October 10, 2008
Run Like It's 1932
WASHINGTON--Hope versus fear, new versus old: Barack Obama and John McCain have placed their bets. These are the terms on which the 2008 presidential campaign will be decided. That's why it's unfair for political bystanders to attack Obama and McCain for offering few specifics as to how they'd fix an ailing economy.
The Connecticut Supreme Court struck down a state ban on gay marriage today, making Connecticut the third state--along with Massachussetts and California--to legalize gay marriage. Now's a good time, then, to revisit the exchange between Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Just on the efficacy of state rulings on gay marriage. After the California Supreme Court's decision this spring, Rosen feared the political backlash might help elect Republicans, ensuring a more conservative judiciary and ultimately hampering civil rights. Just found that argument less than convincing.
Ordinarily, I'd say that today's pro-gay marriage ruling by Connecticut's Supreme Court would be bad news for Obama. Save for abortion, nothing energizes wingnut cultural warriors quite so much as the thought of his-and-his wedding registries. But with most of America too busy watching their 401ks dissolve, who has time to worry overmuch about what a bunch of uppity jurists did in some elitist northeastern state? That said, I am uneasy about the amendment to ban gay marriage on Florida's ballot next month.
October 09, 2008
Silencing the Students
For the first time since 1964, Democrats actually have a chance of winning Virginia’s 13 electoral votes. Barack Obama is up 4.8% according to the Real Clear Politics average, and according to Nate Silver, Virginia could be one of this election’s decisive swing states. And, in a state with 161 colleges and 483,159 students, the predominantly Democratic youth vote could play a huge role in tipping the election Obama’s way. But there’s a hold-up: Virginia’s local laws make it exceedingly difficult for students to register in their college towns.
In Search of SWF
One of the major reasons why the current financial crisis is so threatening is the absence of what Tokyo-based investor Peter Tasker calls “strong hands”--long-term, patient, deep-pocketed investors that a teetering financial system needs to function in times of great uncertainty and stress. When Japan suffered its financial crisis in the 1990s, the strong hands that invested and kept the system afloat included private equity funds, insurance companies, and banks. But today, those financial actors are too leveraged, weak, or frightened to play a similar role.
The Death Of A Cartoonist
Cathy Young is contributing editor of Reason magazine and author of Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood. The death of Soviet political cartoonist Boris Yefimov on October 1, largely unnoticed in the West, was not quite the end of an era--Yefimov's era ended long ago--but the end of a life that, Zelig-like, was involved in every transition of the last century of Russian history. More than a century, in fact: Yefimov (born Boris Yefimovich Friedland, in Kiev in 1899) was 109 years old when he died. As a boy, he watched Russia's last Czar Nicholas II go by in a coach.
Let's start with a basic assumption: The only thing worse in a market than disappointment is confusion. Investors can live with, and if they're smart profit from, bad news, as long as they understand it. But if things are confusing--say, a great, healthy company turns in horrible quarterly earnings, with no clear reason why--then investors get confused, and they panic. Over the last day, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offered up a helping of disappointment, topped by a dollop of confusion. First, the disappointment.
October 08, 2008
WASHINGTON--As was the case with the 1929 crash that ushered in the Great Depression, the current financial meltdown is giving rise to myths that will influence public policy for decades to come. It is imperative that those myths be debunked before the next U.S. administration starts to make important decisions, followed by many other countries. By far the most dangerous myth is that deregulation is the root cause of the problem. Yes, Wall Street firms were greedy, irresponsible and, in many cases, downright stupid.
About a week after John McCain's campaign unveiled a vice-presidential nominee who incessantly boasted about her decision to turn down federal funding for a notoriously pointless bridge ("I told Congress 'thanks, but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere"), the press corps began to notice that Sarah Palin had, in fact, vigorously championed the project until it was no longer tenable. Political fibs, even brazen ones such as this, are hardly unprecedented. What happened next, though, was somewhat unusual.
The Not-So-Great Debater
Tuesday night's debate, a town-hall discussion dominated by economic questions, made it clear that John McCain's effort to change the campaign's focus to the culture wars of the 1960s is not going to work.