Friday, October 31, 2008

Global Warming in Champaign

It's Halloween today. The kids are out of school for fall holiday and are getting whipped up into a frenzy of antipication for all the candy they are going to get tonight. Well, I guess not all the kids - the 8th grader really hates all the ghoulish scariness of Halloween and just wants to express her inner princess by dressing up pretty. Good for her, I say.

Halloween is often a marking of the seasons. The time change from daylight to standard used to happen the weekend before, but now it happens the weekend after.

I've lived in Central Illinois for 18 years now, and October has always been the time for raking leaves. We have a lot of trees in and around our yard, so leaf raking usually takes three different sessions. Halloween is signifcant in that Oct. 31st usually marks the time when almost all the leaves are off the trees, and we have only one more leaf raking to do.

But not this year, and not so much for the past few years. This year, we have yet to do our first leaf raking. In fact, many trees have not even started turning color yet. This is looking east on University Ave:

This is looking west, towards Prospect Ave. Nice and colorful, but the trees are still full of leaves:

Here's my actual yard. The leaves are starting to accumulate, but nothing to worry about yet.

As a side note, you can just make out the C. Pius Wiebel for County Board sign. He's a great guy and good friend. I think I'm going to ask him what the County Board can do about climate change in Central Illinois. It's unnatural to start leaf raking in November.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe the Self-Defeater

My regular Smile Politely column is ready: Joe vs. The Socialists.

It's about how I don't understand why Joe the Plumber is so outraged on behalf of the top 5% of wage earners. After all, he is just making it harder on himself now, in the hopes that he will get to be 3% greedier if he ever gets to that top 5%.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Backward B

I wrote a bonus Smile Politely column this week: The Symbol of the McCain Candidacy: The Backward B. It's a short piece on how John McCain has only hurt himself in his attempts to smear Obama.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Race Based Voting

Yesterday's post generated some interesting comments about who is voting based on race and who isn't. I want to weigh in, and have nothing else to blog about today, so will make it a blog post.

I think the question here is: Who casts votes solely based on race?

PG and I and others like that Obama is black. It's one of the things that makes us more enthusiastic about him, because he symbolizes a more tolerant America. But the thing is, we don't vote for someone only because of their race. For instance, I didn't vote for Alan Keyes. I highly suspect PG didn't either. Race is one factor among many.

On the other hand, there are plenty of reports out there that say that Obama is not getting votes from Democrats and union people simply because he is black. His policies reflect their positions on most things, but they are afraid to vote for a black person. And this doesn't even count all the Republicans who still cling to the belief that he is a Muslim. A friend of mine canvassed in Iowa and kept knocking on doors where people actually admitted they couldn't vote for a black person.

So, I think there is no question that Obama's race hurts his chances in general. Luckily, it looks like it might not hurt him enough to be defeated because of it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Ashley Todd Hoax

I think Obama just might win this thing.

I know he’s been up in the polls for a long time, but the polls also keep tightening and widening. Mostly, I kept expecting some huge October surprise or stunt from McCain that would re-align everything. I went to bed last Thursday night afraid that it had just happened.

A McCain campaign worker, Ashley Todd, was reported to have been mugged and then mutilated by a large black man who was angry that she had a McCain bumper sticker on her car. It was reported as a brutal attack, with a large B carved into the side of her face. If true, I was worried this would tap into deep-seated racial fears among whites, as the McCain campaign and conservative media outlets would play it for all its race-baiting glory.

The thing is, if the story were true, it would have been completely unfair to Obama. He’s not the one injecting hate and fear into this campaign. Once McCain got behind in the polls, he made this campaign about how scary Obama’s character is, and whipped up many of his supporters into a frenzy. Before McCain threw a small bucket of water on it by rebuking a supporter at a rally, I was afraid things were going to get out of hand and someone might get hurt.

Compare that to Obama’s message, whose negativity has always been about McCain's policies and actions, and never about McCain's character or shady associations of his own. Obama’s message and really, his whole life, has been about unity and hope and reconciliation and understanding among diverse peoples.

So, if violence were to happen, it would be a result of McCain stirring the pot, not Obama. But, it would not have mattered. A large black man mutilating a young white girl would just re-awaken racial animosity from whites, and who knows who deep the wound would have become.

So, I found myself hoping against hope that this did happen. I had solace in one fact last Thursday night – she did not seek medical attention after the attack. That just didn’t fit. Anyone who was brutally attacked would surely seek medical attention. So, I was hoping for a hoax. And yet, how do you root for something like this to be a partisan hoax? It’s like not quite believing a rape victim. If you get it wrong, you are a serious a-hole.

By Friday morning, the reports seemed more wary about the event. Even Michelle Malkin, not someone who is normally all that interested in the truth, publicly doubted it. After seeing the photo, it just looked wrong. Her face wasn’t carved up. There were scratch marks in the perfect shape of a backwards B. Why would a mugger do that? And there was no way a knife made those marks. It looked more like fingernails, done in a mirror. Her story had changed now too, adding both that she was sexually assaulted and was unconscious. The Pittsburgh police seemed very skeptical and were checking the tapes of the crime scene.

Finally, by Friday afternoon, she had recanted her story. The October surprise turned out to be nothing but a crazy campaign operative. It was then that I finally believed Obama was going to win.

One thing that has not panned out is that I thought the McCain campaign would be unfairly blamed for the hoax. If Obama was going to be unfairly blamed for the attack, I assumed media would unfairly go after McCain for it. But it hasn’t. While appropriate, I think it does underscore the basic differences in the campaign. Had the situation been reversed, we would now be subjected to McCain mailers, robocalls, and press conferences claiming Obama perpetuated a hoax and what that says about his character.

Nevertheless, this story softens any subsequent story that might develop, since everyone’s ear is now attuned to potential hoaxes. For example, over the weekend, some houses in Virginia were vandalized with anti-McCain messages. Could be Obama supporters. But, it could be McCain supporters perpetuating a hoax, as they are now known to do.

So, without a serious game-changing story that people believe, the current status quo in the polls with prevail, and Obama will win.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Shopping Spree

The big story this week is about Sarah Palin buying 150K worth of fancy, schmancy designer clothes, and how that might undermine her regular gal cred.

I’m going against the grain on this one. I think this enhances her regular gal cred. After all, most people would enthusiastically lap up 150K worth of clothes if it were at the expense of campaign donors. Given the chance, most people are eager to be corrupted, whether it be clothes, cars, houses, whatever. All this proves is that Palin is really a very ordinary person, if perhaps a tiny bit on the leading edge.

However, there is one part of the story that does make her extraordinary. It is apparently pretty hard to spend 150K on clothes, even at designer stores. She's a natural, I guess.

And, no sarcasm on the subject would be complete without a link to the Daily Show segment about it:

In all seriousness though, it amazes me that McCain continues to want to make this election about character, when he and Palin are exhibiting so little of it. I mean, come on, the first thing she does once she has access to deep pockets is go on a 150K shopping spree? What does that say about how she might govern?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who Should Not Vote

My Smile Politely column is up: Who Should Not Vote.

It's an expansion of a blog post from last week, where I come up with my own test for who should not be qualified to vote.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Whys of Endorsement

So, shocker of shockers, that pinnacle of the liberal elite media, The New Yorker, endorsed Barack Obama last week.

Like the Colin Powell endorsement, this comes as no surprise. But also like the Powell endorsement, its power resides not in the fact of the endorsement, but in the whys of the endorsement.

The New Yorker delivers 4,201 words on a scathing recap of the Bush presidency and a comprehensive and airtight analysis of where and how Obama is better suited, in policy, persona and image, to lead the country. They cover everything from energy policy to tax policy to foreign policy to integrity to temperament. They end with this:

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.

If you have the patience to read 4,201 words in a row, it is well worth the time, available here.

So, now I will shock you all, and declare that I am endorsing Barack Obama for President of the United States. My reasons are available at the New Yorker website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powell Says It Best

I've been unhappy with Colin Powell ever since he went to the UN and turned public opinion in favor of invading Iraq.

But, he is slowly redeeming himself in my eyes. Here he gives a devastating critique of McCain's campaign tactics, plus his enthusiasm for Obama is inspiring:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Again with the Character Assassination

If I hear one more Republican say that liberals are anti-American or that some parts of the country are the “pro-America” or "real America" parts, I'm going

I don’t know what. Explode into an ineffectual ball of fury? Scream at my computer screen? Make snarky comments to my conservatives friends? That’ll show ‘em.

For eight years now liberals have had to endure being called traitorous, cowardly, anti-American surrender monkeys. All for upholding the Constitution, rebuking idiotic war fever, and demanding that we not torture people.

I’ve had enough. Patriotism is not support for the far right-wing, militaristic Republican ideology that we’ve had to endure over the last eight years. It is not supporting your country “right or wrong.” Patriotism is demanding that your country live up to its highest ideals.

It’s obvious Republicans can’t win on the issues in these last two weeks. So, they’ve resorted to what they know best – character assassination. They realize that the people do not fear Obama's policies, so they have to make them fear the man. McCain himself doesn't even believe we should fear the man, so what does it say about his integrity that this is his campaign strategy?

And all of this is fine, as long as Obama wins. Let them crawl back to their caves and shout about evil liberals to the clouds in the sky, as long as they are no longer in power. But if the character assassination works in the end and Obama loses because of it, my head will indeed explode.

There. I feel better. Thanks for listening.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama Can Levitate Too

The debate messed up my posting schedule. My Smile Politely column went up yesterday, but I'm just now linking to it: Obama Doesn't Flinch. It's poorly titled, because it's mostly about how Obama seems to know more about things that I'm supposed to know about than I do.

I have to admit that after the last debate, the election fire in me is starting to run out of some fuel. Maybe it's because I do treat it more like a football game than a national discourse, and Obama is starting to pull away in the fourth quarter. Anything can still happen, of course, but if nothing does, perhaps I'll start to be interested in other things soon.

Until then, the Daily Show continues to shine. Here are my favorites from this week:


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thoughts on Final Debate

So, I’m not too far off with my predictions:

  • Obama will remain cool and collected: check
  • Troopergate won’t come up unless the moderator brings it up: check
  • McCain will try some kind of stunt: bzzt
Instead, McCain totally fell for Obama’s hectoring him about negative attacks. Obama said earlier in the week that McCain wasn’t willing to confront him face to face with the allegations McCain has been making. McCain’s manhood and honor were on the line, so he had to answer that in the debate.

When he did, Obama coolly rebutted every charge, then turned it around and said “what is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable. And it means that we can have tough, vigorous debates around issues. What we can't do, I think, is try to characterize each other as bad people. And that has been a culture in Washington that has been taking place for too long.”

Bam. He gets McCain to enthusiastically talk trash, then takes the high road. The guy is brilliant.

The format of the debate also worked to Obama’s favor. With time for long rebuttals and back and forth on the same issue, he was able to answer all the attacks with facts and well-reasoned positions without the subject changing every two minutes.

Some random thoughts:

  • McCain again claims he wouldn't have gone negative if Obama had agreed to town hall meetings. Does anyone believe that? McCain: Hey, there’s nothing I can do. Obama didn’t agree to my format, so I have to hurl hate bombs at him. I had no choice.

  • Obama had a couple great rejoinders when McCain said his feelings were hurt that John Lewis criticized him for whipping his supporters into a hate-filled froth. “I think the American people are less interested in our hurt feelings during the course of the campaign than addressing the issues that matter to them so deeply.” And later: “I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks. What the American people can't afford, though, is four more years of failed economic policies. And what they deserve over the next four weeks is that we talk about what's most pressing to them: the economic crisis.” Bam.

  • Basic difference in philosophies - Obama (paraphrase): During tough economic times, I don’t mind paying higher taxes. The wealthy can afford to help out. It’s patriotic. McCain (paraphrase): me, me, me, me. me. Don't ever raise my taxes for any reason.

  • Does McCain really want his message to be “Don’t Spread the Wealth”? From a man with 12 houses? Good luck with that.

  • McCain: "If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." That's a nice line. But it works both ways: If McCain wants to run against Bush, maybe he should have run four years ago too. Obama's response was typically even-handed: "If I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush."

  • Obama was unwilling to criticize Sarah Palin. Another smart move. People seem to have made up their minds already, and criticizing her will just look small at this point.

  • I was glad abortion came up. To be honest, I have not checked Obama’s record very closely on this, but I’ve heard the usual scary allegations that he wants to personally kill babies once he’s elected. I thought he had good reasons for his votes (late term procedure ban he voted “present” for did not have a clause that protected the life of the mother and he voted against a bill that required life saving treatment because there was already a law that required it, and the bill he voted on would have undermined Roe v Wade). McCain’s response: “He's health for the mother, you know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health.'" Mmm. I wonder how well sneering at the health of mothers as an extreme position is going to play among women.

Overall, Obama again showed why he is ready to lead. McCain didn't have a game changing performance. He is quickly running out of options. I'm not even sure producing the dead carcass of Osama Bin Laden will help him now. At this point, he might need to produce photos of Obama doing unspeakable things.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008


    I'm surprised Sarah Palin's troopergate scandal hasn't gotten much attention. I guess the news cycle is too focused on the economy right now. Or maybe the media feels like it would just be piling on at this point.

    Palin had a strange response to the report though. Basically, she is telling people that it doesn't say, what it, in fact, says:

    I thought for reports like this, the strategy is to merely acknowledge as little as you can and move on. This strategy of denying what it says seems risky, but I guess if people aren't paying attention to it, it doesn't much matter.

    I doubt it will get much play in the debate tonight either, unless the moderator asks a question about it. We'll see.

    Preacher Threatens God

    It's official - this blog has been abducted by the presidential race. I'm not necessarily happy about it, but I am expecting a ransom note soon. Unfortunately, I don't suspect the blog is worth much.

    So, here's a short break from politician-based politics in order to provide some preacher-based politics. Preachers for McCain have now sunk to threatening God with His or Her reputation:

    I can honestly say that if Obama wins the election and Rev. Conrad's faith is shaken as a result, that might be a good thing for Christianity.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    You Shouldn't Vote

    John Stassel says young people shouldn't vote because they are too dumb:

    Trick or Vote and The Bus Project respond with parody, by saying, hey, old people are too dumb to vote too:

    So, the message of the day is: Regardless of whether you are young or old, serve your country by not voting. And, please, for the love of God, remain indoors at all times if you cannot even identify a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Mos Def.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Predicting the Future

    I am hit and miss with my political predictions. I used to think I was good at it, but everything went haywire the day we invaded Iraq, and then again the day we re-elected George W. Bush. Deep down, I guess I knew both were likely to happen. I just didn't want to face the depressing reflections of our country that they represented.

    Lately, I did manage to predict that Palin would exceed expectations in her debate, and that she would not be giving any more interviews. I was wrong about McCain completely putting her on ice though - she's remained very active, as she is very good at getting people working up into a frenzy about traitors and terrorist-lovers. On the other side, I knew Obama would do well in the debates - the guy seems completely unflappable.

    Predicting what McCain will do is a fool's errand, since McCain himself probably can't predict what McCain will do. Still, it was easy to see him going negative last week. What was not so predictable was how voters would react to it. Well, OK, the enthusiastic pitchforks and torches at his rallies were not hard to predict. But how would regular people react?

    Well, the results are in, and they have surprised me, in a pleasant way. I was nervous about it because I believed the conventional wisdom: Americans say they don't like negative campaigning, but then vote for whoever is most effective at it. That's certainly how it has worked the last two cycles.

    But it turns out that character assassination of your opponent during a financial crisis is a move that can backfire after all. Obama has now opened up a 10 point lead. Again, as a liberal used to sorrow and woe, this makes me nervous when there are still three weeks of mud-slinging to go.

    So, the question now is, as always: What will McCain do? He's already toning down his rhetoric, since he recognizes that hate-filled rallies do not play well on TV. But I'm betting he still has something up his sleeve. I just have no idea what. I wonder if he will reveal it during the final debate on Wednesday. The previous two debates have been steady, solid affairs. Now that McCain is so far down in the polls, I'm guessing he will feel the need say or do something big and outrageous to get his mojo back.

    So, my predication is that the next debate will not be boring. McCain will do something to shake things up. I just don't know what.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    Lazy Video - Premonition

    After the Dow lost another few hundred points today, it made me think of an SNL skit from 8 years ago, which was much more prophetic than I feared:

    Suggestions for McCain

    This week's Smile Politely column is available here, where I give John McCain suggestions on more stunts he could pull to get attention, including some David Blaine tricks, as well as acting more like Lloyd Dobler.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Blaming the Do-Gooders and the Poor

    Yes, the debate was last night, but I'm going to write about that tomorrow in my SP column. Instead, here's some more thoughts on the banking crisis.

    The narrative continues to grow that the financial crisis is the fault of Fannie Mae and the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA was passed in 1977 to "help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with safe and sound operations."

    The italics are mine, and are at the heart of the problems with this narrative. Loaning to low income folks is not as risky as you might think, assuming you do the work of identifying who is a credit risk and who isn't. It's why microloan programs all over the world are so successful, and why the Mennonite Economic Development Agency supports them.

    The problem isn't hapless do-gooders and intrusive government policy, or those with the least power in the system irresponsibly signing up for predatory loans. Here's a couple great articles that provide perspective on it:

    Daniel Gross at Slate:

    The Community Reinvestment Act applies to depository banks. But many of the institutions that spurred the massive growth of the subprime market weren't regulated banks. They were outfits such as Argent and American Home Mortgage, which were generally not regulated by the Federal Reserve or other entities that monitored compliance with CRA. These institutions worked hand in glove with Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, entities to which the CRA likewise didn't apply.

    That article references some great questions by Barry Ritholtz:

    • Did the 1977 legislation, or any other legislation since, require banks to not verify income or payment history of mortgage applicants?

    • 50% of subprime loans were made by mortgage service companies not subject comprehensive federal supervision; another 30% were made by banks or thrifts which are not subject to routine supervision or examinations. How was this caused by either CRA or GSEs?

    • What about No Money Down Mortgages 0% down payments? Were they required by the CRA? Fannie? Freddie?

    • Did the CRA require banks to develop automated underwriting (AU) systems that emphasized speed rather than accuracy in order to process the greatest number of mortgage apps as quickly as possible?

    • How exactly did legislation force Moody's, S&Ps and Fitch to rate junk paper as Triple AAA?

    Plus too many other questions to print here. It's quite a list.

    Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around for this crisis, but most of it comes down to simple greed on the parts of many people who saw easy money to be made, and a lack of oversight over the ones chasing the money.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    I Fail a Race Test

    So, it turns out that I am racially prejudiced. And not in a good way, either, like wanting to honor American Indians at football games.

    Nope, with all this scary talk about 60's radical terrorist William Ayers being the evil puppetmaster behind Barack Obama, I had in my mind's eye that Ayers was a black man.

    I'm trying to unravel it now. Did I hear at one point he was a Black Panther? No, he was a Weathermen, but maybe I heard it differently somewhere. I know I wasn't mistaking him for Rev. Wright, but that controversy may have played into as well.

    In any case, I'm very disappointed with myself for letting even a bit of racial prejudice seep into my own images of the controversy. It just shows how effective smears are, which is depressing.

    However, in a way, I'm glad this Ayers thing is seeing the light of day. As I learn more about it, the more it seems exactly like all the Obama-is-a-Muslim nonsense. Read the NY Times piece here.

    Here's what is comes down to: Ayers was a radical 60s protester who set bombs off to destroy property. He is now a professor and an education reformer. Obama was on the same board as Ayers of a non-political, non-profit that gave money to schools. They both live in the same neighborhood, and Obama once went to a neighborhood coffee at Ayers house at the beginning of Obama's political career (one of many Obama went to). There's no indication they know each other very well, or that Ayers has any kind of influence whatsoever on Obama.

    It is more likely that Sarah Palin will advocate that Alaska secede from the union than it is that Ayers will wield any kind of influence over Obama, or that Obama shares any radical goals with Ayers.

    Here's the last few paragraphs in the NY Times piece:

    Mr. Obama’s friends said that history was utterly irrelevant to judging the candidate, because Mr. Ayers was never a significant influence on him. Even some conservatives who know Mr. Obama said that if he was drawn to Ayers-style radicalism, he hid it well.

    “I saw no evidence of a radical streak, either overt or covert, when we were together at
    Harvard Law School,” said Bradford A. Berenson, who worked on the Harvard Law Review with Mr. Obama and who served as associate White House counsel under President Bush. Mr. Berenson, who is backing Mr. McCain, described his fellow student as “a pragmatic liberal” whose moderation frustrated others at the law review whose views were much farther to the left.

    Some 15 years later, left-leaning backers of Mr. Obama have the same complaint. “We’re fully for Obama, but we disagree with some of his stands,” said
    Tom Hayden, the 1960s activist and former California legislator, who helped organize Progressives for Obama. His group opposes the candidate’s call for sending more troops to Afghanistan, for instance, “because we think it’s a quagmire just like Iraq,” he said. “A lot of our work is trying to win over progressives who think Obama is too conservative.”

    Mr. Hayden, 68, said he has known Mr. Ayers for 45 years and was on the other side of the split in the radical antiwar movement that led Mr. Ayers and others to form the Weathermen.

    But Mr. Hayden said he saw attempts to link Mr. Obama with bombings and radicalism as “typical campaign shenanigans.”“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”

    In the end, this is first of many swiftboatings of Obama. The only reason it is an issue is that McCain can't win this election based on policy, judgement or character. It's just one more way that McCain is following Bush's footsteps into the abyss.

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    Palin on Hell

    I keep deciding not to post anything more on Sarah Palin. And then, say it ain't so, Joe, she goes an keeps sayin stuff.

    Palin regaled the cheering crowd with a story about how she was reading her Starbucks mocha cup yesterday, which featured a quotation from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    “Now she said it, I didn’t,” Palin said of Albright. “She said, ‘There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women.’”

    The crowd roared its approval, but according to several sources, Albright actually said, “there’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”

    “OK, now thank you so much for receiving that well—I didn’t know how that was going to go over,” Palin told the southern California crowd. “And now California, let’s see what a comment that I just made how that is turned into whatever it’ll be turned into tomorrow in the newspaper.”

    Yea, that press sure does overact when you tell people they are going to hell if they don't vote for you. OK, OK, I admit, I'm exaggerating. It's only women that will be going to hell for not voting for her. And she was just joking, after all. Geez, lighten up, people.

    I wonder though, about Mayor Palin making women pay for their own rape kits in Wasilla. Do you think that special place in Hell might now be called The Sarah Palin Wing, given her lack of support for women?

    Oh lighten up, people. I'm just making a joke.

    Weekend Funnies

    As a liberal blogger, I am contractually bound to post the SNL debate parody, so let's get that out of the way:

    I'm actually surprised at how funny SNL's political content has been lately. Their news segments are usually just lame compared to The Daily Show. I'm impressed they can put so much meat into their political commentary so suddenly. They even made Biden funny.

    And speaking of The Daily Show, last Thursday's segment was especially good. Whoever thought up the Gollum bit deserves a raise:

    Finally, here is a picture that's been making its way across the internets. Funny or just mean? I report, you decide.

    The big question I have is this: Does any of this humor make a difference in how people vote, or is it just preaching to the choir? Yes, it makes conservatives angry to be called on their foibles, and probably doesn't convince them of anything. But I hold out the hope that humor can help frame what is going on in the world and that it does affect how people end up seeing things.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    The Palin Show Finale

    Well, Sarah Palin did well enough last night. Had she repeated on stage the disaster of her Couric interview, I think the election would have been over. As it was, she played well to conservatives. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that McCain will now put her on ice for the rest of the campaign. I will be surprised if we see her again in an unscripted event, and I'm guessing she will be less of a news item going forward.

    This debate was a kind of a middle ground between a canned speech and an interview. Unlike an interview, where the reporter can keep asking a question until it is answered (or not answered, as we saw with her previous interviews), in a debate you can ignore a question and just shout out talking point words: (Maverick! McCain! Doggone it!).

    Some other observations:

    • Given the format of the debate, where follow-ups are discouraged, I thought Gwen Ifel did a decent job. I only wish she had asked a question about science. Given the current administration’s hostility to science, it would have been good for Palin to answer questions about creationism and abstinence programs.

    • Why do Mccain and Palin keep repeating that Obama voted not to support the troops with funding? It's such an outright distortion. Obama voted against a bill without a timeline, and McCain voted against a bill with a timeline. It had nothing to do with "supporting the troops." I guess when Palin says “the nice thing about running with John McCain is I can assure you he doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group,” what she means is that they are willing to mislead everybody.

    • Is anyone buying the line that “the fundamentals of the econmy are strong” = “our workforce is strong.” That’s just silly.

    • Palin kept saying we should look forward, and not back to the Bush administration. Also we don’t have to know what caused global warming. Yes, just like my broken down car. We don’t need to know why it broke. That’s just looking backward, gosh darnit. We need to face the future and just get that car running!

    • What’s with the winking thing? Is she running for vice president or prom queen?

    • Palin: “You're one who says, as so many politicians do, I was for it before I was against it or vice- versa. Americans are craving that straight talk” Hmm. Bridge to nowhere, anyone? Or, how about that troopergate investigation, that she was for before she was against? Also, has she met her running mate, John McCain, who was against drilling before he was for it, against agents of intolerance before seeking their endorsement, against torture before voting for it, and oh so many more flip flops?

    Biden did finally snap at the end, when Palin called McCain a maverick for the 800th time.

    Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.

    He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.

    He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

    He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

    He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table. Can we send -- can we get Mom's MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can't -- we can't make it. How are we going to heat the -- heat the house this winter? He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.

    So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.

    I agree with the analysis that Biden won the debate, and Palin exceeded expections. But, again, the only thing that matter’s is whether it caused any voters to change their minds and switch votes. We won’t know that for a few more days.

      Wednesday, October 01, 2008

      The Banking Crisis Explained

      I’ve been very confused about this whole banking meltdown. The theory that it was caused by deregulation, lack of oversight, and outright greed makes a lot of sense to me.

      Luckily, Stanley Kurtz of the NY Post is around to set me straight. You see, it turns out it wasn’t banking greed at all. The problem all along turned out to be community organizers and Barack Obama.

      Community organizers intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit.

      In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes - and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

      In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it.

      You see, bankers aren’t interested in easy, short-term profit. They are just intimidated by the awesome power of those evil community organizers, who force them to give money to dark-skinned people. Another theory is that if bankers are to be blamed for anything, it is they have too soft of a heart for dark-skinned people.

      I wonder if a better system would be to pay people with jobs enough money to be able to afford their own homes. That might be tricky, though, since there’s no difference between that and communism. I guess we should stick with the easy solution of blaming community organizers and Barack Obama. After all, the easy solution is always the right one.