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“As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing.  When their credit ran out, the game stopped.”

— Marriner S. Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking in 1951

When we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.

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What Biden Ought To Say by the Rude Pundit.  As brilliant as it is obscene.

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Bear CSI

During the first presidential debate, John McCain once again made reference to the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project, a five-year study to which USGS has allocated $3 million to “study the DNA of bears.”

The Scientific American article linked above compares that $3 million, and its relative merits, to the $233 million “Bridge to Nowhere.”  I like to compare it to the tax dollars we are spending in Iraq.  At $7 billion per month, we spend $3 million ever EIGHTEEN MINUTES.

Read that again.  Fix it in your mind.  Now tell me where the outrage should lie.

Sure, “freedom and democracy” in Iraq are more important than the North American grizzly population, but normalized for cost, I would say that the Iraq War campaign — which originally was not about “freedom and democracy,” but rather WMDs; how quickly we forget and reset the bar — is a  monumentally greater waste of taxpayer dollars.  We’ve spent $600 billion chasing a dragon that was never there, and continuously re-rationalizing our reasons for doing it.  If you have any intellectual honesty at all, you should be outraged about that.

The bear DNA reference so often quoted by McCain is just another distraction that he’s so good at inventing.  Again, fake outrage, misplaced priorities.  Part and parcel of modern politicking.

At the end of the day, the grizzly bear project still costs $3 million over five years, and it will tell us something important about the distribution of and conservation status of the greatest (remaining) land mammal in North America.  Also over five years, the Iraq war has cost some $600 billion — for the sake of comparison, that is two hundred thousand times as expensive as the grizzly bear project over the same time period — and we never accomplished our originally stated goal of ferreting out WMDs, and even Plan B, “freedom and democracy”, has been outrageously mismanaged, and may only now be seeing any fruits.  Given that four of those five years were wasted on the Bush-Rumsfeld plan (which made the project five times as expensive as it could have been), you know where your outrage should lie.

BTW, did you know that the Gravina Island Bridge (the so-called Bridge to Nowhere), was a two-part project, one involving the bridge, and the other involving an access road that linked the bridge to a small airport?  The bridge project got nixed, but a contract for the access road had already been signed, so it got built.  Yes, it got built, and it goes nowhere.  It dead-ends at the island coast where the bridge should connect to it.  And it cost…wait for it, wait for it…$3 million per mile!  At eight miles long, that project is eight times as expensive as the whole grizzly bear project.  And, yes, it is indeed a road to nowhere.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.  And guess who was governor and who could have nixed the contract on the access road and prevented that absurd waste of federal tax dollars?  You guessed right.  Our girl, Sarah Palin.

So tell me again, where should your outrage lie?

A propos: my friend Sakshi points out on her blog that McCain voted for funding the grizzly bear project!

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As of 7:10 pm EDT on Friday night (the time of this writing), it is apparent that John McCain has won the debate.  See the back story.

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“What we’ve seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for president of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more.

“It’s time for a government that is fighting for you — not ignoring you, or fighting against you.

“If you want to understand the difference between how Senator McCain and I would govern as president, you can start by taking a look at how we’ve responded to this crisis. Because Senator McCain’s approach was the same as the Bush Administration’s: support ideological policies that made the crisis more likely; do nothing as the crisis hits; and then scramble as the whole thing unravels. Now, my approach has been to try to prevent this turmoil from occurring in the first place.

“In February of 2006, I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. A year later, before the crisis hit, I warned Secretary Paulson at the Treasury and Chairman Bernanke at the Fed about the risks of mounting foreclosures and urged them to bring together all the stakeholders to find solutions to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Senator McCain did nothing.

“This March, in the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout, I called for a new, 21st-century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets. Just a few weeks earlier, Senator McCain made it clear where he stands, [saying] ‘I’m always for less regulation,’ and referred to himself as ‘fundamentally a deregulator.’

“Now this is what happens when you confuse the free market with a free license to let special interests take whatever they can get, however they can get it.”

Actually, there is no confusion.  Any “free” market is a license for special interests and power brokers to take whatever they can get.  Freedom from regulation always makes that possible.

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If John McCain wins this election, he will be the oldest person to ever become president.  He chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.  Many have suggested that she is vastly underqualified for the job.  They ask, “If, god forbid, something happened to McCain, is Palin ready for the job?”  Others counter that we shouldn’t suggest such things.  We should expect that McCain will survive his term(s) as president.

Unfortunately, the data belies this response.  According to the Actuarial Life Table provided by the Social Security Administration, there is a 39% chance that McCain will die during the eight years of a two-term presidency! [Add up the probabilities from age 72 to age 79.] And that’s assuming a statistically average 72-year-old, someone who is enjoying the easy life in retirement.  Aside from McCain’s long history of medical problems, including several bouts with skin cancer, the presidency is a stressful job that requires a lot of energy and tenacity.

What this tells us is that there is a significant chance Sarah Palin would become president within those eight years.  Kind of scary.  Are you willing to give Sarah Palin a 39% chance to become president?

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The uniter

In the photo, a German citizen holds a sign that reads, “Obama For Chancellor.”  One hundred thousand people showed up to see him speak in Berlin.  A video of the full speech can be viewed here.

When was the last time an American leader got a reception like that?  And he’s not even president yet!

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