Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 24, 2008

Re: We’re Cooked

Gordon, you say “We’re cooked.” Perhaps not quite yet. For one thing, we have not yet had a classic crash, such as we had on October 29th, 1929, and October 19th, 1987.

A crash is characterized by two things: 1) a precipitous decline in prices caused by a huge excess of sellers over buyers as everyone rushes for the exits at whatever price they can get, and 2) unprecedented volume. We have not yet had a day like that in 2008.

On both those previous crashes, the decline in the Dow exceeded 20 percent. Today’s decline was 3.59 percent. Not a good day, to be sure, but no crash — and far better than the initial selloff. The volume on Black Friday, 1929, was 16,000,000 shares. Piddling by today’s standards, of course, but it was a record that stood for 39 years, longer than Babe Ruth’s home run record of 1927. The volume on Black Monday, 1987, was triple the previous record volume. This has been the pattern of late — bad days getting better towards the end and good days getting worse towards the end. That indicates high market nervousness, not panic, with bulls still willing to buy on dips. The recent record volume came on a strongly up day, not a down one. It might also be noted that the Asian markets were worse hit than the European ones and we did better than the European ones. In other words, fear was reduced during the course of the trading day; it didn’t run unchecked through the streets. In a real crash you can practically feel the fear, so pervasive is it. Even if we had a crash, it would more likely signal the end of the bear market that began a year ago, not the beginning of a far worse one, as stocks will have moved from weak hands to strong ones. Even though the Fed kept money tight after the 1929 crash (a serious error), the Dow recovered half its losses by April 1930. Then a string of further disastrous government mistakes, starting with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff,which was signed in June 1930, and  precipitated a global trade war, converted an ordinary recession into the Great Depression. In 1987, when the government did what governments should do in such a situation, the decline of Black Monday was fully erased within two years and the market went onward and upward from there.

It’s going to take longer this time to work out all the problems of a badly stressed financial system. But once the fear subsides, traders will realize that Chicken Little was wrong. Again. There are positive signs (the falling price of commodities, especially oil, by no means the least of them) and therefore bargains to be had. A few cautious nibbles will cause the market to move up a bit, bringing in more nibblers, and the business cycle, as much an artifact of human nature as tears and laughter, will be once more be on the upswing.

And it might be noted that the American dollar is stronger than it has been in quite a while. In these sorts of markets, there is always a “flight to quality,” so it is nice to see that people have been buying, not selling, dollars of late.

That would mean =the market is still betting that the American economy is not totally cooked yet.

Gordon, you say “We’re cooked.” Perhaps not quite yet. For one thing, we have not yet had a classic crash, such as we had on October 29th, 1929, and October 19th, 1987.

A crash is characterized by two things: 1) a precipitous decline in prices caused by a huge excess of sellers over buyers as everyone rushes for the exits at whatever price they can get, and 2) unprecedented volume. We have not yet had a day like that in 2008.

On both those previous crashes, the decline in the Dow exceeded 20 percent. Today’s decline was 3.59 percent. Not a good day, to be sure, but no crash — and far better than the initial selloff. The volume on Black Friday, 1929, was 16,000,000 shares. Piddling by today’s standards, of course, but it was a record that stood for 39 years, longer than Babe Ruth’s home run record of 1927. The volume on Black Monday, 1987, was triple the previous record volume. This has been the pattern of late — bad days getting better towards the end and good days getting worse towards the end. That indicates high market nervousness, not panic, with bulls still willing to buy on dips. The recent record volume came on a strongly up day, not a down one. It might also be noted that the Asian markets were worse hit than the European ones and we did better than the European ones. In other words, fear was reduced during the course of the trading day; it didn’t run unchecked through the streets. In a real crash you can practically feel the fear, so pervasive is it. Even if we had a crash, it would more likely signal the end of the bear market that began a year ago, not the beginning of a far worse one, as stocks will have moved from weak hands to strong ones. Even though the Fed kept money tight after the 1929 crash (a serious error), the Dow recovered half its losses by April 1930. Then a string of further disastrous government mistakes, starting with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff,which was signed in June 1930, and  precipitated a global trade war, converted an ordinary recession into the Great Depression. In 1987, when the government did what governments should do in such a situation, the decline of Black Monday was fully erased within two years and the market went onward and upward from there.

It’s going to take longer this time to work out all the problems of a badly stressed financial system. But once the fear subsides, traders will realize that Chicken Little was wrong. Again. There are positive signs (the falling price of commodities, especially oil, by no means the least of them) and therefore bargains to be had. A few cautious nibbles will cause the market to move up a bit, bringing in more nibblers, and the business cycle, as much an artifact of human nature as tears and laughter, will be once more be on the upswing.

And it might be noted that the American dollar is stronger than it has been in quite a while. In these sorts of markets, there is always a “flight to quality,” so it is nice to see that people have been buying, not selling, dollars of late.

That would mean =the market is still betting that the American economy is not totally cooked yet.

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The Goldfarb Standard

The McCain camp hasn’t done much push back on the media-savaging of Sarah Palin. But today we get a breath of fresh air from Spokesman Michael Goldfarb based on Chris Matthews’ condescending and ignorant attack on Palin’s remarks concerning the role of the Vice President:

Earlier this week Chris Matthews exhibited such a stunning combination of bias and ignorance that we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Matthews mocked Governor Palin for telling a third grader that the Vice President is ‘in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.’ Matthews said ‘either she’s right about the role of the vice presidency or I’m wrong.’  Fortunately for the American people, Chris Matthews is wrong. Though it escaped comment at MSNBC, Joe Biden recently made a comment to the New Yorker promising to play a similar leadership role in the Senate. Biden told the magazine, ‘I would see one of my jobs as essentially being the president of the Senate, in the sense of actually not presiding as much as interacting, continuing to interact, talking to Harry Reid every day, or talking to Nancy Pelosi.’

Chris Matthews further elaborated on his understanding of the role of the Vice President, saying that ‘it has nothing to do with policy making, nothing to do with Senate leadership on either side of the aisle. There is no policy role there whatever for the vice president. If you’d even watched John Adams on television a few months ago, you would know that, going into the very beginning of our democracy.’ We have little hope that MSNBC will take a more even handed approach in covering this race over these last few days, but it is outrageous that Chris Matthews would rely on an HBO mini-series as the basis for his condescending attacks on Governor Palin. If he wishes to pose as a Constitutional scholar, he should read the document. This campaign has sent a copy to his office.

This sort of response is long overdue. When every MSM commentator and many conservative pundits feels free to lob every manner of insult and attack at Palin, it is incumbent on the campaign she is representing to push back. It is not just a matter of decency. Such a tack lets Republicans know there is a pulse over at McCain-Palin headquarters. Nothing is as dispiriting as to cede the rhetorical ground, especially when you’re right. If this is the beginning of a trend, it is a positive one.

Finally, in a separate but equally enjoyable release, Goldfarb states: “Just after the New York Times ended months of intense speculation by announcing its endorsement of Barack Obama, the company’s corporate credit rating was lowered to ‘junk’ status — an appropriate reflection of the paper’s editorial judgment as well as the quality of its reporting.” Apparently not everyone at the McCain-Palin camp believes he is entitled to spend his day job-hunting while on the campaign payroll.

The McCain camp hasn’t done much push back on the media-savaging of Sarah Palin. But today we get a breath of fresh air from Spokesman Michael Goldfarb based on Chris Matthews’ condescending and ignorant attack on Palin’s remarks concerning the role of the Vice President:

Earlier this week Chris Matthews exhibited such a stunning combination of bias and ignorance that we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Matthews mocked Governor Palin for telling a third grader that the Vice President is ‘in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.’ Matthews said ‘either she’s right about the role of the vice presidency or I’m wrong.’  Fortunately for the American people, Chris Matthews is wrong. Though it escaped comment at MSNBC, Joe Biden recently made a comment to the New Yorker promising to play a similar leadership role in the Senate. Biden told the magazine, ‘I would see one of my jobs as essentially being the president of the Senate, in the sense of actually not presiding as much as interacting, continuing to interact, talking to Harry Reid every day, or talking to Nancy Pelosi.’

Chris Matthews further elaborated on his understanding of the role of the Vice President, saying that ‘it has nothing to do with policy making, nothing to do with Senate leadership on either side of the aisle. There is no policy role there whatever for the vice president. If you’d even watched John Adams on television a few months ago, you would know that, going into the very beginning of our democracy.’ We have little hope that MSNBC will take a more even handed approach in covering this race over these last few days, but it is outrageous that Chris Matthews would rely on an HBO mini-series as the basis for his condescending attacks on Governor Palin. If he wishes to pose as a Constitutional scholar, he should read the document. This campaign has sent a copy to his office.

This sort of response is long overdue. When every MSM commentator and many conservative pundits feels free to lob every manner of insult and attack at Palin, it is incumbent on the campaign she is representing to push back. It is not just a matter of decency. Such a tack lets Republicans know there is a pulse over at McCain-Palin headquarters. Nothing is as dispiriting as to cede the rhetorical ground, especially when you’re right. If this is the beginning of a trend, it is a positive one.

Finally, in a separate but equally enjoyable release, Goldfarb states: “Just after the New York Times ended months of intense speculation by announcing its endorsement of Barack Obama, the company’s corporate credit rating was lowered to ‘junk’ status — an appropriate reflection of the paper’s editorial judgment as well as the quality of its reporting.” Apparently not everyone at the McCain-Palin camp believes he is entitled to spend his day job-hunting while on the campaign payroll.

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Commentary of the Day

Xavier, on Shmuel Rosner:

It’s a sadness to hear that Sarah Palin’s Evangelical Christian faith is seen as presumptively threatening by substantial numbers of Jewish voters. There’s nothing in her record that I’m aware of that would ratify the presumption, and much that would refute it. It’s a personal sadness, too, to this Roman Catholic who today was a joyful witness at the bris of his first grand-nephew.

Xavier, on Shmuel Rosner:

It’s a sadness to hear that Sarah Palin’s Evangelical Christian faith is seen as presumptively threatening by substantial numbers of Jewish voters. There’s nothing in her record that I’m aware of that would ratify the presumption, and much that would refute it. It’s a personal sadness, too, to this Roman Catholic who today was a joyful witness at the bris of his first grand-nephew.

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Gore and Going Green at Harvard

Do not be surprised, if during promotion of November 22′s Harvard-Yale football game, you find that the Bulldogs will in fact be playing the Green. Harvard is Crimson no longer, apparently. Or maybe only when Al Gore comes to town.

“Green is the new Crimson” was the tune Harvard sang this week in anticipation of Al Gore’s address at the Harvard Sustainability Celebration. There were banners surrounding the campus Yard with this slogan, and flyers all over campus proclaiming this shift in hue.

Our president Drew Faust sent an e-mail reminding students of the event. In it, she mentioned “the serious problem that is global warming.” Quite the faux pas! Doesn’t she know we’re supposed to call it climate change? After all, once facts began to get in the way of global warming theory, environmentalists needed to change their tune. Unfortunately, Gore’s speech was everything we’ve come to expect from his new incarnation–self-righteous, messianic, and hypocritical. Gore, after acknowledging and returning the adoration given to him by Faust and the audience, went on to ask the question, “How do we incorporate new knowledge into our understanding of who we are and what we must do?” And with this, Gore set the tone of his speech–it wasn’t going to be one about climate change specifically. Rather, it would enthrone climate change in its rightful place as the new and central sociopolitical cause of a generation.

Gore mentioned Galileo, and the commitment to reason that led him to discover “inconvenient truths” (get it?) about the universe. Toward the end of his speech, Gore quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” So Gore is, in his own mind, continuing the two great traditions of scientific inquiry and justice-seeking that his spiritual ancestors Galileo and King suffered and died to advance. But, not contented by allying himself with such illustrious names, Gore then explained how the three major problems in the world right now are really all interconnected: a common thread runs through the Iraq war (it’s all about oil), the economic crisis, and the impending doom of climate change. And, he went on to claim, if we solve the one issue of climate change, we’ll pull the right thread and suddenly all of our problems will go away.

So, to recap: Gore is a modern descendant both of Galileo Galilei and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the cause he has taken up is not merely a pressing sociotechnical problem (one which, incidentally, vast amounts of money and time have already been invested in addressing), but rather the single paramount issue of contemporary human existence, the greater evil birthing all the other evils of our age. Forget the Inquisition and the blot of slavery and segregation!

Gore also appealed to a return to the “rule of reason” that has, allegedly, been lost in recent years. If by “rule of reason” he means the rule of vast, unfalsifiable, world-historical claims like the ones he centered his Harvard speech around, we have a great deal to be worried about. And his audience, too, apparently failed to get the “reason” memo. There were no dissenters, at least publicly, only roars of approval, these largely prompted by Gore’s explanation of how he keeps being newly enraged at the Bush administration, and that this outrage recurs so often that to make space for new outrage, he needs to “download” some of the existing outrage out of his mind. Endless outrage and murky broad-spectrum social theory! I think we can all agree that Galileo, Dr. King, the Dalai Lama, Jonas Salk, and any other public worthy you might mention would get behind that double agenda.

Do not be surprised, if during promotion of November 22′s Harvard-Yale football game, you find that the Bulldogs will in fact be playing the Green. Harvard is Crimson no longer, apparently. Or maybe only when Al Gore comes to town.

“Green is the new Crimson” was the tune Harvard sang this week in anticipation of Al Gore’s address at the Harvard Sustainability Celebration. There were banners surrounding the campus Yard with this slogan, and flyers all over campus proclaiming this shift in hue.

Our president Drew Faust sent an e-mail reminding students of the event. In it, she mentioned “the serious problem that is global warming.” Quite the faux pas! Doesn’t she know we’re supposed to call it climate change? After all, once facts began to get in the way of global warming theory, environmentalists needed to change their tune. Unfortunately, Gore’s speech was everything we’ve come to expect from his new incarnation–self-righteous, messianic, and hypocritical. Gore, after acknowledging and returning the adoration given to him by Faust and the audience, went on to ask the question, “How do we incorporate new knowledge into our understanding of who we are and what we must do?” And with this, Gore set the tone of his speech–it wasn’t going to be one about climate change specifically. Rather, it would enthrone climate change in its rightful place as the new and central sociopolitical cause of a generation.

Gore mentioned Galileo, and the commitment to reason that led him to discover “inconvenient truths” (get it?) about the universe. Toward the end of his speech, Gore quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” So Gore is, in his own mind, continuing the two great traditions of scientific inquiry and justice-seeking that his spiritual ancestors Galileo and King suffered and died to advance. But, not contented by allying himself with such illustrious names, Gore then explained how the three major problems in the world right now are really all interconnected: a common thread runs through the Iraq war (it’s all about oil), the economic crisis, and the impending doom of climate change. And, he went on to claim, if we solve the one issue of climate change, we’ll pull the right thread and suddenly all of our problems will go away.

So, to recap: Gore is a modern descendant both of Galileo Galilei and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the cause he has taken up is not merely a pressing sociotechnical problem (one which, incidentally, vast amounts of money and time have already been invested in addressing), but rather the single paramount issue of contemporary human existence, the greater evil birthing all the other evils of our age. Forget the Inquisition and the blot of slavery and segregation!

Gore also appealed to a return to the “rule of reason” that has, allegedly, been lost in recent years. If by “rule of reason” he means the rule of vast, unfalsifiable, world-historical claims like the ones he centered his Harvard speech around, we have a great deal to be worried about. And his audience, too, apparently failed to get the “reason” memo. There were no dissenters, at least publicly, only roars of approval, these largely prompted by Gore’s explanation of how he keeps being newly enraged at the Bush administration, and that this outrage recurs so often that to make space for new outrage, he needs to “download” some of the existing outrage out of his mind. Endless outrage and murky broad-spectrum social theory! I think we can all agree that Galileo, Dr. King, the Dalai Lama, Jonas Salk, and any other public worthy you might mention would get behind that double agenda.

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Mugged by Andrew Sullivan

In the wake of the news that the Philadelphia McCain campaign volunteer made up the mugging story, Andrew Sullivan writes, “All those who reported or linked to this without some skepticism were race-baiting.”

So Andrew Sullivan is scolding those who link to far-fetched stories without skepticism. This is the man who in linking to a delusional DailyKos post on the secret machinations of the Palin baby swap called it simply “the timeline.” Sullivan continues to rest his “Sarah Palin was not vetted” case entirely on such disproved myths. Just today, he linked to a video–which he describes as “pure genius”–asserting that Palin practices voodoo, wants to ban books, and hopes to see Alaska secede.

From his unique perch, Sullivan has single-handedly plunged new media journalism into an intellectual and ethical vacuum. He isn’t guilty of practicing irresponsible journalism; he’s guilty of championing irresponsibility–and then sanctifying it with the self-righteous claim that he alone is “doing his job.” The greatest damage Sullivan has done to his trade is not failing to tell readers the truth, but succeeding in dashing their expectation of it. For committing that sin, readers and bloggers alike won’t soon let him off the hook. For all his mock-precious philosophizing on the nature of blogging, he’s managed to obliterate the genuinely precious connection between reader and writer: trust.

As for the damage Sullivan has done to himself — it seems tragically fitting that the medium’s first superstar would also be its first casualty.

In the wake of the news that the Philadelphia McCain campaign volunteer made up the mugging story, Andrew Sullivan writes, “All those who reported or linked to this without some skepticism were race-baiting.”

So Andrew Sullivan is scolding those who link to far-fetched stories without skepticism. This is the man who in linking to a delusional DailyKos post on the secret machinations of the Palin baby swap called it simply “the timeline.” Sullivan continues to rest his “Sarah Palin was not vetted” case entirely on such disproved myths. Just today, he linked to a video–which he describes as “pure genius”–asserting that Palin practices voodoo, wants to ban books, and hopes to see Alaska secede.

From his unique perch, Sullivan has single-handedly plunged new media journalism into an intellectual and ethical vacuum. He isn’t guilty of practicing irresponsible journalism; he’s guilty of championing irresponsibility–and then sanctifying it with the self-righteous claim that he alone is “doing his job.” The greatest damage Sullivan has done to his trade is not failing to tell readers the truth, but succeeding in dashing their expectation of it. For committing that sin, readers and bloggers alike won’t soon let him off the hook. For all his mock-precious philosophizing on the nature of blogging, he’s managed to obliterate the genuinely precious connection between reader and writer: trust.

As for the damage Sullivan has done to himself — it seems tragically fitting that the medium’s first superstar would also be its first casualty.

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‘Hit a Jew Day’

From USA Today:

Several sixth-graders from suburban St. Louis are being disciplined for creating “Hit a Jew Day” and then hitting Jewish classmates.

Four or five students at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield could be suspended and undergo counseling for last week’s incident, school officials told the Associated Press. Others who taunted Jewish students or encouraged others to participate face lesser punishment.

Officials said fewer than 10 of the school’s 35 Jewish students were hit. One was slapped in the face and the others were hit mostly on the back of their shoulders…

It began with an unofficial “Spirit Week” among sixth-graders that started harmlessly enough with a “Hug a Friend Day.” Then there was “High Five Day.”

Soon, though, the days moved from friendly to silly. Next there was “Hit a Tall Person Day” and, finally, “Hit a Jew Day.”

Principal Linda Lelonek told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  she learned about the incidents Monday and called an assembly Tuesday morning.

“What’s tomorrow going to be? ‘Hit A Principal Day?’” she asked.

Yeah. Because ‘Hit a Principal Day’ would be so much worse, wouldn’t it, Ms. Lelonek?

From USA Today:

Several sixth-graders from suburban St. Louis are being disciplined for creating “Hit a Jew Day” and then hitting Jewish classmates.

Four or five students at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield could be suspended and undergo counseling for last week’s incident, school officials told the Associated Press. Others who taunted Jewish students or encouraged others to participate face lesser punishment.

Officials said fewer than 10 of the school’s 35 Jewish students were hit. One was slapped in the face and the others were hit mostly on the back of their shoulders…

It began with an unofficial “Spirit Week” among sixth-graders that started harmlessly enough with a “Hug a Friend Day.” Then there was “High Five Day.”

Soon, though, the days moved from friendly to silly. Next there was “Hit a Tall Person Day” and, finally, “Hit a Jew Day.”

Principal Linda Lelonek told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  she learned about the incidents Monday and called an assembly Tuesday morning.

“What’s tomorrow going to be? ‘Hit A Principal Day?’” she asked.

Yeah. Because ‘Hit a Principal Day’ would be so much worse, wouldn’t it, Ms. Lelonek?

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We’re Cooked

Today, Asian and European markets plunged, threatening to bring American stocks with them. Selling of Dow Jones Industrial Average futures was prohibited early morning as they reached circuit-breaker lows. To calm investors, the New York Stock Exchange had to confirm this morning that it would open as usual. The Big Board also reminded everyone of its own circuit-breaker provisions, which would end trading should the Dow fall through pre-determined levels.

At the opening, the market plunged, shedding 504 points. Yet it could have been worse, “Today might be the day where everybody throws in the towel,” said Peter Cardillo of Avalon Partners before the markets opened. “People are saying ‘I’ve had it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m selling everything.’ ” For some reason, people did not panic, and the Dow bounced off its early-morning lows. If this sentiment holds, the worst that will happen today will be another triple-digit loss, which in these volatile times is no longer news.

Yet just because the global financial system did not fall apart today does not mean it will not crumble next week. In the early stages of this year’s crisis, excesses in the financial system were forcing markets downward. Now, investors are starting to realize that the underlying global economy is weak. Even the most exuberant people on the planet, real estate developers in Dubai, are starting to feel the pinch.

The most telling indicator of global sentiment-the price of oil-shows that pessimism has taken hold. Today, OPEC cut production quotas by 1.5 million barrels a day to stop the “dramatic collapse” in oil prices, but prices fell nonetheless. From a high of $147.27 a barrel in mid-July, oil is now trading around $65. This morning, CNN’s Poppy Harlow mentioned the possibility of $37-a-barrel oil. When people are thinking that the price of this commodity could approach the cost of its production, it’s clear the global economy is failing.

And as it fails, no place is safe, not even the country with the world’s most dynamic major economy. This Monday, Beijing announced that growth of gross domestic product fell to 9.0 percent in the third quarter. That sounds high, but it represents the lowest increase in five years and a sharp slowdown from growth in recent periods. The problem for China is that it has an economy excessively dependent on exports-exports account for an astounding 38 percent of GDP-at a time when consumers around the world are cutting back on consumption.

The coming downturn will inevitably hit China especially hard because its exuberant growth in the past has created dislocations, such as questionable bank loans, unfunded social welfare obligations, and a degraded environment, just to name a few of them. Up to now, the country’s constant growth has tended to hide these problems. Yet as China’s economy goes into reverse, they will inevitably emerge. China’s own protected stock markets have fallen by about two-thirds this year alone.

“Today more than ever the world is looking to China to be a big contributor to global economic growth,” said Henry Paulson on Tuesday. Yet China is looking to the rest of the world to help it get its growth back on track. If that is our Treasury secretary’s game plan, we’re really cooked.

Today, Asian and European markets plunged, threatening to bring American stocks with them. Selling of Dow Jones Industrial Average futures was prohibited early morning as they reached circuit-breaker lows. To calm investors, the New York Stock Exchange had to confirm this morning that it would open as usual. The Big Board also reminded everyone of its own circuit-breaker provisions, which would end trading should the Dow fall through pre-determined levels.

At the opening, the market plunged, shedding 504 points. Yet it could have been worse, “Today might be the day where everybody throws in the towel,” said Peter Cardillo of Avalon Partners before the markets opened. “People are saying ‘I’ve had it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m selling everything.’ ” For some reason, people did not panic, and the Dow bounced off its early-morning lows. If this sentiment holds, the worst that will happen today will be another triple-digit loss, which in these volatile times is no longer news.

Yet just because the global financial system did not fall apart today does not mean it will not crumble next week. In the early stages of this year’s crisis, excesses in the financial system were forcing markets downward. Now, investors are starting to realize that the underlying global economy is weak. Even the most exuberant people on the planet, real estate developers in Dubai, are starting to feel the pinch.

The most telling indicator of global sentiment-the price of oil-shows that pessimism has taken hold. Today, OPEC cut production quotas by 1.5 million barrels a day to stop the “dramatic collapse” in oil prices, but prices fell nonetheless. From a high of $147.27 a barrel in mid-July, oil is now trading around $65. This morning, CNN’s Poppy Harlow mentioned the possibility of $37-a-barrel oil. When people are thinking that the price of this commodity could approach the cost of its production, it’s clear the global economy is failing.

And as it fails, no place is safe, not even the country with the world’s most dynamic major economy. This Monday, Beijing announced that growth of gross domestic product fell to 9.0 percent in the third quarter. That sounds high, but it represents the lowest increase in five years and a sharp slowdown from growth in recent periods. The problem for China is that it has an economy excessively dependent on exports-exports account for an astounding 38 percent of GDP-at a time when consumers around the world are cutting back on consumption.

The coming downturn will inevitably hit China especially hard because its exuberant growth in the past has created dislocations, such as questionable bank loans, unfunded social welfare obligations, and a degraded environment, just to name a few of them. Up to now, the country’s constant growth has tended to hide these problems. Yet as China’s economy goes into reverse, they will inevitably emerge. China’s own protected stock markets have fallen by about two-thirds this year alone.

“Today more than ever the world is looking to China to be a big contributor to global economic growth,” said Henry Paulson on Tuesday. Yet China is looking to the rest of the world to help it get its growth back on track. If that is our Treasury secretary’s game plan, we’re really cooked.

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Shas Says No

It’s never final until Rabbi Ovadia sings. As I wrote here ten days ago, without the Shas Party (a religious party founded and advised by Ovadia Yosef), it’s very hard to see how Tzipi Livni can form a coalition–not even an unstable coalition. So at least today, when Shas declares that its decision not to join the new Israeli coalition is “final,” it’s time to start counting the days until yet another election round in three months or so.

Of course, nothing is final until it’s really final, but what’s already clear by now is that Livni was unable to achieve her goal of forming a coalition quickly, with practically no negotiation. As right in principle as she might be–Livni made a good case by way of explaining that all she wants is to continue with the same coalition based on the same agreement Olmert had with the different parties–this is Israeli politics. And in Israeli politics, being right is good, being smart is better, but understanding Shas is best.

Not that anyone really knows what Shas really wants. Maybe they were never going to join Livni, and all they were looking for was an excuse not to. Maybe their polls show them that they can gain from new elections. Maybe they didn’t like what Livni was offering. Maybe Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu was the one convincing Ovadia that this is not the coalition he’d want to join. Maybe he promised Shas more money, plain and simple, as some reports say. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman. Maybe they wanted Shaul Mofaz so bad that they can’t get over it.

Livni might still entertain some hope of forming a narrow coalition, as some people–mainly on the far left–have called for (“for the peace process’s sake”). But even with good friends on the left, life isn’t going to be easy for Livni, as Yossi Verter explains:

Sometimes friendships are political lifelines. In October 2006, after the Second Lebanon War, when Olmert was contemplating his political demise, he asked Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, for help. Lieberman joined the coalition, thereby giving Olmert oxygen for a whole year. In 2003, when Ariel Sharon formed his second government, he did not need the Arab parties for the coalition, but he summoned all Arab factions and spoke with their members, effusing his inimitable cordiality, warmth and charm.

Livni, as of yesterday, had not invited any Arab faction to meet with her. A possible narrow-based government would require significant support from the Arab parties – whom she had apparently forgotten about over the course of those 32 days. “Anyone who is counting on us next Monday [when the Knesset reconvenes] and thinks we can be taken for granted without talking to us, had better know that we will topple them in the vote,” MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) said on Wednesday night.

With the looming deadline announced by Livni (Sunday will be the day for decision), it now seems that Netanyahu might get what he wished for: an early election with a good chance to become the next Israeli Prime Minister. Chance, but not certainty: Livni and some of her advisers believe she can win. Whoever wins, the next American president might have to wait a while for the opportunity to dive back into the Arab-Israeli diplomatic channel. This will be his way of discovering that nothing is over until Rabbi Ovadia sings.

It’s never final until Rabbi Ovadia sings. As I wrote here ten days ago, without the Shas Party (a religious party founded and advised by Ovadia Yosef), it’s very hard to see how Tzipi Livni can form a coalition–not even an unstable coalition. So at least today, when Shas declares that its decision not to join the new Israeli coalition is “final,” it’s time to start counting the days until yet another election round in three months or so.

Of course, nothing is final until it’s really final, but what’s already clear by now is that Livni was unable to achieve her goal of forming a coalition quickly, with practically no negotiation. As right in principle as she might be–Livni made a good case by way of explaining that all she wants is to continue with the same coalition based on the same agreement Olmert had with the different parties–this is Israeli politics. And in Israeli politics, being right is good, being smart is better, but understanding Shas is best.

Not that anyone really knows what Shas really wants. Maybe they were never going to join Livni, and all they were looking for was an excuse not to. Maybe their polls show them that they can gain from new elections. Maybe they didn’t like what Livni was offering. Maybe Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu was the one convincing Ovadia that this is not the coalition he’d want to join. Maybe he promised Shas more money, plain and simple, as some reports say. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman. Maybe they wanted Shaul Mofaz so bad that they can’t get over it.

Livni might still entertain some hope of forming a narrow coalition, as some people–mainly on the far left–have called for (“for the peace process’s sake”). But even with good friends on the left, life isn’t going to be easy for Livni, as Yossi Verter explains:

Sometimes friendships are political lifelines. In October 2006, after the Second Lebanon War, when Olmert was contemplating his political demise, he asked Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, for help. Lieberman joined the coalition, thereby giving Olmert oxygen for a whole year. In 2003, when Ariel Sharon formed his second government, he did not need the Arab parties for the coalition, but he summoned all Arab factions and spoke with their members, effusing his inimitable cordiality, warmth and charm.

Livni, as of yesterday, had not invited any Arab faction to meet with her. A possible narrow-based government would require significant support from the Arab parties – whom she had apparently forgotten about over the course of those 32 days. “Anyone who is counting on us next Monday [when the Knesset reconvenes] and thinks we can be taken for granted without talking to us, had better know that we will topple them in the vote,” MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) said on Wednesday night.

With the looming deadline announced by Livni (Sunday will be the day for decision), it now seems that Netanyahu might get what he wished for: an early election with a good chance to become the next Israeli Prime Minister. Chance, but not certainty: Livni and some of her advisers believe she can win. Whoever wins, the next American president might have to wait a while for the opportunity to dive back into the Arab-Israeli diplomatic channel. This will be his way of discovering that nothing is over until Rabbi Ovadia sings.

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Thoroughly Impressive

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was excoriated for her concern about the views of a man whose intimates include an anti-American terrorist and an anti-American pastor, is now being excoriated for daring to speak the one simple truth that could rescue liberal values from the tag-team clutches of multiculturalism and Jihad. Here’s Bachman at a recent debate a few years back, making more sense than any American politician since Sept 11, 2001:

Moderator: Given the recent rioting in France that is the result of a sub-culture that has not assimilated what would you do to make sure that a similar situation does not take place in America?

[...]

Michele Bachmann: I just want to say only in France, only in France could you have suburban youth rioting because the welfare benefits aren’t generous enough. And that’s… That’s what they’re telling us now is happening there. And only in France could that happen.

And what we’re seeing is just the fruits of leftism. It’s suburbanites, the kids, that are watching cable TV, Did you know that? In a lot of these high rises where a lot of the suburban youth are doing writing or doing they have cable TV in their apartments. They’re listening to al Jazeera, and they’re being encouraged and prompted to go ahead and start these riots all over France.

There is a movement afoot that’s occurring and part of that is whole philosophical idea of multi-cultural diversity, which on the face sounds wonderful. Let’s appreciate and value everyone’s cultures. But guess what? Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.

And one thing that we’re seeing is that in the midst of this violence that’s being encouraged by al Jazeera and by the jihadists that’s occurring, is that we are seeing that those who are coming into France — which had a beautiful culture — the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population of France they are losing Western Europeans and it’s being taken over by muh…by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad. But they are not assimilating.

And that’s what I had mentioned in my previous response is that America is a great nation, with great values. We are equal opportunity for all. And it’s because we all came here and we came together as one. Out of many one. Multi-cultural diversity says out of one many. And if we go with tribalism we will not long be one nation united under God.

Palin/Bachman 2012?

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was excoriated for her concern about the views of a man whose intimates include an anti-American terrorist and an anti-American pastor, is now being excoriated for daring to speak the one simple truth that could rescue liberal values from the tag-team clutches of multiculturalism and Jihad. Here’s Bachman at a recent debate a few years back, making more sense than any American politician since Sept 11, 2001:

Moderator: Given the recent rioting in France that is the result of a sub-culture that has not assimilated what would you do to make sure that a similar situation does not take place in America?

[...]

Michele Bachmann: I just want to say only in France, only in France could you have suburban youth rioting because the welfare benefits aren’t generous enough. And that’s… That’s what they’re telling us now is happening there. And only in France could that happen.

And what we’re seeing is just the fruits of leftism. It’s suburbanites, the kids, that are watching cable TV, Did you know that? In a lot of these high rises where a lot of the suburban youth are doing writing or doing they have cable TV in their apartments. They’re listening to al Jazeera, and they’re being encouraged and prompted to go ahead and start these riots all over France.

There is a movement afoot that’s occurring and part of that is whole philosophical idea of multi-cultural diversity, which on the face sounds wonderful. Let’s appreciate and value everyone’s cultures. But guess what? Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.

And one thing that we’re seeing is that in the midst of this violence that’s being encouraged by al Jazeera and by the jihadists that’s occurring, is that we are seeing that those who are coming into France — which had a beautiful culture — the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population of France they are losing Western Europeans and it’s being taken over by muh…by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad. But they are not assimilating.

And that’s what I had mentioned in my previous response is that America is a great nation, with great values. We are equal opportunity for all. And it’s because we all came here and we came together as one. Out of many one. Multi-cultural diversity says out of one many. And if we go with tribalism we will not long be one nation united under God.

Palin/Bachman 2012?

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This Should Be News

Barney Frank and Joe Biden are the sodium pentothal of the Democratic Party. Biden told us to be afraid on national security. Frank tells us they Democrats will be coming after us with a big tax increase. Now Frank tells us that he wants a 25% reduction in defense spending.

So let’s get this straight: we are going to see more than $4 trillion in new spending, have a big tax increase, and defund our military — while certain to face international challenges where “it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.” And this is what Democrats are saying?

If the McCain camp were not so busy at the dirty laundry festival, they might make use of all this in one last punchy ad.

Barney Frank and Joe Biden are the sodium pentothal of the Democratic Party. Biden told us to be afraid on national security. Frank tells us they Democrats will be coming after us with a big tax increase. Now Frank tells us that he wants a 25% reduction in defense spending.

So let’s get this straight: we are going to see more than $4 trillion in new spending, have a big tax increase, and defund our military — while certain to face international challenges where “it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.” And this is what Democrats are saying?

If the McCain camp were not so busy at the dirty laundry festival, they might make use of all this in one last punchy ad.

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Palin on Defense

Sarah Palin gave an extensive interview to Sean Hannity. The questions weren’t aggressive, but she demonstrated an ability to convey her ticket’s message better than anyone else, including, quite frankly, John McCain. She had this to say on the economy:

I believe that the narrative has finally changed. There’s been more revelation there about what Barack Obama’s true intentions will be. He spoke plainly, finally, to Joe the plumber. He said yes, he wants to spread the wealth. And to Joe the plumber that sounded like socialism. And Joe speaks for a lot of Americans, who hear some suggestion in there that taking more from our small businesses and from our individual families and then spreading their hard-working money around, according to a politician’s priorities, that certainly would kill the entrepreneurial spirit that helped build this country, made it the greatest country on earth. I’ve got a problem with it, and a lot of Americans are gravely concerned about that plan that Barack Obama has with his tax cut, he calls it. Really, it’s a tax credit. Really, it is, just spreading the wealth. There’s a problem with that.

Palin on Joe the VP’s blunder:

And it wasn’t just Biden making that comment. That was confirmed by former secretary Madeleine Albright, where she said yes, she believes that Biden was just stating fact. Now I don’t want a president who invites that kind of testing. We cannot afford that on the homeland. So, that’s a very discouraging to hear, Barack Obama’s only running mate proclaiming that, that Barack Obama would be inviting an international crisis that would adversely effect this country, is what he was saying there. What that statement did was confirm what Barack Obama had been referred to by Joe Biden throughout the primaries and in their debates. Remember, that he was untested and wasn’t ready for the presidency. Joe Biden has said he would be honored to run with John McCain as his running mate on his ticket and that way the country would be better off.

On Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers, she doesn’t mince words:

I feel strongly about these associations, that it’s fair game to discuss them. In fact, even Barack Obama had to admit that it was fair game. He challenged John McCain to speak on the issue of Ayers in the debate. And McCain took him up on it, thankfully. But the issue, too, about the judgment and the trustworthiness also and the candidness, it’s fair game. And you see what I go through and what John McCain goes through when we do bring up the associations.

But perhaps the most telling part of the interview was on the infamous wardrobe issue. She gives a remarkably straightforward response, one which no one in McCain camp could manage in two days to get out in defense of their own VP candidate:

First, the RNC spending money on clothes. Those clothes are not my property. We had three days of using clothes that the RNC purchased. If people knew how Todd and I and our kids shop so frugally. My favorite shop is a consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska, called Out of the Closet. And my shoe store is called Shoe Fly in Juneau, Alaska.

You have to wonder what is going through the minds of campaign advisors who let their candidate twist in the wind for days on this. Are they all job hunting already? Have they so lost perspective that they can no longer assess when their silence is feeding, rather than quieting a story? Perhaps the vaunted team which botched her introduction to the national stage has figured out that their futures don’t rest with any potential Palin ticket. (So let her explain it herself, right?)

But aside from that intrigue, what comes across in the interview is a candidate who has learned to be a candidate. Those who hold up interview skills as the definitive test of a candidate forget that a smart, attractive politician can master it in a matter of weeks. She certainly has. One thing is for certain: she’s learned through this campaign how dangerous it is waiting until the last minute to tell the voters your message, hiding from or screaming at the media, and failing to take control of your own image. If she chooses to run again for national office, I doubt she’ll repeat those errors.

Sarah Palin gave an extensive interview to Sean Hannity. The questions weren’t aggressive, but she demonstrated an ability to convey her ticket’s message better than anyone else, including, quite frankly, John McCain. She had this to say on the economy:

I believe that the narrative has finally changed. There’s been more revelation there about what Barack Obama’s true intentions will be. He spoke plainly, finally, to Joe the plumber. He said yes, he wants to spread the wealth. And to Joe the plumber that sounded like socialism. And Joe speaks for a lot of Americans, who hear some suggestion in there that taking more from our small businesses and from our individual families and then spreading their hard-working money around, according to a politician’s priorities, that certainly would kill the entrepreneurial spirit that helped build this country, made it the greatest country on earth. I’ve got a problem with it, and a lot of Americans are gravely concerned about that plan that Barack Obama has with his tax cut, he calls it. Really, it’s a tax credit. Really, it is, just spreading the wealth. There’s a problem with that.

Palin on Joe the VP’s blunder:

And it wasn’t just Biden making that comment. That was confirmed by former secretary Madeleine Albright, where she said yes, she believes that Biden was just stating fact. Now I don’t want a president who invites that kind of testing. We cannot afford that on the homeland. So, that’s a very discouraging to hear, Barack Obama’s only running mate proclaiming that, that Barack Obama would be inviting an international crisis that would adversely effect this country, is what he was saying there. What that statement did was confirm what Barack Obama had been referred to by Joe Biden throughout the primaries and in their debates. Remember, that he was untested and wasn’t ready for the presidency. Joe Biden has said he would be honored to run with John McCain as his running mate on his ticket and that way the country would be better off.

On Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers, she doesn’t mince words:

I feel strongly about these associations, that it’s fair game to discuss them. In fact, even Barack Obama had to admit that it was fair game. He challenged John McCain to speak on the issue of Ayers in the debate. And McCain took him up on it, thankfully. But the issue, too, about the judgment and the trustworthiness also and the candidness, it’s fair game. And you see what I go through and what John McCain goes through when we do bring up the associations.

But perhaps the most telling part of the interview was on the infamous wardrobe issue. She gives a remarkably straightforward response, one which no one in McCain camp could manage in two days to get out in defense of their own VP candidate:

First, the RNC spending money on clothes. Those clothes are not my property. We had three days of using clothes that the RNC purchased. If people knew how Todd and I and our kids shop so frugally. My favorite shop is a consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska, called Out of the Closet. And my shoe store is called Shoe Fly in Juneau, Alaska.

You have to wonder what is going through the minds of campaign advisors who let their candidate twist in the wind for days on this. Are they all job hunting already? Have they so lost perspective that they can no longer assess when their silence is feeding, rather than quieting a story? Perhaps the vaunted team which botched her introduction to the national stage has figured out that their futures don’t rest with any potential Palin ticket. (So let her explain it herself, right?)

But aside from that intrigue, what comes across in the interview is a candidate who has learned to be a candidate. Those who hold up interview skills as the definitive test of a candidate forget that a smart, attractive politician can master it in a matter of weeks. She certainly has. One thing is for certain: she’s learned through this campaign how dangerous it is waiting until the last minute to tell the voters your message, hiding from or screaming at the media, and failing to take control of your own image. If she chooses to run again for national office, I doubt she’ll repeat those errors.

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The End of Ideology

Gerald Warner has a great piece in today’s Telegraph about the Tories’ infatuation with Barack Obama. He writes about British conservatives, but his analysis readily applies on this side of the pond:

Barack Obama is the most left-wing politician in the whole of American history.

So, how does he come to enjoy the vociferous support of prominent Tories? Because they are innocent of ideology, is the evident answer; because they have no coherent principles. They are still living in the age of Blair, when image, spin, presentation and empty soundbites substituted for a political philosophy and consistent policies.

Substitute the name “Clinton” for “Blair” and you’ve got a handy blueprint of what “change” really means to American Obama-supporters. It means rewinding to an era when ideologies were touted but never tested; when a gesture worked as a global band-aid, while threats were left to fester; when the Iraqi Liberation Act could be passed without Americans every wondering if it meant something.

We hear all the time about how much better things were under Clinton — not just for the U.S., but for the whole world. But by Clinton’s own admission, his administration lacked a coherent foreign policy for far too long. As if Mogadishu and Rwanda never happened — as if al Qaeda didn’t reach its operational peak in the Clinton years–Americans are once again convinced that global adoration for a single American figure will stave off the all the deadly -isms that have threatened civil societies for all recorded history. Childishly, Obama supporters think that Obama’s image on sweaters in Paris will translate into greater deference toward the U.S. worldwide. Or that because a few interviewees in the Muslim world say they say support Obama, jihadist groups will abandon their ancient mandates and pledge allegiance to America. They long for the days of a purely symbolic foreign policy, but fail to realize that in our enemies’ minds, America, under any leadership, will remain a symbol of all that must destroyed.

Gerald Warner has a great piece in today’s Telegraph about the Tories’ infatuation with Barack Obama. He writes about British conservatives, but his analysis readily applies on this side of the pond:

Barack Obama is the most left-wing politician in the whole of American history.

So, how does he come to enjoy the vociferous support of prominent Tories? Because they are innocent of ideology, is the evident answer; because they have no coherent principles. They are still living in the age of Blair, when image, spin, presentation and empty soundbites substituted for a political philosophy and consistent policies.

Substitute the name “Clinton” for “Blair” and you’ve got a handy blueprint of what “change” really means to American Obama-supporters. It means rewinding to an era when ideologies were touted but never tested; when a gesture worked as a global band-aid, while threats were left to fester; when the Iraqi Liberation Act could be passed without Americans every wondering if it meant something.

We hear all the time about how much better things were under Clinton — not just for the U.S., but for the whole world. But by Clinton’s own admission, his administration lacked a coherent foreign policy for far too long. As if Mogadishu and Rwanda never happened — as if al Qaeda didn’t reach its operational peak in the Clinton years–Americans are once again convinced that global adoration for a single American figure will stave off the all the deadly -isms that have threatened civil societies for all recorded history. Childishly, Obama supporters think that Obama’s image on sweaters in Paris will translate into greater deference toward the U.S. worldwide. Or that because a few interviewees in the Muslim world say they say support Obama, jihadist groups will abandon their ancient mandates and pledge allegiance to America. They long for the days of a purely symbolic foreign policy, but fail to realize that in our enemies’ minds, America, under any leadership, will remain a symbol of all that must destroyed.

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If McCain Loses

So, here I am, doing what I keep thinking people shouldn’t do at this stage: Offering a premature post-mortem on the election. If you don’t want to indulge in this sort of thing, please read no further.

Everyone is arguing about the little things that may be leading to Obama’s victory and McCain’s demise. The question of negativity, the bad timing of physical and economic hurricaines, the questions of age and experience, and who’s really a Washington insider or an outsider. In a close election, every one of these can plausibly claim title to having decided the outcome.

But there is one big thing that has set apart Obama from McCain, which I suggest is the real issue above all issues, and has been since the conventions. Obama has succeeded in giving a coherent narrative, a vision which, whether true or false, gives his supporters clarity as to why they are voting for him. McCain has not.

Barack Obama says: I represent a better, clearer, more inspiring, more liberal, alternative to the failures of the last administration. I may not have experience, but I am wicked smart, and know how to learn, to surround myself with wise people, and I offer hope for the future. Give me a shot — it sure can’t be worse than what we’ve had.

John McCain says: I’ve been around long enough to understand the dangers we face. I have a better track record than my opponent. I have courage and know what it means to suffer. I’m in nobody’s pocket. And everybody knows I’m not going to make the mistakes that George Bush made. That one, on the other hand, is such an unknown that we should all be terrified of him. He might even raise our taxes.

When Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, he was not undercutting his grand narrative, but affirming it. Biden is just the kind of experienced adviser that Obama is claiming he is surrounding himself with.

When McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, he utterly confounded his message. As a good friend of mine likes to say, it’s like a fancy French restaurant suddenly starts offering hamburgers to appeal to the fast-food crowd. Maybe the burgers are great, but you’ve made a mess of your central concept, and in the long run, nobody will believe you’re a fancy French restaurant any more, and you’ll lose both your French-eating and your hamburger-eating customers to competition. Maybe we know who Palin is, maybe we don’t. But in picking her, we don’t really know who John McCain is any more.

Americans may not understand the ins and outs of policy, or know exactly how to balance the competing factors of character, consistency, inspiration, and wisdom in choosing a leader. But they love a good story. Right now, just days before the votes are cast, Obama’s offering a much more compelling story than McCain.

So, here I am, doing what I keep thinking people shouldn’t do at this stage: Offering a premature post-mortem on the election. If you don’t want to indulge in this sort of thing, please read no further.

Everyone is arguing about the little things that may be leading to Obama’s victory and McCain’s demise. The question of negativity, the bad timing of physical and economic hurricaines, the questions of age and experience, and who’s really a Washington insider or an outsider. In a close election, every one of these can plausibly claim title to having decided the outcome.

But there is one big thing that has set apart Obama from McCain, which I suggest is the real issue above all issues, and has been since the conventions. Obama has succeeded in giving a coherent narrative, a vision which, whether true or false, gives his supporters clarity as to why they are voting for him. McCain has not.

Barack Obama says: I represent a better, clearer, more inspiring, more liberal, alternative to the failures of the last administration. I may not have experience, but I am wicked smart, and know how to learn, to surround myself with wise people, and I offer hope for the future. Give me a shot — it sure can’t be worse than what we’ve had.

John McCain says: I’ve been around long enough to understand the dangers we face. I have a better track record than my opponent. I have courage and know what it means to suffer. I’m in nobody’s pocket. And everybody knows I’m not going to make the mistakes that George Bush made. That one, on the other hand, is such an unknown that we should all be terrified of him. He might even raise our taxes.

When Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, he was not undercutting his grand narrative, but affirming it. Biden is just the kind of experienced adviser that Obama is claiming he is surrounding himself with.

When McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, he utterly confounded his message. As a good friend of mine likes to say, it’s like a fancy French restaurant suddenly starts offering hamburgers to appeal to the fast-food crowd. Maybe the burgers are great, but you’ve made a mess of your central concept, and in the long run, nobody will believe you’re a fancy French restaurant any more, and you’ll lose both your French-eating and your hamburger-eating customers to competition. Maybe we know who Palin is, maybe we don’t. But in picking her, we don’t really know who John McCain is any more.

Americans may not understand the ins and outs of policy, or know exactly how to balance the competing factors of character, consistency, inspiration, and wisdom in choosing a leader. But they love a good story. Right now, just days before the votes are cast, Obama’s offering a much more compelling story than McCain.

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Plenty To Worry About

Thomas Sowell, interviewed by Peter Robinson, walks us through the world view and policy stances of Barack Obama. He provides perhaps the best summation to date:

There is such a thing as a point of no return,” he says. If Obama wins the White House and Democrats expand their majorities in the House and Senate, they will intervene in the economy and redistribute wealth. Yet their economic policies “will pale by comparison to what they will do in permitting countries to acquire nuclear weapons and turn them over to terrorists. Once that happens, we’re at the point of no return. The next generation will live under that threat as far out as the eye can see. . .This man [Obama] really does believe that he can change the world. And people like that are infinitely more dangerous than mere crooked politicians.”

And that really is the nub of it. It is not just the radical substantive ways in which Obama may re-orient domestic and national security policy; it is that as an ideological extremist, Obama’s methods may well be equally extreme.

That is why the gushing over Obama’s “temperament” is so misplaced. If his apologists would care to look, his “thugocracy” is already on full display. When you label your opponents “racist,” set up Truth Squads, invoke the Justice Department to investigate the opposition’s campaign rhetoric, and associate with voting fraud racketeers you are telling voters, “Anything goes.” You are saying, “Our mission is so grand that any means are justified.” This is not the stuff of petty corruption, but of systematic contempt for legal restraint and for political criticism.

So for those who are uneasy about Barack Obama, but think a term or two won’t be any big deal, they might think again. Just as Sowell warns, once Iran has nuclear capability, there’s no turning back. Once Russia has gobbled up another former Soviet state or two, good luck getting them out. The record of rolling back new accretions to government is not promising. But most importantly, once opposition is cowed and criminalized, there’s little to constrain the state. Perhaps the slogan for Republicans in 2012 will be “It’s the freedom, stupid.”

Thomas Sowell, interviewed by Peter Robinson, walks us through the world view and policy stances of Barack Obama. He provides perhaps the best summation to date:

There is such a thing as a point of no return,” he says. If Obama wins the White House and Democrats expand their majorities in the House and Senate, they will intervene in the economy and redistribute wealth. Yet their economic policies “will pale by comparison to what they will do in permitting countries to acquire nuclear weapons and turn them over to terrorists. Once that happens, we’re at the point of no return. The next generation will live under that threat as far out as the eye can see. . .This man [Obama] really does believe that he can change the world. And people like that are infinitely more dangerous than mere crooked politicians.”

And that really is the nub of it. It is not just the radical substantive ways in which Obama may re-orient domestic and national security policy; it is that as an ideological extremist, Obama’s methods may well be equally extreme.

That is why the gushing over Obama’s “temperament” is so misplaced. If his apologists would care to look, his “thugocracy” is already on full display. When you label your opponents “racist,” set up Truth Squads, invoke the Justice Department to investigate the opposition’s campaign rhetoric, and associate with voting fraud racketeers you are telling voters, “Anything goes.” You are saying, “Our mission is so grand that any means are justified.” This is not the stuff of petty corruption, but of systematic contempt for legal restraint and for political criticism.

So for those who are uneasy about Barack Obama, but think a term or two won’t be any big deal, they might think again. Just as Sowell warns, once Iran has nuclear capability, there’s no turning back. Once Russia has gobbled up another former Soviet state or two, good luck getting them out. The record of rolling back new accretions to government is not promising. But most importantly, once opposition is cowed and criminalized, there’s little to constrain the state. Perhaps the slogan for Republicans in 2012 will be “It’s the freedom, stupid.”

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The Keystone Gamble

Sarah Palin is predicting a win in Pennsylvania. She and John McCain have spent gobs of time there. Sure, Ed Rendell expresses some caution. But the polls show that the race isn’t close there. Not even close to close. I suppose every one of the polls could be wrong. Maybe there is some special sauce internal poll which gives the McCain team hope, but this seems awfully wacky. Others share my skepticism that Pennsylvania — which has slid further and further towards the Blue side in recent years — provides a realistic opportunity for McCain.

There are many battleground states which are a lot closer — ones with a history of voting Republican recently. Isn’t the time better spent in Florida, Colorado and Virginia? In all of those he only trails by single digits. This raises the question whether this is another far-fetched gambit–like McCain wasting time in Massachusetts before Super Tuesday rather than trying to nail down some Western states (which he lost to Mitt Romney) or some Southern states (which he lost to Mike Huckabee).

The telltale sign that this might be a mistake is that Barack Obama has been spending plenty of his time in Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina. Now maybe the Obama camp has missed some fatal weakness in the Keystone State and should be there making sure it doesn’t slip from his grasp. But for now this looks like another rather odd Hail Mary play by Team McCain. And if McCain winds up losing Virginia and Colorada by narrow margins they’ll be a lot of second guessing. On the other hand, in a landslide, questionable calls will get lost in the deluge.

Sarah Palin is predicting a win in Pennsylvania. She and John McCain have spent gobs of time there. Sure, Ed Rendell expresses some caution. But the polls show that the race isn’t close there. Not even close to close. I suppose every one of the polls could be wrong. Maybe there is some special sauce internal poll which gives the McCain team hope, but this seems awfully wacky. Others share my skepticism that Pennsylvania — which has slid further and further towards the Blue side in recent years — provides a realistic opportunity for McCain.

There are many battleground states which are a lot closer — ones with a history of voting Republican recently. Isn’t the time better spent in Florida, Colorado and Virginia? In all of those he only trails by single digits. This raises the question whether this is another far-fetched gambit–like McCain wasting time in Massachusetts before Super Tuesday rather than trying to nail down some Western states (which he lost to Mitt Romney) or some Southern states (which he lost to Mike Huckabee).

The telltale sign that this might be a mistake is that Barack Obama has been spending plenty of his time in Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina. Now maybe the Obama camp has missed some fatal weakness in the Keystone State and should be there making sure it doesn’t slip from his grasp. But for now this looks like another rather odd Hail Mary play by Team McCain. And if McCain winds up losing Virginia and Colorada by narrow margins they’ll be a lot of second guessing. On the other hand, in a landslide, questionable calls will get lost in the deluge.

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Ivory Towers on Sand: The Download

Martin Kramer’s now-classic work, Ivory Towers on Sand, which came out just after 9/11 and showed how Middle Eastern Studies departments have been hijacked by anti-Western propagandists, is now available in its entirety as a free download. Some of us are still awed by the internet.

Martin Kramer’s now-classic work, Ivory Towers on Sand, which came out just after 9/11 and showed how Middle Eastern Studies departments have been hijacked by anti-Western propagandists, is now available in its entirety as a free download. Some of us are still awed by the internet.

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Get Joe The Accountant

Alan Reynolds does what neither the MSM or the McCain camp has really done: get into the math. He looks at Barack Obama’s spending plans and explains:

A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Altogether, Mr. Obama is promising at least $4.3 trillion of increased spending and reduced tax revenue from 2009 to 2018 — roughly an extra $430 billion a year by 2012-2013.

How is he going to pay for it?

Raising the tax rates on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $200,000-$250,000, and phasing out their exemptions and deductions, can raise only a small fraction of the amount. Even if we have a strong economy, Mr. Obama’s proposed tax hikes on the dwindling ranks of high earners would be unlikely to raise much more than $30 billion-$35 billion a year by 2012.

Besides, Mr. Obama does not claim he can finance his ambitious plans for tax credits, health insurance, etc. by taxing the rich. On the contrary, he has an even less likely revenue source in mind.

The bottom line is that taxing the “rich” won’t begin to pay for all this:

Mr. Obama has offered no clue as to how he intends to pay for his health-insurance plans, or doubling foreign aid, or any of the other 175 programs he’s promised to expand. Although he may hope to collect an even larger share of loot from the top of the heap, the harsh reality is that this Democrat’s quest for hundreds of billions more revenue each year would have to reach deep into the pockets of the people much lower on the economic ladder. Even then he’d come up short.

So that raises the 64,000  . . . er . . . billion (or more) dollar question: will Obama abandon his spending plans, jack up taxes much higher than he has let on, or try to print and borrow more money to pay for it all? We don’t know, because he has never been grilled and never been forced to respond to the math.

That’s a failing of the media, but really even more so by his opponent. McCain could have done some Ross Perot-style charts. He could have laid out the math as simply as Reynolds did. He could have run ads on this central issue — one he really likes (i.e. fiscal discipline).  Why not? It remains one of the many mysteries of a campaign with the curious habit of hiding its best arguments.

Alan Reynolds does what neither the MSM or the McCain camp has really done: get into the math. He looks at Barack Obama’s spending plans and explains:

A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Altogether, Mr. Obama is promising at least $4.3 trillion of increased spending and reduced tax revenue from 2009 to 2018 — roughly an extra $430 billion a year by 2012-2013.

How is he going to pay for it?

Raising the tax rates on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $200,000-$250,000, and phasing out their exemptions and deductions, can raise only a small fraction of the amount. Even if we have a strong economy, Mr. Obama’s proposed tax hikes on the dwindling ranks of high earners would be unlikely to raise much more than $30 billion-$35 billion a year by 2012.

Besides, Mr. Obama does not claim he can finance his ambitious plans for tax credits, health insurance, etc. by taxing the rich. On the contrary, he has an even less likely revenue source in mind.

The bottom line is that taxing the “rich” won’t begin to pay for all this:

Mr. Obama has offered no clue as to how he intends to pay for his health-insurance plans, or doubling foreign aid, or any of the other 175 programs he’s promised to expand. Although he may hope to collect an even larger share of loot from the top of the heap, the harsh reality is that this Democrat’s quest for hundreds of billions more revenue each year would have to reach deep into the pockets of the people much lower on the economic ladder. Even then he’d come up short.

So that raises the 64,000  . . . er . . . billion (or more) dollar question: will Obama abandon his spending plans, jack up taxes much higher than he has let on, or try to print and borrow more money to pay for it all? We don’t know, because he has never been grilled and never been forced to respond to the math.

That’s a failing of the media, but really even more so by his opponent. McCain could have done some Ross Perot-style charts. He could have laid out the math as simply as Reynolds did. He could have run ads on this central issue — one he really likes (i.e. fiscal discipline).  Why not? It remains one of the many mysteries of a campaign with the curious habit of hiding its best arguments.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

John McCain knows where they live — elitists, that is.

You knew this ad was coming. But it leaves off the “best” part (“it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right”).

Barack Obama nails down that all important Iran endorsement. The mullahs probably didn’t like McCain’s VP pick or were disturbed by the tone of the campaign.

The most intriguing part of the ACORN scandal: they didn’t register that many new voters. The Obama camp better not have counted those people in its turnout projections.

If you didn’t have enough to worry about liberal Democrats may come after your 401K. Hey, don’t scoff – it’ll be worth something again one day.

Newt Gingrich compares the MSM to Pravda. With all due respect, Pravda was more subtle.

Is the youth vote going to disappoint again? (Like Lucy’s football, they are never quite there as promised.)

Well, Jake Tapper is a lonely voice of honesty.

I don’t often agree with Campbell Brown. But this is one of these times.

This may explain why the Department of Justice is slow off the mark and more concerned with prosecuting speech cases rather than voter fraud. Those Republicans did a poor job of hiring based on party affiliation.

CNN’s explanation of the botched quote from a Byron York piece is rather weak. If a GOP politician tried it they’d blare the headline: “Clumsy Cover-Up.”

This seems to be a scandal in-the-making and a surefire way for Obama to lose more votes among pro-military Virginians unless he steps in to insist the military ballots be counted.

Soren Dayton has the low-down on Ballot-gate.

More funny business with donors and credit card fraud at the Obama camp.

George Will misses the point in telling government to keep their mitts off huge university endowments: universities which rack up these huge endowments and gouge students on tuition enjoy tax-exempt status. Take that away, and I accept they can do what they want with their billions. (And, by the way,  if Bob Jones University lost its tax exempt-status, why do Ivy League schools with race preferences get to keep theirs?)

The Chamber of Commerce figures out exactly what’s at stake with a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority: their members’ livelihood.

John McCain knows where they live — elitists, that is.

You knew this ad was coming. But it leaves off the “best” part (“it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right”).

Barack Obama nails down that all important Iran endorsement. The mullahs probably didn’t like McCain’s VP pick or were disturbed by the tone of the campaign.

The most intriguing part of the ACORN scandal: they didn’t register that many new voters. The Obama camp better not have counted those people in its turnout projections.

If you didn’t have enough to worry about liberal Democrats may come after your 401K. Hey, don’t scoff – it’ll be worth something again one day.

Newt Gingrich compares the MSM to Pravda. With all due respect, Pravda was more subtle.

Is the youth vote going to disappoint again? (Like Lucy’s football, they are never quite there as promised.)

Well, Jake Tapper is a lonely voice of honesty.

I don’t often agree with Campbell Brown. But this is one of these times.

This may explain why the Department of Justice is slow off the mark and more concerned with prosecuting speech cases rather than voter fraud. Those Republicans did a poor job of hiring based on party affiliation.

CNN’s explanation of the botched quote from a Byron York piece is rather weak. If a GOP politician tried it they’d blare the headline: “Clumsy Cover-Up.”

This seems to be a scandal in-the-making and a surefire way for Obama to lose more votes among pro-military Virginians unless he steps in to insist the military ballots be counted.

Soren Dayton has the low-down on Ballot-gate.

More funny business with donors and credit card fraud at the Obama camp.

George Will misses the point in telling government to keep their mitts off huge university endowments: universities which rack up these huge endowments and gouge students on tuition enjoy tax-exempt status. Take that away, and I accept they can do what they want with their billions. (And, by the way,  if Bob Jones University lost its tax exempt-status, why do Ivy League schools with race preferences get to keep theirs?)

The Chamber of Commerce figures out exactly what’s at stake with a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority: their members’ livelihood.

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