Shep Smith slams Joe the Plumber

It’s embarrassing that the McCain campaign is clinging to Joe the Plumber in a final act of deperation. Mr. Plumber hit a new low when he agreed with a loon at a rally that the election of Barack Obama would lead to he death of Israel.

Shep Smith, one of the few voices of reason at Fox News, interviews Joe about his statement and unmasks him as a complete fool.

Hat tip – Andrew Sullivan.

Huge opportunity in Iran

Tom Friedman writes about the huge problems facing Iran now that oil prices have collapsed.

I’ve always been dubious about Barack Obama’s offer to negotiate with Iran — not because I didn’t believe that it was the right strategy, but because I didn’t believe we had enough leverage to succeed. And negotiating in the Middle East without leverage is like playing baseball without a bat.

Well, if Obama does win the presidency, my gut tells me that he’s going to get a chance to negotiate with the Iranians — with a bat in his hand.

Have you seen the reports that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is suffering from exhaustion? It’s probably because he is not sleeping at night. I know why. Watching oil prices fall from $147 a barrel to $57 is not like counting sheep. It’s the kind of thing that gives an Iranian autocrat bad dreams.

After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.

As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia’s Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad — and then the collapse in prices in the ‘80s helped bring down that overextended empire.

This is an example of the tremendous leverage we get by destroying domestic demand for oil by switching to alternative fuels.

You betcha!

New ad from the Obama campaign.

One week left

Some of the polls have tightened a little, but most are holding steady and we have some outliers showing a huge lead for Obama. The state polls also look great.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign has finally started to talk about the economy, but they can’t even get that right.

If McCain had not opposed the Bush tax cuts in the past, and if he was proposing a flat tax, he might have some credibility on this idiotic charges of “socialism.” One wonders whether he really is senile. Also, when you add in the economic genius of Sarah Palin (she must have shaken hands with Mitt Romney), your argument looks even more ridiculous, given that Sarah Palin raised taxes on the oil companies in Alaska in order to redistribute the tax dollars to all Alaskans in the form of a check.

Of course, she’s too stupid to understand the irony here, and McCain has no trouble repeating any charge trumped up by his idiotic advisors. So, they continue to stomp around the country calling Obama names and revealing themselves as utter fools.

This campaign is a disgrace. Many conservatives have already come to that conclusion. Others are so blinded by their own idiology that they drink up the silly name-calling, hoping for a dramatic comeback. Fortunately, their numbers seem to be shrinking.

Republican implosion

The polls looks grim, and it appears that some in the Republican Party are losing their marbles as they pull out all the stops in a desperate attempt to win this election. With this story, they may have reached a new low.

With Rove and Bush the Republicans have been peddling fear for years, and McCain and Palin have been more than happy to use the same tactics. It shouldn’t be surprising when some nuts in their party escalate the attacks to even more offensive extremes.

Ohioans are against deportation of illegals

The most recent poll in Ohio has some interesting news regarding the issue of immigration.

Let illegal immigrants stay here.

That’s what 56 percent of Ohioans said in a poll conducted this month by the University of Cincinnati Institute for Policy Research — and people polled in Southwest Ohio topped that figure.

In this corner of the state, 60 percent said they favored a government policy that allowed undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and become U.S. citizens if they met unspecified requirements in a certain timeframe.

That puts Ohioans in sync with the rest of the nation, according to a Gallup Poll last year, said Eric Rademacher, the institute’s interim co-director.

If you only listened to Fox News, Lou Dobbs and talk radio, you would assume that the entire nation is outraged by the conecpt of earned citizenship for illegals (which some call amnesty). Last year many in the media assumed that this issue would be crucial in the 2008 elections. Yet we don’t hear anything about it.

All of the Republican candidates who tried to exploit conservative anger about immigration flamed out in the primaries. Even one-time “moderates” like Rudy Giuliani flipped last year and tried to demogogue the issue in order to get the Republican nomination. He got crushed in the primaries.

America is getting serious again. We’re going through tough economic times, so it’s harder for politicians to distract the electorate with side issues like Bill Ayers, guns and illegals.

The next president will have a huge opportunity to pass a common-sense compromise on this issue that beefs up border security and provides a rational method for illegals to earn the right to stay in this country. The political rewards from such a compromise would be significant as well.

William Weld endorses Obama

William Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, has endorsed Barack Obama.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a Republican, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president on Friday, citing the senator’s good judgment, “deep sense of calm” and “first-class political temperament.”

Weld said he’s never endorsed a Democrat for president before, but in the last six weeks or so, it became “close to a no-brainer.” Obama has a history of bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together and is the best choice at a time when America’s standing in the world is at a low point, he said.

“It’s not often you get a guy with his combination of qualities, chief among which I would say is the deep sense of calm he displays, and I think that’s a product of his equally deep intelligence,” he said in a phone interview.

I’m a little surprised by this one. Bill Weld has always been a more moderate Republican, but he was once considered a rising star in the GOP. Earlier this week, former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson also endorsed Obama. Carlston was also a moderate Republican governor. It’s telling that both of them are willing to buck their party and endorse Obama.

Will Ferrell joins Tina Fey on SNL

Will Ferrell as George W. Bush and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin – it doesn’t get much better!

Scott McClellan endorses Barack Obama

Former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will endorse Barack Obama. He joins former Secretary of State Colin Powell in backing Obama.

This obviously won’t have as much effect as the Powell endorsement, but it adds to the narrative of Republicans coming out for Obama. Earlier today, several granddaughters of Barry Goldwater endorsed Obama as well.

The role of credit rating agencies

We will be spending the next several years trying to understand the various causes of the financial collapse. As most agree, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

There’s no doubt that the credit rating agencies played a huge role in this crisis. I worked on bond deals in the 90′s that were very similar to the mortgage-backed securities at the root of this scandal. The role of the rating agencies was very clear. It was up to them to assess the risk tied to each security, and that process involved quite a bit of due diligence regarding the underlying income streams.

It has been clear for years that the rating agencies were not doing their jobs with respect to pooled mortgages. Now Congress is holding hearings in order to learn more about what happened. Needless to say, you can learn quite a bit by following the money.

Conflicts of interest were largely responsible for the disastrous performance of credit rating agencies in assessing the risks of mortgage-backed securities, two former high-ranking officials at Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s said in Congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The agencies are paid to issue ratings by the securities issuers, whose interests can eclipse those of investors, Jerome S. Fons, former managing director of credit policy at Moody’s until 2007, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“While the methods used to rate structured securities have rightly come under fire, in my opinion the business model prevented analysts from putting investor interests first,” he said.

And Frank L. Raiter, former head of mortgage ratings at Standard & Poor’s for 10 years, characterized the failures at that company by saying simply: “Profits were running the show.”

This reminds me of the problems we had with the accounting firms in the 1990′s. It was impossible to expect accounting firms getting huge deal fees to be objective when they were auditing the same client. Efforts were made to block this conflict of interest back then, but Congress blocked the reforms. Things didn’t get fixed there until we had the Enron and Worldcom debacles.

With the rating agencies, it’s painfully clear that more regulations are needed here as well. Let’s hope that we get it right going forward.

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