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October 2008

It's a shame that the McCain campaign thinks blogs are for spreading vicious rumors.

It's a shame that the McCain campaign thinks blogs are for spreading vicious rumors. (Screen shot swiped from a wingnut blog.) And why did poor Drudge go all National Enquirer on this?


I hope he's little more cautious taking candy from strange McCain campaign workers in the future.

And yes, the McCain campaign was pushing this: Screenshot from an early version of the KDKA station story:


"B" is for Bumbling!

And doesn't this internet political train-wreck -- and the video of Ashley Todd being led away in handcuffs -- make the College Republicans look like a bunch of weak-minded, glassy-eyed, kool-aid drinking, cultist idiots? My goodness!

Palin's non-answers to the Chicago Tribune on the shopping spree

The Jill Zuckerman of the Chicago Tribune interviewed Palin:

Q: You're giving this policy speech tomorrow, but has this journey been worth it to you when you're getting nitpicked on wardrobe and polls

SP: "It is all worth it because we know we are on the right path here in providing Americans a choice on Nov. 4th. You can support a children that will do all that we can for children with special needs and we support policies that will create jobs and get the economy back on track. Of course it's worth it. But I'm glad you brought up the wardrobe.

"That whole thing is just, bad! Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are."

"The clothes that were loaned to us during the convention. And I don't think it was anywhere near...What did they say, Tracey? $150 grand? It wasn't anywhere near that. Those are not ours. We give those back, those go to charity or they'll be auctioned off or whatever. That's not even my property. So to be criticized for that, that is not who we are."

Q: So you're not carrying around cartons of brand new clothes that people have gone out and bought for you

SP: No, I think some of them were in the belly of the plane. No, yeah, that's not [how] we live.

So where are the followup questions?

"It wasn't anywhere near that. Those are not ours." Interesting lines. Was the $150,000 reported on RNC filings for clothing and accessories for people other than the Palin family? If so, why hasn't the RNC said that? Or is she saying that the RNC filing is mistaken? Or what? What is Palin saying?

Zuckerman allowed her an incomprehensible denial. She says they're storing a bunch of unworn brand new clothes in "the belly of the plane."

So what does Zuckerman say next?

Q: This must be painful for you.
Can I share some of that pain? The sweater I've got on has a hole in the elbow. Does this pain come with a stylist?

Empathy for someone who has just confessed to flying around in a plane stocked with unworn designer clothes is not the right response.

Typepad Glitch This Morning

In case you are wondering, yes, I do know that the previous post posted twice and there seems to be nothing I can do to delete the ghost second version.

This morning, when I was posting, there was a Typepad service glitch during which time I was getting error messages for pretty much everything I was trying to do. The post I was writing initially posted 3 times. I deleted the two extras, and both are gone from my internal database, but there is a ghost version of one of the extras hanging around on Typepad's servers. I've had customer service requests in since this morning.


The Can You Blow Seventy-Five Grand at Neiman Marcus Contest

In Karen's office in DC.First a confession. I own three St. John suits, plus a couple of fancy dresses that probably cost more than the two grand the St. John suits run when they were offered for sale in stores. I own these things to appear in public under certain kinds of circumstances.

I wear the St. John suits a couple of times a year, to funerals, business lunches, etc. What I like about them is that they are comfortable and hang very well without saying "Hi, I'm a $2,000 suit!"

Kathryn Cramer & Peter BeagleI bought these things in thrift stores, consignment stores, at church sales, and at tag sales. My favorite consignment store (since closed) used to be in Mt. Kisco and sold runway samples, and I am of a size that sometimes I can fit into those.  I paid $150 each for the suits at a church sale in Chappaqua.

So even though the only thing I ever bought a Neiman Marcus was a belt once, in an emergency, when I was staying at a hotel and the pants I'd intended to wear were too big in the waist and NM was up the block, I have some familiarity with the kind of clothes Sarah Palin seems to have blown $150,000 on.

Several journalists at the LA Times have gone through the exercise of trying to fill a Neiman Marcus online shopping cart with $75,062 worth of duds. It's pretty hard to do even at Neiman Marcus prices. The task is apparently made easier by Neiman Marcus's "deep St. John inventory."

The exercise seems to require going heavy into pricey accessories if you are to compose a wardrobe for the campaign trail. Yesterday, I had a brief look-through of the Neiman Marcus site. The conclusion I came to was that the RNC shopping spree was not just clothing her and her family for the campaign trail, but rather at that manic moment, they expected to win. And so they had clothed the family, or at least Sarah Palin, through the first year or two of office.

I think the RNC had no intention of auctioning the clothes for charity after the election. What the public needs is the itemized receipts.

AP poll shows the presidential race tightening with evengelicals comprising 44% of likely voters?!?


The presidential race tightened after the final debate, with John McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows McCain and Barack Obama essentially running even among likely voters in the election homestretch.


The problem? In 2004, evangelicals/born-again Christians made up 23% of voters. But that same group makes up 44% of likely voters in AP's poll released today. That's almost double the number - it's totally implausible.


Here's the poll.

Q. What's the difference between a pitbull and a pitbull in lipstick?

A. $150K, apparently.

Sarah Palin's (possibly illegal) expenses for clothing, make-up, & accessories work out to about $1,500/day for the roughly hundred day duration of the campaign. Given the number of days she spent hiding from the media, for that she could buy a new Nieman Marcus Armani outfit for each day in front of the cameras and throw it away each night. And these figures are just from the September filings, I think. We are now three weeks into October.

Is this the Republican War on Washing Machines? Is dry cleaning too big a security risk? Can Palin & family possibly wear $150K worth of clothes and makeup before election day? And what fabulous election coverage can we expect from the fashion press, which has almost certainly been keeping track of what she's been wearing?

In Real America, something a normal person spends $150K on is called a house.

Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic remarks:

Maybe this is actually her one-woman economic stimulus plan. Lord knows the retail sector needs it.

Well, I guess because she had all those skeletons in her closet, her family didn't have room for any actual clothes, so it took $150K to clothe them. Otherwise she would have been the Naked Candidate. So the RNC had to spend all that money.

UPDATE: The Atlantic reports that Palins personal shopper is one Jeff Larson, Robocaller:

Does the name Jeff Larson sound familiar? It should. Larson is the Karl Rove protégé who’s a principal in the robocalling firm of FLS Connect (the “FLS” stands for Tony Feather, Jeff Larson, and Tom Syndhorst, all veteran Republican political operatives). Larson’s firm is the same one that launched the scurrilous robocalls against John McCain in 2000, and that McCain has now hired to make robocalls connecting Barack Obama to Bill Ayers. He’s also well known in Minnesota for leasing his basement apartment at a steeply discounted rate to embattled Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Evidently, Larson also has quite the eye for women’s fashion.
And ABC reports that the Palin shopping spree was legal, but only just barely because of a loophole in a campaign finance law spearheaded by McCain.

Plus a photo of Obama on the campaign trail by Callie Shell via Talking Points Memo.19vt2

We cancelled a couple of credit cards this morning

New APR table: is Citibank on drugs?
Chase Bank just sent us the new terms for a couple of credit cards we had stopped using a number of years ago.

At least in the case of my card, I had told (then) Citibank to close the account when I stopped using it. But they still sent me checks for the account and a replacement card from time to time. It seemed like having an extra card available might be handy under some circumstances, so I didn't press the point.

My husband opened the brochures with the new terms on our dormant accounts this morning. The current APR on those account was (until we closed them this morning) apparently 7.99%, but we were so shocked by a possible APR of 29.99% that we didn't want to leave such a potentially destructive financial instrument lying around. It is a bit of a shock that there exist circumstances under which credit card companies can legally charge that much interest.

We cancelled both cards. Bang.

This post on a personal finance blog described a simple scenario under which one could find oneself paying that kind of rate.

McCain pleading with his base during last night's debate

While in the first two debates, McCain seemed to me to be playing to the undecideds and the voters who might change their minds, in last nights debate what I saw was a candidate pleading with his base not to forsake him, trying to placate the Michelle Malkins of the world by bringing up Ayers even though it was perfectly obvious before hand that going negative in the debates is a losing strategy.

Malkin's response to his performance was decidedly tepid. She posted a 600 word McCain campaign email of Ayers-related talking points which she apparently thinks McCain should have recited.

Amy Sullivan at Time views that segment of the debate rather differently:

Once again, the focus group dials dove whenever McCain went on the attack, particularly when he talked about Bill Ayers and ACORN in what turned out to be the longest segment of the evening. The audience that started out giving McCain a 54/24 favorability rating (and, incidentally, liked Sarah Palin a lot more than Joe Biden, with +6 and -20 splits) ended up almost evenly divided between warm and cool feelings toward him (50/48).
Similarly, McCain's use of the term "class warfare" in the debate seemed intended to invoke the right's stupid argument that centrist democrats like Obama are socialists.
"The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare -- let's spread the wealth around."
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post remarks,
. . . when he accused Obama of fomenting “class warfare,” I wondered if I had slipped through some kind of time warp.
The GOP presidential campaign seems to have reached the Donner Party stage: their candidate seems to fear his political base as much as he fears his opposition. That seemed most evident in the moment when McCain declared that he was "proud" of the people who come to his campaign's rallies. McCain at this point is a prisoner of his own bad campaign decisions. He'd better be proud of his supporters; otherwise they might bite.

About all these Republican cries about voters & fraud

It seems to me that what they are trying to finesse is the white space in this graph . . .

. . . that emerging gap over to the right between the stream of blue dots (Obama's poll rankings) and the red dots (McCain's poll rankings).

But no one actually votes in these polls. Voter registration forms are completely irrelevant to the emerging projections on the will of the electorate.

Shaking my head

Brad Marston at the McCain Palin blog writes yesterday: Election 2008 is NOT over!

A McCain-Palin victory on November 4th will require two things. First is a reversal of the current financial/banking crisis and an accompanying rebound in the stock market. Second is continued determination and hard work by grassroots volunteers in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
(He had different things in bold than I do.)

The US stock market just closed for the day and the headline on MarketWatch reads:

How now, beaten Dow

Blue-chip index suffers second-biggest point drop in its history.

So Brad, here's your game plan: Convince all your friends and all your friends' friends who think John McCain should be President and Sarah Palin should be Vice President to take ALL THEIR MONEY, and plunge it into the stock market in selfless waves of investing. (They think Palin would make a good VP, so they must be gullible. Piece of cake.)

This probably won't win McCain the election, but at least after the fact you can all feel good about having made a difference in the value of US stock prices.

Volatility and speeches

I was watching the Dow just after it opened this morning, and for the first ten minutes it sure did look like the apocalypse, dropping like a stone to the 7,880s, a level (I think) not seen as a closing since 2002. Yesterday, or was it the day before, the financial press was talking about the market being at its lowest level on  five years. Within the next week, the Dow may close at the lowest level in ten years. How far back in time is the bottom anyway? Pre-Clinton maybe? (That would be below 3,500.)

I watched Obama's speech this morning in Ohio one the CNN video feed. He was on fire, especially at the end, preaching the American Dream. The speech concluded,

Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. Together, we can overcome the broken policies and divided politics of the last eight years. Together, we can renew an economy that rewards work and rebuilds the middle class. Together, we can create millions of new jobs, and deliver on the promise of health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete. We can do this if we come together; if we have confidence in ourselves and each other; if we look beyond the darkness of the day to the bright light of hope that lies ahead. Together, we can change this country and change this world. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.

Meanwhile, the right's message today seems to be the need to combat "socialism" by which they mean centrist American politics; that and xenophobia. (What kind of idiots the the Republicans nominate, anyway? Can't McCain & Palin even pretend to care about this?)

Right now the Dow is at 8,1,87, down 392 (or about 4.6%). So far the low point of the day was 7,882.51 at about 9:40AM. I am expecting a close below 8,000.

Stock markets like Democrats better than Republicans, and so do I, especially today.

Yesterday was written up as the most volatile day for the stock market on record (or something like that) and so far today makes yesterday look tame.

Hah. Now (at 4:48 PM) we're in another plunge. Dow down 6.17%. And we haven't even got to then end-of-the-day plunge yet. Make that 6.63%.

Object of contemplation from MarketWatch:

As the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunges toward 8,000, investors are scrambling for meaningful market data, desperately scouring the past for clues to the future.

What they're seeing -- if they can dredge up the nearly 80-year-old numbers -- is sobering: While October 1929 is remembered as the month the market crashed, it didn't hit bottom until 1932, and didn't return to pre-crash levels until 1954.

The Dow's 52 week high was 14,279.96. Half that number is 7,139.98, a number within reach, maybe even today.

MARKET CLOSING UPDATE: The market opened at 8,568.67 after closing the previous day at 8,579.19. Today's close was 8,462.18. Not too bad. Down by 1.36%.

But the day's range is absolutely WILD 7,882.51-8,897.62, a spread that represents 11.5% of the total value of the Dow. When my son got off the middle school bus at 2:56 it was at about 8,048. When my daughter was supposed get off the bus at 3:35, the market was at about 8,643. Her bus was late. When she got off the bus at about 3:41, the market was at 8,533.

Now go watch the video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Wild oscillation is a very bad sign:

Meanwhile, today at the McCain campaign:

"There’s very little a candidate for president can say and very little the president can say about what’s happening in the stock markets except hope that they correct themselves," Davis said, adding that McCain's mortgage plan could be an "elixir" for the financial crisis.

Morning after update: A choice quote from a Financial Times article entitled   The week that panic stalked the markets:

“Cascading drops in equity indices are feeding into one another, generating a momentum-driven plunge that has exceeded anyone’s expectations,” said Tobias Levkovich, chief US equity strategist at Citi.

Dow may crack 9,000 headed in the wrong direction by the end of the day tomorrow.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped by over 5% today, closing at 9,447.11. Another day, another plunge.
Dow 5,000


A week after the insurance giant, the American International Group, received an $85 billion federal bailout, executives at its life insurance subsidiary, AIG General, held a weeklong retreat at the exclusive St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif. Expenses for the week, lawmakers were told, totaled $442,000, including $200,000 for hotel rooms, $150,000 for food and $23,000 in spa charges.
Seems to me we don't so much need a series of bailouts as we need the French Revolution. Send in the peasants with pitchforks!

Keating Economics

Wow. I just watched the Obama campaign's 13 minute film Keating Economics. (Actually, I watched it three times just now.) That is one fine piece of political film making.

The narrator is William Black who was a banking regulator from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s. He gives a very very clear explanation of the Keating Five scandal and Senator McCain's role in it and why it is relevant to the current financial crisis. The various online summaries and discussions don't do justice to the film itself. This is something you must see.

For me, the key lines are half about 8 minutes in. Black, who was a bank regulator in San Francisco at the time, says:

. . . so we didn't think they would have the nerve to do it again when there were actually witnesses. And in particular we didn't think they would have the nerve because one of my jobs at the meeting was to take notes!
Oh. My. God.

I think in retrospect that this film will be regarded as emblematic of Obama's political style. It reminds me of that moment in the debate when McCain says he has a bracelet given him by a dead soldier's mom, and she said . . . and then Obama says, "I have a bracelet, too."

The McCain campaign is apparently having a hard time responding. John Aravosis at Americablog reports:

Holy crap.

I'm listening to the McCain campaign conference call about John McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal. McCain's lawyer just said that the Keating Five investigation was "political" as it concerned John McCain. He shouldn't even have been admonished by the Senate, his lawyer says.

Then McCain's lawyer dropped the real bomb.

The Keating Five Investigation was "a political smear job on John [McCain]." WTF? He called Howell Heflin, who led the hearings, a "stooge" of the Democratic machine out to get poor, innocent John McCain.

This opens up the entire question of McCain's supposed contrition. If McCain thinks he did nothing wrong, and that it was wrong for the Senate to scold him for his actions during the Keating Five Scandal, then he isn't contrite at all, he isn't sorry at all. He's learned nothing. You can't turn a new leaf when you don't think you did anything wrong. This is one hell of an admission.

Here's that audio of the conference call (at Talking Points Memo).

Carlos Perez-Olivo found guilty of the murder of his wife, Peggy Perez-Olivo

Peggy Perez-Olivo in 2007 elementary school yearbookI was just informed by a TV reporter who just interviewed me on my front porch that at long last Carlos Perez-Olivo has been convicted of murdering his wife, Peggy Perez-Olivo. Mrs. Perez-Olivo was a teaching assistant at my son's elementary school.

I did not find Mr. Perez-Olivo's account of how his wife came to have a bullet in her head (described in my November 2006 post) at all believable. Apparently, the jury felt the same way. The verdict was unanimous. It is a shame that it took so long for him to be arrested, tried, and convicted. But I am relieved that he's finally been found guilty. I wonder why it took the cops more than a year to arrest him.

Peggy Perez-Olivo
Peggy Perez-Olivo, murdered November 2006, as portrayed in my son's 3rd grade school year book. He knew her and says she was a nice lady.

2007 elementary school year book dedication
2007 Grafflin Elementary School year book dedication. Top right photo from the 2007 yearbook staff photo.

A submission to our publication

One "J. Matt Barber" has sent us a submission to our publication; our publication is The New York Review of Science Fiction.

From the Desk of J. Matt Barber
Below is an Op-Ed submission for you to consider for publication. Re-print permission is granted. If you wish to publish, an e-mail reply notification would be appreciated. Also, feel free to use quotes as you see fit. If you'd like to schedule an interview, please reply to this e-mail with a request.

(Really, this "submission" is political spam, but let's not split hairs.) Here is his opening paragraph:

With winds of change rivaling Hurricane Ike, John McCain’s historic VP pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has blown away the left’s mask of “inclusive tolerance,” exposing an ugly and desperate countenance below. Flummoxed and frantic, their shameful attacks on Palin and her family have revealed that liberal Democrats, the mainstream media, and those malicious hacks in the “progressive” blogosphere are willing to navigate the deepest, darkest sludge of slash-and-burn politics to see their man, Barack Obama, elected President.

And here is my favorite line, part of his proclamation that Palin won last night's debate:

In just 90 minutes, she managed to shatter the false bimbo image the mainstream media have spent weeks meticulously fabricating.

Somehow, I don't think this is rights for NYRSF. I think perhaps his note would have been better sent to Dave Langford for Ansible, since Barber's prose would be quite at home Thog's Master Class.

Amusingly enough, Googling pieces of it yields a few hits. (It may have first appeared without that shattering line.) So I guess just because it's crudely written propaganda doesn't keep people from publishing his spammy "submission." His page at Liberty University School of Law, where he is an Associate Dean, claims that he "frequently appears on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN." So I suppose I should regard this as a highly professional piece of crude propaganda spam!

My Note to Senators Clinton & Schumer: Vote NO Today

Here's what I sent my senators:

Please vote NO on today's bailout plan.

First of all, there does not appear to be a text of the actual legislation available for public review. Given the cost, that is inappropriate.

Secondly, news reports suggest that the plan to be voted on by the Senate involves tax cuts. Tax cuts have no place in a bailout plan of this magnitude. Instead, the repealing of Bush's tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporation should possibly be part of such a plan. Somehow this has to get paid for.

Any bailout plan should be subject not just to Congressional oversight, but also to judicial oversight. Creation of a bailout fund without judicial oversight is essentially creation of a Honey Pot and an invitation to looting of the US Treasury.

I am not convinced that a bailout "package" is the right way to go, since it is being sold in a hurry and marketed with fear. The overheated rhetoric all by itself has the potential to do significant economic damage.

I am unconvinced that the economic problems are as presented to the public, partly because of the absence of information. And even IF the problems are as claimed, I am not convinced that any of the "packages" under discussion have the power to solve the problems.

I do support some of the smaller scale proposals, such as raising the FDIC insurance level to 250,000.

Please vote NO on the bailout plan before the Senate today.

See also Hunter at Daily Kos: Bailout About To Get Worse: You've Got To Freaking Be Kidding Me and Market Watch: Why voting against the bailout still makes sense
Commentary: Even if it passes, the U.S. economy is going into the tank