Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kansas Loves Them Some Huckabee

Huckabee unexpectedly creamed John McCain in the Kansas caucuses. It won't make any difference to the ultimate outcome, but it does make a statement about the conditions in the Republican Party:

John McCain is the presumptive nominee, Huckabee is barely campaigning, and Kansas still went for the underdog? By a nearly 3-to-1 margin?

McCain still has some work to do.
There's going to be a whole lot of hand sitting come November by conservatives, particularly the religious fanatics.


Someone Gets It



I've been beating the table all year about the crappy jobs creation in the Bush administration. You certainly didn't hear anything about it in the media ... in fact quite the opposite. But here's the truth (which none of the big media outlets is reporting). Again, John Mauldin:

For the first time since August of 2003 we had a drop in the employment number. Employment fell 17,000 in January. The BLS also released its benchmark revision with the January report. The year ended with 376,000 fewer jobs than were reported a month ago, and 1.14 million net jobs were created December to December. Downward revisions were spread throughout the year. This translates into 95,000 new jobs per month, down from 175,000 in 2006. Remember, it takes 150,000 jobs per month (or so) simply to maintain the employment rate, due to growth in the population.
So net, 2007 saw a loss of jobs in the U.S. Put together with the quality of jobs created which were mostly service sector jobs (Starbucks anyone?), the middle class took huge hit last year.

With the above info, this is no surprise:

And speaking of consumer debt, something happened in December that is quite unusual. This week the Federal Reserve announced that total credit card debt rose by just 2.7% annually in December, after rising 13.7% in November and 11% in October. In fact, new credit card debt was on a tear right up until December, which as I have previously written is the month I think we will look back on and see that a recession began. Notice that credit card debt rose by less than inflation.

Consumers are finally running out of gas and starting to "get it" regarding borrowing money to continue and unsustainable lifestyle. If this trend persists, the economy will indeed be in trouble as consumers are 70% of the whole shebang.



The biggest financial story you've not heard of is going on still. Without getting too far into the weeds on the story, the bottom line is that bond insurers are in big trouble, which means big trouble for all of us. John Mauldin:

In talking with friends in the credit markets, in order to return to more normal credit markets, the thing that has to happen first is that the monoline insurance problem MUST be resolved. I agree with Nouriel that $15 billion being written about in the papers will not be enough. I have no idea what the correct number is, but it needs to happen soon, before the rating agencies are forced to downgrade the monolines.

While Nouriel thinks the use of public funds is unlikely, I am not so sure. The failure of the monoline companies could trigger a very serious crisis, beyond what we have already seen. Of all the things on my worry list, this is at the top. It could trigger a counter-party credit risk in the credit default swap markets that might simply cascade to something hard to imagine. I don't want to sound too alarmist - but we should be alarmed. This needs to be settled, and soon, so we can go on to the next set of problems. I think if the monoline problem can be resolved, we would be a major step toward the solution of the crisis.
There's a lot of information on this if you want details. I put it up for two reasons. First, there's a very real and genuine possibility that the insurers problem could cascade the U.S. economy into a full fledged depression. Of course no one wants that to happen and I agree with Mauldin that the government is going to have to step in to solve the problem. Period. Which brings me to my second point. Wall Street fat cats made this problem, and now they're going to get bailed out by the government. That's called welfare, plain and simple.

If you're some poor schmuck who loses a job due to an economic mess created by these bozo's, tough shit on getting any extra benefits to see you through. But if you're a Wall Street banker, all you have to do is go very far out on a limb (making a gazillion dollars along the way), and then when the limb snaps uncle sam will catch you in a sweet soft hug.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Maybe He's Got It

Via Josh Marshall's site:



Digby catches Tom DeLay mouthing the meme after the 2008 election:

Do you get the feeling that the conservatives are gaming this thing? I knew that you would.

They know they are going to lose. They will blame the loss on the fact that McCain wasn't a real conservative (just like Bush.) They know when to fall back and regroup. They're already playing for the next election.

Everybody sing: Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Rest My Case

A new Time magazine poll compares potential general election match ups:

  • Obama 48%, McCain 41%
  • Clinton 46%, McCain 46%
According to the poll director, the difference is that "independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator."

Interestingly, Democratic voters favor Clinton over Obama for the Democratic nomination by a margin of 48% to 42%.





Back To The Good Old Days

Read it and weep:

The Washington Post's Paul Kane: "We've done a bad job of explaining this, but it is now basically mathematically impossible for either Clinton or Obama to win the nomination through the regular voting process (meaning the super-delegates decide this one, baby!).

"Here's the math. There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination. To date, about 55% of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obamb roughly splitting them at about 900 delegates a piece. That means there are now only about 1,400 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.

"So, do the math. If they both have about 900 pledged delegates so far, they need to win more than 1,100 of the remaining 1,400 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.

"Ain't gonna happen, barring a stunning scandal or some new crazy revelation. So, they'll keep fighting this thing out, each accumulating their chunk of delegates, one of them holding a slight edge and bothing finishing the voting process with 1,600 or so delegates. And then the super delegates decide this thing. That's the math."


Oily CW

Oil prices have been modestly falling over the last month or so. The conventional wisdom is that if the U.S. goes into recession, petroleum usage will decline causing less demand.

I don't agree.

First off, the U.S. is a service economy driven by consumer spending, not manufacturing. The energy use profiles of those two economies are very different. For example, it costs just as much to light up a Macy's whether it's busy or not, while if you need to manufacture fewer cars, you close plants.

But there's another more important reason that I think a U.S. recession won't matter much:

My view is that people underestimate the seriousness of the energy situation. We are only finding oil at a rate equivalent to replacing the oil production that erodes every year as a result of the existing wells getting tired. In addition to that, China and India are consuming less than two barrels of oil per person per year while we consume 26 barrels, Western Europe consumes 13 to 15 barrels, and Japan, Korea the same amount.

As China and India increase their consumption, even if the two and a half billion people there only increase their consumption by a quarter of a barrel of oil per year, there’s no way the world can meet that demand. So I think the price of oil is going a lot higher.


A Real Housing Bust

This blogger makes a great point that I've been thinking about for some time.


Uh oh

Via Barry:


Get It On

Speaking of a filibuster proof Senate, if Congress doesn't get off it's duff and approve a stimulus package, I think it will be very very bad for the Democrats.


Lather, Rinse, Repeat

We're doing a swell job of training Iraqi insurgents:

USA Today leads with a dispatch from Mosul, where U.S. troops will probably have more trouble rooting out al-Qaida in Iraq because the militants have apparently learned from their mistakes and are cultivating better relationships with regular citizens. In Mosul, al-Qaida militants warn civilians before bomb attacks and are not enforcing strict Islamic laws, which is a marked contrast with how they acted in other parts of the country. This makes it less likely that the residents of Iraq's third-largest city would want to join the U.S. military to fight the insurgents.
Anyone who thinks the war will be over before American leave is delusional.


I'm Sure Now

A lot of us have been wondering who would be the better candidate in November. Now that we know the Rethugicans are going to choose grandpa Eisenhower Goldwater McCain, and given the Super Tuesday results, I think I can easily now make a choice.


Here's why. First, his youth will be a terrific contrast to McCain, who has to keep his 96 year old mother around to make him look young. Next, Obama has shown the ability to compete with independent voters (see: 2/5/08, Missouri, Colorado) which will be the stronghold for McCain. Either Democrat can win New York, but who can win Ohio, Florida or Virginia to name a few? Finally, Obama is much more likely to further (I say further because it's already electrified) energize the Democrats to work for him, support him with money (he's raised $7 Million since Tuesday as contrasted with this.), and get out to vote. Meanwhile, McCain is going to have a struggle to get out his base of conservative support causing him to run a very conservative general election campaign.

These elements are not unimportant as we look forward to not only a Democratic presidency, but perhaps a much strong coat-tail affect down ballot (a filibuster proof Senate anyone?). Therefore, despite some earlier reservations, I will fully support Obama for President.

Just a quick postscript on Super Tuesday. I really think the reason that the reliable polls showing Obama winning California and yet he lost (in the popular vote anyway, he still came away with a healthy dose of delegates) was due to early voting. A full 20% of ballots were cast early with Clinton putting in a massive get-out-the-vote effort on absentee voting. There are rumors of polling places entertaining a lot of voters who wanted to change their absentee vote, but were turned away (you can't). Without that, I think at a minimum, it would have been much much closer.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

To The Moon Alice!

Good thing I'm allergic to it:

Might be time to dig out all those 80's movies about down-trodden midwestern farmers. You know, for nostalgia sake because today they're rolling in as many dollars as bushels. And inflation? We ain't got no inflation.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Here's the latest on the polls. This particular chart is plotting the averages of all the polls for the Dems:

As I've said over the past week, it's a matter of momentum (Obama) over holding on (Clinton). Whatever happens, I don't think Super Tuesday is going to finish it for either Democratic candidate.

Seems to me that this point made by Josh Marshall is most salient and pushes me to lean toward an Obama "upset":

One point to keep in mind as we watch the results tonight. A lot will depend on whether the race has now shaped up with both Clinton and Obama and roughly-matched and known contenders, or whether, because of her history and name recognition, Clinton is the de facto incumbent vs. Obama the challenger. It could make a very, very big difference because a number of the polls we're seeing have high undecideds. And it is a very reliable rule of thumb that undecideds break for the challenger.
Given the Edwards factor, which is clearly showing up in Obama's numbers, I think the incumbent rule will be very operative today.


The Budget

Bush has released his new proposed budget. It has the usual Republican garbage, i.e. cuts in everything but defense, but it also has a huge ongoing deficit. There's a whole lot of argument about the deficit and the growing national debt with some saying that it's not a real problem because of a growing economy, and some saying it ultimately will catch up to us and bankrupt the country. I tend to fall in the later camp:

Getting a handle on what such a huge number means is not easy, but the WP does a good job of putting it in perspective: "Interest on the debt next year will total $260 billion, about what will be spent by the departments of Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Justice combined."
I hope I'm wrong but fear I'm right that this can't go on forever. At some point the American people are going to have to have the guts to decide to actually pay for what they get, whether it's discretionary programs, medicare, or defense.


Why McCain Will Be Easy

This is, like, part 20 in an ongoing series:

The WP's Howard Kurtz interviews Rush Limbaugh, who makes it clear that if McCain is the Republican nominee he would rather see a Democrat in the White House. "If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit."



To it's credit, the NY Times does a story today of the first Guantanamo prisoner to die of nature causes (cancer):

The story makes pretty clear that Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was detained by mistake, and it chronicles how U.S. officials made little effort to confirm the story of a man who was considered a war hero in Afghanistan. The most amazing aspect of the story is that it seems his identity could have been confirmed by at least two high-ranking officials in the Afghan government. Although "both men are well known to the American authorities in Afghanistan," the military tribunal said they couldn't be located. Of course, the main theme that runs through the story is that if he couldn't get a fair hearing, then what chance is there for the other 180 detainees who have challenged their detentions?
America. Land of the free, home of the brave.


Monday, February 4, 2008


You can almost feel the mo' for Obama. I wonder if it will be enough, soon enough. But here in California, if Obama does win it could be a tide changer.



By far, I thought the talking stain was the best super bowl ad. You can watch it here.

The other ads can be watched here.


I Wonder

Will the media be as quick at condemnation for this as they were for the alleged use of retarded women as suicide bombers?

In other Iraq news, the papers point out that the U.S. military accidentally killed nine people in an airstrike south of Baghdad. At least some of the victims were members of the predominantly Sunni Arab security forces known as the Concerned Local Citizens.
Will we see the tsk tsking of Charles Gibson tonight?


Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's Gonna Be Close

Super Tuesday is going to be very very close for Dems. California is actually going to have a role in choosing!

State by state poll results:

Alabama Arizona California Delaware Georgia Illinois Missouri New Jersey New York Oklahoma
Clinton 41, Obama 17 (Tulsa World)