Battleground fatigue: A letter from Columbus

By James Oliphant
Tribune correspondent

October 28, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Here’s one random sampling from a battleground state, with some margin for error.

“I just want it to end,” my father says. “Make it stop.”

The phone has just rung, and he knows the number. Knows not to answer. “It’s just them,” he mutters.

“Them,” by the way, is a non-partisan designation. When it comes to wanting to be left alone, my father is politically agnostic. It really isn’t his fault. He’s lived here going on 40 years and has watched, helplessly, as his once-sleepy town sprouted up around him, went major-league and now is suffering the consequences of being the most divided large city in one of the most divided states in the union.

Throw in advances in technology and the transformational effect of hundreds of millions in cash, and there is literally nowhere to hide. John McCain, Barack Obama and their surrogates can’t be ducked or dodged. They’re on television, on the phone, pounding on doors, sending mail. When it’s one-and-one, they call that felony stalking. Writ large, it’s the modern political campaign in a make-or-break state.

There’s no relief. Michelle Obama was here Friday. McCain Sunday. It’s like the old joke about the weather here. Don’t like it? Wait. Continue reading


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If McCain went Hollywood

John Woo, Kevin Smith and Wes Anderson weigh in. Well, not really.

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Rehnquist papers headed to Stanford

Here is the official release from the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif:

The papers of the late William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005, have been donated to the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University. Rehnquist, an alumnus of Stanford, received three degrees from the university, including his law degree, and, before ascending to the Supreme Court, was a member of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers.

John Raisian, the institution’s Tad and Dianne Taube Director, in making the announcement said, “This is a major acquisition for the Hoover Archives; it complements our collections from the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s collection will enhance Hoover’s reputation as a major repository for materials on the U.S. government during the latter part of the twentieth century, and we believe researchers will find it to be an important resource for examining judicial decision making covering the Chief Justice’s more than thirty years on the Supreme Court. We are pleased that Chief Justice Rehnquist’s papers are coming full circle back to Stanford, where he began his illustrious legal career.”

The Supreme Court correspondent Tony Mauro was all over this–and wrote earlier Wednesday that the Hoover Institution would be making papers from 1972, when Rehnquist joined the court, until 1975 available. Why just that period? Because no justice from that time of the court remains alive. Justice John Paul Stevens has served since ’75.

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Is the credit crunch real?

Here’s a post from the always provocative Marginal Revolution blog, asking whether there is indeed the kind of squeeze on credit for nonfinancial (read: commercial) businesses that the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the administration (with the help of Congress) has been hollering about.

Alex Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University, writes:

Three economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Chari, Christiano and Kehoe, now further support my analysis pointing to Four Myths about the Financial Crisis of 2008

The myths

  1. Bank lending to nonfinancial corporations and individuals has declined sharply.
  2. Interbank lending is essentially nonexistent.
  3. Commercial paper issuance by nonfinancial corporations has declined sharply and rates have risen to unprecedented levels.
  4. Banks play a large role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers.

Each of these myths is refuted by widely available financial data from the Federal Reserve.  It’s a short paper, read the whole thing.

None of this means that everything is cheery.  Like most people I think that we are in a recession which is likely to get worse but we need to remind ourselves that recessions are normal.  What is not normal is the current level of panic.

The links should take you to the Federal Reserve paper. (Has anyone asked Ben Bernanke about this?)

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Biden: No brain scans for aneurysms


The Chicago Tribune reports that among recent medical records released by Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, there are no scans that might indicate the potential for another dehabilitating aneurysm such as the ones he suffered 20 years ago. Biden, 65, had multiple brain surgeries following the attacks.

Here’s the report:

Newly released medical records from vice presidential candidate Joe Biden do not include the results of any recent brain scans, which some experts consider necessary to assess whether the senator is at risk for a repeat of the brain aneurysms that nearly killed him 20 years ago. Biden’s most recent physical exam in July showed him to be in good health, according to a letter from Dr. John Eisold that the campaign released Monday. The letter from Eisold, who is the attending physician for Congress, described Biden’s cardiac capacity as excellent.

But the 49 pages of records the campaign released gave no indication that Biden’s doctors sought follow-up tests after the serious aneurysms he suffered in 1988. Medical experts are divided over the need for such precautionary brain scans, but many feel it is the only way to be sure a patient is out of danger.

“If this was my patient, I would re-image every three to five years to make sure no new aneurysm had cropped up,” said Dr. Mark Alberts, a professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The health of the candidates on both sides has become a small but growing issue in the last days of the presidential campaign. A comprehensive look on the subject by the New York Times’ Lawrence K. Altman stated that all four candidates on both tickets could be more forthcoming about their physical condition.

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‘The Soldier’ gets suspended

The Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston has an insightful column about my favorite dysfunctional football team.

The suspension probably means the beginning of the end for Winslow here. The Browns probably would have only fined him, and not meted out a suspension, had they not played their only good game of the season against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants while Winslow was ill.

It seems, however, to be wishful thinking to believe Braylon Edwards will consistently catch the ball, Derek Anderson will consistently throw it with accuracy, and coach Romeo Crennel will get a consistent connection with reality about Anderson’s ability, not to mention a satisfactory grasp of clock management.

Frankly, Winslow has the heart of a lion, continually answering the bell on Sundays despite his many infirmities. He made the Pro Bowl last year after the most prolific season a Browns’ tight end ever had, and that includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome.

That should count for something, although no team can allow the comments he made to go unpunished.

Anyone who endured the Browns’ 14-11 loss to Washington on Sunday knows that right now, the fans are the one being punished.

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Thoughts on ‘Californication’

I have a post up on my other blog, Bad Pacino, about the first season of the Showtime series.

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RNC spent $150,000 to glam Palin

Politico has a scoop:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission’s long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

McCain camp says that it was always intended the clothes would be donated to charity after the election.

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Dedicated to Phillies (and Soul Train) fans everywhere

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Paulson speaks of need for strong China

As the credit crunch has struck markets worldwide, one lingering question has been how the turmoil will affect China’s burgeoning economy. Tuesday evening in New York, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spoke about China’s economic health and addressed its relationship with the United States in a speech to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

I really have no idea what he is wearing here.

I really have no idea what he is wearing here.

It’s clear that from Paulson’s perspective, the strength of the Chinese economy can serve as a buffer against the chaos in the American and European markets.

“While some see China as a threat that must be countered or contained, I believe that the only path to success with China is through engagement,” Paulson said. “We must recognize that China’s growth is an opportunity for U.S. companies and consumers, for our producers, exporters and investors. A stable, prosperous and peaceful China is in the best interest of the Chinese people, the American people and the rest of the world.”

The full transcript of Paulson’s remarks can be found after the jump.

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