Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Rough Beast Called Bailout


And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-- William Butler Yeats

I doodled this long ago in another connection, but it seems apt: Tonight the Rough Beast Called Rescue Bailout slouched right through the Senate, 74-25, and continued its dreadful progress. It seems like a millennial event -- the Senate could be in session for 2,000 years and probably never pass a more misbegotten abomination.

Clearly something needs to be done. A host of responsible voices have suggested solutions that would better protect the taxpayer and be more likely to work, mostly variants of the "Swedish model" of the government taking an equity stake in the banks it helps, instead of reflexively throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at them. I'm proud that one of my senators, Russ Feingold was one of 25 senators who voted against the highly flawed Senate bill.

The original Paulson giveaway was only 3 pages long. After a weekend of negotiation, it grew to 42 pages. After the House toyed with it and then ultimately rejected it, the bill was 102 pages long. But the Rough Beast was still a mere infant. What the Senate rushed to cobble together in the last couple days added up to 451 pages. How many Senators even had time to read it? How many actually know what they voted for (remember, the Devil is in the details)?

451 is an interesting number. As Ray Bradbury reminded us, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper catches fire. I say burn all 451 pages, before they do more harm. Or, second best, I hope the House follows Feingold's lead and votes it down. Then we can get serious.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The leaves are turning and Brett Favre is finding his groove in New York

The Leaves Are Turning and Brett Favre Is Finding His Groove
It's starting, that fall thing: The leaves are turning, the October Surprise came a bit early with the Wall Street bailout, and Brett Favre is finding his groove. With the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets apparently headed in opposite directions, Packers GM Ted Thompson and Coach Mike McCarthy face a growing chorus of questions why they let the 38-year-old Favre go, when he's still perfectly capable of shaking off a bad first quarter and going on to throw a career-high six touchdown passes. In one game. For the New York Jets.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout Band performs dirge for the death of the unfettered free market as we know it

Bailout Band Performs Dirge for the Death of the Unfettered Free Market As We Know It
That would be Bernanke and Paulson in the center, but I'm not sure about the other players since they keep changing. Earlier, McCain tried to grab the mike, but I think he left by the time the picture was taken. Also absent for the photo shoot: Sarah Palin, who made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live instead.

Two Monroe Street Library patrons finally get their Obama yard sign

Two Monroe Street Library Patrons Get Their Obama Yard Sign
We've been wondering why there have not been nearly enough Obama yard signs in Madison. The Madison Obama headquarters is right in our neighborhood, next to our branch library, and we figured it would be easy to get one. We've been trying for some time, but they never seemed to have any when we asked. Yesterday I went in and asked again. They said they had none available, because they were fulfilling requests for a huge waiting list with thousands of names on it, but that the waiting list was getting counterproductive. They would continue it through the weekend and then open their supply up to walk-ins. They said I should come back Monday. I'll be out of town Monday, so I asked T to stop by Monday. She wasn't having it. She went back to the headquarters and soon returned with a yard sign. I know she's more charming than I am, but I also suspect they just didn't want to disappoint someone who might have been (and was) a Hillary supporter.

We're happy. We finally have our yard sign, but I still wonder about the distribution. The yard signs and other paraphernalia clearly are used to help raise money. Nothing wrong with that in general. But why aren't yard signs in a class of their own? They're so inexpensive to make now that they're just a plastic baggie that slips over a wire frame, you could blanket entire neighborhoods with free signs for less than the cost of a few TV commercials. It seems it would be such a powerful means of visually communicating a groundswell of support. Just wondering...

UPDATE: OMG -- I thought our difficulty in getting a yard sign was a matter of campaign inefficiency, not policy. But, as my commenters and The Washington Post point out, it's the latter. Campaign organizers think yard signs are not effective, that the cost outweighs the benefit; that they're unnecessary because the candidates already have high name recognition by now (??!!); and that yard signs sap energy from the campaign because after people put up their sign they feel they've done all they need to do. This is absolutely nuts -- a liberal neighborhood without Obama signs suggests his supporters aren't willing to publicly stand behind their candidate. What kind of message is that? It's hard to escape the suspicion that this has more to do with campaign consultants simply prefer spending money on TV, on which they get a commission, to spending it on yard signs, on which they don't. Yikes!