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This is the archive for October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Maple still has leaves

Maple leaves 10-31-2008
Can't help but shoot these

Some leaves survived the big winds we had Tuesday night and Wednesday. program Saturday afternoon

Amy Browne at WERU Community Radio sent out an email with special election coverage details. I have a special interest in the first item (for Saturday November 1, 3-4pm) because I produced it. Let's here what in the election campaign and other current events has to do with real socialism!

WERU Special Elections Coverage
From the alternative INDEPENDENT media!! 89.9 FM Blue Hill (and now expanded coverage in Bangor) and streaming at

Saturday 11/01/08 on Weekend Voices (3-4pm)
A panel of local activists discussing what is at stake in this election. From the Socialist and Marxist Studies Lecture Series at the University of Maine

Special Election Season SoapBox call-ins
planned for Monday evening at 6, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 5, and Tuesday morning at 10.

Election Day (Tuesday)
SoapBox call-in shows at 10a.m. and 5pm, headlines from Free Speech Radio News at the top of every hour, starting at noon. Voices, at 4p.m,. will feature a report on how to effectively communicate with elected officials. Free Speech Radio News election coverage at 4:30, and special Democracy Now election coverage from 7p.m. until midnight. In addition, WERU volunteer reporters will be calling in from the community, and the Maine Civil Liberties Union will issue updates on any reports of voting problems.

Expanded, live Democracy Now coverage of the election results
Wednesday morning from 8-10a.m.

To participate in a call-in show: 1-866-625-9378

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If the American people elect Barack Obama, Obama will have won a victory against the American people.
Birds of a feather

Shouldn't this be an major topic for local media?

Contrapositive asks key questions about support Senator Susan Collins has given the corrupt and now convicted Alaska Republican institution, Senator Ted Stevens.

Collins Watch has since yesterday when this item originally posted has starting HERE an incredible and disturbing series of posts on how a "gang of nine" GOP senators--including Collins--have rushed to circle the wagons around Stevens.

Note: This item, first posted yesterday, temporarily was lost due to a server issue.

Update: It just keeps coming. New Collins Watch information today for now starts HERE.
Before the winds

Maple tree on Oct. 28, 2008
Our maple tree

Yesterday was quite nice until later in the afternoon. When I shot this, I had perfect cloud-filtered sunshine for light and the temperature was about 16C. Tonight it's blowing like crazy and we'll be lucky to get much above 7C during the day tomorrow. At least this wind will probably send all the leaves out of the yard!
I actually saw THIS over the weekend when I picked up the current issue of the Portland Phoenix at the Falmouth House of Pizza. Jeff Inglis mentioned my comment about "the conspicuous absence of Maine's other leading Republican, Susan Collins" at the October 16 Palin rally. Inglis added the interesting tidbit that teevee news in Portland (in particular WGME) did not note this obvious fact.

I forgot to tell Gerald, who just posted THIS after someone else told him. For some reason Inglis decided to mock an off-hand comment Gerald made suggesting Palin's familiarity with Maine extended only to the airport hanger where she gave her speech. I don't know, I thought Gerald had a fair point.

Thanks Jeff Inglis. It's good to see blogger contributions recognized in the print media.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Servant to the Masters of War

Susan Collins on March 23, 2006 delivers Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy Lecture, discussing "Sen. Smith's legacy as it relates to ethics in modern politics," but not without protest from those who remember the dead of the war Senator Collins helped start.
Senator Susan Collins, October 9, 2002: The reports demonstrating Iraq's violation of U.N. resolutions are numerous, compelling, and indisputable. They are based on the findings of U.N. weapons inspectors, credible reports from Iraqi defectors, sophisticated surveillance equipment, and other strong evidence.
Statements like this have over the years infuriated me concerning Senator Susan Collins. She is so slippery, she weaves so easily through the waters of war making and promotion of jingoist consensus. HERE is why I think a quote in a New York Times piece on Collins over the weekend was absolutely wrong: "'She is very popular,' [president of Critical Insights Mary Ellen] FitzGerald said. 'She draws from Democrats as well as Republicans. She really is bipartisan. I can't ever remember anybody saying anything disparaging about her.'"

Well, Ms. Fitzgerald has missed the above and a great deal of blog activity critical of our senator.

Hat tip to Gerald for the NYT story and to Collins Watch for describing "How to swing an election."

What I am leaving unwritten for the moment is an analysis of why 1st District Congressman Tom Allen seems to be losing this election so badly. The Times piece and certainly the CW post do offer some insights.

But briefly my own take: Tom Allen has run a lousy campaign seemingly devoid of any of the things he would have had to do a long time ago if he had wanted to win. More on this later... but you are welcome to comment below.
State Senator Deborah Plowman (R) and State Rep. John Patrick (D): We can fix the mess.

Baldly pro-casino, but "however you feel about this issue, please vote November 4th"

The latest statewide casino referendum would enable a monstrosity to be built in Oxford County. It was spearheaded by a Rumford lawyer who was under threat of having his law license suspended. After the enterprise was sold to a Las Vegas company named The Olympia Group in September, the referendum has gained some traction. A brand new poll has 47 percent supporting the casino, 46 percent opposed and 7 percent undecide.

However, there is a huge problem with the law a "yes" vote would enact. According to the Proposed Initiative Summary, State of Maine law would be changed as follows:
The initiated bill removes the limit on the total number of slot machines that are allowed to be registered in this State. The minimum age to play a slot machine or gaming device is lowered from 21 years of age to 19 years of age. The initiated bill provides that, other than the approved commercial race tracks in the State that operate slot machines, the gaming facility operated by Evergreen Mountain Enterprises, LLC must be the only gaming facility in the State for at least 10 years.
This is obviously a sneaky ploy to bring in younger gamblers and create a state gambling monopoly for ten years. People won't like this if they find out about it and the casino may be toast.

But wait! Representative Patrick (with the support of Senator Plowman) says that if the voters approve this lousy bill, it will be "totally revamped" by the legislature after it passes. This to me is totally astonishing. These lawmakers are lending the power of their offices in order to promise action in favor of enabling gambling. Of course they carefully don't directly tell people how to vote. But why would they be making these promises in the ad if their orientation was neutral?

This horrible method of tricking voters is exactly how we got an absolutely monstrous gambling machine parlor in downtown Bangor. The voters in 2003 passed a measure they thought would put in a few slot machines in order to save the racetrack, help horse farmers, and keep veterinarians from being sad. Five years later we have the extraordinarily ugly Hollywood Slots dominating the south end of Main Street.
Nearing the long sleep

Our big maple
Our big maple about to drop leaves

Crabapple at Salmon Club Park
Crabapples at Salmon Club

Sorry about the blogging vacation over the weekend. We were out of town. As penance I give you a couple of examples of the intense colors we have been seeing around here the last few days.

Friday, October 24, 2008

October dusk

Veazie Dam October dusk
Veazie Dam

I was up in Orono attending an excellent physics colloquium. On the way back, I missed a spectacular shot at the Stillwater River bridge. Didn't have the camera. But this one in Veazie will do.
Powell has company in going overboard

Some friends have been compiling a tally of the rats. Please add your own additions in comments.

The Rats
  • Arne Carlson (former governor of Minnesota)
  • Scott McClellan
  • William Weld
  • Colin Powell
  • Kenneth "Cakewalk" Adelman
  • Chris Buckley
  • Kathleen Parker
  • David Brooks ("...what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument...")
  • Charles Fried (a recent adviser to McCain!!)

Frankly, watching all of these denizens of the shadows gathering around Obama concerns me greatly. The Clinton-era foreign policy and national security people Brooks likes and endorses as Obama advisers... Anthony Lake? Ish!

But now, all of these rightist and jingoist promoters of war are coming into the fold too.

At least Charles Krauthammer has enough honor to go down with the Commander.
Krauthammer: Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the last year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of "a world that stands as one"), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?
We can expect the likes of Krauthhammer to remain on high alert against Obama. They will be ready to spring traps, hype faux outrage, yell about the tiniest attempts to de-rig the system away from the favor of the rich, stamp out any notion of fairness for the Palestinians, insure jingoist consensus, and, yes, holler "impeach!" if given the slightest excuse.

What fun this will be.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This is insane:

McCain calls Obama a Socialist

What is the McCain/Palin purpose of ridiculing the notion of "share the wealth"? Make people angry at the Democrat who would provide a tiny corrective move in shifting a bit more tax burden back to the 1% who own 50% of the wealth?

Very few of the Republican supporters who cheer this stuff at their rabid rallies are thinking about how both McCain and Obama voted for the bank bailout, a definite sharing of our wealth with those crooked bankers. What could be more socialist than making financial dealers whole after their schemes have failed? Furthrmore, McCain himself two weeks ago announced a now-all-but-forgotten plan to support distressed mortgagees.

Sarah Palin, despite her six-figure wardrobe, may be the biggest wealth-sharing politician in the race this year, considering Alaska's per capita $3300 oil checks.

It just seems crazy to me that the Republicans constantly attack the Democrats for things they themselves are doing. What better term is there to describe the McCain/Palin campaign than erratic?

And by the way, I personally believe that a lot more wealth sharing is needed: high marginal rates on the rich, and a Tobin tax for starters.

(See video transcript below.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MN-06 coming to its senses

I take an interest in this central Minnesota congressional district because I grew up there. It looks like right wing nut job and first-term Rep. Michelle Bachmann is in jeopardy.

GOP Pulling Its Ads From Bachmann's Race, Media Buyers Say
Sam Stein - Huffington Post - Oct. 22, 2008
Five days after Rep. Michele Bachmann went on a McCarthy-esque rant suggesting Barack Obama was unpatriotic and urging the major newspapers of the country to investigate anti-American sentiment in Congress, the national Republican political parties are running for cover.

Two sources aware of ad buys in Minnesota say that the National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling its media purchases from Bachmann's race. If true, it is a remarkable fall for a congresswoman who, until recently, seemed relatively safe in her predominantly conservative district. ...
In 2006 Bachmann was elected against the Democratic wave. I never have felt that I came from crazy people. Maybe it has taken Bachmann being exposed as a red-baiting McCarthy-ist to make them realize that themselves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Was the Obama endorsement the "finest moment" for former Secretary of State Colin Powell?

Atrios wrote, "what little credibility Colin Powell had is in a little vial of white powder somewhere." I agree. I guess I have to after posting THIS.

Juan Cole may have gotten too caught up in the moment when he posted today (video of Powell on Meet the Press is included there). But there is something Powell said that I do appreciate.
Colin Powell: I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, 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's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I'll thank him for that. I've been waiting for it and not hearing it from Obama himself.

Do I think, as Professor Cole does, that, "Powell has not just endorsed a candidate. He has begun to redeem himself from his failure to resign in fall of 2003 when it became clear he had been used by the Neoconservatives."?

Not yet. The only thing that would begin to do that in my mind is Powell's admission that he knew he was peddling bullshit at the United Nations. An analyst in his own Department, Greg Theilmann, did so at the time, as explained in news stories several years ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good fortune today ...

West ridge on Beech Mt.
West side of Beech Mt.

Beech Mt. fire tower
Beech Mt. fire tower: open once per year for three hours

This beautiful day we had some good luck! This post will be revised with more photos later. Meanwhile, off to watch the Red Sox ...

The great thing of this day was my father-in-law and I unwittingly found the fire tower open! An Acadia National Park ranger (pictured) welcomed us up. They do this for three hours, yearly, he informed us.

The tower has not been used for its intended purpose since 1967.
The McCain they thought they knew "not running for president"

After all the front-page fawning Palinism of the last few weeks, I would not have expected such a strongly-worded endorsement of Obama from the local paper.

Barack Obama for president
Change has become an overused buzzword this election, but change is what this country needs. Change from a misguided foreign policy that indefinitely leaves U.S. troops in Iraq more than five years after an invasion based on dubious evidence. Change from a hands-off approach to financial markets that have paralyzed the U.S. economy. Change from a fiscal policy that has ballooned the federal deficit and shortchanged domestic programs. Change from an administration veiled in secrecy with little regard for the Constitution and American principles. Barack Obama represents that change. ...
And they have this to say about Governor Palin,
Sen. McCain, who has a long record of distinguished service to his country, has compromised his principles to get elected. His reckless choice of Sarah Palin, the folksy but untested and incurious governor of the country?s most government-dependent state, as his running mate is a prime example.
Whoa! Obviously this is different department than the one that makes up the news pages! The BDN also decries the McCain campaign's "desperate attempts to paint Sen. Obama as a friend of terrorists." Good for them.

Overall, the endorsement is an excellent piece. But I would point out just how ridiculous it should look to state that "Sen. Obama will have a difficult time finding ways to pay for the needed, but expensive reforms he proposes for health care, education and the tax code" when it has not been difficult at all quickly for the government to find $30 to $700 billion chunks of resources to pay for the various bailouts and wars over the last seven months.

I suppose our troubles really are in their early stages. New leadership is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition to address them. The Bangor Daily News makes this clear.

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Veazie

Flagg Street Impression
Flagg Street Impression

Inquire if you'd like to know how this was made.
ACORN definitely NOT the problem

Rush Limbaugh and Republican operatives (like Cleta Mitchell, who appeared Wednesday on Democracy Now!) are trying to de-legitimize an election result favorable to the Democrats before the election even happens. ACORN is the principle target:

McCain presses case on ACORN
October 16, 2008 05:12 PM
John McCain's campaign is continuing to press Barack Obama on ACORN, the liberal activist group accused of voter registration fraud, capitalizing on news today that the FBI has opened an investigation.
Trouble is, it's the Republicans who are engaged in a massive vote supression strategy. Too bad it's hard to find the reporting of Palast & Kennedy inside the U.S.


Obama Lawyer Asks for Probe Into Vote-Fraud Claims
By Jeff Bliss
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama's campaign asked the U.S. Justice Department to expand a special prosecutor's investigation to include possible improprieties surrounding reports the FBI is looking into voter fraud in the presidential race.
McCain may just be extremely stupid in making the debate comment about how ACORN is threatening the "fabric of democracy" while not knowing how deeply his own party is involved in preventing people from voting. The Democrats have played along with these horrors for so long now that I'm not quite sure what to make of Obama seeming to fight back. This is a strong statement by Robert Bauer, general counsel to the Obama campaign,
[The Republicans are] fomenting specious vote-fraud allegations and there are disturbing indications of official involvement or collusion.
We'll see. Palast thinks the election already is stolen. I'd say Obama needs to be 10% ahead in states where Republicans have the apparatus in place to suppress hundreds of thousands or even millions of votes. The real shame is that the Democrats have allowed this to go on for so long that it may be too late to complain.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bangor Daily News sets new records. And are those f-me boots appropriate for a candidate for high office?
This is rich--According to a story in the Toledo Blade, Joe the Plumber, McCain's tax prop in the debate, isn't even a licensed plumber.
ACORN under attack from True Blue American Alaska governor this morning in hanger at Bangor International Airport

Rabid: "It sure would be nice if, just once, Barack Obama said he wants America to win," she said, as the crowd cheered.

In one of the most-watched aspects of the Palin visit, incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins, despite her re-election bid, failed to show up to stand with the top of the Republican ticket. According to radio reports, Collins claimed a scheduling conflict because she had to "attend a fair" (h/t Ms. Owl). Speculation suggests there might be another reason: the failing McCain/Palin campaign has cooties.

Last week, another Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, similarly eschewed the top Republicans by failing to attend a McCain rally, leading poll analyst Nate Silver to ask, "Does McCain have cooties?"

Update: There is an item at Turn Maine Blue suggesting Collins actually had a morning debate with Democratic challenger Tom Allen, in Auburn until 8:30am. I can't find a news story on this. Still, it seems strange the Palin visit could not have been scheduled so that Collins could have attended, if she'd wanted to.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Republican veep candidate to follow interview-free weekend visit by "first dude" Todd Palin

From the Bangor Daily News, the Associated Press is reporting,

Sarah Palin to visit Maine

BANGOR, Maine ? The Maine Republican Party says vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is coming to Bangor on Thursday for a campaign rally. Palin is scheduled for a 9 a.m. rally at the Bangor International Airport maintenance hangar. ...
This will follow a press-interview-free weekend in Maine for the Alaska "first dude," Todd Palin.

Fawning Palinism seems to be quite rampant at the BDN, judging by THIS September 20 story comparing Gov. Palin's looks with those of local news anchor, Cindy Williams.

The Tood Palin story this morning in the BDN is similarly fawning right up until about graph 35 of a 40-graph story:

'First Dude' makes Maine stops
Palin?s husband greets voters from Palmyra to Presque Isle
By Nick Sambides Jr. - BDN Staff - Oct. 13, 2008
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine ? Steve Turner couldn't meet Todd Palin's Sarah, but he made sure that Palin met his.

"Hey, I've got a Sarah, too," Turner called to the husband of Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during Todd Palin's stop in town at noon Sunday. "How about a picture with my Sarah?" ...

... no big speeches, no press interviews, just Alaska's "First Dude" impressing people with his considerable affability and low-key charm as he posed for pictures and signed autographs.

"He's not a politician, which is refreshing," Turner said. "You can tell that he's not been in this game too long. He was not rehearsed, just very accessible and accommodating."

"He's very friendly, down-to-earth, and he's very well put together," said Simone Levesque, 58, of Caribou. "A little hunky, yeah, handsome. He's the No. 1 Dude in Alaska. I didn't want to call him that, but he thought it was cool."
There is a bit of critical material at the very bottom of this article. Todd Palin's intimate involvement in the firing of an Alaska state trooper received mention only enough to elicit Republican talking points in response, which do not quite square with the recently-released official report saying the governor "abused her power" with her husband riding shotgun in the operation.

I suppose we will not expect any probing stories this week on Palin and her right-wing history from the BDN. Certainly not the sort that aired today on Democracy Now!.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, I took a trip to Alaska about two weeks ago and interviewed the former chair of the Alaskan Independence Party. And then a reporter named David Neiwert, who's been covering the anti-government militia movement since the early '90s, took his own trip there, and in addition to interviewing, you know, the former AIP chair, Mark Chryson, we talked to people who served on the city council in Wasilla with Sarah Palin; we talked to her predecessor as mayor, John Stein; and we combed through city council records, investigating the extent of her ties to the Alaskan Independence Party, because we didn?t think that this has been sufficiently covered.

And what we found was that she was more closely associated with this party and with fringe right-wing elements than the media had previously discovered or than Palin was willing to acknowledge. And not only did she, you know, associate with them in order to advance her political ambitions, she advanced their agenda on a local and state level. Beginning with Mark Chryson and a character named Steve Stoll, who's known around Wasilla as "Black Helicopter Steve," because he?s rumored to have buried several high-powered automatic weapons in his front yard in expectation of the federal government ushering in the new world order, these characters are very paranoid, conspiratorial people who loathe the federal government and believe that the federal government is responsible for all the ills that have befallen their state. That's why they?you know, that the Alaskan Independence Party was founded. It was founded to find a means, some remedy, so that Alaska could secede from the union. Its founder, Joe Vogler, said, "I'm an Alaskan, I'm not an American. And I hate America and all her damned institutions." So this is what the party is about.
Simple question: Should we expect the slightest mention of these shady hate-America and fringe-element paranoids associated with the Palins in visit coverage? Simple answer: no.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Petit Manan Point

Low tide at Petit Manan
Low tide

Outrageous color
Outrageous color

Saturday, October 11, 2008

PBS News Hour & NPR have strange notion of "balance"

Short collection of McCain tempering his brown-shirted lunatics

It's about time McCain stepped in and squashed all the crazy notions about Obama that run wild at his rallies, spew forth from Limbaugh & ilk, and generally infect the population of wingnuttia. Josh Marshall sees the moment as, "Weird, sad, surreal."

Yes. Unfortunately I believe Marshall is correct to suggest the most likely explanation for McCain getting uneasy with his mob is political. "I think it would [be] naive to conclude that McCain did this for any other reason but that the attacks appeared to be backfiring," Marshall wrote.

I have not much more to say on the issue beyond what I have written HERE, HERE, and HERE, except the following: I can't believe how in mainstream reporting, fanning of flames of out-of-control wingnut hatred (until now) by McCain and especially (still) by Palin has been "balanced" by Obama statements that McCain is "erratic." This was a meme on public broadcasting last night:
Kwame Holman, PBS News Hour: The tone of the presidential campaign became increasingly personal this week--Obama questioned John McCain's temperament, calling his response to the economic crisis "erratic." McCain and his campaign repeatedly focused on Obama's association with a former 1960s radical, William Ayers, with whom Obama served on a charitable foundation board ... [Audience member at McCain rally shouts "I'm mad!!!!"] ... audience members showed anger toward the Democratic nominee ...
The insufferable Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered framed the story in similar "balance," McCain is erratic = Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, but for some reason I'm not finding that particular audio on the web page for the Friday Oct. 10 show. THIS Scott Horsley report soft-peddles the loonies, but otherwise isn't all that bad.

Update: NPR Check with good arguments is less charitable about the Horsley piece. See HERE.

Update 2: "Palpable hate." Wow, check out THIS, H/T NPR Check, from above post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Still going

Fall peppers
Fall pepper

Typha seeding
Typha: Seed case opening

So many good shots today. I really liked the cattail, sorry about the high bandwidth, hope you think it's worth it. How much longer can those peppers go? We brought in two nice ones a couple of days ago. There are actually good cucumbers out there too.
"They don't call him President Bush in Venezuela anymore."
Obviously people try to build and protect financial assets in our society. Is it time to rethink how we do that? Is paper wealth enough? With the challenges very apparently facing 21st century global civilization, maybe it's time to re-balance provision of human needs with provision of financial power through electronic-numerical computation. Our ride on THIS beast should be enough to convince us that great change way beyond anything Obama has yet described is becoming necessary sooner rather than later.
Ms. Owl: Is McCain sure he wants to go there? If we start looking into his associates we're liable to find Al Capone.
Hypocritical Republicans 100% on negative meter

"Playing to the rally": Rachel Maddow with Lawrence O'Donnell, Thursday October 9 show.

Those are scary, angry people. More, link from a friend ...

Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally
By Michael D. Shear and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 10, 2008; Page A04
WAUKESHA, Wis., Oct. 9 -- There were shouts of "Nobama" and "Socialist" at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee. There were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down as a media caravan moved through the crowd Thursday for a midday town hall gathering featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin. ...

[Wisconsin wingnut radio talker James T. Harris]: "We have the good Reverend Wright. We have [the Rev. Michael L.] Pfleger. We have all of these shady characters that have surrounded him," Harris bellowed. "We have corruption here in Wisconsin and voting across the nation. I am begging you, sir. I am begging you. Take it to him."

The crowd of thousands roared its approval.
But often those who cast stones live in glass houses. It is quite shocking to do the kind of looking into McCain and Palin pals that Ms. Owl suggests. Alaska anti-government secessionists provide fertile ground for harvesting Palin hypocrisies.

The Palins' un-American activities
Imagine if the Obamas had hooked up with a violently anti-American group in league with the government of Iran. - By David Talbot,
Oct. 7, 2008 | "My government is my worst enemy. I'm going to fight them with any means at hand."

This was former revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers back in his old Weather Underground days, right? Imagine what Sarah Palin is going to do with this incendiary quote as she tears into Barack Obama this week.

Only one problem. The quote is from Joe Vogler, the raging anti-American who founded the Alaska Independence Party. Inconveniently for Palin, that?s the very same secessionist party that her husband, Todd, belonged to for seven years and that she sent a shout-out to as Alaska governor earlier this year. ("Keep up the good work," Palin told AIP members. "And God bless you.")
And there is this from Max Bleumanthal and Dave Neiwert:

Meet Sarah Palin's radical right-wing pals
Extremists Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll helped launch Palin's political career in Alaska, and in return had influence over policy. "Her door was open," says Chryson ? and still is.
So long as Alaska remained under the boot of the federal government, said Chryson, the AIP [Alaska Independence Party] had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invited a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pickup truck that were intended for his personal protection. "This here is my attack dog," he said with a chuckle, handing the reporter an exuberant 8-pound papillon from his passenger seat. "Her name is Suzy." Then he pulled a 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol ? once the standard-issue sidearm for Soviet cops ? out of his glove compartment. "I?ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement," he said, clutching the gun in his palm. "Then again, so do most Alaskans." But Chryson added a message of reassurance to residents of that faraway place some Alaskans call "the 48." "We want to go our separate ways," he said, "but we are not going to kill you."
It seems to me that Palin's association with gun-toting lunatics in Alaska secessionist militias are a lot more current and a lot more vital than ties to the 1960s Weathermen that Obama the child never had.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pure quality voters

"When did you first hear of ACORN?"


"So you think he's a terrorist?"


"He's a one-man sleeper cell."

"He's got the bloodlines."

"Look at his name."

And on and on. Pure quality know-nothingism.

He "is uncontrollable ... he does not think before he acts."

"This is hostility toward other human beings."

"Do I trust him with the button? No."

Back in February, Alexander Cockburn wrote about "The Mushrooming Clouds That Hang Over McCain,"
... John McCain's political handlers had been complacently sketching out their basic strategy: to portray Obama as a mere novice in statecraft, devoid of those powers of mature wisdom and sober judgment with which the seasoned McCain is so richly endowed.

The problem here for McCain is that he's a dunderhead in statecraft, devoid of self control, capricious in moral standards and an imbecile in his lack of political judgment.
I've certainly had my doubts about Obama. But it's obviously clear that whatever Obama's faults, we just can't afford to have a hothead like McCain inherit the Bush/Cheney unitary executive of absolute power. Obama would seem to be the only way in the election to take a step toward getting our country back.
Palin Newsweek cover
Sarah Palin October 13, 2008 Newsweek cover upsets some Republicans
Dvorak: "You can't make this stuff up."

That darn liberal media is at it again! FOX sets 'em straight. For GOD SAKES, you can't burst the myth of Sarah! How embarrassing!

John C. Dvorak has the video of the indignant FOXies posted at his excellent blog.

The Newsweek story on Palin itself is pretty interesting.

The Palin Problem
Yes, she won the debate by not imploding. But governing requires knowledge, and mindless populism is just that?mindless.
A key argument for Palin, in essence, is this: Washington and Wall Street are serving their own interests rather than those of the broad whole of the country, and the moment requires a vice president who will, Cincinnatus-like, help a new president come to the rescue. The problem with the argument is that Cincinnatus knew things. Palin sometimes seems an odd combination of Chauncey Gardiner from "Being There" and Marge from "Fargo."

Is this an elitist point of view? Perhaps, though it seems only reasonable and patriotic to hold candidates for high office to high standards. Elitism in this sense is not about educational or class credentials, not about where you went to school or whether you use "summer" as a verb. It is, rather, about the pursuit of excellence no matter where you started out in life. Jackson, Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton were born to ordinary families, but they spent their lives doing extraordinary things, demonstrating an interest in, and a curiosity about, the world around them. This is much less evident in Palin's case.
This does summarize something that really hits a nerve for me: I despise know-nothingism. It's not anti-elitist country sensibility--or even a love of guns and hunting--that bothers me. For heaven sake, I've spent enough years living in rural areas and I certainly support the legal right to hunt responsibly for game animals.

But ignoring all reality and buying the disingenuous myths of Palinism is not a true part of that sensibility.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Candidate proposes direct mortgage buyout

If it were true that he would do THIS--which I doubt--it's a pretty good idea.

Why do I doubt he's serious? Because he also said,
McCain: We obviously have to stop this spending spree that's going on in Washington. Do you know that we've laid a $10 trillion debt on these young Americans who are here with us tonight, $500 billion of it we owe to China?
That's pretty much meat for conservatives, who love that verbiage. But McCain can't be serious. Mortgage buyouts + military + entitlements + keep the Bush tax structure means ENORMOUS deficits. Contradiction!

I'm beginning to trust Obama on this. He at least does mention that some spending and some increased tax rates on income above $250,000 are on the table. That's a much, much more serious proposal. Obama's line about how both he and McCain can afford to pay was a great one.
It's panic time when something must be passed--afterward, when the markets keep melting down, the cure is "not going to happen overnight" and it's time for things to be "well thought out"

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) Wed. Oct. 1, bailout bill debate
Sherman: Many of us were told, in private conversations, that if we voted against this bill on Monday [Sept. 29], the sky would fall, the market would drop two or three thousand points the first day, and another couple thousand the second day, and a few members were even told there would be martial law in America if we voted no.
Avedon, Simbaud, and Boing Boing linked to this clip. I actually recorded the whole October 1 presentation by the "Skeptics Caucus"--Rep. Sherman, Rep. Kucinich, and Rep. Kaptur among others. Apart from Rachel Maddow, Amy Goodman, and Laura Flanders, the skeptical approach to this bailout has gone right over the collective media head.

We'll see, but I think after the last few days' events (Dow about -1000, that's -10%, since the bill passed), it looks like we can agree that the root cause of the panic was not cured by whatever medicine was supposed to be in there.

Here is an indication of how confusing the situation has become: U.S. Treasury bills and notes are taking a hit as the Fed massively injects "liquidity" into commercial banking under "emergency" conditions:

Treasuries Decline as Fed Agrees to Purchase Commercial Paper
By Dakin Campbell and Daniel Kruger - Bloomberg
Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Treasuries fell, snapping the longest rally in a month, after the Federal Reserve announced a plan to buy commercial paper in an effort to thaw short-term lending markets, sapping demand for the haven of government debt.

Two-year notes fell for the first time in five days as the Fed invoked emergency powers to support the financing needs of corporations. ...
The full article is very confusing. Is it a "good" thing that the Fed is riding into these markets on a white horse? Or does it portend the breakdown of U.S. Treasuries as the haven of safety? Whatever the case, the market moves are violent in response, "A measure of volatility in the Treasury market reached an all-time high yesterday. Merrill Lynch & Co.'s MOVE index, an options-based gauge of changes in prices for Treasuries, surged to 217.3, the highest since its creation in 1988." Hmmm. After all this borrowing, who's beginning to think that the weight is at least weakening the legs of the empire itself?

That's how Rome fell, right? They couldn't pay the bills for all their far-flung armies and their decadence. Their marker became no good in places they needed it to be. As their forces hollowed, others no longer were as afraid of them.

Meanwhile, here's Bush (at some office products company).
President Bush: It's going to take time for these actions that I've described to you in the bill to have full effect. You want to make sure that when we move, we move effectively. You want to make sure that the plan is well thought-out and well delivered. Thawing the freeze in the financial system is not going to happen overnight, but it will be a process that unfolds over several stages. And obviously the first stage began last Friday, when I signed the rescue package into law.
Say what? First stage?? I thought the panic last week was only fixable--instantly so--by oh great Bailout Bill. Now we're told that we just have to wait for the smart, deliberate Bush process.

As Dennis Kucinich said, this smells. We're in a lot of trouble now.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tantamount to a call for Obama's assassination at a McCain/Palin rally:
"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fall is sneaking up

Fall foliage
Maple leaf near Veazie Dam

Seems I was just down by the dam a few days ago and everything was still green.
Notes on the bombing of innocents

The "Bill Ayers issue" against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is now out in full bloom. Here was Republican veep candidate Palin yesterday:
Gov. Palin: There's been a lot of interest in what I read lately. Well, I was reading my copy of today's New York Times, and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago. Turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.' These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes. ...

[Barack Obama] is not a man who sees America as you and I do -- as the greatest force for good in the world.
So, guilt by association will be the McCain-Palin Hail Mary. Can't say I find that surprising.

But I believe there is a lot more to look at about this than its nature as a political attack. Especially ripe would be an examination of American use of war as an instrument of policy.

An old friend of Maine Owl put it like this:
In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain asked, "How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?"

What branch of the military did Mr McCain serve in??? WHAT DID THEY DO EVERY DAY DURING THE VIETNAM WAR? "ENGAGE IN BOMBINGS THAT COULD HAVE OR DID KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE." What does our air force currently do,well, we don't really know how often now, do we? Weekly? daily? hourly? "ENGAGE IN BOMBINGS THAT COULD HAVE OR DID KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE."

Whew, had to get that out. At least Bill Ayers has gone on to become an education prof and a powerful advocate in defense of children ...
Military bomber pilots often have caring post-war careers too, like serve in public office and run for president. Well, we respect their service, don't we. So, at some level, there is a moral milieu in which bombing innocent people under justifying euphemisms like "collateral damage" is regarded as a "force for good," the true-blooded American thing to do.

Here's my take. First, a quote:
Here is one of them, LCMDR John Sidney McCain, service number 624787 ... USS Oriskany, speaking of the treatment he has been receiving. (Male voice with American accent) I was a U.S. airman engaged in the crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I had bombed their cities, towns, and villages and caused more injury even death for the people of Vietnam. After I was captured I was taken from a hospital in (?Da Nang) where I received very good medical treatment. ..."
That's from a Pentagon transcription of broadcast, Radio Hanoi, June 2, 1969.

Did I just hear Rahm Emanuel on CNN tell Wolf Blitzer that all the pork in the bailout bill was the fault of those members of the House of Representatives who voted against the bill?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Mike held fast. Tom Allen again voted--this time along with Susan Collins--to punt the taxpayers. This would have been a great chance for Tom Allen to demand a progressive alternative to the Collins-Bush bailout. Squandered.
Their conduct should be like it was for a funeral

Only Barney Frank has an appropriate scowl.

Not that I think Rush Limbaugh does much besides ramble stupidly, but he had one good observation a little bit ago--the Democratic leadership in Congress was seen celebrating the bailout bill in an unseemly fashion. I concur that such whooping over a taking of taxpayer scalps is completely inappropriate, even if you figure this medicine was for the good of the country.

House Approves Bailout on Second Try
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN - NY Times - October 3, 2008
WASHINGTON ? The House of Representatives gave final approval on Friday to the $700 billion bailout for the financial system, reversing course to authorize what may be the most expensive government intervention in history.

At 1:21 p.m., applause and cheers echoed through the House chamber as the number of "aye" votes crossed the threshold needed for passage with just seconds remaining in the official 15-minute voting period. The vote was 263 to 171.
This morning on Democracy Now!, Robert Johnson, former chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee had this to say:
Johnson: I think this bill, five weeks before an election, is illustrating for the American people, when there are two currencies of power?votes and money?that even at this time, when the power of votes is at its cyclical high, meaning just before the election, they are almost laughing at the American people, in the?by the nature and structure of this bill. This is a very sad result.
Later Johnson says he himself would have voted for it if it was the only thing offered to address the grave situation, but that in crafting the bill the way it was crafted--in fact a senate provision will increase for distressed mortgagees the difficulty in getting workouts--incumbents in Congress who voted for this thing are "daring" voters to turn them out of office in five weeks.
Who is Palin? Air headed ditz? or gun-toting hockey mom copyright infringer (on Heart's "Barracuda")? Did she "recapture her image" last night?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ms. Owl saw this come over A & E at about 3:15 this afternoon:

No credit crisis on daytime teevee

I would never say anything other than that these guys are 100% on the up-and-up. (Note: The ad. refers to the "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008" see update below.) Can't quite make out the fine print, but I assume there would be a fee for the job loss and default "protection." Still, surely it is legal to offer over the teevee money loans with whatever terms like these. Yet I do wish our crack-shot journalists would ask crisis doomsayers how all this easy money can be flowing with all the credit seized up, when supposedly no one can buy a car, and the Great Depression is just around the corner.

At any rate, Chris Dodd approves so it must be okay.

But isn't "subprime lending" the supposed trigger problem in the economic "crisis" requiring the political class in Washington to drag the taxpayers kicking and screaming into a $trillion mud hole? What the hell is going on here?

Let's speculate. The lenders have learned something very important--The president and Congress will back up any lending practice with a taxpayer bailout, taking "toxic" paper off the books as deemed fit by officials owned by the industry. It's a nice arrangement that the political class is loathe to change in order to provide support for distressed people. This leads to the belief of many tuned to the teevee during the daytime that the types of loans you see here are their best option to keep their little middle class existences alive for one more day. Hence, these strange fee-eating "privatized" loan companies spring up to direct this business to the money flows insured against loss by taxpayer-sponsored bailout.

I haven't bitten on one of these loans yet, but I oughtta know because I resemble that remark. Is there a real day of reckoning on the horizon? I'd have to think so. But for now the political class prefers just to punt us into an increasingly uncertain future.

Update: HERE is a summary of the legislation referred to in the ad. The concept of the Bill claims as one of its principles, "No investor or lender bailout." Also, the borrower must pay back part of any benefit of the workout. Mmmmm. How would the current bailout interact with this program? Maybe someone could help explain. It seems to me the "privatized" aspect of promulgating this program, as seen in the ad., should raise some questions about just how the taxpayer is supporting it.

Update 2: Upon reflection, I suppose conceptually this somehow could fulfill what is discussed HERE: mortgagee bailout, not fat cat bailout, or what Dennis Kucinich discussed HERE. If so, why doesn't anyone mention this FHA legislation already passed? And why the need for the teevee loan hawking? Am I right about the fees involved?
Needless to say, the Sanders Amendment did not become part of the bailout package that passed the Senate last night. Nevertheless, I am posting its text below. If there was a single iota of thought (beyond Bernie & ilk) within our political class that this would be the just, right, and moral thing to do, I'd be much more likely to believe any of 'em have the public interest in mind.

Text of the Sanders Amendment follows:
From headlines on Democracy Now! today:

Senate Approves US-India Nuke Deal
Back in Washington, the Senate has approved a measure to lift a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India. The deal will allow India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty as other nations must. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said the agreement would encourage nuclear production worldwide, because it effectively rewards India for developing nukes outside the treaty.

Sen. Byron Dorgan: "The bill before us will almost certainly expand the production of nuclear weapons by India. And here is what is says to India: even as we take apart the basic architecture of nonproliferation efforts, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which India is one of three countries that has never signed?even as we take that nonproliferation architecture apart with this bill, we have said to India with this agreement, 'You can misuse American nuclear technology and secretly develop nuclear weapons.' That?s what they did."

The House passed its version of the measure earlier this week. The vote marks a victory for the Bush administration, which has lobbied heavily for the deal.
I've been concerned about the contradictions this represents for a long time. Commercial nuclear interests trump high-minded concerns about nuclear war.
Even after reading THIS sober explanation and somewhat more spirited exchange of what might be going on underneath the "zero reserve requirement" provision in the bailout bill, I'm not convinced there are no dangers of abuse. I still think Pam Martens was onto something when she characterized this bit of de-regulation as a "Trojan Horse embedded by Wall Street lawyers."
That, my friends, is the change we need: McCain, "aye"; Obama, "aye"; Collins, "aye"; Snowe, "aye".

The proper term is "sweeteners." Gerald has some righteous indignation going HERE.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On Saturday, I looked at a nice pellet stove at the Broadway Hardware store in Bangor, 50,000 btu/hr, $1700. Can I have that delivered with 3 tons of pellets? No, the guy has no pellets.

Here's a story from the Bangor Daily News today:

Wood pellet supply fails to meet demand
Sellers tell consumers: No reason to panic
By Eric Russell - BDN Staff
Wood pellet manufacturers and suppliers in Maine are urging consumers to be patient and let supply catch up to demand as the winter heating season approaches.

In the last several weeks, a number of pellet fuel distributors in Greater Bangor have been running out of pellets within a day or two of shipments. Many have been simply catching up on pre-sale orders that were made earlier this summer from customers looking to buy in bulk.

This stockpiling of pellets ? heating fuel made from wood waste and sawdust that is pressurized into compact pieces ? has created a unique bubble in the market, pellet experts said.

"The analogy I've been using is that if everybody who uses oil had [an empty 275-gallon oil tank] and wanted to take their entire full supply in July, there wouldn't be any oil left either," said George Soffron, CEO of Corinth Wood Pellets LLC, the state?s largest pellet manufacturer. "People need to hang on."
No evidence is offered in the article about total seasonal supply-demand balance so that we could evaluate if there really will be enough pellets this season. However, I am confident there will be plenty of $4 oil.
Ask them to support the Sanders amendment.

Snowe: 202.224.5344
Collins: 202.224.2523
Kucinich: "It kinda raises the question of what a Democrat is."

This is Bailout 101. I'll update this with the transcript link when it becomes available. (Update: Transcript HERE, now correct.) I want to thank MSNBC for putting up the best mainstream cable news show--ever.
Kathleen Parker--wingnut national columnist carried by the Bangor Daily News--ponders the dumping of Palin, never sees THIS coming.

Note: Parker's website has been sanitized. This quote shows the edit: October 31, 2003:
Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shotslapped.
See, G___, conservatives as a rule are not as nasty and vicious as liberals. Ha!
The bailout solution: accounting tricks, make under-capitalized banks even MORE under-capitalized

Many Republicans think valuation fantasy games might be just the thing to save the banking system:

Focus turns to 'mark to market' accounting rules
Some in Congress want to lift a requirement that mortgage securities be reported at market value. Opponents worry that values would be overstated. A U.S. accounting board considers the issue today.
By Tom Petruno, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer - October 1, 2008
An angry debate over accounting rules for banks may be coming to a head.

All year, many bankers have said it was unfair that accounting standards required them to use market value when reporting the value of mortgage securities they own. The frazzled market, they said, was unrealistically pessimistic about the assets' long-term worth.

Markdowns of mortgage assets have devastated the balance sheets of leading banks.

Some in Congress now want to suspend "mark-to-market" accounting altogether and give lenders much more leeway in valuing mortgage securities at levels that, in theory, more realistically reflect what the assets would return over time.

Accounting purists say a rule change would raise the risk that the banks would resort to fantasy accounting -- "mark to make-believe" -- that would overstate the value of their assets to investors. ...
Also, as I wrote yesterday, a piece by Pam Martens in Counterpunch pointed out that the bailout bill would allow banks immediately to operate with zero reserves. In other words, you could have a bank filled with worthless assets that could continue to make loans against them.

Fantasy accounting? Worthless assets? Sounds like more of the same. What does Obama have to say about that? Oh, he's for it. Oy.
I've been reading cranky tech/business writer and blogger John C. Dvorak for longer than I can remember. His post yesterday on the bailout ...

The Bail Out Stinks ? Give the Money to the Public Instead
Published on September 30th, 2008 - John C. Dvorak
The administration talks a big game about economic stimulus packages and claims that the public is the winner when taxes are low or they are simply given a handout to spend. So take $600-plus billion and give each man, woman and child $2000 each. ...

Why not let the public buy up the mortgages at these low-ball prices and move in? Why can?t that be arranged? ...
You just have to go over there and see what he has up with this great column. ROFL!
I have made a few changes to the sidebar and contact form. From now on, neither real names nor the contact form are visible unless a user is logged in. I added the "Create Account" and "Log In" forms to the contact page.

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Why register and log in? This makes a few changes in site experience when you do:
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