Sunday, October 19, 2008

Are We Becoming Bluer?

The good ship McCain continued to take on water this week. A potential tide-turning event was the third and final presidential debate on Wednesday. McCain heaved up a "Joe the Plumber" bomb in his latest attempt to change the trajectory of the campaign. This follows his previous failed Hail Mary attempts: choosing Palin as his VP and a temporary suspension of his campaign to rush back to D.C. to rescue the economy. But the focus on the scary economic mess rather than on national security continued to help Obama.
According to America's most respected newsman, Jon Stewart, all Obama had to do to win the last debate was refrain from jumping up and saying "Where are all the white women at"? The Chosen One resisted that temptation and thereby maintained his momentum.
More bad news for McCain was that a number of Republican luminaries, reading the growing pile of tea leaves, scampered off the ship. George Will, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and Colin Powell all bailed out.
The week did have some positive moments for McCain and Palin. McCain won the hilarious battle of the roasts at the Alfred Smith annual dinner. He looked like the straight talking McCain of yore and was seen having fun for the first time in the last two years.
Similarly, Palin finally made her anticipated appearance on Saturday Night Live. The first of the two skits was pretty lame. The second skit, however, was clever. Amy Poehler, who looks like she must be at least 10 months pregnant, rapped out a tune that had Palin swinging in her seat. The Governor came across as a good sport.
All the polls say Obama and Biden (remember him?) are gliding to victory. At this point, their strategy should be to just play it safe, not get drawn into any nasty name calling, avoid any memorable gaffes and pray like heck that the Dow doesn't suddenly rise 3000 points.
Perhaps the best tactic at this point for McCain/Palin is to jettison all pretenses of serious political talk. They should concede the boring wonkish policy stuff to Obama/Biden. The populace can't really evaluate whose plan is better and will just blame the Republicans for the economic mess since it occurred on their watch.
Instead, MCain/Palin should continue to do comedy for the remainder of the campaign. This will pick up the voters who base their decision on whom they want to have a beer with. But even if they lose the election, both McCain and Palin will burnish their resumes and improve their chances for future gigs during the Republican diaspora. They should have lots of juicy material resulting from observing the Democrats' attempts at dealing with the economy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Money For Nothing - Part 2

Counting the $700 billion the congress and the president just authorized the Treasury department to use, almost $2 trillion has now been committed by the federal government to get the financial system functioning again. Several of our friends are also pitching in. The combined commitments announced by the US, Europe and Japan exceed $4 trillion.

The government politicos say "trillion" like it's an everyday number that just slips right off your lips. I can't really get my mind around such a staggering number. $4,000,000,000,000. I don't know about you, but all those digits look really scary to me.

Where does all this money come from?

I admitted in a previous post that I really don't understand money very well, but here goes. I assume that the Chinese and friendly OPEC nations will continue to lend a bunch of it to us by buying treasury bills and bonds. The rest will be created magically by just printing more of the paper variety we're used to seeing and by making some entries in an exotic "grand ledger in the sky".

This will increase our national debt to over $10 trillion. Some people think that this is really bad because our kids and grandkids will have to pay this back. But that never seems to happen. They may just pass the debt on to their kids and grandkids. In economic theory, I think this strategy is called "kicking it down the road".

Another possibility is that we'll experience a case of serious inflation (kind of like serious indigestion, but on a national scale). Thus, while we pay back the stated amount, it will not be worth very much in real money (whatever that is).

Just where does this leave us? In dire straits, where the money is for nothing (and the chicks for free). Hmm... I seem to remember something similar to that a while ago on MTV .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is The Spoof Better Than The Original?

My question of the week: is the spoof better than the original? Let me explain. 

For comic relief, 70 million Americans tuned in for the long anticipated Vice-Presidential debate last Thursday. Just prior to the debate, we were momentarily distracted by the news that the moderator, Gwen Ifill, had a book coming out and she would clearly benefit from an Obama win in November. This little tidbit perhaps neutered Ifill from acting like a moderator who might actually try to get the candidates to answer her questions. With this limitation, rather than the train wreck everyone was anticipating, it turned out that all three protagonists in the show did OK.
Ifill moderated moderately, Biden behaved and Palin projected power. Ifill's questions were clear and covered a reasonable range of topics. Biden controlled his impulses to actually debate Palin, instead focusing his remarks on how much he loved McCain and how wrong McCain was on every topic discussed. He finished off each retort with a broad smile, clearly indicating what a nice guy he is.
But the star of the show clearly hit her marks. Palin uttered every rehearsed line in fine cadence whether or not her response had anything whatsoever to do with the question asked. Ifill's limitations clearly helped Palin in that she faced no follow-up questions. Palin talked directly into the camera, ignoring the other two on stage, smiling broadly, and even winking from time to time. All this while never uttering the "g" sound at the end of her words.
None of this changed anything in the slightest, but it sure was entertaining.
After the original debate was aired, everyone waited for the inevitable Saturday Night Live spoof. First of all, to give them the credit they deserve, the SNLers are amazingly quick. It must be pretty hard to create that good a parody in only 48 hours. The Joe Biden and Gwen Ifill (Queen Latifa) impersonations were great. The Biden smile after denouncing McCain and the looks of disbelief of Ifill after Palin spoke were right on. But, as usual, Tina Fey nails it big time. She is such a tour-de-force that an un-cued observer might have trouble guessing whether it was Tina Fey on stage Thursday night and not some hockey Mom from Alaska.
The question of the week is really a toss up. If I had to decide, though, I'd say the original. As Palin would say, "you betcha", it's my acting that's more real.