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The Changing World and America’s reaction

Living in the Purple Bubble makes it very easy to forget about what is going in the real world. I used to diligently read newspapers and magazines but at Williams, I’m pleased if I know what day it is.  The college does its part by having newspapers available to all of the students but with our workload and other obligations, many students just stop following the news and lose touch with what is going on in the world.

While I have an aggregation of news as my homepage which provides me with updates throughout the day of political and economic occurrences, having a Yahoo email account which displays Yahoo News when I log in allows me to keep tabs on how most of America views the world. The Yahoo homepage receives almost 38 billion page views a year in the US so what I read is what millions of Americans read. For that reason, I view Yahoo News as one of the most influential news sources in shaping America’s view of the world, especially as Yahoo’s news stories almost always interpret the news for the reader. Yahoo News does not do this with subtlety as earlier this week, “10 Signs The U.S. Is Losing Its Influence In The Western Hemisphere” came up on my screen when I logged into Yahoo Mail.

That article provided a list of comparisons between the US and other countries in the Western Hemisphere showing that America is no longer dominating every industry as Chile has increased copper production while Brazil is mining more iron than the US. The basic thrust of the article, countries only succeed at the expense of other countries, reminded me of the economic philosophy of Lester Thurow ’60 who wrote extensively about the fall of the US due to the rise of the USSR and when he was proven wrong, he switched to writing about how America will slip as Japan and Europe rise in stature.

It is very easy to write about how America is falling as one can find statistics to show that America is no longer dominated the world as it once did, but that does not mean America is in trouble. Reading about how the rest of the world is catching up to the US in terms of production should excite Americans as we can’t fall into the trap that Thurow is offering us. Countries benefit from trade and from the growth of other countries’ economies.  Being first in the production of beef, as America has since the turn of the 20th century does not translate to a better life for Americans, but having more beef to consume as Brazil has increased it production does. Economic development is not a zero sum game, we can all benefit from each other. Forgetting that is very dangerous as viewing other countries purely as competitors will lead to an end of cooperation and that is not a world that I would want to live in.

We should not join the hand wringers and we should stand against cries of America’s downfall. The world is rising to our level, we are not falling and that is a development we should celebrate. There will be more opportunities for economic growth in our future than even before as so many people have access to the necessary education and technology. That change will be accompanied by an increase of competition as we are no longer competing with other Americans and citizens of just a few other countries but the entire world.

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Bloggers’ Panel at Reunion

I have contacted the Alumni Office about doing a bloggers’ panel at reunion next month.  They think it’s a swell idea. I have confirmed Dan Drezner ’90 in addition to myself to speak.  But, with myself on the right and Dan in the middle, we have a gaping hole on the left.  In the true spirit of our alma mater, we should balance this out.  So, if there is anyone on the left politically who’s going to be at reunion and wants to participate, please e-mail ASAP, so we can make this happen.

Thanks, Dan Blatt ’85

(Ronit has long since asked me to blog here, so I may just do that in the future.)

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Let’s talk about Elena Kagan

I’ve been reading a few articles on Kagan by people whose writing on legal matters I tend to respect. I’m just going to post the links here, okay?

Jeff Toobin: Elena Kagan’s Nomination and Elena Kagan and Gays in the Military

Jeff Rosen: The Next Justice: Why Kagan is the ideal Obama jurist

Lawrence Lessig: A Case for Kagan

Charles Fried: Everyone’s Dean: Why Elena Kagan has earned the respect of conservatives, like me

Walter Dellinger: Elena Kagan Is a Progressive on Executive Power

Nina Totenberg: Seen As Rising Star, Kagan Has Limited Paper Trail

Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s natural choice of Kagan

Marvin Ammori: Does Elena Kagan Disagree With Justice Stevens On Citizens United?

Mark Tushnet: Elena Kagan’s Scholarship

The rebuttable view I’m coming to is that her views on major political issues of our day are largely unknown, and that her publication record is quite thin. But she gets accolades for her brilliant mind and leadership skills from those who’ve worked with her. Also, perhaps needless to say, the media narrative about right vs. left is grossly over-simplified. A judge’s role is much more complex than simply being a right-winger or a left-winger. I’m not troubled by the fact that she’s not clearly identifiable on the political spectrum. However, the lack of a public record might still make her a risky pick.

Please share your thoughts, comments, links, etc. below.

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Chris Murphy ’96 goes to the grocery store

And this is what happens (Murphy shows up around 9 minutes in to engage with the crowd):

Below the fold: a Williams namecheck, Murphy responds to the protesters, and some other Ephs weigh in with advice for both the left and the right. Read more

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“Springstreaking” Activism

A liberal arts education is supposed to be comprehensive and wide ranging, such that a Williams grad has received training relevant to any profession. Moreover, such education goes beyond the classroom and the academic seminars. First-time student directors learn about management as they get plays off the ground; seniors with theses learn about the time required for a massive project (often the hard way); frosh learn social skills when suddenly thrown into an entry of strangers. In fact, most anything we do at Williams, and most anything we do in life, has lessons of merit relevant to the future.

During a conversation on this subject last year, the person I was talking with remarked that streaking might be a exception to the above rule, with no educational value beyond the anatomical. That point is now settled, as at least one Eph (& former Ephblogger) has demonstrated the usefulness of the tactic out in the real world.

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Responding to breaking news that lobbyists forged letters from constituent groups in order to sway votes against the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill, activists protested outside the offices of Bonner & Associates, the firm reportedly behind the hoax, wearing jackets, ties, and no pants while holding signs reading “The Fossil Fuel Lobby: Naked Fraud” and “Coal and Oil: Stealing Our Future.”

I don’t feel bad for Bonner & Associates, which apparently committed fraud multiple times by misrepresenting constituent groups through forged letters.

EDIT by ddavis: The following picture was too good to leave off of EphBlog.
morgan_goodwin_naked_protesters

Morgan Goodwin ’08 is the one holding up the “committed naked fraud” sign in the back.

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Hating Obama

Stephen C. Rose ’58 writes about the right wing’s hatred Obama on the Huffington Post.  I disagree with Stephen on one point: the left hated Bush as much as the right hates Obama.  But there are two substantial differences.

First, the hatred of Bush was developed after years of utterly and completely screwing the country over in every way imaginable, and was exacerbated by an illegitimate election and his administration’s disdainful rhetoric towards dissenters, which tried to paint any who dared to question his foreign policy agenda (all of whom were, of course, ultimately vindicated) as traitors.  The hatred was, moreover, first and foremost a product of the needless deaths of thousands of good Americans — as good a reason as there ever could be to a hate a person, let alone a President.  Even if you severely disagree with Obama’s economic policies (borne, of course, out of a disaster he inherited from his predecessor) nothing in those policies (even if wrong-headed, which is a totally fair argument) is remotely worthy of that level of contempt.  The right, on the other hand (in particular de facto party leaders Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin and Coulter) had a visceral hatred for Obama from the get-go, notwithstanding his dramatic electoral mandate and far more substantial efforts at outreach.

Second, the hatred emanating from the right wing is also far scarier, as evidenced by the violence perpetrated in recent weeks and the extreme infatuation by the right (and in particular by those who hate Obama most) with guns — again notwithstanding no even arguably problematic restriction on gun ownership ever advocated by this administration.  No one was ever really concerned about a left-wing assassination attempt of Bush, but anyone fair-minded would certainly have to be concerned that some of the more extreme rhetoric on the right is inflammatory enough to push one or two of the most extreme gun-toting psychopaths over the edge.  Scary stuff.  Frank Rich crystallizes that fear particularly well in today’s NYTimes.

You can see Stephen’s blog here, by the way.  If he is not yet featured on Eph Planet, he should be.

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Reporting from Williams Tonight: Greta Van Susteren

On The Record is broadcasting from Williams in 1 hour. (10 PM Eastern, Webshow @ 9:45) While Ms.Van Susteren’s earlier dialogue with us was off-the-record, I can say that she was a kind and candid guest in class tonight. For the e-mail announcement, click Read more

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Gargoyle Conversations

An excellent idea.

The Gargoyle Society would like to invite you to the first “Gargoyle Conversations” event. Its aim is to inspire informal discussion of controversial, yet important issues here at Williams as well as the world beyond the purple valley. The event will be conducted in small groups and will take place this Thursday, January 15 in the log. The topic of discussion is the situation in Gaza, more specifically whether or not Israel’s military campaign is legitimate. Each individual conversation group will be capped at about 10, though several might take place simultaneously depending upon student interest. Light food and beverage will be served. The conversation should last about an hour and will begin at 8:00.
Please email Mike Tcheyan (10mst) if attending.

Kudos to whoever is behind this effort. I would recommend that the organizers suggest so (short) background readings so that participants start with some common ground. How about Ephs Professor Sam Crane, Dan Drezner ’90 and Tom Friedman?

It would be fun to involve alumni is such an event. If only we had a blog or something on which dispersed members of the Williams community could discuss important topics . . .

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True maverick: Arne Carlson ’57

From Minnesota Public Radio:

There’s plenty of buzz in Minnesota’s political circles today about former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson endorsing Barack Obama. But the move isn’t terribly surprising.

Carlson is a more traditional East Coast Republican — a Williams College educated intellectual with an appreciation of both social service and fiscal conservatism — a progressive Republican. That’s the kind of Republican the party purged in the ’90s.

Carlson was a thorn in the side of the party, even when he was its highest-ranking official as governor, so the endorsement is unlikely to sway many — if any — Republicans. During his term, the party consistently endorsed more conservative candidates for governor. Carlson usually ignored them, then beat them handily in the party primaries. Carlson was the first Republican governor in the state’s history to be denied the endorsement by his own party.

Alan Quist lost in a landslide to Carlson in 1994 after running a campaign based on moral issues — Carlson supported legalized abortion — but that was back before that became the party mainstay, and when Republicans in the state were known as Independent Republicans.

Since leaving office, Carlson has teamed up with former VP Walter Mondale to try to repeal the concealed carry handgun law in the state, criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget plan to use money from the Health Care Access fund, which funds the state health insurance program, and went to the Legislature to lobby against Pawlenty’s cuts in a state program to curb fetal alcohol syndrome, which was his wife’s project. He’s also endorsed the occasional Democrat in state Legislature races, as he did in 2004 in DFLer Jim Carlson unsuccessful bid inDistrict 38B, and he endorsed DFLer Rebecca Otto in her successful campaign for state auditor in 2006.

And earlier in this campaign, the Washington Post published a letter from Carlson lamenting that religion was being used in the Republican Party as a litmus test for the vice presidential selection.

For more than a decade, Arne Carlson has had nothing in common with the Republican Party. Today was no exception.

(Listen to Carlson’s announcement via Polinaut)

Can any of the numerous Class of 1957 folks on EphBlog (or, you know, anyone else who happens to have known him) tell us more about Gov. Carlson?

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Eph Word of the Day: Palinode

From A.Word.A.Day at Wordsmith.org:

palinode

PRONUNCIATION:

(PAL-uh-noad)  

MEANING:

noun: A poem in which the author retracts something said in an earlier poem. 

ETYMOLOGY:

From Greek palinoidia, from palin (again) + oide (song). It’s the same palin that shows up in the word palindrome…

NOTES:

The illustrator and humorist Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) once wrote a poem called The Purple Cow:

I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

The poem became so popular and he became so closely linked with this single quatrain that he later wrote a palinode:

Confession: and a Portrait, Too,
Upon a Background that I Rue!

Oh, yes, I wrote ‘The Purple Cow,’
I’m sorry now I wrote it!
But I can tell you anyhow,
I’ll kill you if you quote it.

USAGE:

“The more lighthearted palinodes were more successful, such as Geoff Horton’s recantation of his youthful view that a martini should be shaken rather than stirred.”
Jaspitos; I Take It Back; The Spectator (London, UK); Jan 24, 2004.

Items to discuss may include hallucinogens used by Mr. Burgess, the proper construction of a martini, and whether Mrs. Palin will issue a palinode.

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Electoral vote prediction

Now that 7-11 has gotten in on the electoral prediction game, I suggest that the time has come for EphBlog to jump on the bandwagon, because, hey, no matter how much you people hate Eph Pundit, it’s better than ungrounded rants about Bolin fellowships, no? We did this four years ago on WSO, and, though I hesitate to blow my own trumpet, I was closest to the eventual result (I think I predicted 284 votes for Bush, when most posters were giving Kerry 300+). That garnered me a Spring Fling bracelet as a prize.

This time, sadly, I have no Spring Fling bracelets to give out, but the winner will receive an etched Williams College beer stein shipped from Goff Sports. The winner of the contest will be determined as the commenter whose prediction for the winning candidate’s electoral tally comes closest to the actual result. If there is a tie, the tie will be broken by whoever came closer in their estimate for the winner’s share of the popular vote.

Go here to simulate the electoral college results.

I’ll start. Here are my predictions:

Electoral College: Obama 286, McCain 252
Popular Vote: Obama 48.5%, McCain 46%

Here’s the map as I see it:

Make sure you use a working email address when you comment, and only 1 submission per person, please.

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Simon v. Skelos

Most interesting race featuring an Eph this election cycle? Not Chris Murphy’s re-election bid in CT-05; his seat should be safe in a year when Democrats look set to control every single House seat from New England. Instead, I would keep an eye on the race for New York State’s 9th Senate District, where Roy Simon ’71, a professor at Hofstra University law school, is taking on the current Republican Majority Leader in the State Senate, Dean Skelos. Though state legislative races get hardly any media attention, this one could have important consequences.

Why this race could matter: Currently, in New York, the Republicans hold a single-seat majority in the State Senate. Republicans have controlled the State Senate for 70 years, and it is now their last remaining statewide power base; it is also the only remaining obstacle to New York granting full civil rights to gay couples. Gov. Paterson has already done everything within his power, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly has passed a bill, but the Republican State Senate still stands in the way. In addition to what would be his systematic importance in flipping control of the Senate, Simon appears to be a property-tax-cutting, pro-public transport, pro-environment politician with a record of integrity and impressive professional achievements.

You can read more about Simon or donate to his campaign here.

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On Elections: from “AMLO NYT 7/31 10pm”; 21 days

I picked up a manilla folder marked “AMLO-NYT” from the front of the organizer where I have let it sit,  waiting for review, for nearly a year.  The draft with hand-written annotation, between quotes in the above, begins:

“The Western democracies have recently faced a growing number of close elections,  with ambiguous results.  Today,  ——- faces such a quandary.”

David Shipley’s team did not allow us that explanation– amusingly,  published more words than we submitted– though it found expression elsewhere.

I wonder still what nation we were trying to address,  what…

For the next 21 days, I will be wondering where we are,  whether I will have to draft this again,  whether…

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Michel Balinski ’54 and Majority Voting

Michel Balinski came to campus today for a Math/Stats colloquium and a well-attended presentation in Wege tonight. His presentation was on the problems with current voting systems, involving gerrymandering and how a minority can elect a majority, as is the case in the UK. This PDF is the hard academic text behind his work; I could not understand all of the involved math. Follow the jump for commentary.
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Eph Pundit Poll

Should we continue our Eph Pundit experiment through the election or end it now?
Continue through the election.
End it now.
Don’t care.
  
pollcode.com free polls
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Fundamentally Misleading

My opinion on the bailout? What Nouriel Roubini says.

The Treasury plan also does not explicitly include an HOLC-style program to reduce across the board the debt burden of the distressed household sector; without such a component the debt overhang of the household sector will continue to depress consumption spending and will exacerbate the current economic recession.

Thus, the Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown. It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented – many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum – alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street. And it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners.

Indeed. If I were Obama, I would avoid voting on the bailout or even expressing a strong opinion on the topic. McCain’s best (albeit slim) chance for winning the election is to come out strongly against the bill (whatever his actual opinions on the topic). Previous discussions here and here.

The Record featured an interesting roundtable with three Economics professors on the credit crisis.

What do you think about Henry Paulson’s $700 billion bailout plan? Do you think it will help ease the crisis?

Kuttner: Paulson’s plan is basically a carte blanche: it is basically Paulson saying to Congress, “Look, give me 700 billion dollars and I will just buy up these securities that are backed by the bad debt.”

Will that help? Surely it will. It’ll get all this bad debt off the balance sheets of financial institutions. The question is, are there smarter ways to do it? This is really just throwing money at the problem. A lot of the criticism of Paulson’s plan has come under is those who say, “Well, this is going to have a lot of unintended consequences that may be undesirable.”

Caprio: The plan can be far more expensive because it removes any accountability for the Treasury department so we don’t know how much they’ll really pay for the bad assets they are going to buy.

If you look at other countries that have been through this for good and bad practices, as well as U.S. history and the depression, the programs that were really careful with taxpayer money, that were very transparent, forced very hard conditions on banks. If they were going to get any money from the government, they had to accept a lot of tough conditions – limits on salaries and no dividends for shareholders – until the government got its money out. And the taxpayers got all the upside, and what I think we’re worried about is that American taxpayers may be getting the downside which will then really make the consequences dangerous for the dollar.

So last question. Can each of you say how you think the crisis will play out?

Caprio: There are going to be major changes in regulation in the financial sector. That’s a relatively easy forecast. Which way it’s going to go is harder to know. There are a lot of people who are saying that this represents the failure of deregulation, and I just think that’s fundamentally misleading.

Indeed.

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Financial Titans

An Eph connection to the bailout?

Republican Sen. John McCain said he would suspend campaigning to help tackle a $700 billion bailout proposal and called on Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama to postpone their debate Friday, as the roiling U.S. financial crisis took center stage in the presidential campaign.

Another key event that aides said prompted Sen. McCain’s actions: a roundtable Wednesday morning with some of Wall Street’s biggest names, financial titans who told him that the rescue legislation must be passed soon. “We urged John to get all over it, that this is a national-security crisis,” one financial executive said.

The financial executives, who were told on Tuesday that Sen. McCain wanted to meet with them the next day, included Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO John Thain, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Vice Chairman James Lee and private-equity fund owner Henry Kravis.

For Sen. McCain, figuring out how to handle the bailout bill presented a particular challenge because much of the resistance to the plan has come from conservatives alarmed at the cost of bailout and the scope of powers that would be granted to the Treasury secretary.

Sen. McCain, who has never been close to conservatives, has worked hard during the election season to earn their trust. But that could be at risk if he were to support a package that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called “a dead loser on Election Day.”

Why are so many Democrats in favor of this bail out?

1) A “national-security crisis?” Give me a break! We are already in a recession. Obviously, we all hope that the recession will be brief, but there is no good evidence that this particular plan will do any good. All the smartest observers (e.g., here, here and here) are against it. Haven’t Democrats learned that “national-security crisis” is a smokescreen for policies that they ought to oppose? Just because rates on short term commercial paper are high does not mean that alien invasion is nigh.

2) As much as all good Ephs like Jimmy Lee ’75, don’t Democrats read EphBlog?


Someone at Chase once said, Jimmy is like a crocodile: He sits there with his eyes just a bit above the water saying, “Oh yeah, come just a little bit closer.”

Come a little close John McCain (and the rest of the Washington establishment). Just a little closer.

Jimmy Lee (and John Thain and Henry Kravis and most of Wall Street) have hundreds of billions of dollars of lousy assets, stuff that they value at 50 cents on the dollar but which is actually worth only 25 cents (or whatever). They want the US Government (which means you, future taxpayers) to buy it from them at 50 cents, or even more. I can imagine plutocrat-worshiping Republicans doing that, those shameless lick-spittles, but why would any Democrat be in favor of making Jimmy Lee richer?

Perhaps my Democratic friends can explain this to me. (And don’t even start with “No bailout means financial Armageddon.” That is just bunk, designed to stampede the rubes into action.)

3) And aren’t the politics interesting? Unless something dramatic happens, I don’t see how McCain can beat Obama. But what if McCain demagogued the bailout, as I previously urged Obama to do? Doing so would allow him to be against both Bush and the Washington consensus. He, not Obama, would become the candidate of change. Perhaps such a gambit wouldn’t be enough to win, but it is the only plausible hope as far as I can see.

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Op-ed, extended

I was writing a comment to respond to Soph Mom in David’s posting of my Record op-ed, and realized that my comment was getting too long. See below for more thoughts:
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Bill Bennett ’65 Wins Coveted Award

(This gets at the argument started by Frank here. One of the perils of a Williams education is that you can never convincingly be one of those mythic “real people”. You will end up looking like a giant phony if you even try.)

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Eph Pundit: Lobbyists

There are many, many topics right now that I would like to discuss on EB, but I only have so much mental space.  Living in Washington, DC and working for a federal agency that is a *little* bit busy during this current, ahem, situation, I’m about up to <i>here</i> with the attempted campaign hijacking of the bailout package.  This situation is already bad, stressful, partisan, etc. etc. etc. without the additional bs.  I’m going to stop now before I go off the rails about this “suspending” nonsense.

What this post is actually about is lobbyists, mostly one particular (former?) lobbyist.  Much has been made this year about campaigns not being beholden to lobbyists or not being run by lobbyists or not taking contributions to lobbyists, etc.  I’ll be honest that I’m not sure how giving up your lobbying status the week before you work on a campaign makes some kind of difference.  You’d need a pretty extensive break to really shake that influence.  Anyway, we’ve also heard a lot about campaign folks that have ties to the mortgage giants and failing investment banks.  We all know that Jim Johnson was kicked off Obama’s veep search team because of his mortage ties.  McCain’s campaign tried to tie Obama to Raines (obviously false, but didn’t stop the commercial).  And now, we have a bit of drama about Rick Davis and the payments from Freddie Mac to his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort.

The McCain campaign, and Davis himself, tell the story that he severed his relationship with the firm in 2006.  There may have been payments to the firm after that date (indeed, until the takeover), they say, but that is irrelevant as Davis is now a part of Davis Manafort in name only.  So I was willing to buy that this had been kind of blown out of proportion…it looks bad, but other than Freddie paying money for work Davis was apparently not doing anymore, I didn’t see a big problem other than appearances.

Then this evening I read a Newsweek article about the whole situation.  I still don’t think there really is anything untoward going on, but it feels an awful lot more like Davis and the McCain campaign blithely lied to the American public.  That campaign has “misstated” aka lied to our faces about a lot of silly things this year, and I suppose this is just another case.

First the McCain version of events:

In its initial statements to reporters this week, the McCain campaign said that the disclosure of the payments from Freddie Mac was irrelevant because Davis, who was never a registered lobbyist for the troubled housing corporation, had severed his relationship with Davis Manafort in 2006, and was no longer drawing any income from it. Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign’s communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Davis “left” Davis Manafort in 2006. In a statement attacking The New York Times, posted on the campaign’s Web site on Wednesday, campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb said that Davis “separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006.” (A senior campaign official, in an e-mail statement to NEWSWEEK that was not for attribution on Tuesday night, said “Rick is no longer affiliated with the firm.”)

Sounds good, right?  Except…

But those statements appear to have overstated the extent to which Davis had severed his relationship with his lobbying firm. Filings made by “Davis Manafort Partners” with the Virginia Corporation Commission as recently as April 1, 2008, show that Davis was still listed as one of only two corporate officers and directors of the firm, according to records on the commission’s Web site reviewed by NEWSWEEK. That filing records Davis as the “treas/clerk” of the firm; his business partner, Paul Manafort is listed as the president and chief executive officer.
Another filing by “Davis Manafort, Inc.” (with the same Alexandria, Va. address, and recorded on Oct. 17, 2007) also lists Davis as an officer and director of the firm, reporting his position as “T/Clerk,” a reference to his formal title as corporate treasurer and clerk.

So you can draw whatever conclusions you’d like from this.  I don’t think that the Freddie payments were necessarily a big deal, except the holier than thou tenor of both campaigns makes anything like this seem hypocritical.

I’m interested in anyone sharing thoughts about the whole anti-lobbyist theme to this campaign.  Lobbying in and of itself, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.  It becomes bad when any elected official takes so many handouts, etc. that s/he feels beholden to the big money behind a particular breed of lobbyists.  Do others think that Davis and the McCain campaign really lied about this?  Did they tell the truth, and the rest of us are reading too much into a board position?

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Lying Land

EphBlog author Will Slack ’11 on the lying land of politics.

The past few weeks have seen McCain ads accuse Barack Obama of comparing Sarah Palin to a pig and liberal bloggers argue that Sarah Palin’s five-month son is actually the child of her teenage daughter, Bristol Palin.

Granted, McCain later disavowed his earlier accusations, and the bloggers were embarrassed when it came out that Trig couldn’t be Bristol’s baby since she was pregnant with another child at the time of Trig’s birth. Still, there’s an underlying problem that exists and has always existed in politics.

Elections aren’t about the truth. They are about what people perceive as truth.

Indeed. Normally, I don’t like it when the Record devotes scarce op-ed space to non-Williams topics, but, in Will’s case, I’ll make an exception. Read the whole thing.

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Eph Pundit: Rape Kit Debunking

At the end of our previous discussion over whether or not the town of Wasilla had billed victims for rape kits used to gather evidence, I had (generously?) conceded that the issue was not “nonsense.” Care to revisit the topic?
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Eph Pundit: Bush Bailout Speech

President Bush is speaking on the bailout. Your comments welcome! I am too lazy to watch, but isn’t this bearish for the passage of the plan? (Intrade has the odds at 75%.) It is one thing for Democrats to support a (relatively) non-partisan plan proposed by respected figures like Bernanke and Paulson. But how many Democrats want to vote for something championed by Bush, especially when their Republican opponents are likely to run (effective?) campaign commercials against them if they vote Yes? If, say, Congressman Chris Murphy ’96 votes for the bailout, you can be sure that his opponent will accuse him (fairly?) of spending taxpayer money to bailout Wall Street fat cats.

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Eph Pundit: Police State

Most unhinged anti-Palin rant? I’ll go with Naomi Wolf (ex-wife of an Eph).
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Ephpundit: What of Williams?

As I sit here pondering what to write about when it comes to the campaign (How’s this: The Palin bump appears to be relegated to the GOP base now; Both sides are increasingly putting out misleading ads though McCain’s campaign continues to lie about a whole array of factual matters; Obama is back in modest advantage when it comes to the aggregate polling results; This is going to get uglier before it gets prettier. There. Consider my Punditry duties fulfilled.)  for whatever reason I am brought back to my own years at Williams. And I am going to say something that may well arouse controversy: Relative to the rest of my life, when it came to politics, the much-lamented Purple Bubble was real. Oh, sure, I had my share of debates with conservatives and with my liberal friends. I am not claiming that the bubble is hermetically sealed, nor would I refute the intellectual value of the discussion that did occur; mine is a quantitative rather than a qualitative argument. But on the whole, I would argue that politics and policy and engagement with the specifics of politics and foreign policy has been a much more salient aspect of my life during and since Williams. I do not remember the 1992 election representing  a huge, all encompassing topic of conversation my senior year, whereas I do recall the 1994 midterm elections as a much bigger deal when I was a first-year MA student in Charlotte, much less of an intellectual hotbed environment than Williams.

Here is an example of this: I was a double major at Williams. I was a lousy student those days (lazy, too many other largely dumb priorities, probably dumb) but I figured I’d cover up my lousiness by being lousy in two disciplines, history and political science. I liked history much better than Poli-Sci for a host of reasons. (Poli-Sci’s over-reliance on theory and jargon, the affectation that something is better if couched in terms of a model or a math problem, the sometimes soul-deadeningly awful writing. Oh, and the fact that I was a much worse poli sci student than I was a history student, though there are cause and effect issues we can discuss here. And keep in mind that while I am a historian I am also a member of the American Political Science Association and I cross-list courses with my university’s political science department. Consider mine a love-hate relationship with what I certainly see as one of history’s cognate fields or sister disciplines.) But perhaps the main gripe I had is also the one that still strikes me as most absurd: In four years as a political science major at Williams it never helped and sometimes hurt to know what the hell was going on in the world around us. Not once at Williams was I required to subscribe to a newspaper or magazine or politics journal. To a degree this is understandable: There are principles and theories and schools of thought in political science that a student needs to be acquainted with irrespective of the currents of the moment. But that reasoning only goes so far.

So what do others think? Was I merely a hopeless philistine at Williams or do others concur with regard to their own experiences? What about the current environment on campus? Am I going to go back on Homecoming, days before the election, and see a campus festooned with signs and bumper stickers and buttons, howling with debate and argument? (And is part of the issue a presumption of liberalism among the bulk of the student body? Was 1992 so relatively muted on campus because there were relatively few supporters of George H. W. Bush, something I do remember to be true?)

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Eph Pundit: Against McCain

Megan McArdle provides a fine summary for why so many small government federalists (like me) will be voting for Obama because we want to vote against McCain.
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Eph Pundit: Greatest Hits of the Big Fat Liars

Since David didn’t want to pollute his negative Obama post with the exact same issue from McCain, as promised I am posting it separately.  I will try to be more balanced than his post, because I don’t appreciate the misleading ads that have come from either side.  Both of these candidate came in claiming to take the high road.  Neither has stayed on that road, although I have a clear opinion as to who has strayed farther from it.  I’m not going to go point by point and argue which individual ad is more misleading than one particular other ad.  They’ve both put out some true slime.  I do think, however, that McCain’s distortions have been more egregious and more frequent.  All politicians try to make themselves sound more important, make their accomplishments a little better, etc.  But there is a difference between a lie about character and twisting your (or your opponent’s) record on an issue.  The mud is flying fast and thick this year.  Watch out.

– McCain energy web ad from June or July:  said Obama was against energy innovation and the electric car which is not true.  McCain was citing Obama’s dismissal of his idea for a monetary award for an electric car.  Problem being that Obama actually didn’t say he was against is – he called it a gimmick that actually didn’t do enough to support energy innovation.  Same ad said he was against “clean and safe nuclear energy” which is exactly opposite to the truth.  Obama has actually taken heat from the left for saying he is open to nuclear energy if it is clean and safe – in those exact words.

– McCain tax ads from August: says Obama will raise taxes on “people” making $42,000 a year while showing a mother with children.  Actually, a single taxpayer (not a family) would see a $15 raise but families would not.  Spanish language version of similar ad says “families making $42,000″ would see taxes raise – flat out false.  Also says he’d raise taxes on the middle class, which is NOT true.  I haven’t met anyone who calls $200,000 for a single person or $250,000 for families the “middle class.”  Now just deception but not a true lie is the claim that Obama would raise taxes on home sales.  Only if you made a profit of more than half a million dollars.  That is just misleading, because so so few people would ever fall into that category….but I admit is technically true.

– Obama lobbyist ad from August/Sept: it lists some of McCain’s top campaign staff and says that so-and-so “lobbies for…” whomever.  They are not currently lobbying for anyone.  Obama could have quite fairly and truly stated that “until very recently, so-and-so lobbied for ____ ” but they didn’t.  I’m not a fan of this ad…I find it misleading, because I’m sure someone could parse it in a way to technically be true.  But unnecessary slime.

– McCain lipstick ad September: this has obviously been hashed and rehashed so I won’t repeat it.  He just didn’t call her a pig and McCain himself has subsequently admitted it.  Finally, it is misleading at the end where it takes a quote from Katie Couric from before Palin was even in the race and tries to make it somehow about Obama’s treatment of Palin.  It was egregious enough that CBS got in a huff about it and asked the campaign to pull it.

– McCain Fannie/Freddie ads from today and from earlier this week: 2 separate claims, both of which are at the least very misleading.  One is that Obama took more money from Fannie and Freddie than anyone else but the chairman of the committee that regulates them.  Okay, again – as McCain’s campaign has claimed against Obama in the oil company ads – no candidate takes money from corporations so that is misleading.  Also, he’s not second on that list, I think he’s fourth (don’t remember what factcheck.org said).  Employees of companies often give money to people that wouldn’t treat their companies well.  Individual people have opinions (employees includes from the cafeteria worker to the middle manager to the CEO – range of opinion much?).  Second egregious claim is that former Fannie head Frank Raines is an advisor on economic issues to the Obama campaign.  Uh, nope.  And the “source” they cite doesn’t say that either.  The source says that Raines claimed to have taken calls from the campaign.  Not quite the same thing…if he did take calls, the ad is misleading.  If he didn’t, it’s a flat out lie.

– Obama’s oil ad from sometime early in the summer: Obama made some kind of claims about McCain being “fueled” by the oil industry or some such turn of phrase.  Actually, the percentage of donations that an be traced to big oil is quite small, no one takes money from corporations, etc.  It was a misleading ad, I can’t say anything to defend it.

– McCain’s “fact check” ad: tries to cite factcheck.org as supporting its claims that Obama made claims about Palin that were false and misleading.  Um, except that they never ever attributed such things to Obama.  The quotes were about emails and rumors.  Also that ad talks about Obama sending a team of people to dig up dirt on Palin, except that the WSJ quote they tried to rely on doesn’t quite say that, and the Obama campaign has asked the WSJ for a retraction.

– McCain’s “Obama doesn’t support the troops” ad: as we all know (but some may have forgotten), while claiming Obama didn’t want to see the troops, he actually uses footage of Obama…visiting the troops.  Uh, right.  And he didn’t cancel the visit because press wouldn’t be allowed – that is a flat out lie.  Press were never invited.  It was a no-win for Obama, and you may not agree with why he decided to cancel that part of the visit, but it was not because of press coverage.

So there is a mini-recap of the slime being tossed around in ads.  Now this is just ads (and not even some winners likes the celebrity ad hogwash), I’m not even going to go into the “she never asked for earmarks,” what percentage of the nation’s energy Alaska provides, or “I’ve been to Iraq” issues.  Let someone else tackle that list.  I’m tired.

And if I’ve missed your favorite slimefest, by all means mention it in the comments – from either candidate.  I am deeply cynical and deeply naive all at the same time.  I know and expect that things turn out this way, but I still keep hoping that one day it won’t be down in the muck.  This year, I think I’m more annoyed by all of it because these two actually gave me more hope.  Oh well, another day another dollar (spent on ads).  The one good thing about all of this crap is that the campaigns are helping to bolster a few particular sectors of the economy with the absurd amount of money they’re spending.

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Eph Pundit: Erróneo

There has been much commentary at EphBlog about McCain’s “dishonestly” and “lies.” What do you expect? He’s a politician! But the general attitude seems to be that Obama, on the other hand, has been honest and truthful in his campaigning. Not if you believe ABC News.
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Eph Pundit: Laugh at Palin

Let’s try to keep the level of discourse high and on topic. Clive Crook on the Bush Doctrine flap.
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Jon Stewart recapitulates last 2 weeks of EphBlog comments

Now can we please move on to more important things? Thanks.

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