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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Free Springsteen concert for Obama in Philly tomorrow Saturday.

CFP: "LitCrit 2.0: Academic Blogging and Other New Forms of Scholarly Publishing."

Before you throw this letter into the proverbial round file, let’s be clear: this is the first time I have ever asked for a bailout from the Federal Reserve. I know what you’re thinking. Why do I deserve your largesse, and I do mean largesse, since I’m asking for five million big ones? The answer is simple. Like many of our nation’s financial institutions, I am simply too big to fail. If investors were allowed to witness the collapse of Freddie, Fannie, and then Andy, I can’t begin to describe what havoc it would wreak on their already frayed nerves. Actually, I can describe it: global financial calamity. I think we can both agree that, to dodge this bullet, ten million dollars is a small price to pay. (I know that I originally asked for five, but since I started writing this letter my financial situation has deteriorated in grave and unexpected ways.)
Andy Borowitz is too big to fail. In the New Yorker, alongside John Cassiday's claim that the Lehman Brothers collapse gave the election to Obama (see also Krugman last night) and a fascinating article on the legal intricacies of trust funds for dogs.
Is it right to give so much money to a dog—or to dogs generally? And what is the limit of such dispensations to pets? Will there come a time when dogs can sue for a new guardian—or to avoid being put to sleep? One philosopher draws a distinction between the needs of Trouble and those of dogs as a whole. Helmsley “did a disservice to the people in the dog world and to dogs generally by leaving such an enormous amount of money for her own dog,” Jeff McMahan, who teaches philosophy at Rutgers University, said. “To give even two million dollars to a single little dog is like setting the money on fire in front of a group of poor people. To bestow that amount of money is contemptuous of the poor, and that may be one reason she did it.

...

Throughout her life, Leona Helmsley demonstrated not just a lack of affection for her fellow-humans but an absence of understanding as well. The irony is that, for all that her will purports to show her love for Trouble, Leona didn’t seem to understand dogs very well, either. “What is funny about giving all this money to one dog is that it doesn’t deal with the fact that the dog is going to be sad that Leona died,” Elizabeth Harman, who teaches philosophy at Princeton, said. “What would make this dog happy is for a loving family to take it in. The dog doesn’t want the money. The money will just make everyone who deals with the dog strange.”

EcoTuesday!

* Kim Stanley Robinson, hero of the environment.

* People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.

* We're double-saved! 'New Facility Uses Algae to Turn Coal Pollution Into Fuel.'

* Except we've already destroyed the oceans and the rainforests.

Via Meredith, Gene Expression charts the death of theory.

I've only just discovered that the Independent now has a ton of active blogs on news commentary, Raleigh activism, sports, and even dance.

Survival under atomic attack: it's easier than you think! Via Cynical-C.

The College Sustainability Report Card ranks colleges on the grounds of their environmental and sustainable practices. Duke does surprisingly well by this accounting, rating a B+, up from a B in 2007 and failing pretty much entirely on the level of endowment transparency. My other alma maters, Case Western Reserve Purple Monkey Dishwasher University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, do significantly worse, with a B- and a C respectively.

Inside Higher Ed tallies the overall numbers, noting:

Some of the notable trends among the 191 colleges measured this year and last include: The proportion of colleges committing to reductions in carbon emissions (including through formal initiatives like the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment) grew from 45 to 54 percent, and the proportion of colleges that include hybrid, electric or biodiesel vehicles in their fleets increased from 42 to 74 percent. The proportion of colleges that reported buying at least some local foods grew from 70 to 91 percent, and the proportion with full-time sustainability staff increased from 37 to 66 percent. The percentage of colleges with endowment investments in renewable energy funds increased dramatically, from 19 to 46 percent.

Even in the areas where colleges are, overall, the weakest, there were improvements. On endowment transparency, the percentage of institutions making shareholder voting records available doubled from 15 to 30 percent, and the proportion of colleges with shareholder responsibility committees grew from 13 to 18 percent.
Harvard, Stanford, Penn, and UVM were among the 15 schools with the highest awarded grade, an A-.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Olbermann and Maddow on MSNBC are reporting that the Asian markets are tanking in response to the failure of the bailout. The Nikkei is already down 5%, and the Australian stock market dropped 4% in the first fifteen minutes of trading.

I had my quarrels with him during the primaries, but at a moment like this I find Paul Krugman really indispensable. Fun, too; here he is on today's political failures:

So what we now have is non-functional government in the face of a major crisis, because Congress includes a quorum of crazies and nobody trusts the White House an inch.

As a friend said last night, we’ve become a banana republic with nukes.

Academics Who Blog And Yet Still Have Jobs: Michael Bérubé is back.

Two on S.F: 'A Defense of the Genre' and 'Science fiction doesn't have to be gloomy, does it?'

My unhealthy obsession with the presidential race has been crowding out the literature and pop culture blogging I normally do. Here's a linkdump to try and correct that balance:

* The Washington Post visits the Manhattan of Mad Men, c. 1962.

* How to land a 747.

* Don DeLillo (fake) blogs politics at the Onion, while the incredible José Saramago—whose excellent Blindess is both the best book I've read in months and a new motion picture out this Friday despite the fact that it is quite literally unfilmable—(real) blogs in Portuguese and Spanish. Via MeFi and Alex Greenberg.

* Salon looks at David Foster Wallace's sad last days, while Boston.com has a map of Infinite Jest.

* Survive the Outbreak: a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure zombie movie. Via MeFi. More zombie fun here.

* Grave sites of famous science fiction authors.

* Concept art from the upcoming Green Lantern movie. More at MeFi.

* Michael Moore's latest movie, Slacker Uprising, is available for free online. "This film, really isn't for anybody other than the choir," said Moore. "But that's because I believe the choir needs a song to sing every now and then." So the film's not very good, is that it? Via MeFi.

* The Evil League of Evil is hiring.

* Stephen Colbert is about to team up with Spider-Man.

* And Neanderthals loved sushi. Who doesn't?

The McCain Depression: Bailout bill fails in the House, 228-205, with stocks now in freefall.

Save the date: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band will rock Super Bowl XLIII.

News at noon.

* Domestic terrorism at a Dayton mosque. More at BeliefNet.

* Now McCain will (apparently) show up to vote on the bailout after all. But will he suspend his campaign beforehand?

* Is this a 'victory'? Peter Galbraith takes a sober look at Iraq in the New York Review of Books. Via MeFi.

* Nancy Gibbs in Time tries to puzzle out whether the problem is Sarah Palin's handlers or Sarah Palin herself, while Howard Kurtz says that CBS is still sitting on even more damaging footage from the interview with Katie Couric. (UPDATE: CBS says they're not. 2ND UPDATE: The footage Kurtz was referring to is actually from a different interview.)

* All this comes at a time when the McCain camp is increasingly, visibly concerned about Palin's ability to perform in the debates, even taking the highly unusual step of trying to lower expectations for her opponent.

* And the evidence continues to suggest that Obama's debate performance was better than even I thought at the time. James Fallows has received a bunch of links for this post comparing the debate to 1960, 1980, and 1992:

In each of those cases, a fresh, new candidate (although chronologically older in Reagan's case) had been gathering momentum at a time of general dissatisfaction with the "four more years" option of sticking with the incumbent party. The question was whether the challenger could stand as an equal with the more experienced, tested, and familiar figure. In each of those cases, the challenger passed the test -- not necessarily by "winning" the debate, either on logical points or in immediate audience or polling reactions, but by subtly reassuring doubters on the basic issue of whether he was a plausible occupant of the White House and commander in chief.
Steve Benen elaborates with a round-up of polling data and analysis supporting this basic claim. For high information voters, Obama may have seemed to merely draw (though I thought at the time and still think he won on the merits)—but for lower information voters expectations were significantly lower for Obama than McCain, and so Obama seemed to those viewers to be much more clearly the winner.

My bank nearly failed and just got bought by Citigroup, my region of the country is out of gasoline and likely to remain so for another two weeks, and despite dramatically heightened public awareness of the climate crisis carbon release still increased by 3% last year, pointing towards a potential global temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Happy Monday.

Landslide/hubris watch: 'Barack Obama's senior aides believe he is on course for a landslide election victory over John McCain and will comfortably exceed most current predictions in the race for the White House.'

David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, said last week that Obama had "a lot of opportunity" in states which Mr Bush won four years ago.

But in private briefings in Washington, a member of Mr Obama's inner circle of policy advisers went much further in spelling out why the campaign's working assumptions far exceed the expectations of independent observers.

"Public polling companies and the media have underestimated the scale of new Democratic voters registration in these states," the campaign official told a friend. "We're much stronger on the ground in Virginia and North Carolina than people realise. If we get out the vote this may not be close at all."

In other bailout news, the long-awaited poetry bailout will 'restore the confidence of readers.'

Let there be no mistake: the fundamentals of our poetry are sound. The problem is not poetry but poems. The crisis has been precipitated by the escalation of poetry debt—poems that circulate in the market at an economic loss due to their difficulty, incompetence, or irrelevance.

Illiquid poetry assets are choking off the flow of imagination that is so vital to our literature. When the literary system works as it should, poetry and poetry assets flow to and from readers and writers to create a productive part of the cultural field. As toxic poetry assets block the system, the poisoning of literary markets has the potential to damage our cultural institutions irreparably.

A tenatative deal has been reached on the bailout, with House Republicans still making noise that they may scuttle it. Krugman, for his part, says it's "good enough"—hardly a ringing endorsement, but perhaps as good as we're likely to get in the middle of an election season with Bush still president. McCain, for his part, suggests he might not bother to show up to vote, driving home once again the absurdity of last week's campaign-suspension spectacle.

(For which Saturday Night Live mocked him without mercy this weekend, I should add.)

The chaos in the markets, the transparent campaign-suspension nonsense, and a strong showing from Obama in the debate seem to have conspired to put the election even farther out of McCain's reach with just 36 days to go until Election Day (and early voting already open in many locations around the country). The tracking polls all have him up by five or more, with three of them showing Obama cracking 50%, and the state polls look very strong. The Senate races are going well too, though as Nate Silver projects it's probably still unlikely that the Democrats will get 60 in the Senate.

How will McCain recover? If you said "ridiculous stunt," you're right! The Times of London reports that Bristol Palin may get married before Nov. 4.

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”
Boggles the mind. I don't even think the odds are especially good that a Palin-Johnston wedding would help their campaign—putting aside questions of Palin's rapidly diminishing credibility as a candidate, this is a 17-year-old girl who has already been nationally humiliated once. I look at this situation and what I see is a shotgun wedding whose timetable is being set less by love or lasting commitment than by the mother's electoral calculus. Let me be clear: I'm not speaking about the merits of the wedding itself, on which I have no perspective and no comment, but rather about the drive to make a spectacle out of his girl's life, which strikes me as deeply tragic on the one hand and as an ugly circus on the other. I really don't think I'm alone in this.

I (honestly) hate to even blog about this, and I'm pretty damn cutthroat when it comes to Republicans and electoral politics. These two kids should just be left alone.

So, to cut this discussion blessedly short, I think the odds are a wedding stunt would backfire badly. But then again I suppose bad odds never stopped a gambler.

In the Guardian, John Gray takes the Wall Street crisis alongside the first Chinese spacewalk as a watershed moment: the end of American hegemony. I'd say that's still a bit premature—for one, the turnover of administration will restore at least some of America's luster internationally and reorient our still-immense wealth towards more productive ends, and second the sheer interconnectivity of the global economy means that our financial crisis threatens to take everybody else down with us—but we're certainly moving towards a truly multipolar world, with all the good and bad that will bring.

And we're moving there faster and faster: the Japanese are working on a space elevator, while the Chinese say they can complete an "impossible" Emdrive for use in space. This puts Obama's support for NASA in particular (and science research in general) in context—this stuff really does matter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008



Gone for the weekend. See you Monday.

CNN's Opinion Research: Obama won. Via Yglesias.

Who Did the Best Job In the Debate?
Obama 51%
McCain 38%

Who Would Better Handle Economy?
Obama 58%
McCain 37%

Who Would Better Handle Iraq?
Obama 52%
McCain 47%

Friday, September 26, 2008

C-SPAN's Debate Hub is just about the most impressive blogging tool I've seen any major network implement. You can cut and edit the C-SPAN feed directly (with searchable transcript) and instantly embed the resulting video in your blog. Here, just for instance, is what may have been McCain's single worst moment:

CBS: 'Early Poll Results Suggest More Uncommitted Voters Saw Obama As Debate Winner.'

Forty percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-two percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-eight percent saw it as a draw.

Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight.

Sixty-eight percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-one percent think McCain would.

Forty-nine percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-five percent think McCain would.
MediaCurves.com has a similar poll, which Nate of 538.com characterizes thus:
Independents in the MediaCurves focus group gave the debate to Obama 61-39. They also think he won every individual segment. Republicans gave the debate to McCain 90-10, Democrats to Obama 93-7.

Too bad no one watches MSNBC: Joe Biden is doing some great post-debate analysis on Olbermann.

UPDATE: Here's the video. Say what else you might about him, this is something Biden does very well.

Version of Obama who showed up: focused, firm, prepared.

Version of McCain who showed up: firm.

Mark Halperin’s overall grades: Obama A-, McCain B-


Halprin's an agenda-setter, but it's possible the rest of the media has already settled on the tie narrative.

Is a post-debate consensus forming? I'm still watching MSNBC, but what I'm hearing is constant reference to:

* McCain's refusal to look Obama in the eye, or even look at him;
* McCain's aggressiveness-bordering-on-condescension;
* Obama's unfortunate tendency to say "I agree with John (but)";
* McCain's inability to say the names of either Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari;
* a "good lines" gap that seemed to favor Obama.

All this is to say that these two liberal pundits have concluded Obama won.

Rolling updates covered elsewhere on the blog show a consensus emerging that Obama won clean.

---
Ambinder, a classic Villager, calls it a draw.

The press will probably conclude that McCain did not fundamentally change impressions tonight. And that Obama held his own.
It bothers me that a person can spew utter nonsense for ninety minutes, often incoherently so, and be declared a competent debater because they didn't drool on themselves. But even if the media wants to call it a draw, beyond belief, that has to go to the guy who's ten points up.

Obama won. McCain gave rambling, often nonsensical answers that had only tangential relations to the questions asked, exhibiting a bizarre defensiveness and even obnoxiousness that this viewer found very unattractive.

But winning the debate isn't winning the debate. What matters (right or wrong) is what emerges after the debate as the media consensus about performance. I'm watching for that now. The immediate reaction on MSNBC is that McCain was strong on the spending issue, which strikes me as insane—Obama made it very clear that McCain was arguing over peanuts while giving away the store.

Matthews talking about body language and the fact that McCain seemed unwilling to look at Obama—uses that devastating word, "grumpy."

McCain is trying to run out the clock and have the last word. He tries to go to experience as a closing argument, the idea that Obama needs "on-the-job training"—I thought this was change vs. change, but perhaps that's no longer operative.

Oh, and by the way, he was a POW.

McCain goes back to the well perhaps one too many times on "doesn't understand."

Obama returns to two issues: nuclear proliferation and actually taking on al Qaeda.

Last question: What are the chances of another 9/11 attack on the U.S.? McCain visibly thinks for a second before saying it's lower than it was the day after 9/11. He then turns to the 9/11 Commission as a major accomplishment.

Last question. But first a McCain interruption. "No one on earth is against solar." Will that come back to hurt McCain tomorrow?

Think Progress is doing real-time fact-checking.

More of McCain's travelogues. He's been everywhere! What a maverick.

McCain keeps saying that Obama is naive and doesn't understand things. I'm not sure that's such a great line for him. It doesn't have an impact.

10:19 Russia.

McCain just lost it over the Kissinger thing—hard to say how that will play with the Real Americans in the Heartland.

Brings up the Spain gaffe. OWNED.

Obama says the name right, and gets to the point: "I reserve the right to do whatever I think is best to keep America safe." Namechecks Kissinger, who agrees with Obama on this. Uses North Korea as an example of what happens when you embark on this policy.

McCain brings up the sitting down with dictators issue, but he bungles Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's name, badly, twice.

Both candidates try to tie Iran to Iraq from their own perspective, Obama getting the better end of it by tying Iran's rise to the Iraq invasion and eight years of cowboy diplomacy.

McCain brings up his nonsensical League of Democracies idea in the context of the Iran answer.

10:03 Iran.

Obama has a bit of a stunt reply: "I've got a bracelet too." Now he's hitting McCain on a poor choice of words: the "muddle through" quote. McCain's reply is that he's traveled to these places, a common retort of his I now finally understand: McCain's narcissistic worldview is such that a place isn't real unless The Maverick has seen it with his own two eyes.

Oh, here it is: "I have a record." That was the worst answer from either candidate yet. He's still talking, by the way—now he's going on about Iraq and gold-star mothers.

McCain's defensiveness is hurting him here. He keeps bringing up his own gaffes and drawing attention to it. Now he's rambling about every military action he's either supported or opposed. This is awful. What is he talking about?

Obama decks McCain on the Pakistan issue, bringing up bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb Iran and McCain threatening North Korea with extinction.

Unless I'm mistaken, McCain just confused Pakistan and Afghanistan.

9:50 Afghanistan.

The surge. Obama hits back on the judgment involved in going in in the first place. McCain wants to hear Obama say we're winning. This has been pretty deep in the weeds, but Obama needed to mention that everyone relevant has come around to his plan on this, including the Iraqi government. (UPDATE: Ezra Klein disagrees with me here:

Interestingly, Obama is MUCH more compelling on national security and foreign policy than he was in the domestic portion. McCain is agitated and shifting and giving awkward, digressive, angry answers. Obama seems confident and fluent and in control of this part of the discussion.
)

9:39 Iraq.

McCain rebuts: I'm a maverick, and so is Sarah Palin. Does he not realize that everyone hates Sarah Palin now?

Obama asks why McCain hasn't had anything bad to say about spending in the last eight years of Bushonomics. Verdict: Obama is killing.

9:37 McCain still talking about spending. Jesus Christ.

Lehrer wants to hear exactly what the crisis is going to do to the way these people will govern. Obama gives a solid answer that goes to priorities, bringing back the issue of $300 billion in tax cuts for rich people and corporations. McCain says he doesn't want to turn health care over the federal government; since Obama doesn't want to do that either, that point's a wash.

McCain says we need off-shore drilling and nuclear power. This was sort of non-sequitur.

Obama praises his Google for Government initiative. McCain had something to say about this, but Lehrer won't let either of them off the hook. How is the financial crisis going to affect your presidency? McCain wants a spending freeze. Obama says the problem with a spending freeze that you're using a hatchet when you need a scalpel. Good line.

McCain wants to cut defense spending. Why does John McCain hate America?

McCain wants to cut spending! Why doesn't he talk about this more?

9:26 Question #3, and Lehrer has abandoned all pretense that this is a foreign policy debate. Obama lays out his budget priorities, including alternate energy and fuel-efficient cars. He talks about health care and education as well, bring up the specter of the Chinese space walk as a measure of competitiveness. Infrastructure, especially new electrical infrastructure.

9:26 First appearance of McCain's creepy, creepy smile at the tail end of a heated exchange over taxes in which each called the other a liar.

McCain goes back to earmarks. Obama won't have it: "John, you want to give the oil companies another $4 billion."

McCain brings up his own Achilles heel, the health care tax cut! That answer spewed so much nonsense, Obama can hardly respond to it all—but he gets to the health care tax cut issue and lays it out clean.

McCain wants to cut the business tax. But he *really* wants to talk about earmarks.

Obama cuts him off when he starts talking about raising taxes and says "I don't know where John is getting his figures." Insists upon the fact that 300 > 18.

Obama says McCain's earmark talk ($18 billion) is dwarfed by the size of his tax cuts to the rich and corporations ($300 billion), pivots to growing the economy from the bottom up. This was a good comparison. McCain ignores the substance of what Obama said completely and starting talking about corruption.

9:14 Question #2: Are there "fundamental" differences between what you and Obama would do to lead us out of this financial crisis? McCain goes back to spending, and earmarks of all things, using the "We Republicans came to change government, and government changed us." Points to Obama's alleged earmarks.

Another age joke—After being instructed to direct his comments directly to McCain, Obama does so, prompting from McCain: "Are you afraid I couldn't hear him?"

McCain brings up his Cox gaffe, framing it in terms of a need for accountability. Obama responds with a pivot back to the Wall St./Main St. line, which he seems to be quite fond of.

Are you gonna vote for the plan, Senator McCain? "I sure hope so."

McCain opens with a shout-out to Kennedy, who is apparently in the hospital. Tries for an early age joke: "the greatest financial crisis of our time, and I've been around a little while." Kind of a rambling answer in comparison, though of course I'm biased.

Obama is giving a remarkably polished answer to this. (Debating pants?) Outlines his plan, hits Bush and then McCain on "eight years of failed policy."

Lehrer quotes Eisenhower: "We must achieve both security and solvency." Question #1: What's the deal with the financial crisis?

9:03 Here they are.

Debate #1 liveblog. Fingers crossed that Barack brought his debating pants.



Waiting for the liveblogging to begin, a few links.

* Sixty-one Nobel laureates have jointly endorsed Obama.

* So have donuts and bacon.

* Slate predicts McCain's next ten Hail Marys, while the L.A. Times takes on the potential downside of his "Great Man" strategy:

But as many Great Men come to learn, there is a colossal downside built into running a campaign on outsized personal virtue. The line between stoic, honorable service and showy moral vanity is oftentimes difficult to maintain.

And when a candidate confuses his own political ambitions with the fortunes of his country, that's when Great Men turn into self- parodies.
*Spencer Ackerman has the world's best wrap-up of the Great Campaign Suspension Stunt of '08.
Let's recap. McCain kinda-but-doesn't-really suspend his campaign to make himself the indispensable man in the bailout agreement. He gets to Washington as an object of ridicule and the deal falls apart -- something that at least some people, admittedly Democrats, attribute to McCain's transparent stunt. Then, despite Harry Reid saying he's going to keep the Senate in session until there's a deal, McCain abruptly announces he's... going back to campaigning (not that he stopped!) and will attend the debates.
* Entertainment Weekly interviews Stewart and Colbert.

* Far-right-wing columnist Kathleen Parker argues that Palin needs to step down in, of all places, the National Review (!).
McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.
This backs up new claims that the McCain campaign is deeply panicked over her utter lack of ability.

* And Kevin Drum and Brad DeLong are doing their best to walk the blogosphere back from the brink on the bailout.
To get get a $500B macroeconomic gain in production and employment, Paulson wants to take on a position with an expected value of -$100B. But the true value of that position could be anywhere between +$200B and -$400B. Looks like a good bet to me.

Breaking from CNN: Sen. John McCain will participate in tonight's presidential debate.

UPDATE: And according to his Web site, he's already won! Congratulations, Senator!

Today's Abbreviated Pundit Round-up at Kos shows that by and large the pundits aren't buying McCain's suspension stunt.

I'll be blogging intermittently throughout the day as usually, but it's worth saying that I'll be liveblogging the debate tonight, whether or not McCain decides to show up...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jeffrey Toobin calls bullshit on the "suspension" of John McCain's campaign.



TPM also has word that McCain's ads will begin airing again on Saturday, deal or no deal—proving once and for all that this has been nothing more than a silly stunt, the only likely consequence of which is to scuttle a sorely-needed compromise on some sort of bailout.

Bloggers, who tend to consider themselves experts on everything, have by and large talked themselves into a completely incorrect position on this. I'm by no means an expert on the economy, either, but at least I understand the basic principle: the economy is an engine and the credit market is the oil. Run your engine without any oil and the thing will seize up.

This is not a joke, a scam, or a Bush Administration lie. What we're seeing in the markets is the real consequence of an environment in which banks are afraid to loan anyone, including each other, any money. Washington Mutual failed tonight—by far the largest bank failure in American history. This is a serious crisis. It may not require $700B+, and it certainly won't require the no-rules giveaway that Paulson favors, but it's going to take massive government intervention to keep the credit market afloat, and time genuinely is running out.

Luckily for me, I've never had a real job, so my non-existent 401(k) will be just fine. But if the economy seizes and the stock market tanks, and the country slides into the sort of severe economic downturn that the experts are warning us about, a lot of people will be broke and a lot more will be out of work—and you'll know exactly who's to blame for it.

Three new polls out from Michigan tonight all show Obama leaping to double-digit leads.

MI/Selzer
Obama 51 / McCain 38
Spread: 13 points
Dates: 9/22-24 (Monday-Wednesday)
Movement from last poll: +6 toward Obama

MI/National Journal

Obama 47 / McCain 39
Spread: 8 points
Dates: 9/18-22 (Thursday-Monday)
Movement from last poll: n/a (first poll?)

MI/EPIC-MRA

Obama 48 / McCain 38
Spread: 10 points
Dates: 9/20-22 (Saturday-Monday)
Movement from last poll: +9 toward Obama

At last, the truth: Condoleezza Rice admits she, Ashcroft, and other Bush Administration officials held high-level talks on torture. This is nothing less than an admission of active complicity in war crimes, and it underscores the necessity that some sort of legal accountability be undertaken by the next administration. There are good arguments for criminal prosecution and good arguments for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, but there must be something—the things that have happened over the last eight years simply cannot be swept under the rug. For the soul of the nation and to make good with history, we need to admit and come to terms with what this administration has done in all our names.

When books could change your life: why what we pore over at 12 may be the most important reading we ever do. Via MeFi.

There is a kind of no man's land in the literary landscape that can't be called "children's" or "young adult"--it's recognized as serious literature, if a little patronizingly, by the adult world--but which has a specific and perennial appeal to adolescents. I'm thinking here of writers such as J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., those staples of the college dorm. We reserve a special reverence for these authors that is qualitatively different from the respect, even awe, we feel for undeniably great writers like Toni Morrison or Cormac McCarthy--it's less rational or open to critical discussion. The reaction to revelations of the usual mundane human failings in recent biographies of figures beloved from childhood, such as Ray Bradbury or Charles Schulz, has been not just the surprise or sad worldly shrug we might expect but hostility and denial--a sense that we ought not to have been told such things, as if we'd been told once more that Santa Claus wasn't real or Shoeless Joe threw the series. And Joyce Maynard and Margaret Salinger's troubling memoirs about Salinger--we didn't want to know. Salinger and Vonnegut both give voice to the adolescent passion for justice, their dogmatic, almost fanatical, fairness and decency, and their blooming disgust at the epiphany that the world adults are foisting on them is neither fair nor decent.

McDonald's hamburgers are not food. Here's a picture of a hamburger from 1996 that looks exactly as it did the day it was made twelve years ago—and probably tastes the same, too. Via kottke.



Which was bought in 1996, and which today?

We've talked before, more than once, about the incredible, world-historical suckiness of the second season of Heroes—so it's no surprise that the ratings were way down for the third season premiere. SF Signal, io9, and Ezra Klein all rightly panned the episode, which was very much a creative disaster. In addition to going back to the "Bad Future" illusion-of-plot gimmick—again—the show reminded me of nothing so much as a comic book with a new creative team: a hurried attempt to establish a new status quo and story engine as fast as possible and damn the logic of any of it. Heroes continues to borrow the very worst of comics, in other words, their disposability and their triviality—and takes nothing of the best.

For those who missed it, this was a real scene from the episode:

HIRO'S DEAD DAD (ON DVD): Hiro, there's a safe in this office. Never open it.
HIRO: I'm gonna open that safe.
HIRO'S DEAD DAD (ON DVD): Okay, so you opened the safe. But don't lose the piece of paper inside!
HIRO: [loses paper] Whoops!

Really, really, really very bad.

Evening links.

* McCain is still hinting that he won't show up at the debate tomorrow. (This campaign has become so insane, I can hardly stand it. What the hell is this? Are they really serious?) What we're seeing now is exactly the consequence of Obama's warning not to inject presidential politics into delicate legislative negotiations—McCain's fake campaign suspension has done nothing but derail the process.

* He's not too busy to be on the teevee, of course.

* And of course this is all Obama's fault for not agreeing to the town halls. John, I'm begging you, just shut up.

* Barbara Boxer doesn't hold back in her anger over what's happening.

* Sarah Silverman makes her bid to save America with the Great Schelp.

* Al Gore blows my mind with a call for civil disobedience against the building of additional coal plants.

“If you’re a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration,” he said at the third annual meeting of former President Bill Clinton’s initiative, which arranges partnerships between the very rich and the very needy.
* And here's why: Global carbon emissions jumped 3% in 2007.

* On a more optimistic note, Obama supports NASA.

* Obama and Biden will be coming to Greensboro on the *only day for the next month I'll be out of North Carolina*. Damn you, Obama! There's a reason for this visit: North Carolina looks to be right on the brink of flipping. More at Facing South in two parts.

The fringe theory that John McCain's campaign suspension gimmick was designed purely to distract attention from Palin's interview with Katie Couric gains some credibility with the previews CBS is putting out: Palin on Russia and Palin on the bailout. This is just ridiculous—for one, you can see her look at her notes in the bailout clip, and two, what she's saying doesn't make any damn sense at all.

That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it's got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade -- we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.
Ready on Day 1.

Thank God for John McCain: just yesterday, the bailout plan was in ruins, and now, thanks entirely to his timely opportunism stunt suspension of campaign-related activities a deal has now been made.

...anyone know if his plane has even reached DC yet?

TEN-SECONDS-LATER UPDATE: The Kos diary says he just got out of his limo and into his office. Ha.

The WSJ has details, which generally looks favorable to the more Democratic position on this:

Much is still uncertain and the contours of a likely bill could change. But the outlines of a potential compromise began to emerge late Wednesday after congressional leaders started considering restrictions on the bailout plan that could break the pool of money into installments.

...

A likely bill would include limits on executive pay in situations where the government puts a large amount of money into a failing institution. In certain cases, the government could receive warrants that would give it the right to acquire shares in the company. Also included is beefed-up oversight through the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

Žižek on the election, the bailout, bullshit, and everything else. Worth listening to the whole thing. Via Boing Boing.

Sorry I've been AWOL today—as I've said a few times the last few weeks, I've been busy suspended my blogging pending a resolution of the Wall Street crisis. Here's some links w/ commentary for the afternoon:

* Sarah Palin fielded questions at a press conference!

“Notice I wrote ‘fielded’ since she didn’t exactly answer them,” the reporter, Ken Vogel of Politico, wrote in his notes sent out to other reporters following the campaign.
There's a transcript at CNN.

* The polls don't seem to like people playing games with the debates. By the way, it looks like McCain will actually show up.

* The Keating Five Scandal in 97 Seconds. Expect to see references to this more and more as we head into October.

* Obama is reaping the benefits of his quiet decision to unshackle the 527s; these ads from MoveOn (on Phil Gramm, Rick Davis, and the economic crisis) and Brave New Pac/Democracy for America (on McCain's health) are both deadly effective.

* Voter registration efforts in Florida are overwhelming the state's ability to process them—a very good sign for those who still think we can take the state.

* It's a good thing John McCain is in DC solving the financial crisis, as his understanding of basic economics is unparalleled.
BARTIROMO: Sen. McCain, has Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cut interest rates aggressively enough?

Has Ben Bernanke cut interests rates aggressively enough?

McCAIN: I’m not…I’m not…I don’t have that kind of expertise to know exactly whether he has cut interest rates suffiently or not. I’m glad that whenever they cut interest rates. I wish interest rates were zero.
At least the plane trip will give him time to read the three-page Paulson plan. As of Tuesday, he hadn't yet. Really. (Three pages.)

* And Bill Clinton is still sort of a dick.
I'd just add that McCain voted -- twice -- to remove Clinton from office during the impeachment fiasco; McCain has publicly mocked Clinton's daughter for cheap laughs; and McCain repeatedly trashed Clinton's wife when he thought she would be the Democratic nominee.

But never mind all of that. This morning, McCain wanted to score a few points, grab a few headlines, and bolster his bipartisan bona fides, and Bill Clinton was anxious to give the Republican nominee a hand.

The former president is gracious to a fault, isn't he?

Trying to puzzle out John McCain's motive for the campaign suspension stunt is proving rather difficult. A lot of people are looking to Palin, both her disastrous Katie Couric interview and the repeated suggestion that hey, you know, we could just cancel the VP debate. (On the margins, Palin's so-called "preacher problem" is also showing up in these discussions; she definitely loses the secular progressive swing vote with this one.) Or maybe, others venture, he's trying to cover up his own lack of debate preparation. Still other people think he may be trying to keep the Rick Davis story out of the papers, as there's now word that Rick Davis didn't sever his relationship with his lobbying firm and is in fact still listed as one of its only two officers. And a lot of people just point to the polls—witness as just one example a Rasmussen poll that now puts Obama ahead right here in North Carolina (!). Or maybe we should just bring it all back, as Steve Benen does, to the fundamental question that recurs about so much of John McCain's gambles: cynicism, or risk addiction?

Whatever it is, it's worth noting that McCain has pulled this very stunt at least twice before.

Reactions have been legion, almost all of them negative, but Noam Scheiber in particular is on fire with posts that suggest just how badly this may backfire on McCain, comparing it first to a form of political hari-kari and then pointing out elsewhere the way in which the gambit automatically defeats itself:

"Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative."
Clinton Global Intiative > financial crisis > longstanding-to-the-point-of-sacred tradition of nationally televised presidential debate? This will not stand.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More on G.C.S.G. '08.

* It's being widely reported now that McCain is threatening to not show up to the debate if a deal hasn't been reached by Friday. Just who is this supposed to threaten?

* By the way, contrary to reports, Friday's debate will not focus exclusively on foreign affairs—Jim Lehrer informed the campaigns last week that there would be economic questions too.

* From the Dept. of You've Got To Be Shitting Me: Ben Smith reports that the McCain campaign has generously offered to move Friday's presidential debate to next week's VP debate, with the VP debate rescheduled to some unknown date in the future.

* Edge of the American West has an exclusive copy of the email McCain sent to Ole Miss asking for an extension.

On Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 12:00pm, John McCain wrote:

sorry to bother you and i know this request is late but i have been really busy and i want to call an emergency meeting with the president and understanding all the material is taking up a lot of my time so i find myself woefully underprepared and i am throwing myself on your mercy. can i get an extension over the weekend on the debate so i can present my best work to you? or should i get a dean’s excuse?

thanks,

john
* And slightly lost in the midst of all this is the fact that McCain gave Letterman the finger to do it. Letterman's not happy.
David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his Metamucil."

"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second-string quarterback, Sarah Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"

Reactions to the great campaign suspension gambit of '08.

"If you were wondering how bad McCain's pollster was telling him things are, there's your confirmation."
—A Democratic strategist Michael Crowley knows

"It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys."
Barney Frank

"I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama's suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation's economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op."
Harry Reid

Shorter Ben Burton: We're already working on a joint statement, and it was Obama's idea.

"Both candidates have been marginal players; McCain, though, seems to have the potential to make himself a major one, and his move is a mark, most of all, that he doesn’t like the way this campaign is going. But in terms of the timing of this move: The only thing that’s changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling."
Ben Smith

"Isn't this the campaign equivalent of faking an injury when you're down late in the 4th quarter?"
John Marshall

Uh, no.
—Barack Obama

McCain wants to cancel the debate? What?

Republican John McCain said Wednesday he was suspending his White House campaign and asked to put off Friday's presidential debate over the nation's financial crisis.

This was the best poll Fox could rig? 'Obama Reclaims Lead Over McCain, 45% to 39%.'

Afternoon news.

* The Rick Davis lobbying revelation is the big campaign story today as the McCain camp struggles to find some way to respond. The indispensable Steve Benen dissects their first attempt here, with this succinct summary of why this matters:

Remember, the McCain campaign walked right into this one, insisting that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were largely responsible for the Wall Street crisis, and any associations between a candidate and officials at the lending companies are necessarily scandalous.

Talk about leading with one's chin....
More at HuffPo and TPM, which notes that Davis "quietly canceled" a scheduled lunch with reporters today.

* A report from the Pew Center says that cell-phone-only voters are not being properly counted in the polls. And Marist's poll of swing states has Obama sweeping the map: IA, NH, OH, PA, and MI, where he has (according to this one poll with a high margin of error) a nine-point lead.

* Kos says the Palin pick is already paying unexpected dividends, as if McCain had been more responsible he probably would have picked Romney.
But think, what if McCain had picked Mitt Romney as his veep choice, like so many of us were fervently hoping?

Sure, the rollout wouldn't have give McCain a fraction of the attention and excitement that Palin generated. The GOP ticket's (now evaporated) post-convention bump would've been smaller, and maybe Romney would've been less effective at revving up the fundy base.

But right now? Romney would be kicking ass. The media would treat him with deference as an economic expert, and let's be honest, he does looks straight out of central casting for the role of "serious businessman who we should defer to on the economy". McCain wouldn't have to hide him. Romney could make the media rounds, being taken seriously no matter what GOP gibberish he spouted. Rather than flail and cower, a McCain/Romney ticket would look sure-footed and confident, projecting gravitas in a time of uncertainty.

What's more, McCain would no longer look like a political opportunist in his VP choice. He'd be lauded for being such a "maverick", picking his greatest primary rival. The GOP and its apologists could say, with a straight face, that McCain put "country first", and actually get away with it since it's obvious McCain personally loathes Romney.

Good thing Mittens was snubbed.
* Also at Kos, Meteor Blades argues that the Congressional Democrats' myriad failures on energy this seession are not as bad as all that.
Hurrah! What a relief. This summer’s rush to remedy 27 years of bad energy policy in just a few weeks had generated a mish-mash of contradictory proposals that couldn’t possibly be fully discussed or vetted. Better to wait, as I've said from the get-go.

A gaffe is when you accidentally speak the truth: Witness Luke Russert.

Matt Lauer talked about UVA being a smart school and whether or not it could be considered a microcosm of Virginia at large. I said UVA had a lot of smart kids and so the school was leaning Obama.

I MEANT to say that many of the kids who go to UVA are from affluent, highly educated households who are leaning Obama and hence their kids lean Obama.

Inside Higher Ed has a piece on administrative anxiety over campus activism, using as its hook a recent email sent to professors and staff at the University of Illinois.

The university system’s ethics office sent a notice to all employees, including faculty members, telling them that they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan. In addition, professors were told that they could not attend political rallies on campuses if those rallies express support for a candidate or political party.
The email we received from Duke was not nearly so strident or unreasonable—aside from a strange (and I think, legally incorrect) insistence that we can't use duke.edu email accounts for political advocacy, it was just an elaboration of the laws for non-profit organizations. The Illinois policy, in contrast, is out-and-out censorship, likely unenforceable and possibly even illegal.

Meanwhile, Gary W. Lewandowski, who has tenure, says you should stop worrying so much about getting tenure and just "enjoy" yourself. It's that easy!

Following up on the Rick Davis story from last night, it's hard to see any upside for McCain here. He can fire Davis, but that's an admission of impropriety, and makes him look like even more of a fool for accusing Obama of being in bed with lobbyists. He can keep Davis and hope the story goes away, but I'm not sure it will: the ridiculous spectacle of a candidate railing against Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae after those very agencies have essentially put him on layaway will not be overlooked in the debates, in the press, or in Obama's ads. He's in a tough, tough place on this.

The media, led by Campbell Brown, may also be taking up an interesting new thread in the Sarah Palin Chronicles: a plea to stop the campaign's sexist treatment of their own VP candidate.

Tonight I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment. This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters.... Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chains you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one.
Even Fox is fed up.

It's still too early to tell, but with the complete collapse of McCain's numbers since the convention blip—witness the new ABC/Wash. Post poll putting Obama nine points ahead nationally, with even stronger internals—is it fair to say yet that the Republican Party has fielded the worst campaign of modern times in McCain/Palin? The sad, sad fact is they could still win, but just on the level of process, of electioneering—the only things Republicans do well—they won't deserve to.

This year's freshmen are the last group of students I'm likely to have that are older than 1991's Nevermind. I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One of David Foster Wallace's former students has uploaded his syllabus for English 67: Literary Interpretation. (Via SEK)

Reports of successful political jujitsu were deeply exaggerated: 'Democrats To Relent On Offshore Drilling Ban.' Idiots.

The image that launched a thousand blog posts.

For the first time, climate scientists have discovered evidence that methane from melting undersea permafrost is being released into the atmosphere. This is very bad.

It's no wonder polar bears are turning to cannibalism.

John McCain, Scourge of Lobbyists.

The lobbying firm of Rick Davis, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign manager, remains on the payroll of mortgage giant Freddie Mac, according to two sources with knowledge of the arrangement.

The firm, Davis Manafort, has collected $15,000 a month from the organization since late 2005, when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae dissolved a five-year-old advocacy group that Davis earned nearly $2 million leading, the sources said.
Amazing. Just amazing.

The Washington Times get excited about 269-269.

More politics.

* Obama gave a press conference today, too, coming down hard on the Paulson version of the bailout. An anti-bailout consensus seems to have gelled among both elites (more, more) and the general population, with even GOP foot soldiers refusing to fall in line. (Maybe platforms do mean something after all.) Which is not to say the bailout won't happen—I think it will, if only because the Democrats never met an issue they couldn't sell out on. But it won't be the Paulson version of the bailout, at least and it won't happen at all unless John McCain agrees to sign on and not use Obama's willingness to put country first against him.

* More bailout: Kevin Drum has the single best chart I've seen, while Pandagon points out what I'd suspected all along: poor people and minorities did this to us.

* Schumer, like a lot of people, wants to know what's the rush.

* Kossacks want to know how long this has been in the works.

* Colorado wants to vote for Obama by a huge margin, with strong evidence that the Palin pick backfired there.

* McCain's being forced to defend Indiana.

* Alex Greenberg has your conspiracy theory fodder for the day.

Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.
* The latest smoking gun on Troopergate is actually fairly damning.
Here's why this is all so damaging to the governor. It's one thing to try to get a trooper fired because you believe he is a danger to the public. But using your considerable power as governor to block the benefits of a former family member you have a long-running dispute with moves this scandal into a new realm.
* And my former candidate for president Howard Dean gave a press conference today, too.

I get results: facing something like an outright revolt from the press, McCain cracks at forty days in the desert and gives an eleven-minute press conference.

A study of various subjectivities expressed in Hamlet, as rendered by the Facebook News Feed. Via (this time) Ezra Klein.

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it's annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet's annoying.

Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.

Hamlet's father is now a zombie.
UPDATE: Or, if you prefer.

Writers who have been lucky enough to land these gigs are inclined to talk — when we aren’t grumbling — about their good fortune in sensible language, citing all that is sane, healthy, balanced and economically viable about their jobs. But another question is discussed less. What exactly does all this teaching do to our writing? And what, if anything, does it mean for a country to have a tenured literature? What exactly does all this teaching do to our writing? And what, if anything, does it mean for a country to have a tenured literature?
So asks David Gessner in the New York Times Magazine.
Consider that our first great national literary flowering constituted, in part, a rebellion against what was thought of as academic, effete and indoors-y in English writing. It slightly complicates things that this flowering was greatly influenced by an Englishman, Wordsworth, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that in the 1850s Melville published “Moby-Dick” (1851); Thoreau, “Walden” (1854); and Whitman, “Leaves of Grass” (1855), while at the same time Emily Dickinson began to hit her private stride and Emerson was still lecturing. Thoreau claimed to have never wasted a walk on another, and it’s hard to imagine him taking a break from one of his marathon strolls to waste three hours teaching a graduate workshop. Equally difficult is picturing Melville asking a group of undergrads, “What’s at stake in this story?” or Dickinson clapping a colleague on the back after a faculty meeting.

There was an essential fanaticism in all their efforts, the sense of an entire life thrown into the great project of creating works of art. Even if we grant that you can be as original within the university as up in your garret, we must concede the possibility that something is lost by living a divided life. Intensity perhaps. The ability to focus hard and long on big, ambitious projects. A great writer, after all, must travel daily to a mental subcontinent, must rip into the work, experiencing the exertion of it, the anxiety of it and, once in a blue moon, the glory of it. It’s fine for writing teachers to talk in self-help jargon about how their lives require “balance” and “shifting gears” between teaching and writing, but below that civil language lurks the uncomfortable fact that the creation of literature requires a degree of monomania, and that it is, at least in part, an irrational enterprise. It’s hard to throw your whole self into something when that self has another job.

YouTube minute: MyHope and The Waldo Ultimatum.

Unexpectedly busy day today, but I do have a few links.

* Anti-Obama racism comes to Roxbury, just one town over from my beloved Randolph.

* The Paulon bailout continues to take pretty heavy fire; you can find details and good analysis at Krugman's blog, where he is taking a pretty hard line on the demand for a taxpayer equity stake in the companies we'll be bailing out.

* And Glenn Greenwald takes the Brooksian dream of the Wise Old Men of Washington back out to the woodshed.

* Given that he is the Scourge of Lobbyists, it's ironic that the person tapped to run McCain's transition team lobbied for Freddie Mac just a few months ago.

* And given his well-known penchant for Straight Talk it's odd that McCain hasn't given a press conference in 40 days.

* FiveThirtyEight has polling data showing that the debates may not move the polls very much after all. There's also a new poll out showing Obama with a two-point lead in Florida, which has got to be an outlier.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.
Like a sinking ship loses its rats, John McCain has lost even archconservative George Will.

Another day, another promising academic career strangled in the cradle: hometown heroine Julie is blogging food and politics at Gastro-Politico.

The earth is warming, glaciers are receding and oceans are changing. As a result, habitats are shrinking and species are dying--and many tourists want to see them before they disappear.
The rise of doomsday tourism.

Andrew Sullivan is still losing his shit over Sarah Palin:

There are only a few weeks to go before the United States may pick a potential president who has never given a press conference as a candidate for national office. This is not a functioning democracy.
And he's now being joined in shit-losing by the Washington Post editorial board:
Mr. McCain's selection of an inexperienced and relatively unknown figure was unsettling, and the campaign's decision to keep her sequestered from serious interchanges with reporters and voters serves only to deepen the unease. Mr. McCain is entitled to choose the person he thinks would be best for the job. He is not entitled to keep the public from being able to make an informed assessment of that judgment. Ms. Palin's speech-making skills are impressive, but the more she repeats the same stump speech lines, the queasier we get. Nor have her answers to the gentle questioning she has encountered provided any confidence that Ms. Palin has a grasp of the issues.
It's amazing to see the media actually begin to do its job for once, and all it took was the McCain camp completely losing its shit, going to war with the media when they were supposed to be campaigning against Barack Obama.