Naomi Klein, did we watch the same election?

July 31, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Ok, I need to unload on Naomi Klein’s column in the Guardian today.  Normally,  I really like Klein and appreciate her thorough and unique analysis.  But, the fundamentals of her latest argument on the Sarah Palin movement and what it means for American capitalism are anything but strong.

She asks :

…consider for a moment: what if [the bailout] actually works, what if the financial sector is saved and the economy returns to the course it was on before the crisis struck? Is that what we want? And what would that world look like? The answer is that it would look like Sarah Palin…

Think about it, Sarah Palin stepped on to the world stage as vice-presidential candidate on 29 August 2008 at a McCain campaign rally. Two weeks later, on 15 September, Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering the global financial meltdown.

So in a way Palin was the last clear expression of capitalism-as-usual before everything went south…

The problem with this argument is timeline and perception.  Palin wasn’t the last healthy expression of capitalism-as-usual because the system had been in freefall for months before Palin ever stepped on the scene.  Look at the timeline from early 2008:

From Wikipedia:

January 2–21 2008 : January 2008 stock market downturn.

January 24 2008: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announces that 2007 had the largest drop in existing home sales in 25 years, and “the first price decline in many, many years and possibly going back to the Great Depression.”

March 14 2008: Bear Stearns gets Fed funding as shares plummet.

March 16 2008: Bear Stearns is acquired for $2 a share by JPMorgan Chase in a fire sale avoiding bankruptcy. The deal is backed by the Federal Reserve, providing up to $30B to cover possible Bear Stearn losses.

June 19 2008: Ex-Bear Stearns fund managers arrested by the FBI for their allegedly fraudulent role in the subprime mortgage collapse. The managers purportedly misrepresented the fiscal health of their funds to investors publicly while privately withdrawing their own money.

September 7 2008 : Federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which at that point owned or guaranteed about half of the U.S.’s $12 trillion mortgage market, effectively nationalizing them. This causes panic because almost every home mortgage lender and Wall Street bank relied on them to facilitate the mortgage market and investors worldwide owned $5.2 trillion of debt securities backed by them.

September 14 2008: Merrill Lynch is sold to Bank of America amidst fears of a liquidity crisis and Lehman Brothers collapse.

September 15 2008: Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy protection.

By Klein’s account, you would think Sarah’s system was a healthy one that failed in a freak accident just 2 weeks after her nomination. Rather, the health of our economic system was on life support, gasping for air, long before McCain and his sidekick were confidently declaring the fundamentals of our economy were strong.

Klein acknowledges that McCain and Palin’s optimistic view of the economy were lies:

“This is the most comforting and dangerous lie that there is: the lie that perpetual, unending growth is possible on our finite planet. And we have to remember that this message was incredibly popular in those first two weeks, before Lehman collapsed. Despite Bush’s record, Palin and McCain were pulling ahead. And if it weren’t for the financial crisis, and for the fact that Obama started connecting with working-class voters by putting deregulation and trickle-down economics on trial, they might have actually won.”

Um, did we not watch the same election?  This is the most off base, revisionist explanation of the last 2 months of the 2008 election I’ve seen yet.  And it’s another example of how some in the media cherry pick and shoehorn historical events to fit their line of argument.  Palin didn’t represent or inspire a movement of followers because they full-heartedly supported McCain’s platform.  If you look at the poll data, those who were asked if their vote was more a vote for McCain or a vote AGAINST Obama, said theirs was a vote against Obama.  I think Palin’s influence was inflated by the media because she reinvigorated a ticket desperate for some flair and excitement. She gave the media the horserace they had been routing for.

Also, never in the election could one reasonably argue that McCain was pulling ahead despite Bush’s record.  Just look at the list of the national polls going back to March 2008, showing the head to head match up between Obama and McCain.  Obama commands a clear lead in the majority of national polls from March to the end of the election.  McCain enjoyed a small and short bounce after the RNC and the Palin nomination.  That’s reflected in  AP and Ipsos polls in early September.  CNN had them tied. But that bounce faded by around September 12-16. And, it’s important to note that that bump started to fade just before McCain’s infamous “fundamentals of our economy are strong” line.  Also, if you look at the type of ads Obama’s campaign ran in the last two months, they painted McCain as a politician in lockstep with the policies of George W. Bush. McCain and Palin never “pulled ahead” despite Bush’s record.  It was because of him and Obama’s capitalization of that poor record that McCain and Palin failed.

To Klein’s main point that now is the opportunity to reform our financial system to one that does not necessitate bailouts in the future, I agree.  It’s the flawed evidence she uses to make this point that I had to address.

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Pheeeeeeew!

July 22, 2009 at 11:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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steele

Just watching TPM’s Day in 100 seconds and noticed this banner that popped up during a healthcare debate on Morning Joe with Michael Steele.

Dough Boy explains tantrum

July 22, 2009 at 10:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Cocksure analogies

July 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Reflecting on Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker now, wondering why Gladwell chose to use the failed British-led invasion of Gallipoli in WWI as an analogy to the downfall of Bear Stearns.  As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but imagine using the search and replace tool to swap all references to Gallipoli with Iraq.  The similarities are so striking, I wondered why Gladwell didn’t just use Iraq to make his case?  In some cases, Iraq and Bush proved an even closer analogy to Bear, for instance, “of the twenty-one workdays” in one month, Bear Stearns CEO, Jimmy Cayne “was out of the office for nearly half of them.” (Cue mental images of Bush golfing, Bush in a golf cart, Bush clearing brush.) Perhaps the choice to use Gallipoli was an effort to avoid the obvious?  Maybe, but as you read on, it seems Gladwell is almost urging the reader to see Iraq in Gallipoli, the real, but unspoken analogy to Bear–the analogy behind the analogy if you will.  It’s actually a quite brilliant, literary move by Gladwell if that was his intention.  Quite a good read, so give it a look!

In the house

July 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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in the house

The Plan of Attack

July 13, 2009 at 11:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sotomayor heads into Day 1 of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing.  Here’s a break down of the Republican plan of attack and how the Dems plan to respond (via Roll Call)

Repubs: plan to parse her every word, paint her as an activist judge based on painstaking, detailed scrutiny of everything she’s ever written or said.  The big three legal issues they’ll focus on are: gun rights, affirmative action and the death penalty. Repubs will criticize her for what they consider is an overly narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment and an overly broad view on civil rights.

Dems:  plan to highlight her moderate approach to the law and emphasize her strong support from law enforcement organizations.  They’ll employ a “rapid-response-style messaging strategy to counter any GOP criticism” But, of course it call comes down to the woman of the hour.  It’s an absolute MUST that Sotomayor “avoid language that would incite her opposition.”

Remnick on Obama’s Speech in Russia

July 11, 2009 at 11:51 am | Posted in Barack Obama | Leave a comment
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Listening to the “Political Scene” on the New Yorker website (you can find it on the top left), where David Remnick explains why Obama’s speech in Russia did not have the same level of engagement as his speeches in Prague and Cairo:

“Russian controlled television which is everything in the media did not show this speech…the Arab world, the Muslim world saw Obama’s speech, heard Obama’s speech live, and repeated times throughout the whole region, and it made a big impact not just in Cairo but arguably even in Iran, who knows….the problem was the tree fell in the forest and not many heard it.”

Why Ghana

July 11, 2009 at 10:57 am | Posted in Barack Obama | Leave a comment
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Good analysis from BBC’s Martin Plaut:

For Ghanaians, there is little doubt that they deserve to be Mr Obama’s first real African destination since assuming office. Nigeria was not really suitable, given the question marks over the way in which President Umaru Yar’Adua was elected. Kenya, home of Mr Obama’s father, experienced post-election violence. Ethiopia has jailed the leader of the opposition, and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma is new in the post and something of an unknown quantity.
Not only is Ghana clearly democratic, but it has some of the African oil on which the US increasingly depends, and there is the symbolic link with slavery, from which so many African-Americans trace their heritage. So Ghana ticks Mr Obama’s boxes – a suitable stage on which to launch the president’s Africa policy on the continent itself.

Oooh La La

July 10, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Barack Obama | Leave a comment
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London News Update

July 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It would be practically a crime not to post on what was a major story in London papers today:

Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims

read the story here

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