Friday, October 10, 2008

Paul Krugman Sees The Future And Is Terrified

Here are the two most-recent entries at Paul Krugman’s "Conscience of a Liberal" blog at the New York Times. They are realistic, terrifying and I hope he is wrong.

Failure of leadership, part LXXIV
October 10 2008, 2:27pm
Bloomberg reports:
Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven nations signaled reluctance to adopt a coordinated effort to shore up banks, risking a deeper crisis of confidence after this week’s crash in global stock markets.

Do these people have any idea how much is at risk?

Not about the financial crisis
October 10, 2008, 1:43 pm
The (financial) crisis isn’t the only scary thing going on. Something very ugly is taking shape on the political scene: as McCain’s chances fade, the crowds at his rallies are, by all accounts, increasingly gripped by insane rage. It’s not just a mob phenomenon — it’s visible in the right-wing media, and to some extent in the speeches of McCain and Palin.

We’ve seen this before. One thing that has been sort of written out of the mainstream history of politics is the sheer insanity of the attacks on the Clintons — they were drug smugglers, they murdered Vince Foster (and lots of other people), they were in league with foreign powers. And this stuff didn’t just show up in fringe publications — it was discussed in Congress, given props by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and so on.

What it came down to was that a significant fraction of the American population, backed by a lot of money and political influence, simply does not consider government by liberals (even very moderate liberals) legitimate. Ronald Reagan was supposed to have settled that once and for all.

What happens when Obama is elected? It will be even worse than it was in the Clinton years. For sure there will be crazy accusations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some violence.

The next few years are going to be very, very tough.

Good Grief! I Have More Foreign Policy Experience Than Sarah Palin!

Mother Jones has unearthed official Alaska government records documenting Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience over the 19 months she’s been governor. Including the time when she met 10 foreign exchange students, attending a reception at the Italian embassy in Washington and a 15 minute taping of a video message shown at a trade fair in China, as governor she spent 12 hours either talking to or meeting with people who could be loosely called a “foreign leader.” (See box below)

I’ve never been in government and am not a politician but it turns out I have more experience meeting with foreign leaders – and real ones, at that – than does a candidate for Vice President of the United States. It happened during a period when I was supporting my writing by working in business and I have the vanity photos hanging in my office to prove it.

May 1989 – Hosted a three hour dinner in Minneapolis with Boris Yeltsen, including a half-hour one-on-one meeting with the soon-to-be President of Russia in his limo en route to the dinner venue.

Nov. 1989 – Held a two hour long meeting with Lech Walesca, about to become president of Poland, in his office in Gdansk to discuss building American business investment interest in Poland.

Jan. 1992 – With two other people, participated in a one hour meeting with Canada’s Minister of Foreign Trade on China-Canada trade issues.

Feb. 1992 – Held a half day meeting in Johannesburg with Nelson Mandella and the head of economic development for the African National Congress on building Canada-South Africa business ties as a precursor to a conference in Toronto.

April 1992 – Attended a two hour dinner in Toronto for leaders of South African businesses and senior officials of the ANC.

April 1993 – With three other people, attended a one hour meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People with Zhu Rongji, then Senior Vice Premier for economic modernization who went on to become Premier.

April 1993 – Attended a two hour lunch in Beijing with China’s Minister of Foreign Trade with six other people including Canada’s Ambassador to China.

May 1993 – Attended a three hour private dinner in Toronto with Zhu Rongji.

June 1993 – Attended a two hour negotiating meeting with Zhu Rongji in Beijing’s Jong Non Hi compound.

Sept 1993 – Attended a two hour private meeting with Chnia’s Foreign Trade minister, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and six Canadian executives.

My total experience in foreign affairs and trade: 21 hours. Number of heads of foreign government met: 8. Sarah Palin experience: 12 hours, including the meeting with high school students in Alaska on a foreign exchange program. Number of heads of foreign government Palin met: 5, all during a two day whirlwind tour of New York during the opening of the UN General Assembly.

Why wasn’t I picked to be someone’s vice presidential candidate?

Meanwhile, CNN checked out Palin’s claim that, because Alaska is close to Russia, she’s the nation’s first line of defence in the event “Putin rears his head.”


Sarah Palin’s 12 Hours Of “Foreign Policy” Experience

Jan 19, 2007 – Palin meets with Fentie for 30 minutes, with Lloyd for 30 minutes, and with Bell for 30 minutes. She does not attend the PNWER dinner hosted that night by the Canadian government for Alaskan officials and business leaders.

Feb 24, 2007 – In Washington, DC, for a National Governors Assn. meeting, Palin attends a reception at the Italian embassy. She stays for 30 minutes before leaving for a dinner hosted by the Republican Governors Assn.

Mar 10, 2007 – Palin hosts the annual Fur & Ice reception in Fairbanks for about 30 diplomats and international tourism representatives. A Palin news release issued before the event noted, "Governor Sarah Palin will welcome members of Alaska's diplomatic corps to Fairbanks to view the ice carvings of Ice Alaska's 2007 World Ice Art Championship." Following the afternoon reception, Palin attends the NCAA rifle championships.

Mar 19, 2007 – Palin meets with 10 foreign exchange students.

April, 3, 2007 – Palin spends 15 minutes filming a short video message for a trade show in China.

April 4, 2007 – In Juneau, Palin meets with British Columbia's premier Gordon Campbell and several of his aides for about 90 minutes.

April 16, 2007 – Palin meets with Taiwanese officials for an hour.

May 15, 2007 – Palin holds a "brief courtesy" meeting with Martin Uden, then the head of the British consulate in San Francisco. The calendar notes, "He'll be visiting Juneau today off of one of the Cruise Ships."

July 23-26, 2007 – Palin visits Kuwait to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. (After Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, her aides, referring to this trip, said she travelled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait and Iraq. But on this visit, she did not go beyond the Kuwaiti-Iraq border and her “visit” to Ireland consisted of a refuelling stop.)

Aug 27, 2007 – David Akov, Israeli consul general for the Pacific Northwest, pays a 30-minute "courtesy call" on Palin.

Sept 12, 2007 – Palin holds a 15-minute-long "courtesy" meeting with Hideo Fujita, the new chief of Japan's consulate in Anchorage.

Sept 13, 2007 – Palin holds a 15-minute long "courtesy" meeting with Peng Keyu, the head of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

Oct 15, 2007 – Palin meets Iceland's president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, for 30 minutes. Grimsson is in Alaska to attend the Arctic Energy Summit Technology Conference. (After she became McCain's running mate, she was asked if she had ever met with a world leader. She said, no — forgetting this meeting.)

Jan 4, 2008 – Palin holds a 10-minute-long phone conversation with Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. Her calendar also refers to "Canadian officials phone calls" that day.

Jan 21, 2008 – Palin is schedule for a brief "stop by" visit with Joe Balash, a Palin aide, and Brian Mason, a member of the legislative assembly of Alberta, Canada. The calendar says, "Balash Office would like a picture w/GOV."

March 8, 2008 – Palin welcomes guests to the 2008 Fur & Ice reception for the diplomatic corps. Diplomats from the Philippines, South Korea, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Finland, Germany, and Egypt attend. Her calendar lists no separate meetings with any of them.

May 22, 2008 – At 7:15 am, Palin calls Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie; for ten minutes they discuss news that her administration will ask the state legislature to award a license for a 1,715-mile-long natural gas pipeline to TransCanada. (Her administration has turned down bids from other conglomerates, including ConocoPhillips.) Later, she has a five-minute-long phone call with Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice.

Aug 11-12, 2008 – Palin attends a reception and delivers welcoming remarks for the 8th Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians which includes delegates from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. This year, it holds panels on human health in the Arctic region, Arctic marine policy, adaptation to climate change, and energy resources in the Arctic. After welcoming the delegates, Palin leaves to attend a "dedication and blessing ceremony" for a cultural and visitors center in Fairbanks.
Data: Mother Jones

I'll be entertaining offers from presidential candidates until the Red Sox playoff game begins at 8.40 this evening. After that, please don't interrupt me as I'll be busy with Red Sox nation.

"You Can’t Trust A Black Man, How Can You Vote For One?" Radio Spots Planned

In the 1960s, Presidential campaigns played “dirty tricks” on each other but they were usually limited to things such as sending 100 pizza’s to the opponent’s campaign office in a small town where there might not be 100 residents let alone 100 volunteers to pay the bill.

Dick Tuck, dubbed “the Democrat’s pixie” by reporters, was the master of political pranks.

After the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, Tuck hired an elderly woman who put on a large Nixon button and embraced the candidate in front of TV cameras. She said, "Don't worry, son! He beat you last night, but you'll get him next time."

Tuck's most famous prank against Richard Nixon was dubbed "the Chinatown Caper." During a Los Angeles campaign stop, Nixon visited Chinatown where a backdrop of children holding "welcome" signs in English and Chinese was waiting. As Nixon spoke, an elder from the community whispered that one of the signs in Chinese said, "What about the Hughes loan?" The sign referred to a $205,000 loan Howard Hughes gave Nixon's brother, Donald. On camera, Nixon grabbed a sign and ripped it up.

Tuck is credited with waving a train out of the station while Nixon was still speaking on the rear platform. In the 1968 presidential campaign, Tuck utilized Nixon's own campaign slogan against him, hiring a very pregnant and very young African-American woman to wander around a Nixon rally in a predominantly white area, wearing a T-shirt that said, "Nixon's the One!"

So why this meandering stroll back through what seems like quaint American political history? Because dirty tricks are taking a very dirty turn. Today, they come in the form of caging voter rolls, name calling, guilt by innuendo and lying about not just an opponent’s record but your own. What George Bush supporters did to John McCain in 2000, McCain plans to do to Obama over the next three weeks.

Enter McCain

Sarah Palin rolled out the first phase of the lies and innuendo campaign over the weekend with McCain joining in this week as they try cloaking Barack Obama with the activities of a man who committed foul acts when Obama was eight. But as I wrote yesterday in Ayers & Keating: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other, ( it is a tough stretch to link a 40-year old event with someone who was a child at the time to today’s presidential campaign.

Polls are showing the Ayers attack on Obama is having a negligible effect.

So, now comes word that several right wingnut 527 groups supporting John McCain are preparing a series of quick hit, lie-and-duck, sleazy tricks in the waning days of the campaign.

Three independent sources report that at least one such shadowy 527 group is planning a radio campaign on the weekend before the election that will ask, "You can’t trust a black man, how can you vote for one?" It is such a blatant appeal to racism, the ad will be scheduled to air only in a few southern radio markets on Nov. 1 or Nov. 2, just before the election.

But the strategy is almost evil in its simplicity. The plan is to air the 30-second spot just enough times to be heard by a large number of white voters but, more importantly, to be picked up by the mainstream media as a news story where widespread coverage is anticipated. Thus, it is hoped that the impact of the message will bleed nationwide, far beyond the handful of cities where it originally airs.

Meanwhile, with the ad originating with a supposedly unaffiliated 527 group, the McCain campaign will be in a position to shout “Shame on them!” while puffing its chest to demand that their “supporters” pull the advertising.

“Desperate times require desperate measures,” an official inside the McCain campaign tells me while denying any personal knowledge of a last minute, race baiting, ad buy. Well, I didn’t expect he would say “Yeah, sure, we know about it and hope it works.” Admitting knowing such an attack was coming would buy him 18 months in Danbury, the minimum security federal prison, because 527 groups are, by law, barred from having any contact with a campaign.

Voter Suppression By GOP

Meanwhile, the Republican Party itself is actively engaging in voter suppression.

AlterNet reports this morning that Republicans in key swing states – including Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Missouri – are using Social Security data to verify voter registration information from established and potential voters. The Social Security information, which is know to be filled with errors, is being used to purge "tens of thousands" of voters already on voter rolls, the New York Times reports, along with rejecting numerous new voter registration applications.

Of 7.7-million inquiries by states to the Social Security Administration to verify voter applications in 2008, nearly 2.4 million resulted in "non matches," according to the agency. So, on Monday, it wrote to election officials in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, urging them to "review their procedures" and citing the likelihood of numerous errors.

Voting rights attorneys maintain that the "name-matching" process not only violates the National Voter Registration Act on accepting or removing voter’s names, but also creates a new basis to challenge presidential results if the vote count is close on November 4.

Just what the country needs: Another Florida recount.

The fact is with the McCain-Palin poll numbers sliding off the edge of a cliff, the campaign has nothing left to pull from its bag of tricks other than dirty ones. Somewhere, Dick Puck must be weeping.

A hat tip to Pete

100 Days Left. Hallelujia!

- by Denis Campbell, editor of

2,822 page days have turned in the Administration of George W. Bush. Today there are only 100 left until 20 January 2009 when either Barack Obama or John McCain will become the 44th President of the United States. We mostly focus on the 1st hundred days of an Administration or new term. In your case sir, we’ll just count you down.

Last Christmas, a prized gift was the His Days Are Numbered: George W. Bush Countdown Calendar written by Alex Goulder, a wonderful desktop calendar with a factoid each and every day for 386 days. As we have:

• Sabre rattled with Iran,
• Talked tough with nuclear Russia,
• Watched an unprecedented global financial meltdown and
• Seen your staff rats desert this sinking ship like the Titanic.

I keep sitting here yelling “Go Clock!!!” hoping and praying we get to the end of this calendar without bankrupting the world, plunging it into WWIIII over Israel v Palestine, nuking Iran, invading Pakistan or picking a real fight with Russia.

When he first appeared as the petulant man-child watching HIS inaugural parade alone, in the bitter cold, protesting crowds kept blocks away at bay with tear gas wafting towards the reviewing stand, one could perhaps feel the tiniest bit sorry for George Walker Bush, newly appointed Commander-in-Chief and 43rd President (after a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to stop counting ballots in Florida and handed him the title).

We snickered at the quaint way in which he mangled the English language, reminding us of that lovable 1970’s comedian Norm Crosby whose aphorisms were quite witty and magically, beautifully badly constructed.

Bush was not so talented.

Everyone had their favourite Bushism… “we need to let these doctors show their love for these women” was mine, from the opening of the Michael Moore film Sicko, describing… gynaecologists. It was mostly harmless stuff until it became deadly serious. Websites offered a virtual encyclopaedia of them.

He seemed to be flying without a net at first and delegated almost every decision to two men, Karl Rove – dubbed Bush’s Brain – on the political side and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Dark Lord and most powerful man in Washington. He remains the most powerful Vice President ever to hold the office.

Little did we know the things that would be done in the name of ‘freedom’ just 9-short months later when the Twin Towers were felled and the Pentagon was attacked. Little did we know things such as the massive rights crimping Patriot Act would be rushed to print in only 39-days and a massive pork filled bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security would be formed with unprecedented powers.

We were taught to fear and question everyone different from us. The new mantra was be afraid, be vigilant, terrorists are everywhere… there… there… over there!

Our nation was whipped into a hyper-patriotic war/revenge fury by this Administration largely because, as sociologist Desmond Morris wrote in his 1970 book Manwatching, A Field Guide to Human Behaviour, that “what makes the major contribution to the savageries of war is the powerful human inclination to co-operate or starve. We hunted together in packs to track large animals and assure mutual survival. All a modern dictator has to do is convert this natural cooperation to excessively patriotic. He can then easily persuade them to kill strangers, not as an act of brutality, but as laudable acts of companion protection. If our ancestors had not become so innately cooperative, it might be much more difficult to raise an army and send it into war.” W would love it, it has lots of pictures.

Under W‘s leadership this ‘cooperation’ would lead to:

• Launching two wars,
• Invading a country under false pretences,
• Suspending habeas corpus,
• Torturing people,
• Using ‘extraordinary’ renditions to send those we thought were involved in terrorism to places with more lax torture laws to get answers,
• Building a prison camp to hold so-called “enemy combatants in complete isolation, without trial for seven years and even those ordered released by our own courts remain behind bars,
• Watching the largest single financial meltdown since the Great Depression,
• Seeing the Unitary Executive grow in unprecedented power as executive orders were how this president bypassed the legislative branch and
• Enabling government agencies to be staffed with executives from the industries they were supposed to (wink, wink) regulate and oversee.

We are a very bitterly divided electorate. While the election night maps used red and blue for decades, those colours became the deeply polarising colours of our land. We’ve not come very far since 2000 as divisiveness and ballot integrity remain key issues 8-years later.

With 100 days until handing over the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the new occupant, the legacy thing isn’t looking so good for W. He is the most ill-informed, lacking in intellectual curiosity President we’ve ever had and it shows. What’s his library going to house? A comic book collection? Baseball cards? Sports memorabilia?

He is already the least travelled and most vacationed President in the history of this office.

Please do us one last favour Mr. Bush and take one last 100-day vacation now please?

Your nation thanks you.

Spiro Agnew And Sarah Palin

It seems fitting that on this day in 1973, the third worst vice president in American history – after Dick Cheney and Aaron Burr – resigned under federal indictment. Spiro T. Agnew pleaded “no contest” to one count of federal tax evasion. The Senate approved Nixon’s appointment of Gerry Ford as Vice President, clearing the way for Tricky Dick’s own resignation not long after under the shadow of his Watergate crimes.

Agnew’s crude, alliterative attacks on anti-Viet Nam war protestors and the news media paved the way for the McCain-Palin smears we’re seeing today.