Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm Concerned That There are More Restrictions on Cheap Block Grants Than on Expensive Bail out Capital

During the last three years I've been involved with a team that discussed and allocated a $589,000 federal block grant for Salemtown that is supposed to be used to make streetscape improvements. I learned during that process that there are tight restrictions on what amounts to a microscopic portion of the federal budget. We could not spend the money on infrastructure or programs that were already planned. We could not spend money on behalf of private causes. The entire neighborhood had to be invited to be involved. Multiple layers of Metro government exercised control and approval power over our small neighborhood committee's recommendations: MDHA, Public Works, Metro Council (which had to give final approval). I believe that our discussions with government overseers were often shepherded away from certain projects and our number of options for spending limited.

Given the news lately that the federal government's bail out capital (hundreds of billions) is being spent on executive junkets, socked away as a hedge against risk, and redistributed to Wall Street shareholders without much regulation or restrictions that would shepherd it toward Main Street, I'm left wonder why government oversight is not proportional to the amount of money leaving federal coffers. It appears to me that the Treasury grants much more freedom to banking insiders to spend its money on private initiatives than it gives neighborhoods to enhance their community. Is the difference just another cautionary tale that might makes right? Or is the moral here that the Treasury bail out team needs a few less bankers and few more community leaders? Or perhaps America's financial priorities are merely spiraling down the crapper?

UPDATE: Regarding that last part on our priorities being all messed up; well, it looks like conservative Christian extremists are not helping us reset the mechanism. Wonkette catches them praying to a golden calf.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Did the Treasury Pay Banks Twice as Much as Securities were Worth in the Federal Bail Out?

How come no one ever stopped to ask whether the billions the government is paying to banks to bail them out "for the sake of Main Street" was more or less than what the market would bear? William Greider found someone who did and the news, if true, is horrifying for taxpayers:
The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride--a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return.
The fact that the Treasury's bail out crew is staffed with veteran Wall Street financiers with connections to the banks is at least the appearance of impropriety, and it signifies that they have no investment in "Main Street" whatsoever. If the government did pay more than the stocks were worth, America has been conned into a subsidize-Wall-Street scheme with hope of little return to our local communities. Let's hope that the new Congress conducts investigations into the bail out next year. November 4 is only the beginning.

HT: Carol McCullough

Sounds about Right to Me

Pew reports that despite the fact that a relatively small amount of media attention has been recently paid to vice presidential candidates, a high percentage (46%) say they are hearing too much about Sarah Palin in the media.

Do large numbers of people understand that she is one of the most overrated and undeserving vice presidential candidates in history?

Market Contracts Last Quarter; Big Oil Expands

The third quarter was the best of times for Big Oil and the worst of times for the lowly consumer. Only government spending kept the Gross Domestic Product from dropping more than 2 percent last quarter. Meanwhile Exxon raked in obscene net profits close to $15 billion, shattering its previous record. Between those two extremes are the banks which teetered on failing and got bailed out by the government.

Faith-based Community Organization Focuses Anger at $700 Billion Wall Street Bail Out

A Bay Area (California) organization of English and Spanish speaking churches met to call for a systematic approach to dealing with the mortgage crisis: requiring banks that receive bailout money to adopt protocols like lowering interest rates and reducing mortgage balances to make payments affordable. PICO, People Improving Communities Through Organizing, webcast the meeting to 20 cities along the PICO network of 1,000 congregations nationwide. Similar events will be held in Missouri, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.

Per Usual, Young Voters Are Not Voting in a Pivotal Battleground State

20% of Florida voters have already gone to the polls, and the worst performing demographic are still young voters under 35, who are not exactly making any history in a historic election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tens of Billions in Federal Bail Out Capital Going to Profit Bank Shareholders First

According to tomorrow's WaPo: with the blessings of the U.S. Treasury, half of the $163 billion given to U.S. banks to spur lending on behalf of "Main Street" is going to the banks' private shareholders as dividends.

So, maybe someone can explain to me again and more slowly how the bail out bill was necessary to help Main Street more than Wall Street, because it seems to me that shareholders sure are skimming a huge cut off the top.

At this rate, some bail out capital may eventually trickle down to Main Street, but there likely will be nothing left for Side Streets and Back Streets. How was this bill not approved under false pretenses?

Wage Takes Issue With a Germantown Sense of Entitlement

Downtown dweller, G-town worker writes the following:
So, our new office is in Germantown, which, if you’ve ever been here, is largely very expensive historic houses without driveways or garages — hence for a lot of the neighborhoods, it’s mostly street parking. It’s also mixed zoning, so you have a lot of houses, apartment complexes, condoes, businesses and restaurants.

This week, I caught wind of people in our office scolding/reminding people about parking in a certain spot. I figured it was a fire lane, or a handicapped spot or something. But I asked, and apparently a woman that lives a few doors down with her husband and kids had complained about us parking in front of her house. I guess because it’s inconvenient for her to have to walk a few cars away. Maybe there’s more to the story, and I’ll happily rescind any judgement I’m about to spew forth if that’s the case. But seriously, folks? This is the weird sort of entitlement that drives me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have any problem being a good neighbor and not parking in front of her place as a favor. But for her to actually complain about it? It’s a full neighborhood and parking can be limited at times. If you want a convenient type house for your nuclear family where you can park right next to your house… move to a suburb.

In Case You Missed Obama's 30 Minute Campaign Commercial

Here it is.

Bunko Oilists

Get ready to be stung:
The world's best-known oil companies are pouring on the charm as they get ready this week to parade another round of fat profits before a public that is feeling suddenly poorer. The spotlight will shine on Exxon on Thursday and Chevron on Friday. Such advertising makes sense after a summer with oil at nearly $150 a barrel and a fall likely to bring renewed scrutiny of their investments and tax breaks.

But when oil companies spend their money, it's less about you and me than about their shareholders. In many respects, industry experts note, what's good for Big Oil's bottom line isn't necessarily good for Joe Q. Jetta.

"That's a game that oil companies have been playing for a while, but they've been pumping more money into it lately," said Sheldon Rampton, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy. "They're hoping to mitigate their bad reputation rather than become beloved."
In July the oil companies throttled back supply, and later we felt the effects of that in Nashville on top of a hurricane-interrupted transport and some consumer panic. I have to wonder whether recent lower gas prices are an attempt to take some of the edge of the frustration with trauma of low supplies in light of the sting of the next 48 hours news cycle regarding oil company profits.

Another Whipped up McCain/Palin Mob Teeters toward Violence

FiveThirtyEight has the report from their correspondents in Florida:
we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that's what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.

"People were screaming 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'" Sorando said when we caught up with him. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Asked what had precipitated the event, "We were just chanting 'Obama!' and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy."

Laying the Trump

I learned a while back that when I get dismissed on the basis of my genitalia, my gender in a general way, the real debate on the actual issue is most likely over:
when you’re trying to have a discussion with men, especially men who think other men are watching or participating, you have to go through this metaphorical dick-waving before you can get down to the meat of the issue.
I suddenly feel like I've been cast into a stupid light beer commercial against my will:

All of the phallic symbolism is in place. Now, what were we actually debating again?

"Galactically Stupid Meddlers" Downtown Are the Ones Still Making All the Compromises on Amplified Noise

Noise ordinance sponsor Mike Jameson once again bows to the wishes of those who argue that tourists and bar-hoppers will only spend money where the amps ramp up highest.

As I pointed out last night, despite outrageous and overblown attempts to mischaracterize the idea of placing reasonable and widely practiced limits on the street-level battle of the karoke bars as some kind of intrusive Victorianism, a task force of Downtown residents and merchants have actually been pounding the pavement on 2nd Avenue and Broadway since 2006 studying this issue, making recommendations, and then compromising. The other side is the shrill one that seems to be defending the absolute right to jack up amplified music as loud as possible without actually breaking off the dial.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spin This, Tennessee Republicans

Wanna know how Obama compares to Kerry in 8 battlegrounds Bush led 4 years ago?

Preferential Option for Mayors

Harry Moroz insists that mayors ought to have opportunities to influence federal policy in an Obama Administration.

More Online Blowback on TNGOP Equivalence

The Crone Speaks and Ben Smith spoke.

They Hold These Decibels to Be Self-Evident

That all acoustic thresholds are created equal and endowed by their amplifier with certain unalienable heights ...

Aunt B:

Now I can respect that you do not see yourself as a libertarian, and I should have distinguished between you and P.J. Tobia, who was clearly embracing libertarianism to impugn a proposed ordinance that would be more liberal than some cities and consistent with music-oriented Austin. But even if I was directing my final comments to Tobia, you have to admit that your reply to his post would fit right in with many civil libertarians (with whom I myself identify). Other than that I'm not even sure what you mean by "real libertarian." Are there any left post-Bush's economic crash?

Who demanded your sympathy on this noise issue? I certainly did not. I also did not demand your sympathy when I moved into a high crime neighborhood and chose to help start a crime watch rather than roll over and enjoy the violation. It's a rather peculiar end to which your logic leads: if one moves some place one must be willing to accept rather than change the impositions. If I move into the city I should be prepared to accept litter. Playing the victim rather than changing the system is the city dweller's lot as goes the logic; so then, she should commit say an act of larceny herself to get into the spirit? If a drunk vomits on her stoop, she can just go vomit on her neighbor's. Stop trying to transform bad urban schools, simply dumb down a kid you know. But otherwise none of us should protest. If we don't choose a hyper-real urban adventure like every other wine-tasting suburban wayfarer or bar-hopping weekend warrior, then we should sit down and shut up.

It's ironic that these Downtowners you asperse would have to hear the loudest music of any American city absent this ordinance, but proponents of becoming the loudest American city don't expect to have to listen to "urban pioneers'" criticism of extreme noise. By the way, maybe you didn't get the memo: many of us who live in the city are critical of the term "urban pioneer." I find it offensive, like you probably find certain labels directed at you or your pit bull objectionable, so please don't throw the term at me. But if it helps you actually address my real world point that each major entertainmentopolis in America has noise ordinances either more conservative than or the same as Nashville's proposed ordinance, then by all means pretend with your mind's eye that I am an "urban pioneer." Just don't call me one.

And, finally, I say fine to your point that we're not talking about the art of seduction but about entertainment commerce. I never meant for this to be about lap dances. You're the one trying to link stripping and loud music for the purposes of sneaking in charges of "Victorianism" and heaping them on proponents of a reasonable and conventional noise ordinance. And, while I am tempted to wax Foucaultian about the production of sexuality in Victorian strictures, instead I would merely suggest that if you don't want to be charged with projection (which can be connected to repression) then don't charge balance-seekers with Victorianism and repression based on no evidence other than your contrived stripper/higher-decibel linkage.

Oh, and about Aristotle: all I did was indicate that one may appeal to balance from a tradition outside of Victorianism. I didn't argue that we should exclude women as Aristotle believed (just like voting for Democrats now is not an endorsement of the Democratic Party's historic opposition to desegregation). I merely linked to his position that we should find a mean between extremes (for boys and girls equally!) rather than moving to extremes just because we can. But if you don't like any Aristotle because of some of his views then take his teacher Plato (who acknowledged women as philosophers): his view of justice as people relating to one another rather than acting strictly as individuals is just as relevant and non-Victorian. The point is not whether you choose one over the other. The point is that I am not being Victorian or repressed because I support a noise ordinance.


P.S. You would probably lose the donut bet that this bill has anything to do with the Adelicia or any other place in Midtown. On the one hand, the old law that governed the noise violations in Midtown (which is not Downtown, although it may seem that way to some surburbanites) restricted amplified music to 50 decibels (unless otherwise zoned). On the other hand, a new law was passed a few weeks ago that now covers neighborhoods like Midtown; that ordinance maintains that any noise that is "plainly audible" from the adjoining property line is prohibited. Sound meters are no longer needed outside of Downtown proper. So, Downtown's proposed ordinance is exponentially more liberal (as I expect it should be) than Midtown's and has absolutely nothing to do with the drama over at South Street.

LATER UPDATE: Here is part of the council lawyer's analysis of the proposed bill to limit decibel levels Downtown:
The noise ordinance was amended by Ordinance No. BL2008-259 in September 2008 to add a “plainly audible” standard for determining violations and adding certain restrictions pertaining to motor vehicle noise. However, Ordinance No. BL2008-259 retained the exemption for the downtown area from the noise ordinance restrictions.

This ordinance [NO. BL2008-306] would basically set a maximum decibel of 85 Db(A) for downtown properties, with certain exceptions. For condominium and apartment units, the decibel measurement would be taken from the interior of another residential unit in the same complex (if the sound is coming from a residential unit), or from the boundary line of the nearest residentially-occupied property at street level (for noise from bars, nightclubs, etc.). The ordinance would not apply to special events in the downtown area for which a permit has been issued, or to any outdoor entertainment facilities owned by Metro (LP Field and Riverfront Park). The ordinance would also prohibit amplified sound from businesses to attract customers greater than 85 Db(A) from any point within the boundary line of the nearest residentially-occupied property.

This ordinance is the result of a task force made up of downtown residents that began looking at this issue in September 2006. The task force toured downtown at night and took noise measurements at various locations. The 85 decibel limitation is greater than the noise ordinance in Las Vegas and New York City, and is in line with the noise ordinance in Austin, Texas, which is comparable to downtown Nashville as it pertains to the mixture of live music venues and residential living.
It is clear from this analysis that a group of Downtown residents started exploring this problem 2 years ago before ground was ever broken for the Adelicia. I can find no evidence to support Aunt B.'s speculation that the Adelicia residents prompted this bill. And if that were true, why wouldn't those residents go to their own council member, Erica Gilmore, for bill sponsorship? Mike Jameson and Robert Duvall are sponsoring the 85 decibel bill.

In fact, one Downtown member of the Nashville Charrette describes her participation with Mike Jameson in the information gathering process (which sounds anything but unreasonable):
I actually walked around the District with Councilman Jameson and a group of merchants and residents last year on a weekend night. We carried some noise meters and found that most of the clubs on 2nd Ave and Broadway do a good job of keeping the sound within acceptable levels. There are just a few clubs that are creating problems. They are mainly the karaoke bars with outdoor speakers. They even kept blasting during Battle of the Bands on 2nd Avenue over New Years. It is too bad that a few create problems for all, but that is usually the case ....

Currently, there are no noise ordinance rules on the books for Jameson's district. Jameson asked for more time for the residents and the merchants to come to an agreement and we just about have, however, the Convention and Visitors Bureau strongly resists any restrictions of any kind.
There is acknowledgement that most clubs are doing fine and wouldn't have to worry about the new ordinance, which like most Metro Codes are intended to reign in the few who would otherwise act the total asshole. There also seems to have been a deliberative, inclusive discussion involving the impact on the Downtown neighborhoods behind this bill ignored by P.J. Tobia. Aunt B. may not believe excessive noise to be a problem Downtown, but a number do and nobody is threatening anyone's basic rights in asking that some limits be placed around certain behavior consistent with entertainment districts elsewhere.

And let's not be naive in thinking that Nashville ever acts without comparing itself to peers. To suggest that the city should go its own way on music when it compares other codes it applies to any other human behavior is just silly. There's nothing that should make amplified music more exceptional than blinking, animated LED billboards, for example. It is pretty obvious from the council lawyer's analysis of the bill that comparing Nashville to places like New York, Las Vegas, and Austin matters or it wouldn't merit discussion. Peer comparisons are as legitimate as any other data influencing this decision.

English Only Poll a Lot Closer Than I Thought It Might Be

Even with a large margin of error, the finding that Davidson County voters might split almost evenly on Eric Crafton's English Only referendum is surprising:
The Tennessean commissioned Lansing, Mich.-based Mitchell Research & Communications Inc. to survey 200 voters on local issues last week. They were asked about the English-only measure and a possible state takeover of Metro Nashville schools because of poor student performance. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percent.

Forty-seven percent of those polled said they would oppose or lean toward opposing a measure that would bar Metro government agencies from translating written materials into other languages or offering interpreters to the public. Forty-six percent of voters indicated they would support the measure, and 7 percent didn't know or declined to answer.
I wonder if there is something wrong with the poll methodology. If not, then Eric Crafton has a fight on his hands.

Word to Eric Crafton and Daron Hall

You want to turn back immigration? Follow the Republicans and help drive the economy into a ditch and dry up those low-paying jobs that American nationals won't take. Sure there's a lot of collateral damage, but a flushable job market does plug the border and generate "reverse immigration."

Liberal Media Alert

Can you tell that this journalist is a registered Republican?

According to the Orlando Sentinel, her husband also coached Republicans at one time. Surprise, surprise:
Several readers questioned how objective West could be because her husband, Wade West, was a Republican strategist, who contributed $2,250 to Republican candidates from 2000 to 2006. Barbara West said he was no longer a strategist ....

Asked her political affiliation, West said, "I don't think I should say." Voting registration records show she is a Republican.
Why wouldn't she want to self-identify her party affiliation? Because it would underscore the partisan attack behind her questioning? In her interview of McCain, the hardest hitting question she asked him was whether Obama was better at managing a campaign than he was. Aw, jeez. There's a high and tight fastball.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just How Morally Bankrupt the Tennessee GOP Is

Sean Braisted points out that TNGOP places little value on the dignity of the lives of African Americans who could have died in a failed assassination attempt.  The Tennessee Republicans would have shown more class by shutting their mouths on the subject of a Tennessee skinhead's co-conspiracy to assassinate Barack Obama after massacring some African American teenagers.  Instead, they minimized mass murder and mutilation to score partisan points for the McCain campaign by comparing assassination to social protest and vandalism.  But then again, Republicans are not known for being exactly tough on major crime, unless it involves stapping an African American into an electric chair.

The Virtues of Balance: Just Because We Can Do Something without Limits Does Not Mean We Should

PiTW's P.J. Tobia doesn't seem either to realize or to acknowledge that the Council's proposed noise level ordinance liberally allows a higher decibel level than two party cities that never sleep, New York and Las Vegas. So, why does he raise such a subjective stink in such a rhetorical vacuum? The whole libertarian premise of his argument is raggedy; there are all kinds of effective municipal codes that co-limit and balance interests, but would not be allowed by overplaying libertarianism. Rather than unravelling the idea of checks and balances in city life by absolutizing individual liberty, we should promote government regulation that strives for fairness between competing interests.

The Nashville law would be consistent with one in Austin, Texas, and I wish Tobia all the luck in the world ever referring to Austin's 6th Street as "lamed-up" and "quieted down." He'd be laughed out of the Dirty Dog Bar. He'd be lucky to pick up a tamale undeterred near 6th & Sabine. Austin is the friggin' "Live Music Capital of the World," and nobody (except, by logical extension, P.J. Tobia) calls their noise codes "galactically stupid."

The idea that Music City's Downtown would lose cache if it allows any level of eardrum-popping music is crazy, and it sounds like an argument made by an interloper, a local tourist who only uses Downtown as a lifestyle option rather than a dwelling and a community. Arguments against balanced and moderated modulation are typically made by those for whom Downtown is disposable, those who have no commitment to the place except in what they can take from it. Just because Downtown residents should be prepared for louder decibels than the suburbs does not mean that they should accept any level that clubs can blare into the night to lure and to rile up the drunk and clueless.

And contra Aunt B., one need not be labeled "Victorian" to argue for obviously sane and relatively liberal limits on urban noise. In my opinion, even linking the issue of noise overtly to the art of seduction strikes me as a bit repressed itself. There are classically based arguments for balance and moderation that have little to do with sexuality per se. In that sense, I can see nothing wrong with balancing entertainment "concepts" with community welfare, but then again, I'm not committed to a disposable Downtown. And it's not exactly like Nashville has anything remotely resembling Antone's that would ever get me believing that if loud music is good, then louder music than any city in America is great.

So, get over it, libertarians. There's nothing that absolutely entitles you to scream up in other people's ears for the sake of your own entertainment without having a fight on your hands.

I donated to the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Have you?

The Nashville Jazz Workshop at East Germantown's Neuhoff Complex is an important part of the local community. Please consider including them among your generous donations.

[2019: link to their blogspot removed. It has been taken down.]

Wamp Encourages GOP to Keep Digging Their Hole

The Tennessee Republican wants to keep being all mavericky in a Palin vein:

Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said this down cycle for Republicans may force the party to retrench around its core principles.

“If we lose, and I suspect we will lose more seats, it will allow us, through two election cycles, to burn out the impurities and burnish ourselves as the party of limited government,” he said.
Running hard to the right has obviously helped former moderate John McCain maintain a commanding lead over Obama in the polls, so of course the geniuses in the GOP are blueprinting more of the same in the future.

Have the failures of FEMA, the total absence of recession-preventing bank regulation, and bogged down military efforts in Muslim lands failed to teach Wamp that getting government right is more important than limiting what it can do?

Gore to Receive Another Award

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis will give Al Gore an International Freedom Award on Tuesday. Diane Nash, a former Nashville student lunch counter sit-in leader and co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, will also receive a National Freedom Award.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shaking Off the Leeches: Banker Has No Intention of Using Federal Bail-Out Handout to Save American Economy

We can see now that the banks have no intention of passing along the early Christmas gift of billions in bail out capital given by the federal government.

An executive with JP Morgan, one of the select banks receiving federal bail out subidies, gets authentic not knowing that a reporter would be listening to an employee conference call as he confesses his corporation's true bail out intentions:
In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry is that it has no intention of using the money to make new loans. But this executive was the first insider who’s been indiscreet enough to say it within earshot of a journalist.

(He didn’t mean to, of course, but I obtained the call-in number and listened to a recording.)

“Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase,” he began. “What we do think it will help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side or opportunistic side for some banks who are still struggling. And I would not assume that we are done on the acquisition side just because of the Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns mergers. I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way and obviously depending on whether recession turns into depression or what happens in the future, you know, we have that as a backstop.”

Read that answer as many times as you want — you are not going to find a single word in there about making loans to help the American economy. On the contrary: at another point in the conference call, the same executive (who I’m not naming because he didn’t know I would be listening in) explained that “loan dollars are down significantly.” He added, “We would think that loan volume will continue to go down as we continue to tighten credit to fully reflect the high cost of pricing on the loan side.” In other words JPMorgan has no intention of turning on the lending spigot.
That's right, sports fans. The purpose of the Treasury's bail out scheme is not to save the economy or to release capital back into the lending market, but to promote mergers in order to reshape the banking industry. It serves banks, the federal government, and no one else.

How Involved Were the Higher Levels of the McCain Campaign in the Race Baiting Hoax?

NBC's Brian Williams reports that the campaign "steered" reporters to the the Ashley Todd allegations that she was attacked, fondled, and mutilated by an African American Obama supporter:

The Pennsylvania GOP communications director even offered the information that the "B" gouged into Ashley Todd's face stood for "Barack."

AIG's Self-Afflictions and Exposed Tax Shelters Threaten to Bring Down Public Transit in Major Cities

The Dollars & Sense blog has the disturbing news on banks demanding millions back from mass transit agencies around the country now that stumbling insurance giant AIG cannot guarantee tax shelters that agencies provided for banks:
The impact of the AIG collapse is being felt far and wide. Thirty municipal transit agencies, including those in Atlanta, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, are facing the prospect of being forced to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars. The crisis is a result of complicated (but legal) tax dodges between the transit agencies and private banks (explained here in the Washington Post). Basically, the banks paid the agencies large sums upfront that would be repaid in installments over time. Exploiting a loophole in the tax code, the banks saved hundreds of millions in taxes, but split the profit with the transit agencies. The deals were guaranteed by AIG, but now that the insurer is on the skids and the federal government has declared an end to the tax dodge, the banks are demanding that cash-strapped transit agencies hand over hundreds of millions in cash in the next few weeks.

Al Tweeta

Who says Twitter is just for College Republicans conspiring to race bait a presidential election?

Obama Crushing McCain in Nashville: Let's See TNGOP Spin This One into an "Urban Elite" Meme

Tennessean poll finds that Barack Obama is leading John McCain 58%-32% in Davidson County (the race is tied 45%-45% in the survey of the larger Middle Tennessee region, including Nashville's dark red donut counties).

Are 60% of Davidson County likely voters "urban elites"? I doubt it.

Being in Debt to China Makes US More Susceptable to Infectious Disease

It's taking me a while, but I've been working through Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which calls attention to the relationship between pandemic illness, geopolitical power, and wealth.

Take a look at this passage and change the players from debtor Peru/loaner America to debtor America/loaner China:
A TB epidemic, laced with MDR, had visited New York City in the late 1980s; it had been centered in prison, homeless shelters, and public hospitals. When all the costs were totaled, various American agencies had spent about a billion dollars stanching the outbreak. Meanwhile, here in Peru, where the government made debt payments of more than a billion dollars every year to American banks and international lending institutions, experts in international TB control had deemed MDR too expensive to treat.
Given our past relationships to third-world debtor nations, there is some karma in the current US economic crisis and in our debtor stance toward China. However, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being exposed to dangerous infectious diseases without safety nets.

The current federal bail out is being financed by foreign countries to whom we are in debt, and the dollars are going to banks that are taking care of themselves first. So, where is the money going to be when another major MDR-type of epidemic hits our shores? China will be protecting their own; we probably will not have the disposable finances to do the same.

"William Ayers and Doin' a Little Shoppin'"

"And a little dash of high school bitchy":

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cash Strapped Republicans Spend Half of Their Bailed Out Wachovia Loan on Candidates

From Facing South:
[T]he thousands of Wachovia customers in good standing who were denied credit may want to know why the Republicans got special treatment near the elections. As we noted, Wachovia's heavy support of Republicans through campaign contributions opens it to such criticism.As for the National Republican Congressional Committee, The Hill reports they have just announced a $4 million ad campaign -- about half the amount of their Wachovia loan -- targeting eight Congressional districts:
Those ads were launched in the districts of Reps. Don Cazayoux (D-La.), Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) and in the open-seat races for the seats of Reps. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and Jim Saxton (R-N.J.).
If Republicans win any of those seats, they can in part thank the federal government.
Before Republicans accuse Barack Obama of being a socialist, they should look at themselves.

Wachovia was also one of the few corporations that in 2005 contributed the maximum amount, $250,000, to the decadent Bush Inauguration.

Is There a Better Campaign Ad This Year?

I Am Not Joe the Plumber

15 seconds of celebrity went to Joe's head. Now that he wants to join the ruling class, the GOP poster boy's symbol is tarnished by his shameless opportunism.

Speaking of joining the elite, GOP mouthpiece Bill Hobbs is spinning Barack Obama's October fundraising spike in Tennessee as evidence that the latter is only popular with "monied urban elites." I can see where this is going: when urbanites are not trying to mutilate and fondle McCain campaign organizers or not trying to commit "voter fraud" then they are morphing into wealthy elites who otherwise could not contribute to a cause in which they believe.

But we've seen that state GOP communications directors don't tend to choose their words wisely:

Well, I am not one of those people that state GOP communications directors can easily twist into an elite force, just like I'm not Joe the Plumber who gains an instant notoriety based on exaggerations that translate to a possible career inside the beltway (what happened to Joe's plan to buy his boss's business?).

But I am one of many local donors who in October helped bring the Obama campaign even with the McCain campaign in Tennessee contributions. We made our first donation ever to a presidential candidate a few days ago because we believe that Barack Obama is the most suited to lifting our country out of this exceptional hole it is in. And I am convinced that there are lots of other Tennesseans both elite and ordinary, both urban and suburban who have done likewise.

So, let the mouthpiece downplay perhaps the most significant progress that a Democratic candidate can make in the reddest of states (and that darker shade of red puts it in the regressive company of intransigent bastions like Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Welcome to the ship of fools, Tennessee). It is clear that the only way that Obama could have caught McCain in Tennessee in fundraising is if lots of different kinds of people contributed to the cause. I am not Joe, but I am among the throng.

Friday, October 24, 2008

G-town's Kate O Gives Thoughts on Tennessean Video

My neighbor, Kate O, wants to put aside partisan divisions and she expresses opinions on the job market and the American ideal. Go here and click on her face (or just scroll over it for the short version).

Her Chicago accent seemed pretty blatant to me in the statement, "a numbur of yeaurz" (use in a Chicagoan sentence, for example: "Da Beaurz and da Bullz and da Cubz have been good for a numbur of yeaurz").

McCain Volunteer Admits to Police that She Fabricated Assault Story of Black Obama Activist/Attacker

Wonkette and lots of other sources are broadcasting a Pittsburg TV station report today that a McCain campaign volunteer's charges that she was assaulted last night by an Obama activist in a "bad part of Pittsburg" are an elaborate hoax that included self-mutiliation.

Also, a Fox News VP declared the McCain/Palin campaign "over" if this proved to be a hoax, given the involvement of race-baiting by a representative of the campaign. Heck, both McCain and Palin even alled the fabricator without waiting to see whether the story played out as true first.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall weighs in as only he can:
To say this is a dark moment does not do justice to the deep awfulness of this stunt. It's the metaphoric pedal-to-the-medal for the sleazy sub-rosa campaign of racial fear-mongering that so far has failed to derail Obama's candidacy.

There are many questions to be asked about who pushed this story yesterday afternoon and last night. A lot of explaining.

UPDATE: CC's Mack believes that the fabricator was put up to the hoax by the campaign.

AIG Uses Up 75% of Its Bail Out Capital, Says Taxpayer Handout Not Enough to Cover Its Gambling Depts

Like some strung out gambling addict, AIG has already depleted most of the $123 billion the federal government loaned it to guarantee partners who made risky mortgage investments. Now they're in denial and holding their own existence over the heads of taxpayers by saying that $123 billion is not going to be enough.

Why is it that government is always expected to get leaner and meaner in rough economic times, but businesses can continue to feast?

Like any hopeless gambler, AIG responded to the bail out by resorting, literally resorting when they should have instead stopped digging the hole.

Era of Ripple Down Replaces Era of Trickle Down for Municipal Capital Budgets

The Mayor's Office should start telling us what we're going to lose in the near future:
Analysts said the dysfunction in the municipal bond markets appeared to signal the end of an era of relatively cheap money for governments and, probably, the start of an era of tough choices for communities. When the market starts moving again, they said, it will look a lot like the municipal bond market of 10 years ago, before the arrival of financial wizardry in the form of structured-finance products, which lowered borrowing costs but added big new risks. Instead, governments will probably be issuing plain-vanilla bonds with fixed rates of interest, higher than they are accustomed to.

And higher rates suggest some degree of belt-tightening, especially difficult in places where tax revenues are being squeezed because of falling real estate values and the slowing economy.

Municipalities will probably be able to function, but may not expand services, said John V. Miller, chief investment officer at Nuveen Asset Management, a municipal bond investment firm. “For some, the level of service they provide will decline.”

Go Ahead and Trash Obama for Visiting His Sick Grandmother, Republicans. It Only Hurts Your Chances.

The left consistently gets counseled against or taunted about criticizing Republicans on issues that hit close to home, especially those issues that involve "family values" (a term that looks like it applies only loosely to their own families).

However, it was inevitable now that Barack Obama has taken a couple of days off to be with his ill grandmother that Republicans would attribute cynical purposes to his absence. What higher commitment to family values can Obama show but in his commitment to leave his bid for the White House and to support a 85-year-old woman--who served as a maternal figure for him in his mother's absence--through her illness and a broken hip?

So, go ahead and question Barack Obama's "real" motives in taking time to be with family members in times of duress, Republicans. In doing so you will also slough off the votes of average citizens who are devoted to their families and who understand the need to be present when one of their own is suffering. You want to be seen as anti-family values? Just keep on attacking Obama on this issue. It's a sure bet that you will lose that battle and perhaps the election.

The Kid's Got an Incredible Sense of Timing

Just as I was finishing up that last post on gender double standards, my 4-year-old sat down close and asked me why I watch the elections every night if I already voted for "rockobama."

At least I assume she's still 4.

Another Bending Counter to the Typical Gender Double Standard Arguments

Mommies simply are devoted to their children (to the point where all they need is sperm), while daddies have to be talked into giving up "freedom and masculinity" to be devoted to their children.

That kind of logic may increase web traffic and get head nods from the regulars of ├╝ber-popular mommy blogs, but it is also shot full of holes, especially for those of us daddies who have been the primary caretakers of our children.

On the one hand, Lindsay Ferrier seems to live in a far off land where fathers raising their children is alien and unnatural. On the other hand, I've been living at home for a long time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republicans Attempt to Shut Down Urban Election Sites in Northern Indiana

The GOP fails to convince a judge that permitting mostly black urban Indianans go to their polls and vote would equal voter fraud.

Salemtowner Appointed to Mayor's Advisory Committee

President of Salemtown Neighbors and MTA Board member Freddie O'Connell has been appointed to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Pretty good for a "fucking moron."  Congrats, Freddie!

Tailor-Made Double Standards Cross Gender Lines

CNN's Campbell Brown is not pleased about what she calls "sniping" about clothes:

I don't have a problem with Campbell Brown's argument that there is a double standard whereby men are judged less for their appearance and clothing than are women. I think that the double standard is less severe in the business world outside of the visual and entertainment media than it was say in the 1980s.

However, the double standards cut both ways. At last Tuesday's Metro Council meeting, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors had what looked like a dark jacket with bright flower patterns on it. I remember seeing the previous Vice Mayor, Howard Gentry, wear clothing with flower patterns all of one time, when he wore a Hawaiian shirt to Shakespeare in Centennial Park one summer. Women have latitude to go more garish in their business dress (also different than the 1980s when professional women's suits seemed to resemble men's suits--remember Lilith from Cheers?) than do men, assuming the latter desire to be taken seriously. Howard Gentry could have never gotten away with wearing a Hawaiian shirt during a Metro Council meeting, but Diane Neighbors is relatively free to wear bright floral patterns.

I'm not complaining about that double standard, but at the same time that Campbell Brown wants me to remember the double standard with regard to strictures of appearance (which are probably even more strict for the insulated NYC media) I think we should also keep in mind the wider latitude in general that women are given in terms of color and decoration to garb that men are not allowed.

Either way, there's no excuse for spending $150,000 for clothes for a woman who claims to be from among the rest of us. The rest of us rarely if ever go to Neiman Marcus. So, Campbell Brown's point is misdirected at those who are not focused on appearance. I don't consider Sarah Palin's appearance the point of this story. And I don't question the Republicans' right to spend their own money. I question their savvy and their consistency in hard economic times when they say they claim to identify with everywoman and in the face of news that they dropped $150,000 on Palin's clothes and $8,700 on John McCain's make-up.

Hence, Eric Crafton's Fear of Spanish

Latinos account for half the U.S. population growth since 2000.

I'm Just Sayin'

It may be true that you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, but if you lead with your vinegar the flies cannot take your honey from you.

I Tend to Agree with the GOP Cheese Heads on This One

The Wisconsin Republicans are all up in arms over the inclusion of an 8th-grade textbook by a Racine school district that includes a couple of excerpts from Barack Obama's writings in a chapter on diversity. The school district selected the book in 2005 before Obama announced his candidacy because they offered multicultural writings. The GOP is insisting that the school district replace the books in the interest of equal time.

Before we jump to the logical conclusions that the GOP is not only being petty and opportunistic, but they are also using the equal time argument as a veiled attempt to saddle public schools with high costs of buying new books for the purposes of undermining public education, let me suggest to you that the Republican argument may have its merits. I think that it might not be a bad idea to include some outside reading on John McCain's own views of diversity. McCain's approach to multiculturalism was made clear to reporters in 2000.

Looks Like Joe the Hairdresser and Jolene the Make-up Artist also Roll with McCain/Palin

How many hockey moms could afford to drop $150,000 at Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue for their working wardrobe?

How many pit bulls spend $4,700 on getting lipstick and hair done? (Admittedly, that is hardly as bad as John McCain spending $8,700 for his make-up).

As much as these people would like you to believe that they identify with you, a common working person, just follow the money to see how very much they are unlike you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Would Mayor Dean Pull Their Butts Out of the Fire Again under Present Conditions?

Monkey Cage has a thought-provoking post on the financial decline of pro sports that indirectly touch on the welfare of both the Nashville Predators and the Tennessee Titans. Deals with both teams include Metro funding that looks archaic and excessive with a collapsing economy and a capital budget that cannot even be paid for. Says the Cage:
Smaller crowds are only the first domino to fall for U.S. sports leagues, which could see lower corporate spending, flat or declining revenue and stagnant team values in a global recession, analysts said. To cope with these problems, league executives have begun offering deals on tickets, cutting jobs and in the case of the National Football League, reopening its labor deal with players to reduce costs.

While revenue remains strong in many sports, officials no longer see the sector as recession proof. “We’ve taken an incredible leap with the pricing of tickets that is going to come back to haunt the major sports,” said Michael Cramer, professor of sports management at New York University. “It’s not just the people at the bottom end,” added Cramer, who is former president of Southwest Sports Group, which owns the Texas Rangers baseball and Dallas Stars hockey teams. “It’s the people at the top end that don’t have the money.”

Signs of a slowdown abound, including a decline in regular-season attendance for Major League Baseball, soft season-ticket sales for the National Basketball Association and an NFL memo citing revenue pressures. Throw in cutbacks by sponsors in such struggling industries as financial services and automotive, and the U.S. sports industry is facing more trouble. “We’ll cross our fingers like everyone else and hope that there’s some type of economic recovery and any negative impact on our business will be a minimal one,” National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Reuters this month.

Fan frustration is rising along with ticket prices.
How can we go on spending tax money to save pro teams who do not construct our sidewalks or build our libraries?

Same Voting Machines Used in Davidson County Flipped Obama Votes to McCain Votes in West Virginia

CNN reports on flipping problems with the same ES&S iVotronic machines that are used here in Davidson County:

Obama Not Useful as Al Qaeda Recruiting Tool

Nicholas Kristof posts an explanation for why Al Qaeda would endorse John McCain over Barack Obama:
The idea is that Al Qaeda would be hurt by the election of Obama, because he doesn’t fit Arab or Muslim images of white colonial oppressors, and thus isn’t so useful in recruiting suicide bombers. There’s generally a sense that an American leader with a more military instinct, inclined to firing cruise missiles, is the best recruiting tool.
And if the terrorists cannot use Barack Obama as a symbol to recruit more anti-American suicide bombers, that means fewer terrorist threats under Obama than under McCain.

McCain Minimizes His al-Qaeda Endorsement and Argues for a Vicious Double Standard

Early this morning I linked a WaPo story on al-Qaeda's endorsement of John McCain. Apparently, the McCain campaign is falling all over itself to gain separation and to twist the endorsement as a criticism of Barack Obama. According to Think Progress:
The McCain campaign swiftly disavowed the statements, arranging a conference call with top national security advisers Randy Scheunemann and James Woolsey. Woolsey declared that the post was not an endorsement but was in fact clearly intended to boost McCain’s opponent, by providing a “kiss of death” to McCain’s campaign:
WOOLSEY: This individual knows that the endorsement of people like him is a kiss of death, figuratively and literally. So it seems to me it’s pretty clear that, by making this statement, that he wants — it would be a good thing for McCain to be president, he’s clearly trying to damage John McCain, not speaking from his heart.
However, just minutes earlier in the call, Scheunemann went through a laundry list of “bad guys” who support of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), cited dubious quotes from Hamas, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya. In fact, the McCain campaign pounced on Hamas’s endorsement of Obama in March. “If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly,” McCain declared ominously.

When a reporter pointed out the contradiction, Woolsey replied that the difference was that McCain’s endorsement came from “simply an individual blogger,” saying that this extremist’s true concern about a McCain presidency “seems very clear to me, frankly.” So when a terrorist supports McCain, it’s a head fake, but when one supports Obama it’s a legitimate issue voters should “make judgments” on?
Keep in mind that Woolsey attended Yale Law School, so he's fairly adept at twisting messages to mean the opposite of what they seem to intend.

Sheriff Seeks the Kudos without the Culpability

Sheriff Daron Hall could have practically run for Mayor with the fist taps he was getting from every other local government big wig (not the least of which, Metro Council) on his deportation program, which is not very effective at keeping illegal immigrants from returning to Nashville after deportation.

Hall is pointing his finger at the federal government, which is all fine and good. However two questions deserve to be asked. First, did Hall's program--absent any measurable results--ever deserve the love it got given that it is actually limited at keeping deportees out? Second, how many Metro programs are there whose directors can say that they do not have to depend on some sort of outside support or aid?

Al-Qaeda Endorses John McCain

And they encourage more terrorist attacks to swing the election the Republicans' way in order to "exhaust" American resources.

That sounds strangely like the argument that conservatives use to promote the Reagan presidency in retrospect: that it posed such a military threat to the Soviet Union that it caused the USSR to exhaust its resources and break up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Howard School Building Voting Machine Flipped Obama Vote to Green Party

Mary Mancini has the details on a troubling experience a Barack Obama voter had with her electronic voting machine right here in Nashville. The apparent "flip" occurred last Friday; the day before I early voted for Obama at the same Howard School Building. I didn't seem to have a problem Saturday morning, but now I wish I would have been more neurotic about confirming my ballot several times before leaving. Can we even trust our own Election Commission here in perhaps the reddest of red states where Obama votes don't matter like they do in New Mexico or Pennsylvania?

Nevada GOP Urban Vote Surpression Moving Full Steam Ahead

GOP demands that voters with errors on their registration cards use provisional ballots rather than fix the errors on their cards.

Here's the problem with provisional ballots: they may give voters the false impression that their vote is going to count on November 4. Federal law mandates that provisional ballots be offered, but the law says little about whether or how provisional votes should count in the tally. That's enough ambiguity for Republican lawyers to demand that urban ballots be disregarded. If the GOP has their way, provisional ballots are just another means of defrauding and brushing off urban voters.

McCain Says He Agrees with Nasty Things Said about Western Pennsylvania

Fool me twice ... can't get fooled again.

The Post-Election Function of Pre-Election ACORN Attacks: To Cripple Progressive Governance

The Republican attempts to suppress voter turnout are not new or unique to the McCain/Palin campaign. They are nearly 30-years-old and perennially based on lies:

Now More Voter Concern about Palin Than about Bush's Policies

John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin is now a more significant drag on the ticket than is the perception that he would extend George W. Bush's policies. Palin fatigue has literally beset the American electorate when she is a bigger drag than the most unpopular, the worst president in history.

What Does AIG Want? A Gold Star for Finally Doing the Right Thing?

The harsh light of public attention and negative PR along with 80% accountability to the federal government have ways changing behavior:

The Federal Reserve extended the loans to AIG in exchange for an 80% ownership stake, fearing that a collapse of the company could reverberate around the globe. AIG was not banned from lobbying under the terms of its deal with the Fed. Initially, AIG said it would continue to lobby, which it argued was important for protecting the interests of taxpayers and shareholders of the 20% of the company not in government hands.

But it reversed that position after word of its activities got out last week and sparked protests from Congress.

AIG is the same company that used bail out money to fund junkets for its employees. Meanwhile, we're still waiting so see bail out capital coming back to local communities.

Downtown Noise Resolution Deferred One Meeting at Tonight's Council Meeting

An ordinance that would restrict noise levels in Downtown to 85 decibels (greater than the levels allowed in New York City and Las Vegas, but in line with those of Austin, Texas) was deferred on second reading tonight for one meeting (the next meeting was re-scheduled for Thursday, November 6). The bill is the result of a task force studying music venue noise that included Downtown residents.

I support this bill because 85 decibels is an entirely appropriate noise level in an entertainment district that includes residents. Austin's 6th Street is an awesome music district that doesn't seem hurt at all by noise restrictions. Rob Robinson has a great response to critics who argue that noise restrictions would close the music venues down. He counters that Downtown needs residents as well as tourists. (That kind of reasoned argument for balance is also behind local initiatives to leverage mixed-use for a new convention center that serves Downtown all the time. Why build a single function convention center that is only used by tourists and not by residents?)

Gail Kerr's ridiculous analogy to leveling the Smokies ignores the fact that mountains are a little more primordial and integral to the environment than Tootsies. Let's not minimize true devastation by confusing it with the inconvenience of balance.

Joe the Narrative

Turns out the emergence of Joe the Plumber as an instant star turned out to be more about the media's "hopes" of softening up their perception of a "hardening" campaign narrative about the financial crisis (which favors Barack Obama and Democrats):
Last week, an Ohio plumber, cited by John McCain and mentioned some two dozen times during the Oct. 15 presidential debate, became an instant star. And while that star was quickly fading, it burned bright enough from Oct. 13-19, to make the saga of Joe the Plumber the No. 3 campaign storyline of the week (filling 8% of the election newshole) according to the Campaign Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The final and perhaps most combative presidential debate of the campaign was the No. 1 campaign storyline (at 18% of the news hole). And even though both candidates produced new economic proposals costing an estimated $100 billion or so, coverage of their response to the financial meltdown barely edged out the plumber (at 9% of the coverage).

As it turned out, Plumber Joe's first name is Samuel and he is not a licensed plumber. But his emergence as a celebrity seems reflective of a media narrative that has alighted on some unlikely players, in this case perhaps in the hopes of a twist in a campaign narrative that seems, at least in the media's mind, to be hardening.

The coverage is also taking on an increasingly tactical lens in the final days. Last week, attention to tactics and strategy -- including McCain's invocation of the plumber to represent the working man -- accounted for 26% of the newshole, making that general theme the biggest component of the week's election coverage.
Joe the Plumber was a bone thrown out by McCain to distract the fickle media and to encourage them to redirect focus away from the financial crisis to someone they obviously found more interesting.

Poll: McCain's Strategy Isn't Helping Him with Voters

According to an NY Times/CBS News poll, Obama's favorables continue to rise as McCain's unfavorables also increase. The most remarkable poll findings come from the contrast in Obama's and Sarah Palin's standing with voters:
Mr. Obama’s favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls. Mrs. Palin’s negative rating is the highest for a vice-presidential candidate as measured by The Times and CBS News. Even Dan Quayle, with whom Mrs. Palin is often compared because of her age and inexperience on the national scene, was not viewed as negatively in the 1988 campaign.
I would say it is safe to pronounce the Palin experiment an abject failure.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Most Blacks Don't Vote for Blacks Just Because They Are Black"

John Ridley deconstructs the Colin Powell "Obama's One of Us" myths perpetuated by right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh:
[Right-wingers] make their "he's one of us" vote claim regarding Powell in particular (blacks in general) in spite of the fact that a person of color has run for the White House in every presidential election over the last 24 years: Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1992. Former ambassador and conservative activist Alan Keyes of Maryland in 1996 and 2000. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York in 2004.

Plenty of opportunities for Powell and other blacks to willy-nilly support a brother (or a sister).

Conservatives may argue that, well, none of those candidates was even worth Powell's attention. But if Powell is — if blacks are — just going to vote for a "darkie," then won't any "darkie" do?

None carried the black vote to any significance. Certainly not Keyes. Not Wilder and Braun, arguably the most qualified candidates at that time. Jackson had some strong showings but could not come close to closing the deal.

And what about Sharpton? Shouldn't he be the closest comparison to Obama in terms of blacks just "giving him" their votes? Sharpton, too, gives a good speech, and he ran most recently.

In 2004, in the District of Columbia primary, Sharpton came in second to Howard Dean. D.C. at the time was 70 percent minority. Sixty percent black. Yet the minorities and the blacks "gave" their votes to Dean. In South Carolina, only 1 in 5 blacks voted for Sharpton.

Here's some of the anti-Obama media elite to whom Ridley is responding:

A Kulturkampf Start to the Week at Southcomm

Yesterday the Nashville Post blogger pronounced the Colin Powell endorsement of Obama as only marginally significant because 1) white people don't operate on ethnic identity; 2) white people believe that black people are so ruled; and 3) "average white people" (not to be confused with the "Average White Band") will believe that General Powell endorsed Obama because they are both black.

It is odd enough reading a writer/reporter--employed by the Southcomm Corporation--who hobnobs with Nashville's media "punditocracy" (in fact, judged by pundits to be the "best of") even referring to the "malleable elite" as if he were at an average white person's distance from them. But to watch as he totally disregards the possibility that average white people may have listened to and believed the authenticity of Colin Powell's reasons for supporting Obama, putting aside stereotypes about black identity is also strange. It was rambling, polarizing speculation absent hard data.

Today, Southcomm's other "punditocrats," the editors at the Nashville City Paper once again follow up weeks of uncritical reporting on Eric Crafton's English Only ballot initiative with another editorial opposing it. The editors (or whoever wrote it) lapse back into their Metro Council blaming mode and scold progressives for not getting out to organize opposition to the vote.

Rather than having their reporters hold Eric Crafton accountable in their stories for the $350,000-$500,000 cost of the special election, the NCP is bizarrely putting the responsibility for the cost once again on the opponents of the bill. Crafton gets off relatively criticism-free at the hands of the "malleable elite" who write the NCP editorials. I cannot help but wonder if they cut Crafton so much more slack because his culture wars make their publication fly off the racks faster. Wounding him might be like killing a golden egg-laying goose.

Obama Supporters' Tires Slashed at NC Rally

Lashing out against Obama supporters continues.

White McCain/Palin Supporters Taunt African American Early Voters in North Carolina

HT: Think Progress

UPDATE: Chris Kromm points out that the McCain/Palin hecklers may have violated the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

Bail Out Capital Is Going to Bank Bonuses First Before Trickling Down

While locally we're still waiting to see when and if the federal government's $700 billion bail out will trickle down to help us, it's frustrating to find out that the banks initially receiving the money are earmarking $70 billion of it for bonuses for their employees. This amounts to a windfall to bankers who helped sink the economy into the worst financial quagmire in a nearly a century, and yet they are getting tax dollars they haven't earned to turn the economy around. How can they award themselves bonuses under those conditions? If you drove your business to the brink of disaster because of your own greed or ineptitude and then saved it with a hand-out that someone else gave you should you expect to receive a bonus, let alone to keep your job?

Bob Krumm's Warnings Defy the Odds and Actual Polls

He warned us. He specifically scolded those on his left (which has to be a large crowd) for telling the truth about the myths of "Joe the Plumber."

The problem for Bob Krumm is that Joe the Plumber is not coming through for John McCain in the very toss-up states that Krumm claims he would:
Check out these great numbers buried in a new Suffolk University poll of Ohio and Missouri, which tests the impact of McCain's frequent claim that Barack Obama wants to pick Joe the Plumber's pocket in order to further his shadowy socialist and redistributionist agenda:
In Ohio, 68 percent of respondents said they recognized "Joe the Plumber," but only 6 percent said that Joe's story will make them more likely to vote McCain; 4 percent were more likely to vote for Obama; and 85 percent were not affected.

A similar finding was recorded in Missouri, where 80 percent had heard of the presidential plumber; 8 percent were more likely to vote McCain; 3 percent more likely to vote Obama; and 86 percent not affected by his story.
That's pretty consistent. In both states -- both Bush states -- all of one-tenth of the voters who know who Joe the Plumber is said it made them more likely to back McCain. And in both states, huge, huge majorities of around 85% say the Joe mentions make no difference.

It's worth pointing out that McCain's "Joe the Plumber" gambit isn't just some throwaway one-off gag. It's a central pillar of McCain's closing argument on the economy, which is likely to decide this election. He invokes Joe at just about every rally. And his campaign even blasted out an email to supporters today asking them to tell the campaign how they are each "Joe the Plumber," with the possibility that the best could end up in an ad!
If McCain is running with Joe the Plumber as his latest ground game, the blue collar symbol does not appear to be working in the states Bob Krumm claims Barack Obama needs to win. It does not even appear to be giving McCain the short-lived bump that he got from Sarah Palin. If he's running with him at a higher media profile, well then, Joe the Plumber just got knocked off that radar by Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, which is not helpful for McCain (and any distraction that does not help him win, hurts him with 2 weeks to go).

It appears that the only thing that Bob Krumm was correct about was that he warned us. Otherwise, Joe the Plumber is not snaking up any vote-swinging traction in working class Ohio.

And the Best Part is that Realtors® Don't Expect Anything in Return!

From KnoxNews via R. Neal, the special interest association for Realtors® encourage us not to follow their campaign finance money, but to just look at their donations as the same sort of participation as standing to speak at a PTA meeting:
NASHVILLE - For the 26,000 members of the Tennessee Association of Realtors[®], having a political action committee is just part of "being engaged in their communities," according to J.A. Bucy.

A review of campaign finance records by the News Sentinel shows the association's PAC is more engaged than any other special-interest group in delivering donations to legislative candidates.

As of Sept. 30, the Realtors[®] PAC had given $238,900 to state legislative candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot. With 99 representatives and 16 senators facing re-election this year, that works out to an average of more than $2,000 for every contested seat in the state.
Only if you auction the microphone to the highest bidders at a PTA meeting can campaign finance be compared to PTA meetings.

GOP Contractor Arrested for Registering to Vote at His Childhood Home

The head of a firm contracting with the GOP to dupe California voters into reregistering as Republicans while thinking that they were signing a petition against child molesters has been arrested for fraudulently registering himself "to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California."

His firm, YPM:
has been accused of using bait-and-switch tactics across the country. Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.
And the GOP has the unmitigated gall to accuse Democrats and ACORN of "voter fraud" on very little evidence.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

CNN Reports That Fraud is Being Perpetrated on ACORN, Not by ACORN

Also, Facing South found few instances of problems with ACORN voter registration in the South, depite John McCain's hyperbole that ACORN is tearing "the fabric of democracy." They reiterate that there are no documented cases of fraud.

GOP Pays Company to Defraud Registered Democratic Voters into Switching Parties

News from the LA Times looks bad for a Republican Party and a McCain/Palin campaign that have mercilessly attacked Barack Obama and his connections to ACORN. According to the Times, the GOP has been paying a company called YPM to dupe Democratic voters into registering as Republicans while believing that they were signing a petition for tougher penalties against child molesters.

If the charges of a GOP confidence game are true, then all of John McCain's and Sarah Palin's allegations of voter registration fraud (and their ridiculous charges of "voter fraud," which would require someone casting a vote under a false name) amount to two-faced hypocrisy. It shows that neither McCain nor Palin need to be from Chicago to access a Chicago-style swindle.

This attempt to suppress could have real effects on Democratic turnout, and even if they win on November 4, it could mitigate any perception that they have a mandate to govern:
The 70,000 voters YPM has registered for the Republican Party this year will help combat the public perception that it is struggling amid Democratic gains nationally, give a boost to fundraising efforts and bolster member support for party leaders, political strategists from both parties say.

Those who were formerly Democrats may stop receiving phone calls and literature from that party, perhaps affecting its get-out-the-vote efforts. They also will be given only a Republican ballot in the next primary election if they do not switch their registration back before then.

Some also report having their registration status changed to absentee without their permission; if they show up at the polls without a ballot they may be unable to vote.
70,000 votes suppressed along with GOP voter purging projects (like the failed one in Ohio that would have purged 200,000) and assigning off-duty cops and first responders to watch heavily Democratic urban precincts could manipulate the next election and its aftermath profoundly and exponentially.

CRIME ALERT: 12South Gunpoint Mugging

From the 12South email list:
At 11am on October 17th, a female was held up at gunpoint on 12th Ave. between Gale and Clayton, right in front of Sevier Park. She was walking on the sidewalk when a gray, older model Toyota Camry pulled up beside her. Two black males, mid 20s, were in the car, and the passenger pulled a gun on her, demanding her purse and telling her to not run away. She dropped her purse and ran, and was lucky enough to wave down a driver who helped her call the police. She filed a police report, and the officer expressed his surprise that this would happen in our neighborhood in broad daylight.

GOP to Use Cops & First Responders as Poll Thugs

From TPM:
Wisconsin Republicans are going to be going all out in their voter suppression efforts. The Wisconsin GOP is currently recruiting "Milwaukee area veterans, policeman, security personnel and firefighters to work as poll watchers on election day at inner city polling places."
Is Blackwater next on the urban voter intimidation agenda? If this gets to be standard GOP practice nationwide on and before November 4, the Republicans could single-handedly destroy all of the good will built between first responders and average people in the wake of 9/11.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Republican Spiritualization of Hostility

A new creation -- the new Reich, for example, needs enemies more than friends: in opposition alone does it feel itself necessary. Our attitude to the "internal enemy" is no different; here too we have spiritualized hostility.

- - Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Poll: McCain's Negative Campaign is Costing Him, Not Obama

The conventional wisdom on negative campaigning is that it usually causes both sides' unfavorables to rise. Not in late 2008. It looks like John McCain's aspersions of Barack Obama, ACORN, etc. and his poor response to the stock market crash are blowing all back on him:
Negative campaigning and a month of intense public focus on collapsing global economic and financial markets have not been kind to McCain. The new AP-Yahoo News poll of likely voters, conducted this month by Knowledge Networks, shows more people viewing him favorably than unfavorably by just 5 percentage points, down from a 21-point difference in mid-September.

During the same period, Obama went the other way, increasing a 5 percentage-point net favorable rating to 15 points. Now, Obama is seen favorably by 57 percent and McCain by 52 percent a close margin that masks the opposite direction the two rivals' ratings are heading.

GOP ACORN Hate Sprouts Vandalism and Threats Against Individual ACORN Staffers

ACORN--a community-based organization made up of mostly African and Hispanic Americans already the target of John McCain's and Sarah Palin's abusive campaign vitriol with minuscule evidence--has now started coming under literal attack by McCain/Palin supporters. McClatchy reports that ACORN staffers have received death threats, including one Rhode Island woman who received the message, "We know you get off work at 9," followed by racial epithets. ACORN offices in Seattle and Boston have been vandalized and computers stolen.

Reports of people being assaulted and being threatened with assault for opposing McCain/Palin are increasing. At some point, John McCain is going to have to do something more significant than saying "No, ma'am. No ma'am," to someone who acts loony and calls Obama an "Arab." Innocent people are going to get hurt if McCain doesn't take the edge off his rhetoric that has little just cause.

Supreme Court Turns Back Ohio GOP's Attempt to Purge 200,000 Voters

This proves that the SCOTUS "pals around with terrorists" and supports ACORN.

UPDATE: David Kurtz ponders the implications:
On one level it's surprising anytime the Supreme Court takes up any one case simply because they don't step in very often, especially in election cases (with notorious exceptions), especially on an issue that has not been previously heavily litigated. But it's less surprising how the court came down here.

It didn't address the merits of the case per se (although in some ways the court's ruling goes straight to the merits). Rather, it found that the GOP was unlikely to prevail on the issue of whether the Help America Vote Act (the law at issue here) allows private citizens or groups to sue to enforce the law. If the law doesn't create a so-called private right of action, the GOP has no standing to sue in the first place. Likelihood of prevailing on the merits is a key criteria for taking the extraordinary step of granting a TRO. Since the justices thought the GOP would ultimately lose on that argument, they vacated the TRO.

Now, I'll be curious to see where the GOP goes from here. There's not enough time to pursue this case on the merits before the election. So as a practical matter it may kill the case in Ohio entirely. But perhaps more importantly, it puts a stop to the GOP or any other private party gumming up the works over the next 18 days by filing similar cases in courts across the country.

Palindrones Gone Wild II: Electric Boogaloo

Another Sarah Palin rally assault story: reporter buckled to the ground by large, kicking, bearded Palin supporter while attempting to find out why Obama supporters were removed from a rally in Elon, NC.

Other vice during Lipstuck's NC visit included Palin alleging with no evidence that Democrats complied with voter fraud (which involves people actually voting under a fake identity) and Palin insinuating that there are pro-America parts of America and anti-America parts of America. On that final note there was no word on whether Alaska under a Palin administration that entertains successionists would be more pro-America or more anti-America.

Disenfranchising Likely Obama Voters Heats Up in Florida

Florida's late-enacted "No Match, No Vote" law is controversial because it puts all of the burden of an absolute match between voter registration cards and state records on the voter. It does not compensate for typos or data problems.

And on top of that, the majority of registrations disqualified under the law in Orange County (FL) were those of Democrats, Hispanics, and college students:
Newly released records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that areas around the University of Central Florida and Rollins College are where the most voter registrations were rejected. Many had predicted that locally, minority precincts with strong voter drives would face the greatest registration problems. In fact, registration applications from college areas are being kicked out because of mismatched IDs under Florida's controversial "No match, no vote" measure. The law, which took effect Sept.8, calls for drivers-license and Social Security numbers to match those in government databases.

Not only is students' handwriting "horrible," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections administrator Margaret Dunn, the office also has a more difficult time matching IDs when applicants have out-of-state drivers licenses and officials have to rely on matching Social Security numbers instead ....

Though 46 percent of the 846 rejected Orange County residents were Democrats, only 9 percent were Republicans, and the rest generally had no party affiliation. Those numbers generally reflect statewide data obtained by the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday showing 8,867 would-be voters whose registrations remained unresolved.

In addition, more than a third rejected in Orange County were Hispanic, which is double the proportion of Hispanic residents.

"The major problem is the name confusion because so many Hispanics use hyphenated names because that's their culture," said longtime Orange County resident Patti Sharp, operations and finance director for Democracia USA. Elections officials agreed with that assessment.

Few whites were rejected ....

The Division of Elections has received more than 376,000 voter registrations since Sept. 8 — 56,807 of those were initially flagged for ID mismatches, and 13,339 went to county election supervisors to resolve.

Just as in Orange County, rejected voters statewide were also disproportionately minorities. Slightly more than 27 percent were listed as Hispanic, and 26.8 percent of those rejected were black.

Hold on to Your Anti-ACORN Tin Foil Hats

We're being drowned in a flood of vote fraud:
despite all the [conservative] hysteria, from 2002 to 2005, only twenty people in the entire United States of America were found guilty of voting while ineligible and only five of voting more than once. By contrast, consider the lede on this story, published a week ago today:
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
ACORN's black helicopters are currently circling an undisclosed location somewhere over Ohio and West Virginia. Take cover.