Spencer Ackerman is back from his Washington Independent Afghanistan excursion safe and sound, only to wonder what the hell happened to all his money (and everyone's else's) while he was gone. We parse the news and the inevitable legislation and try and figure out whether the Democrats will roll over for Bush again on giving him unconstitutional authority to fuck shit up. Then we move on to the Associated Press poll that claims Obama is losing votes by not being white and how the McCain campaign has bowed to the bigotry of lowered expectations and insisted that Sarah Palin isn't up to a big-boy VP debates. But she's totally ready to lead!SPENCER: So I come home from one of the most economically deprived areas on the planet, one that's already experiencing a high tide of war-derived violence, where official corruption makes everything worse, only to discover that the financial sector has issued a suicide note and submitted itself to the unaccountable will the most corrupt and incompetent government in recent memory. Why didn't you just tell me I should have stayed in Afghanistan? I had to pay bribes upon bribes to dudes in Kabul and I didn't get bailed out from that, either. MEGAN: What? The de facto nationalization of our financial services sector wasn't a good homecoming? How about the fact that the Bush Administration has snuck in this little clause about how Paulson's actions in terms of ever bailing anything out or, say, nationalizing anything else that may or may not need it are completely not subject to judicial review? As though we haven't had enough of what the Bush Administration thinks shouldn't be subject to judicial review... But, it'll be okay because Nancy swears they won't roll over this time, the way the Dems did on offshore drilling while you were gone and on FISA before you left. SPENCER: Also I understand the Afghanistan war sooooo much better than I do the financial crisis, and when you & Moe tried to explain the meltdown to me at her birthday party I ended up even more confused, so HELP. Is all my money gone? MEGAN: Possibly. I checked my stock portfolio last night for the first time since August and then broke into the tequila. The problem isn't whether your money is gone, it's that if you have in in a 401k or an IRA, you can't get it out without losing 30% more of what's left. SPENCER: Yeah, I saw that my old halfway-home the Center for American Progress is against the Paulson plan, as liberals appear to have emerged from the weekend shellshock with skepticism that may or may not prove impotent MEGAN: I'm going with... it'll prove impotent, like all their other so-called outrage. Congress kvetching about abuse of executive authority is like poor people kvetching about taxing the rich: they don't like it when it applied to them, but they all secretly think they'll be in the catbird seat one day. SPENCER: And you know what, fuck it — I hate retreating to meta-points and cliches to mask the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about, so let me say that I don't know what the fuck is going on and math is hard and please explain this to me. I miss Afghanistan MEGAN: Except for the Howitzers, I assume. SPENCER: Are you kidding me? The choice is between the Howitzers firing or the base where you're trying to enjoy some Chicken a la KBR getting rocketed from a nearby mountain ridge. Howitzers produce the most comforting sound since whale songs. MEGAN: The best thing to know about finance is to read the fine print. Your checking account is fine. If you have a savings account, that's fine too. The government has decided to pull a fast one and insure your money market, if you have one — or if any of your 401K or IRA money is invested in one. Whatever has been invested in the stock market, in your case, probably via mutual funds in your 401K is volatile. But it's ok, because you can't withdraw it for another 35 years anyway. So, the best you can do is either suck up your losses and keep your money there, or decide that you can't suck up any more and transfer it into money markets temporarily under the auspices of your 401K. SPENCER: I have a money market account — is that fucked? Also, and I know how stupid this makes me sound, but is my, uh, PayPal account OK? MEN SHOULD NOT MONKEY AROUND WITH FINANCE. Like Raekwon said, I should've stayed in JobCorps. MEGAN: Well, it's not fucked because the government decided to insure it last week. So, it's fucked a little because everything is fucked but it's not gone. And your PayPal has nothing to do with nothing, so that's fine. SPENCER: So if I have, say, my savings in a money market account, that is — really, really really dumb it down for me, Megan — good or bad? Like should I stop IMing and go to the bank right now? MEGAN: The government decided last week that they will insure your deposits in it the same way your savings account is insured, more or less. But, partly, it depends on what financial institution you have it invested in and how much money you might or might not have lost. So, if you've lost a bunch, I might leave it in and see if you can recoup. If you haven't, I would take it out and stick it in an ING savings account. If you don't need access to it, put it in a CD with a bank. (CD= Certificate of Deposit, it's a long-term savings account with higher interest rates depending on how long you agree not to ask for it back) -14 minutes- SPENCER: AND NOW THE FUCKING INTERNET IS BALKING ON ME! After all I've done for it. MEGAN: The Internet is a cruel mistress. SPENCER: I've supported the internet for its entire career. Sorry, what were you saying? MEGAN: I was telling you, basically, that without knowing your exact financial situation I can't tell you exactly what to do but that you're not nearly as fucked as I am. SPENCER: oh JESUS really? Am I picking up your tab at the meetup tomorrow? MEGAN: No, it's fine, I wasn't using the stock market as a checking account or anything, so my short- and medium-term investments are all in protected places. But my long-term stuff is all in high-risk as my financial adviser recommended, so my 401K is looking pretty ragged and my stock is down 10 points which really hurt seeing that last night but I'll be fine. Oh, and I can pretty much never sell my condo, but other than that I'm fine. Excuse me, though, if I cry a little in my tequila shots tomorrow. . SPENCER: Tears in tequila act like salt on the rim of the glass. See, the bright side! I have a friend who just bought a condo in this market, and I have no idea what he was thinking. MEGAN: Probably that interest rates are crazy low and stuff is being sold off at fire-sale rates. SPENCER: I don't know what it says about me that I am somehow more nervous about this than I was accompanying a midnight dismounted patrol on a dirt field that the metal detectors told us was full of IEDs. And speaking of things to worry about, the AP is saying racism is costing Obama 6 points in the polls" but Nate Silver, the breakthrough blogger of the 2008 elections says it's bullshit and Rikyrah from J&JP says the AP's motivations are suspect anyway, so what do you think? MEGAN: Well, from a statistical analysis perspective, I think that it's really hard to tell the impact of race like that without relying on crazy hypotheticals that aren't particularly predictive. SPENCER: This part of Nate's analysis wasn't particularly comforting:
even if it is true that Barack Obama's race puts him at something like a 6-point disadvantage with the population as a whole, the margin is probably more like 4-5 points among likely voters.
Oh, well then! MEGAN: Well, I mean, that could be true or not. In any given election 40-60% of voters don't turn out at all, and voter turnout is correlated to education and economic levels. But, also, statistics are not a predictor of future behavior. SPENCER: Here's an explanation of the AP's methodology that I still am not equipped to evaluate. Jesus, I'm batting .1000 today, aren't I? Too dumb to discuss the topics we ourselves chose to discuss. I should have stayed in Afghanistan. MEGAN: Nah, isn't this why you have me around? And I'm not in Afghanistan. I mean, one thing that really stuck out in that methodological analysis is that the people polled had to have landlines even though the surveys were internet-based. SPENCER: True on both counts. I wouldn't be able to participate even. Who has a landline? I think even my mom is getting rid of hers, and she screens her calls like a champion. So the AP racepoll is a tangle of faulty math and sophistry, then? MEGAN: I think it is. The problem with statistics is the one cited in one of my favorite college courses, Microsociology. Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 African-American men will be imprisoned. What does that say about any given black man? Absolutely nothing. It's not a predictor of behavior. It's a statistic, and that itself is a snapshot in time of a status, not a behavior. SPENCER: You need to team up with Mark Penn to write Microsociology: The Book. What does this poll say about snipers and the race vote, I wonder. methodologies inspire as little confidence as McCain has in Palin's debating skills:
At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates. McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.
NONE DARE CALL IT SEXISM. MEGAN: Well, see, she just needs more "education and training" and then she can close the debate gap just like McCain proposes closing the wage gap. It's just too bad she can't get that in time to make a difference, sort of like American women as a whole can't. But they're still not going to support the Ledbetter Act, that is too much of a burden for businesses to swallow, paying women equally for the work that they do. SPENCER: Speaking of Lilly Ledbetter, Christy notes that Obama is FINALLY using her in an ad. Also about the debates: Don't you think it's odd that the press believes the debates to be important, even though there's basically no evidence since at least Carter-Reagan 1980 that they've ever played a leading role in deciding an election? MEGAN: I think it's one last opportunity for a spectacular fuck-up is why. SPENCER: You can't win an election based on the debates — Kerry kicked Bush's ass in all three, remember, in 2004 — and I wonder if you can even lose an election through debate-ineptitude, which is clearly the McCain camp's worry. Yeah, I'm not convinced that's even true. Remember "you forgot Poland" and "wanna buy some wood"? I didn't think so. The only thing I remember from the VP debate last year is that Cheney lied about never meeting Edwards in the Senate and — oh yeah and that Cheney's daughter is what you people call a Lezebel. MEGAN: I guess you're right, but I still think the interest lies in hoping that one of them flames out spectacularly. Plus, I'll repeat something smart I said this weekend: Biden, in particular, needs to go back and watch old tapes, and I'm not talking of VP debates. He needs to go check out Clinton-Lazio from 2000 and the Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial debates featuring Shannon O'Brian to see what not to do when debating a woman. SPENCER: Yes, right you are. You found the evidence refuting my point: Lazio lost his Senate race in 2000 by appearing to physically threaten HRC. If Crappy Hour were a debate, it's clear you won all three rounds this morning I could be an asshole and contend that Senate races are different than presidential races, but I'd like to set an example for John McCain and graciously concede when I've been beaten. I really miss Afghanistan. MEGAN: Well, but I listened to whale songs instead of Howitzers for 2 weeks. And you risked life and limb to report important stuff from Afghanistan. So, I think we're at least even. SPENCER: Okay, I'm going to the bank now to see that I still have money. I may IM you in a panic after lunch.