Date ►►► October 31, 2008
How to Watch the Election and Know What's Going On
Note from the Mgt: Movie Badger is a new occasional contributor to Big Lizards. It is not any of the normal contributors. It is involved in the entertainment industry, thus prefers anonymity to avoid job complications... since it emphatically is not a liberal.
Watching election night coverage can be confusing and frustrating, because reporters rarely give you a complete picture of what's going on. They want you to keep watching and think every development is of utmost importance; clarity often gets sacrificed for this end.
This is your guide of what to look for and how to determine the results of the election before the news is willing to tell you.
First, I urge you to download the Election Tracker I put together:
- Right-click the link;
- Select save link or save target from the context menu that opens.
This Microsoft Excel file will combine results with expected results from safe states, and give you predicted vote totals. There are lots of websites that let you do the same thing with maps, but they'll all be slammed on election night; this tracker will actually be saved on your local system, so there will be no internet-induced delays. (Plus my interface is quicker.)
If you have trouble getting the tracker to work, please leave a comment and I will try to help.
Will the election be close?
Polls range from showing a statistical dead heat to Obama with an insurmountable lead. Which ones are right, if any?
The answer is that nobody really knows. Built into every poll are the pollsters' own assumptions about voter turn-out. The pollsters all predict huge Democratic turn-out -- far more than in previous elections; but these assumptions are little more than educated guesses. They may turn out to be right, since the pollsters are the experts about this sort of thing. But there's no science behind them, and they could just as easily turn out to be wrong. Treat these predictions as having the same degree of veracity as an expert sportswriter's opinion on who's going to win the Superbowl.
There are some indications that these turn-out guesses could be wrong: In early voting, the split has been pretty even between Democrats and Republicans, and both campaigns (who have access to much more accurate polls than the public ones) are acting as if the election is close. But then, early voters aren't necessarily representative of voters in general; and strategically, it makes sense for both campaigns to act as if the election will be close, even if they think this only has a small likelihood of being the case. If the election's a blowout, nothing they do will matter at this point; so they might as well focus exclusively on the possibility that it won't be.
This analysis will allow you to determine relatively quickly whether the election's a blowout or not. If it is, you'll be able to turn off the TV at 8:30 Eastern Time, knowing that Obama's the winner. If it's close, you'll know what to look for to figure out the winner before anyone else.
Each nominee has a bunch of safe states they are almost certain to win. The media may try to hype results from these as if they're news, but they're not. You can just check them off the list. On the other hand, if a nominee loses any of his safe states, that's huge news; that can only happen if he is losing horribly overall. If any of these states switch sides, the election is over, and you can turn off the coverage.
McCain will almost certainly win the following 21 states:
Obama will almost certainly win the following 16 states:
With these safe states, Obama has 197 electoral votes, while McCain has 163. (It takes 270 to win, but the nominees can theoretically tie at 269 each; see below for that possibility.)
In addition to safe states that each nominee will certainly win, each nominee has states that he must win; if he loses one of these, you can count the election over. (Unless the nominees start trading must-win states; but with a few exceptions, that's not very likely. Overall opinion will lean one way or the other, which ought to have a similar impact on each state's race.)
I'll take these by region, in order of when the polls close.
Obama must win: Pennsylvania
McCain must win: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia*
Toss-ups: New Hampshire, one electoral vote of Maine.
If both nominees win their must-win states, then it's a close election. In that case, New Hampshire will be a good bellwether: Its four electoral votes may not determine the election, but should give you a good idea of which way the toss-up states are leaning. And there are a lot of scenarios in which those four votes could make the difference.
Maine is a safe state for Obama; but Maine and Nebraska have a different system for allocating electoral votes than all other states (which are winner-take-all). In Maine and Nebraska, two electors are chosen by the statewide vote total, but the rest are allocated district by district. This won't matter for Nebraska, which will be solidly McCain; but Maine may not be solidly Obama: One of its two districts -- therefore one of its electors -- might go for McCain. Like New Hampshire, this is a bellwether that has a slight chance of determining the election.
I put an asterisk by Virginia because it's not quite a must-win for McCain; if McCain loses Virginia but wins New Hampshire, there are still some realistic but less likely paths to victory for him. He'd either have to pick off one of Obama's must-win states, or win every toss-up. On the other hand, Obama winning Virginia and McCain winning Pennsylvania is one of the realistic swaps of must-wins; in that case, Obama's the one who's in a lot of trouble. He would have to either pick off another McCain must-win or else sweep all the toss-ups. (If McCain loses Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, the election is over.)
Obama must win: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin
McCain must win: Indiana, Missouri, Ohio
No toss-ups or complications here. Just a simple opportunity to call the election over if one of the nominees loses a must-win state.
Mountain and Pacific states
There are no must-win swing states in these areas. Only safe states and toss-ups.
Toss-ups: Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico
Putting the math together
If each nominee wins his safe and must-win states, McCain would be leading by 260 electoral votes to Obama's 254, with 24 votes up for grabs: 4 for New Hampshire, 1 for the swing district of Maine, 9 for Colorado, 5 for New Mexico, and 5 for Nevada. As the toss-up states are announced, you can add up these numbers. McCain would need 10 points worth of toss-ups to win, while Obama would need 16.
Adjust these as necessary for any wackiness. For example, if they swap Pennsylvania and Virginia, that nets McCain 8 votes; he would only need 2 more from the toss-ups, whereas Obama would need all 24 available votes. By contrast if McCain loses Virginia and Obama holds Pennsylvania, McCain will need to win 23 of the 24 toss-up votes available, while Obama would just need to win 3.
What if there's a tie?
If it's tied 269 to 269, the first thing to worry about is a faithless elector: If someone votes differently from how his state voted, and if that ends up being determinative, it will cause a constitutional crisis that will make the 2000 debacle look like peanuts. Electors are generally chosen because they're party faithfuls -- but even the most partisan of partisan whores can be bribed or blackmailed.
Assuming we get past that minefield, and every elector votes the way he's supposed to, the election will be decided by the newly elected House of Representatives, with each state getting one vote; Democrats currently have a slim majority of delegations, which they will probably, but not definitely, hold in the election... so a tie means that Obama will probably but not definitely win. The vice president is chosen by the Senate using ordinary voting rules, and the Democrats will certainly keep their majority; so Joe Biden would definitely be selected VP. There is an outside chance that we could end up with McCain as President and Biden as VP, which would be silly.
How to know the results early
The media will know more than they're telling you. They wait until polls are closed before giving out results, and will err on the side of caution to avoid a repeat of the 2000 Florida debacle. [Or not; they've been awfully much in the tank this year. -- Dafydd.] But you should be able to get some idea of what's going on just by looking at the news anchors. If you see a lot of happy faces, that's good news for Obama. A lot of sad faces in the media is good news for McCain. (Reverse that if you're watching Fox News.)
Also, as one nominee nears the 270 electoral-vote threshold, the media will start getting more and more reluctant to call states that put a nominee over the top. But if you look at different channels, you'll see that they are calling different states. If any one channel is confident enough to call a state, they're probably right -- unless there's a freak mishap like in Florida in 2000 when some flunkie in charge of compiling exit poll data mistyped the results.) If you add up the states that different channels are calling, you may find that one of the nominees has enough to win. In 2004, I used this method to figure out the winner a half-hour before any channel was willing to declare it.
Lastly, use the tracker I made. If it's a really close election, they may not be willing to call it until the last polls close in Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands. But except for Nevada, everything in the Pacific time zone and points west is safe for one nominee or the other, so by that point the tracker should be making it obvious who's going to win.
Date ►►► October 30, 2008
...And the Elite Media Are NOT the "Fat Ladies" We Mean
I titled an earlier post Don't Give Up the Ship Until the Last Fat Lady Is Hung. I want to make it clear that each and every one of the drive-by media anchors is going to try to become a "fat lady" and sing in the landslide for the One. Let me be less poetic and more specific:
Every network (except maybe Fox News) is at some point going to erroneously call a state for Barack H. Obama (or even accurately but untimely call a state for Obama), in order to suppress GOP voter turnout in states further west... just as Voter News Service did in 2000, with the early and false call of Florida for Al Gore.
(Even Fox News jumped on the pony cart in 2000, but that was only because they too were part of VNS; I expect Brit Hume has learnt his lesson.)
Considering the closeness of Florida, no statistical analyst who looked at the exit polling there could possibly believe that Florida's result was callable -- especially not while polls in the Florida Panhandle were still open It's a statistical absurdity that a state that ends up being so close it takes weeks to decide could possibly have been clear enough to call the moment the polls closed in Miami.
That is why I have always believed that that first call, while polls in Florida were still open, was a deliberate attempt to suppress the GOP vote there... and indeed, across the nation; if a Republican voter believed that Bush had lost Florida, he would think the presidential election was over; such disheartened GOP voters would be less likely to turn out and vote.
In fact, the corrupt early call led directly to the election deadlock -- which was the single greatest factor in the Democratic Party being able to claim with a straight face that Florida was "stolen," and that President George W. Bush was not the legitimate president.
Professor John R. Lott did a statistical analysis of voting patterns in the Panhandle before the call, after the call, and after the retraction; and he concluded -- and nobody has a contradictory analysis of similar heft -- that the early call, which included the false claim that the polls were closed across the state, cost Bush at least 7,500 votes and as many as 10,000 votes in Florida. (Not to mention the vote hit that Bush took for one hour in every other state in the Central and Pacific time zones.)
In other words, were it not for those false claims, repeated many times over the next hour by every major network news team, Bush would have won Florida by 7,500 to 10,000 votes... and I doubt Gore would ever have gone to court over it. No recount imaginable would switch that many votes, so why take the PR hit for nothing?
Just think how different Bush's first term would have been without the meme that he was the "commander in thief" or the "president select!" No long count, no Supreme Court of Florida (SCOFLA) decision for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn, no news "consortium" to revote the election, no chanting mobs.
And we had to suffer through all this why? Because the elites tried to throw the election to Gore by falsely calling Florida for Gore, when they knew for a fact it was too close to call.
Two events were required for this reptilian maneuver (let me rephrase that...) this sly, calculated maneuver to have the effect it did; the first we have no control over:
- The elite media had to be willing to throw its journalistic reputation into the Andy Gump in order to try to get Al Gore elected;
- But just as important, Republicans had to be gullible enough to be fooled into staying home and sulking, rather than going out and defiantly voting anyway.
After all, even were it true that the presidential race was lost, and that Gore -- or today, Barack Obama -- was the president-elect, there were still other races. There are representatives and senators to elect to Congress: A President Obama with 45 Republican senators is worlds apart from a President Obama with 40 Republican senators, or even 42 (we would always be in thrall to the most liberal RINOs, who would threaten to vote for cloture unless they got A, B, and C).
There are governors to elect; besides running your state, which may well affect you more directly than whatever the president does, where do you think our candidates for president and vice president in 2012 and 2016 will come from? There are state legislators to vote for, legislators who are not only the guys and dolls who enact state law but also our recruiting pool for the U.S. House and Senate.
And of course, many states have important initiatives on the ballots that can dramatically affect our culture; here in California, for example, we have the marriage amendment, Proposition 8, that would change the California constitution to restore traditional, man-woman marriage (after our state Supreme Court tossed out an earlier citizen's initiative and mandated same-sex marriage). But there are other initiatives on our ballot Tuesday:
- Proposition 4, amending the California constitution to require parental notification before a minor can get an abortion;
- Proposition 9, a crime victims' bill of rights;
- Proposition 11, changing the authority for drawing legislative districts from the legislature to a citizen committee.
The bottom line is this: Democrats prefer to win by silencing (or pre-eliminating) their opponents. We see this most clearly in Barack Obama, who has a disturbing habit of finding a way to disqualify all of his opponents before the election, thus leaving voters with only one choice -- the One. He even tried it with John S. McCain, sending his minions out to argue that McCain was not a "native born American" because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, was stationed (both McCain's parents were American citizens).
One of the Democrats' favorite techniques is to try to demoralize Republican voters, so they will stay home instead of voting on election day. And the easiest way to do this is to falsely claim the election is over. In fact, the Democratic Party, though its media wing (the elite news media), has already been playing the card for the last several months... don't bother voting, Republicans; Obama has the cat in the bag!
Don't be a sucker. Don't believe anyone who tells you that we've already lost, so there's no point in going to the polls and voting... not even if the person telling you this is a Republican poltroon too afraid (or effete) to fight. Do not believe any stunning Obamic pronunciamento until the last polls close in the Pacific (Hawaii and Alaska are both already in the bag -- HI for Obama and AK for McCain -- so Pacific Time is the line to watch). What an anchor has done, an anchor can aspire to do.
Here in California, the polls close at 8:00 pm PST (please remember to turn your clock backwards one hour this Sunday from 2:00 am to 1:00 am, as Daylight Savings Times switches back to Standard Time). That's 11:00 pm in the East. Anything you hear about states before that time is at least partially intended to suppress Republican voting in the West.
So don't listen. Remember AD 2000, smile quietly, and go ahead and vote. Vote early, vote often.
Just take a vow today not to play Charlie Brown to Obama's Lucy and the football, and you will have disarmed the Democrats of their most potent weapon: Republican fatalism.
Ex-patriot Liberal Intellectuals' Theocracy-Escape Plan
(Yes, I know it should be "expatriate," but a quote is a quote.)
Friend Lee sent this along; I don't know where he got it, but presumably it's all over the dextrosphere by now, because Big Lizards prides itself on always being the last to know.
Liberals, don't just talk about moving to Canada if McCain wins the White House... do it! Do it using the E.L.I.T.E. plan:
Democrats, don't be defeatists... be ELITE-ists!
Date ►►► October 29, 2008
Early Voting... One Battleground State... Where Are They?
The Las Vegas Review Journal has a story up about early voting in Nevada. The campaign of Barack H. Obama has assiduously, compulsively courted three groups in particular... and Obama hangs his campaign on the premise that these three groups can be induced to turn out in record, even staggering numbers:
Traditionally, older people, whites and people who vote consistently tend to turn out at the highest rates overall, said David Damore, a political scientist at UNLV. But this year, much has been made of the idea that the youth vote, the Hispanic vote and first-time voters would turn out at unprecedented rates, galvanized by a heightened political climate and the candidacy of Democratic nominee Barack Obama....
The idea that the electorate will be radically reshaped this year remains an open question, he said, and it's possible the Obama campaign faces a challenge turning out the untested voters it's relying on to win.
Recent polling shows Obama leading in the Silver State by varying margins. Democrats' hopes have been boosted by a tectonic shift in voter registration that has left them with more than 110,000 more registered voters than Republicans, but the GOP insists there's hope because the election will be decided by who votes and how.
Bear in mind that all the polls showing Obama leading in this battleground state are based on that very assumption by the Obama campaign -- that minorities, young voters, and first-time voters will turn out in eye-popping numbers. Pollsters weight their results according to that assumption, boosting the number of responses they receive from members of those three groups and correspondingly reducing the number of responses by older whites who have voted in every election since the Mesozoic Era.
But what if they gave an electoral revolution, and nobody came? Or at least not enough guests for a quorum. We may be about to find out how that affects the accuracy of political polling; if pollster's turnout assumptions are wrong, then the polls have consistently overstated Obama's support and understated that of John S. McCain:
Analysts have predicted that new voters, young voters and Hispanic voters will turn out in record numbers in this election. But as Nevadans continue to flock to the polls, turnout among those three groups is lagging, at least in the early going.
While turnout statewide was nearly 25 percent through Sunday, it was just 20 percent among Hispanic voters, 14 percent among voters under 30 and 15 percent among those who didn't vote in the last three elections, according to an analysis of state early voting records through Sunday prepared by America Votes, an organization that works to mobilize voters....
"I would have expected those numbers to be a little higher," Damore said. "At the same time, the people who come out for early voting may tend to be the tried and true."
Yeah, well, that's the whole point, isn't it? Democrats are relying upon untested voters of dubious enthusiasm, many of them recruited with booze or direct financial inducements by groups like ACORN, to show up and actually vote; in fact, voter registration drives have specifically urged newly registered voters to vote early, either at their local precincts or by absentee balloting.
By contrast, Republicans are relying upon those voters who have always voted in the past. Which group do we suppose is most likely actually to show up in the voting booth?
Now, it's still early in the process; and Obama's "Chicago machine" may yet kick in, even in states as far from Illinois as Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. But if early voting in Nevada is any indication, we may be witnessing the bursting of the Obamabubble.
I'm Thinking of a Global Search and Replace...
...To change every instance of the word "illuminati" in the comments to "aluminum nutty."
What do y'all think?
Date ►►► October 28, 2008
My "Two Elections" Thesis in a Nuthouse
Nothing could more perfectly illustrate my point -- that we have two completely different elections, depending on which pollster you ask -- than a pair of polls released today:
- First, we have the Gallup tracking poll with its traditional test for likely voters, in which Barack H. Obama's lead over John S. McCain has shrunk to 2%... well within the margin of error (not even counting general biases in favor of Democrats, particularly with most of the poll conducted over the weekend).
- And on the same day, covering nearly the same period, we have the Pew poll... which finds Obama's lead over McCain ticking up to fifteen points!
The poll by Pew Research would lead to Obama winning somewhere north of 400 electoral votes... essentially winning every single toss-up state, plus every state that is currently shown as leaning towards McCain (pale red) on the Real Clear Politics electoral map; that would give Obama 411 electoral votes to McCain's 127.
But the traditional Gallup poll would almost certainly result in McCain winning all of the toss-up states, plus several of the states currently shown as leaning towards Obama (pale blue) -- in particular, the Bush states of Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado, plus the conservative district of Maine; this would give McCain a 275 to 263 electoral victory over Obama. (If we headed into the election with Obama and McCain in a photo finish, McCain would probably add New Mexico and possibly Pennsylvania to his stack for a convincing 301 to 237 win.)
So one respected poll tells us it's going to be a watershed landslide for Obama, with McCain's haul being reduced to a small core in the middle of the country -- while another respected poll tell us that McCain is going to win by 12 electoral votes. Reconcile that, brother!
It is of course theoretically possible that the actual spread on election day will be right in between those two, with Obama winning the popular tally by 8.5% (and the election, of course). But my instinct tells me that it's more likely that one of these two scenarios is prophetic, while the other is flat-out wrong, based upon completely erroneous turnout predictions.
The only question is -- which is which? We'll have to hold our collective breath for one more sennight to find out, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
Date ►►► October 27, 2008
Maybe Sarah Palin Reads Big Lizards...!
Earlier today, I gave Mrs. Palin a piece of my mind (I haven't many left) about what to do in response to the corruption convictions of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 64%). I suggested:
At the presser, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin should discuss the verdict, note that she has fought Sen. Stevens for a long time over his corruption, and announce that when he is finally forced to resign his office -- she will call for a vote to expel him from the Senate feet first, if he won't go vertically -- she will appoint David Cuddy as his successor.
A vote for Stevens, she should say, will really be a vote for Cuddy.
I'm sure she reads Hugh Hewitt's blog -- at least the Palin posts by Bill Dyer (Beldar). I envy him the invitation to either the inaugural reception or the Alaska governor's mansion that I'm sure he'll receive.
This is a sad day for Alaska and for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. That control was part of the culture of corruption I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party or seniority or even past service.
As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska.
All right, it's not exactly what I suggested: She didn't overtly threaten to get the Senate to expel him nor mention Cuddy or any other successor. But Bill Dyer points out that the verdict is not official yet, not until the trial judge accepts it. Then there are the inevitable appeals, but I don't think that will delay her more forceful statement; she must only wait for the trial judge to enter the judgment officially -- meaning he concurs that the jury had the necessary facts before it to find him guilty of those charges.
In any event, Palin evidently agreed with Big Lizards that she had to jump out immediately and say something about such a massive corruption decision in her own state. So there.
...So when do I get my own invitation to the inaugural or the Juneau jubilee? Or at the very least, my invitation to the next Iditarod, starting March 7th? I don't want to have to masquerade as Beldar's manservant yet again, just to get a free chicken dinner.
In Memoriam: Dean Barnett (1967-2008)
Alas, Dean Barnett died today from complications due to his cystic fibrosis.
Objectively, I didn't really know him that well; I carried on a few e-mail conversations with him about various matters, both when he was at Soxblog and at his later gigs at Hugh Hewitt's blog and Weekly Standard. But for some reason, subjectively, I always thought of him as a friend. I was very much engaged in his final struggle, and his death has affected me much more than the deaths of occasional relatives to whom I was, in theory, closer.
I'm not unique; I think that was just Dean's way. I strongly suspect he made nearly everyone feel like his friend, even those who only "knew" him from his stints guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
I will certainly miss him; but again, I know I'm not alone.
Requiescat in pace, Dean.
Calling a log a wagon doesn’t provide it with wheels, and calling the union of two men or two women a “marriage” doesn’t make it in any real sense a marriage.
Words have meanings, and their meanings matter. One of the basic tenets of liberalism is that there are no absolutes, no black and white, everything is relative; so, in the liberal world, it’s OK for a man and a man to say they are “married,” even though the definition of marriage has never included that meaning.
Actually, the traditions of marriage, and even the continued practice of marriage in some Moslem nations, say that a man can have more than one wife, sometimes multiple wives. Are we prepared to allow that? Are we prepared to allow an adult to marry a child? What about a man or a woman marrying a dolphin or a dog?
To call this a “civil rights” issue is to cheapen and demean the civil rights struggles of the last century. You are violating someone’s civil right if you treat them differently than other people because of what he or she inherently is.
Gays can marry; they just can’t live together and call that marriage, any more than someone who has a bicycle license can use that license to drive a car.
Words have meanings. Marriage is a sacrament, but it also has a civil meaning. If words are to mean what they say, then we need to support Prop. 8 and overturn the California Supreme Court’s decision that itself overturned the overwhelming will of the people of this state.
What to Do About Criminally Convicted Sen. Teddy?
No, not that Teddy... I said "criminally convicted." I'm referring to RINO Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 64%), just found guilty of all seven counts of felony corruption charges. He was already in a tight race against Democrat Mark Begich -- the polling at Real Clear Politics has three polls, each within the margin of error; what can be done to make it more likely that Republicans will hold that Senate seat?
As an immediate first step, I would hope that the governor of Alaska (some woman, I vaguely recall) should call a press conference. Because of other recent activities of hers, I suspect she will get a lot of reporters. At the presser, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin should discuss the verdict, note that she has fought Sen. Stevens for a long time over his corruption, and announce that when he is finally forced to resign his office -- she will call for a vote to expel him from the Senate feet first, if he won't go vertically -- she will appoint David Cuddy as his successor.
A vote for Stevens, she should say, will really be a vote for Cuddy.
Former state legislator David Cuddy was the second-place finisher in the GOP primary; Stevens got 67% of the vote, Cuddy got 28%, and nobody else was even in double digits.
Palin should make it clear that even if Stevens tries to stay, Republicans in the Senate will vote en masse against allowing a convicted felon to serve.
But since expulsion from the Senate requires a two-thirds vote (67 members), it would finally be up to the Democrats to complete the sequence; in the current Congress, that means that if all 49 Republicans vote to expel, it would still require 18 of the 51 Democrats, or 35%, to rid the senatorial body of its cancer -- or this particular cell of it, at least. (I include Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, 70%, and Bernie Sanders, I-VT, 95%, as "Democrats" because they caucus as such). Thus, if Stevens stays, it will be because Democrats, in a fit of staggering partisan gamesmanship, vote to keep him there so they can try to hang him around Republicans necks.
There is certainly no guarantee such an announcement would hold that seat; it was already dicey before the convictions. But at least this would give the Alaska GOP a fighting chance to make the case that they stand foursquare against corruption; and that if anyone is going to keep a convicted felon in the United States Senate, it will be the Democrats... who in the past have rarely seen mere criminality as a barrier to public service.
Some Interesting Polling Figures and Map Games
Currently -- before most of the October 26th polling trickles in -- Barack H. Obama is ahead in the Real Clear Politics average by 7.6%; but that includes some whoppers (in both senses of the word) from several days ago, polls of dubious character: the Newsweek poll (Obama +12) and the CBS/New York Times poll (Obama +13). Both are outliers by far; no other poll shows a bigger spread than 8 points, except for the Gallup "expanded" poll -- Obama +9 -- which is essentially a poll of registered voters, not likelies, and which I completely discount... hence do not count.
Taking only the most recent polls that include October 25th or later, Obama's lead drops to 6.2% [correction, now down to 5.3% with a couple more polls].
But I suspect that any voter who is still undecided on election day will vote for John S. McCain: Obama is the riskier candidate of "hopey changitude," as Beldar puts it; and those who are hesitating are likely those who kinda sorta want to vote for Obama but just aren't sure he's up to the job, having virtually no resume at all. In any event, if we assign all the undecideds to McCain, that tells us the best McCain can get without having to pry Obama supporters away from the One They Have Been Waiting For.
Going through the recent polls and assigning all the undecideds to McCain gives us the following numbers: Barack Obama, 50.2%; John McCain, 49.8%... Obama leads by 0.4%.
Of course, there is a certain built-in bias towards Democrats in polling; it stems from several sources:
- Exaggeration of probable Democratic turnout and a corresponding minimization of Republican turnout;
- The "self-selection" fallacy, wherein Democrats are more willing to cooperate with pollsters than Republicans;
- The "weekend polling" fallacy;
- The "PC effect." I don't believe much in the pure Bradley effect -- voters saying they will vote for the black candidate but really voting for the white candidate, due to racism; but there is clearly a tendency for respondents to falsely tell pollsters they will vote the "politically correct" way, then vote the opposite in the privacy of the voting booth. This effect is especially pronounced when during a concerted campaign to paint anyone who doesn't vote for Obama as a "racist."
Given all this, depending on how the undecideds break, it's entirely possible that McCain would actually be ahead right now in some hypothetically perfect poll. But even if Obama would still lead, it's not by very much... a couple of percentage points at worst.
In the meanwhile, it's good to remember that this is not a single election but 51 separate elections (50 states plus the District of Columbia) that will determine the electoral vote. As I've noted in the past, Real Clear Politics has a facility where one can take an Electoral College map and reassign states at will, to explore possible routes to la Casablanca.
I believe I already mentioned one such scenario: If McCain ends up winning Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia, where he is currently running slightly behind in state polling, then he will almost certainly win every state that is currently a toss up as well (especially since every toss-up state is a state that George Bush won in 2000 and 2004); that would give McCain 274 electoral votes, and he would win with four points to spare.
But here is another route to the White House... even if McCain loses Colorado:
First, read this blogpost on Virginia Virtucon about a Democratic pollster's assessment of the real status of several battleground states... as opposed to the probably biased state polls that are reported on RCP (hat tip to "Radioblogger" Duane Patterson on Hugh Hewitt's blog). The female Democratic pollster says:
[T]he results of their polling lead her to believe that McCain will definitely win FL, OH, NC, MO and NV. She says Obama definitely wins New Mexico. She said that Colorado and New Hampshire were absolute dead heats. She said she thinks there is a 55% chance Obama holds on in Pennsylvania and a 75% chance McCain wins Virginia....Anyway, her companies conclusion is that the election will come down to Colorado, New Hampshire and the Republican leaning district in Maine, which in her opinion might very well decide the Presidency.
Let's take her at her word; here is my alternative scenario. I had forgotten that Maine is one of only two states (I believe) that split their electoral votes. Assume McCain wins all the toss ups, and that he wins Ohio and Virginia but loses the Rocky Mountain state. That gives him 265, Obama 273. But now, if the pollster in the article above is correct, McCain could win New Hampshire.
The only poll showing Obama way ahead in NH is the Boston Globe's, one of the most notoriously biased polls around. If Rasmussen (Obama +4) is more correct there -- or even Rasmussen averaged with the Concord Monitor (Obama +7), the only two recent polls besides the Globe's -- then McCain is only 4 or 5 points down in that state... or 3 points if McCain gets the undecided vote.
If McCain wins New Hampshire, that makes it a 269-269 tie. But McCain has a very good shot at winning one of Maine's electoral votes, because they split: There is a Republican-leaning district that contributes one of the four votes.
If that happens, then even with Obama taking Colorado, it's McCain 270, Obama 268... and Keith Olbermann's head explodes like the overripe pumpkin it actually resembles, inside and out.
So as I have previously said, don't give up the ship until you see the whites of their eyes; get out and vote -- and get 3-5 friends to get out and vote, too!
Date ►►► October 26, 2008
Marriage - a Fundamental Liberty?
In short, no, it isn't... and I don't care what the Supreme Court (U.S. or California) says: Any claim that marriage is a fundamental right or liberty contradicts itself. For the most obvious examples, if it were a fundamental right, then how could it be illegal for a brother to wed his sister? Shouldn't "strict scrutiny" apply to laws against consanguineous marriage, polygamy, polyandry, and even marriage with minors? After all, even kids have freedom of speech under some circumstances. Yet no court has ever even hinted at any such ruling. Any court that has ruled marriage a fundamental liberty is confused, contradictory, biased, bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.
But what about judicial rulings striking down laws against miscegenation? Isn't that just the same as striking down laws banning same-sex marriage? After all, isn't sexual preference beyond individual control, just as race is?
First, we don't know that that is true; but leave that aside. The more important point is that the courts were not acting in a vacuum in the racial case... there was already a long history of anti-racial-discrimination law enacted by the people, which the courts finally decided (in the mid-twentieth century) to enforce. "We the people" held that racial color-blindness was a civil right and liberty, and we signaled this decision by enacting the Civil Rights constitutional amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution).
If properly enacted, using the accepted procedure, either a California or a federal constitutional amendment or statute stating that same-sex and opposite-sex relationships (not just people) must be treated the same, then I would think it reasonable that courts begin enforcing such constitutional rights; but we haven't, so they shouldn't.
So if the analogy of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage is improper and invalid -- as it clearly is, in the absence of any corresponding constitutional amendment -- then what is the proper analogy? After long thought, I think I finally have the answer: There is none.
No, seriously. I talked it over with Friend Lee, and we jointly concluded that marriage is sui generis; there is no proper analogy between marriage and any other human institution or activity, nothing we can point to as a model for understanding what would happen to marriage if you monkey with it.
But it is also sine qua non for Western civilization... at least so far as we know. For those very two reasons, it deserves to be let alone.
Let's go a bit deeper and think about this. Religious marriage is clearly a fundamental liberty protected by the First Amendment; nobody should be able to tell you to whom or how many you should be married... in the eyes of your faith. If you worship Ra, and you want to consider yourself religiously married to your sibling, who are we to tell you No?
But civil marriage -- legal marriage -- is a creation of the State, for the purpose of advancing civilized society. Legal marriage is State-sponsored discrimination in favor of a particular kind of relationship, that which most benefits our civil and religious Western society. It's the State sanctioning, rewarding, and cheering one specific type of relationship, which we have believed for more than two thousand years is a bulwark of our civilization: opposite-sex monagamy with a person over the age of consent and not too closely blood-related.
The essence of discrimination is exclusivity: If we are to discriminate in favor of a particular relationship, other relationships must be excluded from the rewards offered for the privileged relationship. If we don't, if everyone is equally special, then as Dash says in The Incredibles, that's the same as saying that no one is special. (This is a "duh" moment.)
There are only two questions that need answers anent civil marriage:
- Who within the society has the authority to decide the rules that define that exclusivity? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong?
- What relationships should that person or class of persons decide is right? Which relationship should get privileged, while all others are deprivileged?
Answer these, and you have defined a huge chunk of your civilization.
As to question number one, it was already answered 232 years ago by better men than I. See if this sounds familiar:
Thomas Jefferson and his co-conspirators saw as "self-evident" that the only class within society that has the authority to decide the rules that define the most fundamental unit of society -- the family -- is the class of "the governed," that is, the people. It is the most basic, most fundamental right of all. (Governments that rule against the consent of the governed have a special name; we call them tyrannies.)
The people can express their will in two ways: By direct vote, as with California's Proposition 22 back in 2000 or Proposition 8 this year; or by vote of their elected officials.
But not by judicial decree. The judiciary's job is to decide individual cases and occasionally to pass judgment on whether laws comport with the state and federal constitutions... not to make fundamental, deep, and long-lasting changes to society to fit the whims of the "enlightened" and "progressive" judges themselves... the anointed who have "the vision," as Thomas Sowell puts it.
As to the second question, I have made my arguments; just search on this topic, Matrimonial Madness, for a long list. I believe that "opposite-sex monagamy with a person over the age of consent and not too closely blood-related" is still the best relationship for Western civilization, even after thousands of years for us to think about it collectively.
But the only proper issue anent Proposition 8 is the first question. Judicial conservatives believe the people, the "governed," should decide what constitutes marriage; judicial activists think anointed judges should make the call, as they are more enlightened and progressive than the lumpenproletariat voter who lacks even class consciousness. That is the great divide.
Judicial conservatives, of which I am one (despite differences with other judicial conservatives over whether "liberty" interests include the right to sleep with whom one chooses), believe that the people have the authority to choose to extend marriage rights (and rites) to same-sex couples... but they are not compelled to do so, merely because has-been singer Barbra Streisand, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and California Chief Justice Ronald George demand it.
If the people want to change the rules of marriage to "anything goes," they can jolly well do so under the normal procedures... which in California means proposing, qualifying, passing, and then enacting a citizens' initiative to overturn Proposition 22. Prop 22 passed overwhelmingly (61-39) in 2000; it reads, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Judicial activists on the California Supreme Court had a different opinion, however; led by Chief Justice George, they simply declared Proposition 22 null and void, waving away the will of the people (and the consent of the governed) as irrelevant and immaterial, like Hamilton Burger objecting to Perry Mason introducing direct evidence of his client's innocence.
Now we have Proposition 8 to vote upon a week from Tuesday. By a strange twist of fate, Proposition 8 reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." If it passes, then the only option available to judicial activists will be -- to declare the California constitution unconstitutional under the California constitution -- a circumlocution that would be unprecedented and breathtaking in its absurdity.
If it fails, then we may as well conclude that the people have consented to same-sex marriage. I will think it a wretched decision; but the people have the right to make wretched mistakes.
I will accept the decision of the voters. Will the Left? Somehow, I doubt they will extend us that courtesy... and if they did, it would be unique in the annals of their own history. If Proposition 8 passes -- it currently leads in the polls -- then look for a jaw-dropping series of legal maneuvers to once again silence the tongues of the people, in preference to the vision of the anointed.
Obama MUST win!
Barack Obama must be elected president! We are told this by no less than the mainstream media, which long since abandoned any pretense of neutrality in covering the election.
We are told this by the Europeans, and pretty much the rest of the world, who will never forgive us if we don’t elect this attractive, articulate man who will make them forget how much they resent us -- if only for a few hours.
We are told this by many blacks themselves, who imply none too subtlely that to vote against this handsome young black man is the equivalent of being a bigot. Never mind that he is a socialist.
Do you doubt that? Just check out the online link where Obama was confronted by a plumber. “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” the plumber asked.
It’s not that I want to punish your success... I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody... I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.
Finally, we are told that if we don’t elect Obama president, whether or not we like his politics, that we can expect the oppressed underclass to take to the streets and do whatever spoiled underclasses do when they don’t get their way. Burn stuff, I guess.
Obama must be elected. We have no choice!
Date ►►► October 24, 2008
The Little ACORN That Couldn't
Recently, Republicans have been quaking in their boots over the oak-thewed ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and their mighty voter registration drive that netted (they claimed) more than 1.3 million newly registered voters. It's a tidal wave! We'll be swamped on election day!
But word trickled out today that, well, not quite:
On Oct. 6, the community organizing group Acorn and an affiliated charity called Project Vote announced with jubilation that they had registered 1.3 million new voters. But it turns out the claim was a wild exaggeration, and the real number of newly registered voters nationwide is closer to 450,000, Project Vote’s executive director, Michael Slater, said in an interview.
The remainder are registered voters who were changing their address and roughly 400,000 that were rejected by election officials for a variety of reasons, including duplicate registrations, incomplete forms and fraudulent submissions from low-paid field workers trying to please their supervisors, Mr. Slater acknowledged....
“We were wondering how many were Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “The group is really tainted, and any work they do is suspect.”
But not to worry; ACORN is perfectly willing to submit to investigation of its voter registration project... self-investigation, that is. In fact, they've already conducted just such a self-examination and discovered themselves a clean bill of health:
In interviews this week, Acorn officials said they had an extensive program to detect fraudulent applications, which included calling the registrants to verify information provided on the forms. They also said they had combed through electronic records from the group’s field offices across the country, and that their internal audit did not show evidence of pervasive voter registration fraud.
The key word there is of course "pervasive." ACORN itself estimated 15,000 fraudulent registrations; in addition, up to 25% of new registrations were actually duplicates, and an additional 5% were "incomplete." Brian Kettenring, an ACORN spokesman, says the group intends to correct its website -- which today still touts the wildly inflated 1.3 million figure -- to say they've only registered 900,000 voters... despite the fact that they have already determined that only about 450,000 are actually new registrations.
Thus they are apparently going to correct an error of 190% too high down to an error of only 100% too high; after all, "the group did not intend to be misleading," explains the New York Times. (Keep checking back on the ACORN link above to see how long it takes them actually to make this correction; will it be before or after the election?)
The ACORN affilliate actually running the voter-registration drive, Project Vote, angrily responded to the Times article:
In our interview with the Times we explained that roughly 35 percent of our registrants are expected to be brand-new voters, and another 35 percent will be Americans who needed to update their registrations. Perhaps another 30 percent will be incomplete, will fail to match in government systems, or will be from people who did not realize they were already registered. Less than 1-2 percent will turn out to be deliberately falsified by canvassers.
The Times article’s characterization is particularly disappointing since Project Vote has been open and forthcoming about these numbers throughout our drive, and in fact explained the same realities about voter registration drives to New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan for a story that appeared on June 15th of this year.
Here is an example of ACORN's forthcomingness, from their own website:
Registering to vote is one of the first steps toward becoming a full participant in American democracy and a citizen who can influence change in a community. ACORN helped more than 1.68 million citizens to register to vote in voter registration drives leading up to the 2004 and 2006 elections.
This year we have seen unprecedented interest in the Presidential election. We are proud that we have been able to capture the excitement by helping over 1.3 million citizens register to vote. This has been the largest, non-partisan voter registration effort in history. Please see our news section to read updates about our voter engagement work.
ACORN helps the people register who most need to make their voices heard in this election: African Americans, Latinos, low-income citizens, and youth. These new voters are getting involved in the election process because they want to see changes in health care, the economy, mortgage lending practices, and public schools.
I can't quite find exactly where they've been forthcoming about the fact that only 35% of that 1.3 million figure comprises new registrations, rather than reregistering people who are already registered to vote; perhaps I'm just not reading closely enough. But to be fair, they mentioned it in a quote buried deep within an interview back in June -- and yet again a scant four months later. I reckon that about covers their "forthcomingness" responsibility.
So ACORN's internal evaluation completely clears them; it's time to MoveOn. But other investigators don't seem quite so sanguine:
In Las Vegas, where state officials raided Acorn offices this month to seize records, the county registrar of voters, Harvard L. Lomax, said his workers had found hundreds of potentially fraudulent registrations beyond those identified by Acorn.
Hundreds more fraudulent registrations in one city alone (population 558,880) translates to many thousands more fraudulent registrations on top of the 15,000 already admitted to by ACORN. That doesn't sound like much, until one realizes that Project Vote has been targeting swing states where (by definition) the vote will be close: A few thousand fraudulent voters could possibly swing Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, or Florida; if even one of those states flipped, it would without question hand the presidency to Barack H. Obama.
Regardless of the fact that ACORN turned out to be the little engine that couldn't -- at least not to the extent they're still claiming -- nevertheless, they are still the largest community voter-fraud organization in the country and Obama's favorite financial recipient and donor both. No matter how the election goes in eleven days, it's urgent that the Republican Party find a way to break the back of ACORN's illegal voter-fraud program.
We need high-level prosecutions of top ACORN officials and the "community organization" itself under RICO statutes as an ongoing criminal enterprise. Nothing less will deter its leaders... certainly not the jailing of a few low-level "soldiers."
Patterico's Pontifications - Possibly "Hijacked"
My pal and erstwhile blogboss Pat Frey has discovered that his domain registrar, 1&1 -- evidently a German company, "1und1" -- is now auctioning his longtime domain name for Patterico's Pontifications, patterico.com... despite the fact that he renewed his registration before expiry:
The company “1&1″ has allowed my domain, patterico.com, to be hijacked.
Look up at the address bar. This is still the Patterico site -- but I no longer have the patterico.com domain -- even though I renewed it before the expiration date. My domain registrar has apparently seen fit to sell the domain out from under me despite my having taken timely steps to renew it.
If they can do this to me, they can do it to you. They can do it to anyone.
I have spent the past couple of days trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they’re now selling it off, so it’s clear they’ve been lying to me.
For the nonce, his URL will be http://patterico.net/ -- dot-net instead of dot-com. But you can also still get there via the raw internet address, http://18.104.22.168/ (at the moment, the raw IA redirects to the new .net URL).
He's also seeking lawyers who are competent at web-based litigation.
Let's keep our eyes crossed that this is just some dreadful mistake on 1&1's part, or else that their hijacking can be aborted (whichever turns out to be accurate), and that Patterico's Pontifications may once again return to the patterico.com domain we've all come to know and lob.
Date ►►► October 23, 2008
Clinton's Smoking Fannie
Friend Lee has gone big-game hunting, and he bagged a major trophy: A smoking-gun article from the New York Times, September 30th, 1999, that settles once and for all who is to blame for the current economic collapse. The title of the article says it all: Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending.
First, let's settle the evidently still "open question" of who was behind the move to lend too much money to people who had no ability to repay it:
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.
The article notes that "banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers." Then it quotes our good friend Franklin Delano Raines, who it identifies only as "Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer."
In fact, during Jimmy Carter's administration, Raines was a top official at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and also on the White House Domestic Policy Staff; later, he became Fannie Mae's vice chairman in 1991 -- then leapt back onto the White House staff in 1996, as Bill Clinton's director of OMB.
Three years later, in 1999, he flipped and twisted right back into Fannie Mae -- this time as CEO. Raines' career perfectly illustrates the flying trapeze of the Clinton administration, where high officials float through the air with the greatest of ease between quasi-private businesses and the very bodies that regulate those same businesses. Thus Raines helps rewrite the rules for Fannie Mae, then immediately leaves to run the company under the rules he just helped change in Fannie Mae's favor.
Which point the Times fails even to mention. Welcome to the New York Times, the great dissembler: "All the news we see fit to print!"
Here is Raines, carefully explaining the wonderful intentions behind subprime lending:
''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''
Well don't worry; we'll fix that little discrepency.
(Five years later, Raines was forced to accept "early retirement" for his accounting shenanigans, which put millions of dollars from Fannie Mae into his own pocket -- as much as $90 million in extra compensation based upon overstated earnings. He later settled for a $3 million fine, which is actually paid by Fannie Mae's insurance policy. So it goes in the Democratic era of Clinton; think "Sandy Berger.")
Why would the Clinton administration and congressional Democrats be so anxious to lower the borrowing requirements? Back in 1999, basking in the glow of the golden age of Clinton, the Times was rather more forthcoming about the purpose:
By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.
Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites.
Oh, and while we're at it:
The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.
Somehow I suspect that findings of "racial discrimination" directly bolstered congressional support for the Clinton policy that Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) scrap credit requirements in order to dramatically increase the number of mortgages extended to minority home buyers. As we have seen this year, it's very hard to avoid flinching when the Left begins lobbing racism artillery shells; it's the ammunition that never runs low.
What an astonishing coincidence: An investigation by HUD into "racial discrimination" in credit ratings -- probably based entirely on the "disparate impact" of such ratings on the ability of blacks and Hispanics to get home loans, rather than any comparison of default rates among whites, blacks, and Hispanics -- followed immediately by deregulation that allows Fannie Mae to essentially ignore credit rating when it buys or guarantees mortgages, with the avowed purpose of increasing the rate of lending to minority home owners.
HUD was run at the time by Andrew Cuomo, who was the cabinet official most anxious to scrap the Fannie/Freddie credit rules; I am not sanguine that the "investigation" his department initiated was conducted in an unbiased and non-politicized fashion. Color me cynical.
Speaking of prescience, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, issued a blunt warning back in 1999:
In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.
''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''
This article should end all question of who is to blame and who tried to stop the insanity; but of course, the Times will not report on this point... even to the extent of not reporting in 2008 what it itself openly reported nine years ago. Back then, the bad-credit mortgage program was a feather in Bill Clinton's cap, leading to more minority home ownership; but today, it's a black eye for the Democratic Party, and particularly damaging to the ascendance of the One We Have Been Waiting For. And that makes all the difference in its newsworthiness.
If You're Having Trouble Finding Patterico's Pontifications...
Pat suggests you use the raw internet address instead of the domain name:
That should get you there.
Pat won't tell us why his domain name suddenly shunts you to something called "Sedo Domain Parking;" however, my ace sources tell me it all started with an unfortunate series of events -- involving credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities -- that left the Los Angeles
Dog Trainer Times the sole proprietor of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). But my follies and foibles are hardly the issue here, are they? One would hardly expect my serotonin levels to be within my direct mental control, would one?
(Actually, they are; don't ask, and I won't tell.)
Date ►►► October 22, 2008
Don't Give Up the Ship Until the Last Fat Lady Is Hung
Take a look at these polls listed at Real Clear Politics, as of 11:40 am PST, October 22nd, 2008; each poll was released today and covers either through October 21st or through October 20th. All trends are based on the previous poll (yesterday's unless marked) and are relative to Barack H. Obama... so +2 means 2 points better for Obama, -2 means 2 points better for John S. McCain:
- Zogby: Obama +10 (trend +2)
- AP: Obama +1 (trend -6 from October 1st)
- NBC/WSJ: Obama +10 (trend +4 from October 6th)
- Battleground: Obama +2 (trend +1)
- Fox News: Obama +9 (trend +2 from October 10th)
- IBD: Obama +4 (trend -2)
- Ipsos: Obama +8 (trend unknown -- last poll was registereds, not likelies -- probably positive)
- Gallup trad: Obama +5 (trend -2)
- Rasmussen: Obama +6 (trend +2)
- Hotline: Obama +5 (trend -2 from October 10th)
(Polls in blue trended towards Obama, those in black trended towards McCain.)
Not only are the polls all over the place -- Zogby has Obama up 10 points, AP has Obama up only one point? -- but even the trends are all over the place, from 4 points towards Obama to 6 points towards McCain.
This is a near perfect illustration of how different respondent pools, order of questions asked, and turnout assumptions all affect poll results. We cannot single out any particular poll in advance and declare that poll to be the "correct" one, while the others are more or less wrong. We simply don't know today which poll will prove to be prophetic of election day.
Obviously, Zogby and AP cannot both be accurate, but which should we believe? What Real Clear Politics does is simply take the mean average of the polls: They add up all the recent poll numbers for Obama and divide by the number of polls, do the same for McCain, and compare them. But the standard deviation here is hellish; it's like the old joke...
It's useless to average a +10 poll and a +1 poll to say that on average, Obama is 5.5% ahead. It's reasonable to suppose that Obama is "really" 8-10 points up; but it's just as reasonable, and just as accurate, to suppose that he is "really" only 2-3 points up. And if the latter turns out to be the "correct" figure -- that is, if the turnout assumptions that produced the lower figures more accurately match what happens on November 4th than the assumptions that produced the higher lead -- then John McCain has a very strong chance to win the election.
Democratic turnout will certainly be a bigger percent of the electorate than in 2000 and 2004, but how much bigger? Let's label the two scenarios illustrated by the polling above "big" Democratic turnout and "tsunami"-sized Democratic turnout. A projected big Democratic turnout yields a 2-3 point current advantage for Obama, while a projected tsunami turnout for the Democrats yields an 8-10 point advantage. Since we don't know at this point whether Democratic turnout will be merely big or a tsunami-like tidal wave, we cannot begin to guess how far ahead Obama is... or even whether he is catchable.
If it turns out to be tsunami, then nothing McCain does can change the outcome: He will lose, end of analysis. So let's look at the other scenario exclusively. Here is a very useful tool, the Real Clear Politics' "Create your own map" facility. You can click on different states, set them to either Obama or McCain, and see how that affects the final electoral count.
Currently, counting leaners, the RCP map shows Obama/Biden with 286 electoral votes, McCain/Palin with 160, and 92 votes are contained in states that are toss ups, meaning leaning one way or the other by less than five points (in fact, all but one lean by less than three points).
We're assuming, for sake of analysis, that the Democratic turnout is big, but not tsunami. If that is the case, then the structural Democratic advantage inherent in most polling means that McCain is likely to win all the states currently listed as toss ups: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio -- all of which were won by George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000. So let's go ahead and change them on the map from "toss up" to "leaning McCain."
When we do that, the electoral vote becomes Obama/Biden 286, McCain/Palin 252. So what states does McCain need to switch to win the election?
The two that spring readily to mind are both Bush states from 2004 and 2000: Colorado and Virginia. I frankly disbelieve the polling showing Obama ahead by 5.4% in Colorado and by 6.8% in Virginia. But even if we accept those numbers, neither is very significant: Colorado is just barely out of the toss up category, and even Virginia is subject to assumptional poll fluctuation (Rassmussen has Obama up by 10, but Mason-Dixon has Obama up by only 2). Again, if we're talking the big scenario, not the tsunami scenario, then these two states are very winnable.
If McCain wins them -- taking not one single blue state, and giving up the former (slightly) red state of Iowa, which has become deep blue in the last four years -- then John McCain wins the election by 274 to 264. In fact, he could even lose either Montana or North Dakota and still win (barely).
Curious sidebar: If McCain wins Colorado and Virginia, plus all the toss ups except Nevada, then we have a 269-269 tie; the race would be decided by the House of Representatives, with each delegation getting one vote -- and that means Obama wins, because Democrats currently control 27 state delegations in the House, while Republicans control only 21; 2 are split... but even if they both break for McCain, he still loses by 27 to 23.
Joe Biden is almost certain to be chosen as vice president in this case, because the Twelfth Amendment appears to leave the VP selection to the Senate on an ordinary majority vote; the Senate currently comprises 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats; but even if Joe Lieberman votes for Sarah Palin, there will certainly be more Democrats in the Senate in the new 111th Congress, which would do the voting in such a case.
This is why it's ridiculous to panic, despair, and resign ourselves to President Obama: Everything, even the winner, still depends upon which turnout assumption we pick; Each outcome still has support in the polls. Neither outcome is the overwhelming favorite.
So as I've said many times, it's time to put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Let's go out there and win one for the old nipper!
Date ►►► October 20, 2008
My One Obligatory Slow-Joe Biden "Inadvertent Truth" Post
One point about the fascinating and illuminating two-paragraph "gaffe" (i.e., letting the mask slip) committed by Joe Biden yesterday. Beldar (Bill Dyer) hinted at it, but I'll make it explicit. Here is what Biden let slip:
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
John F. Kennedy became president on January 20th, 1961; six months after his inauguration -- the time frame Biden specified -- would be July 20th, 1961.
There was only on "world test" that Kennedy had to face during that period, and it was not the Cuban missile crisis (October 1962), nor the Berlin wall (which began construction in August 1961), nor even the Bay of Pigs fiasco -- which was a personal test (that JFK failed), but not really a world test; the "world" only found out about it after the fact, not before.
Rather, the only world test he faced in his first six months was the infamous Vienna conference with Nikita Khrushchev on June 3-4, 1961. Here is an excellent summary by Scott Johnson of how wonderfully that turned out for us:
The parties reached no agreement on any set agenda or proposals prior to their meeting in Vienna on June 3 and 4. The meetings were therefore confined to the informal exchange of views referred to in Kennedy's February letter. By all accounts, including Kennedy's own, the meetings were a disaster. Khrushchev berated, belittled, and bullied Kennedy on subjects ranging from Communist ideology to the balance of power between the Soviet and Western blocs, to Laos, to "wars of national liberation," to nuclear testing. He threw down the gauntlet on Berlin in particular, all but threatening war....
Immediately following the final session on June 4 Kennedy sat for a previously scheduled interview with New York Times columnist James Reston at the American embassy. Kennedy was reeling from his meetings with Khrushchev, famously describing the meetings as the "roughest thing in my life." Reston reported that Kennedy said just enough for Reston to conclude that Khrushchev "had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs" and that he had "decided that he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed."
Based upon the impression that Khrushchev took from that dreadful performance by President Kennedy, the Berlin wall and the Cuban missile crisis followed as night follows dusk.
This is the only incident Biden could possibly have been referring to in his rambling "warning" yesterday. He goes on to prophecy that when Barack H. Obama receives his own "Vienna conference" world test -- probably a conference without preconditions with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- Obama's performance will also appear to be catastrophic:
"And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right [in how Obama handles that world test]."
47 years ago, Nikita Khrushchev received the impression of a weak American president who would negotiate, bargain, wheedle, appease, even beg, all to avoid a fight he was afraid to fight. Right or wrong, that impression had terrible consequences: We almost went to nuclear war. The only reason we didn't is that Khrushchev offered a deal... he would pull Soviet missiles out of Cuba if we pulled ours out of Turkey. The Soviet Union got its deal; we lost an advantage we'd had over them, but we avoided atomic Armageddon.
Khrushchev didn't want nuclear war; the old Commie was rational. Does Barack Obama dare make the same assumption about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Obama's own running mate predicts that within six months of his inauguration, BO will face a "world test" like the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit of June, 1961... and that Obama will flunk it exactly the way Kennedy did.
Kennedy's failure nearly led to nuclear war; fortunately, the Soviets in 1961 were sane. I'm not so sanguine about the Iranians in 2009.
Palin Doped Iditarod Sled Dogs, and Other Possible October Surprises
Commenter Baggi suggests that the Colin Powell endorsement wouldn't be Barack H. Obama's big "October surprise" against John S. McCain, because it comes too early in the month. The true October surprise ideally materializes the last week before the election -- as when George W. Bush's DUI arrest was released a week before the 2000 election, or when Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced the indictment of former Bush-41 Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger four days before the 1992 election.
(And why is it that it's always Democrats who launch such surprises against Republicans, never the other way round? Of course, the essence of an October surprise is to catch the other guy falling short of his principles; so how can Democrats fall short of what they haven't got in the first place?)
Thus, Obama may still put one more shoe on the other hand. Here are some lizardian suggestions of what that bootless shoe might comprise:
- During the several years when Sen. McCain resided abroad in Vietnam, he and his dorm-mates pooled all their resources and shared them equally. Can you say "spread the wealth around" -- Comrade McCain?
- In 1946, in a 6th grade English assignment -- long after World War II had ended -- John McCain used a hurtful racist slur against our then-allies. He wrote, "When I grow up I want to be a solder because I will get to drive a tank and a jap and a airplan and kill Natzes." Apparently, McCain's violent, racist fantasies began a long time before his current campaign.
- In stunning news, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin turns out not to be eligible for that high office because she is not a "natural born citizen;" although her parents were both American citizens, she herself was born in Alaska, way up north past Canada -- not in the continental United States of America at all. Can we trust a foreigner in the highest office of the land?
- Two years ago, John McCain proposed a risky scheme to give illegal aliens a "path to citizenship." But recent research has revealed one element of that plan that McCain never disclosed to the American people: Once those illegal immigrants were U.S. citizens, under the McCain plan, they would be eligible for drivers licenses. Illegal immigrants and drivers licenses -- now which pot is calling the kettle African American?
- An independent congressional watchdog whistleblowing reform taxpayer's association has stumbled upon shocking evidence that "Senator Clean," John McCain, has allowed taxpayer money to be diverted into his own pocket for half a century. This diversion of funds went unchecked even after he was elected to the Senate. Do we need four more long years of the Republican culture of corruption?
- By now, most of us have suffered through the embarassing video of Alaskan hussy Sarah Palin, wearing little more than lipstick, parading around on stage in front of hundreds of people. But a few years before that, she went much, much farther: We have obtained photographs she allowed to have taken where she is completely nude and giggling with glee, lolling on a rug made from the skin of a bear, which her father may well have personally slaughtered. Can America afford such a wanton roundheel just a heartbeat away from the presidency?
- John McCain demands "honesty" in government economic policy. But independent researchers have discovered that he has funneled large sums of money to so-called "charities" and concealed those payments by not reporting them on his tax returns. Thousands to questionable special interests with no disclosure whatsoever. Falsifying tax forms is a federal felony. Would you cast your precious vote for a felon?
- In 1967, the USS Forrestal suffered one of the most devastating fires ever on an American naval vessel. Many know that John McCain was a young officer on that aircraft carrier; but they may not be aware that a Navy investigation subsequently found a direct connection between McCain's actions and that horrific fire, as he voluntarily taxied his A-4 to the exact spot that a supposedly "errant" missile was going to strike. When his plane was hit, rather than stay and fight the fire, McCain ran from his plane, saving himself and allowing 134 brave sailors to die while he lived. America deserves better than a man with such depraved indifference to human life.
- Many of those closest to hunter-killer Sarah Palin have noticed a frightening instability in the would-be vice president's emotional health. This instability manifests nearly every month; its symptoms include the inability to fully control her emotions, sudden anger with little provocation, distracted attention, inexplicable pain, and sudden bleeding from unknown lacerations, possibly self inflicted. Doctors have expressed grave concerns whether Mrs. Palin is medically fit to serve, given her condition. We feel sorry for anyone with such an infirmity -- but America needs a president who is healthy, emotionally stable, and mentally balanced.
Democrats are never more creative than when they're concocting bizarre charges of sex, corruption, or psychiatric disorders to lodge against Republicans... so that they never have to defend their actual policies, which the country by and large despises. I'm sure this post barely scratches the surface of what we'll see in the next fortnight.
Date ►►► October 19, 2008
The Howl of Powell; Does It Matter?
In a move somewhat unexpected, though broadly hinted at for several days, Colin Powell, the first secretary of state of President George W. Bush, endorsed Barack H. Obama today -- while also praising John S. McCain:
Colin Powell, a Republican who was President Bush's first secretary of state, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president Sunday and criticized the tone of Republican John McCain's campaign.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said either candidate, both of them senators, is qualified to be commander in chief. But he said Obama is better suited to handle the nation's economic problems as well as help improve its standing in the world.
"It isn't easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," Powell, interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," said of his longtime friend, the Arizona senator.
But, he added: "I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain."
Some might think race trumped politics, but I disagree: Powell has always been a Lincoln Chafee Republican, and McCain is just too far to the right for his taste. (Actually, in the quotation above, Powell seems to be saying he endorses Obama because Obama is younger than McCain!)
In fact, virtually the entire Republican Party is too far to Powell's right, and I would not be surprised to see him reregister as a Democrat after the election, no matter who wins:
Powell said he remains a Republican, even though he sees the party moving too far to the right. Powell supports abortion rights and affirmative action, and said McCain and Palin, both opponents of abortion, could put two more conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
"I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration," Powell said.
On the other hand, Powell doesn't seem all that enthused by Obama, either:
Powell said he does not plan to campaign for Obama.
I'm sure Barack Obama has long known that he had Powell's endorsement; this is clearly the "October surprise" that the One has been planning for months, waiting for the killer moment to make the announcement.
Team Obama must believe this will be the game changer, finally putting the election away for them. The scenario goes as follows:
- Those undecideds and even some of the weak McCain supporters have been just dying for a reason to vote for Obama; they really want to give his plan of raising taxes and tariffs during a world recession a chance!
- The only thing holding them back has been their nervousness about whether Obama has the national-security credentials to keep us as safe from attack as George W. Bush has.
- So now that one of Bush's top national-security cabinet officers has given Obama the thumbs up, they can relax and vote for the One they have been waiting for. Thank God he turns out to be strong on national security after all!
I don't buy this premise for several reasons:
- I don't believe anybody actually thinks Obama is as strong on national security as McCain, not even those who say so in polls: Rather, those who want Obama are willing to ignore national security. Anybody for whom national security matters is already in the McCain camp. Alas, Darryl Worley aside, most voters have indeed forgotten that we are under attack by the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, and they really don't care about (yawn) "national security."
- Those who are still truly undecided are worried about Obama's economic policies, not whether he'll keep us safe from terrorist attack -- or from Russia, China, and North Korea. The "undecideds" at this point are those who are nervous about their taxes being raised, whether they'll keep their jobs, and whether their 401Ks will survive; in short, whether Obama can handle the looming economic downturn.
- Colin Powell does nothing to allay these fears, though he sure tries in his endorsement. The problem is that he has no credentials in this area.
Does anyone? I don't think there is any financial figure who is both universally respected and associated with the Republican economic policy whose surprise endorsement of Obama could throw this election to the Democrat.
(No, Paul Volcker doesn't count: (a) Few remember him, and (b) those who do remember that he was first appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve by Jimmy Carter, not Ronald Reagan -- and that he didn't do very well; his policies led to 20%+ interest rates that destroyed small businesses across the nation and even crippled large ones, directly leading to a significant recession in 1982-83.)
We'll know shortly which scenario rules. I'm sure the adverts were in the can long before Powell made his announcement. Within 24 hours, everyone and his monkey's paw will know that the great Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama.
If Obama now leaps up to double-digit leads in all the tracking polls, then I think the Obama Scenario will have been proven right after all: A foreign-policy affirmation was just what the undecideds were breathlessly waiting to see before turning en masse to Obama.
But if the bump is only a point or two, then I believe it will quickly subside, likely to a smaller lead than Obama has right now. The October surprise will turn out to be the Fall fizzle.
I truly believe this election is all about economics, not foreign policy or even national security. Whatever misgivings are keeping Obama from putting McCain away are not going to be swayed by the endorsement of a politically ambivalent, Bush-hating, Clinton-appointed former general. If that were Obama's big problem, it would have been solved long ago by the much more enthusiastic endorsement of Eric Shinseki.
Date ►►► October 16, 2008
A Call for Some Admiral Restraint
This is really apropos nothing, though it's yet another example of conservatives adopting the destructive, anti-Republican memes of the elitist Left; but it has annoyed me for months now... and I insist that it cease. Immediately. That is an order!
The latest miscreant is Ace of Spades, of all people:
If I had to guess... John McCain has always been fairly well-off. The son of an admiral isn't hurting.
This is especially galling, as Ace of Spades HQ is generally considered a milblog site (even worse, despite getting more hits per day than we get in two months, he doesn't link to Big Lizards). I have no idea whether "Ace" himself is a vet, since I don't even know who he is; still, he should know better.
But Ace isn't the first, of course; hundreds, probably thousands of negative stories have referred to John S. McCain the same way: having grown up as "the son of an admiral." The impression is clear: McCain is a rich, privileged scion of wealth and power, sort of like William F. Buckley, jr., without the vocabulary. His father was the little guy in the Monopoly game, with the top hat, cutaway coat, and spats. McCain grew up in a whirlwind of mansions, cotillions, and coming-out parties (I mean for 16 year old girls, not 40-something year old men tired of "living a lie")... so what the heck can he know about regular folks like us?
[Typically typed by "regular folk" liberals who believe in redistribution of wealth (other than their own), same-sex (and polyamorous) marriage, socialized medicine for the peons (not them), ultraviolence in TV shows and movies (shown on HBO at 7:00 pm), progressive sex education (for kindergartners), abortion for any reason (or no reason) anywhere up through the fourth trimester, hate-speech codes (for Republicans), and the basic decency and goodness of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Oogo Chavez, Bashar Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad (P and E), and Jimmy Carter. Sadly, some "regular folk" conservatives have jumped aboard the bandwagon as well.]
My friends, let's get one thing straight:
John McCain did not grow up as "the son of an admiral," for God's sake.
John Sidney McCain III -- the current senator and presidential candidate -- is the son of John Sidney McCain, jr., naturally enough. And it is indeed true that McCain jr. became a four-star admiral (which rank is simply called "admiral")... but not until 1967, when Sen. McCain was 31 years old!
In fact, Adm. McCain didn't even make rear admiral until 1958, the year that Sen. McCain graduated from Annapolis and was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy... thus out on his own, in flight training at NAS Pensacola, drawing (and living on) his own meager salary. (That rank is typically divided into two: rear admiral lower half (a.k.a. commodore) and rear admiral upper half; judging from the time factor, I believe 1958 was when Adm. McCain was promoted to rear admiral lower half.)
At the time Sen. McCain was born (not yet a senator) in 1936, his father was -- wait for it -- a lieutenant (O-3) in the U.S. Navy, assigned, as we all know now, to the Panama Canal Zone. I don't know when exactly Adm. McCain became a lieutenant commander (O-4), the next step up the food chain; but in the normal progression, that would be about 1939. We know that he was already Lt.Cdr. McCain at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th,1941; but a lieutenant commander is still considered a junior officer rank, or "company grade."
He made O-5 commander -- the first indisputably mid-level officer rank ("field grade") -- in 1946, when Sen. McCain was ten, and O-6 captain four years later. Eight years after that, he finally became O-7 Rear Admiral John S. McCain, jr., when Sen. McCain was 22.
So that's when the McCains became rich, privileged fat cats, no? Yeah, right. Here is the salary breakdown of the military today; and bear in mind, we pay our officers comparatively more now than back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, when Sen. McCain was growing up (this table is entirely in 2008 dollars, of course; the "years" is how many Adm. McCain had actually served by the time he was promoted to that rank):
|Rank and years||Base pay||Sub pay||Annual|
|Ensign (0 years)||2,555.70||230||$33,428|
|Lieutenant j.g. (2 years)||3,353.10||305||$43,897|
|Lieutenant (4 years)||4,545.60||510||$60,667|
|Lt. Commander (8 years)||5,428.20||705||$73,598|
|Commander (15 years)||6,596.40||790||$88,637|
|Captain (19 years)||8,075.10||835||$106,921|
|Rear Admiral lower (27 years)||10,647.90||355||$132,035|
|Vice Admiral (32 years)||13,911.90||355||$171,203|
|Admiral (36 years)||16,555.50||355||$202,926|
Note that consistently, at every paygrade, military officers make less money than corresponding professionals in civilian fields -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects... even schoolteachers make more money, bearing in mind that the later ranks correspond to vice principal, principal, district supervisor, and so forth.
Here is another way of looking at it: The moment that Barack H. Obama was sworn into the United States Senate, he personally -- not even counting Michelle Obama's hefty salary -- was making more money (in constant dollars) than McCain's father would have made until he was at least a vice admiral, when McCain was 27 years old... and possibly more than Adm. McCain would have made in his entire military career, considering that we didn't use to pay the military as well as we do today.
Not exactly white tie and spats, is it? At best, all we can say is that the McCains were low middle-income -- and would have done better financially in almost any other profession. You don't get rich soldiering or sailoring.
There are some other advantages; base housing or a housing allowance, for example. But there is one very huge disadvantage: The husband/father or wife/mother is absent for very long periods of time during the children's most formative years.
So can we please knock off the "son of an admiral" slam against Sen. John S. McCain? It's not only increasingly irritating, it's foolish. And I'm surprised that some very smart conservatives have fallen for yet another Democratic talking point.
Date ►►► October 15, 2008
Plungers to Left of Me, Plungers to Left of Me!
My nomination for this week's most overused and misused word was repeated again today by conservative columnist Joel Mowbray; but regardless who says it, it is a Democratic meme that is completely false:
With McCain plunging in the polls, it's not hard to see why the protesters seemed so tranquil.
Plunging? The RCP average of polling between the two candidates, Barack H. Obama and John S. McCain, has shown only a 2% move towards Obama in the last two weeks. In fact, Obama's lead is currently 7.3% -- lower than it was on the 11th (7.6%) and yesterday (8.2%). A drop of 2% over two weeks hardly counts as "plunging."
But that average includes a lot of weird polls -- such as the CBS/New York Times outlier that found Obama 14 points (!) ahead of McCain. Just looking at the major tracking polls -- Rasmussen, Gallup, Zogby/Reuters (telephone, not internet), and Battleground -- none has shown any significant rise for Obama this last fortnight:
- Rasmussen: From +6 to +5 -- up 1% for McCain
- Gallup (registered voters): From +5 to +7 -- down 2%
- Gallup (traditional definition of likely voters): From +5 to +3 -- up 2% (they're reported two "likely" scenarios over the past week; the "expanded" definition simply tracks with the registered voters poll above, they say)
- Zogby/Reuters: From +1.8 to +3.8 -- down 2% (only one week)
- Battleground: From +5 to +8 -- down 3%
During the last two weeks (or one week for Gallup Traditional and Zogby), all polls have had Obama both closer and farther ahead than he is right now.
In general, in national polling, there has been no statistically significant movement towards either Obama or McCain in the last two weeks; the major movement all occurred longer ago than that -- and comprised the loss of McCain's convention bump.
Evidently, this is some new definition of the word "plunging" of which I was previously unaware.
(Some of the state poll "averages" have produced plunging behavior; but the problem here is the paucity and infrequency of state polling, which allows for huge swings based upon a single poll. In fact, the average typically features completely different polls from week to week, making the appearance of a huge jump one way or the other -- even though each underlying poll has shown very little change.)
The "plunging in the polls" meme of course helps Obama; its purpose is to dishearten Republicans so they don't turn out -- and enthuse Obamatrons to a fever pitch, especially those whose history indicates they're disinclined actually to show up at the polls unless they're really, really, really excited about an Obama victory.
I understand why the liberal media keeps using the phrase... but why are so many conservatives and other McCain supporters falling into the trap? For heaven's sake, get a grip! Yes, McCain is behind right now; but he's not out, and the game isn't over. Obama is still only ahead by a small margin... absolutely miniscule compared to how far ahead the Democrats and media mavins expected him to be (a number clearly reflected in the goofy CBS/New York Times poll).
6%-7% can be turned around: A slight "Obama effect" combined with the traditional "Democrat effect" likely means that the real average, if such a thing could be measured, is closer to the Zogby number of 3% than the Battleground number of 8%. If so, then just a slight shift -- as voters finally take that last long look that Paul Mirengoff at Power Line expects after tonight's debate -- would leave McCain in the lead.
Let the plungers all head out to Vegas; words have meanings... and this one doesn't mean what a lot of people seem to think.
Date ►►► October 14, 2008
Is It Adios to Capitalism - or Only Au Revoir?
With the long-expected decision today by President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Fed Chief Ben Bernanke that Treasury will spend $250 billion of the $700 billion buying equity stakes in nine top banks, thus injecting "liquidity" directly into the industry, we stand at a crossroads. The question is whether this is "goodbye" to Capitalism or just "see you soon"... whether this is a permanent break from free markets or just a necessary but temporary bank holiday.
I believe Bush when he says it's the latter:
"The government's role will be limited and temporary," Bush pledged. "These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it. He said these steps and other related actions echoed similar bold moves made overseas in an effort to prevent a global recession. Bush said that by restoring confidence in the system, the hope is to "return our economy back to the road of growth and prosperity."
He said that the efforts to rescue the nation's battered financial sector was a short-term move to help banks to be able to begin lending again.
Alas, it's not up to him, is it? Bush has only three months left in office, and surely this direct-equity program will last longer than that (more likely a year or eighteen months). The question is what the next president will do... whoever he is.
The original plan, recall, was for Treasury to buy (through a resolution corporation) toxic assets themselves; the reason for the change is twofold:
- The financial situation deteriorated at warp speed, much faster than expected, and it appeared that the world financial markets were headed towards a Great Depression-level collapse; it seemed to the administration that action had to be taken immediately to inject capital directly into the institutions that otherwise could go under, taking the world economy with them.
- It became clear that it was impossible to set up the asset-purchase procedure (including creating a new government-sponsored or owned resolution corporation) quickly enough:
The $700 billion rescue program will continue to feature the purchase by the government of banks' bad assets, but the administration decided to place greater emphasis on the stock purchase program after doubts were raised about how long it might take to get the asset purchase program up and running.
Treasury officials said Tuesday that they still plan to buy troubled assets and that this program would start as soon as possible.
If in fact this turns out to be a temporary nationalization, I don't think it will be that bad. I agree with nearly every economist (though I am not one) that the free market alone cannot resolve this problem; but unlike them, I actually know why, or I think I do. Let me explain why the market is helpless here...
We've all been looking at this problem from the wrong perspective: We keep thinking of the rescue plan as injecting liquidity into the banking system and other credit markets; but the real need is to inject, not liquidity, but information; liquidity is just a seredipitous side effect.
The more I read about the current world fiscal crisis, the more I believe that it's not a market failure, not a credit failure, not a mortgage failure, and not a liquidity failure: Those are all symptoms of the real, underlying failure.
What has actually failed is the world information supply. Simply put, everything related to finance, to trade, to buying and selling -- in short, everything connected with any kind of a market -- depends upon access to timely, honest, accurate, and believable information (hereafter "THABI"). For an example I have used before, you cannot buy a car based solely on a grainy picture in a newspaper, because you cannot put a value on it; does it even have an engine?
You need THABI before you can make an offer. And the same is true for mortgages, mortgage-backed securities (MBS), credit default swaps (CDS), construction loans, business letters of credit (LOC), and so forth. Without sufficient THABI, no seller has any idea what price to ask the buyer, and no buyer has any idea what price to offer the seller. Buyers and sellers cannot come to a "meeting of minds," which means nobody can agree on any contract. And that means no market can exist.
That is exactly what has happened and is still happening today, all around the world: a global shortage of THABI, of timely, honest, accurate, and believable information.
This is caused by the lack of a particular kind of regulation, one that every economist, from Keynesian to libertarian (Austrian or Chicago-school), agrees we need: the THABI requirement. Like a fair, equitable, and trusted civil-court system, access to timely, honest, accurate, and believable information is a fundamental requirement for a market even to exist in the first place. This is why the market cannot itself correct for this problem: THABI is a lower, more fundamental "layer" than the market; the market sits atop THABI. Therefore, in the absence of THABI, the market cannot exist... hence cannot correct for the lack of THABI.
To put it into computer terms, no application software running on a computer can possibly fix the problem of that computer's processor being unable to communicate with the computer's memory: That communication is necessary to run any application at all; clearly you cannot run an application on a computer to fix the problem of being unable to run any application on that same computer.
As the market is unable to function without THABI, it cannot function to restore THABI. All that information must come from somewhere else; and the only "somewhere else" that can act quickly enough to stave off a global depression is the State. Because the State functions both within and without the market, it can force changes even when the market is stymied... just as it takes a State to enforce the decisions of a civil-court, because only the State can step outside the market to seize by force the bank accounts of those who flout the court's decision.
The direct injection of liquidity by Treasury buying equity is also outside the market, because that money is extracted from people by force, in the form of taxes. But at the core, even this direct investment is an attempt to buy time to complete the "transparentizing" (horrible neologism, I know) of the toxic assets -- the recreation of the information that was lost by multiple unregulated securitizations of massive collections of mortgages.
Once the THABI has been restored to the mortgage-backed securities and other instruments, the market can reboot itself:
- The assets can be valued;
- They will all have some nonzero value, because no mortgage is worth nothing (if nothing else, the land itself has value);
- All will be saleable, though often not at as high a price as the financial institution purchased them;
- Each institution will thus be able to figure out how big a write-down it must take... and whether it can even stay in business or needs to sell itself to another institution.
There... that's a market! With the restoration of the missing THABI information, the market can reboot, and the catastrophe will be averted. So long as partial-nationalization of the banking industry lasts only long enough to retransparentize the toxic assets, thus allowing the market to begin functioning again, it will be an acceptable, even necessary intervention.
Bush and Paulson have really worked hard to make it difficult for a future president to use this plan as the camel's nose poking its way under the big top; the plan is designed to sunset automatically, allowing the banks to buy back their equity in no longer than three years, but earlier if both they and the incoming administration agree:
“It is profound, and it is something of a shift back to the state,” said Adam S. Posen, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But is this a recasting of capitalism? I think what we’ll see is that the government acts as a silent partner and gets out as soon as it can....”
The package does call for the government investments to be in three-year securities that the banks can repay at any time, when markets settle and conditions improve. “This is clearly a crisis measure in crisis times, but it’s a good thing there is a sunset provision that limits the length of the government’s investment,” said Richard Sylla, an economist and financial historian at the Stern School of Business at New York University.
The historical record of such equity-based interventionism is mixed; on the one hand:
The United States has a culture that celebrates laissez-faire capitalism as the economic ideal, yet the practice strays at times. Over the last century, the federal government has occasionally taken stakes in railways, coal mines and steel mills, and has even taken a controlling interest in banks when it was deemed to be in the national interest.
The corporate wards of the state typically have been returned to private hands after short, sometimes fleeting, stretches under federal stewardship.
But sometimes the shoe is on the other hand:
The traditional American reluctance for government ownership is not shared in other countries. After World War II, several European countries nationalized basic industries like coal, steel and even autos, which typically remained in government hands until the 1980s, when most Western economies began paring back the state’s role in the economy.
After all, we're talking about the federal government; the temptation is always to push far beyond necessity to the tipping point of no return... after which the partial-nationalization becomes permanent, aiming not to restore the market but supplant it.
I will tell you straight: If our next president is Barack H. Obama, then that tipping point is inevitable. Obama's instincts are all European, all towards nationalizing and socializing everything from banking to medical care to taxes; he proclaims over and over again that he will reduce income taxes for "95% of the American people"... knowing that 40% of them don't pay a dime of income tax.
That means at least a third of those whose "taxes" are "lowered" will instead get an annual check from the federal government -- a welfare scheme that will end up, ten years from now, costing more than one trillion dollars per year, according to the Tax Policy Institute; four times what ordinary cash-welfare would cost!
Obama is socialism, socialism is the One. If he is president, he will move heaven and high water to permanize all this federalization, wrenching America away from the Capitalism he hates and cannot understand (and has never, in his entire career, had to deal with) -- it's inevitable. But it's not inevitable that he will win.
We don't know for sure that a John S. McCain administration will know when to say "enough!" -- though that is strongly hinted by his newest economic plan to guarantee all deposits for their full worth, not just $250,000... but only for six months. Whether that's the perfect duration or just a convenient number, it indicates that he is thinking temporary; unlike Obama, all of whose proscriptions and prescriptions are permanent, transformative changes to American society and economy, away from Capitalism and towards socialism.
A "crisis," properly defined, is when the world holds its breath, and nobody really knows what will be. In that sense, we are truly at a crisis, a crossroads between freedom and socialism; we're riding a fast horse that has got the bit in its teeth, and none of us knows which way he shall finally turn his steps.
It is time we started yanking on those reins and leaning hard in the right direction. Now is not the time to close our eyes and abandon ourselves to our fate, to concede the game in the eighth inning. So let's all put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks: The game ain't over until the last fat lady is hung.
Date ►►► October 10, 2008
Buckley Beds Banality - but Will They Wed?
Buckley -- that's Christopher Buckley, of course -- has just published a brief, self-indulgent note on a cybermagazine called the Daily Beast announcing that he is going to vote for Barack H. Obama.
His "reasoning," if I may so dub his excuse-making, is obscure, to say the least. He argues that he once liked John S. McCain, but that was back when McCain was "authentic." During this campaign, however, McCain has become inauthentic (says Buckley); the only specific Buckley gives us is that McCain now says he can balance the budget in four years, when we all know that is an "unrealistic" promise. "Who, really, believes that?" chuckles Buckley.
Ergo, he will vote for Obama -- who (Buckley crisply admits) is not really as bad as he seems, because he won't really do all the horrible things he threatens:
But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.
So Obama is a "lefty," Buckley says, who has called for raising taxes, throwing up tariff walls, and opening the treasury of the Democratic Party to "bribe-money from the special interest groups" that he has railed against -- "disingenuously;" but worry not, because he doesn't really mean it and won't actually enact it. Its only purpose is to get him elected by promising everything. And after all, "Who, really, believes that?"
But at least Obama is authentic.
Christopher Buckley shows his hat anent the real reason he will be voting for Obama early in the piece: He is appalled by the trailer-trash Sarah Palin and will never forgive McCain for choosing her, when he could just as easily have chosen some Yalie, or even a Harvard man. Someone of the right sort, the kind one might find at the better affairs, if you know what I mean. While Mrs. Palin may be droll, you certainly wouldn't take a moose hunter home to meet "dear old mum," would you?
For a reason: My colleague, the superb and very dishy Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call “the bleeding obvious”: namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She’s not exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career at NR, just called Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party”....
And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can [McCain] have been thinking?
One wonders what Christopher Buckley would have made of that earlier cancer on the Republican Party, that gangly, homespun, cornpone man of halting speech and curious ugliness -- much remarked upon at the time -- who never attended Harvard or Yale (or anywhere else) and never lost his back of the woods demeanor... but who nevertheless achieved historical significance and undisputed greatness as our sixteenth president.
Mr. Buckley's father was just as elitist as the son, but pere William had the saving grace of having lived through times of crisis so visceral that the nation truly did pull together; everyone had to make terrific sacrifices, even those born to privilege.
William F. Buckley, jr. was born in 1925; the market crash occurred when he was four, and he grew up during the Great Depression. Even though his family wealth shielded him from personal privation, he could not help but see the populace around him unemployed, broke, waiting in line for bread and soup -- not because of any personal failing, but due to a worldwide economic crisis compounded by staggering government nonfeasance and malfeasance, starting under the leftist Republican Herbert Hoover and continuing under the liberal fascist Franklin Roosevelt.
Later, like nearly all men in his cohort, he served in the military during World War II -- another venue that made no allowance for wealth or privilege. Rich and poor served alongside each other, and virtually no one was exempted.
These shared experiences forced upon W.F. Buckley a deep understanding of the range of human experience... and he must have learnt from his years in the service what Thomas Gray meant in "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard": that the potential for greatness was not confined only to those who speak in a cultured drawl, bore easily, join preposterous "secret societies" at university, and summer in the Hamptons. Sometimes, the only element lacking in those who never achieve greatness is opportunity. (Imagine if John McCain had never been shot down; who would have heard of him? Greatness requires both potentiality and opportunity to manifest itself.)
Fils Christopher had no such leavening experience. He was born in 1952, the beginning of a period of great economic prosperity; he never lived within sight of otherwise fine, decent men and women struggling simply to survive.
One would think, given his birthyear, that he would have served ably and honorably in Vietnam one way or another; but he got himself a medical deferment in 1971 for asthma. (Was that the year that the Senate Armed Services Committee gave President Nixon authority to reject student deferments?) I have no reason at this point to suspect skulduggery; I've struggled with asthma, though it didn't stop me joining the Navy.
Christopher Buckley wrote about his decision in the September, 1983 issue of Esquire, in an article titled "Viet Guilt," but I haven't yet obtained a copy of that number (it's not available online, and the local libraries here close on Fridays). But the relevant point is that, unlike his "pup," C.J. Buckley never had to fight, to kill or be killed, alongside soldiers of all classes and degrees of greatness, which might have taught him that there is rarely any connection between those two qualities. There are other ways to learn it -- Gray himself never served in the military -- but that's a good one.
Thus he appears unable to consider Sarah Palin in the light of understanding. I don't know his exact reasons; but those who harbor such puzzlingly harsh feelings about a woman they barely know (if at all) are often terribly offended by her small-town origin, her participation in beauty pagents as a teen, her uncultured and sometimes disjointed style of speech, by the fact that her governmental experience is entirely local -- and very frequently by her dining on moose and tearing about on snowmachines, rather than dining on foie gras and playing squash. I cannot say for sure, of course; but it would not surprise me if Christopher Buckley looked down upon Palin, condescend to her.
I don't believe his father would have done so. In too many ways, Christopher Buckley reminds me of Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, current publisher of the New York Times and anemic shadow of his father, "Punch."
But Christopher, having never experienced the same wide swath of life that William F. Buckley, jr. perforce imbibed, including the leavening effect of shared sacrifice for one's country, and with no financial worries, is free, should he choose, to indulge the worst excesses of lifestyle libertarianism: the idolatry of ideology; a passionate belief that all one's whims and desires are natural rights; the uncomprehending rejection of corresponding duties; the unshakable faith in one's own mental superiority; and a precious and irritating narcissism.
Not every libertarian suffers from these deep character flaws; the best recognize the danger and fight against it. But the tendency is always there and must be resisted, the way a Baptist must deafen himself to the siren song of Satan. Easier by far for the lazy man to wallow in self-serving libertinism and dub it a virtue. Having from his teenaged years cultured the habit of avoiding combat, it's not surprising that we don't see Christopher Buckley battling the libertarian Devil; his surrender to decadence appears voluntary and absolute.
For these reasons, I'm utterly unmoved by his snarky announcement that he's voting for Barack Obama; he has only lived down to my expectations. But he is right to fret about what his immediate forbears would think:
It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They’d cut off my allowance.
Let's take a page from Christopher Buckley himself and call this "Vote Guilt." Howeer, unlike his "Viet Guilt" failure in 1971, Buckley's moment has not yet passed; he still has the opportunity to not wallow in folly by endorsing, voting for, and even campaigning for a far-left radical, merely (I believe) to be outrageous for its own sake.
Christopher Buckley has now slept with the Devil; but he hasn't yet exchanged vows. Will he come to his senses before finding himself trapped in a dreadful marriage from which there is no divorce?
Date ►►► October 9, 2008
My Fellow Prisoners
In Wednesday night’s debate John McCain made a verbal gaffe in which he referred to his audience as “my fellow prisoners.” Not yet. But that comes later.
Because under even the most optimistic scenario, if either of these two boobs wins the election -- and obviously as John McLaughlin would say, the chances that one of them will become president approaches metaphysical certitude -- we are in a world of hurt.
Both are total illiterates when it comes to knowing about the many forces that shape economies. McCain, at least, has admitted his ignorance. Obama has this knowing smile, like Chauncey Gardener in Being There, that implies that he possesses some secret knowledge. But when he opens his mouth, it is obvious that he too has no idea what to do about the economic tornado that we have all been snatched up by -- but which his political allies Barney Frank and company had much to do with creating.
Pundits have been trying to figure out why the stock market has been reacting negatively even though Congress agreed to pump nearly a trillion dollars into the credit markets. The answer should be obvious: they have finally realized that Barack Obama is going to be elected president. Although on inauguration day, somewhere in Washington, Barbra Streisand will be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” that is not the song they will be singing on Wall Street as they watch the good times roll... away. When FDR took over an America wracked by the Great Depression, he and his advisers spent eight years tinkering with the economy yet never managed to significantly improve unemployment figures, despite throwing billions of dollars at the problem. It was WWII that solved the Great Depression, as any but the most partisan historian will be forced to admit.
We are facing the most liberal crowd since LBJ’s days taking control of the White House and Congress. These are not pragmatists like Bill Clinton, who, when confronted by policy that didn’t work, nimbly danced away and tried something else. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Obama are true believers; when they try their socialist solutions to the economy, they will not be deterred by negative consequences. Like a medieval doctor confronted by a patient who slowly loses strength under repeated blood lettings, they will be inspired to open up a few more veins.
My most optimistic scenario sees Barack Obama as another Jimmy Carter, and possibly Sarah Palin as the new Reagan. If Obama gets a filibuster proof 60 seat majority in the senate you could see a whirlwind of legislation that could so stun the electorate and harm the economy that we could see a repeat of the 1994 Republican takeover.
Remember, we continue to live in a center right political landscape; unless Obama’s solutions are different than what he is preaching right now, they will put the economy into a death spiral. The Democrats in victory have always shown themselves vulnerable to overreaching. So expect them to reimpose the so-called Fairness Doctrine and put Talk radio into orbit... quite literally since Rush and company will undoubtedly set up a resistance in exile on satellite radio, which could lead to even more overreaching by the left -- i.e. trying to extend FCC regulatory powers to satellite.
The one wild card here is the Supreme Court, which, one hopes, will get to rule on challenges to these blatant attempts at silencing dissent early on in the Obama presidency. But don't count on it.
Like Carter in 1980, even a wounded Obama will probably be able to fend off a challenge by Hillary, which means we will likely see a match up between an incumbent Obama and a much savvier, much more seasoned Palin than the one we see wowing crowds by the tens of thousands.
So, my fellow prisoners, settle in for the long haul.
Date ►►► October 8, 2008
NATO: Gravitas, or Graveyard?
Frequent commenter K2aggie07 sent us a link to this Stratfor analysis of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), an editorial that is... disheartening, in a sense, but envigorating in another. To boil it down to a nutshell, Dr. George Friedman (founder and CEO of Stratfor) argues that NATO is a spent force, unable even to stand up to Putin's Russia -- let alone the more exotic threats posed by the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.
If this is true (and he surely knows more about it than I), then we are simultaneously weakened by the loss of what has been our most streadfast allied organization, mostly financed by us; yet also liberated by no longer having to kow-tow to the increasingly Eurocentric NATO and NATO-driven policies that are still oriented around fighting the Soviet Union, seventeen years after it ceased to exist.
Think of it; we no longer need waste time, blood, and treasure...
- Soothing ruffled European feathers, pleading with them (our fine feathered friends, not their fine feathers), begging, even bribing them to comply with their most basic obligations;
- Reassuring them that France, Spain, Portugal, and Estonia are every bit as important to the world as the United Kingdom and the United States;
- Holding back on military operations, so that non-American NATO forces can not only keep up but pretend to be in the vanguard;
- Covering for NATO "allies" who show up with strict rules of engagement that, in fact, prohibit any engagement;
- Turning a blind eye to NATO member states which don't even live up to the democratic standard set by a typical American high-school class president's campaign;
- And spending billions of dollars for the enviable privilege of being spat upon by our pals.
And if NATO is truly defunct, what about that other relic of the Cold War, the Untied Nations? Given the presence of Russia and China (not to mention France) as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- thus wielding veto power -- what is the point of belonging? Would Russia, for example, ever allow a U.N. expedition to send a significant military force to Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic nations, a force big enough to seriously impede Russia's own plans to "reintegrate" the "renegade provinces" of the old Evil Empire?
Friedman begins with this story, which I had not seen reported by our "downstream" media (a term I heisted from an advert for the Dennis Miller radio show):
German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to St. Petersburg last week for meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The central question on the table was Germany’s position on NATO expansion, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel made it clear at a joint press conference that Germany would oppose NATO membership for both of these countries, and that it would even oppose placing the countries on the path to membership. Since NATO operates on the basis of consensus, any member nation can effectively block any candidate from NATO membership....
In one sense, Merkel’s reasons for her stance are simple. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. If the supply were cut off, Germany’s situation would be desperate — or at least close enough that the distinction would be academic. Russia might decide it could not afford to cut off natural gas exports, but Merkel is dealing with a fundamental German interest, and risking that for Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO is not something she is prepared to do.
She can’t bank on Russian caution in a matter such as this, particularly when the Russians seem to be in an incautious mood. Germany is, of course, looking to alternative sources of energy for the future, and in five years its dependence on Russia might not be nearly as significant. But five years is a long time to hold your breath, and Germany can’t do it.
But it gets worse. Friedman notes that even giving Georgia or Ukraine NATO membership would be a meaningless gesture, since the alliance hasn't sufficient military power left to stop another Russian invasion of either country. He doesn't mention, but I will, the fact that NATO, the "many-headed one," cannot for that very reason -- too many cooks and crooks -- react quickly enough to a military strike to make a difference, to do anything but be crushed.
(Imagine if, instead of Gen. David Petraeus running the Iraq war, we'd had thirty different defense ministers, each of the same rank and authority as all the rest, who had to get together in a room and come to a consensus how to respond on a day-to-day basis to Iranian Quds forces, rampaging Sadrites, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.)
NATO was established in 1949 specifically to counter the imperial aims of the Soviet Union; its most visible manifestation was the counterforce to the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact in Central Europe, with NATO establishing 180 brigades, a few thousand tanks, and a few thousand ground-support and tactical aircraft in (then) West Germany and other Western states -- where they were badly outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact's own conventional forces. NATO therefore also incorporated nuclear forces, the Soviets followed suit, and the Cold war standoff was born.
But now, NATO hasn't even enough military support from its member countries (other than the U.S. and the U.K.) to hold off a denuded Russia alone. NATO has fallen and can't get up.
So what about the future? How will the new president handle this astonishing change to a status quo that has been around for donkey's years?
John S. McCain will, I believe, accept the inevitable and begin negotiating multiple alliances to replace NATO, perhaps one for each theater of operations. Maybe we could dust off that "organization of democratic states," which others have suggested as an (unworkable) successor to the U.N., and instead recast it as an über-alliance to coordinate and oversee all the smaller alliances for specific strategies. That would mimic on the international stage the vital military reforms pushed though the Pentagon by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
I suspect McCain has already been thinking about this.
I have no idea what would be Barack H. Obama's response to the enfeeblement of NATO; I suppose he would meet without preconditions with the presidents, prime ministers, and assorted supreme leaders of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom... and beg them all to tell him what positions America should assume in the future (the primary position would be "supine"), what world test we must pass, so that the rest of the membership will allow us to stay in NATO... or at least continue to pay NATO's bills, even if they won't allow us to vote anymore.
I suspect this eventuality has never even crossed the One's mind; he may not be sure what NATO is. It's much older than he, so it can't be of much significance.
In any event, the era of NATO is evidently over. The era of the U.N. is on its last legs. The era of flexible, powerful, but temporary alliances rapidly approaches... and our major news organizations are obsessing over Sarah Palin's per diem.
Don't forget to vote.
Date ►►► October 7, 2008
Freddie & Fannie & Frank & Moses
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 95%) has emerged as the face of the Democratic Party, explaining why the current fiscal crisis is all the fault of the Republican culture of corruption, laissez-faire Capitalism, and racism:
The Massachusetts Democrat, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said the GOP is appealing to its base by blaming the country's mortgage foreclosure problem on efforts to expand affordable housing through the Community Reinvestment Act.
He said that blame is misplaced, because those loans are issued by regulated institutions, while far more foreclosures were triggered by high-cost loans made by unregulated entities.
"They get to take things out on poor people," Frank said at a mortgage foreclosure symposium in Boston. "Let's be honest: The fact that some of the poor people are black doesn't hurt them either, from their standpoint. This is an effort, I believe, to appeal to a kind of anger in people."
Frank also dismissed charges the Democrats failed on their own or blocked Republican efforts to rein in the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The federal government recently took control of both entities.
However, prior to emerging as the voice of restraint and regulation, Barney Frank was the voice of "nothing to oversee here, just move on" denial:
''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''
Frank made this argument to stop a proposal by the Bush administration to increase the regulation and oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating a firewall that might have stopped exactly the crisis we face today. Barney Frank and his cohorts were successful; the plan was killed in Congress.
Going back at least to 1995, Frank has successfully fought against any sort of biting regulation of either Fannie or Freddie -- as well as against any curtailing of the Jimmy Carter written, Bill Clinton revised Community Reinvestment Act, which forces financial institutions to make low-interest, zero-down mortgages to poor people with lousy credit... the "subprime" component of the subprime mortgage crisis.
But on Friday we learned that there may be another, more personal reason why Barney Frank has been so adamant all these years against changing any of the corrupt financial practices at these institutions. Ace reporter Bill Sammon reports for Fox News:
Unqualified home buyers were not the only ones who benefitted from Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s efforts to deregulate Fannie Mae throughout the 1990s.
So did Frank’s partner, a Fannie Mae executive at the forefront of the agency’s push to relax lending restrictions. [Note that "partner" doesn't just mean business partner or even partner in crime; it means domestic partner.]
Now that Fannie Mae is at the epicenter of a financial meltdown that threatens the U.S. economy, some are raising new questions about Frank's relationship with Herb Moses, who was Fannie’s assistant director for product initiatives. Moses worked at the government-sponsored enterprise from 1991 to 1998, while Frank was on the House Banking Committee, which had jurisdiction over Fannie.
Well! In fact, Moses was one of the progenitors of the very project that has crippled the world's credit market and led to a staggering loss on world stock markets. As "assistant director of product initiatives," he helped create the very "subprime" mortgage instruments that collapsed last month, leading to the financial meltdown.
Frank "spent years" preventing the Republican-sponsored regulations that would have trimmed the subprime market -- and incidentally hurt the pocketbook of Herb Moses and his domestic partner, Barney Frank. This is about as direct a conflict of interest as one can imagine, as Frank's deregulation fervor directly impacted his "spouse's" salary:
Although Frank now blames Republicans for the failure of Fannie and Freddie, he spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations on the mortgage giants. In 1991, the year Moses was hired by Fannie, the Boston Globe reported that Frank pushed the agency to loosen regulations on mortgages for two- and three-family homes, even though they were defaulting at twice and five times the rate of single homes, respectively.
Amazingly, even Bill Clinton agrees that the Republicans kept trying to rein in the out of control securitization of bad mortgages, but the Democrats (led by Frank and other corrupt leaders) thwarted every attempt. How galling that Barack H. Obama now goes on television at every opportunity to blame John S. McCain and his fellow Republicans and their supposed "deregulate everything" attitude for the crisis... which would actually have been averted if Democrats such as Rep. Barney Frank had not been so bloody determined to stop any scrutiny of the subprime mortgage market -- and its enablers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
At least in Frank's case, we now know why he was so adamant.
Date ►►► October 6, 2008
Transformation Is the Only Certainty
I believe more firmly than ever that this not be a "holding action" presidential election, as were the last five; it will indeed be "transformational" -- but it's now 50-50 in my mind which way we will be transformed.
If John S. McCain is able to beat Barack H. Obama, it will not, I believe, be close; it will be because the American voters fundamentally and finally reject Obama and everything for which he and that wing of the Democratic Party stand. It will be a resounding defeat; and when the Democrats once again claim it was "stolen" from them -- racism! lies! panic! Diebold! -- they will only make themselves utter laughingstocks for a generation.
The new Republicanism will be conserative at its core but practical and reformist in its methods... a huge transmogrification away from the two Bushes, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and even old Blob Dole, and back towards muscular Reaganism instead.
Contrariwise, if Barack Obama wins, it will be because the voters have so thoroughly rejected McCain and George W. Bush and Sarah Palin and the Republican Party in general that it will be a Tuesday Night Massacre, and the Democrats will probably get their fillibuster-proof Senate, thus able to enact any policy they want.
In this nightmare scenario, don't smugly anticipate another Gingrich revolution in two years; the 2008 election will not be like 1992, it will be like 1932... and we will have many years of total Democrat dominance of all levers of power, eventually even including the Court, our own 14-20 years of the New New Deal.
What will drive this choice? It will be a basic, core decision by the American people: We shall either embrace or emphatically reject the very idea of American exceptionalism, the notion that we are different from Europeans. That is why this election will transform us as a nation: We shall either cast off many of the cords from the days of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton that shackle us to the Old World, or we shall give up entirely and become a Euro-style "social democracy."
(We may eventually rise up and once again remember who we are; but last time, that uprising was delayed for nearly half a century.)
We faced just such a crisis in 1980; and after a month in which the nation held its breath, wondering which way the sky would fall, we eventually made what, in the hindsight of today, I agree was the best possible choice. (At the time, being still only an egg, I feared Reagan and hated Carter; I called a murrain on both their houses and wrote in some candidate, I forget who. Probably some Libertarian.)
Will we make the same choice next month? We're in a state of flux now, with Obama ahead by a scant handful of points -- but unable to muster a majority in any poll but the Rasmussen daily tracker. This is not yet a runaway train... and McCain's best bet is the traditional two-pronged attack:
- McCain himself must take the higher path, arguing again and again what he will do in the future to resolve the various crises that beset us from all sides (much from horrific failures of the same European states that Obama and the Democrats would have us emulate). Particularly on the economy, he must tell us in clear, unmistakable, and unambiguous terms what the McCain administration will do differently from the Bush economic policies. That is, he must persuade America that, personalities and character aside, our only hope as a nation is to reject Socialism, populism, protectionism, and defeatism -- and embrace Capitalism, free markets, freedom, and victory.
- Simultaneously, Sarah Palin must embrace the traditional role of the vice-presidential running mate and attack every element of Obama's bad character, untrustworthiness, and unfitness to serve as president. She must make rigorously certain that every attack is sustainable and provable, for any hint that she is smearing Obama (the way Obama routinely smears McCain) with false charges will destroy the Republican cause... playing, as it does, into 2006's theme of "the Republican culture of corruption." Palin's quest is clear: Even if the voters say the Democrats have the better plan, she must make them add, "but not this particular Democrat!"
This is always how Republicans must fight; sometimes the strategy wins, sometimes it loses. But if we don't employ it, if this isn't our fundamental strategy, then defeat is certain.
Buckle your breath, folks; this is going to be one wild landing. We shall either end up safe on the tarmac (albeit pointed in some impossible direction after a merry-go-round spin down the runway)... or else at the bottom of a smoking crater. And at this point, I could not even give odds which one.
All depends upon the answer to one question: Are we, those of us fighting for the Republican cause, going to be as heroic as were the "greatest generation?" If so, victory is at our finger-ends.
Or will we passively allow the bleeding-heart barbarians to overrun our country, as we did in the Vietnam war? Both choices, courage and poltroonery, lie in our history; we are bound to repeat one of them. But which?
All of us, including you, dear readers, must choose up sides now.
Date ►►► October 5, 2008
Bill Draws a Blank
Friend Lee sent me this wonderful YouTube moment. Former President Bill Clinton is being interviewed by Greta Van Susteren. (She must be a red-meat conservative, because she's on Faux News!) She asks the only Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to serve two full terms as president what the difference is between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack H. Obama's spiritual mentor -- and David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Here is Clinton's attempt to answer:
With friends like these, does Obama need enemas?
Date ►►► October 4, 2008
The Art of the Possible
Several long-time commenters to Big Lizards have decried the Paulson-Bernanke rescue package. The line of argument is that, instead of a massively statist approach (we certainly agree on the description), we should have allowed the "free market" to correct itself.
I agree, this would have been a very much better approach -- if we had a free market to begin with. But we don't; we have a mixed socialist-free market, and that is what we will have for the forseeable future. So in the real world, the claim of the naysayers is that "We should have allowed the socialist-statist-populist-quasi-free market to correct itself."
Perhaps they have confidence that such a bizarre hybrid is capable of self-correcting; I do not.
We all agree, I think, that the crisis of the frozen credit markets was created by ham-fisted government intervention; but this does not logically imply that the solution is for government to just back off and walk away. I have been using the following analogy; you can dispute whether the analogy is accurate, but at the very least, it will tell you why I, myself, believe we needed further government intervention (intelligently, this time) rather than just letting the entire economy go on autopilot in whatever direction it chooses:
Imagine you are the anaesthesiologist during coronary bypass surgery. Halfway through the operation, you realize, to your horror, that the surgeon performing the bypass is a buffoon who doesn't know what the hell he is doing. He has already screwed up the operation, and the patient is starting to die.
Obviously, the first step is to remove the dolt from the operating theater. All right; you do that. It takes a little muscle, but you get the imbecile out of the room. But now what do you do?
The critics of this plan say that you should simply turn off the lights and walk away, letting the patient's own biology resolve both his original problem (coronary occlusion) -- and also the new problem that his chest cavity has been surgically opened up and is still gaping wide. He is attached to a heart-lung machine, and the bleeders are temporarily clamped.
I say that the intervention by the admittedly incompetent heart surgeon has created a situation where, no matter how he got into this position, the patient will die if somebody doesn't take over the operation, fix the problem, and finish the bypass, including closing the patient up. In other words, even though the patient's worst problem was actually created by the previous "ham-fisted" surgical intervention, nevertheless, the patient need further surgical intervention, or he will die on the table.
If I am right that our current financial situation resembles my operating-room analogy, then it is certain that you cannot solve this crisis by backing away and allowing the (socialist-statist-populist-quasi-free) market to work a fathomless miracle in the next few months.
I believe my analogy is accurate; if you disagree, tell me why. But don't simply wave the magic wand of the "free market" when we have no free market in the first place.
I absolutely agree with y'all that if we had a freer market -- specifically, if GSEs like Fannie and Freddie had not agreed to buy up questionable mortgages (or MBSs) to relieve banks of their basic lending responsibilities; if the government had not forced banks to lend money to people who could not afford to pay the mortgage; if the SEC had not forced the stupid "mark to market" rule onto the banks -- we would not be in this situation in the first place.
But having gotten there, we cannot solve this crisis by just walking away. Once we resolve it, as I believe the rescue plan will do, then we can, we must, take steps to reintroduce market forces into the housing market: We must reward borrowers with good credit and keep out those seeking a mortgage on a house that they cannot afford.
It sounds harsh, but some people are so poor -- or so irresponsible -- that they're really fit for nothing but renting... and sometimes not even that.
But the remarketization of the mortgage industry is a long and gradual process; it will take many years. There is no royal road to fiscal sanity.
But that is a long-term issue that cannot be resolved in the same breath as fixing a credit crisis that threatens to bring the entire economy crashing down around our ears, destroying fools and wise men alike with undifferentiated abandon.
We're stuck with using government intervention to resolve the issue, and government intervention necessarily includes politics. But what kind of intervention?
Otto von Bismark shrewdly remarked that "Politics is the art of the possible." What he meant is that it's all well and good to come up with the perfect plan (from your perspective) to solve some crisis; but no plan is "perfect" that does not include garnering the necessary votes to be passed.
In this case, as in so many others, the best is enemy of good enough: No matter how beautiful, simple, and obvious is your plan, if you cannot get enough votes to pass it, it's completely useless.
While the Republicans have many wonderful plans that utilize the market much more effectively than this one, none of those plans will be passed by a Democratic Congress. To paraphrase a former secretary, we go to the vote with the Congress we have -- not the Congress we wish we had.
Ergo, our syllogism:
- We must do something; we cannot simply walk away and hope for the best;
- That "something" must include significant government intervention in and interference with the market; the situation is already too "fouled" up to allow us the luxury of avoiding interventionism;
- Whatever that something is, it must be acceptable to at least a handful of Democrats in the House -- and to at least eleven Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster.
The Democrats are not going to roll over for us; thus we cannot enact a significantly more market-based plan. The core of the Paulson-Bernanke plan is as good as they'll let us get, and we're by and large stuck with it. Our only option is to chip away at the garbage around the edges added by liberal Democrats.
I understand that the plan that Congress enacted and the president signed on Friday sticks in the craw of many of you; it gags in my own throat. But we live in a real world, not Fantasyland; there simply is no other plan that can actually pass the 110th Congress.
(And if you think we can just wait a few months until the new Congress is sworn in, I can almost guarantee you that you'll like the 111th even less than you like the 110th.)
This deal was quite literally the best we could get enacted into law... and it was much, much better than doing nothing. So we had no choice.
Face it, gentle readers... you cannot put your foot down when you're stretched over the barrel.
Patterico is the latest to fulminate over Sarah Palin being unwilling (or unable) to recite for schoolmarm Katie Couric a Supreme Court decision she truly disagreed with -- one that was more recent than Roe v. Wade.
Palin now says she did have some cases in mind, but she wouldn't answer because she felt annoyed and belittled by the trivia that Couric was asking in place of intelligent questions. Patterico isn't buying that explanation; here is how our pal Pat ends his post:
Her explanation is not implausible as it relates to the question about what she reads.
But let’s be honest: on the question about Supreme Court cases, she either didn’t have an answer or froze. That’s fine; just admit it when asked about it. But she’s describing that answer of hers as “flippant” -- implying that she had a good answer but refused to give it out of annoyance. That makes no sense.
Again, I’m not trying to tear her down or make a stupid suggestion like calling for her to leave the ticket. I’m just saying: she didn’t fail to name Supreme Court cases out of annoyance. She seemingly didn’t know any, or froze. Either way, admit it and move on.
There is however a third and much more plausible explanation than either of those two; here is where I suspect her answer was headed, before she swallered it down (the blue text is where I diverge from what she actually said):
COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?
PALIN: Well, let's see. There's --of course --in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are--those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know--going through the history of America, there would be others but--
COURIC: Can you think of any?
PALIN: Oh yeah, you betcha... the one that pops into my mind first is when the Supreme Court wrongly upheld that dreadful McCain-Feingold law...
Heck, it would've topped my list! That would, perhaps, account for Gov. Palin "freezing up" while she tried to navigate her way out of that quagpatch.
Date ►►► October 2, 2008
McCain-Palin "All In" This Week - On Two Counts
The candidacy of John S. McCain is truly all-in today (a poker term that means betting every chip you have on a single hand)... on two fronts.
I anticipated that the polls would be much better -- with McCain a little ahead -- when this debate was held; but I was blindsided by conservative Republicans in the House voting down the Paulson-Bernanke rescue plan en masse.
On the other hand, Barack H. Obama has not managed to pull away, either; the race is still in single digits in every last poll in the RCP average -- even CBS! -- with an average Obama lead of 5.7 right now. Single digits can easily be overcome in four-plus weeks, if momentum can be flipped around towards McCain.
I believe this is one major reason why McCain hasn't been able to get any traction: The House vote against the rescue bill hurts him with both camps, the pro and the con:
- To those who oppose the plan, McCain looks wrong, because he supports it.
- But to those who support the plan, McCain looks ineffectual, because he couldn't even to get his fellow Republicans to support it.
If enough HRs now support the Senate-modified plan, however grudgingly, that it passes, that might well flip both 1 and 2: Supporters of the plan will believe that McCain did finally help corral the renegades; it just took a second round, during which McCain did not surrender the field. And even many opponents of the bill will have to rethink whether those who were courageous enough to vote against it last time have suddenly become cravens... or perhaps that the Senate added enough to make it at least potable from the conservative point of view.
But if the HRs again resoundingly reject the bill, they will double-down on the damage they caused last time.
I believe the House will, in fact, pass the bill tomorrow; in fact, I believe that many, many more HRs will vote for it. I have heard believable reports that a number of conservative HRs have already announced a switch in their votes on this new version.
That should help McCain... but only if voters haven't already made up their minds that he is not up to the job as president. (And if they have, then nothing would help anyway; so McCain was "pot committed" to go all in -- another poker term that means the pot is big enough and your last bet small enough that you cannot rationally fold. McCain was already so close to all-in anyway, it would be foolish not to commit the rest of his stack now.)
Another reason the polls may be down is that, after the initial euphoria over McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate, she disappointed many people in a couple of interviews, particularly the ongoing Katie Couric snippet parade. She came across as programmed to the point of not even being herself.
Because she was McCain's bold and unconventional pick, he rises or falls on that decision (as he should). Thus, if she disgraces herself tonight, she will torpedo McCain's campaign.
Now, considering the boatload of false charges, absurdist claims, and elite-media hit pieces against Sarah Palin, I agree with those who say that in the history of modern presidential and vice-presidential debates, expectations have never been lower for a candidate than they are for Palin tonight.
However, I don't think it will be enough for her simply to show up and not be a raving, creationist, gun-waving, moose murdering, gap-toothed hick who married her own brother, as she has been portrayed by the elites. Rather, I believe she must actually defeat Joe Biden in the minds of conservatives -- and she must at least battle to a tie in the minds of independents.
Sarah Palin has the talent and gumption to pull this off... but the McCainiacs must keep their grubby mitts off'n her and just let Palin be Palin. Don't make her match Biden, bloviation for bloviation; let her perform the way she has in her many previous candidates' debates in Alaska. If she does this, if she relaxes and just debates as herself, not as a Stepford Candidate, she will easily, even wildly surpass expectations; and even in retrospect, after a few days to digest, her performance will help John McCain's candidacy (and her own).
Once again, ignore the snap polls -- even if they are favorable to Sarah Palin. Look instead at what the presidential polls are saying next Thursday and Friday. If Obama still leads by high single-digits, that's bad news; if he has expanded his lead to double-digits, it's probably all over, barring some stunning October surprise.
But if we're back to dead necktie, then that is very, very good news... because it would indicate that the momentum has once again reversed and is now running towards John McCain.
It's Official: AP Really Does Come from Another Planet
How else could this possibly slip past those multiple layers of editing?
Bleak data released overnight in the U.S. added to fears for the world's largest economy. Auto sales plummeted, and a key measure of U.S. manufacturing activity hit its lowest level since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2002 terrorist attacks.
It's as absurd as if a vice presidential nominee were to laud Franklin Delano Roosevelt for addressing the nation, on television, to reassure folks in the immediate aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash.
(I wonder how long it will take before anyone notices...)
UPDATE: As of 2:00 pm PDT, no correction yet. Tick tick tick...
Date ►►► October 1, 2008
While Washington Wilts, Soros Schemes
With the failure of the intricately worked-out compromise bill to rescue the frozen credit market, torpedoed on Monday by House Republicans and many House Democrats -- the former on ideological grounds, the latter because they didn't want to be left holding the baggage -- the hard Left is vulturing down from the trees to muscle into the hand.
George Soros, who I believe needs no introduction, now proposes his own version of a bailout -- a real bailout, not a "buy out" or rescue -- according to an article by Alexander Bolton in the Hill:
Soros has outlined his plan in an opinion editorial in the Financial Times and circulated a concept paper among decision-makers.
Specifically, the liberal philanthropist has proposed that government funds should be used to recapitalize the American banking system by purchasing equity in banks and investment firms.
Let's be clear: What Soros proposes is for Treasury to "recapitalize" the banks by buying about $500 billion of equity in them. From George Soros' opinion piece in the Financial Times:
This is how it would work. The Treasury secretary would rely on bank examiners rather than delegate implementation of Tarp to Wall Street firms. The bank examiners would establish how much additional equity capital each bank needs in order to be properly capitalised according to existing capital requirements. If managements could not raise equity from the private sector they could turn to Tarp.
Tarp would invest in preference shares with warrants attached. The preference shares would carry a low coupon (say 5 per cent) so that banks would find it profitable to continue lending, but shareholders would pay a heavy price because they would be diluted by the warrants; they would be given the right, however, to subscribe on Tarp’s terms. The rights would be tradeable and the secretary of the Treasury would be instructed to set the terms so that the rights would have a positive value.
Private investors, including me, are likely to jump at the opportunity. The recapitalised banks would be allowed to increase their leverage, so they would resume lending. Limits on bank leverage could be imposed later, after the economy has recovered. If the funds were used in this way, the recapitalisation of the banking system could be achieved with less than $500bn of public funds.
This is precisely the breach in the wall of separation between bank and State I most fear -- on steroids. With half a trillion dollars of money to swing, we could probably buy a controlling interest in the top dozen or score financial institutions.
Soros does not say whether this equity interest would include voting rights; but in practice, the 800-pound gorilla doesn't need voting shares to bully the institution. For example, imagine the next Democrat in the White House (Barack H. Obama or someone later) issuing an executive order to divest all equities from banks that do business with Israel, as a way to pressure Israel to sign a suicidal agreement with Hezbollah.
No matter how much of the actual vote the private investors retain, the threat to dump 30% or 40% of the company's stock at fire-sale prices, thus tanking the rest of it, would likely be enough to "encourage" the BoD to obey orders.
I'm not entirely clear what Soros means by "warrants." Does he mean what amount to stock options, so that the Treasury can buy even more stock in the future at the same price, even if by then, the share price has risen? (That's at least one common financial use of the term "warrant.")
If so, this is a license to loot the financial institutions exactly the way that so many top executives do: By bargaining for a huge stock-op package, running the share price up by flakey (but temporary) accounting, and then quickly exercising the options and selling them in the same transaction -- before the funny CPA tricks become known and the stock plummets. After selling the stock ops high, the exec could even turn around and short a bunch more stock, knowing that the financial shenanigans are bound to come to light soon.
Soros made many of his billions in currency exchanges, which are highly manipulable by political lobbying; he is very experienced with pushing prices up when selling long and down when selling short; he is known as "the man who broke the Bank of England." Thus it's hardly surprising that he wants Treasury to implement the equity scheme he advocates; if it's implemented, he himself admits (in this very opinion piece) that he intends to profit massively.
As he put it, "Private investors, including me, are likely to jump at the opportunity." The opportunity to do what? To pull billions of dollars out of the banking industry... which appears to be just what he wants the feds to do, but on a much grander scale.
According to the Hill, he has already presented this scheme to Barack Obama, the man he has long supported for president, and to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA, 95%), the earmark-loving, Murtha-supporting Democrat who famously blamed the "Jewish community" and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for our invasion of Iraq:
Democratic Rep. Jim Moran (Va.) scheduled a meeting Tuesday afternoon with Robert Johnson, a former manager of the Soros Fund Management, to discuss the proposal.
Moran compared the proposal to Warren Buffet’s $5 billion investment in the investment firm Goldman Sachs Group in return for preferred stock and warrants to buy common stock at a discount. [There you go; evidently, my guess above is exactly what Soros means by "warrants."]
Soros has also contacted Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign to share his views on the financial crisis and the best way to solve it.
Bolton in the Hill notes that Soros is determined to shift the House debate from the Paulson-Bernanke plan to the Soros scheme:
Soros, who is widely regarded as a financial wizard, could jumpstart congressional negotiations in a new direction, especially now that some strategists believe the Paulson-based plan that failed Monday will be difficult to revive.
One banking industry lobbyist said it would be very difficult politically for Republicans who voted against the package Monday to change their minds and vote for it a few days later. More than two thirds of the House Republican conference voted against the plan, which failed by a vote of 228-205.
Soros is also "widely regarded" as a leftist crank who has consistently predicted the collapse of Capitalism (even while he reaps billions from legal but morally questionable currency and stock manipulation). Besides his overt political support for the left, Soros created and heavily funds the Open Society Institute, a screamingly leftist grant-dispurser with more than $850 million; it funnels millions of dollars each year to such "nonpartisan" groups as NARAL, ACORN, La Raza, MoveOn.org, the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, the Death Penalty Mobilization Fund, and the Death with Dignity National Center. (Evidently, Soros supports the death of the innocent, but never the guilty.) You can read a somewhat more complete list of groups funded by the OSI, thus by Soros, here.
Anything he proposes is going to be designed not only to push more socialism and Statism -- both of which directly benefit his personal financial portfolio -- but also designed to improve his future business prospects by electing a much more left-liberal Congress in November.
So now we have a race: The Senate may be about to vote for the Paulson-Bernanke bill with a couple of sweeteners -- some minor and temporary tax relief to pique the interest of a handful of Republicans, and even more low-cost housing mortgages for the poor, to drag in those liberal House Democrats who rejected the bill because it retains our generally capitalist economy.
But at the same time, the Soros scheme for the federal government to buy the banks (unadulterated liberal fascism, in case you missed the point) is making the rounds of influential Democrats, such as Jim Moran -- who has the ear, and perhaps the earmarks, of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%).
Which side wins? I suppose it must depend upon whether Democrats want to run on fiscal responsibility -- say, by nominating Hillary Clinton -- or on a platform of massive but unspecified and decidedly liberal "change;" to more and more Statism; to curtailing freedom of speech; to criminally prosecuting political differences; to enact huge tax increases and even more gargantuan spending hikes; and to deprivatize and nationalize as much of the economy as possible. The party might signal the latter by nominating an anti-Hillary... say, somebody who has argued in favor of all these OSI-type ideas; somebody who has a background in street-level leftist organizing, deep friendships with anti-American revolutionaries and radicals, and a voting record to match.
The Democratic House has the power to pass whatever it wants, if Pelosi makes the vote a "party discipline vote" this time. It's entirely in her hands, though anything really bad probably wouldn't get through the Senate. Again, everything hinges on whether House Dems are more interested in solving the problem or exploiting it in the election.
Neither of these indicators comforts me.
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