Monday, September 22, 2008

The Feds provide a bucket--a shovel is more fitting

This bail out nonsense has got me all sorts of pissed off. It's so much BS that I can't even fathom how it will pass Congress. Admittedly, we can't let the financial sector sink, or we're doomed. Like maybe post-Cold War Russia doomed. But how is $700 billion (actually closer to $1 trillion) of our money the right fix!? I hope my generation is well tuned-in to this, because we're the ones who will be paying back th massive national debt to the Chinese--for the bailouts, the war, and every other wasteful thing that has come out of Washington.

The Federal Government has a long and successful history of assuming debt or failing financial services businesses, and generally staving off disaster. I.e., Hamilton's debt assumption and First National Bank (c. 1790), the FDIC, lots of New Deal progeny, etc. etc. But there's a key difference in this latest scheme. The Feds want to buy up ONLY bad debt, and maybe even expand that to all BAD assets a company may hold. When the FDIC closes down a bank, they take ALL their accounts, good debt AND bad debt, assets AND liabilities. When they took over FannieMae, FreddieMac and AIG, the Feds took something like and 85% share in the companies, so we taxpayers may actually see a profit if things turn around even a little at those firms. But under the current Paulson plan, the Feds will only buy bad assets. They say that some of the debts will be repaid or sold off--this is true. But it's BAD debt, by definition we will never see a return on our money, and we're infinitely more like to lose our shirts. Duh, that's what happened to the banks that wrote the bad notes in the first place.

The better solution? If we're going to bail companies out to prevent a total meltdown, we've got to run it like an FDIC takeover. Either assume the company entirely and sell its assets to cover debts and make it solvent, or take a major share (85% sounds ok), put in a capable board, and use the new cash from the gov't buyout to make the company solvent (e.g., AIG).

What frustrates me even more about all this is that neither candidate can form a cogent response to the crisis, much less this debacle of a bailout plan. McCain says he's "deeply uncomfortable," which, in an aside, is a ridiculous phrase. If you're deeply uncomfortable, your feelings have obviously left the realm of comfort and discomfort. I mean, chairs and jeans are comfortable or uncomfortable. Candidates should be dealing in the "cautiously optimistic" to "deeply troubled" range.

And Obama's only response has been to rail on Wall Street, rich people, and Washington. New flash for Obama: you are a wealthy person, if you have even one mutual fund (as he surely does) your financial advisor is almost guaranteed to be a part of the current problem, and if the problem was Congress, you've got to own up to that, too. Come on guys, say something meaningful and intelligent, and for God sakes, come out against this foolishness. Do I even need to mention that W's conservative credentials are complete and utter crap at this point?

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Don't Like Ike

It is my general policy to dislike hurricanes. On a purely theoretical level, I can appreciate the awesome power and majesty of Old Testament vengence wrought upon a sinful world. But also, hurricanes hurt people and mess up our stuff. This go-around, some of the messed up stuff might be mine!

I've been meaning to post pictures of our yard for a while now, but I've put it off so I could get shots of the finished product. Unfortunately, just as we get things straightened out the way we want them, some Ike borne winds and rain are going to tear through Waco. I'm really hoping to avoid the tornados powerful hurricanes often spawn.

So, just in case our nice new yard projects get demolished this weekend, here's some pics of what we've done so far. For reference, remember that there used to be an above ground pool out back, a fish pond on the front corner, and the craziness you saw in previously posted pics.

This is the backhoe Dick (Diana's dad) rented to facilitate removal of the fish pond. He got it mainly as a birthday present to himself, for pure enjoyment, but it actually saved a whole crapload of time (1 crapload equals approximately 7/16's of a fortnight)

Our awesome new patio, which replaced the war zone pictured below. Note the sod first purchased as a birthday present to me from my mom, and then more around the patio installed by myself, JT, and JK.

This beautiful desert garden replaced the fish pond and it's attendant grossness.

More sod...where there used to be a nasty pool.

The War Zone, with the patio in progress.

Monday, September 8, 2008

WH 2008: Mapp v. Ohio

The title is obscure for some loyal readers (especially because I only mention Ohio in passing), but it's the best I could do at 4pm on a rainy Monday. However, the directive is clear: send me your electoral maps! You can create you own map here, and send me the screen shot or link. I will post them, along with your comments, and continue to call for updates every few weeks, or as circumstances dictate.

Previous map postings, for historical perspective: WH 2008: Map Quest; A Map of the Future

As the McCain-Obama stalemate deepens, I notice a trend. More than a trend, in fact--a complete repeat of 2000 and 2004! In 2000, Gore won all the states where I have Obama favored, with the exception of New Hampshire and Colorado, and Bush won in all the states where I have McCain on top, plus those two. Bush picked up New Mexico in 2004, but lost New Hampshire. And, as I count it today, the only state that McCain could possibly sway into his column (in addition to maintaining his toeholds elsewhere) is Colorado.

Is this as far as we've come in 8 years? This is as much daylight as the electorate puts between Obama and Kerry or Gore, or Bush and McCain? Is the Rocky Mountain State the new Ohio, as the arbiter of epic contests? I'm a little flabbergasted.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who is like unto the beast?

"Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" Rev. 13:4 (KJV)

The battle lines are drawn, and the game is truly afoot. T-minus 135 days until we select a new President and administration. So where to things stand? Almost neck and neck, in the popular vote and the electoral. But given Obama's advantage on both counts, McCain is learning that to defeat his enemy, he must become his enemy. Change (of some fashion) is in the air!

Even though we saw it coming, Obama stunned observers with the sheer pageantry of his nominating convention. Despite some lackluster moments--Mark Warner--and early signs that the Big O's speech would be more meat and potatoes than his usual pie in the sky, the convention was a huge win for Democrats. Obama made a strong and probably very successful play for the center with rhetoric on family values, personal responsibility, and McCain's closeness to the Bush-Cheney record.

(No, it doesn't matter that his conceptions of family values and personal responsibility are enormously out of sync with mainstream America. And no, awesome graphics and a hella good speech do not a president make. Face it, he just ain't the Jeb Bartlett they think he is. Unfortunately the buyer's remorse won't set in until after the election.)

Also, O's pick of Biden for his running mate has proven popular among Dems and pundits who saw vulnerability in the experience department. Obama has secured his base, moved into the center with vigor, and has likely solidified his lead in a number of formerly "swing" states.

While by rights this turn of events should spell disaster for McCain, he still has a fighting chance. He was not idle during the Dem spectacle, but busy making what Buchanan called "the biggest gamble in presidential election history." Sarah Palin. McCain knew he was at a stalemate with Obama, one he was likely to lose by one or two states. So he threw a Hail Mary pass that the base caught and ran with.

Palin has been thoroughly bashed by the left and lambasted by the media, but she is a superstar with the base. McCain will find advantage from this. Since when have Republican voters ever cared what the New York Times or The Atlantic thought? Quite the contrary--their vociferous opposition makes "Sarah Barracuda" an even more delightful pick. Yes, her experience is very limited, but still more impressive as an executive than either Obama, Biden, or McCain. As a reformer, none but McCain tops her for change personally affected by the candidate. Obama and Biden talk a good game, but at the end of the day real credit for any of their liberal reforms goes to other party heavies. The Maverick, on the other hand, can reference a dozen times he's swum upstream and lifted heavy loads to make change happen.

But I'm very concerned with McCain's messaging failure. McCain's camp wisely chose to highlight the candidate's two best assets- a long record of service and a maverick history. These translate into the "Country First" slogan and generic promises of reform. But these aren't themes that the electorate can get truly enthusiastic about. And, of course, Obama has turned the first into "More of the Same," and taken firm possession of the second for himself.

Sure, service is great, folks should volunteer, ask what you can do for your country, blah blah blah. We've heard it. It's still true after the first fifty times, so what does does McCain get by reciting truisms? He's preaching to the choir. What about "Keeping America Strong Together," or "Service is Our Strength," anything that pushes selflessness, recalls McCain's record of self-sacrificing service, but is also rousing enough for people to give a damn. What's more, when you're in a position like McCain's, likely to lose the election by only a state but locked in tight, go ahead an throw another Hail Mary. If you're going to co-opt Obama's change platform, then do it all the way. Lines like "Real Change for America," "Change We Can Live With," or "Change That Won't Completely Tank the Economy" work better than broad-stroke reform promises and references to the record. If McCain's going to run on a change message, he's got to do a better job of communicating the difference in between his "change" and Obama's "change," and why his is better.

I'll post electoral maps on Monday. Send me yours!