The Libertine Left

Although San Francisco has a self-image of a progressive wonderland, there is an overarching layer of sleaze that hovers over certain parts of the City. Among these are the City's many - as in 150 - "massage parlors" (smirk), which are well known to be fronts for prostitution, and yet can never seem to be shut down. There's always someone willing to make a new bid to crack down on these brothels, but nothing ever happens. So, in the land of equal rights and tolerance for all, there is also tolerance of a system that enslaves women, degrades neighborhoods, and undoubtedly serves as a profit center for organized crime. No one likes it, but the brothels seem to enjoy a kind of protected privilege. 

Reading the linked article, one is struck by the sheer laziness of the relevant City officials. The police don't want to be bothered because prostitution is a low level crime. The Department of Health, which issues massage licenses, says that's all they do: issue licenses. Which is pure BS. Like they never have to inspect these joints? They also say revoking licenses is prohibitively expensive. More BS. In my practice, I have seen the City move Heaven and Earth to take property away from negligent landlords. It's not "prohibitively expensive" because the City gets its attorney's fees paid by the luckless property owner. So, the Dept. of Health can move on this if they really wanted to, but they don't. For Pete's sake, the mayor can't even get these guys to take an interest! 

The real reason for all of this benign neglect is that the prostitutes, like everyone else in the City except the ordinary folks living here, have an aggressive lobby that doesn't hesitate to break out the signs and chants and march on City Hall. There's also a certain strain of post-modern feminism that is fascinated by "sex workers" in the same way that others have been fascinated by prisoners and heroin addicts. It's the Libertine Left at work. They may want to rigidly control the economy, keep the "wrong" speech off the radio, and make everybody sell trade their sedans in for Smart Cars, but when it comes to brothels flouting the law, then it's deregulation, baby!

I'm the One They Never Pick

You'll never guess where BErnard Madoff had his offices; legendary Manhatten corner 53rd & 3rd, which was once immortalized in song by The Ramones. Of course, they were singing about the frustrations of "hustling." The more things change...

In the meantime, we can all sing along with Psota

High Noon

The Chinese are now becoming more aggressive in blaming the global recession on the U.S.,  specifically for our credit expansion combined with lax financial regulations. The Chinese, you see, had major investments in Morgan Stanley, the Reserve Fund, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Oops. They should have been listening to a real free market maverick like Peter Schiff, rather than their leftist comrades like Franklin Raines and George Soros. 

Right now, I like to think Obama is standing in front of a mirror saying "You lookin' at me?" over and over again. 

On a more serious note, I have no idea what a sudden pull back from the US market by China would entail. But, the enforced austerity would be to the US's long term (as in this century) benefit, as we would finally be forced to reduce our obligations and concominant expectations to a rational level. 

Race To Walton Mountain

In the aftermath of the Crash of '08, and the uncertain future left in its wake (and towards which we are hurtling), it is clear that those people who were successful in the world that ended with the Crash are coming to the panicked realization that we might not be needing them anymore. So, their pontifications  and projections have filled the air as they try to hold on to a world they feel slipping from their grasp. 

Along with hedge fund managers and ponzi-runners, one job I suspect we will need less of is that of the affectless "post-modern" novelist, especially those who satirize consumer society while simultaneously growing wealthy off of it. Someone like, say Douglas Coupland, for whom, I suspect, the last few months have been a bit ... disconcerting. 

Copeland is not going down without a fight and is damning fate with an essay entitled "Back on Walton’s Mountain". The basic idea seems to be that we are going to be going back to the simpler life of our pre-consumer history as represented by "The Waltons", and that we may be economically and culturally unprepared for such a switch.  Perhaps. But, uh, Doug? You do realize that "The Waltons" was a TV show, right? I know you made your reputation off of cute pop cultural references raised to the level of high literary art, but there comes a time when these can be no substitute for real life. And, Doug, I don't know you, but I am willing to bet that you would be unable to handle a real life version of "The Waltons" inasmuch as that would involve a lot of physical labor for low reward and the possibility that you may not be able to discuss the finer points of Smiths lyrics with nose-ringed co-eds 

The truth is that most folks are not precious little writers, and are quite capable of cutting their budgets and lowering their standards of living. Most folks do it as a matter of course. In effect, they have had to over the last 10+ years as the real estate and college loan bubbles have squeezed out their ability to save much. The sub-prime meltdown was not caused by the family man driving a 10 year old sedan pinching his pennies. It was, among many other things, the result of a toxic combination of people with too much education and $$ getting rich selling investments to people with too little of either. But, Coupland seems to think the earnest striver should be conflated with the gardner buying a Hummer house on a beer budget and the Walls Street jerk trying to decide which house to visit on the weekend. Sorry, but that is flat wrong. The "simple" America is still  out there; it has never gone away. But, you can't find it in San Francisco, New York, or on the Internet. You've got to go to flyover country, or a church, or the Army, or high school football team, or ... you get the idea.

Coupland at least recognizes (somewhat) the limits of our "new" simplicity, even touching on the paradox of thrift whereby increased savings, which is "good," can actually depress the economy by removing $$ from circulation, which is "bad." But, does Coupland understand what it means to "save" or to "spend?" My grandparents raised a family during the Great Depression. THEY knew how to save, and the tiny house in Anaheim that they lived in for over 50 years was testimony to that. Coupland, meanwhile, is wondering what will happen if 10% of Americans stop eating out. 

Coupland is ultimately like a lot of our professional nags, decrying consumerism, even as they become rich and famous off of the $$ paid to them by bobos who love to hear them decry their consumerist lifestyles. And yet, Coupland undoubtedly lives in a fashionable neighborhood in a house filled with the gadgets, art, books, CD's, and other ephemera. Coupland is welcome to noisily yearn for a simpler life on Walton Mountain, but his tone suggests an echo-purely unintended I'm sure-of the Augutinian prayer "but not yet."

Escape To Alcatraz

Ha Ha. Very funny. But, putting the GITMO gang in Alcatraz is the sort of innovative thinking I like to see in our ambitious GOP congressmen.  

Closing Gitmo

Ho Hum. So Obama's "closed" GITMO. More accurately, he has ordered that the offices that must coordinate the consideration of the possible need to look into the ramifications of the fervently desired closing of a prison of war camp that was the best possible alternative at the time. Good luck with that. But, doesn't bitching about GITMO seem awfully 2006-ish? The War of Terror isn't exactly "over" and we haven't exactly "won," but in a lot of ways GITMO has served its purpose. At present, it sits half empty, its Lazy-Boyz and halal cafeteria gathering dust. 

Is al-Qaeda (or the jihadist philosophy) still dangerous? Hell, yeah. But they are definitely in the "wound licking" "reconstitution" phase. GITMO was all about holding stateless actors for whom the law could not account. Things aren't as settled as Andrew McCarthy might like, but American law has readjusted so we can better deal with these people. 

And, let's get real. Nothing's changed as of today. GITMO is still open. The trials have been suspended. Virtually all of George Bush's legal innovations have been generally approved by the courts, and have not been altered (publicly). Oh, we can't waterboard ... unless Obama gives special permission. 

But the truth is, I don't sit around worrying about Osama bin Laden or Iraq like I might have 18 months ago. What we should worry about is the crash of '08, and the gathering depression that we will simply need to get through over the next few years.

Obama can close all the GITMO'S he likes, but there is harder work, and more interesting questions to deal with NOW, such as: what sort of financial regulations are we going to have going forward? Maybe no one wants to hear from investors, and what we would like to see, but clarity in those rules and regulations are an absolute necessity before there can be any recovery. Except for vague calls to "regulate" hedge funds, or increase the SEC's budget, I have not heard much in the way of concrete proposals. What is the SEC going to do? Are we going to prosecute some of the leaders of US finance who denied there were problems at their institutions until their employees and shareholders lost everything? And, how are we going to to replace what has become an outmoded system (regulatory framework developed in the Thirties married to a business plan cooked up in the Eighties)?

Another question I would be more interested in hearing an answer to is: "who is going to pay for this?" Because I hope we all realize it's not just our taxes. Bill Clinton famously complained about how he couldn't believe that the success of his economic plan should depend on the opinions of the bond markets. But, that's because government, like the rest of us, must meet the everyday realities of competing for scarce resources. And, at least Clinton's bondholders lived here. Now, we have to rely on a lot unfriendly foreign $$ to fund our trillion dollar budgets. How long can that go on? No one knows the answer, but I think we all realize, deep down, that the answer is not "forever.

I hope, for Obama's sake, that his answers to these, and other, questions come as quickly and confidently as his answers to the GITMO "problem." But GITMO is easy; it was the temporary solution to a problem that has gone by the wayside. GITMO is obsolete. But the harsh, mysterious reality of the financial crisis is with us now, and is as insoluble as jihadist terrorism seemed in fall 2001. 

The Lost Art of the Nickname

I also see that former Cleveland Browns wide receiver  Dante "Gluehands" Lavelli, has also died. He was one of the last surviving members of the Browns' "dynasty" from the Forties and Fifties. 

The Fall of the House of Frank

Mmmmmmm....Barney Frank bank you've never heard of with with executive pay abuses, bad balance sheet, and a company Porsche gets $12 million in TARP funds after Barney Frank's "intercession".....Aaaaaahhhhh.

Note to GOP: Bush and Paulson are gone (Paulson IS gone, right? RIGHT?!). These bailouts are now wholly owned by the Dems. Hang every bad decision around their necks. You don't need to go after Obama, Geithner, Reid, or Pelosi (yet). But, you can certainly take down Frank and Chris Dodd with the information that is available NOW.

So, let's get cracking.

UPDATE: Read the article all the way to the end. The Frank Bank also has a Maxine Waters connection. That's almost too good to be true.

Sarah Speaks

Gov. Palin takes to the pages of the W$J to welcome our new president to office and offer some advice. She talks up her three favorite topics: energy (although she resists using her favorite phrase "America's hungry markets"), fiscal discipline, and military strength. Coincidentally, those (along with anti-bailout cheap shots) should be the themes the GOP pounds from now until doomsday, or 2012, whichever comes first. 

I love how she clearly wrote this herself (if it was written by a staffer, the staffer captured the Palin voice perfectly). It's full of enthusiasm, full of Alaska-talk, and full of her beloved out-of-control metaphors: i.e. "when congressional appropriation trains run too hastily, they accumulate excess baggage, spending more taxpayer money." Even her awkward grammar - "especially evident in these trying economic times" - is charming (she really talks like this). 

The relatively dull contributions from fellow pols Newt Gingrich, George McGovern, and Jose Maria Aznar are examples of more conventional pol-speak. Hopefully, she will avoid those sorts of tropes. 

My only hope is that she learns to speak the language of "No On Bailouts." Gingrich is on the right track, but anytime you start talking about the Great Depression, modern folk start to tune you out. 

At Least He Got Something Right

Awesome. The Madoff scandal has claimed another victim: PETA. They were thus unable to make a spectacle of themselves at the Inauguration. This really may be the dawn of a new age. 

Did you know...

That Dustin Hoffman is 72 year old? That's just two years younger than Elvis! 

Chrysler + Fiat = ?????

The car news today is Fiat's acquisition of a 35% interest in the dying  Chrysler corporation. I am absolutely in support of this. purely for selfish reasons: I own a 2004 Chrysler Concorde LXI and still owe a couple years of payments on it (I got it for low $$ last summer. the dealership was a ghost town).

 2002-2004 Chrysler Concorde Limited

UPDATE: Very warranted. The Chrysler-Fiat Deal Needs U.S. Loans. In fact, Fiat says the only way it is willing to go forward with this is with a guarantee of further US loans. New GOP hero Sen. Bob Corker says this is "troubling." I'd say that's an understatement. Are US taxpayers really going to foot the bill for a foreign car company, especially one that abandoned the US market long  ago (leaving behind plenty cute vintage cars) because it couldn't make it here?

The current stasis in Chrysler's business makes a mockery of the free market. All they are doing is waiting until March to see if they will get more funds. Meanwhile, their factories are idle. Their workforce is furloughed (and their best employees no doubt took the $$ and ran). They are no longer making good cars; everyone of their available models flunked "Consumer Reports" reliability tests this year. Most fatally, they are not developing new cars. Their "plan" is to simply enter into a series of partnerships with other automakers like Nissan and Fiat, and simply rebadge those companies' offerings as Chryslers. So, they are willing to destroy the brand in order to save it?  

Chrysler is not like Lehman Bros. or Bear Stearns. Its wealth is not paper wealth dependent on failed risk models. Chrysler has things of value: factories, testing grounds, the Auburn Hills complex, the Jeep brand (which is being cheapened and abused), the Dodge pickups, the Dodge muscle cars, the Chrysler mini-vans. Someone (not Cerberus!) could probably make something of these assets, but instead they are all lying fallow because people whose historic memories don't extend past the death of AMC can't imagine a world without 3 US automakers, and want to keep pumping $$ into an empty husk. 

This will obviously do the taxpayers no good, but it will do GM no good as well. If we really want to "save" the domestic auto industry, then we need to focus on Ford (which claims to not need the $$) and GM (which is building some good cars and is at least making some noise RE: the UAW, its dealers, and its lenders). But there is no good rationale to save Chrysler, except that its BK would lead to the supposed cascade of failures among part suppliers. Well, then the $$ we might spend propping up Chrysler should go to those guys, as they have viable businesses. Chrysler? Forget it. 

Laura Heads Off Into the Sunset

I've already said my blogging farewell to the President, but I think special mention should be made of his wife, Laura. 

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In a lot of ways, she was the best part of his administration: cool, understated, very intelligent, witty. Best of all, she absolutely refused to engage in a pity party when asked the inevitable questions about "How do you feel about all of your husband's critics?" Instead, she would smile patiently (while also turning the corners of her mouth down), lower her voice just a touch, and say "Well, there's always criticism..." But, with the tone of her voice she would express what she REALLY thought, which was deep deep disapproval. I have a lot of relatives in Texas - most of them women - and, believe me, if The Left knew what Laura Bush thought of them, they would hang their heads in shame.  


Whether she intended to or not, Laura Bush is the quintessential GOP woman of her era, just as Pat Nixon and her cloth coat were once the exemplars for the Greatest Generation. 

Laura Bush

When I see Laura Bush, I also see women like my mother and all of my aunts - Republicans all, and exact contemporaries to Laura - who were smarter, funnier, more dignified, more fun, more youthful, more stylish, better read, better educated (even if it was at at SMU and UT), better able to handle their men, and much more confident than their dour, pioneering  "sisters" on the other side.

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Truth be told, I was more offended by the Laura = Stepford Wife jokes than I ever was by the Bush = Hitler ones. W could take care of himself, but Laura never asked for this role. But, once it was thrust on her, she always carried herself well. She didn't make many "political" statements, but when she did she was spot on. Believe it or not, she was the administration's clearest eyed spokesman for the oppressed citizens of Burma, going as far as to publish an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. She was also a clear voice for women's rights in the third world, an area where most of the western world's brassy, loud mouthed feminists often couldn't find on a map, let alone in their hearts.

I love that Laura Bush was a librarian, and made it her cause to support reading. Maybe that's a more "typical" first lady cause, but she really threw herself into it - setting up the National Book Festival, giving speeches about the importance of reading, and best of all discussing her favorite books. Her favorite book was "The Brothers Karamozov," and her comments about it showed that she had read it many times, and thought about it quite a bit. Maybe she didn't reform healthcare, but she did show the world what a sophisticated thinker a "regular" person can be. Michelle Obama appears to be preparing to follow Laura's path, rather than the activist role that seems to be the default position for Democratic First Ladies. I like to think it's because of Laura's understated example that this is the case.

Laura Bush sits in on a discussion group for teensin Philadelphia.

And, unlike a lot of political marriages, it was clear that she and her husband really loved one another. I suspect the most interesting White House conversations of the last 8 years - especially in the dark days after 9/11 - took place in the private quarters after the last door had been shut against the world. 

So, good bye Laura. You have a lot of years ahead of you and I know that you will live them well.

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Kickin' the Can Down the Road

Voters may be asked to end state budget impasse. Lame. California's habit of budgeting by proposition - with feel-good proposals obtaining passage purely on sentiment with no regard for their budget impact - is part of the problem, not the solution, to California's budget morasse.

My European friends are always bragging about the wonders of parliametary government. Normally, I give this the back of my hand, but there one way they are right: snap elections. If only the Governator could call an early election and force the state legislature to face the voters NOW, while their minds are focused, rather than 18 months from now.

David Frum's "Comeback" was the better of the two "GOP renewal" books that came out last year*. Now he is repeating his prescriptions in Newsweek as a reminder that simply opposing Obama will not be enough. 

I would only add that the GOP also needs to renew its public face by bringing in some new people as its preferred representatives. As I said earlier, the GOP has become the party of the sour pussed James Dobson, the cozy Tom DeLay, the baffled Scott McClellan, the fallen Hank Paulson, the spendthrift House and Senate, &c. Many of the true believers from the Gingrich Revolution (Steve Largent, Dick Armey, JC Watts, Newt himself) seemed to fall by the wayside for no particular reason, leading to the ideological drift of the last 8 years. We need to bring those sorts of thinkers and leaders back. 

And, we need to stop putting down Sarah Palin. Whatever limits she may have in her manners or intellect, she is a force of nature politically with all of the best qualities of the GOP philosophy: self-made, entrepreneurial, budget cutting, positive, faith based, etc. Maybe she will never be president, but there is a lot of Howard Dean in her; she represents the Republican wing of the Republican Party. 

* The best of all is "How To Beat the Democrats" by David Horowitz, which came out in 2002, and worked worked for a little while.

2009 Senate Democrats Preview

Obama-time is still two days away, but the legislative branch is already hard at work. For Democrats, the Senate has always been their special preserve. They are masters of the filibuster, keepers of the Senatorial privilege, and firm adherents to the iron law of seniority.

As befits a coalition of interest groups united by their love of gov’t $$, the Senate Dems are a mixed lot from all the way from Ben “The Secret Republican” Nelson to Bernie “Why Don’t You Move Back to Russia” Sanders. Read this preview and weep for the fact that – in what is still considered a center-right era – 59% of the Senate is made up of pro-choice, high tax millionaires who believe in global warming. The GOP really should hang its head in shame.

Each Senator’s liberalism is graded on the famous “Wellstone Scale,” named for the martyred Sent. Paul Wellstone (D-MN). I also took care to note how they voted on the most important issue of the day: government bailouts as represented by the two-part TARP legislation (which btw Wellstone would have voted for since its official title was “the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008”)


Mark Begich: former mayor of Anchorage. Son of a congressman. This is the guy who put the final nail in the coffin of Ted Stevens’ political career, so he’s got that going for him. His views aren’t well known, but he is known to be pro-gun, and pro-drilling in ANWR. He is also known to be pro-choice and opposes the Patriot Act. Technically, he is Canadian. Interesting trivia: his Dad died along with Hale Boggs when their plane disappeared over the Alaskan wilderness. Voted for TARP, part II. 2 Wellstones.


Blanche Lincoln: A “Blue Dog” who is a reliable Democratic vote on many GOP issues. Might be a Democrat by convenience, rather than ideology. Used to be in favor of “card check” legislation, but has been backpedaling of late. Her sister is Mary Lambert, noted director of several lousy horror movies, including “Pet Cemetery.” Voted for TARP I and against TARP II. 1 Wellstone.

Mark Pryor: son of a Senator. Runs as a Democrat, but votes like a Republican. Mocked by Bill Maher for alleged creationist tendencies. Big on “constituent service,” so we don’t hear much from him. May have a secret life we don’t know about: for a long time he was the Senate’s number one recipient of money from Big Oil. Voted for TARP. 0 Wellstones.


Dianne Feinstein: “my” Senator. Very wealthy. Very liberal. Very pro-choice. Very pro-gun-control. She has a backbone, unlike many of her colleagues. Has been somewhat supportive of Bush’s intelligence reform, which draws plenty of rational thoughtful critiques from the Code Pink crowd. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.

Barbara Boxer: not my Senator. The ultimate shrill feminist. Also the ultimate shrill Green and shrill anti-war politician. Came to national prominence by attacking Clarence Thomas. The “base” loves her act. If the California GOP ever tried, it could probably unseat her. Instead, they run weak candidates against Boxer, and strong ones against Feinstein. It should be the other way around. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.


Mark Bennet: recently named to replace Ken Salazar. Bennet has been the superintendent of Denver’s schools, where he has annoyed the teacher’s unions. Has never held elective office before. Questionable if he can win on his own, as he is not a native Coloradan, and has only recently moved to the state. TARP? No chance to vote or even express an opinion, but he has no populist tendencies that would have caused him to vote against it. 2 Wellstones.

Mark Udall: Son of Morris Udall, and cousin to Senators Tom Udall and Gordon Smith, meaning Udall is part of America’s unofficial governing class. Brand new to the Senate in ‘08, but already the senior senator from Colorado thanks to the resignation of Ken Salazar. Spent 10 years in the House where he built up a very liberal record on the environment and the war on terror. Voted against TARP in the House and voted in favor of it in the Senate, which broke the land speed record for “growth in office.” 4 Wellstones.


Christopher Dodd: the son of a Senator who is “from” Connecticut in the same way that Al Gore is from Tennessee. An old drinking buddy of Ted Kennedy’s who managed to avoid his pal’s excesses despite making a similar “impression” in the Nation’s Capitol’s secretarial pool. In the classic way of the Democratic Party, Dodd is reliably liberal except in the area that is his particular area of expertise – which in Dodd’s case is banking. Through lax oversight, Dodd “deregulated” banks from congressional oversight, at the exact moment when they ought to have been coming under closer scrutiny. The Crash of ‘08 has effectively wrecked Dodd’s fund raising base. The whiff of scandal may yet take him down. Did he vote for TARP? Hell, he ran the press conference! 4 Wellstones.

Joseph Lieberman: a man of great integrity and personal conscience, so he was drummed out of the Democratic Party, although he still caucuses with them. Pro-war and also pro-morals, so he can hang with the GOP sometimes. Voted for TARP, sadly. 2 Wellstones (deduct 2 for the Iraq War).


Joe Biden: 4th most senior member, believe it or not, but will resign on Tuesday. Has lots of unattractive personal qualities including duplicity, glibness, and loquaciousness. Not as smart as he clearly thinks he is. Tends to champion lame civil rights legislation that is later declared unconstitutional. Infamous for plagarism and for his grilling of Republican judicial nominees. Not a wealthy - or even particularly well off – man (he has routinely been at the bottom of the Senate’s wealth chart), which gives him an odd sort of integrity. Will still have a “tie breaking” role in the Senate. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones (he loses one Wellstone for sponsoring the 2005 bankruptcy reform legislation).

Tom Carper: Admit it. Did you even know DE had another Senator? Carper’s a consensus building, non-partisan type who would never hurt a fly. When he was governor of DE, his scheduling secretary was murdered, and her body dumped at sea, by a well connected DE lawyer. I think I remember reading about that in “Vanity Faire.” That’s the most interesting thing you can say about Carper. He gets lots of campaign money from banks. Unlike Dodd and Schumer, most of Carper’s donors are still in business. Voted for TARP anyway. 1 Wellstone.

Ted Kaufman: seat warmer. Probably counseled Biden to vote for TARP. 2 Wellstones


Bill Nelson: one of the Dems’ most telegenic senators. Also one of their WASP-iest. Inevitably described as a moderate. A reliable pro-choice vote. Also a reliable vote against off shore drilling and ANWR. Generally supportive of border enforcement. Flew on the Space Shuttle “Columbia” as a “payload” specialist. Did not vote for TARP I, but voted for TARP II. 2 Wellstones


Daniel Akaka: the 84 year old “junior” Senator from Hawaii. Akaka is famous for sponsoring lousy bills, including the recent Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act which would grant sovereign rights to native Hawaiians, and which is certainly unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. But, who cares about his bills? Akaka is a one of the caucus’s most reliable liberal votes. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.

Daniel Inouye: joined the Senate 4 years BEFORE Ted Stevens. (do Hawaiians even vote for Senators any more?) A genuine war hero who lost an arm in WW2. Tends to like to get in on McCain’s “bipartisan” moments, including the Gang of 14. Inouye gained valuable cool points in the ’80’s when his son founded DC punk mainstays Marginal Man. Voted for TARP. 2 Wellstones.


Roland Burris: an appointed Senator, not an elected one. You may have heard of him. Carries himself with dignity, but stories about million dollar “loans” from Chicago moneymen are already starting to circulate. Voted for TARP II. 4 Wellstones.

Dick Durbin: Majority Whip. His tearful apologies after comparing US troops to Nazis and Pol Pot were some of the great schaudenfraude moments of the Bush Years. His soft voice and obvious intellect make him seem reasonable, but he is actually very left wing. Gets 100% ratings from the NARAL, NAACP, ACLU, Children’s Defense Fund, and Farmer’s Union. He and Leahy are probably the intellectual leaders of the Senate’s progressive wing. One of his daughters died last November, which I had not heard, so try to show him a little respect. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.


Evan Bayh: son of a Senator (the awesomely named “Birch Bayh”). Cut taxes and spending while governor of IN and achieved 80% approval ratings. Member of the DLC and a major figure in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, always seeming to be on the verge of a presidential run. Generally supportive of the War on Terror. Voted for the Iraq War, but by 2006, he was reduced to muttering darkly about “neo-cons.” Votes for the Ag Bill, of course. Has become less moderate with time: he has a 100% rating from NARAL and high ratings from the ACLU and HRC. Voted against most of GW Bush’s major appointees. His wife is a “professional board member,” which sometimes causes Bayh political grief. In a lot of ways, Bayh is a New Democrat whom time is passing by. Voted for TARP and then against it. 3 Wellstones.


Tom Harkin: Yuck. An old-fashioned, loud mouth farm state liberal who spends his days arranging massive transfers of wealth to his campaign donors, er, constituents. He has been a major proponent of such boondoggles as the ADA, ethanol subsidies, and the Ag Bill. One of those liberals who has made a mint “defending the common man,” Harkin’s personal net worth has been estimated to be as high as $21 million, which seems like a lot for someone who has been in congress since 1974. He’s also a serial exaggerator about his military record. On the plus side, he is a strong friend of Israel. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.


Mary Landrieu: daughter of a former mayor of New Orleans and sister of the current lieutenant governor of Louisiana, so corruption allegations are pretty much a given. Inevitably described as a “conservative Democrat.” Her margins of victory in elections tend to be very slim, and are resolved by midnight returns from Orleans Parish. The only member of the Senate who could be described as “cute.” Took the lead in blaming the feds for Katrina, and threatened to “kick the ass” of anyone who dared to blame LA and NO gov’t. Meow! Did not vote for TARP I, but did vote for TARP II. Coincidentally, she was in the middle of one of her patented closely fought re-election campaigns when she voted against TARP. 2 Wellstones.


Barbara Mikulski: a “pioneer.” Also, a nasty partisan lefty activist, although in her younger days she once said "The ethnic American is sick of being stereotyped as a racist and dullard by phony white liberals, pseudo black militants and patronizing bureaucrats. He pays the bill for every major government program and gets nothing or little in the way of return.” But that was a loooooong time ago. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.

Ben Cardin: had to beat Michael Steele and Kweisi Mfume to win his seat, so I don’t think he’ll be getting any Valentines from the NAACP anytime soon. Hasn’t had time to do much damage in the Senate. In the House, he was known for working on Medicare and welfare reform issues. Politically his career has followed the Mikulski template, in that they are probably among the last Dems to appeal to what used to be known as the “ethnic” vote. They even represented the same House District. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.


Ted Kennedy: no comment. Has brain cancer, but won’t retire. When he does retire, he wants his wife to replace him. Second most senior member (Gah!). Abstained from TARP vote (TARP still has a Kennedy connection, however; nephew Patrick was the principal sponsor in the House). 5 Wellstones

John Kerry: double no comment. His brain has not proved to be a burden to him. TARP? Of course! 5 Wellstones.


Carl Levin: politically, a New Dealer mated with a New Leftist meaning he is pro-union, anti-war, pro-ACLU, and believes in what used to be known as “industrial policy.” Comes from a family of Detroit-based politicians that has presided over the long slow decline of that city which gives the Levins a tattered Brezhnevian air. Tends to champion strict laws regarding environment, unions, civil liberties, and high taxes, and is then genuinely surprised when those laws negatively impact his state’s industries and economy. Voted for TARP. Expect more expressions of surprise. 5 Wellstones.

Debbie Stabenow: Kind of a nanny stater; she wrote one of the first state laws requiring children under 5 to ride in car seats. Also has been caught up in controversy over donations from the Bay Mills Indian tribe and the granting casino licenses. Married to an Air America executive who was caught up in a prostitution ring. Interesting trivia: she has been elected to both houses of the Michigan legislature and both houses of the US Congress. Did not vote for TARP I, but voted for TARP II. 4 Wellstones.


Al Franken: I never want to hear another story about how “nice” and sophisticated Minnesotans are. What an embarrassment. It’s a double embarrassment for Norm Coleman, who lost to him, and a triple embarrassment to the GOP, which rarely fights post-election battles with any sort of competence (FL 2000 is the great exception). His Wellstone meter is off the chart, as he is clearly the “new” Wellstone.

Amy Klobuchar: daughter of a sportswriter and a teacher, so she has plenty of “just folks” credibility. Positions are predictable: pro-choice, pro-gay rights, mostly opposes free trade, pro-universal health care, anti-Iraq War, etc. She’s a “constituent service” kind of a Senator. Took the lead in blaming George Bush for a collapsed bridge in her state, thus completing BDS’s turn to self-parody. Has the dreaded “Mondale” connection. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.


Claire McCaskill: daughter of obscure local Missouri politicos. Has a Nancy Grace-style personality and background. An early supporter of Barack Obama, she became his most effective attack dog last fall. She has an aggressive, rapid fire style of debating that the GOP should get used to listening to, as she clearly has a lot of fight and smarts in her. Gets huge amounts of money ($500K in 2006) from Emily’s List and other feminists. Occasionally gets in trouble with the Catholic Church over abortion and stem cells. Her ex-husband was found murdered in Kansas City in 2005. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.


Max Baucus: a “Blue Dog” Democrat who votes in favor of just enough conservative legislation (esp. on guns and taxes) to keep being re-elected in Montana. Also, ran a gay-baiting attack ad against one of his GOP opponents. Still, he tends to “talk conservative in Montana and vote liberal in Washington” in the fine tradition of Frank Church and other mountain state Democrats. More of a populist than a Democrat (well, as much of a Populist that a graduate of Stanford Law School can be). Voted for TARP. 2 Wellstones.

Jim Tester: see above. His election in 2006 caused many people to write serious articles about the importance of flat-top hair styles in appealing to western voters. A real Populist who has worked as a butcher and farmer. Has some positions on global warming and the Patriot Act that would disturb his constituents if they ever read about them in the newspaper. Had enough political sense to vote against TARP I, but not against TARP II. 3 Wellstones.


Ben Nelson: a pro-life moderate who represents a very conservative state. An analysis of his votes found he was more right wing than Gordon Smith, Lincoln Chaffee, Norm Coleman, and Arlen Spector. Tends to co-sponsor bills with the likes of Susan Collins. Helped pass the Bush tax cuts. Was also responsible for the “benchmarks” that Gen. Petraeus kept having to return to Washington to testify to. Thanks a lot “Ben.” President Bush nicknamed him “The Benator.” Not sure why he’s a Democrat. Voted for TARP and then voted against it. 0 Wellstones.


Harry Reid: a pro-life Mormon with ties to service employee unions and, ahem, “gambling interests.” Declared the Iraq War “lost” just when the Surge was taking off. Took money from Jack Abramoff. Said Justice Thomas’ judicial opinions are not intelligent (which means he has never read them). Got involved in a shady Las Vegas land deal. No clear ideology beyond favoring his own re-election. If he were a Republican, he would have been hounded from office long ago. Since he’s a Democrat, he’s the Majority Leader. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones


Jeanne Shaheen: new to the Senate, having ended the Sununu family’s long reign of terror over New Hampshire. A big NARAL activist. Defeated a fellow named Ovide P. Lamontagne in her first race for governor. As governor, broke the “no taxes” pledge, although her actual attempt to raise taxes didn’t pass. As a NH politico, she has been associated with the primary campaigns of Gary Hart, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton. Another major beneficiary of Emily’s List ($300K in 2008). Her husband had to resign from the Clinton campaign for wondering out loud whether Obama had been a drug dealer. Voted against TARP II. 3 Wellstones.


Frank Lautenburg: Kind of a 21st century Howard Metzenbaum. Senator from 1983 to 2001. Retired, but then was appointed to take over the Democratic Senate campaign of Robert Torricelli after the Torch had to withdraw from the 2002 NJ senate race over corruption charges. Very liberal in a Big Government/ Machine Politics kind of way. Known for nasty, dirty campaigning as befits his state. Gave a speech at the beginning of Iraq War hysteria titled “An Illustrated Guide To Chickenhawks.” A big gun control advocate and one of the NRA’s least favorite Senators. 5th wealthiest member of the Senate. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.

Bob Menendez: appointed to replace John Corzine in 2006. Parents were Cuban immigrants fleeing political oppression, but don’t be impressed; they were fleeing Batista. Pretty much a doctrinaire liberal with the expected 100% NARAL rating. Known as the “boss of Hudson County.” Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.


Jeff Bingaman: Who? A doctrinaire liberal who is a very big Green, and a very loud voice against Pres. Bush’s anti-terror measures. Also a leader in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. Becomes less liberal when the subject of border enforcement comes up. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.

Tom Udall: see Mark Udall for his family connections. His dad was Secretary of Interior for JFK & LBJ. As a member of the House, he tended towards the liberal side, joining the lefty Congressional Progressive Caucus and the oddball House Peak Oil Caucus. Very worried about resource depletion and climate change. Might become concerned about the thinning of our precious bodily fluids. Kind of comes across as a more lovable version of RFK Jr., only without the history of drug use and demagoguery. Like cousin Mark, he voted against TARP in the House but voted in favor of it in the Senate. 5 Wellstones.


Chuck Schumer: People like to make fun of Schumer for his love of the microphone stand, but watch out. Schumer is easily the smartest guy in his caucus, if not the entire Senate. Knows how to deploy the powers of the Senate’s rules and traditions like a 21st century LBJ. Used a handful of “fired” US attorneys to humiliate Alberto Gonzalez and drive the final nail in the coffin of the Bush Administration. A big gun control proponent and pro-choice activist, who is also a big supporter of Israel and the War on Terror. 2008 was a bad year: Schumer defended Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the end, was credibly accused of causing the bank run that destroyed IndyMac, and watched Wall Street – the financial engine of his state – go up in smoke. Like Chris Dodd, the “death of Wall Street” has pretty much wrecked Schumer’s fund raising base. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.

Caroline Kennedy (appointment pending. UPDATE: appointment withdrawn!): elections are for little people. Her job will be to attend soirees and vote the “right” way. 5 Wellstones.

Kirsten Gillibrand: a pro-gun, moderate from "upstate," a region not known for producing members of the New York Senate delegation. An ex-Clintonite, who put in some time at HUD in the Ninties. Has already been the subject of a snarky Maureen Dowd column. A likely "blue dog," but we'll see. Mary Landrieu is no longer the only Senator who can be called cute. 2 Wellstones (the grievance industrial-complex has already come out against her)


Kay Hagan: defeated Elizabeth Dole in what was widely regarded as an upset, although Dole also ran a shockingly lackluster campaign. Comes from humble roots. Husband was the member of a country club that was “whites only” until 1995. Her uncle was Lawton Chiles. Makes all the right noises about “securing our borders” “fiscal conservatism” and “fully fund our first responders and veterans,” but also supports boondoggles like S-CHIP. A former banking executive, she campaigned against TARP in the fall, and then voted in favor of it when she was actually in office, which means she will “talk conservative in NC and vote liberal in DC.” 3 Wellstones.


Kent Conrad: OK is some ways: has a middling pro-life record, is a deficit “hawk,” and is generally pro-War on Terror. But on taxes and agriculture, he is pure liberal, and those are where he does the most damage. Despite ND’s GOP orientation, Conrad looks to be Senator-for-Life. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.

Byron Dorgan: kind of a Lou Dobbs Democrat, who wrote a best-seller called “Take This Job and Ship It.” Well known for getting caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal, although he was not affected because Abramoff-gate was a “GOP scandal” and, hey, Dorgan’s not a member of the GOP! Whew! Voted against TARP I, but in favor of TARP II. 3 Wellstones.


Sherrod Brown: a major anti-free trader who led the fight against CAFTA in the House and wrote a book denouncing US trade policy. Worked as a teacher. Married to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Has a low profile, but is clearly a true blue progressive. Unlike a lot of his colleagues, he talks progressive in his home state and votes progressive in the Senate. There’s a lot of Wellstone in him, also a bit of Pat Buchanan. Question: if Ohio is such a GOP bastion, why is it represented in the Senate by this guy and George Voinovich? Voted against TARP I, but in favor of TARP II. 5 Wellstones.


Ron Wyden: a typical Pacific Northwest liberal: pro-choice, very Green. His real area of interest is elder care. One of those types who voted against the Iraq War, but voted in favor of Kosovo. Sits in Bob Packwood’s old seat. Consistently voted against TARP. Where did that come from? 4 Wellstones.

Jeff Merkley: another typical Pacific Northwest liberal. Worked for Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits before running for office. Has pushed legislation attacking junk food and outdoor smoking. Sponsored the House legislation to withhold funding for the Surge. Likes to present himself as a working class hero, but is really an annoying nanny stater. Ran a ridiculously overwrought TV commercial against TARP in the fall, and then … voted for TARP! 4 Wellstones.


Bob Casey, Jr.: son of a governor of PA. Ended Rick Santorum’s Senate career. Probably the Democrats’ most prominent pro-life voice, who also tends to be a reliable pro-life vote. Other than that, he is a pretty conventional Democrat. And, unlike his father, he has never hesitated to endorse pro-choice Dems like Barack Obama. He’s also been a strong advocate for gay rights issues. Claims to be fiscally conservative, but supports big spending programs like Medicare and NCLB. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.


Jack Reed: a West Point graduate with a fairly distinguished military record, including a stint as an Army Ranger. A leading anti-free trader. Other than that, he is an incredibly conventional liberal. Came from very humble roots, and still sees the Democratic Party as the Voice of the Common Man. Voted against the Iraq War from its outset. Unlike many anti-war Dems, Reed has visited Iraq many times and made thoughtful comments and critiques of the situation there, which is why you have never heard of him. Voted for TARP. 4 Wellstones.

Sheldon Whitehouse: the son and grandson of diplomats. Was US Attorney in RI, where he led some mafia prosecutions. Tends to focus on law and order issues in the Senate, but always from the ACLU side of things. Harassed Alberto Gonzalez and got bent out of shape over “torture.” Drove Lincoln Chaffee from office. Says he will conduct a review of Bush “crimes” if Obama doesn’t. May need to go to BDS detox after Bush leaves office. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.


Tim Johnson: this guy had a stroke, is still disabled, but has recovered just enough not only to stay in office, but also win re-election in 2008. Are Republicans even trying any more? On the plus side, his voting record is actually a bit conservative, including support for welfare reform, the Bush tax cuts, and the Iraq War. On the downside, he is a big Ag Bill guy, so he’ll be leaving the Senate feet first. Voted against TARP I, but in favor of TARP II once he was safely reelected . 2 Wellstones.


Patrick Leahy: a Progressive’s Progressive who, on account of his seniority and committee assignments, may be one of the most powerful leftists in the post-Reagan era. He is anti-war, anti-Patriot Act, pro-tax, pro-Green, pro-abortion, you name it. And yet he tends to fly under the radar due to his deceptively low-key demeanor. Famously (and deservedly) told to F--- himself by VP Cheney. Frustratingly incorruptible. Voted for TARP. 5 Wellstones.

Bernie Sanders: a “Socialist,” although he is categorized as an Independent, and has the luxury of never having to actually live under a true socialist system. Votes in a completely predictable manner– no free trade, no war, no tax cuts, etc. Also walks the walk. Unlike most progressives, he seems to live out his ideals. Caucuses with the Democrats, but spends most of his time complaining about it. Sits in Jim Jeffords’ old seat. Vermont, like Hawaii, has a real problem with electing quality Senators. Voted against TARP. 5 Wellstones.


Jim Webb: one of the few veterans (along with Akaka and Inouye) in the Democratic caucus who doesn’t have to exaggerate about his war record. Began the sad, yet necessary, GOP house cleaning by sending George Allen packing. Wrote a book about the Scotch-Irish in America called “Born Fighting.” He’s clearly a Democrat by inheritance, not ideology. The Scotch-Irish were all Democrats back in 1861, after all. Tends to come across as being one “Macaca” away from his own race controversy. Voted for TARP, which I found surprising. 1 Wellstone.

Mark Warner: worked as a staffer for Chris Dodd before using his connections to make a fortune in telecoms. Despite being a rich limousine liberal, Warner has an uncanny knack for appealing both to VA’s conservative rural voters and to the moderate suburban voters around DC, meaning he will be in the Senate for life. As governor he pledged to not raise taxes and then … raised taxes! Kind of tough on crime. Supports drilling off shore, but not in ANWR. Says he’s strong on 2nd Amendment, border enforcement, and free trade, but this is rarely reflected in his policies or public pronouncements. Has been linked to the “payday loan” industry. Voted for TARP. 2 Wellstones.


Maria Cantwell: kind of a 1990’s-style corporate Democrat. She made a fortune in high tech (and got caught in the middle of a spyware scandal). Her 2000 victory over Slate Gordon was by a margin of 2,000 votes, and was only made possible by some classic “late returns from Puget County”-style maneuvers. She’s a big Green and very pro-choice. One of her staffers was arrested for soliciting sex from an underage boy. Voted against TARP, which I found surprising. Or not. She’s up for re-election in 2010.

3 Wellstones.

Patty Murray: Eeyore’s girlfriend. This is a very morose looking woman. But, she is also the quintessential progressive Dem: a grass roots activist who worked as a teacher and was active in education issues before her political career. She’s reliably anti-war, anti-business, pro-tax, and pro-“for the children.” Gets tons of money from Emily’s List. Also got a lot of money ($40K!!) from Jack Abramoff and his Indian tribes. For some reason, she is also Boeing’s preferred pointman in Congress, which must keep its shareholders up at night. Voted for TARP. She easily gets 5 Wellstones.


Robert Byrd: the Senate’s senior member, and clearly on his last legs. Byrd is another Democrat by birth, rather than ideology. His civil rights record is chequered – from filibustering the 1964 Civil Rights Act to supporting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” What makes him a simpatico Democrat is his love of big spending (he is a master Appropriator), his propensity for machine politics, and his love of process over results. Oddly, he has been forcibly retired from his committee chairmanships, but remains president pro tem, meaning his colleagues think he is unfit to chair the Appropriations Committee, but is capable of being third in line to the presidency. Voted for TARP.

3 Wellstones.

Jay Rockefeller: ugh. Has managed to turn the phrase “Intelligence Committee Chairman” into a rare triple oxymoron. Voted to support the Iraq War and immediately began criticizing it. Gave behind-the-scenes support to post-9/11 intelligence work, but criticized it publicly. Completely unreliable, if not completely unmanned. Also incredibly wealthy thanks to the oil industry that he routinely castigates. There is no justice. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.

(Note: Republican John Raese has run against, and lost, to both of WV’s Senators. Has this ever happened before or since?)


Herbert Kohl: the 2nd wealthiest Senator, and heir to the Kohl’s Stores fortune. He is also the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. His funeral attendees should be a diverse bunch. Another farm state moderate who is pro-choice, pro-welfare reform, pro-tort & bankruptcy reform. He is also anti-free trade, and a supporter of universal health care. And a big Ag Bill guy. Voted for TARP. 3 Wellstones.

Russ Feingold: Mr. Integrity. Votes his conscience. Took principled stands against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act when it was politically unpopular to do so. Like Bernie Sanders, he walks the walk. One of the least wealthy members of the Senate (and listed as one of his assets a late model Buick). Was very active from 2001 – 2005, but has been strangely silent the last few years (actually since he failed to stop the renewal of the Patriot Act). Always fights fair, and never gets too heated. Although he is very progressive, he is also very respectful of the Constitution. Even John Ashcroft likes him. Democrats would be a lot better off if more of them were like Feingold. Voted against TARP, of course. 5 Wellstones.

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