ID:48671
 
Keywords: economics, politics
Things are hopping too much to put each item in its own post!

So "Two for One" day continues on The Dead Zone...

First off, I'm trying to understand the full scope of what the Obama campaign is doing in Missouri. The claim is that they are using legal intimidation to silence anti-Obama sentiment, by having high-profile legal officials in the state join their "Truth Squad" and imply that legal action may be taken against people expressing their opinions of Obama. Here is a somewhat overheated video that I'm using because it uses the clearest combination of statements from those involved that I've found:



I'm not clear what exactly has been called for by the Obama campaign -- is this just a suggestion of legal action by people with the power to actually follow through, or has specific legal action been threatened (as they have against stations running the NRA ad, mentioned in the previous post)? If you have more info, please post in the comments.

Meantime, here is the Missouri Governor's statement on this, which unfortunately doesn't spell out exactly what is going on:

?St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.

?What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

?This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson?s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.

?Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.?


As a free speech absolutist who has railed against the anti-free speech politics of both campaigns, if the McCain campaign does anything similar, I'll be all over that too. (If I've missed something along those lines, let me know.)

And now for something lighter...an explanation of the financial crisis! Well, a partial explanation. Here's a surprisingly watchable video explanation of at least some of what went wrong:



I said "partial explanation" -- the financial crisis is a very complex thing (way above my pay grade, for sure) and anyone pointing at just one source probably has a political agenda. Here are some pointers to the most thoughtful commenter on the crisis I'm aware of, economics expert Megan McArdle, a libertarian supporter of Obama who has some in-depth posts on this situation that I'm not quite sophisticated enough to follow. You should look at her recent posts in general, but here are a few key ones with excerpts:

"Obama goes for the jungular [sic]"

This was not some criminal activity that the Bush administration should have been investigating more thoroughly; it was a thorough, massive, systemic mispricing of the risk attendant on lending to people with bad credit. (These are, mind you, the same people that five years ago the Democrats wanted to help enjoy the many booms of homeownership.) Lehman, Bear, Merrill and so forth did not sneakily lend these people money in the hope of putting one over on the American taxpayer while ruining their shareholders and getting the senior executives fired. They got it wrong. Badly wrong. So did everyone else.

What, specifically, should the Bush administration have done, Senator? Don't tell me they should have beefed up SEC enforcement, since this is not a criminal problem (aside from minor lies by Bear execs after the damage was already done). Perhaps he should not have reappointed Greenspan, or appointed Ben Bernanke? Both moves were widely hailed at the time. Moreover, to believe that a Democrat could have done better is to assert that a Democratic president would have found a Fed chair who would pay less attention to unemployment, or a bank regulator who would have tried harder to prevent low-income people from buying homes. Where is this noble creature? And why didn't Barack Obama push for him at the time?


"Memewatch"

I'm seeing commenters claim that the housing crisis is really all about the Democrats making lenders lend money to poor people.

The data doesn't track you. The legislative pushes to expand lending to the poor do not match very well the subprime crisis, either in time or scope. Probably they contributed somewhat, but at best only slightly.


What should Bush have done

There are a whole lot of Democrats in the comments to this post who know that Bush could have and should have stopped this bubble. They don't know what he could have done, exactly; they're not tricksy bankers. But they've read, like, one and a half whole articles on the subject, so they're sure that this is the fault of Republican ideology.

I'm so glad that I'm voting with the reality based community this time around.

I interrupt this post to note that thanks to Bill Clinton, millions of people have died of cancer in the last ten years. It seems to me that if he cared, he could have funded research that would have cured cancer. What research? I don't know, I'm not a damn doctor. All I know is, a lot of people are dying of cancer.


• Perhaps her most insightful post of all, which we should all keep in mind: Thought for the day

Isn't it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?
Isn't it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?

Deregulation?

Edit:

Also, that youtube link you posted is dishonest as all hell, blaming Clinton for signing a bill that the republican majority passed is horrible.

Now lets add the fact that McCain's economic advisor, Phil Gramm was the one who pushed for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed businesses to use many of the tactics that ended up putting us in this mess.
Wow. That first video is impossible to watch. The music does that thing where it interrupts your thinking while the tone generates an emotional response.
There is no way I could watch that a few times and not agree with everything it said.
Well, the video points out some facts but distorts alot. It is really hard to say this is a problem caused by Carter or Clinton as the timeline simply doesn't support it. The boom in subprime lending was under a Republican president and Congress. Blaming the minority party for not regulating is very misleading. The Republicans and Democrats were both thoroughly involved in this. And they still don't seem to get what's going on.

In terms of the current situation, I think a minority of conservatives have actually got this right. Pumping more public money into private hands is not the answer. Bush's Iraq-esque sell of the situation should be a clue that everything is not right. The fact that the Dems are backing him on this shows they haven't learned a thing. And letting a guy who was part of one of the big offenders and another who has no experience run the show seems a really bad idea.

Indeed, given that subprime lending makes up a small fraction of overall commercial lending, I get the distinct feeling that this is much more of a political issue than economic. Ironically, I prefer Obama's let's all relax approach to McCain's rush in and try to "fix" things by spending trillions approach. McCain needs to stop talking reduced spending and walk the walk. His conservative party members are calling this one right, I think, and he needs to back them up. The Dem Congress, and Bush, are dead wrong from what I have seen.

Unfortunately, that requires real leadership, not just politicking and elections don't always reward that. Indeed, ironically, I don't know if his campaign would survive that.

Stupid politics.
Venom Development wrote:
Isn't it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?

Deregulation?

Well, I would say regulation, actually (as documented in my post), but that's her point -- everyone gets to say it's for whatever reason they were always against. Anyway what deregulation contributed to this?
Deadron wrote:
Venom Development wrote:
Isn't it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?

Deregulation?

Well, I would say regulation, actually (as documented in my post), but that's her point -- everyone gets to say it's for whatever reason they were always against. Anyway what deregulation contributed to this?

Deregulating the mortgage industry, making it so that companies could give mortgages to very high-risk people, who in turn defaulted, making huge losses for many of the businesses, who now have either collapsed, or are looking for a bailout.
Venom, contrary to wrong belief, deregulation rarely leads to market meltdowns. Market forces work as negative feedback, mitigating otherwise huge swings in the economy.

The crux of it is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both were quasi-governmental entities whose hybrid status left them free of the sorts of accounting rules that private firms must abide by, or government offices must follow. They had a lot of former Congressmen in their ranks and piled money onto Congress (both parties) to keep the wheels running smoothly. This set up an atmosphere in which it was easy to get away with making bad decisions. Those bad decisions largely involved lending to high-risk borrowers and buying packages of these risky loans as assets, which made perfect sense as long as the housing market had nowhere to go but up. Failure to spot the warning signs in that market a few years ago meant they continued to invest in bad risks after the point a sensible person should have known better. And while all this was going on, the crazy accounting rules being followed made these companies look just dandy on paper, which meant lots and lots of banking firms who (foolishly) trusted that the companies were being managed well invested a lot of money in them.

Anyway deregulation didn't cause this mess. If Fannie & Freddie were fully private companies they would've had to follow accounting standards that showed they were much higher-risk than they were. Probably the ultimate cause is that they were a honey pot for Congress, and both parties are to blame for allowing that situation to take hold and continue.
Yes, the first video is quite overheated - first, it uses dire music to evoke a negative emotional response. Then it launches into an argument that hinges on using the words of a reporter as if they were spoken by the candidate. Difficult to take seriously when it is so blatantly biased and clearly twisting the facts to set up a straw man.

Regarding the story itself, it's impossible to truly ascertain the real facts of a situation like this unless you were actually there. Most people reporting on it will have some sort of inherent bias, but in all likelihood they will attempt to present themselves as completely unbiased. As an example, compare the story as presented with a couple of the pro-Obama comments here:

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/09/ missouris_obama_truth_squads_2.html

The few pro-Obama posters there make believable claims that various political figures, including some involved in law enforcement, were asked to refute false or slanted claims on their own time. That sounds reasonable to me, and it's compatible with the news clips in the first video above. Nowhere do those clips mention these people doing anything for Obama in an official capacity as part of their Missouri government job.

One of the comments on that page goes on to point out that Missouri's governor is a Republican who's apparently not well liked (unverified), suggesting that his statement is simply a partisan smear against the other party's candidate. Again, believable but no more so than the original story.

So what's actually true? I don't know, and my skepticism requires me to wait until sufficient facts are available before passing judgment. In the absence of sufficient truth, I generally tend to call it a draw, assuming that people are lying and twisting facts on both sides (usually a pretty good bet). Sadly for most people, it appears that ideology often trumps facts. So they'll unquestioningly believe the slanted, emotionally charged version as long as it fits with their pre-conceived notions and biases. I see this regularly on both sides, even coming from extremely intelligent, otherwise rational people.

I sometimes catch myself doing it too. It would be so much easier to simply pick the candidate I emotionally identify with more, and then only support claims in their favor while dismissing claims against them. But since I can't allow myself to do that, I still have no idea who will get my vote in November.

It seems that truth has no place in a game like politics.
Lummox JR wrote:
The crux of it is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both were quasi-governmental entities whose hybrid status left them free of the sorts of accounting rules that private firms must abide by, or government offices must follow.

So... you're saying they weren't regulated enough, then?
Lummox JR wrote:
The crux of it is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both were quasi-governmental entities whose hybrid status left them free of the sorts of accounting rules that private firms must abide by, or government offices must follow.

So, uh... Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual, as well as numerious other banks that failed were also quasi-governmental entities? They all failed because of the same reasons as FM/FM if I'm reading everything correctly.
Yeah, while Mae/Mac had a host of problems, I am not sure that it follows that it would have been better had they been private, as the string of recent business failings illustrates. And I must also disagree that deregulation doesn't lead to meltdowns. Look at the S&L crisis, for example. Sometimes it does. And deregulation is often about who lobbies the most to get favorable deregulation, not restoring a "free market". Businesses, especially American businesses, often hate free markets because of the increased competition and would much rather have legal protections to stymy other competitors. Pro-business != Pro-free market != Pro-consumer
I've been reading your recent posts Deadron and all you do is seem to bash Barack Obama.

Let me get this straight: are you actually racist or do you just hate muslims? Or both?
Mike H wrote:
So what's actually true? I don't know, and my skepticism requires me to wait until sufficient facts are available before passing judgment.

I appreciate your caution, and I hope it's clear in my original post that I was looking for the truth here, and not claiming to know the truth.

If there's a difference in our interpretations, the same difference which would lead me to post about it before knowing all the facts, it's the history I've documented in recent posts of the Obama campaign using suggestions of legal action to try and squelch messages they don't like. Given this clear and indisputable history (based on legal letters from their staff and the like, as shown in previous posts, and on their own admission that they wanted radio stations swamped with their "Truth Squad" callers), I do not believe this is an unlikely scenario and I do not believe Obama gets much benefit of the doubt.

You might recall how Democrats have, with good reason, railed against Republican efforts in the past to intimidate minority voters -- the Republican excuse that having police officers near polling places to remind people of voting law was not illegal did not change the fact that it was intimidation designed to scare people out of voting. That was bullshit then and it's bullshit now in this new guise.


It seems that truth has no place in a game like politics.

I don't totally agree...unfortunately, on those occasional times when politicians do act on their principles, or point out a truth, they are still tarred as liars and treated as opportunists, even if they are standing up for something that harms their own personal cause. We've seen in comments here how reaching across the aisle and coming to bi-partisan agreement to do something the public wants but the candidate's own party is blocking is simply labelled as "opportunism".

In other cases, a politician may say something truthful that is a rather ugly reflection on that politician, and then they decry being held accountable for what they've said.

There's no upside in a politician being truthful, so it's all the more valiant and precious when it occurs, in either form.
Elation wrote:
Let me get this straight: are you actually racist or do you just hate muslims? Or both?

I was reading a conservative blog post (on The Corner, I think, but I can't find it now) that was positing proof Republicans aren't any more racist than Democrats by saying that if Colin Powell were the Republican Presidential nominee they would vote for him enthusiastically.

Uh oh, I thought, I guess I am racist!

Obligatory background: I would not willingly vote for Powell given a reasonable alternative because I strongly disagree with his approach to military intervention. He was a key part of deciding not to pursue Saddam in the first Gulf War (as so often it does, guaranteeing a second war there), and most importantly, to betraying the Kurds and then letting them be murdered while we stood by. There's more to this than I can cover in a comment, but suffice it so say I'm batting zero for three! (I wouldn't have voted for Jesse Jackson either, back in the day.)
Some additional info on the Missouri Truth Squad thing, from the Volokh Conspiracy blog, which has been a leader in trying to figure out what has been happening and whether it's improper. A piece of that post:

(5) Is it inherently threatening, though, to have law enforcement officials on such campaign organizations, especially ones that take a hard-hitting rhetorical tone? I don't think so, at least at this point in our political history. (Things might be different if state and local prosecutions of critics of political candidates were more common than they are.) And there's a legitimate reason to include prosecutors and sheriffs on such organizations, because in many places they are pretty well-known and trusted politicians, precisely the sorts of politicians that can lend their credibility to rebutting campaign allegations.

And, as the STLtoday Political Fix blog points out, the McCain Truth Squads also involve at least some law enforcement officials. A quick search uncovered the South Carolina Attorney General, and the Political Fix blog post reports that "a McCain Truth Squad in New Hampshire, formed last January, that included several public officials with prosecutorial powers, including the state attorney general."

In any case, I'd love to hear more factual information about what exactly was said, and by whom.
Maggeh wrote:
Lummox JR wrote:
The crux of it is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both were quasi-governmental entities whose hybrid status left them free of the sorts of accounting rules that private firms must abide by, or government offices must follow.

So, uh... Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual, as well as numerious other banks that failed were also quasi-governmental entities? They all failed because of the same reasons as FM/FM if I'm reading everything correctly.

Bear I can't comment on--it was probably more directly related to the housing market than to Mae/Mac since it folded first--but most of the others are failing because they put so much money into Fannie and Freddie. They trusted that another organization was being well-managed when crazy accounting let them hide serious flaws. That trust was misplaced. Also, plenty of those companies had their own share in this subprime mortgage mess.
Elation wrote:
I've been reading your recent posts Deadron and all you do is seem to bash Barack Obama.

Let me get this straight: are you actually racist or do you just hate muslims? Or both?

Heh. I see what you did there!