State of the Union


The long-troubled New York Sun, the neocon newspaper founded in 2002, is going down forevermore tomorrow, Gawker reports.

The Sun was an attempt to re-establish a neocon perch in New York City’s broadsheet press. But the project was superfluous — who needs a “right-wing” social-democratic paper like the Sun, when the New York Times is ready to present David Brooks and Bill Kristol as the voices of acceptable conservatism? Read More…

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Lost in Translation

I keep losing my train of thought while reading this Robert Stacy McCain post, but I swear that it is the best thing he has ever written.

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Crash Course — the TAC Guide to the Crisis

Five years ago, TAC contributor Robertson Morrow predicted the economic downturn to follow the bursting of the mortgage bubble:

The imprudent will suffer. Debt will become harder to assume, housing costs will fall, and consumer spending will sag. Those who refinanced to extract cash, took out a second mortgage, bought more house than they could afford, or failed to save, risk deep financial pain when the housing bubble bursts. Homebuyers depend on their jobs to make their mortgage payments, and the economic contraction caused by a squeeze on consumer spending will put those jobs in jeopardy. Even the prudent will suffer due to the irresponsibility of others: one’s financial mistakes are not solely one’s own business.

That piece, together with 25 other American Conservative articles–from 2002 to our latest issue–on the sources of the present crisis, can now be found in our online “Crash Course.” And you can stay lightyears ahead of the curve by signing up for a free, three-month trial subscription The American Conservative today.

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Banking CEO

The current financial crisis has created a bull market for political satire, if only because everyone seems to hate the bailout scheme. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this on NPR today.

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Hitchens Revisited

Christopher Hitchens is obviously not TAC’s ideological bedfellow–heavens forbid. But when he steers clear of political or anti-religious propaganda and writes about literature, the older Hitchens does produce some utterly brilliant, persuasive stuff. Read More…

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Happy Birthday, Ludwig von Mises

How nice of the House of Representatives to honor the great Austrian economist on the occasion of his 127th birthday by rejecting the bailout. No doubt Barney Frank and company will come back with something even worse, with Bush and Paulson strong-arming the House Republicans into line. But for today, there are two causes for celebration.

Here’s Ron Paul on the bailout vote:

h/t to Lew Rockwell.

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Day of Reckoning

How did the United States of America, the richest nation on earth, whose economy represents 30 percent of the Global Economy, arrive at the precipice of a financial panic and collapse?

The answer lies in the abject failure of both America’s financial elite and the political elite of both parties — the same elites now working together to determine how much of our wealth will be needed to bail the nation out of the crisis of their own creation.

Big Government is riding to the rescue — saddlebags full of our tax dollars — to save us from the consequences of the stupidity and folly of Big Government. New York and Washington, the twin cities responsible for the crisis, are now being hailed by the media as the 7th Cavalry, coming to rescue a beleaguered nation.

Read More…

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…full of grace…

Sunday. Late September; a warm day. Football season. The players in the huddle were shouting back and forth; emotions were high and morale was low. Accusations were parried with recriminations. Discipline and order had broken down, been restored, and broken down again repeatedly. The play-caller had a mad look in his eye and desperation in a voice hoarse from shouting, cajoling, pleading. He seemed on the verge of collapse. At least once he had to wave off an offer of medical assistance. The others had begun to eye him warily. Occasionally they peered over their shoulders at the mob all around them. No single voice could be heard in the cacophonous din–yet it communicated perfectly the unmitigated outrage of the crowd. They were surrounded, and by no means assured of escape. Yet they feared more what lay upfield. At times one of them would furtively steal a glance in that direction. Their leader was stammering incoherently, alone and ignored on the sidelines in the midst of the mayhem, going through the motions with a mixture of resentment and relief, as if he was glad the mob’s hatred of him had exhausted itself. And somehow they emerged from their huddle with a play.

Now that everyone has their PDF drafts of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in front of them we can get down and dirty with the devil in the details. The first thing that stands out is an opening in the definitions of qualified financial institutions, sec. 3(5), leaving room for foreign firms (emph. mine) to participate:

“…any institution, including, but not limited to, any bank, savings association, credit union, security broker or dealer, or insurance company, established and regulated under the laws of the United States … and having significant operations in the United States, but excluding any central bank of, or institution owned by, a foreign government.

Paulson’s bald-faced power grab from Sec. 8 of the original three-page draft, which read

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency

has been tossed. Sec. 119, “Judicial Review and Related Matters” does, however, allow for “expedited” consideration of any injunctions or restraining orders on Paulson’s activities and automatic temporary stays thereof–of course this might be par, I honestly don’t know.

There’s a provision for suspending now maligned mark-to-market accounting rules as well, but it isn’t clear as to how or if it will be used.
Notably absent (unless I missed it) is the rumored “slush fund” for community organizer outfits such as ACORN. Has anyone yet pointed out how Fannie and Freddie, in conjunction with this whole “affordable housing” political superstructure, has spent the last decade and a half achieving the precise opposite of their mandate, making houses not cheaper but more expensive?

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Reading the Polls

I have to disagree about the electoral map. The state and national results are highly correlated: when someone goes up in the national polls, he goes up in the swing states as well. If Obama is +6 in the Rasmussen and +8 in the Gallup (as he is today), he’s going to win almost all of those close states. The state polls are not taken as often – you’re really comparing his current position in the race with state data from a week or more ago, and things have changed since then. Obama moved up 4 in the Gallup and 5 in  the Rasmussen over that week.

Generally speaking, if you want to call the race accurately, look at the most recent polls, which are almost always national polls. Ignore the state polls.

That said, it _is_ possible for a candidate’s electoral college results to deviate significantly from what the national polls tell you – if the race is close. Enough to change the outcome.  For example, back in 2004, I noticed that Bush voters were over-concentrated – he was winning his core states by huge margins. A candidate does better if his votes are more spread out. So I concluded that if the race was close, say a 1 pt edge for Bush, Kerry would have won the electoral college: and indeed that almost happened.

Gore lost with a half a point edge in the popular vote in 2000: it’s happened farther back, too.

But with a 4-point edge or better? It’ll never happen. Even with a 3-point edge it’s not worth worrying about.
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The Electoral Map

I suspect that McCain has peaked in the national polls; certainly he has been bleeding momentum over the past week. Palin’s novelty has worn off, and her disastrous interviews have shattered her mystique, though she’ll continue to excite much of the GOP base. (And it’s not as if Biden excites anyone.) Nationwide, then, the contest looks to be close, but trending in Obama’s direction.

The electoral map
, however, suggests that Obama still has an uphill climb ahead of him. Most of the toss-up states are historically Republican. Combine that with the tendency throughout the primary season for polls to overstate support for Obama, and McCain may have the edge–if he can prevent his campaign from deteriorating further.

Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are the two big toss-up states that I’m confident will wind up in the blue column. The Pennsylvania primary was brutal for Obama. But the state has been Democratic for the past several cycles, and if it went for Kerry over Bush in 2004, with a sitting Republican president running in a favorable climate for the GOP, the Keystone state should remain Democratic this year.

Obama may also have better-than-even odds for winning Nevada and New Hampshire. But that, plus PA and WI, would still leave him 2 EV’s short of victory. Of the remaining toss-ups, Minnesota seems to be the one where he has a shot. Florida has been trending Republican; Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia are historically Republican and will most likely revert to type on election day. Missouri is a genuine toss-up most years, and the Democrats are poised to pick up the governor’s mansion this year. But Obama has trailed McCain persistently in the Show-Me State. The outcome there will depend on how much vote fraud and voter intimidation takes place in Kansas City and St. Louis. Both parties will do their worst.

If I were Obama, I’d concentrate my resources on PA, WI, MN, NV, and NH, with a side bet on Virginia, which has been trending Democratic lately in everything but the presidential contests. (When Virginia results came in early in 2004 and it wasn’t even close, I knew that Kerry was sunk.)

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