Randy's Corner Deli Library

30 September 2008

Let Risk-Taking Financial Institutions Fail

View from a booth:

These guys have it right. The only things that have failed are the "bets" that were placed against mortgages that they were worth 10x their real value. THAT is the gamble that the banks, investment banks and the rest (e.g., AIG) made. They lost. Congress should get a grip on what is real and what is imaginary about the 'losses' that have been suffered by US financial institutions. The 'real' mortgages that are in trouble should be saved. The derivatives and other 'mortgage backed securities' should be allowed to fail, and the banks and other financial institutions should be forced to accept the consequences of the failed gambling.

Randy Shiner

Let Risk-Taking Financial Institutions Fail

Demonstrators protest the U.S. Congress's proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry in New York City's Times Square, Sept. 27
Demonstrators protest the U.S. Congress's proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry in New York City's Times Square, Sept. 27
Keith Bedford / Reuters
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The Administration and Congress have felt compelled to do something about the "financial meltdown," so an inefficient and inequitable "bailout plan" has been rushed through the legislature despite harsh criticism from the right and left. That's unfortunate. Both presidential candidates were stalling by qualifying the plan. Whichever candidate had had the courage to reject outright this proposal would have had the better claim to be President.

Do not be fooled. The $700 billion (ultimately $1 trillion or more) bailout is not predominantly for mortgages and homeowners. Instead, the bailout is for mortgage-backed securities. In fact, some versions of these instruments are imaginary derivatives. These claims overlap on the same types of mortgages. Many financial institutions wrote claims over the same mortgages, and these are the majority of claims that have "gone bad."

At this point, such claims have no bearing on the mortgage or housing crisis; they have bearing only on the holders of these securities themselves. These are ridiculously risky claims with little value for society. It is as if many financial institutions sold "earthquake insurance" on the same house: when the quake hits, all these claims become close to worthless — but the claims are simply bets disconnected from reality.

Follow the money. Average Joes and Janes are not the holders of the other side of complicated, over-the-counter derivatives contracts. Rather, hedge funds are the main holders. The bailout will involve a transfer of wealth — from the American people to financial institutions engaging in reckless speculation — that will be the greatest in history.

Rescuing financial institutions is not the best solution. Yes, banks are needed to provide capital to businesses. But it is not necessary to spend $1 trillion to maintain liquidity. If the government is to intervene, it should pick and choose which claims to purchase; claims that are directly tied to mortgages would be a good start.

Let financial institutions fail, merge or be bought out. The faltering institutions will see their shares devalued and will be likely to be taken over by stronger institutions — as has already started happening. This consolidation of the financial sector is both efficient and inevitable; government action can only delay the adjustment.

The government should not intervene. It should leave overleveraged financial institutions to default on their derivatives obligations and, if necessary, file for bankruptcy. Much of the crisis has arisen from miscalculating the risks involved in a large book of positions in these derivatives. It is only logical that these institutions pay for their poor management.

Rather than bailing out Wall Street, we propose that the government should buy up the actual mortgages in question and do nothing else. The government should not touch any derivatives; that is, claims that do not directly tie into the actual mortgages. If money becomes too tight, then the Fed can certainly increase its loans to financial institutions.

Let the poorly managed, overly risk-taking financial institutions fail! Always remember that Wall Street and the real economy are not the same thing.

— Ari J. Officer has completed his master of science degree in financial mathematics at Stanford University. Lawrence H. Officer is a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

29 September 2008

Thursday Night Massacre

The end is nigh for the Willy Weaver Express, the campain of John McCain and the thrilla from Wasilla, Sarah Palin who, sadly enough will have to face Sen. Joe Biden, presently occupied as Democratic candidate for Vice President, but who is still the titular head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The strategy of both contestants will be interesting, but Joe Biden's primary job will put into "whitespeak" why the country should vote for Barack Obama for President and why it is a dangerous thing to think about doing anything else. Mr. Biden will have the task of reassuring folks from Scranton that it's OK to vote for a black guy for President. Mr. Biden will have to be careful not to attack Mrs. Palin directly: after all, SNL is not doing devastating sketches about Mr. Biden. He should give Tina Fey more material so that ultimately, there is a remake of "All in the Family", and Mrs. Palin can play Sally Struthers' heretofore inimitable "Gloria Bunker" who, taking up the faithful opposition to "Meathead" Rob Reiner's raving liberalism, is remade into a modern day Anita Bryant, only way more sexy, but probably more puritanical as well.

After Mr. Biden is through attacking John McCain for 90 minutes and Mrs. Palin is finished with showing how nice she can be at the same time she tries to attack Barack Obama, the colllective national cringe factor will be strained as much as Wall Street and Congress, and we will together see that the present problems are truly not going to be solved by Mr. McCain's moral relativism and backwards looking perspective without the help of a Vice President who will add to, rather than detract from the strength that he, Mr. McCain is going to have to invest into the issues that will dog the next President for the entire length of his Presidency. Or Her Presidency. As in President Sarah Palin? Yes, that issue will be front and center Thursday night. Mr. Biden can sew up the election for himself and Mr. Obama if he shows what a truly great asset he will be to Mr. Obama and just what a formidable team they will make together.

Nothing that Mrs. Palin offers Mr. Biden should be particularly surprising. Mrs. Palin knows about five or six talking points and has been told "just to be herself", and I am certain that the people prepping Mr. Biden do not have to tell him what those talking points are. He should come off like the pit-bull that Mrs. Palin wishes she was, albeit to Mr. McCain, but should leave Mrs. Palin and the rostrum of the debate as clean as a surgeon's operating theater after having performed surgery on Mrs. Palin herself. She will wake up Friday morning, reach for the Post-Dispatch, and say to herself "did I really say that"? She should have to honestly answer herself: "Yes I did." And pick up the phone, call John McCain, and tell him that she has had an epiphany: that she needs to spend more time with her family and that she quits.

In all honesty, I hope that she doesn't. Indeed, I doubt she will. From the looks of that family, nobody knows how to say "no".

Randy Shiner

No Bailout? Congressman Blunt (R-MO) Blames the Jews

CQ Transcripts Wire
Monday, September 29, 2008; 3:01 PM

PUTNAM: We are obviously disappointed that this bill was unable to muster the necessary votes to pass. We remain committed to working on a bipartisan basis to bring a bill to the floor that will garner the necessary votes to avoid a financial collapse.

I was disappointed that a process that over the last several days has yielded a bipartisan product, involved negotiators from both sides of the building and both sides of the aisle, took a very marked partisan turn at the end of the debate, which was very different than the rhetoric that we heard out of Chairman Frank or Leader Hoyer or our leader, John Boehner.

And with that, I'd like to introduce our leader who's been at the -- from the earliest stages of this committed to working with both sides of the aisle to produce a product that is good for America.

John Boehner?

BOEHNER: Americans are angry, and so are my colleagues. They don't want to have to vote for a bill like this, and I understand that.


But I have concerns about what this means for the American people, what it means for our economy, and what it means for people's jobs. I think that we need to renew our efforts to find a solution that Congress can support.

I do believe that we could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House.

I mean, we were -- we put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today.

BOEHNER: But the speaker had to give a partisan voice (sic) that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members we thought we could get to go south.

At the end of the day this is not about Democrats or Republicans, it's about our economy and what's best for the American people. And regardless of what happened today, we've got -- we have no choice, in my view, but to work together to try to find a solution to make sure that we save our economy and we save our constituents.

Roy Blunt?

BLUNT: Well, thank you, John.

We did think we had a dozen more votes going to the floor than we had. No more than that, but we thought we had a dozen more. I think, unfortunately, too many of our members were already on the floor when they heard that late speech by the speaker.

During this whole process, the tone in the room was so much better than the tone outside the room. We worked together well to try to come up with a compromise that could pass today, that the president could sign, that would do what needs to be done in the economy, but every time you'd turn on television or read an article about the press reports of what the other side was saying, it was all about how Republicans either were unpatriotic or were there too late or whatever.

Well, we're going to reach back out to them. We're certainly going to reach back out to our members. We're going to try to do our best to find a solution here that works for the American people.

No matter how many times I said or Mr. Boehner said or Mr. Hoyer said or Mr. Frank said, "We've got to put partisanship aside," there was way too much of that still going on and a clock that nobody could control. You know, clearly needing to respect the holidays of this week, the Jewish holidays of this week, meant that we had to rush things in a way that made that job very hard.

BLUNT: And we made it harder today by so much partisan discussion discussion in what should have been a bipartisan effort to solve this problem for the American people.

But we're going to reach back out to them. We're going to be talking to our members and see how we can come together in the next few days to reverse whatever negative impact there may be in the economy over the next few days because Congress has failed to act.

And, remember, we're not in the majority in the Congress that failed to act today. And we need to reach back out to that majority. And hopefully, they will allow us to be part of a solution, rather than continuing to pursue a partisan discussion.


CANTOR: Right here is the reason, I believe, why this vote failed. And this is Speaker Pelosi's speech that, frankly, struck the tone of partisanship that, frankly, was inappropriate in this discussion.

There is -- there is -- and there were several meetings, day in and day out, of members on both sides of the aisle trying to get up to speed on this issue of the economy and of the capital markets, and, frankly, a lot of agreement.

And I think that this is a case of a failure of Speaker Pelosi to listen not only to her members, but certainly to our members and the common bonds that brought our members together on this very, very important issue facing the American people.

This is not a partisan crisis. This is an economic crisis facing everyone in this country. And to look at the votes today, 94 Democrats voted no -- 94.

Now, when we were in the majority, I think we would make a decision that we would be able to come to the floor and bring a solution to the American people and pass it.

CANTOR: They made a decision to leave 94 of their votes off the table, and frankly, as you can see, a majority of our votes that wouldn't go along.

Clearly, this is an instance where you see Speaker Losi's -- Speaker Pelosi's failure to listen, failure to lead. This caps off a year that I think has been probably the most unproductive year in the U.S. Congress that I've seen in my lifetime. No -- no production of any bailout bill. No energy bill. No appropriations process. Very little to show the American people.

So we're going to go and, as our leaders have said, go back to the drawing table and look to see where we can come together, listen to our members, and produce a solution for the American people.

QUESTION: Do you take any responsibility for (OFF-MIKE)?

BOEHNER: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I would argue that if I had not stood in the way of the original Paulson plan, there would have been far less votes on both sides of the aisle.

And the fact is, is that while we were able to move the bill drastically to the right, it wasn't -- it wasn't good enough for a lot of our members. And so, we've got to find a true middle ground that will bring enough votes in order to avert any crisis.

QUESTION: Mr. Cantor, you described what the speaker said as very partisan here, and then you said here a minute ago, you know, she had a failure to listen, a failure to lead.

Isn't that partisanship on your behalf?


CANTOR: I think it's just pretty apparent now, when she lost 93 of her colleagues on their side of the aisle as well as all the people's votes who went no on our side of the aisle.

Clearly, there was something lacking in the leadership here, that would bring a bill to the floor that couldn't meet the approval of that many number of members.

CANTOR: So we're saying, "Look, forget the partisan stuff. Let's look at the solutions. Let's look and see where members can come together and begin to provide a solution to this very, very tough economic challenge..."


QUESTION: Does Mr. Paulson need to come back and restart negotiations again?

BOEHNER: I don't know that we know the path forward at this point. But it's clear that it's going to take members on both sides of the aisle to work together in order to resolve this. And so we need to -- we need everybody to calm down and relax and get back to work.

QUESTION: Why couldn't you deliver more Republican votes? Why couldn't you deliver more Republican votes?

BLUNT: Well, we had more Republican votes going to the floor. I think some of them were reluctantly there anyway. It didn't take much to turn them off.

And, you know, Republicans all -- almost all the Republicans here remember the responsibility that the majority had when we were in the majority and there was a lot of, "Look, it's really their majority. They've got to bring a bill, a process to the floor in a timely way that works." We had a very short timeframe here after we finally were able to go to our members with the -- with the bill.

But we'd like to find a way to deliver enough Republican votes to make this happen.

Now, most people in this process over the last four days have really reached out and tried to find a bipartisan solution. But a bipartisan solution is only as good as the last person that throws a bomb into the room.

And so we've got to back away from that. I think -- I think the reality of the impact this can have on the markets will have a big impact in getting people back to wanting to work together and get this problem solved.

We're going to reach out to them. I hope they reach back out to us and find a solution that the Congress can come together on and get done. Thank you.


Saturday Night Live - The First Presidential Debate

After the candidates were introduced by Parnell's Lehrer, who urged them to "look at one another up to and beyond the point it becomes uncomfortable" throughout the debate. He then asked first question about the candidates' views on the financial recovery plan before Congress. After Obama's answer, Hammond's McCain immediately proposed suspending the campaign.

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN : "Jim, I would like to take this opportunity to make my opponent a proposal: Effective immediately, each of us suspend our campaigns, and instead hold a series of three pie-eating contests. Next Tuesday, Kansas City-lemon meringue. Saturday, Jacksonville-blueberry. The following week, in Dallas-coconut custard."


ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Jim, I don't see the value of this. (pause) Maybe the blueberry."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "But Senator McCain, what does this have to do with the issues in this election?"

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Nothing at all, Jim. It's what in my campaign we call a 'stunt' or a 'gimmick.' Something to shake up the race."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "That's what it sounds like."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "That's all it is. A little 'straight talk' there."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "Still Senator, I would like to hear your position on the bailout plan."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Jim, what the American people need to understand, and what Senator Obama does not understand, is that the real problem here is excessive government spending, especially Congressional earmarks, and pork-barrel projects. Like this one: 75 million to the Department of Justice, for a program to notify convicted sex offenders when a child moves into their neighborhood. I fought that earmark, and got the funding reduced to 41 million. And how about this? 8.2 million for something called 'Tony Rezko Hush Money.'"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "John, I withdrew that earmark right after he began cooperating with prosecutors. And I think you know that."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Senator, the fact is, to fund all the other programs you're planning, will require a massive tax increase."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "John, once again, you're not being truthful about my proposals. Under my tax plan, not only would every American making less than $250,000 per year get a tax cut; so would most members of the Chicago City Council as well as city Building Inspectors. That's because my plan would not tax income from bribes, kickbacks, shakedowns, embezzlement of government funds, or extortion."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "I just thought of something. Senator Obama, why don't you and I immediately suspend our campaigns, and instead do three town hall meetings, where we appear nude or semi-nude. I think the American people have a right to know what their President would look like with no clothes on."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Look, I'm not comfortable with that, Senator. I have two young daughters."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "October 4th, Hartford: completely naked, with optional posing strap. October 9th, Nashville: see-through body stockings. October 17th, Seattle: modified Chippendales-collar and bowtie, with tear-away tuxedo, or fringed leather chaps."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Again, I don't see the point."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "I think we'll let the two of you work that out. But for now let's turn to the war in Iraq. Senator Obama, what has this war taught us?"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Look, as you know, Jim, I opposed this war from the very beginning, when it was not the politically popular thing to do."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Yet, Senator, you voted against the 'surge,' a strategy that I have been arguing for since 1985. Long before anyone even thought of invading Iraq, I wanted to add more troops, in case we ever did invade."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "John, think about that for a moment. That doesn't even make sense."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Perhaps not to you, Senator. That's because you're not a 'maverick.'"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "John, the fact is, the 'surge' was itself a remedy for a series of failed military policies by this Administration, policies you initially supported. As you have supported this President 90 percent of the time."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Jim, my opponent knows that's not true. I've never supported President Bush. I have undermined President Bush. Just ask any Republican: I have always been disloyal to this President, a disloyal, unreliable, untrustworthy renegade, who has abandoned my Party whenever it most needed me. The fact is, you simply can't count on John McCain. And that's why, on November 4th, the American people will elect me their next President."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "Alright. Now let's turn to the topic of nuclear proliferation. Senator Obama, you have frequently been critical of this Administration's efforts to stop Iran and North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. What would you do differently?"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "First of all, Jim. I would use traditional diplomacy. Something this Administration has consistently refused to do. Should that fail, then, and only then, I would try what I call 'playing the race card.'"

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "And how would that work?"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Take North Korea. I would ask Kim Jong-Il to shut down his country's nuclear weapons program. If he declined, I would say to him: 'Alright, I get it. I know why you're really refusing to stop the program.' And he would say, 'No, what are you talking about?' And I would say, 'It's because I don't look like all the other Presidents you've dealt with.' Then he would say, 'Wait. That's not fair. That has nothing to do with it.' And I would add, 'That's cool, I understand. I'm different. I'm not like the other guys on the five and ten dollar bills.' It's a long, delicate process. But eventually, he'll have to give in."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "And what if he didn't?"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "Then I would try the 'carrot:' dinner with Scarlett Johansson."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "Would she agree to have dinner with Kim Jong-Il?"

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "For me she would, yes."

HAMMOND AS SEN. MCCAIN: "Look, my friends. I have no idea who Scarlett Johansson is. But let me tell you something. No President should ever tell our enemies what we might do in a negotiation."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "That's interesting, John. Coming from the guy who sang, 'Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran.'"

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Obviously, my opponent doesn't understand. There was a musical combo called the Beach Boys. Who recorded a song that went 'Bar-bar-bar, bar-Barbara Ann' which sounds like, 'Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran.' Evidently, he's unaware of that."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "Okay. I had hoped to explore the candidates' views of the War on Terror, but we are just about out of time."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Jim, may I throw out one more offer? My opponent and I both suspend our campaigns. We're airdropped into Waziristan, and neither of us comes back until we've found and captured Osama Bin Laden. It's a 'maverick' move, and it could break this race wide open."

ARMISEN AS SEN. OBAMA: "I can't. I have a fundraiser at Rob Reiner's."

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "I know it's not the safe thing to do politically. But if there's any chance of catching Bin Laden, I would rather lose my life than win an election."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "Really? You'd rather risk capture by Al Qaeda than possibly become President?"

HAMMOND AS SEN. McCAIN: "Truthfully, yes. At this point, I don't really care anymore. I mean it."

PARNELL AS JIM LEHRER: "And that concludes tonight's debate. I would like to thank our candidates, our audience and Senator Hillary Clinton who flew down here just in case Senator McCain didn't show up. I'm sorry it didn't work out. From all of us here at the Gertrude C. Ford Center, thank you and good night."

Saturday Night Live - Katie Couric Interviews Sarah Palin

28 September 2008

The Who - "Tea and Theatre"

If you do not see an embedded YouTube Video below, click on the title to this post and you'll go straight to YouTube.

This is fairly recent from a favorite band of mine, The Who. Enjoy:

The Sexy Puritan

View from a booth: Now I understand the attraction to Sarah Palin for so many Americans. She hearkens back to the days of Anita Bryant. Heck, she hearkens back to the Pilgrims.

Randy Shiner

The Sexy Puritan

Sarah Palin embodies a powerful new Christian right archetype. What could that mean for America?

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

In the weeks since Sarah Palin made her entertaining and highly polarizing entrance onto the national stage, journalists have been scrambling to get a fix on her, attaching label after label onto the Alaska governor in the hope that one of them might stick. Is Palin a hockey mom, "a working-class heroine juggling career and family and living out her religious convictions," in the words of conservative writer Ross Douthat? Or is she, as Katha Pollitt would have it, "a rightwing-Christian anti-choice extremist"? Other observers have focused on Palin's appearance, calling her a "babe" (Rush Limbaugh), a "MILF" (Tina Fey), a "stewardess" (Bill Maher), and the ubiquitous "sexy librarian" (only Google knows). The sheer amount of head-scratching expended on Palin might lead you to believe that she's something new and puzzling on the American scene. But she isn't quite as novel as she seems. Caribou hunting aside, Sarah Palin represents the state-of-the-art version of a particular type of woman—let's call her the Sexy Puritan—that's become a familiar and potent figure in the culture war in recent years.

Sexy Puritans have been around for a while. Anita Bryant, the Miss America runner-up turned anti-gay crusader in the 1970s, was an early exemplar of the trend. The young Britney Spears, provocatively dressed and loudly proclaiming her virginity, is a more modern version, though that didn't turn out so well. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the most conservative member of The View, has a bit of the Sexy Puritan about her, as does Monica Goodling, the former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who admitted to engaging in improperly political hiring practices, including the dismissal of a career prosecutor Goodling believed to be a lesbian. (Puritanical footnote: Goodling is reputed to have been responsible for the draping of nude statues at the Department of Justice.)

Sexy Puritans engage in the culture war on two levels—not simply by advocating conservative positions on hot-button social issues but by embodying nonthreatening mainstream standards of female beauty and behavior at the same time. The net result is a paradox, a bit of cognitive dissonance very useful to the cultural right: You get a little thrill along with your traditional values, a wink along with the wagging finger. Somehow, you don't feel quite as much like a prig as you expected to.

I didn't think too much about Sexy Puritans as a type until I began looking into the abstinence-only sex-education movement while researching my novel, The Abstinence Teacher. I expected to encounter a lot of stern James Dobson-style scolds warning teenagers about the dangers of premarital sex—and there were a few of those—but what I found over and over again were thoughtful, attractive, downright sexy young women talking about their personal decision to remain pure until marriage. Erika Harold, Miss America of 2003 (the right sure loves beauty queens), is probably the best-known to the wider public, but no abstinence rally is complete without the testimony of a very pretty virgin in her early- to mid-20s. At a Silver Ring Thing event I attended in New Jersey in 2007, a slender young blond woman in tight jeans and a form-fitting T-shirt—she wouldn't have looked out of place at a frat kegger—bragged about all the college boys who'd tried and failed to talk her into their beds. She reveled in her ability to resist them, to stand alone until she'd found the perfect guy, the fiancĂ© with whom she would soon share a lifetime full of amazing sex. While her explicit message was forceful and empowering—virginity is a form of strength and self-sufficiency—the implicit one was clear as well: Abstinence isn't just sour grapes for losers, a consolation prize for girls who can't get a date anyway.

There's a sophisticated strategy of co-optation at work here—not so different from the one employed by Christian rock bands that look and sound almost exactly like their secular counterparts—an attempt to separate "sexiness," which is both cool and permissible, from actual sex, which is not. This is a challenging line to walk in practice, as Britney can attest, quite different from the simpler and more consistent "return to modesty" approach advocated by Wendy Shalit, in which girls are encouraged to downplay their sexuality across the board. What the Sexy Puritan movement represents, I think, is the realization on the part of some cultural warriors on the right that to be seen as anti-sex—and especially to be seen as unsexy—is a losing proposition in contemporary America, even among evangelical Christians most troubled by the fallout from the sexual revolution. Apparently nobody likes the Church Lady anymore, not even the churchgoers. If you don't believe me, you should take a look at the Web site Christian Nymphos, whose authors cheerfully proclaim, "We are women with excessive sexual desire for our husbands!" and offer candid how-to advice on anal sex, fisting, and "masturbating for your husband."

God knows, I'm not trying to link Palin to the Christian Nymphos; I'm only trying to locate her within the context of the great American culture war, which she seems to have single-handedly reignited during an election season that was supposed to have been dominated by other issues (and may well be again, now that Wall Street has imploded). With the selection of Palin, McCain succeeded not only in thrilling the Christian right but in scrambling the categories of the campaign. It used to be perfectly clear which ticket represented youth and change, which seemed old and boring, and which had more appeal to women voters. For a moment, at least, Palin seems to have turned these certainties into open questions.

The right has understood for a long time that harsh social messages seem a lot more palatable coming from an attractive young woman than a glowering old man. What's most striking about Palin thus far is her reluctance to engage in explicit cultural warfare, given some of the extreme positions she's taken in the past. Her recent public statements on homosexuality and global warming are more conciliatory than one might have expected, designed to reassure socially moderate swing voters. And she's in no position to pontificate on the benefits of abstinence-only sex education. For now, her role in the culture war is mainly symbolic. Millions of Americans clearly see her as "one of us"—a devout, working-class, "Bible-believing" Christian whose values and opinions and way of speaking reflect their own—and their exhilaration at having a kindred spirit on the GOP ticket has given the McCain campaign a jolt of populist energy.

In the weeks remaining before Nov. 4, the Obama campaign faces the challenging job of restoring clarity to the election, making people look at Palin and see not just a plucky, surprisingly hot, pro-life mom who made her way from the PTA to the governor's office, but a "Young Earth" creationist who opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest and thinks a natural-gas pipeline is an expression of God's will. In the meantime, though, she remains a perfect emblem for a stealth culture war: a sexy librarian who would be more than happy to ban a few books.

Q&A: Financial crisis and you : The View from London

Q&A: Financial crisis and you

HBOS sign
The fear was that HBOS might face a run on its deposits like Northern Rock

The past month has been one of unprecedented turmoil in the financial markets.

Each day has brought an extraordinary development that would have seemed astonishing just the day before.

In the largest bank failure yet in the United States, Washington Mutual, the giant mortgage lender which had assets valued at $307bn (£167bn), was closed down by regulators. It was then sold to rival JP Morgan Chase for $1.9bn.

The US investment bank Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bust while one of the world's largest insurers AIG was bailed out.

In the UK, a takeover of the biggest mortgage lender HBOS was approved by the government to forestall a run on it by customers.

To try and put an end to the turmoil, the US authorities have been seeking approval from Congress for a $700bn bail-out plan to relieve the US banking system of its mortgage debts and limits were put on so-called "short-selling" of shares, both in the UK and the USA.

BBC News looks at whether the average person is really in a different position from just a couple of weeks ago.

Is my bank safe?

This is what the UK (and US) government and financial authorities have been worried about - that banks exposed to too many defaulting mortgages might collapse.

With the very fear of this causing the financial system to seize up again, the worry was that this prospect might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with a domino effect undermining the banking system here and abroad.

Hence the rush to ensure that HBOS was taken over, despite the bank and the authorities saying until they were blue in the face that it had lots of money.

What about my savings?

As long as you have less than £35,000 saved with any one UK financial institution, you will not lose if the worst happens and your bank goes under.

That is because of the protection offered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

However, you might have to wait a while to get your money back.

Unlike in the US, where small banks frequently go bust, there is no mechanism in place yet to effect a swift rescue of a UK bank.

If you have more than £35,000 in any one institution you might consider moving some of it to another one.

Will my mortgage become more expensive?

Most likely yes, if you are looking for a new deal.

The cost to banks of borrowing and lending money between themselves has risen again, driving up the cost to banks of funding and offering new fixed-rate and other mortgage deals.

Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, is the rate at which banks lend money to each other, and the three-month rate has reached its highest level since December, rising well above 6%.

Three major lenders have raised some of their mortgage rates - HSBC, Woolwich and First Direct - and other lenders are reviewing their deals.

The takeover by Lloyds TSB of HBOS will also reduce competition among mortgage lenders, tending to make it easier for the remaining lenders to charge that bit more for their loans - or offer less interest on bank accounts.

So mortgages are likely to be set higher above the Bank of England's base rate than was the case before.

The Bank of England has said the rate of inflation would soon hit 5%, before falling back. Once it is convinced this is about to happen it may well cut rates to help stimulate the economy and overcome the impending economic recession.

So in due course mortgages should become cheaper; but not just yet.

Will this financial crisis make the economy worse?

Let us assume that no more banks get into trouble and that things stabilise.

Even then, the downturn is likely to be worse than would have been the case just a few weeks ago.

Banks and the money they lend are essential to the normal functioning of the economy.

If they have less money to lend, or do so on much more expensive terms, this will inevitably restrain economic activity, just as if the Bank of England had jacked up its bank rate.

Is my job more precarious than before?

Potentially - and not just for bank employees and others in the financial sector.

In more normal times, the big economic news this month would probably have been the further rise in unemployment.

Let us remember what that story is. Unemployment is now at its highest level for nine years at a rate of 5.5%.

Redundancies have been accelerating and the number of vacancies, and those actually in work, is dropping.

Sadly the trend in unemployment is firmly upwards and will probably continue until the economy starts to pick up again.

The Bailout: Will the Center Hold?

The bailout: Will the center hold?

Text Size:
Nancy Pelosi, Henry Paulson, Harry Reid
After hours of debating, lawmakers have made a tentative plan. But will everyone be on board?
Photo: AP
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Proofreading and some heavy-duty political marketing are the next big steps for Treasury’s $700 billion rescue plan as House and Senate leaders take their agreement back to their restless caucuses — split on the left and right.

House Republicans are the biggest test, with conservatives still rebellious. But Democrats have their own problems and moved quickly to emphasize Wall Street reforms, new protections for homeowners and an elaborate financing scheme that would allow a future Congress to cut off the funding after the first $350 billion commitment.

“If we don’t pass it, we shouldn’t be in Congress,” snapped Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the lead negotiator for Senate Republicans.
But from the moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought down the gavel Sunday, a parade of conservatives and liberals were on their feet bashing the deal. And the political center may be defined by the two major presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, who both signaled support for the package.

As sitting senators from Arizona and Illinois, McCain and Obama will be asked to vote themselves when that chamber takes up the legislation later this week. But the House, which hopes to act as early as Monday, will be the true test of their influence in their parties.

“The breakthrough between Congress and the administration is the culmination of a sorry period in our history, in which reckless speculation and greed on Wall Street and lax oversight from Washington led to a meltdown of our financial markets,” Obama said. “But regardless of how we got here, a failure to deal with the current crisis would have devastating consequences for our economy, costing millions of Americans their jobs and retirement security.”

McCain, appearing later on ABC News’ “This Week,” said he wanted still to see details, but “hopefully, yes” would back the bill.

“This is something that all of us will swallow hard and go forward with,” McCain said.

Following marathon negotiations that ran past midnight, the agreement now is taking shape in the form of an estimated 106-page bill that the leadership hopes to finalize and post on the House Web site Sunday afternoon.

Treasury would like to see prompt Senate action as well, but given the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah beginning at sundown Monday, a final vote could very well wait until Wednesday or Thursday.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt, the chief negotiator for the House GOP, said he wanted to first see the final text before committing himself, but the Missouri Republican said he was optimistic that it will be something his party can support. All indications early Sunday were that Blunt and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), both of whom were praised by McCain, were working to tamp down the opposition among conservatives.

“I’m not sure yet we can sell it to our conference, but I’m 100 percent sure that this is the best deal we could get,” said a Republican aide.

Business lobbies stepped up their pressure in anticipation of a party meeting on the bill late Sunday.

“Main Street and Wall Street are inextricably linked,” wrote the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a vote alert Sunday, urging passage and warning it may count the House vote in its annual scorecard. “This proposal addresses the needs of both and will not only begin the process of righting the financial markets, but help to return the economy to robust growth, which will create jobs across America.”

“We’ve still got more to do to finalize it, but I think we’re there,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in announcing the verbal agreement at 12:30 Sunday morning – the cap on a remarkable week of intense activity for both lawmakers and himself.

By Paulson’s side, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, joked that no solution to a problem could be “more elegant” than the problem itself, and certainly the huge credit crisis facing the American economy is brutal in its scope.

The massive government intervention, like the crisis itself, takes everyone into uncharted waters. And in crafting the bill, lawmakers found themselves scared by what they were asked to do, even as they were trying to calm frightened markets.

“There is some tension between the needs of the members and the needs of the markets,” Frank said of his partnership with Paulson “He thinks neurosis on the part of the markets deserves more credibility that neurosis on the part of elected officials and getting a bill past.”

The final bill reflects this tension, and while final details have not yet been released, following is a brief summary as described by the administration and lawmakers:

• The full $700 billion is authorized, but the money will be parsed out in a series of installments that give Paulson a relatively free hand in accessing the first $350 billion. The White House must notify Congress when Treasury wants the second half, and lawmakers would then have 15 days in which to cut off funds. But this must be done in the form of a joint resolution, subject to a veto by the president and therefore requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses to be effective.

Page 2

• Paulson’s free hand on spending is matched by substantially greater oversight of the program than Treasury first envisioned, as well as demands for greater transparency, including the posting of transactions on line. Apart from a new oversight board appointed by the bipartisan leadership in Congress, the GAO will have a presence in Treasury, and an independent inspector general will monitor the secretary’s decisions.

• Lawmakers won the promise of new restrictions on executive pay and severance packages for Wall Street executives whose companies are helped by the rescue plan. And the bill reflects a more aggressive approach toward Treasury also claiming an equity interest — on behalf of taxpayers — through warrants giving the government options for non-voting stock shares that could turn a profit once the economy improves.

The precise language of the executive pay provision was one of the most hotly contested issues, and the final deal rests on Paulson being more aggressive than he first wanted, but also on lawmakers’ giving him some discretion so that these reforms don’t cripple his ability to draw a wide selection of companies into the program.

The bill takes a hybrid approach, and in the case of assets bought at auction, the most severe penalties kick in only when Treasury has bought more than $300 million in assets. At that juncture, a 20 percent surtax would be imposed on rich severance packages, and in the case of highly paid executives, the company would lose its deduction for salaries above $500,000.

• There is a joint commitment by Democrats and Paulson to use the government’s increased leverage in the mortgage market to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Democrats stepped back from their demands for a change in law allowing bankruptcy judges to restructure residential mortgage payments, but the bill extends a popular tax provision to protect individuals from tax liability on their foreclosures.

• On two key points, final compromises were required for competing priorities between House Democrats and Republicans. In the first case, Democrats had proposed that the Treasury be required to impose a fee on Wall Street transactions to help cover the cost of any government losses as a result of the rescue plan. But Republicans and Treasury resisted, and the final compromise calls for the next president to submit a legislative proposal to Congress in five years, after some assessment can be made of the costs to the government.

The second compromise dealt with a Republican proposal that the government intervene in the markets, not by buying up bad assets but by providing a federally backed insurance program that might make the same mortgage-related securities more salable. The compromise reached would require Paulson to “establish” such an insurance alternative if he goes ahead with his plan, but he is not compelled to use the insurance option.

• Early Republican demands for added tax cuts were not successful, but the bill includes an estimated $3 billion provisions to help small community banks take a deduction for losses from their investments in the two mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, since taken over the government this summer.

House GOP leaders had warned Saturday evening that they would need to take any deal to their rank-and-file members before committing to back it.

Racing to reach a deal before the markets open Monday, lawmakers met late into the night in Pelosi’s Capitol office. Paulson set up a sort of command center in Boehner’s office, with legislators and staffers criss-crossing Statuary Hall as they shuttled back and forth.

As the talks neared 10 p.m., Paulson could be seen through the windows of Boehner’s second-floor office, sitting on a sofa flanked by aides in chairs around the room. Pelosi passed through a hallway with her son. Asked if a deal would come together before the night was over, she said, “I hope so.”

Just before 11 p.m., Paulson, the two principal GOP negotiators – Blunt and Gregg – Emanuel, Pelosi chief of staff John Lawrence and White House legislative affairs aide Dan Meyer walked into Pelosi’s office.

In a sign that negotiations were growing serious earlier in the evening, a Pelosi aide collected BlackBerrys from the staffers meeting in her office so that no details would leak out.

Just after 8 p.m., pizzas arrived at Paulson’s HQ in Boehner’s office. Democratic staffers ordered in burgers from Five Guys.

"This is Saturday night,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) “You have the secretary of Treasury. You have congressional leaders. You have committee chairmen of all the committees of jurisdiction. And we are here. There’s a reason we’re here — because there’s a great feeling of responsibility to get a package as quickly as we can while doing it as well as we can."

While the meeting in Pelosi’s office was supposed to include just Paulson and the principal negotiators – Blunt, Gregg, Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) — a substantial number of Senate Democrats were there as well.

Republicans complained that the presence of the additional Democrats was making the process more difficult; by setting up shop in Boehner’s office, Paulson was able to get some breathing room after spending hours in close quarters, where at times he was hectored by some of the Senate Democrats.

Earlier in the day Saturday, Boehner had gone before the TV cameras to say that House Republicans would not agree to a bill “that bails out Wall Street at the expense of American taxpayers.”

"Somebody, maybe it was Einstein, said things should be done as quickly as possible, but no quicker than possible," said Blunt, who added: "We're not moving on any kind of artificial timeline. We're moving toward the very best solution in the shortest period of time."

But there was also a new sense of urgency to the negotiations Saturday – and increasing pressure on the House GOP.

President Bush pushed for a deal in his weekly radio address. The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal — influential with conservative Republicans — said a bailout was needed “to avoid a deeper downturn.”

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) warned publicly that another major U.S. bank was “teetering” on the edge of failure, and Republican Senate leaders — plus GOP Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.), John Sununu (N.H.) and Gregg — laid out doomsday scenarios in a Republican Senate Conference meeting.

Sources said Saturday afternoon that as many as 40 Republican senators were prepared to vote for the emerging bailout deal if bankruptcy and social spending provisions are dropped. And while McConnell was not yet ready to abandon House Republicans — or McCain — sources said his views might change if there were still no deal by Sunday evening.

For his part, McCain – fresh off his debate with Obama in Mississippi – spent Saturday calling House Republicans to test support for the rescue plan, according to one lawmaker who was contacted. In addition to President Bush and Paulson, the McCain campaign said the Arizona senator had been in touch with McConnell, Gregg, Sen. Jon Kyl, Boehner, Blunt and nine other House Republicans.

As his colleagues worked on the deal at the Capitol Saturday night, McCain and his wife, Cindy, dined with Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, at Cafe Mozu inside Washington’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Obama was at a dinner in Washington for the Congressional Black Caucus. Earlier in the day, his campaign said, he had talked by phone four times with Paulson and had made calls to Pelosi, Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others involved in the negotiations.

Correction: Based on an erroneous pool report, an earlier version of this story said that the McCains and the Liebermans dined at CityZen Saturday night. In fact, they ate at Café Mozu, a less formal restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

26 September 2008

McCain Wins Debate - THIS MORNING

McCain Wins Debate

Although the fate of tonight's presidential debate in Mississippi remains very much up in the air, John McCain has apparently already won it -- if you believe an Internet ad an astute reader spotted next to this piece in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal this morning.

"McCain Wins Debate!" declares the ad which features a headshot of a smiling McCain with an American flag background. Another ad spotted by our eagle-eyed observer featured a quote from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis declaring: "McCain won the debate-- hands down."

Here's the screenshot.

By Chris Cillizza | September 26, 2008; 10:40 AM ET | Category: Eye on 2008
Previous: Friday House Line: The Top 25! | Next: McCain Blinks

John McCain: Drop Trou During The Debate!

Mr. McCain has wisely deigned to grace the viewing public with his presence. We need to hear from the putative next President of the United States. But given the events of the last week, I thought that Mr. McCain should signal that his campaign is back up and running, officially, by pulling down his pants tonight to reveal the boxers he has on, simultaneous to answering Jim Lehrer's question about what to do about Russia. It will be the most important part of the debate.

This would be a perfectly fitting end to a week filled with madcap wackiness and misadventure. Witness the way in which Mrs. Palin was literally shielded in a virtual "Get Smart" cone of silence from the media, including FOX "News" and the New York Times, which was branded "not a journalistic organization" by the McCain campaign, along with MSNBC, NBC and a whole host of others. This stunt, repeated in only a few countries in the world, like North Korea, was followed in apparently due course by the "suspension" of his entire campaign, which was in actuality a pretty smart move: if I was running that campaign, I would want Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin to hole up in southern West Virginia, eating only steamed gopher and moonshine until November 5. The suspension was based upon Mr. McCain's desire to put "country first" and then going to Washington, only to learn that he (and Mr. Obama) were only in the way.

But the kicker was when Mr. McCain decided to bail out of the debate which is scheduled for one hour from now. He pledged that he wouldn't come back to the campaign and would not debate until the Congress put the finishing touches on the "bailout" plan that has been floating about for the past few days. Sure enough, though, neither the Presidential Debate Commission which manages the scheduling of the debates nor the Obama campaign, was having any of this monkeyshines.

I know that John McCain is a maverick. He will never give up. Tonight, as Jim Lehrer of PBS asks him a question on what he'd do in retaliation on Russia for the shenanigans they are presently undertaking in Venezuela, I predict that Mr. McCain can only do the one thing that he hasn't tried yet: dropping trou right then and there in front of the estimated 100 million people who are expected to watch, live. Mr. McCain will tell the world just exactly what he'd tell Vladimir (the Impaler) Putin: "eat my shorts". It's time for some comic relief, don't you think? This will provide it to all of us.

As for me, I plan on going to shul and putting the debate on the DVR. Or maybe I'll watch the Cubs play the Brewers. That contest means something. The Presidential campaign is a waste of time and it speaks loudly to the notion that we ought to have a parliamentary system like they do in Britain. I don't care what McCain has to say. He is irrelevant. I can't stand even watching him any more. He's just a pitiful sight, to match that of his running mate. Pitiful. Except I don't feel sorry for either of them. If he wanted to put "country first", he would go on national television and admit defeat and let Barack Obama assume the presidency by acclimation so that the country can have some immediate leadership. McCain has to know he's not qualified to do the job.

Mrs. Robinson

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know
(Wo wo wo)
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
(Hey hey hey – hey hey hey)

We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files
We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home

And here’ to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know
(Wo wo wo)
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
(Hey hey hey – hey hey hey)

Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes
Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes
It’s a little secret, just the Robinson’s affair
Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids

Coo coo ca choo, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know
(Wo wo wo)
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
(Hey hey hey – hey hey hey)

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it you lose

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
(Woo woo woo)
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson
‘Joltin Joe’ has left and gone away?
(Hey hey hey – hey hey hey)

It's a bleak time in American economic and political history. Let's just hope McCain's boxers have little ants all over them. Or hearts. Yes, I like hearts.

Randy Shiner

25 September 2008

Sarah Silverman: "Tell Your Racist Jewish Grandparents To Vote Obama"

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Here is a humorous video from Sarah Silverman on behalf of The Great Schlep. What is The Great Schlep, you ask? Why, it's a Jewish Counsel for Education and Research project to have hip young kids convince their elderly Floridian grandparents to vote for Barack Obama in that crucial state. This video is actually pretty funny and effective—certainly more effective than saying something like, "If Sarah Palin isn't enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention. Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through," as Rep. Alcee Hastings did this morning—so it just might work! In which case, expect a Pat Buchanan victory come November.
By Alex Balk 09/25/08 11:36 AM
File Under: Barack Obama, Clip of the Day, Politics, Pop, Sarah Silverman

The Bailout - Steven Colbert

Atlas Shrugs: A note from a Jew Beaten in Germany.......

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Atlas Shrugs: A note from a Jew Beaten in Germany.......

Pamela at Atlas Shrugs posts a note from a Jew who participated at the Anti-Islamization rally in Cologne Germany. The guy was beaten up by the black shirts who commandered the streets from the city of Cologne. KGS

Pamela: I am waiting on the first person account from one of the Jews beaten at the anti-Islam rally. He wrote me this note in the interim unsolicited. It broke my heart:

"Give me one day more, I have a broken rib and will need to go to hospital in Paris this morning as I have only just arrived from Germany. After which I will send over an article of the events of Friday and Saturday.

I just want to tell you that I very much appreciate what you do over there in America. It has made such an impact and I think that it contributes to the overall moral fiber in America that we in Europe are so without. I am jealous of your environment. The fact that you can still do battle with words is the distant past for us. Here Jews and ethnic Europeans are locked in a violent struggle. Please take heed of this. It pains me to admit that Jews here are forced to such vulgar actions as forming "gangs" in order to survive and protect ourselves from you know who.

Fighting has become a way of life for us here now. Isn't it strange how just sixty years later, Jews are once again fighting for survival in Europe? Only this time we aren't going quietly. And this time we are standing together with our ethnic European brothers who still care about what is right. I will tell you this Pamela, our men are strong and our women even stronger. We will see this thing through.

I will move to Israel when it suits me, I WILL NOT RUN TO ISRAEL. Anyway I will shut up now and let you get back to work. Look out for my report in 24 hours."

Posted by KGS at 7:59 PM

Labels: Anti-Islamization, Atlas Shrugs, Cologne, Counterjihad

24 September 2008

John McCain's Theme Song

Palin Meets World Leaders, Won't Take Questions From Media

Voice from a booth, not knowing whether to laugh or cry: does not the picture of Sarah Palin with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari look like all those other photos you've seen of your relatives with some politico? Looking all sheepish and "gee golly, what am I supposed to do now" look, I mean. She looks so out of her element in that photo which was published by the VOA, which is, I thought, a governmental agency. The other thing is that the poor President of Pakistan doesn't know quite what to make of the situation, either. He's thinking: "Did this lady win a contest?" If this was the best shot of Mrs. Palin and the Pakistani President, imagine what others must've looked like. I'm just saying... rs

Palin Meets World Leaders, Won't Take Questions From Media

24 September 2008

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin met her first-ever heads of state during a whirlwind, tour on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Palin sat down for brief talks with leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Colombia and Iraq in what her advisers called an effort to "build relationships." Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that her meetings were overshadowed by controversy after she refused to answer any questions from reporters.

Palin, the running mate of Republican Senator John McCain, has been dogged by critics and Democrats for her lack of foreign policy experience. She first acquired a passport in 2007 and has traveled abroad just once.

She has been carefully shielded from the media since she was added to the Republican ticket in August. In four weeks of campaigning she has not held a single news conference and has only given two television interviews.

On Tuesday, Palin met her first head of state when she sat down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. She also met with Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe and former Republican Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Sarah Palin meets Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari in New York, 24 Sep 2008
Sarah Palin meets Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari in New York, 24 Sep 2008
On Wednesday she and Senator McCain met with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili, who thanked McCain for speaking out after Russia's invasion last month. Palin also held talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Pakistan's new president Asif Ali Zardari and was slated to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U2 singer and activist, Bono.

But at no time did Palin field questions from the press on her eetings.

For a short time, her advisers attempted to ban reporters from attending the meeting at all, saying only cameras were allowed in the room. But, after the five major television networks threatened to boycott coverage, the McCain campaign relented, allowing a single reporter and a bevy of photographers into the meetings for about 30 seconds.

Members of the press and Democrats accuse the McCain campaign of shielding Palin from the media. Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, told CNN it is time to for the vice presidential candidate to answer unscripted questions.

"If your purpose is to show that Governor Palin can hold her own during talks with major international figures, then let her hold her own," said Paul Begala. "Don't exclude the press, don't keep questions from being asked, don't coddle her."

Analysts said the McCain campaign has sought to bolster Palin's image through the quick succession of meetings with the foreign leaders. A Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, defended Palin's reticence to speak to the press. She told Fox News that she believes the Alaska governor has a better handle on international affairs than she is given credit for.

"I know that she keeps up with things and frankly I don't think it's necessary to study at an elite institution to understand some of the workings of the world," said Marsha Blackburn.

Palin's meetings come a week before her first vice presidential debate with Democratic counterpart Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and a noted foreign policy expert.

"W." The Movie - Coming in October

This seems very relevant today, when for only the third time in his career, George W. Bush addressed the nation in prime time. The other times as I recall (somebody tell me if I am wrong) were after 9/11/01 and right before the Iraq War. If you can't see the YouTube Video below, you should click the link of the title of this post. Thanks.

Randy Shiner

Springtime for Hitler - "The Producers" 1968 - Redux

In a twisted way, this seems to have more relevance today than when I first posted it about three weeks ago. Click on the link that contains the title of this post if you do not see the YouTube video below. Thanks.

Randy Shiner

Impending Nuke Attack? Red Wine 'Can Help

I thought that everyone could use some good news this week.

Randy Shiner

Impending nuke attack? Red wine 'can help'
24 Sep, 2008, 1331 hrs IST, PTI

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LONDON: Red wine is being widely touted for its health benefits. Now, add one more to the list - the popular drink may also protect you against a nuclear attack.

A new study has revealed that resveratol, the natural antioxidant commonly present in red wine, offers protection against radiation exposure by preventing any kind of damage to the body's cells.

Researchers, led by the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine, have based their findings on analysis of the effect of radiation on laboratory mice who were given red wine.

In fact, they found that red wine when combined with the chemical acetyl and administered before radiation exposure protected the cells and helped prevent death of the mice, media reported.

According to the researchers, the findings could lead to drugs to counteract poisoning in the wake of a nuclear attack.
Lead researcher Dr Joel Greenberger said: "New, small molecules with radioprotective capacity will be required for treatment in case of radiation spills or even as counter measures against radiological terrorism.

"Small molecules which can be easily stored, transported and administered are optimal for this, and so far acetylated resveratrol fits these requirements well. Currently there are no drugs on the market that protect against or counteract radiation exposure."

The study was overseen by Pitt's Centre for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation, which is dedicated to finding radiation protectors that can be administered in the event of a large-scale radiological or nuclear emergency.