Friday, October 31, 2008
There are a lot of conservatives casting around these days looking for an explanation of the failure of financial market to apprehend the nature of the risks being undertaken and the consequences thereof. David Brooks is one of them. When David puts on his pseudo-science hat, you can be sure that you are about to be taken for a ride.
Doggone it Spot; you did it again.
Did what, grasshopper?
Mixed a metaphor: pseudo psychoanalysts and chauffeurs.
Just wanted to see if you were listening, grasshopper.
Anyway, here's Brooks' introduction to his lecture on the subject:
Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.
Over the past few centuries, public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important. Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest.
But David is anxious to tell us now that our problem is not that we're irrational, but that we sometimes just don't see things right!
Well, his way, obviously.
What Brooks is describing is the rational man or efficient markets hypothesis. Craig Westover in Sim City. But that idea has been under re-examination for some time now:
Yale's Robert Shiller scoffed at the Efficient Market Hypothesis, commenting after the 1987 crash that the "efficient market hypothesis is the most remarkable error in the history of market theory.
Phillips, Bad Money, Viking Press (2008) pp. 78.
But now, guys like Brooks and his fellow travelers are bustling about looking for an explanation for this latest in a series of market crack-ups that leaves the core of the efficient market hypothesis intact: it was GSEs; it was the Community Reinvestment Act; it was a flock of black swans, whatever.
Brooks winds up his column this way:
If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see “Nudge” by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.
This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.
At this point, boys and girls, we have to take a little detour and take a look at the organizing principle of securities regulation in the United States, certainly going back to the '33 Securities Act and the '34 Exchange Act: disclosure or transparency. Neither the SEC, nor for the most part the state blue sky regulators, pass on the "fairness" of a stock offering. They are quite concerned about the accuracy of the disclosures made about a security at the time of its issue, and those made about the operation of the business of a company whose securities are publicly traded thereafter.
Spot doesn't think there will be - or ought to be - serious proposals to put the government into the fairness business for securities. But it does need to get into the transparency business in a bigger way.
Hedge funds, private equity, leverage factories, MBS, CDO, derivatives including credit default swaps (thanks Uncle Phil!) amount to what is called a "shadow banking system" with little oversight or transparency.
But David Brooks is trying to scare you, boys and girls, by implying that the government might get into the micro-economic decision-making business is a big way. That's paranoia or demagoguery.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Come as your favorite politician, pundit, or even blogger. Actually any costume is fine. Or no costume, but you won't have nearly as much fun. Regular time: six to nine or so, regular place: 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis.
Think of it this way: you can come to the Drinking Liberally party tonight, and still be there when the little vandals come to your door tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Spot told you, boys and girls, that we were going to have some fun with this one. You'll remember that Spot has been asking, inter alia, King Banaian for a comment about Alan Greenspan's remarks before a U.S. House oversight panel.
More like goading, don't you think, Spot?
Whatever. Anyway, we did get something yesterday: Markets boo-boo, and so does government.
The professor is apparently too stricken to formulate his own response, so he quotes one:
Alan Greenspan thought that banks would never put themselves in a position where they might go bankrupt. Investment houses would never take on too much risk. After all, that could mean disaster and the threat of disaster should encourage prudence. And yet, many banks and investment houses evidently did take on too much risk. The incentives failed.
I too am surprised at how imprudent they were. Did they miscalculate? Trust the ratings agencies too much? Misread the systemic risk if other firms failed? Did they fail to appreciate the bite of mark-to-market accounting rules that the government required? Or perhaps, this whole incentive thing that is at the root of capitalism, the profit and loss system that incentivizes firms is overrated. People are impulsive and make systematic errors[.] [italics are Spot's]
Meanwhile, I keep coming back to this quote:“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms."And the alternative? What should protect the shareholders? The altruism of regulators?
This is the closest that the professor has probably ever come to an existential crisis. Can't you see the professor out late at night on the deserted streets of St. Cloud, walking his dog Milton, and muttering "My Precious. My Precious Markets!" Tragic, really.
It is quite amusing to Spot that the professor can't say, as he does in his post title, that "markets boo-boo" without immediately adding "and so does government." Nah nah.
Spot is reminded of the Fonz trying to say that he was wwrroooooooooonnngg.
But never mind "protecting the shareholders" for a moment. What about all the counter parties and the public? By adopting the quoted material, the professor seems to be saying that the only parties who are stakeholders here are the shareholders. But that is manifestly not so.
Remember, banks and other financial institutions have separate legal existence, limited liability for the shareholders, insurance for their depositers, and access to public capital markets. They exist and function only because of the government.
Doesn't the government do that just so the shareholders can get rich, Spotty?
Well grasshopper, that's what Uncle Alan and the professor apparently believe. But it should be obvious that many more parties than just the shareholders benefit from a stable banking system. It is these parties that Spot hopes that Henry Paulson is thinking about in this bailout.
Mitch tells us this morning about a huge and inspiring rally at Orchestra Hall last night. He explains how a "planeload of terrorists" could have wiped out Minnesota conservatism if it had hit the green room:
At one point, I was sitting with Senator Coleman, Governor Pawlenty, Representative Bachmann, candidates Erik Paulsen (who will be a guest on the NARN this weekend), Barb Davis-White and Ed Matthews, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager and James Lileks, talking about the campaign locally and nationwide.
Mitch feels much better now; he loved the size of the rally and its energy:
No lack of energy [in the crowd]. Sorry, Sorosphere; after weeks of declaring the election already won, it’s just not sinking in with all of us plumbers and hockey moms. Suffice to say that even if Mac loses, 2010 is going to make 1994 look like a Camp Wellstone sing-along.
Here's a picture from the rally:
Spot is sure it was truly memorable. Nothing like a good rally to get the bile up.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
This coming Thursday night, Halloween Eve, so to speak, will be the (first) annual Drinking Liberally Halloween party at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis. You are invited, nay advised, to come in some kind of a costume as your favorite (for whatever reason) politician, pundit, or even blogger, from today or from days of yore. It certainly doesn't have to be elaborate; it might even be more fun if we have to guess who you are.
Regular time: six to nine or so.
And for the obsessive-compulsive types who like to plan ahead: DL will be on Tuesday next week - Election Day. More details to follow.
Well, okay, that's a little presumptuous. But Spot did say a few days ago:
We call all hope, boys and girls, that the Treasury does more than admonish the banks about their new funds, a la Dolly Levi. Or leave it up to the Invisible Hand!
Well, apparently, Treasury is not actually, you know, requiring the banks to lend the money they receive out to thirsty borrowers. Krugman today:
It was good news when Mr. Paulson finally agreed to funnel capital into the banking system in return for partial ownership. But last week Joe Nocera of The Times pointed out a key weakness in the U.S. Treasury’s bank rescue plan: it contains no safeguards against the possibility that banks will simply sit on the money. “Unlike the British government, which is mandating lending requirements in return for capital injections, our government seems afraid to do anything except plead.” And sure enough, the banks seem to be hoarding the cash.
Maybe what we need is an Invisible Foot to give the banks a swift kick in the butt!
Yes we have, your Honor.
What says the jury?
Guilty as hell, your Honor:
WASHINGTON — Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate’s history and a figure of enormous influence in his state, was found guilty on Monday of violating ethics laws for failing to report gifts and services that he was given by friends.
A federal jury of eight women and four men from the District of Columbia found that the 84-year-old Mr. Stevens, who has represented Alaska in the Senate for more than 40 years, knowingly failed to list on Senate disclosure forms the receipt of several gifts and tens of thousands of dollars worth of remodeling work on his home in Girdwood, Alaska.
The verdict came just eight days before the senator is to face re-election and after more than three weeks of testimony, the highlight of which was Mr. Stevens making the calculated risk of taking the witness stand in his own defense. As the verdict was announced, the senator remained composed and stared at the ceiling while his lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, put his arm around him.
And by the way, Brendan Sullivan is a helluva lawyer. He delivered Spot's favorite lawyer line of all time, in response to a complaint that he objected too much: "Well, sir, I'm not a potted plant. I'm here as the lawyer. That's my job." He was representing Ollie North in front of a Senate Committee at the time, but never mind. Chances are, Senator Stevens got the best defense possible. Spot wouldn't look for any reversals on the grounds of inadequate counsel.
Being convicted on seven - Spot believes they are all felony - counts eight days before an election can't be helpful. Digby called the conviction and its timing a coda to the end of corrupt big-money Republican rule.
Spot thinks of it as more of a stinger.
Spot is really glad that he found the Minnesota Free Market Institute; it's a sure-fire cure for writer's block! For example:
Maybe as a Halloween warm up for scaring the kids on his block, Davey Strom tells us that we will drown in a sea of public debt. Yes drown, he says:
Have you been worried about the financial crisis the past few months? Well if the chaos in the credit markets has had you spooked, the looming fiscal disaster should have you positively terrified.
The financial crisis has been riveting to watch, and it has captured all of our attention. Unfortunately focusing on the budget deficit and the growing unfunded liabilities of the government is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
In the long run though Americans should be much more concerned about the fact that over the past few decades our government has created a fiscal time bomb that is getting harder and harder to defuse. Rapidly rising government spending and the increasing liabilities of Medicare and Social Security have already put Americans more than $53 trillion in the hole as of the end of last year. That amounts to $175,000 for every man, woman and child in America. And that doesn’t include all the new liabilities added to the books over the past few months in response to the financial crisis.
Davey is talking, of course, about accrued liability, which is the true way to reckon these things, but it is not like the dinner you just ate but don't have the cash for the tab. Davey doesn't tell us what assumptions are in his figures: is he calculating out into an infinite future? What doe he assume about life expectancies, medical costs, population changes, tax collections, etc. Davey undoubtedly got his number from a right-wing Mount Olympus somewhere. We will certainly have to figure out how to raise some additional money, trim benefits, or both, but that can and will be done.
But $53 trillion over the long, long term? Pocket change, Davey. For something a little more immediate to worry about, consider this:
This chart is from Phillips' new book Bad Money. The big spike that you see is the Depression. Over on the right side? That's now. The legend on the left is "Total credit market debt as a share of the U.S. gross domestic product." As you can see, the percentage held pretty steady at under 150% from after WWII, through the Vietnam War and up until the middle 80s when it went totally freakin' crazy.
The chart includes both private and public debt, but the private side is the one that has really grown; pay particular attention to the "Total household" and "Federal government" lines:
Americans are in hock up to, and in a lot of cases over, their eyeballs. Phillips attributes this to the "financialization" of the economy that began in the 80s with Reagan Administration's deregulation mania. It seemed like a good idea for a while, but the chickens are coming home to roost. The DOW is down over twenty percent from its high of just a year ago and credit markets are frozen.
Unlike the unfunded liability that Davey laments, the private debt described above is current, or will be if you miss a couple of payments. This is why Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke are hyperventilating.
When Davey tells you, boys and girls, that the long term fiscal crisis is bigger than the current financial crisis, he's full of something, and it isn't necessarily merely hot air.
Davey's post is just part of the continuing conservative canard to destroy what's left of the New Deal. Not only is that a bad idea, but we're gonna need a new New Deal very soon.
The U.S. military has warned Iraq that it will shut down military operations and other vital services throughout the country on Jan. 1 if the Iraqi government doesn't agree to a new agreement on the status of U.S. forces or a renewed United Nations mandate for the American mission in Iraq.
Many Iraqi politicians view the move as akin to political blackmail, a top Iraqi official told McClatchy Sunday.
In addition to halting all military actions, U.S. forces would cease activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas _ "everything" _ said Tariq al Hashimi, the country's Sunni Muslim vice president. "I didn't know the Americans are rendering such wide-scale services."
The article goes on to indicate that one of the biggest sticking points isn't Iraqi oil revenues or purple thumbs or women's right or democracy or when US troops leave or future bases in the country; it's immunity from prosecution for private contractors in the country who have been accused of killing Iraqi citizens.
You can't make this stuff up.
Ashley Todd set off a pretty specific dog whistle:
As Greg Sargent reported yesterday, McCain Pennsylvania communications director Peter Feldman pushed reporters on a highly incendiary version of Todd's hoax -- providing reporters with quotes from the fictitious attacker and telling them the the "B" scratched on Todd's face stood for "Barack." As the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson aptly put it, Feldman's actions showed "not just a willingness to believe it but an eagerness to incite a ... racial backlash against the Obama campaign."Sometimes the music says more about the listener than the composer.
Our reporting did not find any direct evidence that the McCain campaign's national headquarters played a role pushing the story.
However, the national campaign has now come forward and lied about what happened in Pennsylvania. McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers has now told NBC that alleged quotes from the McCain campaign in early reports of the story were actually the product of "sloppy reporting" and that they were actually quotes from the Pittsburgh police.
This is simply not credible.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Alan Greenspan testified on Thursday that the entire intellectual edifice of market fundamentalism had been stripped away.
Still nothing from King Banaian, Davey Strom, Captain Fishsticks, or Mitch Berg on the blogs about it. You'd think we'd have gotten some fog and blast, some denial or weaselry.
Or maybe ritual seppuku.
When Mr. Sponge put up a video several days ago of McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer opining that John McCain candidacy would resonate in the "real Virginia" away from the suburbs of D.C., Spot thought to himself, "Boy, that woman sounds familiar."
It took Frank Rich's column today to put it together:
That would be in 2006 [during the campaign], when he capsized his own shoo-in re-election race by calling a 20-year-old Indian-American “macaca” before a white audience (and a video camera). “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia,” Allen told the young Democratic campaign worker for good measure, in a precise preview of the playbook that has led John McCain and Sarah Palin to their tawdry nadir two years later.
Cut to 2008. You’d think that this incident would be a cautionary tale, but the McCain campaign instead embraced Allen as a role model, with Palin’s odes to “real” and “pro-America” America leading the charge. The farcical apotheosis of this strategy arrived last weekend, again on camera and again in Virginia, when a McCain adviser, Nancy Pfotenhauer, revived Allen’s original script, literally, during an interview on MSNBC.
After dismissing the Northern Virginia suburbs, she asserted that the “real Virginia” — the part of the state “more Southern in nature” — will prove “very responsive” to the McCain message. All Pfotenhauer left out was “macaca,” but with McCain calling Barack Obama’s tax plan “welfare” and campaign surrogates (including the robo-calling Rudy Giuliani) linking the Democrat to violent, Willie Horton-like criminality, that would have been redundant.
Of course! Nancy Pfotenhauer is kind of a Halloween reincarnation of the venomous George Allen. Let's watch the video again and see if you seen the resemblance, boys and girls:
JRoosh, the new deep thinker over at Shot in the Dark, sits in the doctor's examination room. The room is chilly, and "J" as he is known to his friends, shivers in the flimsy gown with the open back. His bare butt sticks to the vinyl examination table, his feet swinging free, and "J" wonders how may other a**holes - no pun intended - have been parked in the same spot.
J had a routine physical a few weeks ago, and the doctor had, well, fingered an enlarged prostate. He had a PSA test, and J's doctor had made a concerned call to J to tell him that his PSA number was "to the moon." Now, J had come in for some tests and is awaiting the results.
Dr. Pawlenty opens the door and walks into the room wearing a frown. This conversation ensues:
TP: Well, J, I'm afraid I do have bad news. As suspected, you have early stage prostate cancer.
JR: That is bad news. It could be worse, though, right?
TP: I'm afraid it's fatal; it always is. You have some time, but you should start getting your affairs in order.
JR: FATAL? What do you mean, fatal? Jesus Christ, you just told me it was early stage.
TP: Yes, but these things have a way of progressing you know! Did you know that Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer? His was early stage once, too.
JR: You mean that you don't propose to do ANYTHING?
TP: Well, it is the way you were designed, so to speak. That's hardly my fault!
JR: Doc, I don't blame you for the fact that I have cancer, but I do expect you to do something about it. I'm paying you, or at least I hope my insurance company is, to make me better.
TP: Why can't you accept this as one of those black swans that King Banaian is so fond of blathering about?
JR: I can't believe this conversation.
TP: Well, you must believe it. Acceptance is part of making your final days as good as they can be.
JR: There must be something we can do.
TP: I have a suggestion. Why don't you buy a tanning bed, so that you can be the glowing picture of health, almost right up until the end?
JR: That's it?
TP: It's all I've got.
JR: [sobbing] How much time have I got, Doc?
It is a shame that our friend J doesn't have a better doctor. It is also a shame that that Minnesota doesn't have a better governor. But today, J trumpets what he calls the vindication of Governor Pepsodent on the bridge fiasco. As if.
The article in the Strib that J refers to is in the paper today. The headline? I-35W bridge was doomed from the start. It was a design defect!
We are, of course, all doomed from the start. But that doesn't means we don't get physicals, submit to humiliating examinations, and pay the medical profession to try to keep us healthy.
In the case of the bridge, the Pawlenty administration also fingered the whopper, got the test results, and opted for the cosmetic solution.
And the partisan coroner's inquest exonerates Doctor Pawlenty. What a surprise.
If you ever happen to call for anti-American investigations on national TV, and you find yourself having to explain or apologize to the American public, do not--I repeat--do not make your quasi mea culpa crazier than what got you in trouble in the first place.
Once again our nation is at a crossroads and it is a time for choosing. We could embrace government as an answer for our problems, or we can choose freedom and liberty. I may not always get my words right but I know that my heart is right because my heart is for you, for your children, and for the blessings of liberty to remain for our great country.You may be wondering a few things. Let me help:
- Yes, she frequently gets her words wrong. Thoughts too.
- No, freedom and liberty are not at odds with our American style of governance.
- Yes, Michele Bachmann is a member of the government. She can even make laws.
- No, El Tinklenberg's is not a selfish, child-hating, Russia-loving goon.
- Yes, she really is saying that she should be given a second chance because she tries super-duper hard.
So, to recap: Michele Bachmann was caught on tape saying some crazy things that were both scripted to a message and directly from her heart. First, she denied saying such things and when that didn't hold up she then claimed that she was trapped into converting her carefully scripted and heartfelt thoughts into carefully scripted and heartfelt spoken words (while finding the time to take a few swipes at the biased media and their "double standards"). When this didn't work she went on the Hugh Hewitt and Mike Gallagher GOP radio shows and repeated large chunks of her original heartfelt craziness. Not surprisingly this approach didn't work every well either. (Please keep in mind that throughout all of these bumbling calculations, Mrs. Bachmann's heart was always...always in the right place.) Her next (and last?) approach to this crisis at the crossroads was the little ad you see above. It's not an apology and it really doesn't even approach the communicative level of a mimed explanation, but there it is: unapologetically heartfelt and entirely disconnected from the words that escaped her lips on the Chris Matthews' Show.
Remember, this new approach is being trotted out after her campaign has had days to think about exactly what they should say. The ad was pre-recorded and I'm sure they had time to make everything right, from the lighting to the script. With all of this in mind, it is nothing short of stunning that her message appears to be as follows: Dear members of the 6th district, it is very likely that I will do and say some very, very stupid--if not downright crazy--things during these dangerous and transformational times. However, you should know that no matter how much I may screw up, I love you, your children, and America more than the other guy.
2nd note to self: If you ever attempt to make an apology or explain away your call for anti-American investigations, it's probably best that you don't frame your message in terms of who loves apple pie and liberty the most.
That is all,
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Spot cruised around the blogs a little while ago, and there is still nothing from Captain Fishsticks, Davey Strom, King Banaian, or Mitch Berg about Alan Greenspan's remarks stripping away the entire intellectual facade of market fundamentalism.
Is it too soon to start calling their manhood into question, Spot?
Well, maybe a little grasshopper, but soon.
Power Line: she used to shoot her clothes, but now the RNC buys them for her:
The last 24 hours have been consumed by a media feeding frenzy over the fact that the Republican National Committee spent approximately $150,000 on clothes and makeup for Sarah Palin and her family. This is being peddled as though it were some kind of scandal. As a threshold matter, one wonders why: it's not as though tax dollars were being wasted. Why is it anyone's business?
It isn't, actually. For what it's worth, the clothes don't belong to Palin, they belong to the RNC, and when the campaign is over they most likely will be auctioned off at a profit. So why are our reporters so obsessed with this pathetic non-story?
Why are they not concerned with how much money Joe Biden spent on his hair-plugs? Why haven't they breathlessly told us how much money Hillary Clinton's wardrobe, plus her cosmetic surgery and Botox, cost? Why haven't they focused on Barack Obama's wardrobe? His clothes are so stylish that he was on the cover of GQ: [photo]
[wringing paws] Oh, why or why, indeed, Power Line boyz?
The Power Line boyz say it's because the others are rich. In other words, they used their own money. Spot thought that Republicans would think this is a good thing!
And come on, RNC, give her the clothes. Kind of a consolation prize. For Miss Congeniality.
Michele, I want to talk to you.
I'm kinda busy right now, Lord. Maybe later?
Sigh. Okay. But I do have to run and tape a campaign commercial.
I know. That's what I want to talk to you about. Look, I know you're going to give a "mistakes were made; I was misunderstood; I'm sorry" with my fingers crossed kind of an apology. Don't do it.
Do you know what "compounding the felony means," Michele?
It means making a situation worse by lying about it?
Close enough. Your remarks about Barack Obama - who I am endorsing for President by the way; look for the announcement shortly; I'm working up some extra bright sunshine for the presser - on Hardball that Barack is anti-American was a perfect statement of what you believe. Why mess it up with a mealy-mouthed apology? Nobody will believe it, and it will just dispirit your remaining supporters.
But I am sorry, Lord.
Sure, you're sorry that you doused yourself with gasoline and then flicked your Bic, but you dont' really take your comments back. You've repeated them. I've written about false witness; I'm sure you're familiar with the lines.
But I have no choice, Lord!
Of course you do; it's called free will. Although you're hardly a poster child for the concept right now.
O Lord, my Lord! What should I do?
I recommend putting your head between you knees and kis . . . . Well, never mind that. But I do think I'll let you sweat this one out on your own. I'll check back a week from Wednesday to see how you made out.
It marks the end of an era. Alan Greenspan, the maestro, defender of the market fundamentalist faith, champion of deregulation, celebrator of exotic banking inventions, admitted Thursday in a hearing before Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Committee and Oversight and Government Reform that he got it wrong. Wearing rough sack cloth and sooty with ash, Greenspan was blanched. [All right. Spot made that last sentence up.]
“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he said.
As to the fantasy that banks could regulate themselves, that markets self-correct, that modern risk management enforced prudence: “The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year.”
A Republican committee member tossed Greenspan a life ring called the "Community Reinvestment Act," but Uncle Alan was too weary and shocked to take a hold of it. He'd lost the will to live.
Or: Exciting the lizard brain VI
In his earlier post about Katie this week, Spot promised that he would write about Katie's column expressing horror that Al Franken was mean to Christians. Spot sees that in the meantime that Thomasin Franken, Al's daughter, has penned a thoughtful and charming sketch of her dad in response that ran in the Strib today. In it, she took, of course, the high road.
As you know, boys and girls, Spot does not feel similarly constrained.
Spot notes right off the bat that Katie engaged in some wide-ranging research to write this column. Either that, or there is a pipe that runs from some Republican oppo research outfit directly into Katie's skull.
The smart money is on the latter.
Katie has gotten a hold of a list of complaints about Franken's disrespect of Christians and Catholics in particular. Spot's favorites:
In 2006, he and a guest on his Air America radio show joked about Eucharistic communion wafers -- sacred to Catholics as the body of Christ -- and compared them to chips and guacamole. In "Dog Confessional," a proposed sketch for Saturday Night Live, Franken depicted "a series of dogs, played by cast members, confessing to a priest," according to the Washington Post. NBC refused to air it.
How do you know about "Dog Confessional," Katie? Did you meet
Loren Lorne Michaels [Spot defers to his cultural betters] in a darkened bar somewhere and ply him with scotch?
Never mind that humor about conversations in the confessional has been around for a long, long time. And Spot has to admit, for perhaps obvious reasons, that he finds eavesdropping on dogs making confessions to be an achingly funny idea.
Katie does a full "Donohue" about Al's bit about communion crackers, too. While the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, it doesn't promise that some of the truly magical thinking aspects of religion won't be mocked. And Spot is sorry, Katie; the idea of transubstantiation is eminently mockable. Even by people reared Catholic. Frank McCourt's recitation of communion stories in Angela's Ashes are priceless, as is Pat Conroy's description of the catechism lesson on the proper way to chew Jesus in The Great Santini.
Katie's also huffy about Al's relic joke:
Franken finds Christ's crucifixion to be a barrel of laughs. For example, in his 1999 book, "Why Not Me?" he wrote about his discovery -- as a fictional former president -- of "the complete skeleton of Jesus Christ still nailed to the cross" during an archeological dig. At the Franken Presidential Library gift shop, visitors can buy "small pieces of Jesus' skeleton."
The Catholic church was the market maker in bone fragments, pieces of the cross, and other assorted relics for centuries. It seems a little churlish to complain when somebody satirizes it now.
At the bottom of all of Katie's fussing and fuming is the ugly intimation that Al Franken, the Jew, cannot represent Christians. Never mind that Norm Coleman is also a Jew; he's a respectful Jew who doesn't ruffle Christian feathers: a good Jew.
In addition to appealing to religious bigotry at a pretty reptilian level, Katie does a tragic disservice to the concept of democracy in a pluralistic society, certainly in American society. The Constitution is very explicit that no religious test may be applied to holding public office. Spot doesn't believe the Founders were in favor of people just electing people who had the same religious beliefs as the voter.
Katie is suggesting a religious test here, or at least making a religious smear. Spot condemns it, and he think you should too, boys and girls.
It's not in the best interests of the GOP for all of eligible voters to cast ballots. We know that, and we are going to see what lengths they'll go to this year to try to raise suspicions about the electoral process and the legitimacy of the results. Unless, of course, they win.
In that vein, the Rochester Democrat recently had a story about an email sent out by the campaign of Erik Paulsen, candidate for Minnesota's Third Congressional District. In the email, the campaign is recruiting poll watchers… but not to help people vote:
Your job is three fold: observe, deter, challenge. 1) You are there to observe the general goings on at the poll and assist the Election Judges as another set of eyes and ears that can watch for misconduct at the polls. 2) You are there to deter ineligible voters from voting. Plain and simple, your presence in the polling place while not deterring everyone who wants to commit voter fraud will stop at least some people. 3) You are there to challenge voters who may be ineligible. Through the one-hour training session, I will teach you about the situations where you may be in position to challenge a voter as ineligible. (Emphasis ours)
That’s right, Observe, deter, and challenge. Not help. Not assist. Not assure voting rights for all Minnesotans, but to take whatever steps can be taken to deter voters and challenge voters.
This is about at clear a signal as I've seen that the Minnesota Republican Party (which is the only organization that can appoint GOP poll watchers – Paulsen's campaign can't) is planning on mounting frivolous challenges and trying to gum up the system and make lines long, all in a coordinated attempt to intimidate citizens and deter voting.
Four years ago, we watched as the Minnesota Republican Party shipped in out-of-state poll challengers who stood inside polls on reservations, challenging voters because they "didn’t look like Americans." We saw GOP appointed challengers stand up and challenge every voter in line at one precinct claiming that each and every one of them "looked mentally deficient." Precincts where students voted were especially hard hit, where challengers did whatever they could to repeatedly raise unfounded reasons to try to keep them from voting.
Laws have changed since then, but it's clear that Republicans haven't abandoned their old tricks. Erik Paulsen's email to supporters demonstrates a shocking level of fear of the very people he says he wants to represent in Congress.
Why does Eric Paulsen hate America?
Ever since Uncle Alan had his road to Damascus experience in a House committee room yesterday, Spot has been watching the websites of Shot in the Dark, SCSU Scholars, and the Minnesota Free Market Institute, looking for a reaction. As the title suggests, there is none as of mid-morning on Friday.
Spot assumes it will take a while for these Three Marketeers to process the event.
Think of Jesus Christ coming back and saying, "Aw, shucks, I was just an ordinary fella."
There are only a couple of possible responses to the news that Uncle Alan has admitted that unregulated capitalism has come a cropper.
First, and probably the smartest - and the least likely - is to fold up their tents and go (or stay) home.
Second, Greenspan can be denounced as a traitor and and counter-revolutionary who must be exiled to a re-education camp for as long as it takes for him to rediscover the light.
And lastly, and Spot believes this is what will actually happen, the Three Marketeers could take the "he was misquoted" line, and try to dissemble their way out it. This could provide hours of entertainment for Spot, and for you, boys and girls.
Let's wait and see what happens.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
From the New York Times:
Facing a firing line of questions from Washington lawmakers, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman once considered the infallible maestro of the financial system, admitted on Thursday that he “made a mistake” in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight.
18-year tenure at the Fed’s helm, Mr. Greenspan has faced mounting criticism this year for having refused to consider cracking down on credit derivatives, an unchecked market whose excesses partly led to the current financial crisis.
Uncle Alan has just repudiated the central organizing principle, the raison d'être, the Prime Directive, the . . .
As usual Spot, we get it.
All right. Sorry, Sticks, Davey, and King; Spot thinks we'll be installing some fetters for the economy now.
Spot also understands that Milton Friedman has been recalled from the grave by the House Committee on Government Oversight to come and explain himself.
A new independent poll shows Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) leading his opponent by only five points, just a week after he suggested residents of western Pennsylvania are racist.
Forty-six percent of voters in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district said they supported Murtha, while 41 percent voiced support for his Republican challenger, retired Army Lt. Col. Bill Russell. Eight percent of voters said they were undecided, 4 percent said they preferred another candidate, and 1 percent refused to answer.
If this is what it takes to get this corrupt SOB out of Congress, so be it. I wonder if there is any way the citizens of Pennsylvania and Minnesota can make a pact to rid themselves of their respective embarrassments. At this point in the game, the continued service of both reps is a stain on the civic pride of both states. Murtha has a long history of corruption and general boobery and Bachmann...well, since calling for anti-American investigations on the Chris Matthews program, she has a) denied saying what she clearly said, b) blamed Chris Matthews for making her say what she clearly said, and c) appeared on Hugh Hewitt and Mike Gallagher's radio programs to repeat what she clearly said. At least she's taking the opportunity to show the state who her true friends are:
Mr. Strom apparently thinks those words will have a comforting effect on voters. I think it's rather obvious that Mr. Strom and Mrs. Bachmann hold the people of the 6th district in very low regard. Like Murtha, if Mrs. Bachmann is the best that her district can produce, than maybe folks like Davey are right: maybe she actually represents idiocy and fear. Somehow I doubt it.
But many Republicans warn against counting out Bachmann too soon. David Strom of the Minnesota Free Market Institute, who stood with Bachmann during the Forest Lake event, said he doesn't see the controversy translating into a defeat for Bachmann. Strom said despite the commotion, Bachmann still has many like-minded constituents in the 6th district.
"At the end of the day Bachmann fits the district very well," Strom said. "And I don't think that most of the people in the district think she's so far out on the extreme, because she actually represents where most people in the district actually are."
UPDATE: Bachmann continues to lie while expecting that her constituents will swallow her line of BS. My God, let's take Davey at his word and say that the 6th district is a conservative wonderland. It should then follow that there is no shortage of conservative candidates who could be trotted out in 2 years and who would be able to perform their duties without calling for McCarthy-esque investigations into the beliefs of their fellow Americans. It should also be pointed out that Bachmann is deserving of no pity for her sick performance. As her subsequent stints on Hewitt and Gallagher make clear, she was spot-on message during her appearance on Hardball. She honestly believes that Barack Obama likely holds anti-American views. Like any good movement conservative, she has put her foot down hard on the victimhood pedal since drawing unwanted attention to herself and the race. If she wins, you can imagine that she will view the victimhood (and the crazy ideas in her head) as being completely validated. Folks, this is one of those moments were you have to put your foot down. Here she is on Mike Gallagher (highlights and font changes are mine):
"What are Barack Obama's policies?" Bachmann said on the show. "Are they for America or will they be against traditional American ideals and values? [Barack Obama's policies have] nothing to do with traditional American values."
She's saying the same thing. You can make believe that "traditional" means something different to those in the pro-American parts of Real Virginia than it does to us city-dwelling liberal heathens, but it doesn't. This is America, period, and the only anti-American sentiment in this entire little escapade is coming from the congresswoman's own mouth. You have to ask yourself: What exactly is she backtracking from? Why is the NRCC pulling money out of the race? Why does she feel the need to tell one crowd that she was tricked into saying what she said while telling another that she misspoke? Why does she tell yet another crowd the same thing she said on Matthews' show in the first place? Who can keep track of all of her stories? How stupid does she think her constituents are that they can't put 2 and 2 together? If she is reelected, exactly what lines could possibly be crossed in future elections to make a candidate unelectable? Folks, that's what this is about. Bachmann has set the bar for reelection hopelessly low. If she clears it...well, I ask again: What type of behavior is considered unelectable?
UPDATE ii: The disease spreads. Here's a GOP Rep from NC saying that "liberals" hate "real Americans."
Like Bachmann, he denied ever having said such a thing even though he was caught on tape. He claims his remarks were taken "out of context." I claim he thinks his constituents are stupid. Ooops...it now looks like he has backed down since the audio has been released. He now claims that his remarks were merely a good-natured attempt to keep the crowd "as respectful as possible." Seriously. This man is in Congress. Maybe we can add him to the MN/PA Murtha/Bachmann pact.
UPDATE iii: I'll repeat what I wrote in a post about a week ago:
When radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt tell their audiences that voting for Obama will literally get them killed; and when guys like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity go on and on about Barry Hussein Obama's supposed association with terrorists; and when the McCain campaign itself resorts to a strategy that paints Obama as a socialist Other who literally doesn't see America in the same way that good folks like John, Cindy, Sarah, and Todd do; how is it a surprise that GOP voters are putting 2 + 2 together by expressing fear and anger that the damn terrorist black Muslim might get elected?UPDATE iv: The following email just arrived in my inbox from some friends who attend a mega church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Bachmann's ridiculous statements are just another version of the sickness:
Let me answer this for you in no uncertain terms: It is not a surprise that the GOP base is behaving this way. It is not a surprise that a constituency which has been the target of 8+ years of non reality-based drivel has suddenly woke up in a country that has two trillion-dollar mistakes, a drowned city, and all-around corruption; and that they can only bring themselves to point their fingers at the only villain they truly know: f'ing liberals.
After hours and hours of right wing radio telling them how liberals want to hand their country over to their pals, Al Qaeda; and after hours and hours of reading right wing books telling them about how liberals want to take their money and teach sex to their kindergarteners; let me ask you again: How is it a surprise that the GOP base is behaving like this?
Please send this to everyone on your mailing list, we have to stop Obama. Our country is at risk.....he is a fast talker, a good speaker and from watching the DNC convention I would say many Americans are being sucked in....so, do pay attention and for goodness sakes help save this country.
Subject: Missionaries in Kenya know Obama
Celeste and Loren Davis are Missionaries in Africa and can shed some firsthand light on Obama.
Thanks for sending out an alert about Obama. We are living and working in Kenya for almost twelve years now and know his family (tribe) well. They are the ones who were behind the recent Presidential election chaos here. Thousands of people have been displaced by election violence (over 350,000) and I don't know the last count of the dead.
Obama, under 'friends of Obama' gave almost a million dollars to the opposition campaign who just happened to be his cousin, Raila Odinga, who is a socialist trained in east Germany. He has been trying to bring Kenya down for years and the last president threw him in prison for trying to subvert this country! December 27th elections brought cries from ODM (Odinga Camp) of rigged election.
Obama and Raila speak daily. As we watch Obama rise in the US we are sure that whatever happens, he will use the same tactic, crying rigged election if he doesn't win, and possibly cause a race war in America.
What we would like you to know is what the American press has been keeping a dirty little secret. Obama IS a Muslim and he IS a racist and this is a fulfillment of the 9-11 threat that was just the beginning. Jihad is the only true Muslim way. We know this because we have been working with them for 20 years this July!
Obama is not an American as we know it. Please encourage your friends and associates not to be taken in by those that are promoting him. It is worldwide Jihad. All our friends in Europe are very disturbed by the Muslim infiltration into their countries.
By the way, his true name is Barak Hussein Muhammed Obama. Won't that sound sweet to our enemies as they swear him in on the Koran!?
God Bless you.
Pray for us here in Kenya . We are still fighting for our nation to withstand the same kind of assault that every nation, including America , is fighting. Takeover from the outside to fit the new world order. As believers, this means we will be the first targets. Here in Kenya , not one mosque was burned down, but hundreds of churches were burned down, some with people in them, burned alive.
Jesus Christ is our peace, but the new world order of Globalism has infiltrated the church and confused believers into thinking that they can compromise and survive. It won't be so. I will send you a newsletter we sent out in February documenting in a more cohesive manner what I've tried to say in a few paragraph.
Why would we take a risk with Obama when there's a American hero with a lifetime of service to this country? John McCain has proven by his actions that he has the best interest of America at heart! Obama has only talked and my Mama always told me, "Actions speak louder than words!" Get out there and vote - don't let November 4 slip by without your voice being heard!
Don't think for one second that when politicians like Michele Bachmann and John McCain "innocently" ask "Who is the real Barack Obama?" that they don't know exactly what the answer is and where it comes from. The answer to this question has been brewing in right wing churches, emails, and on GOP talk radio for 2 years. Who is he? He's an anti-American black Muslim socialist who pals around with terrorists. Bachmann knew exactly what she was doing on the Chris Matthews program. Her only fault was appearing on a show where the audience wasn't up to date on their GOP prep work.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In recent days, the Cucking Stool has gotten many referrals from Dump Michele Bachmann, and particularly for Spot's series A Michele Argosy, a touching story of the possession, exorcism, and, er, redemption of Michele Bachmann.
A thump of the tail to the whole DB crew.
Katherine Kersten, the lizard-skinned sack of choler, grudge, and resentment, has really aired it out this week. In the interest of time, boys and girls, we'll do a two-fer.
First was Bar association panel paving the way for gay marriage. This one was written in the same key as "We've Got Trouble" from the Music Man, although Spot doesn't know if Katie was wearing a striped blazer and a straw boater when she turned in the column to Doug Tice. One almost hopes so.
Katie feels faint because, well, we'll let Katie tell it:
Below the radar, the groundwork is being laid to change the meaning of marriage in Minnesota.
The new "Rights of Unmarried Couples Task Force" of the Minnesota State Bar Association is the latest step in this process.
Here's how the Bar Association defined the task force's mission: "In light of the disparity between legal rights and protections available to same-sex couples as compared to different-sex couples," the task force will "review the current state of Minnesota law and ... make recommendations as to desirable changes, if any, in the law to address this disparity."
Leave it to the lawyers to think of such a thing! And what about that radical Minnesota State Bar Association flying under the radar like that. Diabolical.
Here's what Katie fears:
Now, however, it's clear that these legislative attempts [in California and Connecticut] at fairness have backfired. In the past few months, the Supreme Courts in both California and Connecticut have struck down their state's domestic partnership or civil unions law as unconstitutional under their state constitutions, and have required that marriage be redefined to include same-sex couples.
Shriek! Shriek! Shriek!
Boy, those gays! Give them and inch and pretty soon they want to be treated like anybody else! The nerve of some people.
What lessons should we draw from the sad experiences Katie recites?
States that want to protect their traditional marriage laws can draw two lessons:
First, if they have a domestic partnership or civil union law, they should repeal it. A court might find it unconstitutional.
Second, these states should not pass laws that give gay couples benefits similar to those of marriage. If they do, a court may find that they have created an unequal, two-tiered system of partnership, and may impose same-sex marriage as a result.
This is the context in which we must evaluate the work of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Unmarried Couples task force.
Yes, context is everything, Katie; just ask Michele Bachmann.
Spot says the lesson the state should draw is that they ought not be half hearted about equal protection. So-called "domestic partner" legislation is a tacit admission of the inequality, and that is why the courts are finding them to be a violation of constitutional principals of equal protection.
And just so no one is fooled, boys and girls: to Katie, "traditional marriage laws" is code for religious belief. But even Katie is smart enough to know that you cannot justify the discrimination on that basis. But make no mistake: the battle is over the ownership of the word "marriage."
But the Catholics, Assembly of God, and the assorted snake handlers would never be required to perform a gay marriage.
Aren't their marriages kind of dismal affairs anyway, Spotty?
Ah, grasshopper, you made a play on words; good for you.
Preachers and and judges and sea captains all get their authority to marry persons from the state, not from religious doctrine. It is a civil covenant that is entered into as a result of the "marriage." But as far as Spot can tell, nobody is required to perform a marriage. Don't like gay marriage? Fine, don't perform one.
But you don't get to own the word.
Katie second column this week was about Al Franken being mean to Christians. On second thought, that one deserves its own post. Look for Katie times two II, probably tomorrow.