Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Friday, October 31, 2008
So stupid it hurts.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
  Moving to the Right
After Kerry's loss in 2004, many many people blamed the "Howard Dean" wing of the party for the loss. It wasn't true then and, with Dean's solid leadership of the DNC, it obviously isn't any more true in hindsight. The pundits seemed dismayed that the Dems would embrace, as Paul Wellstone so famously put it, "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." What those pundits failed to understand is that Democratic-style Populism is what most Americans want. Healthcare, education, a distrust of Wall Street and large corporate entities, etc... are all things that resonate with the working class. After 2004's election and the abject failure of the Bush Administration in the following years, the Democrats are stronger than ever, much to the chagrin of those who predicted their imminent downfall in the winter of '04-'05.

So, with all this in mind, I am trying to figure if the same thing could possibly happen with the Republicans after their likely humiliation at the ballot box on Tuesday. We are already hearing reports of a revolt in the conservative branches of the party. Both social conservatives (aka hard right, fundies, etc...) and the fiscal conservatives are declaring that the Republican Party needs to get back to basics.

But I am not so sure that "the basics" will appeal to middle America. Shrinking the social safety net and dismantling the social-contract that helps ensure accessible college tuition and healthcare to poor pregnant women, etc.... is not exactly populist. On the social side, things like denying gay citizens equal protection and making abortion the single most important issue isn't quite as effective as it used to be at wedging voters.

Is the GOP in danger of ripping itself apart by becoming the party of the Palins and Limbaughs of America? Will people like Jane Swift, Christie Todd Whitman, John McCain circa 2000, Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell, etc... even be welcome under the tent of something that resembles the John Birch Society rather than the mythical party of Reagan?

I guess, to summarize my thoughts on what will likely happen, I'll paraphrase the late Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew Howard Dean. I worked with Howard Dean, And Governor Palin, you are no Howard Dean."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
  Another Reason I Think Big Time Sports Suck
The NFL is cheating on its anti trust exemption and going partially pay-per-view. Several senators are pissed:
More than a dozen senators called on the National Football League (NFL) to make its exclusive coverage of certain games on the NFL Network publicly available to fans.

"We write today because we are disappointed that, rather than building on this success, the NFL will return to restricting games to the NFL Network," 13 senators wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "That the NFL would choose to have fewer viewers for select games again this year is an indication of its interest in moving toward a pay television model."

Noting that the Congress has granted antitrust exemptions to the NFL to guarantee free broadcasts of games on network television, the senators criticized the NFL for narrowly interpreting the exemption, and suggested that a lawsuit to resolve their concerns may be possible.
Let me say it again - The culture of big time sports in America is absolutely obscene. The money, lifestyles and flat out exploitation of the major sports rival any of Wall Street's Caribbean "business" retreats.

And now they want us to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the privilege to watch regular season NFL games in our own homes?

F' 'em!
  They All Count
Due to my pending jury duty next week, I took 20 minutes and voted at the City Clerk's office today. I hope and pray that every voter's experience is as easy as mine.
A long-time reader sends along this petition urging the FCC to open up part of the frequency spectrum to WiMax at their meeting **next week**. In a nutshell, what this means is that the potential to blanket almost the entire nation with wireless hi-speed internet service. You would not be restricted to the wires that come into your home or business. Also, the potential for free basic service, just like broadcast television, has been proposed.

The big telecoms are, of course, opposed. It would cut into their markets if the airwaves could not be monopolized:
Unfortunately, last Friday the broadcasting lobby filed an emergency request to stop the vote from happening. This comes despite more than four years of study, months of extensive lab and field testing by the FCC, and tens of thousands of pages of formal record material -- during which the broadcasters' concerns were fully considered. As we understand it, the draft order carefully and appropriately addresses all legitimate concerns about interference, and the resulting draft rules are, if anything, overly conservative. Nonetheless, the proposed framework overall appears to be sound, and we strongly support it.

While the science should speak for itself, that won't stop the broadcasting lobby from trying to use stalling tactics to derail the technology before the rules of the road are even written. These are the same folks who over the years have sought to block one innovative technology after another, from cable TV to VCRs to satellite TV and radio to low power FM to TiVOs.
I urge you to sign the petition and send it on.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
  Credit Cards
McClatchy tackles a subject that I've been wondering about for a while, consumer credit cards:
U.S. banks charged off 5.47 percent of all credit card loans in the second quarter, according to the Federal Reserve, representing some $50 billion that they'll likely never collect.
What the article fails to address in its attempt to parallel credit cards and mortgages is the derivative question - "What kind of derivative securities have been created based up on the credit card market?"

Are there more credit default swaps out there?

Derivatives multiply the actual dollars involved in a transaction by creating a de facto "bet" with long odds against losing. The best way I have heard credit default swaps described is something like this - Everyone can buy life insurance on one seemingly healthy person. If that person lives, no big deal. But if he dies, everyone who bought a policy must be paid the full premium. (This explains why a $250 billion dollar sub-prime mortgage market crashed a multi-trillion dollar derivatives market.)

Even if such securities are not nearly as large as the mortgage based derivatives, with the economy balancing ever-so precariously, a harsh shock, however small, could cause some of our financial geniuses to panic like little girls on the Titanic.
  Pheromone-Powered Charisma
Richard Cohen, whom I usually find unreadable, finds an acorn:
It is the height of chutzpah, you betcha, for a coterie of ideologues to accuse Palin's critics of political snobbery. It is also somewhat sad for a movement once built on the power of ideas -- I am speaking now of neoconservatism -- to simply swoon for a pretty face and pheromone-powered charisma. But it is, I confess, just plain fun to see all these expense-account six-packers be so wrong. For some odd reason, most Americans are not finding, as Barnes wrote, that Palin "exudes a kind of middle-class magnetism." Instead they find her out of her depth and exuding an unfathomable -- not to mention unearned -- self-confidence. If it weren't for the Boys on the Boats, she'd be her biggest fan.
Lipstick Republicans, indeed!

("expense account six-packers" - I'm gonna' have to borrow that someday.)
  Lipstick Republicans
Did anyone catch Jane's presentation last night? Unfortunately I was all of 100 yards away working a function at the Congregation Church and could not attend as planned.

If you went, tell us about it in the comments.

UPDATE: I spoke to one person who relayed a question asked to Jane at a private function - "What's the difference between a Lipstick Republican and a Lipstick Lesbian?" Jane politely declined to answer. Heh.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
  Hardcore Fishing
I like fishing, but this is insane. From my sister Nancy, writing about my niece Katie and more specifically her boyfriend who live in Hood River, Oregon:
"This is a picture of Katie’s boyfriend with a fish he caught recently. Here’s how he caught it

Katie, Aaron and Aaron’s dad were windsurfing on the Columbia River. Aaron, a fairly fanatic fisherman, saw this fish while windsurfing – in high wind, in big waves.

Aaron LEAPED INTO THE WATER AND CAUGHT THE FISH WITH HIS BARE HANDS. And then hung onto it until Katie and his dad windsurfed over, tied a rope around the fish’s tail and towed it to shore. And then they ate it.

For the record, it’s a salmon. And there are witnesses, so while this is truly a fishy story, it’s a true truly fishy story.
The guy sounds just wacky enough to get along well in our family. (That's not a hint. Just sayin'...) Although Walleye and Bass would probably bore him to tears.
  "I don't know if you're gonna use the word terrorist there..."
This really bothers me. The abortion clinic bombing question occurs around 1:20.

Regardless of your views on Roe v Wade, not calling this guy a terrorist is a HUGE political statement in and of itself.
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Blues goalie Manny Legace left after one period Friday night with a hip injury that occurred when he slipped on the carpet placed on the ice for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Alaska governor dropped the ceremonial first puck before the Blues hosted the Los Angeles Kings. A narrow carpet walkway was placed from the gate at the Blues bench to center ice for Palin, her husband and two of her daughters.
Friday, October 24, 2008
  How'd I Miss This One?
From the Wall Street Journal:
Ben Bernanke apparently wants four more years as Federal Reserve Chairman. At least that's a reasonable conclusion after Mr. Bernanke all but submitted his job application to Barack Obama yesterday by endorsing the Democratic version of fiscal "stimulus."
It's funny that all the frantic Republican flacks are out there screaming that Obama has caused the markets to plunge because he's ahead in the polls. The McCain kids just can't catch a break.
  Cover Your Butt
With all the hoopla surrounding taxation and spending in regards to the absolutely screwed up American healthcare system during the election season, I present you this:
Dr. Jianjun Li and colleagues from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn offered free colonoscopies to uninsured patients who were over 50 but too young for Medicare. The average age of the 248 patients screened was 55.

Forty-five percent of patients had polyps, mostly small. However, 5 patients had early stage I or II cancer and 22 had large polyps, bigger than 1 centimeter. Large polyps have the greatest risk of turning into cancer.

Without the free screening, most of the uninsured patients would have had to wait until they were 65 when Medicare would cover the costs. Over ten years, the cancers would have progressed to costly advanced stages and large polyps might have developed into cancer.

The researchers estimate that if the cancers found during early screening and cancers that grew from large polyps had gone undetected until patients were 65, treatment would have cost Medicare $1,295,000. Based on current Medicare reimbursements, the estimated cost of the screening program and surgical treatment for the five early cancers was $390,000. Early screening saved two dollars for every one dollar spent.
Draw your own conclusions how data like this is transferable to the debate over healthcare for all. Personally, I think the results should be pretty damn obvious.

  Symptoms of Desperation?
Bona fide voter intimidation and wacked out volunteers.

Both seem to have a racial component. How surprising.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
  Godwins Law
In a moment of weakness, I once again tuned the radio dial to 810AM while running errands yesterday. In that 20 minutes or so that I was listening, Mr. Limbaugh committed what is usually considered a grievous, shark-jumping sin - he invoked Hitler and Mussolini, both as.... wait for it..... "socialists."

Hmmmm I wonder what he was trying to imply?

**Yes. I know that that the Nazi's used 'socialist' in their name. Any scholar (or high school history student) can tell you that Germany in the 1930s was no more socialist than the post war German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany) was "democratic." But if righties want to make fools of themselves, so be it.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
  Canyon Ranch and Google
Evidently Google has found my post on Canyon Ranch's $14.7 million dollar settlement. If the number of law firm and Canyon Ranch computers that are registering their IP addresses on this blog are any indication, there are some very curious and probably some very worried people out there.

... serves 'em right.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
  $14.7 Million Mistake
Does anybody remember the great tip scam from Canyon Ranch in Lenox?

It seems that it only recently settled, and the management's deception of the customers has cost it a pretty penny:
Canyon Ranch yesterday formally agreed to a $14.7 million settlement of a lawsuit brought in U.S. District Court in Springfield by several former employees who charged that the Lenox resort's management wrongly deprived them of tips from their spa-related services.
Over the past decade there has been a huge movement by larger corporate hospitality groups to pad their bottom lines at the expense of their service employees. Whether it was blatantly misleading customers into thinking that the "service charge" on their bill meant that the tip was included, or keeping wages low by forcing hourly employees to "tip out" non-service employees such a supervisors, it has been just another brilliant move by the MBA-culture to redistribute wealth *upwards*.

Thank you Massachussetts for having a solid tip-wage law on the books. Hopefully these huge settlements will end the practice once and for all.

And while their at it, why don't places like Canyon Ranch just charge what they need to for services, rather than tacking fees on the bill? Frankly it's insulting.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
  More Surreal Life
You've probably already seen batshit-crazy Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann's self-immolation on YouTube. You might have heard that her Democratic opponent, Elwynn Tinklenberg, has raised $620,000 in the past day due to the publicity. (I sent the guy $10.) You probably did not know that I met my wife, who was born and raised in Minnesota, when I lived in the Twin Cities.

Tonight I got a phone call from my mother-in-law. It seems that Tinklenberg is originally from her (really friggin') small "real America" hometown of Milaca, MN and her good friend, the woman who introduced her to her future husband in 1967, is sisters with Tinklenberg's sister-in-law. (Did ya' follow that? Golly, you're good.)

Me, wife, mother-in-law, friend, sister, Tinklenberg - 5 degrees.

(Small towns have lots in common wherever you go)

UPDATE: Evidently this guy Tinklenberg helped my wife's grandmother's best friend (did ya' follow that) straighten out a big mess with the Veterans Administration. (Nice finish to the story, dontcha' know.) Good guy. As I said, small towns have lots in common.
  Rush is a Racist Prick - (but we knew that already)
Limbaugh asks:
"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. "OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."
The answer is George W. Bush.

The question itself is a false equation, but that is Rush's specialty. Nothing is more important in Limbaugh's style of analysis than "identity". When someone sharply diverges from El Rushbo's path of wisdom, it cannot be because of policy or prudence. In the world of Limbaugh, it must be about character and flaws.

What makes Limbaugh's question such an obvious act of race baiting is the fact that he tossed in the modifier "very liberal" to try and avoid the clear parallel to Bush 43. The word "liberal" is just another one of Rush's attempted identity/character smears.

And of course, it would be too simple to actually take Powell at his word that he thinks Obama has shown better judgment than McCain by selecting a running mate who actually is qualified for the job.

Rush is not so subtly saying that Powell's dark side, his inner-black-man, must have been lurking in the shadows all these years, waiting.

F' You, Rush.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
  'Excuse me while I whip this out'
Via BooMan, I see that Mel Brooks has secretly been writing the scripts for Pennsylvania Voters:
So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."
I believe this is the film version:

This one is appropos as well:

Friday, October 17, 2008
  The Right to Vote, Part 2

Matt Yglesias comes to the same conclusion I do about a Constitutional right to vote:
"A country with a modern constitution would probably establish an affirmative right to vote for adult citizens, requiring that election administrators make it possible for all qualified voters to cast legal ballots. Instead, we began as a country with a sharply restricted franchise."
If we can give every citizen an individual Social Security number, we can create a single database of all eligible voters. It is not terribly hard stuff we are talking about here.

I really have a difficult time understanding people who want to keep/make it difficult for adult citizens to vote. The argument that there will be fraud at the ballot box is complete and utter baloney. There is absolutely no evidence, none whatsoever, that there are more than a handful of individuals nationwide casting ballots in the name of someone else or in some other illegal fashion. And those folks usually end up charged with a crime.

This ACORN nonsense has gotten the less-rational factions of the far right going bonkers right now. They are convinced that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people are conspiring to cast multiple ballots. They believe that there is some left wing coup involving perhaps millions of people plotting to steal the election for Obama. At the least, if Obama wins, there will be a large group of less-than-cognizant Limbaugh listeners incorrectly believing that the President stole the election. At the worst, we will end up with another Florida 2000 scenario where enough legal voters and ballots are rejected on non-relevant criteria that it, in fact and deed, swings the entire election. Something tells me that the country is not going to sit idly back and let that fiasco happen again.

The Republican party is responsible for this state of affairs. They are the only ones who have something to gain if they can keep qualified voters away from the polls via fear, intimidation and any other obstacle they can find. And this legacy of modern Jim Crow obstruction is the shameful legacy they will have to live with, regardless of who wins this November. Congratulations, folks. You've earned it.
  Divided We Fall
I've mentioned this before, but the real "class warfare" in this country is fomented by the right-wing to divide the United States into Urban versus Rural simply for craven political purposes. Sarah Palin, in an attempt to clarify what she meant by "pro-America" parts of the country stupidity, digs the divide even further:
"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation."
As someone who currently lives in small town "Real America" but has also lived in large cities, which are obviously "Un-real America" to Sarah Palin, I have no problem telling her, and those who would defend her attempts to divide our nation, that they are full of shit.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
  Don't Tell Me Racism is Dead, part 3

Friday, October 10, 2008
  "They'll none of them be missed"
Terrorist nuns? It seems the state of Maryland has recognized its mistake and removed these two women from their terrorist watch list after a new Governor and Attorney General decided that peace protesters didn't exactly qualify.

Sometimes I wonder whose lists I might be on.
From the original lyrics of W.S Gilbert:
then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own
Stupidly calling people unpatriotic was worthy of satire all the way back in 1885. John McCain must have taken notes during the original production.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
  Deja Vu?
The impending sale of the Transcript Building is what I was alluding to here. Now it is confirmed.
The North Adams Transcript building at 124 American Legion Drive has been put on the market, but the newspaper itself isn't going anywhere, Publisher Robert Chapman said Tuesday.

"We want to assure our readers that the Transcript will publish as usual, six days a week, keep its existing news, sales and business staff in North Adams and continue our commitment to providing the best source of news in Northern Berkshire County," Chapman said, a short time after a "For Sale" sign was placed in front of the building about noon.

Because the newspaper moved its printing and mailroom operations to The Berkshire Eagle plant in Pittsfield this summer, the Transcript no longer needs such a large building, Chapman said. All employees were informed in July that the building, home to the paper for nearly 39 years, would eventually be put up for sale. They were also assured their jobs were safe.
The article does not mention that a few of The Transcript editorial positions will likely be in Pittsfield, which is not neccessarily a bad omen. I think having the paper right on Main Street would be a win-win for the city and paper.

However, am I the only one who noticed something glaringly missing from this story?

Where is The Advocate staff going to relocate?
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
  Debate Thought
How come McCain isn't winking at me?

WRAP-UP: Nothing new. I thought my guy did better, but I'm sure the other side feels the same way. Yawn.
  Ya' Makin' Me Crazy!
If this wasn't inherently insulting and sexist, it would be funny:
Monday, October 27

Lipstick Republicans and Why They Make the Left Crazy
8:00 p.m., Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall

Jane Swift, former Governor of Massachusetts, .....
What actually makes me crazy is Steve Schmidt's John McCain's belief that the majority of middle America is too stupid to recognize shameless pandering the the religious right and this mysterious voting demographic called "Women."
  "Pal"ing around with dangerous people

Yeah... sure they vetted her. Whatever you say.
  Movin' Out?
There is a credible rumor, though unconfirmed by the key players, that a prominent North Adams restaurant is considering purchasing a building of its own in Adams.

What does this mean? If true, they are either moving or expanding and given the economy, I'd bet on the former.
Monday, October 06, 2008
  "even the well-informed do not know how to respond"
I don't know too much about Dan Carlin's work, but I've been listening to to some of his Hardcore History podcasts. These "lectures" are more commentary and observation than they are dates and facts. It's a great technique to make a subject more accessible and enjoyable.

But the reason I am posting tonight is that if you have a spare 41 minutes to sit in front of your computer or listen to your MP3 player, I *highly* recommend trying to absorb Show 15 - Desperate Times. It is an extremely insightful take on the human aspect of The Great Depression. Listen to the whole thing. The last 10 minutes begin to put the whole idea into better focus.

The show was produced over a year ago in August 2007. Dan comments that at the time of recording the stock market is up. But in an eerily prescient tone he proclaims that we seem to be "tempting the Gods of History" by holding ourselves up as economically wiser than those stupid people who came before us.

He closes with the following passage from a 2002 essay by economist Robert Samuelson:
It is commonly said that another depression will never occur. This is probably true, as long as "another depression" means a crude repetition of the thirties. However, crises can come in unfamiliar forms. The basic lesson from the Great Depression is that governments cannot permit massive collapses of banks or spending. The deeper lesson is that there are times when the world changes so much and events move so rapidly that even the well-informed do not know how to respond. This is the story of the depression. Now it seems preventable. Then, it was baffling. World War I made restoration of the prewar economic system difficult, maybe impossible. But that is what world leaders attempted because it was all they knew and it had worked. Only its collapse convinced them to try something different. Old ideas were overtaken and overwhelmed. It has happened before—and could again.
Fast forward six years and the same Mr. Samuelson writes in today's Washington Post that things are different now than in 1929, but his closing paragraph doesn't exactly give me that warm fuzzy feeling:
The economy will get worse. The housing glut endures. Cautious consumers have curbed spending. Banks and other financial institutions will suffer more losses. But these are all normal symptoms of recession. Our real vulnerability is a highly complex and global financial system that might resist rescue and revival. The Great Depression resulted from the mix of a weak economy and perverse government policies. If we can avoid a comparable blunder, the great drama of these recent weeks may prove blessedly misleading.
The use of the word "may" bothers me a lot.
  Fried Chicken Little? I Hope So
If anybody is still wondering what the global credit crisis might look like at the local level, I came across a pretty stark prediction regarding restaurants in one of my trade magazines. It might also hold true for any business that is reliant on credit card transactions. This was written after last week's bailout failed on the first attempt, but now it seems that the bailout package may not have inspired the confidence nessessary to get banks lending to each other again. Is this in the near future?
For Your Customers-

1. At least 25% will have 1 or more of their personal credit cards revoked. Those with FICA scores under 600 will lose most of the cards in their wallets.

2. At least 25% will have credit limits on their existing cards lowered by up to 50%, and they will find that they have “maxed out” these cards without making additional purchases.

3. At least 25% will see the interest free repayment period on their cards shortened from 28 to 21 days. Penalties will be assessed daily for late payments.

4. At least 25% will see the interest rates on their outstanding credit balances raised to 22-25% APR.

5. Therefore the bulk of your customers will reduce their restaurant purchases by at least 25%.

For Your Business-

1. Banks will slow the deposit of credit card receipts from daily to "clearing" in 3, 5 or 7 days from date of deposit.

2. Banks will raise credit card process fees from 1.5% to 3%, 5% or even 7%.

3. Vendors will change their credit policies, shortening collection from 30 day cycles to 7 days for their best clients, and from 10 days to COD for everyone else.

4. Banks will cancel outstanding lines of credit to all but the most cash solvent businesses.

5. Payroll accounts will need to carry full expected balances up to 7 days in advance of disbursement.

Therefore all restaurants will need to switch from a credit-driven to a cash-driven business model. Call it the return of the “cigar box” accounting system. Cash is, after all, the life blood of a small business.
I doubt that this meltdown is in the cards, but neither does it seem implausible.

The moral of the story that this guy is telling; "Hoard your cash!"

The problem with that strategy is that it exacerbates the problems with little things like bank runs, etc...

It's gonna be a fun few weeks. Oy.
Friday, October 03, 2008
  And we have to figure a helluva lot, To tell what we have done, With the coin we blew at dear ole' Michigan!
Scroll to 1:18 to see and hear Sarah Palin's new theme song.
I want to go back to Michigan,
To dear Ann Arbor town,
Back to Joe's and the Orient,
And back to some of the money I spent,
I want to go back to Michigan,
To dear Ann Arbor town,
I want to go back; I got to go back,
To Michigan.
Oh! Father and Mother pay all the bills,
And we have all the fun,

In the friendly rivalry of college life, Hooray!
And we have to figure a helluva lot,
To tell what we have done,
With the coin we blew at dear ole' Michigan!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, click on this.

Full Disclosure: Yes, I sang with this group in the late '80s.
  Ssshhhh! Don't Tell the Senior Citizens
It seems the real mistake of last night was made by Palin's speechwriter:
Palin's final quote was from Ronald Reagan, warning that without vigilance, "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

In fact, Reagan was not warning about a general lack of vigilance about freedom, he was warning what would happen if Medicare was enacted.
I wouldn't expect Palin to know this. Most of the Reagan fanatics have been revising history for years and the myth of Reagan is far more appealing than the reality. However, I would like to know if the speechwriter thought he/she could pull a fast one, or if he/she is incompetent?

Look for some hay to be made of this over the next couple of days.
  Why I Think David Brooks is an Overeducated Idiot
"She established debating parity with Joe Biden."
'nuf said.
  Second Takes on THE Debate
I think my predictions held up very well.

What I didn't count on was that so few Americans outside of Delaware and political junkies would be enamored with Joe Biden's grasp of the issues. The storyline I am seeing/hearing/watching today is that people were impressed with Joe and thought Palin did little more than stop the bleeding.

Thursday, October 02, 2008
  First Impressions
The Governor of Alaska didn't implode but the nation got to meet the Senator from Delaware.

Let the spin begin.

Anyone seen Jane?

UPDATE: Who brings an infant to a debate at 10:30 at night?

-Flipping channels -Pat Buchanan has got the hots for Palin.... and he is nuts.

-More flipping - Rudi G is still Rudi... which doesn't say much.

-11:12 Still no Jane while voices behind the CSpan camera are saying "Anybody... find anybody and bring them back here."

-The British guy from the Daily show is in the distance harassing Fred Thompson.
  Anxiety Affectations
While I am not a shrink, nor do I like pop-psychology, there is something going on in Sarah Palin's interview performances that looks very much like a person who is under intense pressure and is putting every inch of her energy into trying to appear "in control" instead of imploding. This would explain the huge differences between the Sarah Palin who seemed to have a reasonable grasp on (her version of) reality versus the Palin who seems to have trouble remembering simple facts and political trivia.

Usually when I see people in this hunkered down mode with a fake grin plastered on their face, they are very near a nervous breakdown.

If this is the case, time will tell. It almost always does.
  Something Strange in the Air
What is it about this year that is forcing so many conservatives to cut back on drinking the Kool-Aid?
One of these days, the 80 percent of Americans who live in more populated areas may tire of being obliquely insulted. Most urbanites and suburbanites don't think they're any better than their country cousins. But Palin might want to think twice before telling them they're worse.
As a resident of a small town who spent most of his life in urban areas, I have to agree with the sentiment that it is insulting to hear how much more integrity we have "out here."

Both urban and rural living have benefits and drawbacks. Personally I'll take North Adams over Detroit any day of the week. I know my neighbors. I'm on a first name basis with many of my local politicians (although many of them call me different names when I'm not around.) I don't worry about my kid running and playing in the woods. I buy my chicken, pork and many of my veggies directly from a farmer. The friendships I've made here are strongest of my adult life. For me, this place is great.

But pound for pound we easily have as many social problems and cultural taboos as "the city." They just manifest in different ways.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
  Don't Tell Me Racism is Dead, Part 2
Today, while running errands I listened to Limbaugh declare that Fannie Mae's creation and programs are akin to slavery reparations.

I think conservatives call that a two-fer demagogue.
  THE Debate
The following are my predictions:

  1. The Palin vs Biden debate will be the most watched debate in American television history.
  2. Neither candidate will do or say anything particularly obtuse.
  3. The pundits will all marvel that Palin "held her own" because she did not spontaneously combust on stage.
  4. The Democrats will say that Biden "obviously" won on points.
  5. The Republicans will scream that Biden made "HUGE" gaffes in regards to any tiny gap in logic or information.
  6. If Palin flubbed an answer or two, the GOP will blame Gwen Ifil and her "biased gotcha'" questioning.
  7. The story line on Friday will be that Sarah Palin not only survived, but restored confidence to the faithful.
Of course, all bets after prediction #1 are off if either candidate makes a particularly nasty mistake. Also there is still time for the Palin Campaign to find a reason to cancel. (Security concerns, family medical crisis, a hole in a pipeline, etc...)
  Bailing with a Hole in the Bucket
Despite a lot of extraneous fluff attached to the new Senate bill to rescue the markets, despite a friend's mention of this very persuasive argument in favor of immediate action, I still have to say no. This is still the "Paulsen Plan" wrapped in a bow.

NYU's Nouriel Roubini, the guy who predicted this mess two years ago to the guffaws of policy makers, put it best:
Thus, the Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown. It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented - many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum - alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street. And it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners.
When a plan to restore confidence emerges with far stronger guarentees on tax-payer protection, then, and only then, will I agree with committing 12 figure sums to the folks who caused the problem in the first place.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

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greg at gregoryroach dot com

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