When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 October 2008

A closet Commie user?

Now, this will be a stroll down memory lane for personal computer enthusiasts of a certain age:
Today, we are releasing Commodore BASIC as a Scripting Language - it works on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X 10.4/10.5 (Intel and PowerPC), and you even get the source, so you can adapt it to other operating systems and CPUs.
pagetable.com: Commodore BASIC as a Scripting Language Now Open-Source for Windows and Unix

Haven't tested it on Linux yet, but it works a treat on both Mac OS X and Windows XP!

20 GOTO 10

(via Lifehacker)

Ideal for self-defense, or a sudden summer shower

The Unbreakable Umbrella can be purchased for $179.95 from Real-Self-Defense.com.

Hat tip: Greg

Sign of the times

At least 7.5 million Americans owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth, according to a real estate research firm's report released Friday.

In other words: If they sold their homes today, they'd have to bring a check to the closing. Ouch.
7.5 Million Homeowners "Underwater" (CNN.com)

30 October 2008

A militantly nonpartisan look at the issues

The good people at Public Agenda have assembled a Voter's Survival Kit containing nonpartisan analysis of the key issues in next week's election.

I doubt that there are too many enrevanche readers who are still in the "undecided" column, but even if you've already made up your mind, you just might learn something from Public Agenda's coverage.

More of this, please.

A declaration of intellectual and moral bankruptcy

I'm working from Raleigh this week, and caught a political ad last night on TV that really took my breath away.

No, it wasn't Obama's infomercial. It was something local.

Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), who's at serious risk of losing her seat to challenger Kay Hagan, ran an attack ad accusing Ms. Hagan of "godlessness," for crying out loud.
Dole, a Republican, is trying with the ad to shore up the traditional GOP constituency of evangelical Christians, a group that could be crucial to her re-election. The hard-fought, multimillion-dollar battle between Dole and Hagan could determine whether Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

Hagan, a Democrat who teaches Sunday school and is an elder at her Presbyterian church in Greensboro, said she was furious about the television ad. The spot ends with an image of Hagan and the voice of a woman -- not her -- saying "there is no God."
Dole's "Godless" ad riles Hagan (Raleigh, NC News and Observer, 30 October 2008)

I searched in vain on Youtube for a copy of *just* the advertisement, and couldn't find it - but it's contained in this CNN analysis from "The Situation Room":

This is what sleazy desperation looks and sounds like.

29 October 2008

A party that can be roused in time of deep crisis only by fear and tribalism

The real McCain, whoever that is or was, may still believe that major swathes of the Religious Right represent "agents of intolerance" in our politics. But he has decided to stake both his election and the Republican Party's future upon them—from the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?," to the rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him," to the corrosive choice of pipeline-prayer Sarah Palin as his running mate and heir apparent.

Tax cuts or no tax cuts, a party that can be roused in time of deep crisis only by fear and tribalism—a party that a supposed moderate is now deeding to its most extreme elements—can scarcely serve as a safe home to liberty or the voters who cherish it.

Two years ago, I wrote a book imploring the Republican Party not to follow its worst elements off a cliff—not to evolve, in short, into an insular party with little-to-no appeal outside of the rural, the southern, the Evangelical. As the McCain campaign flames out in a ball of Rovian disgrace, scorching the center in an attempt to fire up the base, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been lost.
Ryan Sager: The Rove Realignment - Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP? (Reason, 28 October 2008)

Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP?

Why, yes. Yes, we have.

Hat tip: Chap

28 October 2008

Oh, lord... the candidates got served...

There's only one way to settle this thing.

John McCain vs. Barack Obama... Dance-off!

Hat tip: Kottke

Neuroscience and the undecided voter

As we enter the final week of a seemingly endless election campaign, opinion polls continue to identify a substantial fraction of voters who consider themselves “undecided.” Although their numbers are dwindling, they could still determine the outcome of the race in some states. Comedians and other commentators have portrayed these people as fools, unable to choose even when confronted with the starkest of contrasts.

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology, however, suggests that most undecided voters may be smarter than you think. They’re not indifferent or unable to make clear comparisons between the candidates. They may be more willing than others to take their time — or else just unaware that they have essentially already made a choice.
Your Brain's Secret Ballot (New York Times, 27 October 2008)

27 October 2008

Photographing a cough

Oh man... schlieren photography is way cool.

Markets are dysfunctional; they are totally unhinged

...[I]t was a meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in September 2006 that earned [NYU professor Nouriel Roubini] his nickname Dr Doom.

Roubini told an audience of fellow economists that a generational crisis was coming. A once-in-a-lifetime housing bust would lay waste to the US economy as oil prices soared, consumers stopped shopping and the country went into a deep recession.

The collapse of the mortgage market would trigger a global meltdown, as trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unravelled. The shockwaves would destroy banks and other big financial institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, America’s largest home loan lenders.

“I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that,” the moderator said. Members of the audience laughed.


Then, in February 2008, Roubini posted an entry on his blog headlined: “The rising risk of a systemic financial meltdown: the twelve steps to financial disaster”.

It detailed how the housing market collapse would lead to huge losses for the financial system, particularly in the vehicles used to securitise loans. It warned that “ a national bank” might go bust, and that, as trouble deepened, investment banks and hedge funds might collapse.

Even Roubini was taken aback at how quickly this scenario unfolded. The following month the US investment bank Bear Stearns went under. Since then, the pace and scale of the disaster has accelerated and, as Roubini predicted, the banking sector has been destroyed, Freddie and Fannie have collapsed, stock markets have gone mad and the economy has entered a frightening recession.

Roubini says he was able to predict the catastrophe so accurately because of his “holistic” approach to the crisis and his ability to work outside traditional economic disciplines. A long-time student of financial crises, he looked at the history and politics of past crises as well as the economic models.

“These crises don’t come out of nowhere,” he said. “Usually they arrive because of a systematic increase in a variety of asset and credit bubbles, macro-economic policies and other vulnerabilities. If you combine them, you may not get the timing right but you get an indication that you are closer to a tipping point.”


“Every time there has been a severe crisis in the last six months, people have said this is the catastrophic event that signals the bottom. They said it after Bear Stearns, after Fannie and Freddie, after AIG [the giant US insurer that had to be rescued], and after [the $700 billion bailout plan]. Each time they have called the bottom, and the bottom has not been reached.”

Across the world, governments have taken more and more aggressive actions to stop the panic. However, Roubini believes investors appear to have lost confidence in governments’ ability to sort out the mess.

The announcement of the US government’s $700 billion bailout, Gordon Brown’s grand bank rescue plan and the coordinated response of governments around the world has done little to calm the situation. “It’s been a slaughter, day after day after day,” said Roubini. “Markets are dysfunctional; they are totally unhinged.” Economic fundamentals no longer apply, he believes.

“Even using the nuclear option of guaranteeing everything, providing unlimited liquidity, nationalising the banks, making clear that nobody of importance is going to be allowed to fail, even that has not helped. We are reaching a breaking point, frankly.”

He believes governments will have to come up with an even bigger international rescue, and that the US is facing “multi-year economic stagnation”.

Nouriel Roubini: I fear the worst is yet to come (Times of London, 26 October 2008)

Venti McLatte redux

Followup to an earlier post:

After unveiling plans earlier this year to sell espresso drinks at all of its U.S. locations, McDonald's Corp. now faces a fresh set of challenges.

The weak economy has prompted some consumers to brew coffee at home instead of buying it at coffee shops. A sharp pullback by Starbucks Corp., which is shutting hundreds of stores as its sales slow, has analysts questioning whether now is the right time for McDonald's to roll out its premium line of lattes, cappuccinos, smoothies and sweet, ice-blended frappes.


McDonald's executives have fought back against suggestions that the espresso drinks, the core of its biggest menu expansion in 30 years, aren't selling as well as expected. This summer, internal documents showed that sales of the drinks in several markets peaked about three weeks after the drinks launched. Then they declined in the following weeks, in some cases sharply, according to the documents, which were viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Management contends the drop was due in part to a lull in demand for hot drinks during the summer, and that the full potential of the drinks can't be realized until they're backed by national advertising. "We are very much on track," says Janice Fields, chief operating officer for McDonald's U.S. business.

Drinks of all sorts tend to have higher profit margins than food items at McDonald's. But in a tough economy, the price of a premium drink could give people pause. Though less expensive than its competitors', McDonald's lattes, for instance, sell for between $1.99 and $2.99 at the Wheaton, Ill. store, making them more expensive than the chain's cheapest burger.

"It's a really tough time to come out with a premium product," says Larry Miller, a restaurant analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

McDonald's Coffee Strategy Is Tough Sell (WSJ, 27 October 2008)

Stretching beyond her range

Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.
The Anchorage (AK) Daily News, explaning their editorial endorsement of Obama/Biden (25 October 2008)

25 October 2008

Tough birds

The McCain campaign has taken to calling Barack Obama a socialist. This is neither as derogatory as McCain's handlers seem to think nor as baseless as Obama supporters would like U. S. voters to believe. Yes, Senator Obama is something of a socialist. So is Senator McCain.

In the 21st century it's difficult to run for office without being something of a socialist. There's a basic philosophical split between people who think of government as the problem and liberty as the solution, and those who think of liberty as the problem and government as the solution. People who think of government as the solution are statists, and one of their left-wing subspecies is called "socialist." Their right-wing subspecies include paleo-or social conservatives. In reality, they're birds of a feather. Their policies may be diametrically opposed; their mindsets are near-identical.

If you ask the Republican candidate, the Democratic candidate is a socialist. So is the Republican candidate, if you ask me. To be anything else, he would have to run on a platform of reducing government -- and not just a little, but a lot. He isn't. At best, he's running on a platform of throwing good government after bad government.
Birds of a statist feather (National Post, 25 October 2008)

I would be more exercised than I already am over this, except that my irony meter blew the day I realized we're running around calling people socialists in a year the US and many of our biggest trading partners have just had to nationalize banks and insurance companies.

Tough times call for tough measures

Tougher than the rest

Oh, man... Tunnel of Love (1987) is such an underrated Springsteen album.

Here's the Boss, performing in Barcelona earlier this year:

Tough crowd

Your Editors Do Not Wish to Get Involved in This

Pilot: We are now arriving in at JFK airport in New York City, home of the Yankees.
Met fan: That's not right...(yelling) What about the Mets?
Pilot: No one cares.
Rest of passengers: (cheering)

--Jet Blue Flight

via Overheard in New York, Oct 25, 2008

Tough and rumble

When Jennifer Hudson began experiencing some commercial success, she could have moved her family out of the old neighborhood - Englewood, on the South Side of Chicago.

The neighborhood, and Ms. Hudson's family, are in the spotlight this weekend, as there have been at least two deaths related to a domestic disturbance at the family home.

When neighbors heard gunshots, they didn't bother to call 911:
Paul Ciliano, a former Chicago police officer and CBS News consultant, said the Englewood neighborhood where the crimes were committed is "probably the toughest neighborhood in the city of Chicago."

"This is [a] notoriously violent area, the most shootings and car hijackings and tough-and-rumble place on the South Side of Chicago," he told Early Show anchor Priya David.
Amber Alert for Jennifer Hudson's nephew (CBS News)

At first I thought it was a Spoonerism, and then realized that it must be deliberate: "tough and rumble" is one of the best short descriptions of a bad neighborhood I think I've ever heard.

OK, it's probably in the worst possible taste to extract an interesting phrase from a news report of a family tragedy and post about it. But it grabbed me, this morning.

24 October 2008

And in the 8th District of North Carolina...

Last spring, it came to my attention that former textile mill worker Larry Kissell was running (again) against Robin Hayes (an heir to the Cannon textile fortune) in North Carolina's 8th Congressional District:
North Carolina, first in the South for its share of jobs in manufacturing, long benefited from a form of outsourcing. Decades ago Northern manufacturers shifted jobs to low-wage, Southern states with severe restrictions on organized labor. Now the "old economy" parts of all these states are reeling from the post-NAFTA version of outsourcing. Since 1993 North Carolina has bled more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs, according to state government estimates--one-fourth of its total. The pace of closures isn't slacking, either. Last year 10 percent of the state's textile jobs were lost, with at least 10,000 more manufacturing workers out of luck. In Biscoe after Biscoe, unemployment keeps climbing. Even in relatively prosperous Cumberland County, with its two expanding military bases, Wal-Mart is the number-one private employer. "Good jobs are coming to North Carolina," says Kissell. "They're just not coming here."


Now a high school social studies teacher, Larry Kissell previously worked twenty-seven years in an even larger (and now closed) textile plant in neighboring Star. Kissell hinged his dark-horse campaign in 2006 on his intimate understanding not only of how people have been kicked in the pocketbook but in the gut as well. "We didn't have time to transition," he says, ambling down Mill Hill for an hour's worth of door-to-door campaigning. "It was gone. It was gone. And so much of the structure of the town just left us."

Kissell was one of the luckier ones: a Wake Forest University graduate who was able to land a job at East Montgomery High when the end was nigh for his plant. But when he decided to challenge four-term incumbent Robin Hayes in 2006, Kissell's only previous elected offices had been president of the Biscoe Lions Club and deacon of the First Baptist Church of Biscoe.
Mill Hill Populism, The Nation, 24 April 2008

The Washington Post, covering the race today (among many others) at The Fix blog, reports:
North Carolina's 8th district (R): Rep. Robin Hayes (R) drew national headlines earlier this week for all the wrong reasons. Warming up a crowd before a John McCain rally, Hayes told the crowd that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." After denying he said it, Hayes acknowledged he did but said he simply didn't remember saying it. Um, ok. Even before this foible Democrats insisted that 2006 nominee Larry Kissell was well positioned to win in a district with a considerable black population (27 percent).
I'd say so. Kissell came within a few hundred votes of unseating Hayes in 2006.

What are they hiding?

Top ten things the Republican and Democratic candidates are hiding this year, per Kenneth P. Vogel at Politico.com:
Obama’s legal clients
Palin's e-mails
• Biden’s earmark requests
• John and Cindy McCain’s taxes
• Obama's state Senate records and schedules
• Palin’s college transcripts
• Obama’s Columbia thesis
• All four candidates’ medical records
• Obama’s small donors
• McCain flight records
Read the whole article for the details: What are the candidates hiding? (Politico)

(via PoliticalFilter)

We never did this in my Civics class... too bad.

Seventh graders from the Ron Clark Academy perform "You Can Vote However You Like," a parody [of] TI's "Whatever You Like," at the Coca-Cola Leadership Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.
Seventh Graders Debate Obama vs McCain (YouTube)


So, so true


... from I Can Has Cheezburger?

23 October 2008

Rudy Ray Moore, RIP

Most critics refrained from overpraising “Dolemite,” with the possible exception of John Leland, who wrote in The New York Times in 2002 that it “remains the ‘Citizen Kane’ of kung fu pimping movies.”
Rudy Ray Moore, 81, a Precursor of Rap, dies (New York Times, 23 October 2008)

Related: "Dolemite" entry on IMDB

Electronics and pork

Some men build skyscrapers. Some men build pyramids. And some men, really, really great men, build gigantic BBQ trailers. The winner of Crutchfield's "You Dream It We'll Help You Build It" contest, Michael Seville took his late father's 10-foot long galvanized propane tank and mounted it as the chief component of this 17-foot mobile BBQ. Then he stuffed the rest of the platform with electronics.
(Gizmodo) Giant BBQ Grill Trailer: Electronics and pork make a great combination

...and don't miss the original post @ Bornrich.org.

22 October 2008

Yo mama

Oh my. An election-related game of the dozens breaks out on Twitter:
fernandorizo: hey twitter, @anildash , @mathowie , and @loresjoberg are saying hell of yo mama jokes up in here. no limits no knuckles style, exactly.

loresjoberg: @anildash Yo mama so fat, when she suspends her campaign they have to bring in a crane.

loresjoberg: @anildash Yo mama so ugly, Sarah Palin knows how to field dress her.

fernandorizo: @anildash yo mama's such a ho, she said she'd sit ON Ahmedinejad with no preconditions

loresjoberg: @anildash Yo mama so fat, she got an endorsement from General Mills.

loresjoberg: @anildash Yo mama's so ugly, Obama said "You can put lipstick on a pig and it would look a lot like yo mama on dollar margarita night."

anildash: @mathowie Your moms so nasty Joe the Plumber had to tell her to stop "sharing the wealth".

gesteves: @anildash, yo momma’s so fat, John McCain looked into her eyes and saw three letters: KFC.

anildash: @fernandorizo well played! Your mama so nasty Bill Ayers wouldn't pal around with *her*.

Politics makes very, very, very strange bedfellows

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market's downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America's economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.

On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain (Washington Post)

Bad, but in different ways

While I'm not thrilled at the prospect of an Obama administration (especially with a friendly Congress), the Republicans still need to get their clocks cleaned in two weeks, for a couple of reasons.

First, they had their shot at holding power, and they failed. They've failed in staying true to their principles of limited government and free markets. They've failed in preventing elected leaders of their party from becoming corrupted by the trappings of power, and they've failed to hold those leaders accountable after the fact. Congressional Republicans failed to rein in the Bush administration's naked bid to vastly expand the power of the presidency (a failure they're going to come to regret should Obama take office in January). They failed to apply due scrutiny and skepticism to the administration's claims before undertaking Congress' most solemn task—sending the nation to war. I could go on.

As for the Bush administration, the only consistent principle we've seen from the White House over the last eight years is that of elevating the American president (and, I guess, the vice president) to that of an elected dictator. That isn't hyperbole. This administration believes that on any issue that can remotely be tied to foreign policy or national security (and on quite a few other issues as well), the president has boundless, limitless, unchecked power to do anything he wants. They believe that on these matters, neither Congress nor the courts can restrain him.

That's the second reason the GOP needs to lose. American voters need to send a clear, convincing repudiation of these dangerous ideas.

If they do lose, the GOP would be wise to regroup and rebuild from scratch, scrap the current leadership, and, most importantly, purge the party of the "national greatness," neoconservative influence. Big-government conservatism has bloated the federal government, bogged us down in what will ultimately be a trillion-dollar war, and set us down the road to European-style socialism. It's hard to think of how Obama could be worse. He'll just be bad in different ways.
Why The Republicans Must Lose (Radley Balko, writing in Reason, 22 October 2008)


21 October 2008

OK, so it was nuts

On 29 August, I wrote, in re McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for VP:
...this move is either going to look nuts or brilliant in under a month.
It started looking dodgy pretty quickly: the Palin pick had successfully energized a chunk of the base, but moderates and independents who might lean Republican (people you have to win over, if you're John McCain) were not reacting well.

Not quite two months in, the verdict is clear: it was nuts.

Sarah Palin is and remains the single best reason not to vote for John McCain.

Election year reminder

If you aren't checking out the curated political coverage at Real Clear Politics, why on earth not?


How do you run the A/C on a spy plane? Where's the Start button on a nuclear power plant? Don't try to wing it—read the directions! 
A photo essay of classic instruction manuals. (Wired, 20 October 2008)

Modern-day technical writing came out of the aerospace and defense industry.  Wired has a loving look back at some of the classics, starting with the Project Gemini Familiarization Manual. ;-)

20 October 2008

A grand strategist looks at the U.S. Presidential election

Both nominees offer a strongly “realist” perspective on international affairs, with the differences stemming primarily from their generational backgrounds. McCain’s stark realism stems from the Cold War. Ronald Reagan’s personal mystique was largely a fiction of our imagination, but McCain’s legend—the good and the bad—is based on true stories of personal heroism. He lived them all. If you want someone who can recognize human evil and fight it tooth and nail, McCain’s your man.

Obama’s subtle realism emerged from a far different time: the truly tumultuous 1970s, where we first locate much of today’s globalization—energy and food shocks, Middle East conflicts, environmental awareness, global market swings, and transnational terrorism. Befitting those fractured times, Obama’s journey plays out like an ABC “Movie of the Week”: the biracial child who willed himself from a Jakarta grade school to the pinnacle of Harvard Law, landing next on the South Side of Chicago as a community activist who instinctively countered the prevailing counterculture. If you want someone who can recognize global complexity and manage it with confidence and care, Obama’s your man.

Both McCain and Obama represent quintessentially American stories, with their amazing personal trajectories obscuring the underlying political philosophies each brings to a possible administration. Pundits (and Karl Rove) would have you believe that fear alone will settle this election. But the question every voter must answer is not, “Do you fear?” but rather, “What do you fear more?”

Barack Obama will make America smarter about the outside world, and John McCain will make the world smarter about America. And on that score, there are plenty of ways to divvy up the global landscape. Here are ten criteria you can use to compare the candidates and help you break down the basic choices.
Look out, world (Thomas P.M. Barnett, writing in GOOD magazine)

On the ten criteria Dr. Barnett identifies, interestingly, he awards three points to Obama, and three to McCain, with four toss-ups. The article is very thoughtful and well worth your time.

19 October 2008

The really right answer is: "What if he is?"

Troubled by conservative whispers that Obama is a Muslim, Powell gave a passionate defense of Obama and Muslim Americans.

"The correct answer. He is not a Muslim," Powell said. "He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: 'What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America."

He cited a story about a Muslim American solider who died serving in Iraq to argue that Muslim Americans also love and defend America.

Powell cited the economy as the most important issue the next president will have to deal with, and said that he's convinced Obama would better lead the country out of the economic crisis.

"In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems we're having," he said.

Obama 'Beyond Humbled' as GOP's Powell Says He'd Be 'an Exceptional President' (ABC News)


So, uh, the rest of the world economy... how's it doing?

As the hullabaloo of the banking crisis fades, it seems increasingly to have been a kind of distraction from the wider topic. Investors are now once more contemplating the non-financial corporate world. It is not a pretty sight.

As an apparently minor sign of distress, take the Baltic Dry Index, which measures bulk shipping rates. It has halved this month, and is down more than 90 per cent from its peak in May.


The main reason, apparently, is that shippers cannot get trade credit. This is the time-honoured procedure where exporters get a guarantee of payment from a bank, for a fee, until the end customer settles.


It is also part of a wider issue. As Ian Harnett of Absolute Strategy Research points out, the entire model of global industry over the past 20 years has been based on the premise of cheap, abundant credit. Take that away, and what happens, for instance, to outsourcing? Indeed, what happens to globalisation?


According to the latest Merrill Lynch fund managers’ survey, the danger least preying on global investors’ minds at present is geopolitical risk.

They might perhaps ponder the fact that derivatives markets are now pricing in some quite startling probabilities of sovereign default: 90 per cent for Pakistan, 80 per cent for the Ukraine and so forth.

The idea of the already tottering Pakistani state defaulting is not reassuring. The fact that China apparently offered last week to underwrite Pakistan’s overseas debt payments is not necessarily comforting either.
The view isn’t pretty as the banking crisis dust settles (Financial Times, 19 October 2008)

Refrigerator gumbo

Been trying to cook more at home, especially as the weather's getting cooler and it's more tolerable to spend longer stretches in the kitchen.

This weekend, we needed to get some leftovers out of the fridge. Main thing we had was a honking amount of leftover cold roast chicken from a midweek supper. There were also a couple of cups of cooked brown rice... oh, wait, there's a bag of frozen okra in the freezer...


10-12 generous servings


Leftover cold roast chicken, skin removed, deboned, defatted and diced coarsely
Leftover brown rice
Bag frozen okra
Four UHT boxes, Pomi crushed tomatoes
Chicken or vegetable stock for thinning (to achieve proper consistency)
4-6 cups trinity (chopped onion, green pepper, and celery in roughly equal proportions)
fat to make a roux (butter or veg. oil/shortening acceptable; some bacon drippings in the mix if at all possible)
bay leaf
(if you're being "authentic") file' gumbo


Over low heat, in a heavy stockpot, make a roux with a 4:3 ratio (my preference) of melted fat to flour.

Add chopped trinity and saute until onion becomes translucent.

Add chicken, frozen okra, chopped tomatoes, cooked rice, and spices to taste. Bring to boil, then sharply reduce heat; simmer over low heat for ~ 1hr. Thin as necessary with chicken or vegetable stock.

Yield: one hearty fall dinner for two people; four packaged quarts (each an almost perfect serving for two) of leftovers to freeze (and thaw for weeknight dinners.)

"I have to say this... you're way hotter in person."

Genius metacameo from Alec Baldwin in Gov. Palin's cameo.

18 October 2008

...Guns, bombs, three-ounce tubes of anthrax, Crest toothpaste, nail clippers, Snapple, and so on

If I were a terrorist, and I’m not, but if I were a terrorist—a frosty, tough-like-Chuck-Norris terrorist, say a C-title jihadist with Hezbollah or, more likely, a donkey-work operative with the Judean People’s Front—I would not do what I did in the bathroom of the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, which was to place myself in front of a sink in open view of the male American flying public and ostentatiously rip up a sheaf of counterfeit boarding passes that had been created for me by a frenetic and acerbic security expert named Bruce Schnei­er. He had made these boarding passes in his sophisticated underground forgery works, which consists of a Sony Vaio laptop and an HP LaserJet printer, in order to prove that the Transportation Security Administration, which is meant to protect American aviation from al-Qaeda, represents an egregious waste of tax dollars, dollars that could otherwise be used to catch terrorists before they arrive at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, by which time it is, generally speaking, too late.

I could have ripped up these counterfeit boarding passes in the privacy of a toilet stall, but I chose not to, partly because this was the renowned Senator Larry Craig Memorial Wide-Stance Bathroom, and since the commencement of the Global War on Terror this particular bathroom has been patrolled by security officials trying to protect it from gay sex, and partly because I wanted to see whether my fellow passengers would report me to the TSA for acting suspiciously in a public bathroom. No one did, thus thwarting, yet again, my plans to get arrested, or at least be the recipient of a thorough sweating by the FBI, for dubious behavior in a large American airport. Suspicious that the measures put in place after the attacks of September 11 to prevent further such attacks are almost entirely for show—security theater is the term of art—I have for some time now been testing, in modest ways, their effectiveness. Because the TSA’s security regimen seems to be mainly thing-based—most of its 44,500 airport officers are assigned to truffle through carry-on bags for things like guns, bombs, three-ounce tubes of anthrax, Crest toothpaste, nail clippers, Snapple, and so on—I focused my efforts on bringing bad things through security in many different airports, primarily my home airport, Washington’s Reagan National, the one situated approximately 17 feet from the Pentagon, but also in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (which is where I came closest to arousing at least a modest level of suspicion, receiving a symbolic pat-down—all frisks that avoid the sensitive regions are by definition symbolic—and one question about the presence of a Leatherman Multi-Tool in my pocket; said Leatherman was confiscated and is now, I hope, living with the loving family of a TSA employee).
The Things He Carried (Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, November 2008)

Ezra Pound Cake

New on the blogroll: Ezra Pound Cake:

Prior to starting Ezra Pound Cake in March 2008, I was head pastry chef at a German bakery in my hometown. Before that, I spent 10 years as a professional writer. Now, I use my master’s in English strictly to come up with badass blog names.

I write Ezra Pound Cake to chronicle my life, share recipes and encourage people to cook real food.

(Via Serious Eats.)

Foodblogging Vancouver and Seattle

Restaurants we loved while visiting Vancouver and Seattle:

Coast Restaurant, Vancouver, BC - Inventive, fusiony seafood-based menu; standouts included foie gras nigiri sushi and tuna tartare served with homemade potato chips. Moderately expensive.

Phnom Penh, Vancouver, BC - Cambodian/Vietnamese in Vancouver's Chinatown neighborhood. Fantastic, aromatic soups with handmade noodles. Inexpensive.

Banana Leaf, Vancouver, BC - Great Malaysian restaurant; veggie and noodle dishes especially good. Inexpensive.

Heirloom tomato salad at Trellis - Kirkland, WA
Heirloom tomato salad at Trellis

Trellis, Kirkland, WA - "Hotel restaurants" often aren't very good, but Trellis, in Kirkland, Washington's Heathman Hotel, has a chef that goes the extra mile: he grows much of the produce served in the restaurant on his three-acre sustainable garden. Breakfasts especially good; standouts at lunch/dinner include the exquisite heirloom tomato salad above. Moderate.

Hand-cut fries drizzled with demiglace and fontina cheese - Quinns, Seattle, WA
Fries drizzled with demiglace and fontina cheese - Quinns, Seattle WA

Quinns, Seattle, WA - Gastropub in Seattle's Capitol Hill district. Standout dishes included hand-cut fries drizzled with demiglace and fontina cheese, and a Belgian beer on draft (Duchess de Bourgogne). Moderate.

Cured meat platter (with cheese and olives) - Salumi, Seattle WA
Cured meat platter (with cheese and olives) - Salumi, Seattle WA

Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, Seattle, WA - Amazing cured meats, served with olives, cheeses, bread and wine, eaten family-style with other foodies (and chefs on their lunch hours.) Inexpensive and an astounding value for money.

(All photos by Scott Smith, used with kind permission.)

White Trash on the skids

There's been bloodletting in the markets, and the White Trash Portfolio has not been immune. It's still faring better than the major indexes we track.

To refresh your memory, the components of the White Trash Portfolio were as follows:
  • BFB - Brown-Forman Corp. Cl B
  • BUD - Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.
  • CHB - Champion Enterprises Inc.
  • F - Ford Motor Co.
  • GM - General Motors Corp.
  • IGT - International Game Technology
  • KO - Coca-Cola Co.
  • MCD - McDonald's Corp.
  • MO - Altria Group Inc.
  • WMT - Wal-Mart Stores Inc
Since inception, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking the major indexes performed as follows:
  • DIA, which tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is down 29.3%.
  • SPY, which tracks the S&P 500, is down 34.7%.
  • VTI, which tracks the performance of the broad US stock market as a whole, is down 35%.
  • IYC, which tracks the Dow Jones Consumer Cyclical index, is down 38.6%.
And White Trash? Down 27.13%.

WTP 18 Oct 2008

Amazingly, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's and Wal-Mart are all still in the positive column since portfolio inception; BUD is the winner at 23.2% in gains.

Big Loser: GM, losing 80% of its value since purchase, followed closely by Altria, with a 77.3% loss.

Thought for the day

Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit. - Aristotle
Update: Carrie has some interesting thoughts here.

Court and spark

[Stanley Miller] wanted to test the current ideas for the origin of life, by striking electric sparks in a mixture of gases thought to resemble the atmosphere of the young Earth.

When his analysis of the products in the experiments revealed traces of the building blocks of life, amino acids (which combine to make proteins), Stanley Miller became an instant celebrity - though the 1950s newspapers were overstating the case when they claimed he had actually recreated life in the lab.

When Stanley Miller died in May last year, his former student, Jeffrey Bada, inherited his materials; including, it turns out, several boxes containing vials of dried samples from those 1950s experiments, and the accompanying notebooks.
BBC News Science: New Spark In Classic Experiments

Bada and colleagues are now re-creating Miller's classic experiment with objectively better tools and methods, and what they hope is an improved understanding of what conditions at the time were likely to be. Fascinating article.

Hat tip: Carrie

The TED Spread

Initially, the TED spread was the difference between the interest rates for three-month U.S. Treasuries contracts and the three-month Eurodollars contract as represented by the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). However, since the Chicago Mercantile Exchange dropped T-bill futures, the TED spread is now calculated as the difference between the three-month T-bill interest rate and three-month LIBOR.


During 2007, the subprime mortgage crisis ballooned the TED spread to a region of 150-200 bps. On September 17, 2008, the record set after the Black Monday crash of 1987 was broken as the TED spread exceeded 300 bps.[3] Some higher readings for the spread were due to inability to obtain accurate LIBOR rates in the absence of a liquid unsecured lending market.[4] On October 10, 2008, the TED spread reached another new high of 465 basis points. The longterm average of the TED has been 30 basis points.

The TED Spread (Wikipedia)


17 October 2008

Remembering absent friends at unexpected times

I doubt this post will make any sense at all, but I'm going to write it and see.

Friday nights at our place, we often get takeout, or cook something simple at best; tonight was spaghetti night, a favorite Friday convention because you boil some water, open a box of pasta, and warm up some homemade sauce stashed in the freezer when you had more time. If you're feeling adventurous and wild, you make a salad. And it's pretty decent, quick, actual home cooking (you prepaid timewise when you made the sauce.)

Carrie and I had both had long weeks, but takeout (even with some of the great places we have in the neighborhood) didn't appeal, so I threw together something quick.

So, Spaghetti Night. I'm getting over a bit of stomach upset, so I went light on the sauce.

I don't know if you know this about dogs, but if you don't: they eat anything.

They especially love the sort of food that human beings eat off of plates, and if you don't want your dogs to develop bad habits, you don't ever feed them table scraps.

We compromised. Dogs are not fed from plates in our house, but when the meal is over, if they've waited semi-politely, we might share a bit of whatever we were eating that's dog-safe.

Pasta, lightly tossed with butter (but no sauce), is a traditional canine favorite in our place.

Tonight when I went to put two small handfuls of noodles into the dog bowls, there was only one dog and one food bowl.

Chow Bella was really happy to get the spaghetti.

I'm sure she must have wondered why I was acting so strange.

The Economist: Capitalism at bay

...[E]economic liberty is under attack and capitalism, the system which embodies it, is at bay. This week Britain, the birthplace of modern privatisation, nationalised much of its banking industry; meanwhile, amid talk of the end of the Thatcher-Reagan era, the American government has promised to put $250 billion into its banks. Other governments are re-regulating their financial systems. Asians point out that the West appears to be moving towards their more dirigiste model: “The teachers have some problems,” a Chinese leader recently said. Interventionists are in full cry: “Self-regulation is finished,” claims France’s Nicolas Sarkozy. “Laissez-faire is finished.” Not all criticisms are that unsubtle (the more pointed ones focus on increasing the state’s role only in finance), but all the signs are pointing in the same direction: a larger role for the state, and a smaller and more constrained private sector.
"Capitalism at bay" (cover story), The Economist, 16 October 2008
capitalism at bay detail Economist 16 October 2008
Detail from cover of The Economist, 16 October 2008: "Capitalism at bay"

16 October 2008

While we were out...

...we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of having done this on October 4, 1998.

Time for the State Fair

I've been a resident of New York state since 1996, but I've never been to the New York State Fair.

When I lived in North Carolina, though, I used to go to the NC State Fair every chance I got.

NC State Fairgrounds
NC State Fairgrounds

Acculturated to it at an early age; we only lived a few miles from the Fairgrounds.

It's time for the North Carolina State Fair again.

Related: NC State Fair 2008

Christopher Buckley resigns from National Review

Christopher Buckley... the author and son of the conservative mainstay William F. Buckley Jr., said on Tuesday that he has resigned from National Review, the political journal his father founded in 1955. Mr. Buckley said in a telephone interview that he had “been effectively fatwaed by the conservative movement” after endorsing Senator Barack Obama in a blog posting on TheDailyBeast.com. Since then, he said, he has been blanketed with hate e-mail at the blog and at National Review, where he had written a column.

Buckley Steps Down From National Review (New York Times, 15 October 2008)

(Earlier on enrevanche.)

Falling in love with Bob Schieffer all over again

Last night's debate was the best of the three (a very low bar) - due in no small part to the efforts of veteran CBS telejourno Bob Schieffer as moderator.

The delighted reactions from the liveblogging of the debate over at PoliticalFilter (a group blog for politics junkies, a twelve-step program I definitely need to look into) captured the flavor:
Well, here's our last chance for fireworks or a train wreck. Is this why people feel like when they go to NASCAR races?

13 October 2008

Thought for the day

Responsibility is a unique concept: it can only reside and inhere in a single individual. You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you. You may disclaim it, but you cannot divest yourself of it. Even if you do not recognize it or admit its presence, you cannot escape it. If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance, or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the person who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible. - Admiral Hyman G. Rickover
Hat tip: Chap.

Makes rather a nice bookend with this quote, I think.

12 October 2008

Frank Rich gives a shoutout to my homefolks

To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year — the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died — The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama’s chances to win the state fell “between slim and none.” Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms’s Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.
"The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama" (Frank Rich, New York Times, 12 October 2008)

Startups and the economic downturn

Sequoia Capital on startups and the economic downturn. (Web-view of PowerPoint deck.)

(via Metafilter; hat tip, Carrie)

Lipstick on Pig (Latin)

(snicker) This is pretty funny:
Manes Julii Caesaris paucis diebus aderant — “O, most bloody sight!” — cum Ioannes McCainus, mavericus et veteranus captivusque Belli Francoindosinini, et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam causa oratorii, pillorant ut demagogi veri, Africanum-Americanum senatorem Terrae Lincolni, ad Republicanas rallias.
"Are we Rome? Tu Betchas!" - Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 12 October 2008

11 October 2008

They grow 'em big

The trees around Snoqualmie Falls, WA are pretty healthy (and old.)
Here's hoping the same can be said one day for all of us!
(Photo credit: Carrie)

It was a blast seeing our friend Scott for a few days in Seattle.

He's got a post up at his place detailing some of our culinary adventures--including a fantastic picture of the cured meat platter at Salumi in downtown Seattle--and he apparently took mercy on me, because the only photographs he's included in this one, everybody has their clothes on. (Link is SFW except for, um, the ads..., okay, it's NSFW. The rest of the site is very very NSFW.)

If you're interested in vacation pictures, there's a rough-cut set here:


A game theory experiment that no one understands or can exit

There currently is no banking system, if by that you mean a network of organizations lending to one another and to quality companies in a predictable way...Instead, there are a bunch of paralyzed deposit-hoarding institutions stuck in a game theory experiment that no-one understands or can exit.

The Banking System, Nationalization, and Slack, quoted in "Greedy Bankers" @ Virtual Economics blog.

Both articles are well worth a read, and they're brief.

Hat tip: Greg

Another step in the Republican change of personality

Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.


This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clich├ęs took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.
David Brooks - The Class War Before Palin (New York Times, 9 October 2008)

10 October 2008

Heading home

It's been a wonderful trip. We fly back to New York City in the morning - blogging will resume on Monday once we're back home.

Barry and Carrie at Snoqualmie Falls, Washington (with the Salish Lodge
in the background... if this setting looks at all familiar to you, were you a
Twin Peaks fan in the 1980s early 1990s?)

The potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader

...[Obama] is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. O’Rourke that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the United States of America.
Sorry, Dad, I'm voting for Obama (Christopher Buckley, The Daily Beast, 10 October 2008)

Yeah, that about sums it up.

November 4th will not mark the first occasion that I've voted for a Democrat--I've done so many times in my adult life, for candidates at the local and state level--but it'll be the first time I've ever voted for the Democratic Party's candidate for President.

09 October 2008

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

So, as it turns out, the ten days or so that we've just taken as a long-planned vacation to Vancouver and Seattle (we're visiting friends in Seattle now, flying back to NYC on Saturday morning) have been... eventful... in world financial markets.

Carrie and I have had a wonderful time on our travels, and we've certainly eaten well. :-) It has been wonderful to catch up with old friends, too (WARNING: while the text in the linked article is benign enough, the accompanying picture--and indeed pretty much the rest of the site--is absolutely, comprehensively Not Safe For Work unless you happen to work for gay pornographers. You Have Been Warned -- or incentivized, depending on your preferences.)

When we have a chance to catch our breath, expect more travelogue posts, pictures, and Google-able information about Vancouver and Seattle restaurants (this afternoon, we had an epic lunch at Salumi, the Italian-cured-meat temple and retirement project of Armandino Batali... yes, Mario's poppa.)

But there's really been only one story worth following this week: the continuing global meltdown in the financial markets, with no end in sight and only the barest beginnings of the visible consequences to come.

We've watched in growing disbelief, on Blackberries, iPhones, and hotel room televisions, as the events of the last week unfolded.

On Tuesday evening, Carrie and I watched the depressing, uninspiring, poorly formatted and ineptly moderated "debate" from our Vancouver hotel room, and we tried to get drunk enough not to mind the outpouring of platitudes from Obama and McCain as both candidates flailed about, spewing buzzwords to their respective bases and trying to produce a convincing simulacrum of actual leadership in the face of what's likely to be the biggest crisis the Western world has faced in a generation, at least.

(It didn't work, by the way -- there's not enough wine in the world for that.)

I don't think any of us can be sure about just how much trouble we're in for... but one thing we can be sure of: the world has been rudely awakened to some important, structural changes in the last week, and it will very likely not be the same again.

I've excerpted heavily, below, the thoughts of Financial Times columnist Philip Stevens.

Do go and read the whole thing; he has grasped and put into words something I've been struggling to articulate to friends and colleagues for some time now.

"America drowned itself in Asian liquidity"

...[T]wo things mark out this crisis as unique. First, is its sheer ferocity. I am not sure how useful it is to make comparisons with the 1930s. History never travels in a straight line. What is evident is that governments and central banks have had no previous experience of coping with shocks and stresses of the intensity and ubiquity we have seen during the past year.

The second difference is one of geography. For the first time, the epicentre has been in the west. Viewed from Washington, London or Paris, financial crises used to be things that happened to someone else – to Latin America, to Asia, to Russia.

The shock waves would sometimes lap at western shores, usually in the form of demands that the rich nations rescue their own imprudent banks. But these crises drew a line between north and south, between the industrialised and developing world. Emerging nations got into a mess; the west told them sternly what they must do to get out of it.

The instructions came in the form of the aptly-named Washington consensus: the painful prescriptions, including market liberalisation and fiscal consolidation, imposed as the price of financial support from the International Monetary Fund.

This time the crisis started on Wall Street, triggered by the steep decline in US house prices. The emerging nations have been the victims rather than the culprit. And the reason for this reversal of roles? They had supped enough of the west’s medicine.

A decade ago, after the crisis of 1997-98 wrought devastation on some of its most vibrant economies, Asia said never again. There would be no more going cap in hand when the going got rough. To avoid the IMF’s ruinous rules, governments would build their own defences against adversity by accumulating reserves of foreign currency.

Those reserves – more than $4,000bn-worth at the present count – financed credit in the US and Europe. There were other sources of liquidity, of course, notably the Fed and the reserves accumulated by energy producers. It also took financial chicanery to turn reckless mortgage lending in to triple A rated securities. But as a Chinese official told my FT colleague David Pilling the other day: “America drowned itself in Asian liquidity.”


...[T]he rich nations have yet to face up properly to the implications. They can imagine sharing power, but they assume the bargain will be struck on their terms: that the emerging nations will be absorbed – at a pace, mind you, of the west’s choosing – into familiar international forums and institutions.

When American and European diplomats talk about the rising powers becoming responsible stakeholders in the global system, what they really mean is that China, India and the rest must not be allowed to challenge existing standards and norms.

This is the frame of mind that sees the Benelux countries still holding a bigger share than China of the votes at the IMF; and the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations presuming this weekend that it remains the right forum to redesign the global financial system.

I have no inhibitions about promoting the values of the west – of preaching the virtues of the rule of law, pluralist politics and fundamental human rights. Nor of asserting that, for all the financial storms, a liberal market system is the worst option except for all the others. The case for global rules – that open markets need multilateral governance – could not have been made more forcefully than by the present crisis.

Yet the big lesson is that the west can no longer assume the global order will be remade in its own image. For more than two centuries, the US and Europe have exercised an effortless economic, political and cultural hegemony. That era is ending.
Crisis marks out a new geopolitical order (Phillip Stevens, writing in Financial Times, 9 October 2008)

06 October 2008

The Devil takes a nap

Joe Bageant wrote something very wise about Sarah Palin a few days back, which I'm just now getting around to reading due to vacation travel.

Joe (who I've exchanged e-mails with from time to time) is by his own description an "old socialist," not just a leftist; he's very wise about redneck culture, however, and as longtime enrevanche readers know, while I disagree pretty comprehensively with him on certain political and economic issues, I think much of his social analysis is spot-on.

Anyway. If you're an Obama supporter who's been publicly shrieking in horror about Governor Palin, please, please read what Uncle Joe has to say and consider how you're playing perfectly into the strategic goals of those you oppose:
Sarah Palin's real coup is that she brings out the snobbery of the left in their dismissal of her as an ignorant hick typical of small town red state America. They vastly underestimate her. Just like they have underestimated George Bush for the past eight years. While they laughed, George Bush managed to get everything he wanted and assist the looting of America in his spare time. No matter that he is vastly unpopular now even among Republicans. He has fulfilled his purpose to the powerful corporations and financial institutions that animate American politics. You do not have to be smart to be president, just malleable to the greater forces at work.

Yet Palin is not stupid. She may be religious and a right winger, but that doesn't mean she is stupid and incompetent (neither of which ever prevented an astute American politician from success, by the way.) She may be the last person any thinking leftist would want to see as vice president, but so far Sarah Palin has been a very successful politician. She has a high domestic approval rating and has soared to the top in record time. And each time Democrats and liberals take a shot at her religious beliefs and moral choices, which just happen to be those of tens of millions of heartland voting Americans, she gains political ground, or at a minimum, holds some for herself and McCain.


...[O]ne thing I know for sure. Liberals and leftists, theoretically at least, have more common national interests with red state heartland white working class Americans than any other current political group. And the way to communicate that is NOT sneering at the only candidate who resembles ordinary Americans, their beliefs and lifestyle. When we do that, the Republicans grin like Cheshire cats, our global financial oppressors turn the screws down a bit harder, and the Devil takes a nap, because his work is done for him by fools using the most efficient tools available -- arrogance and hubris.
Joe Bageant: Sarah Palin, Through The Toast Crumbs Dimly (30 September 2008)