Waiting to exhale, after the Vice Presidential Debate

When I was a child the anticipation of Christmas morning was almost unbearable. I can only imagine the frustration of my mother who waited for me to fall asleep so she could play Santa Clause. I had that same anticipation preceding my first kiss. It was there on that day that I gave away my virginity.

And now, this Thursday at 6 pm Pacific Standard Time, I wait with that same anticipation for the pending Vice Presidential debate between Democratic party nominee Joseph Biden and Republican Party nominee Sarah Palin. And in all honesty, I almost feel a little dirty because my anticipation, my motivation for watching is as prurient as watching the Indy 500 waiting for a traffic accident.

I know, it is horrible of me. I want to watch because I can't wait to see if Sarah Palin will crash going into the third turn. I wonder will she be able to overcome the intense pressure and media spotlight on every word that she speaks. Think about this: every word she utters holds the potential of being comic fodder for the caustic comedic wit of Tina Fey.

How many times can you watch the Saturday Night Live skits about Palin before they are no longer funny? I know that I should not look, but I just can't help myself. I feel like I am rubber necking on the highway slowing traffic hoping that the traffic jam up ahead is something more ghastly than a driver getting a speeding ticket.

I confess that in those moments, where I look hoping to see the carnage on the side of the road that I don't really want to see the aftermath of death and destruction. And in all fairness to Palin, I don't really want to see her look like an accident victim on the stage with Joe Biden looking like a moose in the headlights about to be struck down.

Of course, I will watch...it is a guilty pleasure...and the anticipation is once again almost unbearable!

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A Layman's reading of the $700 Billion Bail Out Bill

I am of average intelligence, and have always thought it important to read and understand what I am getting myself into. And while I am not a member of the house or the senate I think that it is important to read the language contained in the Bail Out legislation pending before congress. I can only hope that those elected officials (including the would be presidential candidates) voting in support or against of this legislation actually read the language, parse the language, before casting their vote.

When it comes to politics I am pretty cynical. It is why I read the propositions on my voter's ballot in their entirety. I don't care much for the spin of 30 second commercials designed to convince the voter who doesn't think for themselves, but waits for the right sound bite to determine their vote.

Of course, the politicians sitting in DC and across the country aren't any better at reading through the legislation that they are to vote for or against. Some recent examples that come to mind, the passage of the PATRIOT Act. The rush to invade Iraq, and now this Wall Street Bail Out. Funny, whatever happened to letting the market decide the fate of business?

Well, I started reading the language contained in the Wall Street Bail Out pending before congress, and by the time I got to the ninth page (of 110) I already found the first reason to not support the legislation.

(d) PROGRAM GUIDELINES.—Before the earlier of the end of the 2-business-day period beginning on the date of the first purchase of troubled assets pursuant to the authority under this section or the end of the 45-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall publish program guidelines, including the following:
(1) Mechanisms for purchasing troubled assets.
(2) Methods for pricing and valuing troubled assets.
(3) Procedures for selecting asset managers.
(4) Criteria for identifying troubled assets for purchase.(p 9)

Sorry, but I don't think Paulson is in a position to determine the "mechanism for purchasing troubled assets." Nor do I think him capable of determining the "methods for pricing and valuing troubled assets." In senate testimony Bernanke argued,
"If we keep the range of participants too narrow, only failing institutions, for example, then we won't have a robust, competitive auction. The more participants we have, the more people who are involved in offering these assets, (then) we'll have a competition."

According to a Bloomberg article, Paulson's former company, Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley "may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan to buy assets from financial companies while many banks see limited aid," according to Bank of America. (Yeah, I wonder if I should really trust B of A.) In reading the language of the pending legislation, there appears to be a provision that would benefit Paulson's former company Goldman Sachs under the section titled PREVENTING UNJUST ENRICHMENT (p.9).
In making purchases under the authority of this Act, the Secretary
shall take such steps as may be necessary to prevent unjust enrichment of financial institutions participating in a program established under this section, including by preventing the sale of a troubled asset to the Secretary at a higher price than what the seller paid to purchase the asset. This subsection does not apply to troubled assets acquired in a merger or acquisition, or a purchase of assets from a financial institution in conservatorship or receivership, or that has initiated bankruptcy proceedings under title 11, United States Code.

The following section titled, SEC. 102. INSURANCE OF TROUBLED ASSETS.(p10) Under the heading of "(a) AUTHORITY.—" Paulson basically has the same authority he wrote into the original 2 and 1/2 pages initially presented to congress. I guess all the talk about Paulson getting down on one knee was to thank Pelosi for giving him everything that he and Bush were looking for.

I confess that I had to laugh at the "protections" placed in this legislation for the taxpayers. While Paulson writes the rules as he thinks of them, he is supposed to remember
The premiums referred to in paragraph (1) shall be set by the Secretary at a level necessary to create reserves sufficient to meet anticipated claims, based on an actuarial analysis, and to ensure that taxpayers are fully protected. p11

Under SEC. 104. FINANCIAL STABILITY OVERSIGHT BOARD (p14) We learn that the foxes will be stewards of the hen house.
MEMBERSHIP.—The Financial Stability Over24
sight Board shall be comprised of—
(1) the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System;
(2) the Secretary;
(3) the Director of the Federal Home Finance Agency;
(4) the Chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission; and
(5) the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

I feel so much better having only read the first 16 pages. Now if I could only overcome the sick to my stomach feeling I am currently experiencing. I should take solace in noting that the last of the "additional duties" of the Oversight Board is "protecting taxpayers, in accordance with section 112(a)" (p16).

I am pleased to learn that The Financial Stability Oversight Board
shall terminate on the expiration of the 15-day period beginning upon the later of—
(1) the date that the last troubled asset acquired by the Secretary under section 101 has been sold or transferred out of the ownership or control of the Federal Government; or
(2) the date of expiration of the last insurance contract issued under section 102.

As it stands, I'd be voting against this legislation if my vote mattered. I can only hope that Kucinich is correct and that the Republicans can stave off this legislation. I haven't even gotten a quarter of the way through the bill and it sickens me to see that the only benefactors of this legislation is that of big business. If this legislation passes, it will be Bush's final act in completely gutting the nation. And Obama can kiss his chances at getting elected good-bye.

UPDATE: I thought I'd have fun and check my site meter. And while I was away I was visited by someone from NASA and the USDA. I hope that they liked what I penned. Hey government employees, leave a comment or something. It appears that my government visitors found me by searching with the words "layman," "700" and "bailout" in no particular order.


Obama agreed with McCain? Well Sort of.

There is an effort to make more of the number of times (I keep hearing the number 11 tossed about) Obama agreed with McCain during their first debate. So I thought, why not just have a look at what was said by Obama with regard to his agreeing with McCain. Let's look at each time Obama "agreed" with McCain. This list will not go into the number of times Obama disagreed with McCain, or stated outright that he believed McCain to be wrong.

OBAMA: Well, I think Senator McCain's absolutely right that we need more responsibility, but we need it not just when there's a crisis.

So, Obama agrees that responsibility is a good thing. So this is agreeing with McCain's policies? No. Obama offered up a salient caveat to McCain's comment. Advantage Obama.

OBAMA: Well, Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused, which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up.

Obama agrees that earmarks have been abused. This is yet another one of those moments where Obama hardly endorses the McCain agenda. It would be illogical to disagree with the point on earmarks particularly after watching the news coverage of the "bridge to nowhere." Advantage no one.

OBAMA: John, nobody is denying that $18 billion is important. And, absolutely, we need earmark reform...But the fact is that eliminating earmarks alone is not a recipe for how we're going to get the middle class back on track.

Obama agrees again about earmarks (aka pork barrel spending) but Obama then takes McCain's point and makes it his own, by pointing out that ridding the budget of earmarks won't help the middle class. Advantage Obama.

OBAMA: Now, John mentioned the fact that business taxes on paper are high in this country, and he's absolutely right. Here's the problem: There are so many loopholes that have been written into the tax code, oftentimes with support of Senator McCain, that we actually see our businesses pay effectively one of the lowest tax rates in the world.

Once again Obama agrees about the point about tax rates, and not McCain policy and then goes on to explain that whole McCain might be right, but McCain is also misleading the public because there are loopholes that benefit corporations and they don't pay the highest rates in the world as McCain asserts. Advantage Obama.

OBAMA: Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families.

They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

This is probably the closest Obama gets to agreeing with a McCain policy. Of course, Obama takes the agreement on the "surge" and ties it into his central point about the mismanagement of the Bush administration policy in Iraq which McCain supported, despite his criticisms. Advantage Obama.

Obama missed out on a prime opportunity to hit McCain with what I think would have been the knock out punch every pundit said was missing from the debate. Obama should have brought up a comment made by McCain about getting out of Iraq if the Iraqi government wanted the US out and then Obama should have reminded everyone about how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports Obama's 16 month time table for withdraw.

OBAMA: And, John, I -- you're absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, you know, coming from you, who, you know, in the past has threatened extinction for North Korea and, you know, sung songs about bombing Iran, I don't know, you know, how credible that is. I think this is the right strategy.

So, he agrees with McCain not on policy, but on principle. Then Obama provides a salient response to just how imprudent McCain has been. Advantage Obama.

OBAMA: Now, Senator McCain is also right that it's difficult. This is not an easy situation. You've got cross-border attacks against U.S. troops.

Again, agreement in principle, of the conditions on the ground, but it is not on any endorsement of any policy of McCain. In fact, Obama takes where they agree on principle and turns it against McCain pointing out a choice to be made and the problem with McCain's strategy and legitimacy. Advantage Obama.

OBAMA: Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer.

Again, this is hardly Obama endorsing McCain's foreign policy. This position has been enunciated by both parties for years.

On another note, I can't help but disagree with Obama when it comes to Israel and Iran. He is just as belligerent as Bush and McCain.

OBAMA: No, actually, I think Senator McCain and I agree for the most part on these issues. Obviously, I disagree with this notion that somehow we did not forcefully object to Russians going into Georgia.

Yes, they agree again in a failed principle. Sadly, both candidates are wrong about Russia's involvement with Georgia. Advantage McCain.

OBAMA: The second point I want to make is -- is the issue of energy. Russia is in part resurgent and Putin is feeling powerful because of petro-dollars, as Senator McCain mentioned.

That means that we, as one of the biggest consumers of oil -- 25 percent of the world's oil -- have to have an energy strategy not just to deal with Russia, but to deal with many of the rogue states we've talked about, Iran, Venezuela.

So, Obama agrees not with McCain's policies on Russia, just the notion about Russia benefiting from petro-dollars. He then makes a valid point about the futility of thinking that the US can drill our way free of our dependency on foreign oil.

I don't think I missed any of the times Obama agreed with McCain. I did leave out the times Obama agreed with Jim Lehrer. So, these are those moments where Obama agreed with McCain, and the pundit-ocracy thinks that it is important. And maybe they are, but for an entirely different reason. It is important because it shows the difference in how either man views the world and how each would lead if president.


A Question of Leadership: A contrast of styles

When McCain was telling a crowd of supporters that the fundamentals of the American economy is strong the DOW was tanking. Following the 500 point drop both presidential candidates came out swinging. Now is as good a time as any to demonstrate what they would do if they were the president. What transpired was the difference between night and day.

To address the crisis that has befallen the stock market we have two very different responses. Obama came out with a six point plan to address the situation. In contrast, McCain demonstrated his leadership skills by calling not for some immediate action, he called for a 9/11 like commission.

Now, in comparison, we have one candidate that offers up a plan. The second offers up a plan to let others decide the best way to solve the problem. Yeah, commissions by their very nature aren't very expedient. So, McCain's "plan" of letting other plan a solution to the problem will be great once we have weathered the storm and all that it entails.

So I am struck by the thought as to what type of leader either candidate would be in a moment of crisis. And in doing so, I have to admit it gave me the chance to reflect. This moment calls into question which candidate is best suited for answering the call at 3 am. Clearly Obama has shown that he thinks on his feet, whereas McCain thinks best when a commission does it for him.