Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gallup: Notion that a Surge of Young Voters Will Decisively Swing the Election is (Probably) Bunk

According to an analysis released today:

Gallup Poll daily tracking suggests that 18- to 29-year-olds are not nearly as likely as older voters to be registered to vote, to say they are thinking about the election, or to express strong intentions to vote. Thus, as of mid-October, there is not convincing evidence in the Gallup data that young voters will in fact vote at higher rates than in past elections. But even if things change over the next two weeks and many more young adults do become motivated to vote, turnout alone would do little to change the candidates' overall support, according to Gallup's likely voter models.

In the Presidential Race Tightening, Heading Toward a Landslide, or What?

Something quite odd has been going on with the presidential race polling data we’ve gotten over the past few days.

The RCP average of major national polls has moved a few points in Obama’s favor so far this week, with several surveys now putting his lead near or in double digits.  However, two polls that came out today show the race significantly closer, with the respected IBD/TIPP tracking poll showing an Obama lead of only 3.7 percent [note: see update below] and an AP poll showing a statistical dead heat.  Additionally, the latest result from the GWU/Battleground tracking poll gives Obama only a two point lead.

Moreover, things get even more interesting when we consider three state polls conducted by the highly regarded (by political pundits) Mason-Dixon polling agency.  Two NBC/Mason-Dixon surveys released today have Obama up by two in Virginia (well below his lead in other polls) and McCain—yes, McCain—up by one in Florida, respectively.  An NBC/Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday put McCain up one point in Ohio.

Finally, the political prediction markets currently see Obama as an exceptionally strong favorite.  On Intrade today McCain’s predicted probability of victory reached a new post-primary low of 12.6 percent.

So what the hell is going on?

My guess is that right now Obama’s “true” hypothetical lead* is about five points.  That’s roughly consistent with the Mason-Dixon state polling data (factoring in that from the  2004 election results one would probably expect a GOP presidential candidate to run somewhat better, to varying degrees, than the national average in Virginia, Florida, and Ohio).  Or at least more consistent than a double digit Obama blowout; I just don’t see Obama winning by ten points nationally but lagging that much in those states.  Moreover, a five point lead is closer to those national polls mentioned above showing a tight race. And last, a five point lead is exactly what today’s edition of the warhorse Gallup Daily Tracking Poll (with the traditional model of likely voter screening based on past voting behavior, not the new version that classifies someone as a likely voter just on the respondent’s bare assertion that they are going to vote) gives Obama. 

And as for the prediction markets, which proved prescient in the 2004 election?  Well, today I bought $25 worth of McCain contracts on Intrade at a 12.8 percent chance-of-victory price level.  To put it in ordinary market terms, in my view McCain’s chances have been way oversold.

However, if McCain’s predicted chances should rebound to say, 35 percent? 

Well, there’s a time for putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, and then there’s a time to take profits.


*Yes, it’s  incorrect to speak of any polling lead as a “true” lead, given that a poll is, at best, only a statistical sampling measure that takes an imperfect snapshot in time, and even more incorrect to say that about a guess as to what a perfectly valid poll would show.  Fortunately, this is a blog post, not a final exam answer in a poli sci statistics class.  


Update/Correction (10/24):  After reading a couple of items floating around the net in the past few days calling into question the IBD/TIPP poll’s current methodology and doing a bit of further review of the poll’s recent results , it now appears to me that the poll isn’t producing reliable or plausible results for this cycle.  I regret referencing the IBD/TIPP poll without doing some further research into its performance this year, but still stand by my guess that race is considerably closer than the majority of national polls are now showing, a guess that is supported by the other polling data I mentioned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Chief Justice of Intentionally Bad Crime Fiction

As you may have heard (perhaps even from the last episode of Saturday Night Live, no less) Chief Justice Roberts made his comedic opinion writing debut last week, in a dissent to the Court’s denial of certiorari in a case where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out a drug bust for lack of probable cause.  Here’s how the Chief began his opinion:

North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He’d made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office.


Roberts went on to attack the PA court’s decision as contradictory to SCOTUS precedent.  Interestingly, Justice Kennedy joined the dissent.

A good try at lightening things up, but, no disrespect to Chief Justice Roberts, but I still prefer those Gilbert and Sullivan stripes.

rehnquist stripes

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin as Pericles

NRO lead editor Kathryn Lopez posted this morning this description of a Palin campaign stop in Indiana:

Palin didn't need Greek columns. People react to her because they believe she represents what the Greeks established.

I’m becoming ever more convinced that I’ll never really understand the adoration that some on the right (albeit a decreasing number, I think) continue to have for Palin.  Respect for her considerable political skills, sure.  Sympathy and outrage over the relentless and often scurrilous attacks that she and her family have endured, sure.  But adoration?

I like to think I have some pretty good political analysis chops, but I admit I just don’t get it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Highlights of the October SCOTUS Argument Schedule

So I originally promised that my preview of the Supreme Court’s October argument docket would be up last Monday (the first day of the Court’s new term, of course).  Well, stuff happens.  I decided to push ahead with the idea of some sort of October arguments overview, but as the six days of arguments scheduled for the month have already gone by I’ve switched things up a bit, integrating some analysis of how some selected arguments actually played out.

According to the headline writers at the New York Times, this year’s docket is “less meaty” than last year’s, lacking (so far) blockbuster cases like Boumediene (the Gitmo detainees case) and Heller (the D.C. gun rights case).  It may be true that the crop of cases on this year’s schedule doesn’t include any that appear likely to trigger that level of popular interest.  But, as always, there are a number of cases that will prove very interesting to many lawyers and others who follow the Court.  The following cases argued this month caught my eye:


-  The most interesting case of the month, to my mind, is Arizona v. Gant.  Those readers among you who have had the benefit/misfortune of a legal education will recall the important criminal procedure concept of the Search Incident to Lawful Arrest (“SILA”).  The core of the concept is that once the police arrest you for some constitutionally valid reason they can search your person and your immediate surroundings for weapons or contraband without obtaining a warrant or further establishing probable cause.  The concept of the SILA has been justified by interest of ensuring officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence.

It’s fair to say that at this point the need for and legitimacy of such searches of an arrested person’s well, person, are fairly uncontroversial among most constitutional scholars.  But the notion of searching an arrestee's surroundings has presented harder problems.  This is especially true in instances involving traffic stop arrests and subsequent searches of automobiles.  To make a long story short, in  New York v. Belton (1981) and later cases in the same line the Court announced a “bright-line” rule that police can thoroughly search the passenger compartment (but not the trunk, of course) of a vehicle after arresting an occupant, no matter whether under the specific facts of a given case there were any plausible safety or evidence preservation concerns actually present.  Indeed, under current law the rule extends even to instances where an arrestee has been searched, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police cruiser (but not to the situation where the arrestee has already been removed from the scene, interestingly).

In Gant, argued last Tuesday, the Court essentially took up the issue of whether the “bright-line” aspect from Belton should be overruled.  Practically all of the justices heaped distain on the notion that immediate post-arrest vehicle searches are necessary because a subject handcuffed and locked in the back of a police car (as Gant was) presents a real danger of escaping, returning to his vehicle, and grabbing a weapon or destroying evidence hidden inside.  However, the justices also seemed to dislike the prospect of replacing the Belton bright-line rule with something that attaches constitutional relevance to highly fact-specific,  necessarily spur-of-the-moment decisions about SILA auto searches by police officers in stressful traffic stop arrest situations.  And, of course, there is the matter of stare decisis:  The Belton rule has been around for almost thirty years, the Court and many lower federal and state courts have used it as any important precedent, and police have come to rely on the vehicle SILA as an important evidence-gathering tool.

From the statements of the Justices during argument, it’s difficult to guess how the case will come out.  Despite all its obvious flaws, in the end the Court may decide to reaffirm Belton on stare decisis grounds and as the devil the Court knows.  Or a majority might be able to agree on a modified rule that still gives officers a great deal of latitude but cuts back a bit in situations where there are obviously no significant concerns about officer safety and/or destruction of evidence.  Or we might get another one plurality, three concurrences, two dissents opinion split.  In any event, it’s one worth watching.

(By the way, for those who may be interested in the merits of the Belton rule from an originalist standpoint, read Justice Scalia’s concurrence in Thornton v. U.S. (2004), a case that upheld a vehicle SILA where the arrestee wasn’t even in the vehicle when the arresting officer approached him and the search itself was conducted while the crook was, yes, handcuffed in the back of a cruiser.  It reminds one that Scalia has a pretty robust view of the Fourth Amendment’s protections, or at least a more robust view than his critics --many of them ill-informed-- give him credit for.)

-  By coincidence or (less likely) design, this October seems to be criminal procedure month at the Court.  Aside from Gant, the Court also took up two other cases involving Fourth Amendment issues.  In Herring v. U.S., the Court confronted an exclusionary rule case involving an arrest (and subsequent search, which turned up drugs) made because a police clerk in another department incorrectly and negligently informed the arresting department that there was a valid warrant out for Herring’s arrest.  In Pearson v. Callahan, the Court heard arguments about whether police need a warrant to enter a home where a civilian confidential informant buys drugs inside just prior to the police search.   (Pearson also presents an interesting potential opportunity for the Court to clarify aspects of the doctrine of qualified immunity.)   The court also heard a Sixth Amendment case,  Oregon v. Ice, on whether facts that lead a judge to impose consecutive instead of concurrent sentences must be found by a jury or admitted by a defendant, and two cases from the Ninth Circuit, Waddington v. Sarausad and Chrones v. Pulido, dealing with aspects of habeas corpus review of allegedly defective jury instructions (both of which, I predict, are headed for the ever-growing “Who the hell do the Ninth Circuit judges think they are?” reversal pile).

-  Most overhyped case of the year so far: Altria Group, Inc. v. Good.  It received a decent bit of media coverage because it deals with a suit against the tobacco companies because of their misleading promotions of “light” and “low tar” cigarettes.  It’s not worth the hype because the suit is very clearly preempted by a federal statute regarding cigarette labeling, no matter whether one is considering the language of the statue directly or the Court’s recent precedents interpreting essentially the same language in other statutes.  The vote of the Justices won’t be close.

-  In a struggle that pits (potentially) the lives of whales against (potentially) the lives of sailors, the Ninth Circuit has been giving the U.S. Navy fits about conducting training with an advanced sonar system off the west coast.  Some environmental groups argue that the active sonar system, developed to hunt for new ultra-quiet diesel submarines, damages the hearing of marine animals.  The Navy asserts that the situation meets an “emergency circumstances” exception for not complying with an environmental impact assessment requirement, a stance that the Ninth Circuit didn’t think highly of.  This one, Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, might be another 5-4 ruling where Justice Kennedy’s vote determines the outcome.

-  Finally, a case that deals, if only partly, with an interesting emerging doctrine in federal jurisdiction law.  Lawyers in the audience will remember that even though 28 U.S.C. 1331 allows federal district courts to hear suits  “arising under” federal law --the same language used in Article III of the Constitution-- the Supreme Court has long interpreted that statute as not granting jurisdiction to federal courts to the full extent the Constitution allows.  In particular, for over a century the Court has maintained that only suits where the federal nature of an action is evident on the face of a “well-pleaded complaint” can be heard in federal court (excluding diversity jurisdiction, of course). This means that many suits where an issue of federal law is dispositive (a libel action turning on whether a defendant has a valid First Amendment defense, for example) can’t be heard in federal court.  There’s pretty broad agreement among scholars and judges that the 19th century Congress that drafted the language of the statute intended no such thing, but many have taken the position that the well-pleaded complaint rule has now been in effect so long that the Court should leave it to Congress to modify or junk it.

However, ever so slowly a precedential crack has begun to spread in the facade of the rule.  Under the doctrine of complete preemption federal courts have, in a limited but growing number of subject areas, announced that federal law so completely supersedes state authority that even causes of action that are explicitly pled as state law claims are inherently federal in nature and can support federal jurisdiction.  In Vaden v. Discover Bank, the Court may (the case has lots of procedural baggage related to application of the Federal Arbitration Act) address the question of whether a counterclaim that asserts a purportedly state law claim can be completely preempted.  As someone who would like to see the well-pleaded complaint rule further cut back  (and has a less reverential view of stare decisis), I hope they reach the issue and continue to chip away.


A lot more info on any or all of these cases can be found at the invaluable SCOTUSWiki, run by the folks who bring you SCOTUSblog.  Additionally, the Court’s full argument calendar for October, with links to the questions presented in the various cases can be found here.  (No further arguments are scheduled for the month.)  Argument transcripts for all the cases mentioned above can be found here.

And that’s quite enough about that for now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Some Obligatory Analysis of the Final Presidential Debate

Someone must of put something in John McCain’s corn flakes this morning.  After another sort-of subpar start, McCain kicked it into another gear, going after Obama on issue after issue and fielding Obama’s attacks more skillfully than he had in their first two encounters.  Moreover, in the last hour or so of the debate McCain began to sound (almost) like a consistent economic conservative.  He even (be still my beating heart!) stood up directly for free trade.  All in all, a significantly better performance on his part.

As for Obama, he was again fluid and skillful, and he didn’t make any major missteps or cringe-worthy statements.  In other words, he probably  did more than the minimum of what he needed to do.

On the whole, I think it was a better night for McCain, and might be worth a bit of political momentum to him. But will it really matter, or will the political impacts of the economic crisis simply be too much for McCain to overcome?  The latter looks to be more likely at this point; McCain probably needs the help of some unexpected outside event/s (eg. a major surge in the stock markets) in the next three weeks to win.  But the race isn’t over just yet.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Must Read of the Week

It’s an op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal today titled “A Short Banking History of the United States.”  The subtitle: “Why our system is prone to panics.”  The short answer to that question: because American politicians, from Jefferson on, have almost continually governed our banking system to pursue financially absurd but politically popular ends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stop the Presses: Some Good News Regarding the U.S. Economy

The U.S. retained its #1 ranking in global economic competitiveness in a World Economic Forum survey released today.

(Via Drudge.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Obligatory Comment on Tonight’s McCain-Obama Debate

McCain was considerably better than he was in the first one on economic policy,  attacking well on taxes and the economic crisis.  McCain also had a couple of nice moments where he showed the benefit of his long experience with town hall formats by connecting well personally with questioners (his handshake with the former Navy guy particularly comes to mind).  Obama was somewhat better on foreign policy tonight than he was in the first encounter, continued to try to focus the spotlight on the Bush Administration, and didn’t commit any significant gaffs. Overall, I think McCain probably did a bit more to help himself than Obama did, but I rather doubt we’ll see any lasting impact on the race.

I Was Wondering When We Would See Something like This

From an article in Tuesday’s Washington Post:

Last night, the Fed was drawing up plans to set up a special fund that would buy short-term commercial paper. The purchases would benefit banks as well as non-financial companies.

The fund would be financed by a loan from the Fed, and any losses would probably be covered by the Treasury using its new $700 billion bailout package. Fed and Treasury lawyers were hammering out details last night.

As much attention as the coming purchase of mortgage-baked securities by the Fed has gotten, direct efforts to stabilize the commercial paper markets might be at least as important.

Of course, this move comes on the heals of the Fed’s action yesterday to expand its direct lending to banks to up to $900 billion.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It’s On

So it’s now officially the first Monday in October, D.C. time.  And you know what that means

I’ll have a preview of the October argument docket up this evening. (Including the cases argued this morning, so I guess it’s won’t entirely be a preview. But what the hell.)  Also, I going to tie up some loose ends regarding last term’s developments this week, including making an update to the to my long-neglected Constitutional Cases of 2007-2008 feature. 

Between SCOTUS stuff, the second McCain v. Obama debate on Tuesday, and continuing analysis of the credit crisis and the bailout it’s going to be a busy week here.  Stay tuned.


Update (10/07):  Of course, you know that when I said “this evening” I meant “sometime tomorrow.”  It’s like how the Due Process Clauses mandate substantive protections.

The Denouement of Kennedy v. Louisiana

Amid all the events of last week, I got distracted from noting here a very interesting piece of news that came out of the Supreme Court on Wednesday.  A majority of Justices (the same majority that that voted to strike down Louisiana's law allowing the imposition of death for child rape in the first place) voted to deny a motion for rehearing filed by Louisiana in Kennedy v. Louisiana.  The state filed the motion after a law blogger in the National Guard noted that Congress recently passed a law expressly permitting the imposition of the death penalty on members of the U.S. military who commit child rape. That fact --which neither the parties, nor any of the amici, nor the Justice Department informed the Court about of and which went apparently undiscovered by all of the Justices-- is arguably quite relevant to the majority’s determination in Kennedy that relative lack of state and federal laws that permit a sentence of death for child rape is evidence that there is a national consensus against the practice.

But, not surprisingly, the five Justices from the Kennedy majority didn’t see it that way, contending that because the provision is one of military law (rather than civilian law) it is entitled to little weight.  Justices Thomas and Alito voted, without explanation, for rehearing.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia found the law an important piece of evidence but voted against rehearing because, in the words of Justice Scalia,

[T]he views of the American people on the death penalty for child rape were, to tell the truth, irrelevant to the majority’s decision in this case. The majority opinion, after an unpersuasive attempt to show that a consensus against the penalty existed, in the end came down to this:  “[T]he Constitution contemplates that in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment.” Of course the Constitution contemplates no such thing; the proposed Eighth Amendment would have been laughed to scorn if it had read “no criminal penalty shall be imposed which the Supreme Court deems unacceptable.” But that is what the majority opinion said, and there is no reason to believe that absence of a national consensus would provoke second thoughts.

(Citation omitted.)

And that’s that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Might Be Scary if it Wasn’t So Damn Funny

Portly teens in military fatigues chanting for Obama:


Rhetorical Question

Can someone explain to me why Saturday Night Live will go after the Democrats for their part in causing the financial crisis, but John McCain won’t?


More on Free Market Criticisms of the Bailout (Part One)

As you know, on Friday the House passed a “sweetened” (ie. larded up with politically popular measures) version of the bailout package it rejected last Monday.  President Bush promptly signed the legislation into law, and Treasury Secretary Paulson is expected to begin implementing the securities-buying component of the plan within the next couple of weeks (which is as soon as the mechanisms to do so can be set up). Almost sixty Congressmen switched their votes from Monday, but the plan still has plenty of critics, left and right.

Conservative opponents of the plan continued to beat the drum on three points: (1) the plan won’t work, (2) the plan will create moral hazard (ie. it will reward lenders who made loans with little scrutiny of borrowers’ ability to repay, encouraging them to make similar loans in the future), and (3) the plan represents a major expansion of government’s role in the economy --even a step towards socialism.  The first two objections are certainly legitimate concerns, but are fairly easily overcome.  Every intellectually honest observer concedes there’s no guarantee the plan will unfreeze the credit markets, but conservative opponents haven’t been able to put forward any practical alternative that would be obviously better at providing short-term relief.  (The idea that completely getting rid of the mark-to-marketing accounting rule would a confidence-restoring panacea was a particularly gimmicky and embarrassing  proposal.)  Concerns about moral hazard have abated as we’ve seen that even the largest financial services companies have been badly wounded, a number of them fatally, by the severe consequences of loose lending.  The charge that the bailout represents an unjustifiable, indeed socialist expansion of the federal government’s role requires somewhat greater examination.  In the end, however, that examination reveals that this attack is just as off-base as the others.

Let’s begin looking at the merits of the major-step-towards-socialism argument a bit legalistically.  It is comprised of two assertions: first, that the rescue plan involves a massive expansion of the federal government’s role in the economy and, second, that expansion is an unwise and morally unjustified curtailing of free market principles.  Both are incorrect.

How can one contest that the rescue plan involves a massive expansion of the federal government’s role in the economy?  After all, under the new law the Treasury will spend up to $700 billion buying private assets and then holding and managing them until they can be sold at reasonable prices. 

But this only appears to be a major expansion of the federal government’s role to those who haven’t been paying attention to the actions the federal government, through the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and other agencies have been doing over the past seven months or so. Some of the most prominent examples:

-  In March, in a transaction unprecedented in modern times the Federal Reserve made a $29 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase as part of a deal for that company to purchase Bear Sterns, heading off the possibility that the shock of Bear’s collapse would cause a domino effect in the financial system.  As part of that agreement, the Fed agreed to accept Bear’s (now JPMorgan’s) mortgage-backed assets as collateral for the loan, putting those on the Fed’s balance sheet. 

-  In September, the Treasury announced (as everyone expected) that it would extend up to $200 billion in funding guarantees to back Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the two GSEs (Government-Sponsored Enterprises) had become unable to get sufficient funding from the credit markets on their own credit to say afloat.

-  Then, of course, came Bloody Sunday: September 15. The news hit that Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG were all facing collapse. The Fed and Treasury were intimately involved in facilitating the sale of Merrill to Bank of America. Though it let Lehman go into bankruptcy, the Fed loaned JPMorgan Chase almost $80 billion for that company to help unwind some of the many financial relationships that Lehman was involved in across the financial industry.  And the government (arguably) essentially bought AIG, the world’s largest insurer, giving it access to up to $85 billion in funds in exchange for warrants for a 79.9 percent share of ownership in the company. 

- Eight days later, the FDIC seized Washington Mutual and sold its deposits and branches to JPMorgan Chase.

-  Last week the Fed, the FDIC, and Treasury were heavily involved in negotiating the sale of the distressed bank Wachovia to Citigroup, with the FDIC entering into a “loss sharing agreement” with Citi to share the risk of potential further losses in Wachovia’s higher-risk loan holdings, getting a potential double-digit stake in American’s largest bank (by assets) in return (though that deal is now in some doubt because of  Wells Fargo’s attempt break up the deal and buy Wachovia itself ).

- The Fed recently announced that it will guarantee the principle for investments in normally ultra-safe money market funds, after the problems in the commercial paper markets caused a few large funds to decline in value.


Moreover, though the above events are undoubtedly important, perhaps the most important elements of the federal government’s expanding involvement in the financial system have drawn much less attention, at least from those who don’t follow the markets closely. Over the past year, as private lending in the credit markets has slowed the Fed has, measure by measure, taken on more and more of the task of keeping some minimally adequate level of credit flowing.  Even before the fall of Bear Sterns in March the Fed was mounting increasingly direct efforts to recreate some kind of market for mortgage-backed securities. As credit markets deteriorated over the following months the Fed took unprecedented steps to expand the availability of emergency loans from it to large financial institutions, most notably allowing investment banks to directly access loans and then altering its policies to allow institutions to put up higher-risk assets like (yes) mortgage-backed securities as collateral.  Now, with bank-to-bank short-term lending having seized up in recent weeks, we’ve reached the point where the Fed has gone from being a lender of last resort to troubled banks to being a lender of first (and for some, only) resort for fairly sound banks.  It is difficult to underestimate how critical a role the Fed is playing right now in keeping the whole U.S. financial system from going under.

The meaning of all this?  Those who think that the just-passed bailout represents an major change in the federal government’s role in the economy are simply wrong.  The change has already come, and the $700 billion asset purchase plan simply differs in some details of implementation from what federal entities have already done.  (Indeed, from a sheer dollar-number standpoint the pre-bailout federal commitments [those mentioned above plus a few other items] total more than $1 trillion.)  We must try to ensure that this intervention lasts only as long necessary, goes only as far as necessary, and is conducted as completely as possible.  But if major federal action to support financial institutions with bad assets is the Rubicon between capitalism and socialism, we crossed it well before Friday.

But one may of course argue, on moral and/or straight economic policy grounds, that the Fed, Treasury, etc. shouldn’t have done all that they have and shouldn’t be permitted to do more in the same vein.  As this item has grown long enough, I’ll take up that up in Part Two.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gold (No Pun Intended)

Jonah Goldberg in The Corner goes after Biden’s shall we say “misstatements of fact” from last nights debate:

And, again, I never said that Palin was pure. My point is that Biden showed himself to an exceptionally facile liar. He makes stuff up with great passion, conviction and seeming command of the substance. So it just bugs me when people say he's better on the substance. I could be a great physicist if I'm not held to a requirement to be factually correct;

"Well, Gwen, that's an interesting question. As we all know the hamster spinning at the earth's core runs in a counter-clockwise direction. Let me repeat that so everyone understands. That hamster does not run in a clockwise direction, that would be madness. It's counter clockwise. That's why our lakes and rivers don't simply turn into a fine mist, and why our atmosphere doesn't simply spontaneously combust. This is something that my dear friend John McCain just doesn't understand. And it saddens me."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Brief VP Debate Analysis

Both Palin and Biden did well.  Palin went toe-to-toe with Biden, both demonstrating a more solid grasp of policy specifics that she has in recent interviews and again showing with her effective attacking style why that “barracuda” nickname stuck.  Biden didn’t go off on an rambling, incoherent discourses, didn’t make any gaffe statements that the Obama campaign will have to furiously try to explain away tomorrow, and showed his humanity effectively.  Because Palin had lower expectations going in, call it something of a win for her, though (like all past VP debates) it won’t have any significant impact on the race.

Two debates down, two debates to go. Alas, I’ve already had my fill of the incredibly stupid content these things have generated this year.  At times tonight I half expected to hear something like this:

Palin:  “During his brief time in the Senate, Sen. Obama voted more than 20 times to kill puppies.” 

Biden:  “That’s absolute false, governor.  And more than that, John McCain has voted over thirty times to kill kittens.”

Palin:  “Joe, you just don’t get it.  Sen. Obama voted 40 times to give nerve gas to terrorists.”

Biden:  “Well, John voted more than 50 times to allow Osama Bin Laden to wipe his ass with the Constitution.”

And besides that, the McCain-Palin populism-lite nonsense is starting to really get on my nerves. Contending that the current financial crisis was almost solely caused by “predatory lending” and “Wall Street greed” is the kind of asinine claptrap that any GOP national nominee should be ashamed to offer.  And why do McCain and Palin continue to pass up great opportunities to attack Obama’s ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?  Ugh.

Ok, rant over.