And the hits just keep on comin'...

Well, the good news is that the American people are pretty pissed off about this whole bailout deal and will probably go medieval on pretty much any politician who actually votes for it. Which doesn't mean Democrats won't still be suckered -- they are, as has been famously said, experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory -- but perhaps there's hope.

The latest developments:

  • People have gotten suspicious about the timing and the push to get the bailout approved. Turns out there might be even more reason to be outraged. For one thing, apparently this plan was put together months ago. Kind of puts the lie to the whole "this is an emergency" notion, huh?
  • The bailout included not just banks in trouble, but banks that aren't in any trouble and are, in fact, quite flush. And, as if that weren't already ::headdesk::-worthy, it included foreign banks. That sound you heard was the collective "WHAT THE HOLY HOPPING FUCK?" voiced 'round the world.
  • Paulson told Congress that of course they want oversight! Despite the, you know, article in their proposed bailout that said expressly the opposite. In other news, Happy Opposite Day!
Some quick reads about why this entire "crisis" could very well be manufactured:


More financial crisis reading

It's like a car wreck -- I can't turn away.

A lot of those people will have to sell their homes, they're going to cut back on the private jets and the vacations. They may even have to take their kids out of private school," said Frank. "It's a total reworking of their lifestyle."

He added that it's going to be no easy task.

"It's going to be very hard psychologically for these people," Frank said. "I talked to one guy who had to give up his private jet recently. And he said of all the trials in his life, giving that up was the hardest thing he's ever done.

What an appalling lack of self-awareness these people display.

  • But even in their tragedy, they've got their eyes on the prize; they're making demands that any lightening of the draconian bankruptcy changes passed a few years ago will be a deal breaker. Charming, no? -- Finance industry lobbyists get to work
And on the subject of taxes and which candidate's plan is going to affect yours, here's a handy widget the non-partisan Tax Policy Center put together to get an idea of whether your taxes will go up or down under either Obama's plan or McCain's plan. (With all the usual caveats about it being a basic information tool, specifics are different, more complicated, yada yada.) I played around with it a bit and it's interesting to note that the bracket at which your taxes go up instead of down under Obama's plan? Somehwhere between the $200,000 and the $500,000 income bracket. Which eliminates -- you guessed it -- about 95% of taxpayers.

Lastly, just because I thought it was incredibly insightful, a comment posted on a Political Animal post about healthcare:

this election is a watershed moment that was on the horizon since the foundation of the republic. America will have a choice for president between a bafoon and a supremely intelligent candidate who happens to be African-American.

And the country will be forced to stake its future on one of its two founding principles, meritocracy or racism.


This morning:

Paulson said that "it pains me tremendously to have the American taxpayer put in this position but it is better than the alternative."

Both Paulson and President Bush have argued that the alternative would be credit markets that remain frozen, meaning that businesses will fail because they can't get the loans they need to operate and the economy will grind to a halt because consumers won't be able to get loans to make the purchases that keep the economy moving forward."

So basically, "Our economy is so fucked up that it depends entirely on everyone spending money they don't have, so to make sure this house of cards doesn't come crashing down, we need to remove cards from the bottom and balance it all on a single card. Then turn on a fan."


You suppose Prozac will help with this Depression?

I'm supposed to be working right now -- and I'm going to regret this when it's 2 AM tonight and I'm trying to make up the time I'm taking here -- but after watching our financial system essentially dissolve in the span of five days...well, I have a lot to say.

If you're not terrified about the future right now, you are stupid.

Let me repeat that: If you're not contemplating how you can change your lifestyle to survive in an economy that might very well disintegrate, then you are dumber than a bag of fucking hammers.

Since I know that you guys are, in fact, quite intelligent people, I know that you're paying attention and you know that what has happened in the last week is pretty goddamn scary. But with the release of the preliminary plan for the bailout, things have taken a turn from bad to worse.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.
[Note: I'm mostly linking to blogs that summarize the source articles of information, rather than the articles themselves. Although I think you should definitely read the articles quoted for yourself, the summaries provided in the blog posts I'm linking boil it down to something much more understandable when we're talking about high-flying financial concepts that are confusing (and that it turns out, even the vaunted financial experts don't really understand themselves, which is part of what got us into this mess). These are blogs I've been reading for years and thus, I trust their insight and opinions. But as always, I encourage everyone to find out facts for themselves and develop your own opinions.]

First, the best summary of where we're at this week was posted by Atrios a few days ago:

Through this crisis, there's this underlying narrative that something can be done, that there's just a wee liquidity problem. But underlying all of this is the fact that banks made a bunch of stupid loans which aren't being repaid. A bunch of people made highly leveraged investments in securities backed by those loans. A bunch of other people sold insurance on those securities and related debt.

Lots of money is being lost and there isn't any way to fix that.

The fundamental fact is this: buying up the assets to bail out these companies and keep our economy from tanking completely, for however much we pay, isn't going to fix anything because those assets aren't worth anything. Or put more correctly, the amount of debt owed on them is due to a hyperinflated market on crack, and the assets that back those values (houses/property) are not going to suddenly regain those imaginary cracktastic values again. Not only that, buying up the assets of these failed companies is predicated on the idea that we'll be able to make the money back as people/companies pay back what they owe. But they won't. They might pay back some, but they're in the same boat the rest of us are: they hold loans on property that is worth far less than they owe on it, far outside their abililty to pay, in a credit market that's seized up, a job market that's a minefield of uncertainty, and more than 25 years of government deregulation that pushes all of the liability onto the government, raising their taxes.

This thing was a looooong time in coming. Real estate values have been overpriced for years and should've popped much sooner, given the other economic factors going on. And in fact, I was reading in 2004 and 2005 that the people whose opinions I trusted expected the bubble to pop sometime in 2005 or 2006. When that didn't happen, they all seemed kind of puzzled, and the bubble just kept growing far past what any realistic market correction should've allowed.

What they (and I, because of them) started to understand around 2006 was that the bubble was being artificially maintained by policies and rollbacks that no real economic model can predict. You know why they can't predict those conditions? Because to do so, they have to operate on an underlying assumption that the economic actors involved are deranged. Since no economic model is predicated on this idea, and the idea is inherently impossible to model, all bets were off as to when it would crash.

Not if, but when. Because sooner or later, the crash would come. The markets could be artificially inflated and defy the natural predictions of ecconomics, but eventually, economic evolution would assert itself. And just like a drug addict on a binge, it turns out the only thing that was going to stop this out-of-control car was a brick wall called Reality, that we'd have to hit rock bottom before we could hope to turn things around. Hence the ever-ramping speculative markets, the increasingly bad mortgage instruments on outright bad/no credit, etc. etc., the ridiculously out-of-touch profit expectations, the exponential explosion of credit and simultaneous negative growth of savings, the volatility of the market and the dollar, the irrational exuburance, the delusional quarterly forecasts.... We've been playing a game of musical chairs and the music was playing so fast that everyone's just racing around a single chair hoping to be the one to grab that last seat when the music finally stopped. Turns out, not only are there a whole bunch of people and only one chair, we're finding out that there was no chair.

Among other things, turns out that the SEC, which is supposed to regulate this industry (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) pretty much handed the aforementioned drug addict an 8-ball and the keys to the car:
As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years -- as well as the massive current unwind.

Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.

You read that right -- the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1. Instead, the 2004 exemption -- given only to 5 firms -- allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.

Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won't be surprised to learn that they were Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.

As Mr. Pickard points out that "The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up."

So while the SEC runs around reinstating short selling rules, and clueless pension fund managers mindlessly point to the wrong issue, we learn that it was the SEC who was in large part responsible for the reckless leverage that led to the current crisis.

You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
Although Matthew Gross does go on to note something that I fervently hope is true:

This point may be lost on the average voter, but it is firmly grasped by millions of the pro-business Republicans that John McCain needs to win the White House.

Add to that their disgust at the reckless and seemingly random government intervention in the markets, and you have the makings for a major backlash among a critical segment of the Republicans [business] base this November.

It's no wonder McCain's post-convention bounce this week plummeted faster than the Dow on Monday. Bush has bankrupted this country -- the Republicans have wrecked America -- and the end result for the GOP is a coalition in complete tatters and disarray.

Funny what eight years of plundering by the masters of the universe will do to a country, eh?

Indeed, if there's some good news to be had out of all of this, it's that McCain has been flailing around all week, trying to figure out what he can say that won't get his head handed to him. He has NEVER been interested in market regulation, and his entire economic advisory staff consists of true believers in the so-called unfettered market. If we're very, very lucky, we can finally consider the Republican "fiscally responsible" zombie well and truly dead.

Okay, so it's bad. And no one's happy about the government bailing out the fat cat crooks who ran their companies into the ground and are walking away with their golden parachutes intact. But judging from the market response yesterday, it seems to've calmed the freefall we saw on Wall street, and that's good news, right?

Well sure, if you're rich and you're a Republican and you're one of those fat cat crooks, it's great news! For the rest of us, not so much. And for more than the obvious reasons. For one thing, the people in charge of fixing things don't seem to really get the nature of the problem. Atrios again:

This has been the problem all along, the pretense that all problems are just liquidity problems. Until another bank goes under. Then, well, they were bad, but for everyone else it's just a liquidity problem!

Again, the problem is that lots of bad loans were made, lots of people made highly leveraged investments in those bad loans, and still more people bet on those loans by insuring them. The loans are bad. The mortgages are not going to be repaid in full. Housing prices are not going to magically shoot up 50% over the next 6 months. People gambled and lost and now the Democrats are racing to bail them all out.

I don't have enough information to really know what should be done, but I do know that the people talking about the problem are largely still misdiagnosing it. If they don't know what the problem actually is, or if they're being dishonest about it, the solution is unlikely to be a good one.

Now, it's entirely possible, as Kevin Drum lays out a pretty good case for, that in order for any bailout to work, they have to first determine the size of the problem.

The purpose of the bailout, then, isn't to recapitalize the banks, it's to put a firm value on the toxic sludge once and for all. Maybe it's a dime on the dollar, maybe it's 50 cents on the dollar. Whatever. When that's done, some banks will turn out to be insolvent, and perhaps they'll be allowed to fail. Others will turn out to be in bad shape but still solvent, and they'll continue doing business. Once that's sorted out, the commercial paper market will loosen back up since everyone will know who it's safe to loan money to and who it's not.

Which is entirely possible, and if that's the case, then Bernanke and Paulson are far more capable managers than I would've given Bush appointees credit for. But considering today's announcement about their proposed bailout plan, I think it's safe to say that once a Bush Administration toadie, always a Bush Administration toadie. As Matthew Gross puts it:
The bankers have put a loaded gun to Congress' collective head and asked for the taxpayer's wallets.

Paul Krugman does a very nice, succinct summary of the proposal which I highly, highly recommend you read. And not only does the new deal propose a $700 billion blank check from the Treasury, but "this bill also appears to constitute the greatest transfer of political power from the Congressional to the Executives Branches ... Possibly ever". The "Shock Doctrine" portion of the proposal is boiled down these three important points:
  1. The broad reading of the Secretary's power: so long as s/he claims to be acting pursuant to this statute, there is no limit nor review of their authority.
  2. It appears that entering into crony-capitalist, no-bid contracts a la Iraq and New Orleans, are part of the authority.
  3. The Secretary's power is unreviewable, not by the legislature, not by any administrative agency, and not by the Courts.
Right up to the end, the Bush Administration will stop at nothing to take any and all power. There are no words in the English language to adequately desribe how despicable and evil these people are. They are thoroughly corrupt and vile and they feed like the parasite from Alien on the body politic of the United States:

Second, whatever else is true, the events of the last week are the most momentous events of the Bush era in terms of defining what kind of country we are and how we function -- and before this week, the last eight years have been quite momentous, so that is saying a lot. Again, regardless of whether this nationalization/bailout scheme is "necessary" or makes utilitarian sense, it is a crime of the highest order -- not a "crime" in the legal sense but in a more meaningful sense.

What is more intrinsically corrupt than allowing people to engage in high-reward/no-risk capitalism -- where they reap tens of millions of dollars and more every year while their reckless gambles are paying off only to then have the Government shift their losses to the citizenry at large once their schemes collapse? We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded.

A few further notes:

If you bank through WaMu, you've probably considered switching banks, and that probably isn't a bad idea. But if you bank through Bank of America, you should consider switching banks, too. "But wait," you say. "Didn't they just purchase Merrill Lynch? Doesn't that mean they're actually in a pretty good position, since they're able to take advantage of the market conditions and buy up a pretty major institution for a song?" Well, yes. But remember, our economy has been in the charge of lunatics for the last 8 years, and crooks for more than 20. Which is how you get decisions like this:

But Bernanke and Paulson are really going all in on this, they're letting banks play with depositor money:

"The Fed added that it was suspending a rule that normally prohibits deposit-taking banks from using deposits to help finance their investment banking subsidiaries to allow them to fund activities normally funded in the repo market on a temporary basis until January 30 2009."

This is a dangerous game, because instead of firewalling that money away from investment subsidiaries, it allows banks to gamble that with depositor money they may be able to turn it around. This was exactly the sort of thing that Glass-Steagall was designed to make impossible - banks to not be in the brokerage business, insurance companies not in banking, and so on. Glass-Steagall was partially repealed in 1980 (part of what made possible the Savings and Loan fiasco), further parts in 99 under Clinton, and now the Fed has violated the fundamental principle that banks shouldn't be gambling with depositor money. Because, be real clear, if you don't really know how much in the hole you are, or how much further you could get, lending money to the unit that's in the hole is gambling.

And in fact, when Bank of America announced its purchase of Merrill Lynch, it announced that it would be funding the purchase largely with depositor funds. Which is, again, insane, but wouldn't potentially be disastrous. If what they were purchasing weren't itself a terrible purchase. They're gambling that it'll all work out in the end, but this week we've seen how those kinds of gambles have turned out so far. So, you know, if you're the gambling type, by all means...donate that money to B of A's Vegas Fund and tell them to put your money down on black. Hopefully you'll get your money back, but I wouldn't count on it.

Well, but your money is insured by the FDIC, right? Sure, but you may not want to put too much faith in that. From the same article:

It's also putting the FDIC (the organization which insures deposits) even more on the hook, and the FDIC does not have infinite money except in the sense that the Treasury can lend it infinite money. At this point the FDIC has about 50 billion. Banks have about 4.7 trillion in insured deposits. Yes, that's a bit of a gap.

And in fact just a day later, the AP reported that the FDIC fund is dwindling:

Eleven federally insured banks and thrifts have failed this year, including Pasadena, Calif.-based IndyMac Bank, by far the largest shut down by regulators.

Additional failures of large banks or savings and loans companies seem likely, and that could overwhelm the FDIC's insurance fund, said Brian Bethune, U.S. economist at consulting firm Global Insight.

"We've got a ... retail bank run forming in this country," said Christopher Whalen, senior vice president and managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Monday that the country's commercial banking system "is safe and sound" and that "the American people can be very, very confident about their accounts in our banking system." FDIC officials also have said 98 percent of U.S. banks still meet regulators' standards for adequate capital.

But fear is growing on Main Street as well as Wall Street about the likelihood of multiple bank failures and the strain that would put on the FDIC.

The fund, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year with a "Face Your Finances" campaign, is at $45.2 billion — the lowest level since 2003. At the same time, the number of troubled banks is at a five-year high.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has not ruled out the possibility of going to the Treasury for a short-term loan at some point. But she has said she does not expect the FDIC to take the more drastic action of using a separate $30 billion credit line with Treasury — something that has never been done.

Heck, after reading that, your mattress is starting to look like a much safer place to stash your money, isn't it? Well, that's probably going overboard -- and panicking about the health of your bank can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is what happened when the market crashed in 1929 and there were catastrophic runs on the bank. So I wouldn't want to make anyone panic and I am the LAST person you should take financial advice from.

Okay and if you were thinking T-bills...well, so was everyone else:

And the flight from bank debt to safe treasury debt is in such full flight that U.S. treasury bonds now have a negative return, the first time that's ever happened.

Oh, but it's not ALL doom and gloom. If you're a football soccer fan, you'll be excited to learn that as a part owner of AIG, you are now a sponsor of Manchester United. Of course, they're not doing so well this season, but still, how many people can say they sponsor a world-class soccer team?

Well, about 250 million Americans, I guess.

I thought we could all use an injection of hope right about now

I love this picture. This man has to be our President.


Sarah Palin hates women

So you may or may not have heard the Sarah Palin rape kit story, but whether you have or haven't, you should take a few minutes to do this.

I've been following the rape kit story for a couple of weeks now. At first, I was horrified, but then I thought, "Well, she wasn't the one who actually cut them from the budget..." Trying to be reasonable, you know. Then I learned that she spoke out specifically against the Alaska Legislature when it passed its bill to make her town's practice illegal, angry with them for interfering with her decisions. (The fact that the Legislature passed the bill specifically to address a single city in their state -- Wasilla was the only place this horrible practice was done -- was lost on her.)

And then I learned something else.

Alaska has the highest reported sexual assault rate in the country. Not "one of" the highest. THE highest. More than 2.5x the national average, in fact. And Wasilla has consistently been at or near the top for the state. Childhood sexual assault and incest in Alaska is also one of the highest in the country. Alaska continuously ranks in the top five for the highest domestic violence rate in the country. It has the highest homicide rate of women in the country. (stats here: http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/ipems/injury_prevention/akfvpp/bkgnd.htm)

And of course, she fired the guy who was leading the charge in protecting all those women and children and who was trying to make things better for them. Because he wouldn't fire her ex brother-in-law. (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/16/11402/8612/999/600050)

But why would she make women pay for their own rape kits? I mean, sure, she needed the money for herself to get paid for living at home, but the rape kit thing seems sorta like a gimme...surely she knew it would open her up to criticism? Well, turns out her scary religious views may have played a role:


Speculation, of course, but entirely in line with the particular brand of Christian dominionism she belongs to. They just love cramming their beliefs down everyone else's throats.

But get this: did you know Joe Biden is one of the leading proponents of legislation against domestic violence? That he is, in fact, a crusader on this issue? That one of his highest achievements was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which gave the feds the authority to enforce domestic violence laws and flooded local police departments with funds specifically earmarked for combating domestic violence? He's one of the good guys, you guys. Literally.


Ray of sunshine in a hurricane of bad news

Well, the economy is imploding and we may all be on the barter system soon, but here's some good news: Sarah Palin's popularity is fading and McCain's numbers are slipping! Huzzah!


Fun with hypotheticals!

We'll be doing a really terrific Second Saturday about abortion in the not-too-distant future (not October) that I've been working on and planning for quite some time. But in relation to a friend's question, I thought I'd share some food for thought that we'll be discussing when we do tackle that topic.

Want to have fun? Get into a debate with a rabid anti-choicer and pose the following scenarios to them:

  1. If abortion is illegal, then what should the penalty be for women who have one? Should they be charged with murder? If so, how long should their sentence be? Should there be a different level of punishment for women who abort for "unacceptable" reasons (poverty, not ready to be a parent, don't want kids, abusive situation, too many kids already, etc.) vs. women who abort for acceptable reasons (rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother)? If so, why? Also, what method will be used to determine the mother's reasons for committing the crime? Answers should be in essay format.
  2. A fertility clinic is on fire. You believe life begins at conception and thus, heroically charge in to save the thousands of frozen embryos about to be destroyed, when you discover a two year old child trapped inside the clinic. You only have time to save either the child or the thousands of frozen embryos. Which do you save? Why or why not? Show your work.

Scenario 1: Most anti-choicers recoil at the idea of charging women with murder, yet that's the logical progression of what they're advocating. If they're truly committed to the idea that abortion is murder, they should have no compunction with the logical consequences of murder. Additionally, if the woman's reasons for having an abortion can determine her punishment, then how can it be justified that abortion is the taking of an innocent life? After all, regardless of whether the woman aborted her pregnancy because she has too many mouths to feed or doesn't want to carry her father's child, it's not the fetus' fault how or why it was conceived, and murder is still murder. And although the law does allow the consideration of extenuating circumstances in determining punishment, it doesn't allow no punishment at all when a crime is committed. What would be the appropriate criminal punishment for an incest vicitm's abortion?

(If you do happen to get an anti-choicer who agrees the woman should be charged with murder...well, at least they're consistent. :)

Scenario 2: If they truly believe life begins at conception, there should be no reason to choose the child over the thousands of embryos.



I have lots of comments to make on here but I wanted to post some miscellaneous related links so I can clear them off my browser.

First, I came back from the coast to emails from friends who had all sent me the same two email forwards about Sarah Palin -- one a tirade from a famous playwright, the other a call to action by a group of women asking us to voice our objection -- which made me glad to see that they're getting such wide dispersion. It's not often that lefty viral emails get the same wide distribution that right wing nutso emails do, so keep sending those out, everyone. And here's one to add to your list. It's a terrific editorial by Anne Lamott that has infilitrated my f-list, I'm happy to say, so spread that one around, too.

(Oh, and don't forget to find out your Sarah Palin Baby Name! Mine is Chisel Dustup Palin. Awesome!)

Also in the vein of women standing up to object to Sarah Palin, here's a heartening firsthand report from the "Alaska Women Reject Palin" rally that took place Sunday. (The Mudflats blog, by the way, is your go-to source on all things Alaskan politics. It's the perfect example of citizen journalism, too. One day, this blogger is just laboring away on his (or her?) little-noticed blog about local Alaskan politics to a tiny readership. Then his state's governor is given the nod for the GOP VP and his comment threads skyrocket from 3 or 5 comments -- 30 on a busy day -- to 1500. It's thanks to the Mudflats blog that the liberal blogs had so much well-researched oppo info on Troopergate within hours of the announcement, among other things. Viva la revolucion!)

Speaking of Alaskan natives speaking out against Palin, my dear husband called me on the way to work to tell me to tune into Air America. Ed Schultz did a townhall type broadcast from Alaska today and boy, were people pissed off! Not at Ed, at Palin. It was a really terrific few hours of radio and I highly encourage you to listen to the podcast.

Lest we forget that Palin's appeal has rallied the base -- and how truly terrifying they can be, and what's at stake here -- they're making comparisons of Palin to Deborah of the Old Testament, the prophet who called herself "the mother of Israel" and led the Israelites to purge their land of invaders. Anyone who tells you that the right-wing Christians aren't on a crusade are deluding themselves or speaking in tongues.

But I've saved the best for last, to be sure we don't end on a down note. If you missed it Saturday night (like we did), here's the opening skit, in which Tina Fey (whom Palin has been described as looking like) and Amy Poehler make me question my sexual persuasion because OMG I LOVE THEM.


Healthcare for nobody!

Yeah, so next time you hear someone say they don't vote because the parties are both the same, and they're all corrupt? Or, OR! Someone opines that yeah, the American healthcare system sucks, but, you know, it's better than those pinko commie Canadians and Europeans with their government funded healthcare?

You, um...might want to share this little factoid with them that McCain? Wants to tax our healthcare benefits. You know, the benefits that already cost you an arm and a leg? Yeah, those.

Putting on the rosier glasses

So in counterpoint to my freakout in my previous post, I'm going to now give you some reasons to be optimistic. About the election, about the world, about people in general.

First, here's an op-ed putting the election in perspective. It addresses all our freaking out topics: "Palin's pushed Obama's coverage off the page!", "OMG they're big fat liars and blaming Obama for it!", "Why is Obama just sitting there and taking it?", "It's the Swiftboat Veterans all over again!", "HE'S DOWN IN THE POLLS OMG WE'RE GOING TO LOSE!". It's a good op-ed, and it's a quick read. You should read it.

And you know how I keep saying there's a lot that can happen between now and election day? Guess what you guys...there's A LOT that can happen between now and election day. Like, say, a scandal involving employees of big oil bribing Administration officials with sex and money in exchange for favors. Oh, this ought to be juicy. Now, I hear you saying, "But  , this is just the latest of the seventy gajillion scandals and crimes of this Administration, how will this catch everyone's attention when nothing else seems to?" Well, did I mention the sex? We might as well be dangling string in front of kittens. This country loves a good sex scandal. And it's two months before a major election. And both the GOP candidates are so immersed in the oil lobby that they're bathing in it. And also SEX, you guys. Should be good times.

Next is an analysis of a poll that shows that people's views of having religion injected into politics is shifting. The fundies are still as crazy and militant as ever, but everyone else is backing away from the pit of crazy. (Actually, judging from the numbers, they're running away as fast as they can.) So Palin, for all that she fires up the base, is very likely to scare the shit out of the rest of voters.  See for yourself.

And speaking of religion, for all that the right-wing Christian crazies seem to suck up all the oxygen in the room, there are actually lots and lots of really amazing and inspirational progressive Christian leaders and followers out there. Even if you're not a Christian, or particularly religious, you can find lots to be inspired by at the new progressive Christian blog community run by Christian Century. It's being headed by Gordon Atkinson, aka Real Live Preacher, one of my heroes and a huge, huge spiritual inspiration to me. They're worth your time.

In environmental news, there's a new site that can help you track your carbon footprint by helping you determine the footprint of the goods and services you purchase. It's still in the development stage, but could be a very helpful tool as we navigate our way toward living a more progressive life. Check it out.

Continuing in a scientific vein, if you haven't been following the Large Hadron Collider (and okay, maybe I'm the only one who's excited by the prospect of slamming protons into each other at incomprehensible rates of speed to simulate the Big Bang), you may not know that it was tested for the first time yesterday. And, AND! Despite worries by some (probably home-schooled religious freaks who wouldn't know science from a hole in the universe...hahahahaha, a little geek humor there) that the the LHC would create a black hole that would swallow the earth and kill us all...we're all still here! But lest you be concerned that that was only beginner's luck and that we might be sucked into the event horizon at any moment, there's a website just for you called hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheearthyet.com, which has up-to-date information on the status of our existence. So, you know...Has The Large Hadron Collider Destroyed The Earth Yet?


Freaking out

Is anyone else freaking out at how close this thing is, and how quickly the Republicans have taken the ball and run in the other direction?? I am seriously, seriously freaking out at how quickly the Obama campaign has lost control of the media narrative. This was my number one concern with Obama's candidacy, that he'd never faced the right wing smear machine in a full-on election. Even wresting against Clinton -- his most formidable opponent to that point -- is NOTHING compared to the GOP propaganda operation.

I'm tryng to temper my anxiety with the knowledge that races always tighten at this point, that the week and a half immediately following the conventions are always completely skewed, that it'll be a week or two before the polls will be an accurate snapshot, that the Palin candidacy is only two weeks old and there're plenty of skeletons ready to come tumbling out, that once the immediate frenzy dies down it'll still be scary and washed-out McCain vs. energetic and inspiring Obama...


But I remember 2004. I remember 2000. I remember -- VIVIDLY -- how it all went down in those last two months. I remember watching the debates with Kerry and Bush, and how incredibly awful Bush did, and when he didn't actually start eating his own shit or bite the head off live chickens, the media declared it a victory for him. The cynical panders, the transparent reliance on hate and fear, the outright lies, the ridiculous pearl clutching and salt smelling.

And I'm getting terrible, terrible bouts of deja vu, you guys.

I mean, it's early. There's a lot that's going to happen in the next two months, and all that stuff I said above about polls and skeletons and stuff is all still true. So I'm not depressed and I haven't given up. Indeed, far from it -- I'm pissed off and willing to do anything necessary to win.

But it's close. It's goddamn close. After 8 years of the worst administration since fucking Caligula, there's a very real possibility that we may lose this election. And part of the reason it's close is because our side never fucking learns.

ETA: And the media even knows it's being played, but still doesn't do anything to stop it.


Pining for a bygone era that never existed

I remember when we watched Jesus Camp and we were all a little bewildered about the obsession with abortion. I remember in the discussion that followed we all talked about that and someone asked me why abortion was singled out so much. Like, why abortion and not, say gay marriage? (I mean, obviously they're obsessed with gay marriage, too, but the way in which they tie everything to abortion is baffling and just plain weird.)

Well, I remember struggling to put into words what my thoughts are about why it's abortion that the fundies are so obsessed with. I couldn't really articulate my half-formed ideas on how it all fit together. But in a post on Pandagon a few days ago, Amanda Marcotte manages to pull it into one cohesive argument that finally coalesced my own thoughts on it for me, and gave me that "eureka!" moment that I've been struggling to get to for so long now.

I think she absolutely hits it on the head that abortion is really a gateway to a deeper, much larger issue for the people who are obsessed with trying to return to that mythical America that only exists in their fevered imaginations and Leave It To Beaver reruns. It's not so much abortion per se (although there's plenty in that issue alone for them to hang their hats on), but an entire feminist bingo extravaganza that has very little to do with saving every last blastocyst and everything to do with returning women to their rightful place. As she puts it so well:

But for the small cadre of hardcore anti-feminists, you have to understand that they’re deeply invested in a fantasy and in the fantasy that they can vote that fantasy into existence. That fantasy is, as cliched as it is to say, a fantasy version of the 1950s, where women knew their place and everyone was happy all the time.


And dismantling reproductive rights is the key to this fantasy. Topple that, topple feminism. There’s a weird logic to it---women generally maintain careers because they can limit their fertility and aren’t always taking time off to manage a brood of 5-10 kids. Once the cost of day care outstrips any salary you can command, you have to quit your job. PTAs and church bake sales depend on housewives to exist. Feminists were right to think that the right to contraception and abortion are fundamental to women’s liberation, and anti-choicers agree, so they want to take that away.
There's a whole lot more to her argument so I hope you'll take the time to read it, because I think she's hit on a very valuable insight.


Two things

  1. Republican Convention:  I tried, guys. I really did. I tried tuning in, but my brain started bleeding within minutes. Seriously, there may have been a virtual lobotomy involved. THEY'RE ALL FUCKING WHITE. AND WEARING SUITS. It's just a sea of puffy, pasty faces and suits and OMG I FUCKING HATE THESE PEOPLE AND THAT'S NOT GOOD AND I HAVE TO TURN OFF THE TV BEFORE I GET ALL HULK SMASH AND HAVE TO SPEND MY EVENING PICKING SHARDS OF ELECTRONICS OUT OF THE CARPET. (Although thank the ever lovin' almighty for The Daily Show and Colbert Report, for serious.)
  2. While the majority of the country is doubting McCain's sanity over the Sarah Palin pick -- and is that a gift that keeps on giving or what??? -- there's a sizable contingent of the Republican base that's loving her. LOVING HER TO A TERRIFYING DEGREE. Wanna know how much? They're praying for McCain's death immediately after taking office. I shit you not.
We HAVE to win this election. Otherwise, it's going to get even worse, and even I don't have the imagination for contemplating how that's even possible.