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How we got here...A unified theory of what went wrong...
Written by Adam   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 11:46

This is a must-read.  I read this over the weekend and it is an article that explains as best as I have seen yet what went wrong in our financial system. 

On Saturday, DailyKos contributing editor Mark Sumner(Devilstower) wrote this piece on the wall street meltdown.  I requested and recieved his permission to post the contents here in full.  So here it is...

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action."
-- Auric Goldfinger

James Bond's wealthy nemesis may have had an obsession with gold, but he judged, quite correctly, that if people keep putting your plans awry, that was likely their intent.

In 1982, the same year John McCain entered the Senate, a bill was put forward that would substantially deregulate the Savings and Loan industry. The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was an initiative of the Reagan administration, and was largely authored by lobbyists for the S&L industry -- including John McCain's warm-up speaker at the convention, Fred Thompson. The official description of the bill was "An act to revitalize the housing industry by strengthening the financial stability of home mortgage lending institutions and ensuring the availability of home mortgage loans." Considering where things stand in 2008, that may sound dubious. It should.

Seven years later, the S&L industry was collapsing. What was the cause? Garn-St. Germain handed the S&Ls a greatly expanded range of capabilities, allowing them to go head to head with full service banks, but it didn't give them the bank's regulations. Left to operate in an anarchistic gray area, S&Ls chased profits, indulged in amazing extravagances, and cranked out enough cheap mortgages to fuel a real estate boom. They also experimented with lots of complex, creative -- and risky -- investments, even though they didn't have the economic models to really determine the worth of the things they were buying. The result was a mountain of bad debts and worthless "assets."  Does any of that sound eerily (or nauseatingly) familiar?

It wasn't a foregone conclusion. In 1985, three years after the deregulation of the S&Ls, the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board saw that the situation was already looking shaky, with the potential to become much worse. He instituted a rule to limit the amounts and types of investments S&Ls could carry on their books in an effort to head off disaster. However, many savings and loans -- among them Lincoln Savings & Loan Association of Irvine, CA, which was headed by a fellow named Charles Keating -- promptly ignored these rules.

Now enters a familiar cast of characters. First to pop up was the universally beloved Fed-chief-to-be, Alan Greenspan. Greenspan argued against the loan board's new rules, and persuaded Reagan to appoint one of Keating's pals to the board to blunt the requirements. A quintet of senators, among them John McCain, began having meetings with both the management at Lincoln and the regulators at the loan board. ] Alan Greenspan also helped out with a letter to the regulators, asking that Lincoln be exempt from the new rules. With their help of Greenspan and their pet senators, Lincoln was able to stay in business an additional two years, at the end of which they failed -- taking the life savings of 21,000, mostly elderly, investors with them.

How involved was John McCain? McCain and Keating had known each other since 1981 and had become fast friends. Of all the "Keating Five," it was McCain who moved into the life of the Lincoln S&L chief. The two men vacationed together multiple times, with the whole McCain clan (babysitter included) heading out for Keating's private Caribbean property on Keating's private jet. McCain didn't think to actually report these trips, or pay for them, until the investigators were breathing down his neck. And McCain took his payment in the form of more than just vacations. Keating and other members of Lincoln's parent company padded McCain's pockets with $112,000 in campaign contributions.

In John McCain's biography, he called his meetings with Keating and regulators "the worst mistake of my life," though from the text you'd think this was a spur of the moment decision, not something that McCain did repeatedly over a space of years. Still, you might think that a "worst mistake" would stay fresh in his memory.

It certainly didn't fade quickly for the country. Following the S&L crisis, the Resolution Trust Company was formed to swallow up the debt of Lincoln and 746 other S&Ls gone wild, and taxpayers were left with the $125 billion bill. The resulting budget deficit forced cutbacks in other programs. The artificial real estate boom collapsed and housing starts fell to their lowest levels in decades. Finally, the whole nation settled in for a period nasty enough that three years later someone could still campaign around the idea "It's the economy, stupid."

Even so, by 1999 Phil Gramm -- who had entered the Senate two years after McCain and quickly become the economic guru of the Keating Five maverick -- put forward the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This Act passed out of the Senate on a party line vote with 100% Republican support, including that of John McCain. (To be fair, the bill eventually passed again with a wide margin following revisions in the House.)

This act repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act. This may sound like a bunch of Congressperson soup, but the gist of it is that Glass-Steagall was put in place in 1933 to control the rampant speculation that had helped cause the collapse of banking at the outset of the depression, and to prevent such consolidation of the banks that the nation had all its eggs in one fiscal basket.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley reversed those rules, allowing not only more bank mergers, but for banks to become directly involved in the stock market, bonds, and insurance. Remember the bit about how S&Ls failed because they didn't have the regulations that protected banks? After Gramm-Leach-Bliley, banksdidn't have that protection either.

Gramm wasn't done. The next year he was back with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which was slipped into a "must pass" spending bill on the last day of the 106th Congress. This Act greatly expanded the scope of futures trading, created new vehicles for speculation, and sheltered several investments from regulation.

As with both Gramm-Leach-Bliley and Garn-St. Germain, large parts of this bill were written by industry lobbyists. This famously included the "Enron Loophole" that exempted energy trading from regulation and was written by (big suprise) Enron Lobbyists working with Gramm. Not coincidentally, Senator Gramm, the second largest recipient of campaign contributions from Enron, was also key to legislating the deregulation of California's energy commodity trading.

Thanks to this fortunate trifecta of Gramm-crafted legislation, Enron was able to create "EnronOnline" and trade electricity in California with absolutely no oversight or transparency. They quickly worked out how to game the system. Previously, there had been only one Stage 3 rolling blackout in the history of California. Within months, the system had been manipulated by traders to generate 38 such blackouts and wholesale electrical prices had gone up more than 3000%. Despite production capacity equal to four times the demand during winter, energy traders even engineered a blackout in mid-January.

During the confusion of these deliberate "shortages" and "price spikes," the California administration of Gray Davis -- blind to speculator manipulations because of the walls erected by Gramm's legislation -- was forced to sign energy contracts at enormous rates. There was little choice, because most of California's public utilities were on the brink of bankruptcy from the rising wholesale prices.

In a single year, Gramm's legislation allowed speculators to bring the state to its knees. Enron alone looted California of $11 billion. The manipulations of the energy market were also a major factor in Davis getting the hook, helped usher the governator into power, and they still have repercussions in California's budget battles today. By the end of that year, the depth of Enron's deception could no longer be hidden, and the whole company came crashing down in the largest bankruptcy in history -- at the time. This brought more billions lost in mutual funds and pension funds across the country, and played a major role in the economic downturn of 2001.

But that was only the second act. The combination of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was a toxic cocktail whose total damage was greater than the sum of its parts.

The first Act promoted bank buyouts and mergers that reached such an insane pitch that the average consumer could only keep up by tracking the changing names on their checks and credit cards. Mercantile buys Ameribanc and Mark Twain. Firstar buys Federated and First Colonial. US Bancorp buys Mercantile and Firstar. And, because it allowed brokerages and insurance companies to mingle with banks, the Act cemented a trend that was already (and illegally) underway in which all those terms had become rather quaint. Is Wachovia a savings bank, an investment bank, a brokerage, or an insurance provider? The answer is "yes."

In allowing financial institutions to grow to Godzilla-sized proportions, Gramm-Leach-Bliley helped ensure that we would have financial entities that were "too big to fail." Rather than choosing to enforce rules that kept these institutions apart, the deregulators chose to create monster bankeragasurances whose downfall (and existence) was enough to threaten the whole system.

But if Gramm-Leach-Bliley removed the limits on size and scope, these new institutions still neededfuel. With many financial transactions operating on razor thin margins, and increasing automation sapping the profits from trading of all sorts, they needed a new way to generate the funds required to swallow their brethren in the merged fiscal corporation pond.  For that, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was a godsend.

Among those instruments which the CFMA sheltered from regulatory scrutiny was something called the "credit default swap." A kind of insurance one bank could exchange with another, credit default swaps supposedly made it safe for banks to take on ever riskier forms of debt. The Act didn't invent these swaps, though they were relatively new. Instead, by placing them in a state where they were not only unregulated but almost perfectly opaque, credit default swaps were turned into the perfect vehicle to fuel a Wall Street revolution. No one had any idea what these things were actually worth, they were traded "over the counter" without being administered by any exchange, and even the SEC could monitor their existence only indirectly.

Who would cheer for a new kind of financial instrument that was difficult to understand, invisible to regulators, and impossible for even the whizziest of Wall Street whiz kids to value? Guess.

More recently, instruments that are more complex and less transparent--such as credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and credit-linked notes--have been developed and their use has grown very rapidly in recent years. The result? Improved credit-risk management together with more and better risk-management tools appear to have significantly reduced loan concentrations in telecommunications and, indeed, other areas and the associated stress on banks and other financial institutions.
--Alan Greenspan, 2002

Get that? Greenspan loved credit default swaps. He opined again and again that such instruments would be the salvation of the industry by spreading around risks. To the mighty Greenspan, both their complexity and their lack of transparency were good things, since swaps would only be handled by the big boys who knew how to play with fire.

When questioned about his support of Gramm's legislation, John McCain called his friend (and by then, campaign co-chair) Gramm "one of the smartest people in the world on the economy" and pointed out that Greenspan also favored the acts Gramm and his coalition of lobbyists had authored. If both Gramm and Greenspan were on his side, McCain couldn't possibly be in the wrong.

Except, of course, that he could.

From the beginning, there were plenty of people in the financial community whose opinion of these unregulated credit swaps was not as rosy as that of Gramm, Greenspan, and McCain. Chief among those speaking in opposition was SEC Chairman, Arthur Levitt. Levitt argued that what the industry needed was more transparency, especially when it came to complex instruments like default swaps, and he testified to this before Gramm's Senate Banking Committee,.

"In my judgment, the risk of this regulatory approach is simply unacceptable for America's investors."
--Arthur Levitt, 1999

Gramm paid no attention.

Credit default swaps did allow the banks to share risks. So much so, that banks raced each other in an effort to find more risks. They made it possible for the down payment on homes to become 3%, 1%,0%. Skip the credit check, avoid the employment requirements, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! We've got a credit default swap, we can do anything!

The encouragement and "safety" that credit default swaps provided made the sub-prime mortgage market possible. Just as with the deregulation of S&Ls in the 1980s, the market was suddenly flooded with easy credit. The result was a real estate boom, soaring home prices, and a plague of "Flip that House!" shows on cable.

As the banks piled up crappy mortgages, they heaped on ever more of the credit default swaps -- and they still had no idea how to value the things. Worse, they began to trade the swaps themselves as if they were an investment, treating them like something worth holding instead of a big bundle of cartoon bombs whose fuses were already lit. Since very few loans were falling into default at the time, owning a default swap seemed like a way to collect fees without ever paying out. Banks wanted more, and more, and more.  

A secondary market for trading swaps exploded into existence, and swaps were traded with absolutely no consideration for the nature or quality of the underlying investment. Swaps changed hands a dozen or more times, growing in "value" as they went. Worse still, no one regulated who could buy a swap, so it was (and is) perfectly possible for a company to acquire swaps that theoretically cover billions of dollars in loans, even if that company doesn't have a red cent on hand to cover those swaps should the loans default.

How big did this market become? Here's business correspondent Bob Moon and host Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media's Marketplace from back in the spring.

BOB MOON: OK, I'm about to unload some numbers on you here, so I'll speak slowly so you can follow this.

The value of the entire U.S. Treasuries market: $4.5 trillion.

The value of the entire mortgage market: $7 trillion.

The size of the U.S. stock market: $22 trillion.

OK, you ready?

The size of the credit default swap market last year: $45 trillion.

KAI RYSSDAL: That's a lot of money, Bob.

As in three times the whole US gross domestic product, Bob. And the truth is that Moon probably underestimated. The unregulated and poorly reported credit default swaps may have actually passed $70 trillion last year, or about $5 trillion more than the GDP of the entire world.

So, are you starting to get an idea of just how big a genie Phil Gramm and his pals unleashed?

With some regularity over the last eight years, fiscal whistle blowers have tried to raise their hands and register a protest. Um, sirs? Is it altogether a good idea to run up debts exceeding all the assets it's even possible to hold? But so long as no one actually had to pay off on the swaps, the party went on.  Even usually conservative (in the fiscal sense) companies like AIG started to worry that they were being left behind and leapt headlong into the swap pool.

Shortly after Greenspan's departure in 2006, the Federal Reserve took the unusual step of issued a joint statement along with the SEC to warn about the risks associated with credit default swaps. But by that point, the damage was already severe. If swaps lost their value, most of those who had played the game would find their giant firms abruptly valued in pocket change. The only solution was to cover the problem with still more swaps and keep moving.

Then a funny thing happened. After years in which banks had handed out loans willy-nilly, guarded by the indestructible swap, people and companies started to really default on those loans. Credit slowed, home prices fell, and the whole snake started to eat itself tail first. Suddenly, credit default swaps were not sources of limitless cash. It turns out that an insurance policy -- even a secret, unregulated policy -- is occasionally expected to pay. Speculators started to look at the paper they were holding and for the first time realized it could all be worthless. Worse, it could (and did) represent a massive debt; one that no one had the funds to cover.

When Bear Stearns fell apart last March, it was only suspected that a big part of the effort in saving the giant investment bank was keeping their holdings in credit default swaps from unraveling and spreading to other institutions. Naturally, part of solving this problem involved creating a new credit default swap to cover Bear Stearn's potential debt. But the all-purpose swap was starting to lose its power. Shortly after Bear Stearns went belly up, AIG reported the largest quarterly loss in the company's history, taking a $11 billion hit on revaluing its holdings of swaps. The party was definitely coming to a close.

When AIG finally collapsed this week, there was no doubt about the primary cause of its failure. The previously well grounded company had "gotten itself involved with something called credit default swaps." Point of irony alert: Arthur Levitt now serves on the AIG board... or at least he did until the government had to take over most of AIG to salvage the company from the very idiocy Levitt had warned of in 1999.

This week, the Bush administration announced the beginnings of a plan to salvage what remains of the financial markets. At first glance, it appears that the plan will consist mainly of creating a kind of "garbage pit," a fund or group of funds -- cousins of the Resolution Trust that was created during the S&L crisis -- into which those people who have dabbled in bad debts can toss their problems. Only this time the cost to the taxpayers is at least $700 billion... and a big bite out of representative democracy.

The expansion of unregulated Savings and Loans in the 1980s brought on the collapse of that industry, a crippling of the economy, and left taxpayers holding the bag. Maybe that was only happenstance. Those pushing for the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act may not have known what they were doing.

The deregulation of the California electricity market, along with the protections provided to Enron through Phil Gramm's lobbyist-written legislation brought blackouts, fiscal and political chaos, and left taxpayers holding the bag. But the people who engineered that event -- people like Gramm and Greenspan -- had already seen what happened with the S&Ls. They should have known better. Still, perhaps that was only coincidence.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis that has not only come so close to utterly destroying the markets, but has ruined the value of many people's homes and left millions with mortgages they can't pay, was also the outcome of the deregulation created by these men. The very predictable outcome.  When taxpayers are left holding the bag for $1 trillion this time around, it's hard to believe it's any sort of accident.

This is enemy action. This is a bullet deliberately fired into the economy by men willing to exercise their ideology regardless of the cost to taxpayers. Men who have every expectation that they can plunder the system again and again, while the public picks up the tab. John McCain may not have had his finger directly on the trigger, but he was there. He assisted. These were his personal friends and philosophical comrades. He may not be the high priest, but he has been a loyal acolyte in the cult of deregulation.

It may come as a surprise to the champions of deregulation, but nobody likes regulation. The restrictions that were placed on banks, S&Ls, and other institutions in the 1930s weren't put there because someone thought it would be fun. They were put in place because they addressed problems that had just been clearly and painfully revealed. They were put in place because they were necessary.

It's bad enough if John McCain didn't know that. It's far worse if he did.


So here we sit, with the White House, instead of asking to remove the deregulation that caused the mess, asking for the chance to do whatever they want with up to $700,000,000,000 of our money with this provision attached: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."  In the words of our great president,

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

 
Gathering Storm of Obama Supporters Extends to Minot
Written by Chet   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 10:33

OThe transition from national-campaign driven Obama machine to grassroots-driven Obama machine has expanded up to Minot.  I got an e-mail today from one of the Minot organizers, and here's what it says:

Hello everyone,

This email contains both an invitation and an urgent request!

Invitation:  Crucial Democratic Meet up meeting, Friday September 26th at 7 pm.  Snacks provided!

Urgent Request:  If you are available on a regular basis to staff Democratic Headquarters between the hours of 10 am - 8 pm Monday-Saturday and 1-4 Sunday, please contact Lisa Borden-King (852-5294; 340-1154; bordenki (at) srt (daught) com)

As you may or may not have heard, the Obama staffers who have been working in  ND are being sent to Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Although we will miss them, we have an opportunity to jump in here and really work to win the election in November.  I don't have to remind any of you how important this election is -- from privatizing social security to ignoring our endangered environment to economic security for working families.  We MUST win in November -- and now we are the only ones who can make it happen!

You are invited to a meeting on Friday, September 26th at Democratic Headquarters (in the building on the corner of 4th and 16th across from the building with the VW on the rook :) at 7 pm.  At this meeting we will be discussing ideas to get things moving here in ND -- from convincing undecided voters to getting out the vote on election day! The actions we will take at this meeting are crucial to our wonderful local candidates in districts 38 and 40, as well as our outstanding state candidates, AND our presidential candidate.  After a brief meeting, we will watch the first presidential debate at 8 pm.  Snacks will be provided so come hungry and ready to work!!

In addition to any ideas generated at the meeting on Friday, we need to keep the Democratic Headquarters opened and staffed from approximately 10 am to 8 pm Monday-Saturday and 1-4 on Sundays.  We have been having a fair number of walk-ins and anyone who comes in needs to find a friendly person ready to help them and answer their questions about local, state, and national races.  Lisa Borden-King has volunteered to coordinate this effort so if you have ANY time (preferably on a regular basis between now and the election) please contact her so that we can keep the office open for the public.  (Her phone is 852-5294; her cell is 340-1154 and her email is bordenki (at) srt (daught) com)

I still haven't heard anything about similar grassroots movements in Fargo or Grand Forks, but I'm pretty sure they're happening.  There are lots and lots of Obama supporters in the Red River Valley.

 
Bush Doesn't Want Economic Smoking Gun to be Economic Mushroom Cloud
Written by Chet   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 10:17

McChicken... and McSame -- of course -- jumps right in line.

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and Rick Klein report: Sen. John McCain on Wednesday said he would “suspend” his presidential campaign to come to Washington to help negotiate a financial bailout bill, a dramatic move designed to seize a powerful issue.

However a senior Obama campaign official said Obama "intends to debate."

"The debate is on," a senior Obama campaign official told ABC News.

McCain said he called on the Commission on Presidential Debates to postpone the debate scheduled for Friday in Mississippi, to ensure quick congressional action.

ABC News

I heard Bush and McSame are asking Colin Powell to talk to the United Nations about this, too.  Something about yellow cake on Wall Street.

Why should the whole world believe George Bush and John McSame when they say there's impending doom on the horizon that justifies the passage of legislation that hasn't been meaningfully debated in Congress?  Sure, if someone with an ounce of crediblity said it it might be worth considering, but George W. Bush? 

Why, again, would we believe him?

And can someone explain to me what's wrong with the limits Democrats want on the $700 billion proposal from Bush?  Why should any part of the $700 billion publicly funded bailout go toward golden parachutes for McSame's Wall Street buddies who created this problem?  

We really deserve better.

 
NDGrassroots4Obama: The New Sheriff In Town
Written by Chet   
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 17:44

Sen. Tracy Potter Addresses Standing Room Only Crowd at Obama HQThere's a new sheriff in town.  A brand-new volunteer-driven group met at the old Barack Obama campaign office in Bismarck tonight.  The group is calling itself "NDGrassroots4Obama" (or "NDGO").  They had a standing-room-only crowd in attendance tonight, made up entirely of volunteers and "community organizers" who are committed to continuing the work started by Barack Obama's paid campaign staff for a Barack Obama victory in North Dakota in November.  Only difference is that the new team is more excited to win.  If that's possible.

Though there are still some details to work out, one thing is for sure:  There will continue to be a team of Obama supporters staffing an office in Bismarck through election day, working the phones, canvassing our neighborhoods and organizing events.  They've divided up the work into about 10 different areas of focus, ranging from office logistics to volunteer coordination, and everything in between.

Volunteer organizers facilitated the meeting, with a inspirational message from Senator Tracy Potter (D-Bismarck), who fired up the team.  The meeting lasted almost two hours and was attended by over 50 volunteers, all of whom were able to make it to the meeting on short notice.

This energetic group has never stopped making phone calls, canvassing door-to-door and distributing literature, yard signs and bumper stickers.  

NDGO's next team event -- open to all Obama supporters -- is a Presidential Debate Watch Party at NDGO's temporary (and hopefully their eventual permanent) headquarters at 3333 East Broadway, Suite 1206, Bismarck on Friday night (Sept. 26) at 7:00 p.m.  It's "pot-luck" and BYOB and BYOC.  (Bring your own chair).  Though this new group has lots of tables and chairs, they ran out of chairs for the big meeting tonight.  Bring your own chair on Friday night or you probably won't have a place to sit.

After Friday's debate, the group will meet next for an organizational meeting Tuesday night -- September 30 -- at 7:30 p.m.  It should be at the same place, but check back for details.

If you haven't signed up as a volunteer yet, the NDGO group is inviting people to stop in at the office anytime this week.  Doors are open 8:30 a.m. until... well... late.  Probably 8 or 9 p.m. 

Let me repeat that (because it feels pretty good):  An office -- and gathering place -- for Barack Obama supporters and volunteers continues to be open in Bismarck.

 
Workers Comp: Alaska Style
Written by Chet   
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 16:48
Work Comp

You guys are going to love this:  Alaska has a Workers Comp scandal involving its Governor's Office, too.

Specifically:

Independent investigator Steve Branchflower testified recently he believes someone in the governor's office tried to block Wooten's workers' compensation injury benefits.

Harbor Adjustment Services, the company hired by the state to process, evaluate and decide on workers' benefit claims, had great financial incentive in bowing to pressure from the governor to deny Wooten's injury claim.

Now, you can quibble about whether or not getting Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten -- Palin's estranged ex-brother in law -- fired from his job does anything to protect her family or her sister's family, as Palin herself still claims. Me, I can't see how making it hard for him to pay his bills protects anybody. But maybe the guy shouldn't be carrying a badge and gun. That's possible.

But what possible protective benefit is there in denying the guy's worker's compensation claim?

Palin's got no answer for that, and never will have one. Because there is not possible protective benefit in it. It's 100% pure, uncut spite. And it's using the trappings of high public office to twist the knife in a long-running and increasingly pathological personal vendetta, too.

Sick.

But it gets worse.

DailyKos (go read this whole thing)

This is an unbelievable story.  So unbelievable, I'm not sure I believe it.  But if it's true, it explains why Alaska's Governor -- John McCain's impulse-buy of a VP running mate -- is obstructing the investigation into Troopergate.

I heard Rachel Maddow recently say this about John McSame's pick for Vice President (and I'm paraphrasing):  One of two things is true: either (1) John McCain looked into Sarah Palin's eyes and saw her soul during his once -- ever -- meeting with her and decided to make an uninformed, unjustifiable choice, or (2) John McSame wasn't allowed to pick who he wanted as a running mate and was forced, by somebody else, to chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.  If #1 is true, you'd have to be a complete idiot to vote for John McSame.  If #2 is true, then we have a right to know who forced McSame to pick Palin, and we should be voting on whether we want that person running our country.

 
Fargo Debate Watch Parties
Written by Adam   
Monday, 22 September 2008 10:31

Ok, it's been on the left column for some time but nothing has come of it, so I'll ask everyone as a group:

Who wants to watch the debates together?

If someone would be so gracious to lend us their home to watch the debates that would be awesome, BYOB?

If anyone is interested in going to one(or hosting one) in Fargo contact me(adam [dot] blomeke {at} gmail -dot- com).  You can get a hold of Chad(northdecoder {at} gmail  -dot- com) for a Bismarck party.

It'll be a great way to kick off the grassroots movement.  

I'm also up for drinking lines.  Suggestions: "">My friends,"  "">uh uh, uh, " "">Thanks, but no thanks, " and "">ha!"

 
John Hoeven's Jobs
Written by Chet   
Monday, 22 September 2008 08:55
Jobs
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven's campaign ad (see the Williston Herald website) hints that Hoeven has single-handedly created 30,000 new jobs in North Dakota.  I have a question for Governor Hoeven: 

If there are really 30,000 new jobs in North Dakota, wouldn't that mean there are also 30,000 new people in North Dakota?  

Okay, maybe not 30,000.  But doesn't it mean that a bunch of people -- maybe as many as 25,000 -- have been forced to take a second job just to make ends meet? Or maybe some of those people -- but certainly not all -- had been unemployed.  We all know there aren't 30,000 new people in North Dakota.  North Dakota loses thousands of young people every year with occasional, modest 5-year net gains of about 3,000 to 5,000 (click here for trends).   So let's say there are 20,000 new, second jobs that haven't been filled through our miniscule population growth or through new jobs for unemployed people.  Those are jobs taken as "second jobs" by people who are struggling to make ends meet.  Is that really something to brag about in a campaign ad?

Am I missing something?

Also, with regard to those new jobs -- whatever the number -- might it be true that some of those jobs have been created by the fortuitous fact that there is an oil boom in western North Dakota, and not because of anything Hoeven did?  Or is Hoeven taking credit for putting oil in the ground, too? 

 
John McSame vs. North Dakotans
Written by Chet   
Monday, 22 September 2008 02:50

McSame

Retired People

There's a letter to the editor in the Bismarck Tribune that caught my eye.  As you know, organizations send out questionaires to political candidates in order to try to discern what their positions are on the issues.  The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sent an 11 question questionaire to John McSame and Barack Obama.  As noted by the Tribune letter writer today,

 John McCain refused to answer all 11 questions. Apparently, Sen. McCain isn't quite as brave as we all thought he was.

Bismarck Tribune

I checked into it, and it's true.  McSame didn't answer any of the questions.  You can check it out by clicking here.  

Farming and Rural Issues

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson pointed his spotlight at McSame's agriculture policies.

Obama supported responsible farm programs and new initiatives to encourage a new generation of biofuels produced from switchgrass and other nonfood materials. He supported the farm bill because he knows how important it is to our rural economy and how much promise it contains for clean, agriculture-based renewable energy. He also knows the farm bill contains critical federal conservation programs to protect the environment while we produce ever more food and energy. On the other hand, John McCain voted against the farm bill and urged President Bush to veto it.

The Republicans’ backward energy policy is displayed in their platform: “The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol. ...” Should they succeed in eliminating the federal renewable fuels standard, the United States will be forced to import more foreign oil, and the emerging cellulosic biofuels industry will very likely collapse.

Fargo Forum (letter to editor)

Pell Grants - College Financial Aid

Not once since Bush has been president, did McCain vote in favor of financial aid.

Just for the fun of it, I googled ‘Pell Grants’ on Obama and McCain's campaign websites. Obama – 446 hits. McCain – just one! And that one hit was actually a pro-Obama comment.

Then I googled ’Pell Grants’ on Obama and McCain's Senate websites. Obama – 14 hits. The one at the top of the list is about the first bill Obama ever sponsored in the Senate – which was about boosting the amount of the maximum Pell Grant.

DailyKos

Healthcare

Don't have to look far for McSame's plan for Healthcare.  In John McCain's own words...

Opening up he health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Contingencies.org [emphasis added by me]

John McSame literally wants to do for the health insurance market what "we have done over the last decade in banking."  

There's a plan to cry about.

Campaign Finance - Lobbying

McSame claims to have gone against the Republican grain on a couple of issues, including campaign finance and lobbying.  Yet the truth is he's very much a mainstream Republican when it comes to lobbyists, McCain is as in-their-pockets as any Republican.  This from CNN:

"John McCain says that he is going to tell all those lobbyists in Washington that their days of running Washington are over, which sounds pretty good until you discover that seven of his top campaign managers and officials are -- guess what? -- former corporate lobbyists," Obama said recently in Flint, Michigan.

It's true: Seven top McCain officials were lobbyists, though the campaign stresses that none is currently registered to lobby Congress:

• One: Campaign manager Rick Davis is a major telecommunications lobbyist.

• Two: Senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann recently faced scrutiny over his foreign lobbying on behalf of the Republic of Georgia, which has been embroiled in a military conflict with Russia.

• Three: Senior adviser Charlie Black was a foreign lobbyist for dictators in Zaire and Angola in the 1980s, fodder for the liberal group MoveOn.org.

CNN.com

There's some "change" you can't believe in.

Religion

McSame is despised by the Christian right.

A prominent Christian leader whose radio and magazine outreaches are solidly in support of biblically-based marriages – and keeps in touch with millions of constituents daily – says he cannot consider Arizona Sen. John McCain a viable candidate for president.

"Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," said James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family as well as the Focus Action cultural action organization set up specifically to provide a platform for informing and rallying constituents.

WorldNetDaily.com

Can someone tell me one thing about John McCain as presidential candidate that appeals to people?  Who are these people who support John McSame?

 
Your weekly dose of Joe Biden-9-22-08 and a note to you Chicken Littles out there...
Written by Adam   
Sunday, 21 September 2008 17:17

 

To put my two cents down on the "Obama should pull out of North Dakota" meme, I have to disagree.

 

here's the case to stay:

1.)We're looking at two or three polls after a tumultuous week.  It does show a trend, but it's following the national numbers.  Voters need to be fully educated on Palin and reminded about that other guy, McSame.  

2.)Obama has staffers in Texas.  You heard me, Texas. They can pull some from there if they really need it.

3.)Obama raised $65 Million in August.   They have cash.

4.)Media in the state is cheap, so is office space. 

5.)The map. Over the weekend things returned to where they were pos-DNC on fivethirtyeight: New Mexico is solidly Obama,  CO is lean Obama, OH flipped to tilt Obama, VA flipped to tilt, FL is back on the edge of a razor from lean McSame(now tilt McSame), as is NV, and MI and WI are now lean Obama from being toss-ups.  Meaning:by my count, Obama has 265 EVs in the lean or base catergories.  There are 5 swing states now: NH, OH, FL, VA, NV.  All are 5+ EVs.  McSame literally needs to run the table to win. 

ND is now a lean McCain state. It was always considered a lean McCain state.  It doesn't mean we can't win it, and it doesn't mean that Obama needs to put all the eggs in the basket of the swing states and not expand his horizons for future growth of Democratic support. 

Calm down, the sky is not falling.

Now get out there and win this state!

 
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