Entries tagged as ‘Bush’

Alaska's Biggest Newspaper Endorses… Obama?

October 27, 2008 · 1 Comment

Poor Sarah Palin.  She has gone from approval ratings as Governor that once soared like an eagle.  Now they’ve plummeted as if she’d been shot from a helicopter.

And now this.  The Alaska newspaper with the biggest circulation, the Anchorage Daily News, has looked past Palin’s ticket to endorse Obama-Biden.

Sarah’s popularity in her own state has been hurt by the negative style of campaigning of the McCain-Palin ticket, the concern that she looks foolish and unprepared in the harsh glare of the national spotlight, worry that she reflects badly on Alaska, and the revelations of petty vindictiveness from the Troopergate scandal.

Republican pundits like Ed Rollins believe that after a presumed McCain-Palin loss that Sarah Palin will work the national rubber chicken circuit to raise money for Republican candidates, and gain some seasoning that could position her for a run again in 2012 at the top of the ticket.

Personally I think there’s little chance of that.  I still think that the Republicans will bundle her off back to Alaska.  I’m sure she’d continue to play well to the Christian Right, but that the establishment wing of the party will see her only as a reminder of one of the main reasons that the party lost the White House.

But I’m willing to concede that I may have (in the words of George HW Bush) misunderestimated her.  For the sake of more material about which to write and continued interest in this site, I almost hope she sticks around for a while.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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William F. Buckley's Son Kicked Out Over Obama

October 25, 2008 · 7 Comments

In one of the most striking signs of the rift in the Republican Party, Christopher Buckley has been effectively kicked out of the National Review – a publication started by his father William F. Buckley – for supporting Obama.  Christopher Buckley is just one of a growing number of conservatives who have supported Obama, most because they simply can not support the McCain ticket or the ascendancy to power of the extreme right wing which resulted in the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate.  The abandonment of the ticket by the thinking wing of the party is one of the signs that the ticket will go down to defeat.  Despite the anti-east coast-Washington-chattering class-intellectual public spin that the McCain-Palin campaign spit out at public events, these defections are giving the ticket, and much of the party, pause.

The Republican Party has done an amazing job holding together an uneasy coalition since the time of Reagan.  While the nuances are more complicated, it is not wrong to say that there have been two large clusters who often do not share a great deal within the coalition:  Traditional conservatives and the Religious Right.  Democrats are an even more fractured coalition of labor unions, African-American, Liberals, and teachers, and it is this diversity of interests that have made uniting those groups an even greater challenge than the Republicans have had.

Traditional conservatives include the more intellectual, moderate, fiscally conservative, “country-club” Republicans that formed the core of the Republican party until the late 1970’s.  Think top hats and martini sipping.

Shortly after the Democrats changed course, and went from a party that acted in obstruction of the civil rights movement and instead embraced civil rights, the Republicans started to flirt with the emerging evangelically-led religious right groups in order to obtain the possibility of a majority.  The Religious Right shifted from the traditional fundamentalist separation view which did not wish to be sullied by the worldly concerns represented by politics into the modern evangelical view of engagement that sought control of the political apparatus, using the Republican Party as its vessel.

Thousands of groups formed around specific objectives and interests, but the most visible, and arguably effective in the political sphere, was the now largely defunct Moral Majority.  Leaders in this movement included Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bill Bright, James Dobson, and Don Wildmon – many of whom remain active to this day.  Most of these groups saw themselves as participating in the tradition of Christian “Great Awakenings” – movements of spiritual revival brought on as waves of new believers repented of their sins, found Jesus, and filled the churches, igniting a spreading wildfire of spiritual passion and renewal.  Concurrent with this socio-spiritual change was the growing movement of Christian Reconstructionism, first popularized by John Rushdoony in a publication in 1973.  The basic idea is that governments are subordinate to God, and that rather than pursuing secular government as had been the dominant paradigm, that it was the duty of Christians to control government, and legislate morality and to become a “Christian Nation.” I know a little of what I speak, having been involved in the movement from the early 1980’s through the mid1990’s first as a part of “Campus Crusade for Christ,” and later as a member of several activist evangelical churches across the country.

In case you’d like a scorecard, William F. Buckley, John McCain, George Will, Christopher Buckley, Colin Powell, William Weld, Peggy Noonan and, yes, even Ronald Reagan are or were traditional conservative Republicans.  Sarah Palin, James Dobson, James Watt and John Ashcroft are part of the Religious Right.  Mitt Romney represents an interesting figure – he could be considered a traditional Republican, except for his Mormon faith.  Mormonism lies far outside the bounds of traditional Evangelical Christianity, which considers it to be a cult, despite the best attempt by the Mormon church to define itself as within the mainstream Christian tradition.  It is an interesting challenge to keep together many groups who define salvation as specific and exclusive.

It is for this very reason that McCain had to work so hard to go against his instincts and his identity as a traditional conservative Republican and embrace the Religious Right in this campaign.  Having called (correctly in my view) the Religious Right “agents of intolerance” after their work to defeat him in earlier primaries, he realized that he needed their support to win the Republican nomination, so he spent years reversing course and cozying up to them.  Unfortunately I don’t believe that we are yet at the place where adherence to the Religious Right’s ideals make one unelectable at the national level, but McCain’s reversal of position left unease on all sides, and made people feel like they didn’t know the “real” John McCain.  If they vote for him, will they get the John McCain of eight years ago (the “maverick” who fought parts of his own party), or the John McCain of the last 8 years (who wrapped himself in the folds of George Bush voting with him over 90% of the time, and embracing the religious movement that he once criticized)?  Many close to McCain have said that it is this fundamental inconsistency that has exacerbated his already cantankerous personality, and made his temperament a critical and possibly fatal consideration for the women and independents he needs to win.

In previous administrations the religious right was mollified by superficial professions of a belief system that was close enough to being “right” combined with policy planks that addressed their specific agenda: against abortion, against gay rights, relaxation of the hard line between church and state.  As a former evangelical, I understand the uneasiness most members of the Religious Right felt when they heard Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and John McCain speak of their faith (which, by the way, is something they restricted to closed door meetings – not open to the media – held by religious interest groups rather than open forums).  After getting elected, the ruling administrations have largely abandoned those parts of the plank that were of most concern to the Religious Right, resulting in that movement feeling, appropriately, used by the party.  This year McCain had enough trouble with the traditional party establishment that the right felt empowered to demand its own Vice President candidate, and McCain was forced to find one that also offset his own weaknesses:  age, lack of charisma and exploit Obama’s perceived weakness with women following a long grueling primary fight with Hillary Clinton.  Thus did we arrive at a place where a relatively unknown and inexperienced Sarah Palin was placed on the ticket.  But rather than heal the rift, as Palin’s fortunes have sagged after an initial burst, Palin is now serving to expose and deepen the divide.

Traditional Republicans are abandoning the ticket in droves.  Uninspired by McCain and horrified by Palin, they are quietly or publicly supporting the Obama-Biden ticket.

This rift has now reached a critical moment and moved center stage.  To get back to the title of this article, Christopher Buckley is the most recent to suffer from the attempt for solidarity and purity.  No longer able to support a ticket that so thoroughly disdains the intellectual underpinnings of conservatism that his father had been so instrumental in creating, he came out in support of Barack Obama.  He wrote that his father William F. Buckley would have been “appalled” by Palin’s vapid folksy talking points and philosophical incoherence.

The resulting outcry came quickly and vehemently.  So much so that Christopher Buckley decided to offer up his resignation as a symbolic act of protest.  To Buckley’s surprise the editors accepted his resignation, believing that they needed to hew to party unity.  This insistence on falling in with the party line to foster unity and the attempt to paper over real differences will only weaken the Republican Party.

I will confess that I have always adored William F. Buckley’s writing, and it has influenced me greatly.  He had an ability to write thoughtfully about nuanced topics with great clarity, and with a love for and mastery of the English language that was rare.  While I have grown out of much of his system of beliefs, he was always someone whom I would have loved to have met, and to have engaged in lively discussion and debate.  But our political culture seems to have lost the idea that a robust debate about ideas is healthy and can be civil.

This week I have again been challenged about the appropriateness of this site’s URL:  hatepalin.  I have been told that I am feeding the trend toward vulgarity and incivility with the use of the word “hate.”  The idea when I started this site was to:

  1. Help vet Sarah Palin – to find and expose the truth, since so little was known about her
  2. Expose the hate engendered in the exclusionary and divisive agenda of Sarah Palin and the Religious Right
  3. Write about my disdain for the policies of Sarah Palin that I hate

I will repeat here and perhaps figure out a way to move to the front of the site the statements on the “About” Page:  I don’t hate Sarah Palin.  I do hate her policies and much of what she stands for.  If you want to know what this site is about and the word “hate” so disturbs you, ignore the URL, and focus on the title page.  Here’s what it looks like and says:

hatepalin site title and mission

And I stand firmly by both of those premises.

Christopher Buckley, thank you for standing up for what you believe.  Thank you for staying true to what your father worked so hard to build.  You will not be the one left in the wilderness when the Republican rift has worked its course.  You will help rebuild a truly Grand Old Party into its historic best and not its present worst.

But read it for yourself from Christopher Buckley:

Buckley Bows Out of National Review


Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Politics
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Reagan Speech Writer Agrees Palin A Disaster

October 24, 2008 · 4 Comments

Peggy Noonan was the much valued speechwriter for darling of the Republican Party Ronald Reagan, as well as the creator of such memorable lines as “a thousand points of light” and “read my lips: no new taxes” for George Bush the First.

No friend of Obama or the Democrats, she has been scathing in her assessment of the candidacy of Sarah Palin.  Here are a few excerpts from her opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on October 17, 2008:  “Palin’s Failin.”

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for?

No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can’t be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush’s style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don’t, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

While I don’t agree with a great deal of what Peggy Noonan says and believes, I think that she is spot-on in her assessment of Palin.  And it is precisely this conclusion, that Palin is by no means qualified to be Vice President – or God forbid – President, and that her selection reflects so badly on John McCain that it could well cost him the White House.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology
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McCain-Palin Try to Disenfranchise New Voters

October 18, 2008 · Leave a Comment

What’s all this about ACORN, Ohio database mismatches and the like?  It’s simply the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican party trying to intimidate new voters into either not voting, or making sure that their votes don’t count when they’re cast.

The campaign follows in a long line of disenfranchisement efforts that stretch back to Jim Crow laws, and includes the well-documented shenanigans that made the 2000 and 2004 US elections on par with third world rigged elections, and about which America should be ashamed.

The ultimate debacle of course happened in Florida – led by the embarrassing Katherine Harris (see my post on the parallels between Palin and Harris here).  There the Republican Secretary of State Harris, working in conjunction with George W. Bush lawyers and George’s brother Jeb, the Republican Governor of Florida, decided the outcome of the Presidential election by refusing to count votes made in support of the Democrat Al Gore, in addition to other procedural decisions that effectively disenfranchised the votes of those who did not support Bush.

McCain-Palin know that there has been a huge surge of new voter registrations, mostly by young and minority voters.  This surge helped Obama defeat the political machine of Hillary Clinton in the primaries.  These new voters remain energized and likely to vote in the upcoming election.  The problem is that Obama-Biden leads McCain-Palin by enormous margins.  So what’s a campaign to do?

The answer is simple:

  1. Keep voter turnout low.
  2. Don’t count votes for the opponent.

The Republicans have a long tradition of trying to scare voters they think will vote against them.  They’ve used “push polling” to give out bad advice to likely Democratic voters:  the wrong voting location, the wrong election day.  (They’ve also used “push polling” to spread lies like phantom illegitimate mixed race babies, like Bush did against McCain in the primaries, but I digress).  They’ve spread false information about the voting process or voting requirements intended to scare voters away from participation.  Yes, they’ve even starved areas of necessary resources in order to ensure long lines and more inconvenience in order to discourage voting.  Shameful, really.

Ohio matters:  perhaps you’ve read recently about the Supreme Court ruling against the Republicans.  The Supreme Court just ruled on Friday, October 17th, 2008, overturning a decision of a Federal Appeals Court.  The Republicans were trying to compel the Secretary of State of Ohio (a Democrat) to turn over to the Republicans a list of new voters for whom there were some database mismatches against other governmental lists, like the DMV record.  The Republicans were going to use this list to give to partisan poll workers who would then challenge voters individually when they came in to vote.  They would seek to either not allow the people to vote, or to have their ballots made “provisional” – meaning they’d be kept separate, not counted with the general votes, and only counted after long protracted legal wrangling if that might help the Republicans.  Think about it – the Republicans have a strategy of keeping voter turnout low and trying to prevent having people’s votes from counting.  Even if the information is faulty, or the mismatches something as simple as a change of address, or a misspelled name as the result of an error by a government worker (Sara instead of Sarah?  Palin instead of Palen?).  Most experts estimate that in excess of 80% of the mismatches are just these kinds of simple errors.  For a detailed report on the Ohio decision, read this New York Times article:  Justices Block Effort to Challenge Ohio Voters.

Who amongst you has never had a simple government data entry error with their name or address?

In addition to Ohio, McCain-Palin have made ACORN central rallying cry for their campaign recently (we can only hope this central message lasts as long as the previous 20).  ACORN is an organization that seeks to bring low income people into the political process, and to advocate for low income housing and the preservation of jobs for the low and unskilled.  As part of an effort to increase the appallingly low voter registration rates in this group, they paid canvassers to go out into these low income neighborhoods and get people to register.  Some of these 1,600 paid canvassers apparently made up names on their list.  But ACORN had a solution for this:  they themselves would segregate the names into three categories:  those that seemed to be OK, those that were probably not OK, and those that might not be OK – and they identified the names with these categories when they submitted them.  In fact, it would be illegal for the organization to “throw out” names they thought were bad.  Imagine, should an organization be able to decide what they submit and what they don’t when someone thinks they’ve signed up to vote?  I think not.  Should they be able to ask how the person will vote and then only register Democrats, or only register Republicans?  Of course not.  But the Republicans know that the efforts of ACORN are probably bringing more Democrats than Republicans to registration, so they are attempting to discredit the entire effort.  By the way, does “ACORN” sound scary to you?  If it does, it’s just an indication of how effective the right-wing scare machine is.  It stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).  Liberal?  Yes.  A threat to the very existence of democracy?  Hardly.  And we saw at the Republican convention how icky and scary this batch of Republicans like Giuliani and Palin think “community organizing” is.  More cynical politics and more class warfare, courtesy of McCain-Palin.  It would be laughable if it didn’t have such serious consequences.

The Republicans want to win at all costs.

It galls me that Republicans would seek less participation in the electoral process.  But that’s exactly what’s happening.

That’s disenfranchisement.  And that’s just palin wrong.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Lipstick on a Pig

October 2, 2008 · 1 Comment

Sarah Palin is lipstick…

… John McCain is the pig.

When the “controversy” first broke over Obama’s use of the old “lipstick on a pig – same old pig” statement, with the right wing blustering in fake outrage about the sexism of the statement, I didn’t think too much about it.  It seemed like more of the same ridiculousness at high volume you’d expect from the McCain campaign and O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck et al.

But at the gym this morning, it occurred to me why it’s stayed with me.  It’s true.  They just got the roles wrong.  You see they were trying to say that Obama called Palin a pig.

Obama should have said

“No, I wasn’t calling Sarah Palin a pig.  I was calling John McCain a pig.  You see, the saying refers to taking something that’s ugly (Bush’s failed policies) and dressing them up in different makeup and trying to sell them as something pretty.  And that’s what McCain is trying to do.  Remember when he was the ‘Experience candidate’?  Now it’s supposedly all about change.  Sorry, but McCain and his proposals are still pigs.”

But that would be too confrontational for the gentlemanly, cool, professorial Obama.

Now I suppose instead of saying that McCain is the pig, we could say that Bush’s policies are the pig, and McCain’s policies are the same pig with the lipstick of a McCain-Palin ticket, but that would lack the punch.  There’s something viscerally satisfying about saying that McCain is the pig, delicately sweetened with just the hint of guilty pleasure.  And anyway, if people couldn’t see the context of the Obama comment for what it was – a knock on the failed Bush policies, they’d miss the subtlety of the more refined argument anyway.

So Palin is the lipstick, McCain is the pig.  And you can put lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.

So there.  I’ve said it.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology
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Financial Crisis

September 21, 2008 · Leave a Comment

McCain, as one of the chief Senate supporters of rampant deregulation, is very much to blame for today’s financial crisis.  Don’t let his scapegoating of Chris Cox fool you; he was right there every step of the way, dismantling regulatory agencies and programs, preaching an unfettered free market.

I like to think of myself as relatively sophisticated when it comes to financial matters. I’ve got a top-tier MBA, and track my investments closely. But the latest financial crises and bailouts are enough to make one’s head spin.

I alternate between extreme concern, and trying not to over-react or let fear mongering take over.

The extremes of deregulation led to both unprecedented profits on Wall Street, and now the near collapse of our financial system. Sound extreme? Maybe. But the systematic dismantling of regulation that has occurred mostly under Republican administrations allowed for both innovation in financial markets, but also the inability to accurately measure and report on risk, heightened leverage, and the creation of an inordinately complex relationship of investments and risk, whereby when stress and the reduction of liquidity has led to ripple effects that now threaten the entire network. The proponents of deregulation include Phil Graham, Chris Cox, George W. Bush, and yes John McCain.

See CNN’s story on McCain’s flip-flop on regulation:  McCain drifts away from a legacy of deregulation.

The first major stress on the system was revealed with the failure of Enron. Yes, that far back. Enron took all sorts of complex sources of risk, “productized” them, and then traded them. In essence they were a market maker. Before the collapse, they were said to be thinking about creating a weathers future market, where futures on the outcome of weather could be bought and sold. Yes, a weather futures market. A market can be created around anything that moves. Literally. Witness the 16th century Dutch tulip bulb investing craze. The problem is that sometimes the products become obscure, and the people trading don’t know what they represent. Can you figure out what an option straddle on only the interest portion of a bundle of mortgages is worth, especially when you can’t quickly figure out the default risk on the underlying mortgages? Add to this computer-driven trading to take advantage of risk and price spreads (arbitrage), and you have the recipe for interconnected poorly understood markets.

With deregulation, not only did new unique instruments pop up, but the traditional boundaries of what investments different kinds of institutions can invest in fell. Suddenly banks and insurance companies, investment banks and savings and loans, hedge funds and mutual funds could invest in all kinds on new instruments, most with huge leverage.

Leverage is the ratio of “actual” to borrowed money underlying an investment. If I have $100 and want to invest in something, that’s not leveraged. If the investment goes up 20%, I make $20 or 20%. But if I borrow another $1000 (a 10x leverage), and invest $1100, and it goes up by that same 20%, and I have to pay 4% on my borrowed money, I’ve just made $220 ($1100 x 20%), and had to pay $40 in interest, so net of costs I’ve made $180, on my original $100 – I’ve made 180% profit! Hugely profitable? Yes. Risky? Oh yeah. Why? Well, what if the investment goes down? Then I can lose even more than I’ve got invested! If the asset went down by 20%, I’d lose $220, more than I had to start, plus the interest on the borrowed money, so I’m $260 in the hole.  What if I don’t have it?  I default on the loan.  Then who owns the investment?  The person I borrowed from, probably, but they don’t want it, especially if it looks like it’s continuing to fall in value.  That’s leverage. Just like a physical lever lets you move more weight than you could do directly, financial leverage let’s you make (OR LOSE) more money than you could otherwise.  The biggest leverage most Americans have is when they take out a mortgage to buy a house.  But Wall Street bought those same mortgages, and sold them again, using leveraged money.  Now you start to get an idea for how dropping housing prices could ricochet through the economy, as it is now.

So, why are so many people mad at Alan Greenspan? Mostly because he followed a course of low, easy credit for a long period of time. He kept interest rates low to keep the economy expanding far beyond its “natural” capacity. Because interest was so low, and American culture has devalued saving in favor of current consumption, our already low saving rate went negative. The housing bubble developed. The economy expanded. But what was fueling this? China was buying up our Treasury Bills. We were borrowing money to fuel this orgy of consumption. As a result the value of the dollar against other currencies plummeted. The rest of the world could see that this was not sustainable, but the US, as the largest economy in the world, fueled a huge global expansion on the back of its borrowing and spending.

Add to this a disastrous Bush administration, who went into a foolish and costly war in Iraq, and choosing to fund the war not in the current budget, but – you guessed it – with more debt.

The economy is not set up for some very bad days ahead. We will either have to inflate or grow our way out of this mess. We inflated our way out of paying for the Viet Nam war, which we also funded from debt. Remember the ugly stagflation days of the 1970’s? Gas lines? High inflation? Low growth. That’s because we were inflating our way out of our war debt. Who won? Those who held debt, including a lot of Americans who’d bought homes with fixed mortgages. Who lost? Those who owned real assets – like stock, or companies, or retired people on an income that was fixed (and not tied to increases in inflation). I’d predict that you’d best look to the 1970’s and early 1980’s for a road map for the next decade.  We enjoyed the party a little too much, now we have to face up to the fact that our hangover will be with us for a while.

Now the Treasury Department and the Fed have stepped into the economy in ways that would historically have been unthinkable, guaranteeing instruments that did not have government backing, propping up companies about to go under and facilitating private sale (Bear Stearns), privatizing huge companies (Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), injecting huge amounts of liquidity into the system by lending money to banks and investment banks, and now proposing to create a huge fund to buy up distressed assets, mostly bad mortgage packages and related securities.

I wish I’d moved everything to cash and gold a year ago. But I didn’t, so I’ve lost a chunk.

The decision from here, however, isn’t to cry over spilled milk, it’s to put your money where it has the best chance of growing for an acceptable, minimized risk profile. I did take my portfolio to “moderately conservative” from “moderately aggressive” about 6 months ago. Now it’s time to watch the news carefully, and decide what asset classes have the best chance to appreciate at the lowest risk – even to call a bottom in real estate and stock.

Here’s a great story from today’s New York Times about the latest Bush administration bailout plan:  The Wall Street Bailout, Explained.

Treasury Seeks Asset-Buying Power Unchecked by Courts, on Bloomberg.

Categories: Bush · Finance · McCain
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