacks intellectual curiosity. It is not snobbish to harbor grave doubts about somebody who seems uninterested in reading for pleasure or recreation and whose only interest in her local public library is sniffing round its shelves for books that ought to be removed for expressing impure ideas.

Nor is it snobbish, let alone sexist, to express doubts about someone who, as late as March 2007, could tell Alaska Business Monthly, "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq. I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place." This statement deserves to be called mindless, because, first, it is made up of stale and received and overheard bits and bobs from everyday media babble and, second, because you cannot really coherently say that you support both the administration and an "exit plan." The same vaguely cunning wish to have everything both ways is to be found in her suggestion that both evolution and creationism be taught in our schools. In one way, this seems fair enough—if the Scopes trial is taught in history class, then the views of William Jennings Bryan and those of Clarence Darrow and H.L. Mencken must necessarily be given equal time. But that is not the same as saying that classes in biology or geology be diluted by instruction in what is laughably called "intelligent design." It would be like giving equal time to alchemy and astrology. "You know, don't be afraid of information," as she so winningly phrased it in a gubernatorial debate. "Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

I would like to ask her whether by this she means that creationism ought to be given equal time in science classes. And I have a follow-up: How many years old does the Republican nominee for the vice presidency of the United States believe the Earth to be? There are several other questions I would like to ask her, as, no doubt, would you. Lots of luck with that, because it seems that the Grand Old Party intends to go all the way to Election Day without exposing the No. 2 person on its ticket—the person who would become chief executive if President John McCain succumbed to illness—to a press conference. I have been as fair as possible in quoting Gov. Palin. I have used only sentences from her that make some sort of grammatical sense. It would have been easy enough—and relevant enough—to cite answers that she gave to Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric that appeared to be uttered in no known language.

At numerous rallies where the atmosphere has been, shall we say, a little uncivil, Gov. Palin has accused Sen. Obama of accusing our forces in Afghanistan of simply bombing villages. Only a moment's work is required to discover that the words complained of were never uttered in that form and that they occurred in a speech that stressed the need for more ground troops as opposed to more airstrikes (a recommendation, by the way, that begins to look more sapient each week, at least in respect of the airstrikes). Again, I have a question: Did Palin know that she was telling a lie? Or did her handlers simply assume that she would read anything that was put in front of her, however mendacious? And which would be worse? And when will she issue the needful retraction? There seems no way of putting her in a forum where these points could be raised. So, continued media coverage of her appearances is no better than lending a megaphone to a demagogue, the better to amplify her propaganda.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an honorable man with a high place in the McCain campaign, when asked about Palin's failure to do so much as a Meet the Press appearance, told the Washington Post: "We're asking the American people to pick the next president and vice president, and we do not expect the American people to do so—'Trust me'—blindly. She will have to do what's expected of people in this business. … In countries where that does not happen, I do not want to live." That highly admirable statement was made Sept. 2. Something of McCain's own reputation for honesty and honor is now involved in keeping Sen. Graham's implied promise. If it is not kept, then why should the press and the networks continue to cover a candidate who could, for all we know, be Angela Lansbury?
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2202642/

GOP: Real Voter Registration Fraud

So, for all their nonsense about ACORN, now we have this.
State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. His firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM, collects petition signatures and registers voters in California and other states.

Jacoby's arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department late Saturday came after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by people employed by YPM. The voters said YPM workers tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters.

The firm was paid $7 to $12 for every Californian it registered as a member of the GOP.
Who are the perpetrators of this kind of fraud? Republicans!


Today's Poll From 538

The race is tightening. It may loosen, but now it's tightening. Remember to VOTE!!

The Picture Powell Was Talking About

Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan.

The Bailout: Why Didn't Taxpayers Just Get The Money?

Someone please explain to me why we didn't give the $700 Billion to the citizens? You know, those poor bastards who can't afford anything, like me? If we got the money, we would be out of debt, our mortgages would get paid, we would probably buy some stuff, and the economy would be saved. Right? But instead we are going to trust the morons that got us into this situation in the first place?

Someone explain. Please.

Republicans Steal Elections: Don't Let Them Do It Again

RFK Jr. and Greg Palast have a story in Rolling Stone about how the Republicans are trying to steal this election too. Here is the first paragraph, which should scare you:
These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.
Steal Back Your Vote Video

If you think Obama is going to win in a landslide, shut up about it. We need everyone to vote to offset the attempt by the GOP to steal this election.


Powell Endorses Obama

I predicted it. I don't know how big a deal it is, but I am glad.
The former Bush Secretary of State crosses party lines to endorse Obama, calling him "a transformational figure" who could "not only electrify our country but electrify our world."

Says McCain's Ayers attacks have "gone too far," criticizes McCain's "unsure" response to the economic crisis, and says Gov. Palin is unqualified to be vice president.

Makes the announcement on Sunday's "Meet the Press." Says he plans to vote-- but not campaign-- for Obama.

Says outside the NBC studio: "I think that Sen. Obama brings a fresh set of eyes, a fresh set of ideas to the table.... Sen. Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country."
Update: Some folks are worried about what the endorsement means to certain people, and how they might react:
I fear for this country
By Ron Beasley

No, I'm not afraid Palin/McCain will win, I'm afraid of what will happen when they don't. It was not too surprising that Colin Powell endorsed Obama this morning but what he said was:

[video of MTP; same as above]

As you see is not so much an endorsement of Barack Obama but a condemnation of the current Republican party and the Rovian McCain campaign. Lee Attwater sparked the wildfire that is the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. Karl Rove fanned the flames and the Palin/McCain campaign has been throwing gasoline on the fire.

What passes as the Republican party these days is attempting to do is make the almost inevitable Democratic sweep illigitimate. This from Bilmon :
With the prospect of a bone-crushing election defeat staring them full in the face, the diehard rump of the conservative movement is already busy fashioning a narrative to explain the dissolution of its world -- the one that Ronald Reagan built and that George W. Bush (with an assist from Wall Street) has thoroughly trashed.

And the emerging story line appears to be, roughly, that ACORN did it.

Given the underlying proclivities of the modern conservative movement (Sarah Palin division) we should have understood that sooner or later it would come to something as absurd as this. Failed authoritarian movements needs scapegoats the way fecal coliform bacteria need a steady supply of raw sewage, and this one has a lot of failures that need explaining.

The remarkable thing, of course, is the right's effort to make the ACORN boogie man do double duty: responsible not only for the looming "theft" of American democracy (per John McCain) but also for bringing the US and global financial system to its knees (per any number of conservative quacks economists and cranks pundits).

You have to admit: That's a damned impressive revolutionary track record for an obscure group of community organizers operating on a shoestring budget. I mean, who needs the Red Army when you've got ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act?
So what will this do to Karl Rove's lunatic fringe?
We don't need to hark back to the unfortunate history of a certain Central European country in the 1930s to understand how poisonous this kind of political myth making can become. Powerful elements of the Republican Party and the conservative "movement" aren't just preparing themselves to go into opposition, they're preparing themselves to dispute the legitimacy of an Obama presidency -- in ways that could, if taken to extreme, lead to another Oklahoma City.

It's hard to tell to what degree the GOP high command fully understands or is trying to feed these dynamics (indeed, it's becoming increasingly difficult to even tell who the GOP high command is these days). The last thing I want to do is get into an arms race with the wingnut right when it comes to paranoid conspiracy theories. (That's one race the left will always lose). Still, the recent statements of John McCain and his Bircher-influenced running mate aren't exactly reassuring:
My opponent's answer showed that economic recovery isn't even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to "spread the wealth around."

You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism.
I've been following politics for going on 35 years now, and I don't think I've ever heard a Republican candidate publicly refer to his Democratic opponent as a "socialist" -- not even while hiding behind a cardboard cutout like "Joe the Plumber". This from a man who told the entire nation on Wednesday night that believes an obscure nonprofit group is "perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

Likewise, I don't think there's ever been an American vice presidential candidate who explicitly referred to entire regions of the United States as "pro-American" -- with the clear implication that other regions are something less than "pro-American." Not since the Civil War, anyway.

We've crossed some more lines, in other words -- in a long series of lines that have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party and an explicitly fascist political movement. And John McCain and his political handlers appear to have no moral compunctions whatsoever about whipping this movement into a frenzy and providing it with scapegoats for all that hatred, simply to try to shave a few points off Barack Obama's lead in the polls.

To call this "country first" only works if you assume your opponents (and scapegoats) are not really part of that same country. And we all know where that leads.
Now not all or even most of the Palin/McCain lunatics are going to resort to violence - but it only take a few of them as was demonstrated years ago in Oklahoma City. And we can expect that the Secret Service is going to be very busy trying to keep Barack Obama alive the next few years.
Update II: Powell after the interview on MTP...

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