Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Think Crossing My Fingers Will Stop What Is About to Happen...

The House of Representatives voted NO on the bailout bill today.

I hope that the people I have talked to and the experts that have said that we need to do this 'bailout' are wrong.

That not passing this bill will no create a major recession or a Great Depression, but I don't see it.

It looks like a bi-partisan killing of the bill with about 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats who have voted against it. I think these people have made a big mistake, but we will have to see what happens.

Currently,, we are down 500 points at the time of this writing.

Couple of well known stocks at the time of this blog.

Apple: Down $23
Google: Down $36
Goldman Sachs: Down $23
Fifth Third Bank: Down 36%
National City Bank: Down 52%


Well Americans like to be a part of history, and we get to be part of that today. The single biggest point drop in the history of the Dow Jones.

777.68 points.

The NASDAQ fell 9.1% to under 2000pts.

Wachovia is the latest major institution to fail and be talen over by one of the three strong banks. They were taken over by Citigroup. Seems like Bank of America and JP Morgan are the other two solvent banks,,,, for the moment.

And the experts are saying the credit markets are getting even worse.
Tomorrow ends the quarter and earnings reports are about to be announced. The unemployment rate is going to be announced this week with a number sure to increase from 6.1%.
Where's the end of this? 17people has no answers, but CNBC will be on my TV more than it ever has before the next couple of days.

Other Perspectives/Prophecy

Every once in a while I like to post some videos and articles that I feel are worth your time to take a look at.

Especially in light of this financial crisis. There are a bunch of smart people who have written and said some brilliant things about the mess that we are in. I will post a few of them below.

But before I do, let me say that I think Congress has done pretty well in crafting this bailout plan. They took the 3 page 'Paulson Document' and have made it a much better plan. It's a terrible thing that they have to vote for,, espeically considering the nearly trillion dollars in bailouts that have already taken place.

But I give credit to both parties in Congress for coming together and getting this bill done. That includes the House Republicans whose intervention I think added some strength to the bill when it comes to Wall Street having to kick in to make up the losses of taxpayers should there be any.

Now I just hope that the bill passes with 300+ votes in the house and isn't something that anyone plays games with. Should that happen,, I think we will see a bigger drop in the market than we are currently seeing.

So here are some things I think you'll enjoy.

1st is a rant by Jim Cramer of Mad Money who does a good job explaining what will happen if the Congress does not act and takes on economists and Alabama Senator Richard Shelby. Cramer is a bit of a nut and his ranting and raving make some people think he isn't a serious guy.

But I will say this, in an era, and I mean the last 30 years, where we haven't had anyone other than Bill Clinton be able to really explain economics to non-Wall Street people, Cramer has become that voice.

Click on this link to see Cramer talk of what he calls the 'investment in America plan.'

2nd, is an article from the Baltimore Sun by Cynthia Tucker. A Republican talking point over the past couple days has been to blame the "Community Reinvestment Act" (CRA) of 1977 (when Carter was President) that expanded credit opportunities to minority community's bears the blame for this crisis. This is being used in an unfortunate way and Tucker clearly lays out why.

The article focuses very little on what is really to blame, deregulation of the past 10-12 years, but shoots a whole in the theory that the CRA is to blame.

Click on this link to read this very interesting article.

Finally, is a speech that was given in 1999.

It was by a Congressman I have written about many times before whom I greatly admire, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee John Dingell.

This speech was given to speak against a deregulation bill titled Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. This bill deregulated banks that allowed them to team up with investment houses and insurance companies. Companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros, and AIG.

Only 57 members of the US House of Representatives voted against this bill, so the blame lies with both parties and President Clinton signed it so I'm not even pointing a finger a President Bush here.

But for the record, Dingell,, who is the longest serving member of the House was called 'out of touch', 'anti-growth', and protectionist when he gave the speech below.

Turns out he was two things, prophetic and 100% right.

Keep in mind this speech was in 1999!

Madam Speaker, I yield myself the remaining time for purposes of closing.

Madam Speaker and my colleagues, I think we ought to look at what we are doing here tonight. We are passing a bill which is going to have very little consideration, written in the dark of night, without any real awareness on the part of most of what it contains.

I just want to remind my colleagues about what happened the last time the Committee on Banking brought a bill on the floor which deregulated the savings and loans. It wound up imposing upon the taxpayers of this Nation about a $500 billion liability. That is what it cost to clean up that mess.

Now, at the same time, the banks by engaging in questionable practices wound up in a situation where the Fed and the Treasury Department had to bail them out also at the taxpayers' expense. But it did not show.

Having said that, what we are creating now is a group of institutions which are too big to fail.

Not only are they going to be big banks, but they are going to be big everything, because they are going to be in securities and insurance, in issuance of stocks and bonds and underwriting, and they are also going to be in banks.

And under this legislation, the whole of the regulatory structure is so obfuscated and so confused that liability in one area is going to fall over into liability in the next.

Taxpayers are going to be called upon to cure the failures we are creating tonight, and it is going to cost a lot of money, and it is coming. Just be prepared for those events.

You are going to find that they are too big to fail, so the Fed is going to be in and other Federal agencies are going to be in to bail them out.

Just expect that.

With regard to the privacy, let us take a look at it. We are told about all the protections for privacy that you have here. If you want to have a good laugh, laugh at it, because here is the joke: The only thing the banks are going to be required to say with regard to what they are going to do with regard to your privacy, and this is everything, from your health to your financial situation, to everything else, is ``we are going to stick it to you.''

The privacy that you are going to have under this legislation is absolutely nothing. And what is going to drive that is going to be a simple fact, and that is that the banks are all going to be competing with the most diligence, and the
result will be that those protections are going to be manifested in a race to the bottom.

Consumers, investors and the American public will have no protection to their privacy whatsoever under this bill. The only thing the banks have to say and the other institutions have to say is ``we are going to stick it to you.''

Vote against the conference report

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One Debate Down

Look, if you came to this debate recap expecting me to say that John McCain won the debate,,, you'd be wrong,,, but 17people will be fair,, so please read on.

Overall this was one lame debate. It could have been so great, but Jim Lehrer was not on his game tonight and despite one of the best debate formats we have ever seen that encouraged the candidate to talk and challenge each other,,, one of the two of them wanted NOTHING to do with the other.

More than that though,, the debate was boring, tedious, and above all inappropriate for the time and situation that we are in.

How did this debate did not talk solely on the economy? This is the issue of the time, this is what people are losing sleep over, and its not like there are not two other debates to discuss foreign policy.

As an Obama supporter I was hoping that foreign policy would be pushed or not discussed at all. That is McCain's turf and with Obama gaining on the economy, I didn't want the subject to change.

Yet, I underestimated Barack Obama as I actually think this ended up playing into his hands.

But I'll start where the debate started,, on the economy.

John McCain very effectively changed the conversation of the financial crisis that we are in during the debate.

He turned the financial crisis into a discussion on earmarks and government spending. Two areas he is strong on that are easy to talk about and easy to rally support for.

Spending and earmarks however, have NOTHING to do with what has happened on Wall Street recently. Lack of regulation, transparency, corruption in the private sector and banking industry are the causes.

John McCain deftly changed the subject and was able to hold his own.

Now I will say this, the longer the conversation is on the economy right now, is still a net plus for Obama. I think pundits have been too hard on Obama for the economic section. Though he still does not have that crystal clear message that would put him over the top.

Here's where I give you the point the pundits missed, at least the ones I saw. No analyst mentioned Obama's steadfast commitment to talking about health care. He must have mentioned this issue three or four times which is a lot for him as he doesn't repeat every answer like John McCain does.

Pushing health care in these debate is a MUST issue for Obama. It appeals to that middle class voter that Hillary Clinton was so effective at reaching. Bill Clinton said this week Obama has to get the people who voted for Hillary and health care is the one issue that will both get them and her and her people working harder for him which they need to do.

Health care is Hillary's issue and it is the issue of the populist part of the Democratic Party and the best news for the undecided or moderate voter,, Obama's plan, is much more moderate and easily implemented.

On to the foreign policy part of the debate...

When it comes to foreign policy this has been Obama's biggest deficit in the polls and the minds of others between him and McCain. The 'Commander in Chief' test Joe Biden called it afterwards.

Whether you agree with him or not, Barack Obama clearly passed this test. He knew the issues, he knew the players, and he eloquently elaborated where he stood on complex issues in these difficult times. He sounded like a Commander in Chief while standing next a great war hero and experienced voice on foreign policy.

More importantly he didn't back down on issues geeks like me care about. Like holding true on diplomacy,,, even with Iran. I wish he pounded him harder on the 'bomb, bomb, Iran' Beach Boy knockoff McCain did earlier. Like holding McCain accountable for pushing us into Iraq in the first place as opposed to acting as though 'the surge' is the only part of the war that counts.

Foreign policy is McCain's deal, his expertise, and Barack Obama more than held his own.

While I am more of an issues geek, I have also learned the hard way in politics that its not always what you say, but how you say it. Additionally in debates,, it's how you look, when you say what you say, and how you react when you listen to your opponent.

I remember being certain Al Gore won that first debate with George Bush in 2000. You may remember this debate because it was the 'sigh' and 'makeup' debate. While Gore grasped the issues and spoke much better, Bush won the 'impression test'.

He looked better and less arrogant and it gave people who watched, the impression that he won the debate.

In this debate, Obama clearly won the 'impression test'. McCain looked utterly uncomfortable the whole debate. Obama on the other hand looked calm, in control, and actually looked at his opponent.

One of the goals of this format,,, which was one of the better debate formats that I have seen was to get a more free flowing discussion. McCain, wanted nothing to do with Obama, and I think it's gonna hurt him on a night he was overall very good.

This is a big surprise to me considering that McCain has been crying for 'Town Hall Debates'.

If Obama did those town halls, would McCain look at him then?

And one final note. Some pundits criticized Obama for saying he agreed with McCain or gave him credit for too many things he agreed on.

Then I thought about a speech I heard this summer that had the following lines in it...

The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom.

Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us.

I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.

Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn’t think of them first, let’s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let’s try sharing it.

The man who said these lines,,, John McCain,,, in his acceptance speech at the RNC.

This debate performance showed none of the bipartisanship, deference, or class that he did in that speech.

The first debate was long and not that entertaining, but I felt going in a tie was a win for Obama and I really believe that in next couple days the polls and reaction will be slightly in favor of Obama which means it was a very good night for the Democrats.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When You Consider the Alternatives...

Two days ago I wrote:

It's time for the legislative branch who has been far too minimized in recent years to reassert itself. This is their chance to show that the representatives of the people can work for the people.

This hasn't happened.

As someone who follows Congress closely, this is an utter mess.

The problem for us as citizens is that this is about a subject that makes our heads spin when it is explained to us. And it makes us angry when we think we are paying for corporate malfeasance.

I don't know if the revised 'Paulson Plan' will work or is right.

I have read the one page House Republican plan and don't quite understand how tax breaks and less regulations on Wall Street will work either, but am not going to criticize it either.

I know that a lot of Americans, myself included are furious that we are in this position. It's maddening that the public has to step in to bail out companies that's own greed and irresponsibility created this problem.

Yet, from everything that I read, not acting with a plan comparable to the Paulson plan,,, which has been improved a great deal to include the 'provisions' that both Senators Obama and McCain have asked for will free up the credit markets so that the economy can move as opposed to recess.

Both Republicans and Democrats are pissed at this plan because it requires taxpayers to take on a huge risk. $700billion for banks, insurance companies and investment houses is nuts.

They are both getting calls from angry constituents at a clip of 200 or 300-1 against.

This blog often quotes and references The West Wing and yet again a lesson from that show applies today. There was an episode that had to do the US signing a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Something that 82% of Americans were in favor of.

President Bartlet responded to that 90% number by saying (paraphrasing for now) official quote will be up tonight.

Honestly, this is one of those situations I could a damn what the people think. The complexities of a global arms treaty, the technological, military, diplomatic nuance,,, it's staggering Toby. 82% of the people can't possibly be inspected to make an informed opinion.
Aaron Sorkin through President Bartlett's words ring true in our current situation. You can replace the military and diplomatic nuance, with terms like derivative, illiquid assets, mortgage backed securities.

The result of this mess in Washington right now will cause many people to blast Washington and Congress,,, and it will be deserved.

But we all need to keep in mind that our system of a Democratic Republic. It's what makes us different.

In that same West Wing episode,, called ironically,, "The Lame Duck Congress", President Bartlet closed the episode by saying...

You know we forget sometimes, in all the talk about democracy, it's a Republic. People don't make the decisions, they choose the people who make the decisions. Could they do a better job choosing? Yeah. But when you consider the alternatives. . .

I plead with Congress again.

Rise above partisanship and Presidential politics and find something that works.

Because while it's 300-1 against right now, if the stock market falls 1000 points on Monday and no business can get credit,,, we'll be racing next week when we have a bigger gun to our head than we do right now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Due to the Financial Crisis,,, I Suspend My Blog??

In light of the financial crisis, the uplifting speech by President Doomsday last evening, and the latest publicity stunt by John McCain,,,, I have decided to suspend my blog.

We are a single track nation that can only handle one thing at a time and I think we should all suspend our daily lives to focus on is this singular issue, the economic crisis.

In addition to suspending my blog I resolve to go nowhere, quit my job, go on a hunger strike, and cancel my appearance on the David Letterman show and say I am immediately heading to Washington, only to instead conduct an interview with Katie Couric two blocks away.


Before I suspend the blog I need to get some talking points out to my fans so that this 'suspension' plays well in the press. Maybe I could borrow the talking point's the "Campaign First" McCain crew sent out to surrogates after 'suspending' the campaign to 'put the 'country first.'

I mean seriously, can John McCain think of a few more publicity stunts to pull out before the campaign? If he is looking for some more ideas for publicity stunts maybe he should check out this link.

I'd like to remind Senator McCain that the President of the United States has the weight of 300million people on his/her shoulders. It's their job to 'prioritize' what's going on, project calm and instill confidence.

If you are going to conduct a stunt and cover it in the veil of righteous sanctimony you should make sue you can't get caught, oh I don't know, campaigning with the press.

Like McCain did last night when he called to cancel cancel on David Letterman and said he was heading back to Washington?

Instead John McCain got destroyed by Letterman last night who found out that instead of heading back to Washington as he told Letterman directly that he would,,, he went down the street to conduct an interview with Katie Couric. The video from the Letterman is at the conclusion of this article. He was in rare form.

Letterman expressed anger because he was lied to, generally people don't like that.

The question I have begun to ask myself in the past 10 days is this.

Has John McCain changed his stripes in order to win the Presidency?


Did John McCain change his stripes to become the "Maverick" that we thought he was in recent years?

I'm beginning to think that in this election,,, the flip-flopping, say anything, knee jerk reactionary methods,, is the real McCain.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Unified Congress,,,, Against Bush

Wrote the other day that I didn't like the way the $700billion+ bailout was being forced and rushed by the Bush Administration.

The 'rush' and Bush bullying has done one unexpected thing.

That would be a unifying us in a way we haven't been in quite some time.

That unity is between Congressional Democrats and Republicans who are both outraged at this proposal of the Bush Administration.

One of the things I learned since writing the other day was that the proposal from Secretary Paulson for the $700billion,,, was a whopping 3 pages long.

3 pages?!?!?!

I've written more about The Biggest Loser on this blog than three pages.

Yet, Bush and Paulson expect Congress and the American people to give them access to $700billion to bail out corrupt and irresponsible companies, based on a 3 page document that makes the Treasury Secretary a Kingmaker.

The irresponsibility and arrogance of Bush and Paulson to propose this bailout plan with no oversight or accountability derailed the quick action we needed.

Why would Bush and Paulson not propose a comprehensive plan that included oversight, transparency, safeguards, and equity for taxpayers?

There is no reasonable answer to this question.

They should have acted in the best interest of the American people and demanded accountability but instead tried to bully the Congress and scare the American people. This time it doesn't appear as though it will work and the result is that the Congress is having to write the bill from scratch.

Had they made a serious and comprehensive proposal, we would be much closer to a resolution than we are right now.

Every time I think that this administration can't be any worse, they find a way to prove me wrong.

Bush has had an incredible chance to finish his lost Presidency by acting with responsibility and leadership. He could have reassured and demonstrated to people that despite the election to replace him being 6 weeks away,, that he is the leader of the country.

Instead he is hiding behind his Treasury Secretary who is now taking a beating.

Here's the problem with the whole thing.

The Congress needs to act. This isn't a faux economic threat, it's for real.

Thanks to this being an election year and a lack of leadership in the White House,, this financial crisis is being used for political gain. By Democrats to blame Bush and by Republicans to separate from Bush.

They can't afford to act like him they need to come up with a solution that will begin to solve the problem.

The result of 'no action' could be disastrous for all of us.

Yet the result of 'wrong action' could be even worse.

It's time for the legislative branch who has been far too minimized in recent years to reassert itself. This is their chance to show that the representatives of the people can work for the people.

Let's see real bipartisan work on the hill from both parties where they come up with a bill that holds Wall St's feet to the fire, makes the taxpayers equity holders in the companies they bail out, and doesn't include unneccessary earmarks and pork.

The President has decided not to step up, the Congress of the United States needs to.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There

“This is no time for partisanship, we must join to move urgently needed legislation as quickly as possible without adding controversial provisions that could delay action,” said President George W. Bush in a recent White House statement flanked by the Fed Chairman, Treasury Secretary, and SEC Chairman.

There he goes again.

This is the modus operandi of the Bush administration. Wait until things are so bad that action must be swift,,, and then force legislation down the Congress and the people’s throats.

There is nothing that the Bushie’s enjoy more than using the fears of the American people to drive a wedge between Democrats in Congress and the American people.

We’ve seen this tactic before.

Whether it was with the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, or the resolution to authorize the use of force in Iraq, President Bush executing the Karl Rove playbook has used the bully pulpit to force his will without time for thought, strategy, or real debate.

These were all critical and serious decisions that were used as political weapons and rushed to turn into law.

Rational thought, logical planning, and long term strategy were all removed from the process in order to pass legislation or create departments to try and achieve a short term political victory.

What have been the results of this strategy?

- The Patriot Act gutted the civil liberties our country was founded.
- The Department of Homeland Security became a bureaucratic nightmare that helped lead to the mess of Hurricane Katrina
- Don’t get me started on Iraq.

So how does this apply to the current situation?

In addition to the statement that I started this article with,,, the President also said…

“There will be ample opportunity to debate the origins of this problem, now is the time to solve it.”

Now is the time to solve it?

Wouldn’t a pro-active approach, say a year or so ago, have prevented us from having to ask Congress to approve spending $700billion or more in a week’s time?

This $700billion that the President says we have to ‘quickly approve’, does not include the roughly $800billion that have already been guaranteed to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, AIG.

So that means that because the banks, creditors, and investment houses were all consumed with Gordon Gecko like greed and corruption,,, we the taxpayers have to pump $1.5-$2.0trillion to bail these bastards out.

This $700billion plus dollars they are asking for now, also does not include the money that other failing industries are going to ask for in upcoming months.

That’s right people, the companies that have failed already, like the Banks and Investment Houses, are just the 1st in line for Government bailouts. The airline industry and automakers are next, and who knows who will follow after that.

So here’s my beef with the President and the Treasury Secretary’s latest plan.

Why should we accept the plan from the administration on face value?

This is an administration that has missed the mark on most everything it has decided to get involved in, yet now we should just ask no questions and be happy to spend close to a trillion dollars of taxpayer money to bail out institutions that’s own greed and malfeasance have put their futures at risk.

This isn’t $50 or $100 a taxpayer we are talking about. Say there are 200million taxpayers in the US, and the final tally for this part of bailout is around $1trillion. That would balance out to around $5,000/taxpayer. Ask the ‘middle class’ if they could spend 'their $5,000' on something more important than corporate welfare.

Honestly if you include all the bailouts and loans, and government taken over operations, the bill is going to be closer to $2trillion. That means $10,000/taxpayer!!!!!!

People all across this country have seen their retirement accounts go down, their mortgage rates and transportation costs go up and are now being told that it is their responsibility to bail out corrupt billion dollar companies from their own mistakes to the tune of thousands of dollars per taxpayer.

Not just their tax responsibility, but that their money should be spent ‘quickly’ and without ‘Controversial provisions that could delay action,’ as the President said.

What are these controversial provisions?

1. Limiting CEO and Executive Pay: The thought here is that if a company has been mismanaged and applies to have the government buy their assets that the boards and executives of those companies will not be able to get multimillion dollar bonuses because of the bailout.
2. Providing Relief to the mortgage holders and homeowners of America: The thinking that it’s unfair to bail just the lenders and the banks and not the people that were victims of predatory lending or irresponsibility of the lenders and credit agencies.
3. Appointing a panel of experts or a ‘Czar’ to manage the holdings: The current plan gives almost soul power to the Treasury Secretary to the $700billion and what to buy and sell of the assets they are buying. Some smart people like Warren Buffet are proposing a team of experts or an independent ‘Czar’ of this program. Michael Bloomberg’s name has been floated for this post. Especially considering the Treasury Secretary will not have this job in just about 4 months.

Now I have never claimed to be a financial expert, but these provisions seem to be reasonable to consider and at least we should discuss these provisions.

Deep down I wish all the executives of these institutions, whom make Enron look semi-responsible, were allowed to go under and that we taxpayers didn’t have to give them one dime.

Yet the potential catastrophic effects on the markets, both here and abroad, has made me come to grips with the fact that we indeed have to act soon.

But what exactly is ‘quickly’ as the President said?

We may not have another chance to really turn things around in both the short and more importantly, long term. We need to do so with a way that looks past the just the anxiety of today and attempt to think logically for the long term prosperity of our country.

I may be wrong, but we may only have one shot at doing this right.

I for one want to be sure that our government gives some strategic long term thought, and takes a certain level of care to make sure companies don’t abuse this system. You know the way they abused the system to get us into this mess.

So back to how long a time ‘quickly’ is.

If Congress takes an extra couple days or even a week before spending a trillion taxpayer dollars, then so be it.

If the world markets suffer an extra day or week in the short term, that may be the price we all pay to ensure long term success.

This is our money and our economic future, the Congress and administration better make sure that they do it right and not blow this opportunity to set us on a new course.

That new course, by the way, a much more socialized government.

The President is right we need to act soon.

Yet, if anyone should know the effects of faulty planning one would think it would think it would be the man whose piss poor planning led to the debacle in Iraq.

I plead with the President, Treasury Secretary, and Congress...

Don't rush too fast, please do it right.

Obama and Bartlett?

I received about 20 emails this weekend on my personal and 17people email account. for those who don't know how to reach me.

Every had the same thought. An article by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times that put and email she received from 17people hero Aaron Sorkin that put forth an imaginary discussion between Senator Barack Obama and fictional President from my beloved West Wing, Jed Bartlett (pictured above).

Here's the link to the article,, it's a good read.

As a tough critic of anything West Wing, I am jealous that Dowd can just email Sorkin while I just get to quote him. He hit the chord of Bartlett better than ever.
A tear comes to my eye as I try to imagine President Bartlett saying most everything, especially him being a smartass with high-level humor and satire.

Telling Obama that it's ok to be smart and it's dumb to try and not be smart.

A brilliant family member of mine said this would be a great SNL skit. Bring Martin Sheen and Barack Obama in and have them act out this conversation. Think that would be awesome.

There are many great fictional exchanges including the Bartlett rant at the end, but my favorite was right at the beginning about the Republican Convention.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Matters May Finally Matter?

As I write this the NYSE fell 451 points today, it fell 500 on Monday.

Mega financial institution Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and is having a large part of its assets bought by the British Bank, Barclays. It was last trading at $.13/share. A year ago it was over $60/share.

AIG, one of the largest insurers in the world, is the latest of $800 billion of bailouts from the Federal Government this year, with an $85billion loan guarantee.

All of a sudden, 'lipstick on a pig' doesn't seem so important.

I watched some of the 7th season of the West Wing over the historically rainy weekend we had in Chicago. This is the season there was a fictional Presidential election that has many similarities to this campaign.

One line struck me that I heard the fictional Republican Nominee Senator Arnold Vinnick who was almost written as McCain.

"Years I've been looking forward to this campaign. I never imagined it would look like this."

My guess is that John McCain deep down,, thinks the same thing.

- He wants to really talk straight and rip his party, but has to do so in a way to keep his party together. He can't afford to aggravate the 20% out there who still believe in George Bush. Why? Because those 20% could be the difference in the election if enough of them stay home.
- He is now the second most wanted and interesting figure on his own ticket. He made a VP selection in order to perform a publicity stunt instead of taking who he really wanted, a true Maverick pick like Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge.
- Not to mention his VP continues to lie about her record with regards to bridges, teleprompters, EBay, and many other things when nearly every independent analyst says she is not being truthful.
- She also is now not cooperating with an investigation about abuse of power that she said for months she would.
- He has seen his campaign lie a little, lie a lot, and then lie some more. The "Straight Talk Express" is no more. He has mostly ads, that have nothing to do with issuers. He ran an ad quoting the non-partisan group,, that said was inaccurate.

And then reality hits this week. Bankrupctys, billion dollar bailouts, and already around 800 points off the NYSE.

Rightful fear, anger, and concern have hit the nation.

None of the bullshit and Republican smokescreen matter. Worse for McCain, his team made 'lipstick' the issue in the week leading up to this.

In non-scary times, that may work. With 401k's becoming 200.5k's in three days, spending money on 'lipstick' falls very flat.

"The fundamentals of the economy are strong," said John McCain after a 500 point drop on Monday.

In response he gets hammered by Obama, Biden, and virtually anyone with a brain and his response...

The "Fundamentals" of the economy he now claims, means the American worker and saying the economy is weak means that workers are weak.

Well the problem with this statement, just like his bullshit righteous indignation over 'lipstick on a pig',,, is that John McCain repeated this statement many other times. McCain has used the 'fundamentals' statement no less than 22 times. If you don't believe me see the video below.

Again, where's the Straight Talk?

Presidential campaigns are very fluid. The last two weeks, McCain was killing, but it set him up for a fall. This week Obama is winning each day.

Right now,, the voters are less concerned with who they 'relate to' or who they want to BBQ with.

With any luck, we'll stay focused on the issues, let the winner of this election be the one who has the best ideas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

17 People to Return Tomorrow

Know that a lot has gone on from Sarah Palin interviews to Saturday Night Live to real economic fears.

17people has been hard at work on some non-political things and wil return tomorrow.

As always thank you to the readers, contributors, and emailers who have checked in and support 17people regularly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Tribute To Heroes

September 11, 2001.

We all know where we were that day, and if you talk to anyone about it,, you are bound to hear a story about what they were feeling, who they were worried about, or what was going on in their lives that day.

Today's a somber day, a day of remembrance, and a day to forget about politics. I have sat in my office or house each of the last seven years watching the coverage, or watching YouTube tributes and remember that day. It's hard day to focus, it's a day I think we are all easily moved to tears.

My tradition every 9/11 is to watch the DVD of "A Tribute to Heroes".

It was a powerful two hour telethon that raised over $30million for the victims of the attacks.

An incredible opening 5 minutes with Bruce Springsteen (before I was a huge fan of his) singing an acoustic version of the never heard before "My City of Ruin", followed by Tom Hanks telling a tale of the heroism that took place on Flight 93 always grip me right off the bat.

In between the powerful musical performances were the extraordinary stories of just some of the many heroes of 9/11.

Every year I watch this, I think it will impact me less because it's another year removed. Yet each year my eyes fill with tears, my heart aches for the families who lost loved ones, and I am so proud of the courageousness of my fellow Americans.

Below is the first 20 minutes or so of a Tribute to Heroes from September 21, 2001.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

John McCain was Better Than This Once

I expect more from John McCain than we are seeing.

This is a man whose signature issue 8 years ago was Campaign Finance Reform.

This is a man who was slandered worse than anyone in the past 20 years of political campaigns when the Bush campaign destroyed him in South Carolina in 2000.

But as was pointed out in a comment on a blog article McCain now has some of those people that slandered him,, currently on his pay role. In fact the person who may have been most responsible for those 2000 South Carolina primary, Tucker Eskew, is now working directly with Governor Palin.

We heard John McCain at the convention talk about a different kind of politics, changing the way things are done in Washington, and for years talk about the need to clean up our campaigns. Remember, the line at the end or beginning of campaign commercials,,,

"I'm Candidate X and I approve this message"

That line is a result of the McCain-Feingold bill. I remember John McCain saying in interviews that this meant candidates had to stand by their ads, and if they were bad, or misleading, they would 'pay the price'.

Today, John McCain finally lost me. I have tried to see the old McCain, the Maverick, but his campaign released two ads today that are ridiculous. His convention speech, which was generally upbeat and positive doesn't stand the smell test of his two ads today.

Now above everything else that I have written on this blog is that this election has to be about issues. That we have real problems, too many for me to write in this article.

Yet the McCain team has gone from being the victim of the Rove-Bush politics that said he had a black child in South Carolina in 2000, to using similar strategies.

It's very disappointing to me, because as someone who stood up for John McCain in 2000 and in years since, I never thought he would stoop to this level. It's a flip flop of his values, and it's dragging this campaign into the mud.

Everything they've done recently has worked so these ad's may end up being effective, but I think these ads, and the distortions and ugliness of them, may backfire. Maybe not, but I usually put faith in people.

The first ad claims that Obama authored a bill that said we should teach kindergarten kids sex education. It's a false claim, instead it was a bill that talked about teaching young kids what they should tell their parents, when older people touched them. It was designed to give kids lessons to prevent potential sexual abuse.

How do I know this, because this is not an original attack. Team McCain stole this from Obama's 2004 Senate opponent, Alan Keyes, who tried the same lie of attack ('lie of attack', like that?). Obama is a parent of two beautiful little girls, to try and label him as someone pushing sex on kids!

John McCain was once better than that.

The second ad surrounds the 'lipstick' comment Obama made yesterday. It was a comment he made about John McCain. Yet the McCain campaign responds with an ad saying Obama said 'lipstick on a pig, is still a pig' about Sarah Palin.

Here are the video of Obama. I think people can see this for themself and make their own minds up. This is not an issue of any consequence so watche these three clips, Obama's original statement, the McCain ad, and Obama's subsequent response.

The only editorial comment from me before these clips is this...

The ad was a web ad, this means John McCain, never had to say, "this is John McCain and I approve this message."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Don't Ignore What Matters

Had an IM conversation with a friend of mine today who after we lamented the poor starts of our fantasy football teams told me the following. For anonymity's sake we'll call him OLM.

OLM : talking about woulda's
OLM: the stock market!!!
Me: i hear ya
OLM: wow man
OLM: im taking a bath on EVERYTHING

It hit me soon after this point of our conversation what this election is really about, real American's well being.

I say this because soon after the above exchange we got into a 20 line discussion about what a joke Sarah Palin is. The Palin pick 9 or 10 days later, is serving as what I feared it would.

She's a smokescreen for what really matters. It even caused McCain campaign manager Rick Davis to say,,,

"This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

The focus needs to be on the IM conversation above and not on the soap opera that is the Palin nomination.

I wrote after Bill Clinton's speech that his messaging is always way better than the Democrats and it's time to go back to Clinton basics.

"It's the economy stupid."

I follow stocks from afar, but people are hurting, 401k's are shrinking, everything that is supposed to be up,, is down,, everything that is supposed to be down,,, is up.

This is what matters, this is what the Democrats have to stay focused on like Barack Obama tried to do with Keith Olbermann last night. The answer to every question should be 'McPalin economics are the same as George W. Bush's.'

In this country,, pensions are a thing of the past. We overwhelmingly rely on the stock market and 401k's to accumulate wealth. If not the market, many are invested heavily in real estate, and that market is almost scarier than the stock market.

So the effect this recession is killing all of us in the pocketbooks right now whether we know it or not.

The Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout was probably necessary, but if the housing market gets worse,, the taxpayers will pay the bill as always.

When I first started following politics it was 1992 and Ross Perot was on TV with his charts talking about the national debt. After turning things around in the 1990's under Clinton and the Gingrich congress (that's for you BKA) we made headway in paying down our debt.

Now after 6 years of single party rule, two years of a Democratic controlled chickenshit congress, and above all the 'have your cake and eat it to' Presidency of George W. Bush, we now have to fear what the future of our economy holds and what happens when our debts come due.

Sarah Palin interviews, liberl or conservative media bias, political process stories,,,

In a different year these might be issues of importance, but this year is different, we have to know what these two tickets are going to do to ensure our futures or if we are going to all be learning Mandarin or Hindi because the Chinese and Indians have lapped us in the world.


OLM just instant messaged me

"down 275 today"

Shit, and Democrats are worried about Palin interviewing with the media. Talk about the economy and take the message of the election back.

Time to hold these candidates feet to the fire on the economy.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Convention Hangover

After an intensive couple weeks of politics with the ill conceived idea of back to back conventions,, I am drained from writing and watching anything politics. I watched half of Joe Biden's Meet the Press interview yesterday and couldn't focus.

The result will be a week or so of shorter blogs while I wait for Obama or Palin to say something that fires me up.

Here is what we can say for sure though.

The Democrats decision to have their Convention the week before the Republicans really ate their 'bounce'. The party that gets to go last has the advantage and after the more hopeful message of Denver, the Republicans played it right to blast away and have McCain come in with a more 'unifying' speech at the end.

The publicity stunt of the Palin VP pick also did it's job in the short term to eat into the Dem's convention boost than in years past.

The Palin, I mean McCain convention has apparently given McCain a solid boost heading into this week with a 54-44 lead in the latest Gallup poll.

Those who have read this blog know I talk very little about polls as I just don't believe in them that much. As someone who used to work campaigns I have worked the ground where the polls had us down the night before the election by 3 points and we won by almost 20 points. Have seen polls the day before the election that had us up 15 points and we won by only 5.

Presidential polls carry even less weight for me. We see a 1, 3, or 10 point spread nationally and but as Al Gore learned, the national vote doesn't mean shit. You have to win states and this year there are more states that are up in the air than ever before.

But I for one, am worn out from the last two weeks and want to see all the candidates have to face tough questions and scrutiny the rest of the way.

The conventions were great theatre and watched by millions which encourages me that we may actually have a genuine big turnout.

The race is on and it's gonna be one hell of a ride.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Initial McCain Speech Thoughts

What an uncharacteristically unfocused convention by the Republicans. Now for the record I think conventions are overrated and mean very little in the grand scheme of things. As long as you aren't so negative you should be able to recover from most anything. But after a convention you should come out with a clear message. The Republican party's message was clear, they really like drilling, and the only real excitement they have for their ticket right now, if for their VP nominee.

Let me start out by saying I feel bad for John McCain. For many years until his transformation from Maverick to typical politician the past 2 year I have respected his politics. I didn't agree with them, but as a Democrat I didn't need the video last night to respect what his service meant to the country. I've always and still do respect it. That service however has never really been a factor by the faithful of his own party for the past 8 years who always wished he fell in line with them. It was Karl Rove who spread rumors about him having a 'black baby' in South Carolina in 2000.

Now McCain has fallen in line with them and they still haven't embraced him.

Yes their were people choked up during the harrowing and powerful tale of his awful imprisonment as a POW, but their was tepid enthusiasm for the vast majority of the rest of his speech.

John McCain, a man who has wanted to be the Republican nominee for President since 1996 when he deferred to friend Phil Gramm should have had the joy of a great culmination this week and he didn't get it. By choosing Sarah Palin to appease the radical religious right wing of his party he made the McCain convention into the Palin convention.

In the end the pick may get him closer to the White House, but if he gets there he better watch his back, because the people that are going to come after him are his own party who apparently really want Sarah Palin, someone they hardly know to be the face of their party.

As for McCains speech, I have written here before and many have said, big speeches are not McCain's strong suit. His personal story was too buried at the end of a speech that my guess had many people turning the channel in the middle of it.

His two biggest non-Palin applause lines.

Drilling: Followed by the delegates shouting their favorite phrase of the convention.

"Drill, baby, drill."

They shouted this during Rudy's speech, Palin's speech, and McCain's as well. Let's just say I think that independent voters are more impressed and in line with "Yes we can!", than 'drill baby drill.'

The other line the audience seemed to explode for was when he said "help bad teachers find another line of work."

Now I'm not for bad teachers either. But you have to respect people that go into teaching and the Republican party is now going to fire bad teachers? Exactly how are they going to do this? Is the 'bureaucratic federal government' going to go into your child's classrooms and determine who the bad teachers are. Or are low standardized test scores going to determine a good or bad teacher?

As was the case with the whole week, the Republicans did and said nothing to lay out a plan or vision. McCain wasn't super negative, but as opposed to the tried and true strategies of Rove and Bush, their wasn't a coherent, simple plan that their troops could take to the streets.

They are running a campaign of as Peggy Noonan said yesterday, about narratives. Rove knew this is never enough. Even those that think the how much you want to 'have a beer' with the candidate determines elections, the candidates have to relate to people on things that effect them.

While 'No Child Left Behind' is a failed plan in my opinion, it was an incredible talking point as patronizing as it was.

If the McCain camp thinks 'Country First' will hold the same weight I just think they are four years too late for that message.

The Palin speech was a nasty attack job, but the enthusiasm in the room was palpable. McCain tried to be a bit of a healer, a bit of an attack dog, and a bit of a Maverick last night. The problem with trying to be too many things is that you don't really come off as any of them.

I appreciated his respectful comments about Obama and his supporters, but then he undercut it in typical kinda snide, kinda arrogant McCain.

His attacks on Obama didn't really carry the weight or convincing power behind them that even Joe Lieberman showed earlier in the week. This had been the critique of Obama before he hit his grand slam in his speech last Thursday.

Finally, he did attempt and rhetorically tried to divorce himself from the past eight years of corruption and mismanagement by the Bush administration, but 'Maverick' McCain used to have real passion behind it. This speech was done in more code and lacked real fire.

The speech overall lacked fire and it's because McCain is a candidate in an identity crisis.

He has won his nomination, but lost his convention to his VP pick.

He wants to speak to voters he has had for years, independents, but has had to walk the line to appease those in his party that have never trusted him.

It should have been the week of McCain, a celebration of his Independence and heroism, and instead it was a week about an unknown politician from Alaska, a cloud of a failed leadership by an unmentioned, bumped out of prime time President, and the result is a week not about John McCain.


There were more than a few smartass comments made by Republicans criticizing the stage that was set up in Denver for the historic and powerful Barack Obama speech last week. They criticized the 'foam Greek Columns' mercilessly.

Yet the Republicans had their own odd and cheap stage trick.

Did anyone else notice the screen on stage after the speech that started showing fireworks?

I mean a foam Greek Column or watching TV to watch fireworks on a,,,,,, giant TV?


God Bless Jon Stewart.

Republicans doubting the Palin Pick

Today I came across this video of Republicans Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan who were on with NBC Political Director, Chuck Todd. Their segment ended and went off camera. Their mic's were 'hot' as they say in the business.

For the record they didn't know they would be heard, but much noise was made when Jesse Jackson made comments about Obama talking down to black people, so 17people must be fair and show what some REPUBLICAN's really think about the Palin pick.

Republican Convention Night Two

I sat down and watched the RNC on DVR last night the same way I did the DNC last week.

And as a brawler, that's what I have been waiting for!

No one does kneecapping like the Republican Party. Something I have always been jealous of, I wish my party could veil itself in 'values' and then rip people apart.

Let me start with Sarah Palin.

I thought she gave an excellent speech. Her delivery was much smoother than I expected considering the short time she had to prepare. Unlike my guy Joe Biden, she didn't step on any lines either and got the maximum bang for her buck. It was a skillful speech, and I think she touted the positives of her experience very well.

To steal a Republican talking point, it was an impressive performance from a young, eloquent, and engaging figure.

The issue I had with her and for the entire night was the snide and nasty nature of the evening.

The Republicans are crying sexism and elitism for any critique of Palin which is good strategy. A good strategy until you turn the night into a character assassination of your opponent.

When you fire away like they did you better be prepared to take return fire.

And for the record, if every attack against Palin is sexist, then wouldn't it be fair to call the demeaning of Barack Obama racist?

Let's open up the record of Sarah Palin. Obama has been through the ringer of debates and interviews since he won the Primary in Illinois in 2004. We have made decisions on him as a nation. Some worship him, some are not sold on him, and some hate him. There are many other views people have of him positive and negative.

Digging into her history is what the media is supposed to do. This is what the Republicans wanted the media and a special prosecutor to do to Bill Clinton.

As Obama has stated and I echoed yesterday, going after her family should be off limits. Yet her statements in favor of things like 'The Bridge to Nowhere' before she was against it, is fair game. Her leaving Wasilla $22million in the hole as Mayor is fair game.

If they are so enamored with her, they should say 'bring it on'.

This is the Vice Presidency, the person who could become President!

We should know where she stands.

We should know where she came from and what she believes.

Blaming the media is just an old political trick. Democrats know this trick better than most, as my buddies, the Clinton's, perfected it. Yet the media is supposed to dig and let's be honest, as a nation very few of us know much about Sarah Palin.

There are two questions that have to be asked though after the past couple nights.

First, when is a Republican going to say by their logic, Sarah Palin has more 'executive experience' than John McCain?

Second, when is a Republican going to mention George W. Bush? They bumped the President out of prime time for Joe Lieberman and I didn't hear Palin say Bush once.

Negativity works in politics, but last night flashed back to Palin's political hero, Pat Buchanan. His legendary hateful 1992 speech was what flashed through my mind with Giuliani. Having him go that negative before her was a bad move. I had 20 texts from friends and family, Republicans and Democrats, who said they changed the channel.

To have Palin follow with condescension against a profession I guess we are supposed to mock now, 'community organizers', was overkill.

In the end it will fire up both bases and turn off the moderate voters.

But that was the point of the Palin nomination. It isn't the Hillary voters, it was done to appeal to the Evangelical voters.

The Dems spent their Convention drawing differences to John McCain, but overall went out of their way to be respectful to his service. The 'values' of the Republicans have thus far not included similar respect towards the careers of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

So it is feeling a lot like more of the same after all?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin Family Values?

Just over three weeks ago I wrote the following about John Edwards.

More importantly, I feel for the Edwards children that they have to go around their friends and classmates with everyone knowing about their dad's terrible mistake. They never asked their dad to run for office or become a celebrity. Many families have issues like this that are never known publicly.

The Edwards kids are the truly unfortunate victims to their dad's mistake. What
I am saying is that I can care less about John Edwards political career. Yet am madder than hell about what he is putting his family through.

Today my thoughts go out to the latest child victim of their parents political ambition, Bristol Palin.

Bristol Palin is a young girl who like many other kids, made a mistake. I know some would jump on this statement, but yes an unplanned pregnancy at 17 is a mistake.

Since her mother decided to join the Republican ticket it is safe to say that Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan will have less paparazzi following them because the picture everyone will be angling for is that of Bristol Palin.

The tabloid media, both national and international are going to make this kid's life miserable.

So I am left to ask. Is Sarah Palin naive in thinking the media won't mercilessly stalk her daughter? Or is she just incredibly selfish and only concerned about advancing her career?

The answer to that question will come out in the next 9 weeks.

I don't think poorly on Palin for her daughter getting pregnant. Yet, I think Palin is selfish for subjecting her daughter to what is going to be an awful media intrusion. For deciding to leave her daughter for at least 9 weeks during the pregnancy.

A good friend and great blog contributor wrote me an email yesterday and said something I have heard many parents say in some form or another..

"Your job as a parent is to protect you kids. That's like, your main job, your most important job."

Sarah Palin forgot this when she accepted the offer from John McCain and her daughter is about to pay the price.

For the record, I think the TMZ's and National Enquirers are all pieces of crap and any unfair or crude coverage of Bristol Palin will be condemned on this blog. Barack Obama has already said that 'kids are off limits' but lets not pretend we don't know what is coming for Bristol Palin. A tough situation of being pregnant is about to be much worse because of her mother's now nationally prominent position.

The reality is anyone who thinks that it won't turn Bristol Palin's life is going to be turned upside down is delusional and it could have been avoided if her mother put her family first and not her political ambition.

I have already heard people say, 'this judgement is a double standard for women. A man wouldn't get this kind of scrutiny over chasing his dream.'

To this I say, bullshit. I would criticize any man who decided to join a ticket under the same circumstances.

For the record I would also loudly criticize any man who decided to leave his wife with their 4 month old baby to run for Vice President.

Another little known act of Palin selfishness is the fact that people don't seem to realize the actual grind of a campaign. There is almost nothing as tough as running for national office and your time is consumed talking to reporters, talking to crowds, and travelling.

Yet Palin's newborn son is about to have an absentee mother for the next 62 days. Where is the values crowd criticizing this? She either won't see baby Trig (I have to admit a very cool name) or take Trig with her on the buses and planes as she travels to 2-3 states daily.

You can't call it bad parenting that caused Bristol Palin's pregnancy, but it's a selfish parental decision that is about to turn her kid's life upside down.

After tonight's speech Palin will surely be lauded as impressive and her performance and selection as that of a 'game changer'. As all these speeches have been. People in the crowd will be crying and say they just saw history.

Yet for me I will see just another politician who put their own life ahead of that of their family.

Republican Convention Night One

Let me start by saying I thought it weird that the Republican Convention was scheduled for Labor Day in the first place. But I give the RNC credit for cancelling the first night of the convention in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

So to last evenings coverage. I watched NBC's coverage and was surprised at how bad things came off. I don't know if this happened on other telecasts but when President Bush spoke they only had the White House feed. I mean there was NO crowd reaction to his speech that you could hear. So on the screen was President Numnuts pausing for applause that the viewing public could not see.

The Bush speech was expectedly lame and uninspiring. But it was an incredible slight that the sitting President of the United States was not only given a non-Primetime speaking slot, that he preceded Fred Thompson and a Democrat.

Now many have given kudos to Fred Thompson and I thought he was pretty good overall, but NBC cut in and out of his speech so much that I couldn't get a real flow of it. He also needed a bottle of water, because the poor guy sounded like he was choking to death through the parts that I saw.

Then came Joe Lieberman. I am disappointed with Joe Lieberman. When he was defeated in the Democratic Primary in 2006 I actually gave money to his independent campaign. It was a small donation but despite his war stance I always respected Joe.

The truth is I still respect Joe, but am disappointed in his remarks last night. Advocate for McCain all you want, he's your friend and I respect the loyalty. But to attack Obama who was always so complimentary to Joe (calling him his mentor a few years back) was bad form.

I was reminded that while I like Joe's demeanor he is an underwhelming presence on the stage. The fact that the Republicans had him as their 'Prime Time' slot last night was an odd choice. Maybe it works, but I think they wasted last evening.

Not to mention the excitement in the stadium was pretty dull the whole evening. Much of the upper deck was empty and while Thompson and Lieberman were good, they were very forgettable.

The truth is this, this has become the Palin convention pure and simple. While expectations were low for Biden as he was 5th on the list of must see speeches last week, all the pressure of this convention is squarely on Sarah Palin this evening.