Saturday, June 07, 2008

Midnight Thread

Saturday Night Thread


That's Why He's The Dean

David Broder, one year ago.

The broader question of Persian Gulf policy in the likely event of a drawdown of American forces in the coming year is also a blind spot for the Democrats. Beyond exhortations to the weak Maliki government in Baghdad and a vague hope of convening an international conference on Iraq, the leading Democrats have little to suggest that could mitigate a possible foreign policy disaster.

Oh well. Wrong again.

Local Media Problems

All not well in Philly.

Initial reports have stated that Philadelphia Media Holdings "did not maintain the necessary senior debt-to-cash flow ratio -- which can happen when cash flow shrinks -- required by its senior lenders, according to Standard and Poor's Leveraged Commentary and Data unit," AP reported. "As a result, senior lenders blocked the company's interest payments to $85 million in junior loans held by another group of lenders. That's because senior lenders, who hold at least $295 million in loans, want to preserve the company's cash for repayment of its own loans."

When asked who might have leaked the information, Devine said, "We don’t have any idea, we are disappointed that it was leaked."

Brian Tierney, PMH chief executive, and Mark Frisby, executive vice president, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

The Inquirer and Daily News Web site offered only a short report on the missed payment, stating: "Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, which publishes the Inquirer, Daily News and, is negotiating changes in loan terms with Citizens Bank and other lenders, Standard & Poor's Leveraged Commentary & Data debt news service told clients, citing unnamed industry sources. The company has been in technical default on a bank loan covenant; senior lenders on June 1 blocked payment to investors who hold the company's mezzanine debt, S&P said."

Hopefully it's just a coincidence that the Inquirer/Daily News sites are down.

Fox News

Hilariously stupid.

Al Franken Decade

Buzz here in Minnesota was that Franken might not get the nomination outright at the state convention, or that he might even lose out to someone else. Buzz appears to have been wrong.

Punching Through The Ceiling

I'm optimistic that while it'll still be incredibly different for any woman to achieve the kind of prominence that makes the idea of a presidential run plausible, I do think that female candidates for president will be taken much more seriously in the future by our media. The media likes to quickly write out all marginal players fairly quickly, of course, but the idea won't simply be dismissed and a prominent female senator or governor who attempts a run will be treated as a real candidate.

Baby steps.

Clinton Speech

Conferencing so I didn't watch it, but reviews seem to be good.


It is this belief, this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes, we can!

I think we can safely say

Senator Clinton's speech, as well-crafted as it was...

Was good news for Rudy Giuliani.

- Guest Poster Howard Fineman

Oil Shock

All the focus on gas prices has, I think, obscured the fact that this is a major macroeconomic event.

$140 oil for the rest of the year implies an average oil price for 2008 of around $120 (maybe a bit higher)

Concretely, a rough calculation would suggest that this implies that the US will spend about $250 billion more on oil imports this year than last year. I don’t quite see how the US trade deficit can improve in the face of that kind of shock.

It implies a comparable increase in the oil import bills for Europe (which imports a bit less than the US) and the major oil importing economies of Asia (which together now import a bit more than the US) — and a roughly $750 billion increase in the revenues of the major oil exporting economies.

Wanker of the Day

David Broder.

Media Matters

From Jamison Foser.

Late Night

Rock on.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Midnight Thread

Friday Night Thread


Some Say It Was A Terrorist Fist Jab

This is going to be such an awesome election.

The Profit Motive

I'm at a panel listening to Eric Deggans attribute too much explanatory power to the profit motive in explaining what the media does. An example he gave was that given that the target audience for cable news is middle aged white guys it shouldn't be too surprising that they tailor their coverage to middle aged white guys. True! I bet that a bunch of middle aged white guys who run cable news networks think that the best thing they can do is appeal to that demographic. That shouldn't surprise us. But it's also quite possible that they're wrong, and that while they may think they're just trying to increase ratings it's actually just that they're playing to their own strengths, as middle aged white guy cable news bosses.

For a long time MSNBC was catering towards moderate Republicans, as CNN was "left," Fox was "right," and the sweet spot was center right. In reality they were catering to the biases of their very Washington-centric world, where center right convential wisdom prevails. In other words, they were catering to themselves. They were doing what they do best! Profit motive? They may believe it, but it doesn't make it so.

Facts Are Very Stupid Things

And shame on Media Matters for bringing some of them up.


Exciting stock and oil futures markets day.

Ending Well

Since I wrote a bit about this before, here's how the story ends.

Bogged down for more than six months by a controversy surrounding a master’s degree improperly awarded to the state governor’s daughter, the president of West Virginia University announced on Friday that he will step down in September.

In late April, an independent panel reported that the university showed “seriously flawed” judgment in awarding an M.B.A. to Heather Bresch, the daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, even though she did not have enough academic credits.

Ms. Bresch is a longtime friend and former business associate of the university president, Mike Garrison.

There are just things you cannot do as a university president.

War Crimes Advocates

Can't we try those, too?

Cenk Uygur: I think that, you know, one of the things that has not been discussed enough in this McClellan issue is, and these revelations, is the press' role. He said the press is an enabler here, but one thing we have not seen is a lot of mea-culpa from the press.

Michael Hirsh: Absolutely. Absolutely. No, I mean, that's, you know, I was inspired to write that. Because McClellan, I mean of all people Scott McClellan, the human punching bag, a zealous Bush advocate, as you can see now because of this sense of betrayal by his former colleagues in the White House you can hardly believe what he came out and wrote. But, you know, he himself has come and out and said, "You know what, this was a bad idea. This Iraq War was a misconceived strategy." And yes, you have these very prominent gentleman, and sometimes ladies of the press who have not been able to make an equivalent mea-culpa. And I point out that in my case, in my article, you know, I think example number one has got to be Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who embraced what he called "a war of choice," which, you know, in my view is just the euphemism for a war crime. And he's never been held accountable for it. He continues to go from success to success, and best seller to best seller. And I find that somewhat astonishing. I mean, it's quite clear, it should be by now, that he had no idea what he was talking about. And, so, you know it's a little bit ironic to have Scott McClellan having made that journey, you know, to recognizing his errors, and yet we can't get these very prominent pundits. And to say, this is not just a matter of correcting the historical record, it's also a question of getting the debate in the country right. I mean, if a few more of these prominent pundits had stepped up and said, "You know what, we all got the war on terror wrong," people might be a little bit more clear in their own minds now why they think the Iraq War was a bad idea. Polls show that they do, but a lot of people still aren't sure why.

Video and more at the link.

Obama's Latino Problem

About as real as his Jewish problem.

Yes, more seriously, of course it's important for a Democrat not just to win certain constituencies but to win them big, but the polls just aren't supporting the various narratives that float around.


After a brief period of falling prices, oil's back up.

Another reason to vote for Obama.


Cliff Kincaid just walked by.

Who Will Hold The Bag?

A big question is which institutions the powers that be will bail out, and which will die, along with who doesn't get a seat when the music stops in the Big Shitpile Musical Chairs.

(Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether American International Group Inc (NYSE:AIG - News) overstated the value of contracts linked to subprime mortgages, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The way AIG valued credit default swaps, including those backed by subprime mortgages, is at issue, the newspaper said.


Awesome MSNBC. Really awesome.

McCain For Obama

I guess everyone's already taken a whack at McCain's theft of Obama's campaign look and his high prioritizing of golf gear. Is it stupidly brazen? Brazenly stupid? Just... I don't even know.

Uh, Harry?

It's time for Joe to go.

Everything's Subprime

Nasty nasty stuff out there.

Federal regulators warned Thursday that banking-industry turmoil would continue as financial institutions come to terms with piles of bad loans they made to finance the construction of homes and condominiums.

Until now, most of the damage to banks from the housing crisis has come from homeowners defaulting on their mortgages. But amid a dismal spring sales season for new homes, loans to home and condo builders are looking increasingly shaky. Banks have begun to dump them at what will likely be steep discounts, setting the stage for billions of dollars in fresh losses.


Hang on!

U.S. employers shed jobs for a fifth straight month in May and the unemployment rate jumped to its highest in more than 3-1/2 years, partly because more people were trying to come back into the workforce, a Labor Department report on Friday showed.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent last month from 5 percent, its highest level since October 2004. Some 49,000 jobs were cut from payrolls in May, up from a revised 28,000 that were lost in April.

Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters forecast that 58,000 jobs would be lost in May but had foreseen the unemployment rate rising only to 5.1 percent. So far in 2008, job losses have totaled 324,000, the department said.

Morning Thread

by Molly Ivors

Remember that dream where you show up to school and it's the final exam and you haven't been to class all semester? When you're a parent away from the kids, that dream involves them showing up unexpectedly.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Late Night

Rock on.

The Iranian Conspiracy

Big Media Matt addressed this four years ago:

But while the “two presidents” theory has some merit, it is unsatisfying both intellectually and emotionally. As in physics, where quantum field theory and general relativity coexist uneasily, we yearn for a grand unified theory of Bushism that would put the two halves of the agenda together. Now, at last, with the revelation that Ahmad Chalabi has been passing intelligence information to the regime in Iran, the opportunity presents itself to construct just such a unified theory. The truth, hard as it is to accept, is that Bush is an Iranian agent.

Admittedly this theory suffers from a lack of direct empirical evidence. Nevertheless, by presenting this single bold conjecture, we can explain everything in a neat, tidy package. By Occam's razor, then, the theory must be accepted. Hear me out.

But now we have the evidence!

The Grand Iranian Conspiracy

I've long been partial to the Iraq war as incredibly successful project by Iranian intelligence theory, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way. Maybe it's time to remove tongue from cheek.

WASHINGTON — Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that a small group of Pentagon officials who'd collected dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran from Iranian exiles might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service . . . to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.

A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the group's activities after only a month, and Pentagon officials never followed up on investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.

The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.

Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces.



Song for a long primary.

Deep Thought

Time zone changes wreak havoc with FUTURE POSTS.


Also undermines claim that he's not a sociopath who lied to bring the country into a war which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Just sayin'.

Transition and Change

One somewhat overlooked thing (I tend to overlook it!) is that during those dark post-11/04 days, crazy bloggers lobbied hard to get Howard Dean his job at the DNC. I don't really know if he's been "good" at his job especially as his job the past 4 years as been largely undefined, or at least largely defined by him. It's sort of like judging a contest with no specific rules. More than that, there really isn't all that much hard reporting about what really goes on in the national parties, aside from sniping from people with agendas. But certainly his attitude and perspective towards things jive with a lefty bloggy perspective on things and it's hard to imagine that it would have been better if, say, Obama was inheriting a McAuliffe or similar led DNC. I don't just mean because McAuliffe was a Clinton supporter. One imagines the styles and perspectives are a better fit.

Still, as I wrote, it's really hard to know much about this stuff even though I know people who work inside the DNC and who are nice enough to tell me what they can sometimes.

Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?

I'm in Al Franken's state for this conference, and not to live out my fantasy of going to Target with James Lileks.

Rain sucks, yo.

A Nation of Orthodontists and Department Store Managers

The American people are very unserious.


Well I'm here in sunny rainy Minneapolis, riding the light rail system into the city. Hopefully I'll be able to find my hotel. Here they were so crazy that they brought the thing all the way to the airport, unlike the the Los Angeles method of bringing it right near the airport but not really close enough. Madness.

Bike racks too. Commies!


Obama and Dean teaming up it seems. Howard still Chair.

Also, Obama style, no more Washington lobbyist or corporate PAC dough.

Thread, Beautiful Thread

Thursday Is Barack Obama Day

And he's been added to the Act Blue list.

Record Foreclosures

It's important to keep in mind that we're hitting the real stage of Big Shitpile. The earlier stage was largely about big financial institutions making bets on big shitpile, and eventually the forward looking market started to realize that big shitpile was going to be worthlesss someday. While there was an uptick in loans not being repaid, the decline in the financial assets based on those loans was based on expectations that it would get much much worse.

Next stage will be bank failures.


Bush Lied

And several hundred thousand people died.

Want to Go

Is there a single pundit on the teevee who expresses the opinion of the majority of the country about Iraq? There might be some politicians or political surrogates, but your basic pundit?

Serious question. I can't think of one.


It's always an encouraging sign when there's no plane at the gate.

And they even sent me a lovely little voicemail telling me everything was on time.

Thursday Is New Jobless Day

A little drop, but still on the high side. And continuing claims are still high.

The number of laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits showed an unexpected improvement last week although a key indicator of unemployment hit a four-year high.


The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for unemployment benefits totaled 357,000 last week, some 18,000 fewer than the previous week. That pushed applications for benefits to their lowest level since mid-April.

However, the four-week average for people receiving benefits edged up to 3.086 million, the highest level since March 6, 2004, when the country was still struggling to recover from a prolonged period of rising unemployment.

Travel Day

So potentially light posting for awhile.


Broder's boy surges all the way to 25%.

President Bush's approval rating is at its lowest level to date. Just 25 percent of Americans approve of the overall job Mr. Bush is doing as President, an all-time low for him and among the lowest approval ratings ever recorded for a President.

Sixty-seven percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing - the highest such figure in CBS News polls since he assumed office.


Do good. Avoid evil.

Not Atrios

Midnight Thread

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Weird thing are afoot.



That said, though, I don't think I really appreciated, on a visceral level, exactly how much this would mean to African-Americans until sometime around November. At that time, Obama was trailing Clinton by around 20 points among black voters, which I found odd, until I read some article -- I can't recall which -- with a number of interviews of black Democrats. Those interviews made it clear that most of the people quoted in the article did not believe that a black candidate -- any black candidate -- could win the nomination, let alone the Presidency. Once I had noticed that, I seemed to hear it a lot: just a few days ago, I was listening to CSPAN in the car, and a black voter called in and said that until Iowa, he had assumed that Obama was "some kind of stunt".

I suppose I live a sheltered life, but for some reason it hadn't crossed my mind that many African-Americans would think not just that it was very hard for a black man to win the nomination, but that it was impossible. But once it did, I found it horrible and heartbreaking, all the more so because, on reflection, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to think. (At least in its milder form -- 'he can't win' -- as opposed to the more ominous 'they won't let him win.')

I know and have friends and acquaintances who are African-American, but that's something very different from being plugged in to the African-American community in any meaningful sense. There isn't one monolithic AA community, of course, but it is something which in broad general terms exists. The couple of times I went to Obama-linked primary parties I had a chance to have a pretty sharp reminder that African-American supporters of Obama are often coming from a very different place than his other supporters.

And, yes, at the post-primary party I was at last night I did sense a degree of "holy fucking shit" especially from the African-American attendees. It's a sentiment I share somewhat, but perhaps not quite at the gut level that some others in the room felt it.

...adding that either way this was going to be a "holy fucking shit" election given who the final two were. And it is somewhat amazing, after the moment of awe, how mundane it actually seems.


I can't remember who it was (understand I probably actually only go to DC about 3 times per year), but I met one longtime Congressional staffer once who really did a mean Charlie Rangel impression.

"We pledged to support her to the end," Representative Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who has been a patron of Mrs. Clinton since she first ran for the Senate, said in an interview "Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.

He's a classic. And he's almost 78!

Lotta Cash

I'd forgotten about this. Clinton is in debt, and she has a lot of cash. She just can't use the cash to pay the debt because it's general election money.

Clinton's latest report to the Federal Election Commission showed an April 30 cash balance of nearly $29.7 million, but that was deceiving. FEC spokesman George Smaragdis said the figure included $6 million in primary-season cash and $23.7 million in donations designated for the fall general election campaign. None of the general election donations can be used to retire debts accrued during the primary season.

Clinton's biggest problem, of course, is the $21 million in IOUs, which include $11,425,000 she is known to have lent her campaign through the first week of May and possibly millions of dollars more in yet-to-be-disclosed loans during her last-ditch primary campaign efforts.


As for Clinton's $23.7 million general election treasure chest, that money amounts to a political opportunity fund.

If Obama helps her, she could reciprocate by asking those donors to re-designate their checks to his campaign.

She also could ask the donors to authorize her to put their money into a new committee — perhaps one that would finance a 2012 presidential run or another bid for Senate.

She can't, as was possible for political candidates through the mid-1990s, just keep the cash.

Ah, the good old days. There's also been a lot of talk about Obama giving her campaign money, but he can't give more than $2000. He can do fundraisers for her and encourage donors to give and whatnot, but he can't just siphon his campaign cash into her account.

His Party Now

The national party organizations are strange beasts, enshrined in law with unique powers and constraints. It isn't entirely clear just what they're supposed to do. Obviously the DCCC and DSCC have more defined missions, but the DNC is kind of odd. During a presidential campaign or when there is a Democratic president it's basically an adjunct to the presidency or the candidate. In other times, their purpose is much less clear.

Now that Obama's the candidate, it will basically become his party. I don't know the extent to which that's inevitable or just custom, but presumably it will happen. We basically went from the Clinton party, to the McAuliffe years, and then the Dean years. And now...? I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that Dean will stay on at least in title until the election, though whether his authority will be eroded (by mutual agreement) is a question.

Anyway, not really insidery enough to know how all of this works. Maybe somebody who is should write a blog post about it!

Suspend and Endorse

I hope take 2 is better.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is moving to suspend her campaign and endorse Senator Barack Obama on Friday after Democratic members of Congress urged her Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama, according to a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton.

Bond Insurers

Another chance for judgment day.

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Moody's Investors Service placed the Aaa insurance ratings of MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Corp. under review for a downgrade for the second time this year after the two largest bond insurers reported wider losses from the mortgage-market slump.

MBIA shares tumbled to the lowest since June 1988, Ambac slumped to a new all-time low and credit-default swaps on their debt rose after Moody's analyst Jack Dorer said a rating cut is ``the most likely outcome'' of the reviews. Dorer cited diminished ``new business prospects and financial flexibility'' and the likelihood for bigger insurance losses.

MBIA Chief Executive Officer Jay Brown rebuked Moody's and said the review is ``unnecessary.'' Ambac CEO Michael Callen said the timing was ``unfortunate'' because the company's problems are temporary. Armonk, New York-based MBIA and Ambac of New York sold a combined $4.1 billion in shares, bonds and convertible debt to bolster capital and save their ratings. With the shares down more than 90 percent in the past year and their debt under review, raising more money may not be possible, analysts said.

``These companies are getting hit from all sides,'' said Robert Haines, an analyst with CreditSights Inc., a bond research firm in New York. They ``aren't writing new business, they're going to have more losses and they can't access the market to replenish capital. How can they be triple-A rated?''

We've been here before. They threaten to downgrade, then they come up with a little bit more capital, threat retracted, rinse, repeat...

Slice and Dice

This is why I've always been pretty skeptical of any fix other than allowing bankruptcy judges modify loan terms for primary residences the way they can for investment properties and vacation homes.

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Most of the 5.85 million subprime mortgages in the U.S. are in danger of defaulting in the next 12 months because of restrictions on changing terms of the loans, according to Offit Capital Advisors.

About 80 percent of the loans are in bonds that ``slice and dice'' rights to a mortgage's interest or principal in multiyear segments, said Todd Petzel, chief investment officer for the New York-based firm, which manages $5 billion. Lifting restrictions on loan modifications spelled out in the securities requires the agreement of everyone who has invested in them, Petzel said.

``If you could get all the investors in the same room, there's no limit to the modifications that could be made to a loan, but that's not likely to happen,'' Petzel said. ``Once you cut up a pig into pork chops and loins and hams it's nearly impossible to put the pieces back together.''

Wanker of the Day

John McCcain.

More Transit

Robert Reich is making sense.

Public transit has always been the poor stepchild of infrastructure development. America's usual answer to traffic congestion has been to add more lanes on highways, or more highways, or more bridges and tunnels for more cars. America hasn’t been really serious about public transit for almost a century. Most of New York City’s subway system was built over a hundred years ago. Los Angeles ripped out its trams long ago. Boston's Big Dig, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in modern American history, was designed entirely for cars. In recent years, only a few farsighted and ambitious cities, like Portland, Oregon, have invested in light rail.

But now that gas is $4 a gallon, all this may change. And what better way to get the economy going, and save energy and the environment in years to come, than to create a modern, efficient system of public transportation in America?

Deep Thought

Even when it's over it isn't over.


I tried to be very sympathetic to the Clinton speech last night. I recognized it for what it was, much like the infamous "Dean Scream" speech it was a speech to supporters, and not to the country at large. Whether it should have been or not is another question, but nonetheless that's what it was.

But even given that it really just wasn't right.


Another one of those days.

Fresh Thread


No Stay

Californians will be able to gay marry each other in a couple of weeks.

Let's hope in November they find their better selves and vote down the amendment which would put a stop to it.

Not Just Roe

Indeed. I remember talking to people in 2000, back when it was hip to be an Economist reading "independent" who was a bit above all that politics stuff, who truly thought it probably wouldn't matter all that much who would become president, except for maybe that Roe thing.

As we've all learned now, children, the President and the Executive Branch have quite a bit of power and it does actually matter who has the job, and not just because their judicial appointees might declare the uterus to be state property. That's important too, but it isn't the only thing.

Just Weird

I'm a political junkie and before this primary season I didn't know all the ins and outs of delegate allocation. But though I'm a political junkie it isn't actually my job to try to help someone win the Democratic nomination. So I just truly find it weird that what the Obama people did is some grand innovation instead of a "duh" kind of thing.

Senior advisers, including Plouffe and delegate specialist Jeffrey Berman, diced the country into 435 congressional districts, the basis for pledged-delegate allocations. They examined each district under different scenarios -- for instance, before and after former senator John Edwards left the race. And they identified quirks that Obama could exploit -- such as the fact that in districts that awarded an even number of delegates, the take was generally split evenly, if the winning margin was kept reasonable.

The campaign leadership had wanted no distractions before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, so the planning in Chicago was done in secret. But on the night of Jan. 4, as Obama's Iowa staff staggered into his Des Moines campaign headquarters, still ragged from celebrating the senator's improbable victory there, field director Paul Tewes took it public.

Everyone on the payroll in Iowa would be assigned to another state, he announced. Hotels had already been booked and rooms in the homes of volunteers arranged. Marygrace Galston, who had helped oversee the ground-game deployments, gave staff members until 6 p.m. to say whether they were accepting their new assignments.

Obama's team left Des Moines and fanned out -- to Idaho, to Alabama, to Alaska, places that had never seen a Democratic presidential primary campaign. The months ahead would have other key moments. The late-night standoff in Indiana last month deprived Clinton of a strong victory to offset her crushing defeat in North Carolina -- and ultimately left Obama's big delegate take intact. Edwards's endorsement of Obama on May 14 helped sap what momentum Clinton had from her landslide win in West Virginia the day before.

I understand that the Clinton team was planning to do a quick knockout and then ride the momentum, but no plan B? Weird.


MSNBC sez Clintonite Rahm Emanuel is endorsing Obama.


Speechifying to SEIU.


Congratulations Joel Dykstra, who just won the nomination to become the Republican candidate for US Senate from South Dakota.

"I think 'rape and incest' is a buzzword. It's a bit of a throwaway line and not everybody who says that really understands what that means. How are you going to define that?" --South Dakota state Rep. Joel Dykstra (R-Lincoln County) on why the state legislature didn't include those exceptions in its abortion ban, April 20, 2006.


Productivity goes up when output/labor hour goes up, which can happen if the numerator grows or the denominator falls. You can't squeeze more out of fewer workers forever, but you can short term.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. productivity rose sharply in the first quarter despite a weak economy, according to revised government data, suggesting companies have responded quickly to soft demand by shedding workers and cutting back on hours.

Substance Free

MSNBC just ran yet another "What Clinton Did Wrong" piece which... didn't mention the war.

Arguably there were two major substantive policy differences between Clinton and Obama. The first one is their health plans, and the second one is Iraq. Perhaps absent more differences it's inevitable that the horse race/identity politics/silly season/"gaffe" stuff gets elevated even more than it usually is, but at the very least they could mention the real, if small, differences in their policy positions.

And it is Iraq. No Iraq, no way to challenge Clinton.

New Generation of Surrogates

The vast majority of Dem talkers on the teevee are or were Clintonites. I don't mean that they were all supporters of her presidential run, but most of them have spent some time in that orbit. As the torch is passed news outlets should really consider if Ed Rendell, Terry McAuliffe and Harold Ford are really the people who should be on representing the Dem side in this presidential race.

I don't mean that these people should be ignored completely, I just mean that the club was just replaced with a new one. The media should reflect that.

And Iraq?

Shhh. Don't mention the war.

The number of these things which have been written which don't mention Iraq is comical.

As I wrote last night, Clinton certainly could have won anyway, but no Iraq war vote and no candidate Barack Obama.


Over there.

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military says three American soldiers have been killed in a small-arms fire attack in northern Iraq.

Morning Thread

by Molly Ivors

Soooo.... anything interesting happen yesterday?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


It was at the first Yearly Kos in Las Vegas that a prominent Dem staffer told me, "Obama's running." I don't think I quite believed it at the time, though I understood it would be game changing to some degree if true. I think that due to the extended primary season we've lost sight to some extent just how game changing this is.

Being at an Obama party with a substantial African-American presence, it really sunk in how much this is a "holy shit" moment. Whatever happens next, it is an historic moment.


Is it possible for any mainstream media contributor to recognize that Clinton lost because of Iraq?

I'm quite sure that Clinton could have won despite of it, had her campaign not had the brilliant idea to just take February off, but the Iraq vote created a space which otherwise wouldn't have been there for a potential opponent.

It's the stupid fucking war, stupid fucking Matthew Dowd.

Mr. November

Don't fuck us over.

We Have A Nominee

Ended up wandering into a somewhat impromptu Obama victory party.

More Thread

What's on your minds?

"Oh, Go with the Green Background"

"It'll make you look like the cottage cheese in a lime jello salad" Always a good look for an older gentlemen.

The aesthetics of McCain's speech, just mercifully completed before a slightly energized crowd of literally dozens, was awesome in how dreadful it was. No matter what Harold Ford thinks, who was somehow thoroughly moved by lime-jello McCain.

More Thread


MSNBC tells me that's how many more delegates Obama needs. I understand there are some elections today. I'll be drinking liberally, though probably home before results start coming in (pretty late).

...Sam tells us it's 12.


Thanks Washington press corps, 2000 edition, for convincing a great many people that it really didn't matter much if we installed an incurious idiot into the presidency.

Among the excerpts of the interview captured in Engel’s new book, “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq”:

- “‘This is the great war of our times. It is going to take forty years,’” [Bush told Engel]. “Bush said in forty years the world would know if the war on terrorism, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, had reduced extremism, helped moderates, and promoted democracy.”

- Bush admits to Engel that going to war was a decision based on his personal instinct and not on any long-range strategy for the Mideast:

“I know people are saying we should have left things the way they were, but I changed after 9/11. I had to act. I don’t care if it created more enemies. I had to act.”

We're all sucking on it.


What are we going to talk about tomorrow?

Staying Until the End

As we're in the final countdown, I guess there is a certain logic to just letting the primaries playing out until the end given how everything has played out. It isn't exactly the same thing, but I kind of admired how Dodd was playing to win in Iowa even though he didn't have a chance in hell of winning. If you're committed to the game, you might as well play it until the end.


MSNBC is telling us that Clinton "says she's open to being Barack Obama's Vice President." Whatever the merits of Obama/Clinton, talk like that comes when, you know, it's over.


John Cole Is Making Sense

It is funny how things change in the blogosphere.


I also live in a city where ballot access wars are just part of the political game. The signature requirements for local races really aren't all that high, and trying to get your opponents tossed off the ballot for having not enough legitimate signatures is just standard practice. This is just stupidly trying to associate Obama with dark and scary "urban politics" which we all know is uniquely corrupt, sometimes even electing black people, unlike suburban politics where there's no corruption whatsoever.

Sometimes you can have corrupt judges making bad rulings about signatures, but challenging signatures is a completely legitimate part of the process. And surprisingly doing so manages to take out incumbents fairly regularly, at least while I've been here.


Merced, CA:

It wasn't long ago that Andy Krotik was selling houses to out-of-town investors who would sometimes buy two at a time.

Now, Krotik spends his days warily entering abandoned houses, checking for angry holdouts or startled squatters. He wants to make sure the properties are empty and secure so he can sell them for the banks that have repossessed them.


The developer never finished building the neighborhood as demand for new homes vaporized and would-be buyers canceled their contracts. So Sharma's house is ringed by vacant lots and empty houses, and the neighborhood is overrun by dry weeds and brush.

There is a shell of a two-story house across the street. It's become a party house for local teenagers, who occasionally go in with boxes of beer. "When I signed up they said there were going to be new parks, a school," Sharma said.

Black Guys Get All The Breaks

One of the hilarious if somewhat disgusting themes we've heard from certain quarters is that Obama will win because he's black. It's quite an amazing thing that no other African-American figured out that all they had to do was go work in the state legislature, become a US Senator, and then run for president and there'd be no stopping them.

That's not to say his race is neutral and has no impact, but the idea that it's some sort of giant advantage is truly bizarre.

SEPTA Does Something Right

SEPTA, the local transit authority, isn't exactly known for its innovations in customer service. Well, actually, I suppose it is though those innovations are generally not considered to be positive ones. So, yes, dropping weekend rail prices and especially removing the stupid onboard surcharge is a good move.

One of the worst things about SEPTA is that it's really hard to buy a ticket/token. They got rid of all the regional rail ticket machines after they didn't work with the new money. Many stations don't have a ticket sales window, and certainly not at all hours, and they added a surcharge for those paying on the train. Subway workers won't actually sell you a token and not all stations have token machines.

All of this isn't so bad for regular riders who can figure out how to navigate the idiosyncrasies and who either buy a pass or know to keep a token stash on hand, but for potential occasional riders, the type who cruise into the city on weekends, they're a big barrier.

Stuff, Not People

While it's good that we use a lot of freight rail, it's bad that most of the rail in this country is owned by the freight companies, even if passenger trains share them. The freight cars get priority,* even though their cargo is usually a little less time sensitive than people.

*Reading up a bit, Amtrak trains sometimes get priority but only if they hit their schedule. If they're late, it's behind the freight train they go, and those freight trains are sloooow.

Clinton Campaign Statement

Through the magic email:

The AP story is incorrect. Senator Clinton will not concede the nomination this evening.

Judging from the various stories I'm guessing it's "suspend and effectively end" rather than concede outright, but it'll be fine.

Arab Street Conspiracy Theories


In the hawk faction of the U.S. politics you have radical clerics musing about the apocalypse playing a key role in the process to determine who the GOP standard-bearer will be. And even in the more dovish faction, the lead contenders won't acknowledge our own intelligence findings about the Iranian nuclear program. Someone, someone in Iran is penning a furious blog post or article or memo about how you just can't appease the Americans, how we're irrational and our political system is dysfunctional, about how we were determined to invade Iraq irrespective of the facts and we're not invading Iran right now just because it's not logistically feasible and that restarting a crash weapons program before it does become feasible is Iran's only hope.

Yes I realize Iran is Persian, not Arab, but, hey, what's the difference. The inability of the elites in our country to spend 5 minutes thinking about just what things look like to people in other countries and how they might quite reasonably see the country as a powerful lunatic is maddening.

Wanker of the Day

David Brooks.


MSNBC sez AP reporting that Clinton campaign officials say that (MSNBC CHYRON): "Clinton will admit tonight that Obama has nomination."

And then the deranged harpy will bite down on his jugular, suck the blood out of him, and screech BUT NOW IT'S MINE ALL MINE!*

*In case you weren't sure, this is satire.

Depressing Realization

While I have longed for the primary to be over, its never ending nature had given me a bit of an excuse to reduce the amount of cable news I am exposed to.


Yet another article about mass transit ridership.

Soaring gas prices are pushing more Americans to take public transit, with streetcars, trolleys and other light rail experiencing a 10.3 percent increase in ridership for the first quarter of the year, according to a report released yesterday by the American Public Transportation Association.

Americans took 2.6 billion trips on all modes of public transportation, including subways and buses, in the first three months of 2008, a 3.3 percent increase, or almost 85 million more trips than in the same period last year, the report said.

Some people who shift to mass transit are probably doing so even though it's actually an inconvenience. The real question is how much "more better transit" starts to enter our politics. It's always a tough one because there's never any money for massive proposals, and smaller proposals are always going to only benefit some people.

The Tears of Arnie

The horror:

WILMINGTON, Del. — Responding to a shift to smaller vehicles because of surging gasoline prices, the General Motors Corporation said Tuesday that it would end production at four factories in the United States, Canada and Mexico that produce trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The chief executive Rick Wagoner said Tuesday before the automaker’s annual meeting that G.M. would cease production at a full-size pickup factory in Oshawa, Ontario. It also will stop making S.U.V.s at plants in Moraine, Ohio, and Janesville, Wis., and it will stop making mid-size pickups in Toluca, Mexico.

The Hummer brand might be discontinued.

Save The Males

Publishers send me books and I don't have time to read them all. I outsourced Kathleen Parker's Save the Males to John from Drexel Dems. Here's his review.


Jon Stewart's interview of Scott Mclellan, Pt.1 and Pt.2.

Not Atrios

Monday, June 02, 2008

Late Night

Rock on.

The Kids Are Alright

Jon Anderson performs with Paul Green School of Rock.

Monday Night

Because Stars rawk.

Deep Thought

Wow. The new Coldplay song, Viva la Vida, really is a Buggles ripoff. I hope Chris Martin at least wears the trademark specs when he sings it.


I admit my own thoughts on this vary quite a bit.

Senator Byrd In Hospital

Sez MSNBC. High fever and sluggish.

Wanker of the Day


Senior Moment

I really don't like describing McCain gaffes in that way. First of all, everyone who talks that much in public is going to occasionally say stupid shit. Perfectly well and good to make fun of it as it just comes with the territory, but I don't see any reason to link it to his age.

More than that, if there are reasons to have concerns about McCain having age-related mental impairment this is actually a serious issue, and not one to make light of. I'd hope the reporters covering him who have all that access would tell us if he did. An occasional brain fart is funny, but if it's a symptom of something deeper that's actually serious.


Long stupid day.

What Was It All About?

I do admit I've long been a bit confused by why Hillary Clinton stayed in the race. To be clear, while I had a problem with directions the campaign went I had no issue with her simply remaining in the race. But I never really saw a good reason for it. Maybe there is one. Maybe we'll find out what it was!

It's Lou Dobbs' World

We just live in it.


Well, not really.

Cheney was at the Press Club to congratulate this year's winners of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. During a question-and-answer session toward the end of the luncheon, someone asked the vice president about his wife Lynne Cheney's revelation on MSNBC last year that "Dick and Barack Obama are eighth cousins."

The questioner jokingly asked the vice president if he and Obama were going to have a family reunion, to which Cheney replied he would "have no objections" though he said he doubted Obama would want one - "certainly not before November."

Then came the offensive punch line. Cheney explained that during the course of researching his family lineage for Lynne's memoir "Blue Skies, No Fences" last year, he learned there were Cheneys on both his father's and his mother's side of the family. There was a Richard Cheney on his mother's side, the vice president said.

"So I had Cheneys on both sides of the family and we don't even live in West Virginia," Cheney quipped.

West Virginia politicians aren't laughing at Cheney's little joke, including his fellow Republican, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).


Just one of those days. First I woke up at 5:30 for no good reason. Then blogger was bloggered and haloscan was messed. Then real life intervened in stupid ways.


Liars or Fools

The eternal question.

Froomkin on Scottie

Worth reading.

Hopefully True

Obviously these things are more than a little complicated, but hopefully this optimistic assessment isn't too far from the truth.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy successfully underwent surgery at Duke University Medical Center on Monday for a malignant brain tumor, the doctor who performed the procedure said Monday afternoon.

“I am pleased to report that Senator Kennedy’s surgery was successful and accomplished our goals,” Dr. Allan Friedman, chief of the division of neurosurgery in the surgical department at Duke in Durham, N.C., said in a statement about 2 p.m.

Mr. Kennedy, 76, was diagnosed two weeks ago with a malignant glioma in the upper left portion of his brain after suffering a seizure at a family residence in Cape Cod. He underwent surgery on Monday after initial treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Friedman said after the procedure that Mr. Kennedy should experience no permanent neurological effects from the surgery.

Could It Really Be Almost Over?


Afternoon Thread



While it's a nice thought, I really can't see Barr having a serious impact on this race. Or, more to the point, if he is in a position to flip some states then McCain's got bigger problems than I imagine.

Local Media Fun

Just weird.

CBS3 anchor Larry Mendte opened former colleague Alycia Lane's private e-mail account hundreds of times over many months, sources told The Inquirer yesterday, and the FBI is investigating whether he passed on gossip about Lane to the media.

In part, federal officials are trying to determine whether Mendte intercepted communication between Lane and her lawyers about her lawsuit against CBS3, which fired her in January.

Investigators have confirmed that Mendte viewed Lane's Yahoo account, sources said. Now, the sources said, investigators are combing through the e-mails he allegedly opened to see if the content can be correlated with embarrassing leaks to the media about Lane's private life.

Mr. Big Bucks

I wish the New York Times would pay me to write really stupid things every week.

Kick Ass

We are ruled by Eddie Haskell.


While our elite media often like to pretend they're just passive conduits of information, their coverage incorporates the standard assumptions and conventional wisdom of George Bush's Washington and they spin stories accordingly. So when Barack Obama says crazy things like maybe it's important to engage in diplomacy even with leaders we don't like they act like his head just spun around, Exorcist style. The reality is that most of us are above the age of 5 and understand the necessity and desirability of such things.

The Anti-Christ Is A Big Gay Jew

There is no one more righteous and honorable than The Last Honest Man in Washington, Joseph Lieberman.

And his BFF thinks the anti-christ is a big gay Jew.



The Triumphant Return!

I told you...

Fun With Accounting

I suppose as long as investors pretend not to notice it'll all work out.

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Leave it to Wall Street to profit from its own distress.

Merrill Lynch & Co., Citigroup Inc. and four other U.S. financial companies have used an accounting rule adopted last year to book almost $12 billion of revenue after a decline in prices of their own bonds. The rule, intended to expand the ``mark-to- market'' accounting that banks use to record profits or losses on trading assets, allows them to report gains when market prices for their liabilities fall.

The new math, while legal, defies common sense. Merrill, the third-biggest U.S. securities firm, added $4 billion of revenue during the past three quarters as the market value of its debt fell. That was the result of higher yields demanded by investors spooked by the New York-based company's $37 billion of writedowns from assets hurt by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.

The article isn't quite as clear as it could be, but I think I can explain. Basically, the regulators said that these institutions should actually report what their assets are worth - market value - rather than some fantasy made up "model" number. So they said fine, but we want to do the same for our liabilities! So if Merill owes $100 million, but that debt is currently trading at $80 million because of fears that Merill will default on the debt, Merill gets to say "yay! We only owe $80 million." Of course that isn't true. They owe $100 million, and they have to either pay or default, but the fact that people are worried they'll default means they get to pretend they owe less than they do.

Does this make any sense? Of course not.

More than that, they get to pick and choose which liabilities they get to account for this way.


Not really the kind of thing your national co-chair is supposed to say.

Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor and a national co-chairman of Clinton's campaign, said Sunday: "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

Kristol Meth

Bill Kristol has quite a few prominent platforms. He can get himself on the teevee when he wants, he has a magazine, he has a column in the now mostly ridiculous New York Times op-ed page. He has had, over the past several years, hundreds of opportunities to make a plea to his young conservative readers to join the military. It's possible he's done this at some point, but this is one of those things I've paid attention to and I've never seen it. In fact, I've never noticed any prominent conservative person or outlet encouraging people to join the military. Again, perhaps they have, but I have paid attention to this issue and haven't seen it.

On this Monday morning, what does Billy K use his prominent platform for? A call to service? Of course not. He uses it to criticize Barack Obama for what he himself has long failed to do.


Not an especially pleasant way to spend a Monday morning.

BOSTON -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will undergo surgery Monday morning at Duke University Medical Center as part of his treatment for brain cancer, a spokesman confirmed.

The surgery, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., is expected to last about five or six hours.

Deep Thought

There comes a time when you have to say goodbye to binky.


All of this is probably true.

Or at least it is as true as anything else, like, say, daffodils. This is a great primary season!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nobody Could Have Predicted

blah blah blah.

BENSON, N.C. — Luz Gonzalez used to take spur-of-the-moment trips to the beach. Now, she's afraid to drive to the doctor for checkups on her new pregnancy. She and her husband, Ismael, can no longer have a savings account or a car registered in their names. Every time they drive to church, they watch for the flash of blue lights in the mirror.

The Gonzalezes, who identified themselves by only one of their two surnames, are among many illegal immigrants in North Carolina who are beginning a new life — one without driver's licenses. A 2006 state law made it impossible for illegal immigrants to renew their licenses. The change was talked about mostly as a tool to combat terrorism — several of the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks had licenses.

But it's also created a crisis in the Hispanic community and a potential hazard on the roads. As licenses issued under the old rules expire, advocates and law enforcement authorities say many illegal immigrants, who number an estimated 300,000 in North Carolina, are now driving without licenses or insurance.

I've really never quite understood why drivers' licenses and bank accounts drive the Lou Dobbs crowd insane. If you think that deporting 10 million people, many with dependents and many others who came here as children, is sound policy then I suppose it makes sense, but otherwise I think it's pretty obvious that keeping people in the system, instead of in the shadows, is preferable.

Sunday Night

Have a video.

The Evils of Mass Transit

Someone must put a stop to our homicidal trolleys.

DREXEL HILL, Pa. - A teenager is dead after being struck by a trolley in suburban Philadelphia.

Police say the victim was hit by the Route 102 trolley late Saturday night in Drexel Hill. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deep Thought

If the fine people of Puerto Rico don't vote for Obama in November, he's doomed.

Deep Thought

I think if I had a party, and Lanny Davis, Howard Wolfson, and Terry McAuliffe were there, it'd really rock.

Deep Thought

Sometimes when you're slicing bread you really appreciate just what a good idea sliced bread was.

Drunk Liberals

Time really does fly.

In the beginning, Mr. Krebs and his partner in starting the club, Matthew O’Neill, 30, would show up on Thursday, with just the two of them sharing a pitcher of beer. Since then, online social networking has helped the group grow into a national organization with 250 chapters across the country, at least one in each state.

“Eight years ago, someone told me that the Nader folks were trying to create a sort of potluck dinner group in every state across the country — the idea being that you organize people socially and out of that can grow a network that will move progressive politics forward,” said Sam Seder, a radio host on Air America. “The brilliance of this group is that they’ve actually done that.”

Four years ago, a person who attended meetings in New York moved to San Francisco and started a second Drinking Liberally chapter.

After the 2004 Republican convention, the Daily Kos and Atrios, two political blogs, began posting Drinking Liberally meeting times on their sites. By the time Election Day rolled around, 16 new chapters had sprung up.

“For a lot of us, it’s the only time that we really get to talk politics across generations, other than at Thanksgiving dinner,” said Katrina Baker, 27, the group’s national organizer.


No more Sam Seder on the radio.

All The Crap That's Fit To Print

The awesome New York Times.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate about David Shipley's feelings about goat fellatio? It would be irresponsible not to!

Payroll Prediction

Actual data comes out Friday, but here's the latest prediction.

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. lost jobs for a fifth month in May and manufacturing contracted, signaling the economy is stagnating, economists said before reports this week.

Payrolls probably dropped by 60,000 workers, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Labor Department's June 6 report. Figures tomorrow may show the Institute for Supply Management's factory index fell to 48.5 in May.

Nice Day

Since the likelihood of being blown up here is, contrary to many news reports, a bit lower than in Iraq, I'm off to enjoy some of the horrors of Philadelphia life. I may even ride a bus home!


Over there.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint west of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 10 people including the local police chief, an official said.

Quiet and Clean

Trackless trolleys aren't greatly superior to buses, but they're a little bit better.

The trackless trolleys are back.

But not in South Philadelphia.

Five years after SEPTA's board voted to suspend all trackless trolley service for one year, the first of 38 new electric trolleys are gliding through the streets of Northeast Philadelphia. Their return revives an 85-year-old transportation tradition in the city.

Quiet and clean and with a new ability to maneuver "off wire," the trackless trolleys have another advantage over buses these days: With the cost of diesel fuel skyrocketing, they're cheaper to run.

Trackless trolleys cost $2.54 per mile to operate and maintain, compared with $2.76 for diesel buses, according to SEPTA.

I do hope SEPTA has someone "thinking big" about dream projects in Philadelphia. President Obama, urban dweller, will hopefully make those pots of federal money a bit more mass transit friendly.

The city has come back into pop culture as something other than a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Let's hope it returns to our politics, too.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.

ABC's "This Week" — Terry McAuliffe, campaign chairman for Hillary Rodham Clinton.


CBS' "Face the Nation" — Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa.; Mandy Grunwald, Clinton campaign adviser.


NBC's "Meet the Press" — Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary; former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Harold Ickes, Clinton campaign adviser.


CNN's "Late Edition" — Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.; Ickes; Democratic strategists Jamal Simmons and Hilary Rosen; Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

"Fox News Sunday" _ Howard Wolfson, Clinton campaign adviser; Bonior; Brendan Sullivan, director of the children's sports program Headfirst.

Early Sunday Morn