Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Birthday

I need to sign off with an upbeat note since I am too worked up reading about the bailout collapse.

On that note, today is Granddaddy's birthday.

Happy Birthday Billy!


Frank Criticism

Barney Frank in his trademark bluntness in response to the alleged 12 representatives that supposedly changed their vote to oppose the bailout because of an (admittedly misguided) partisan speech by Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

$1.1 Trillion Loss

Here's an understatement. Today was a really bad day.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress failed to come to agreement on a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street investment banks as the vote failed 228-205 in the House. Reacting to the unexpected stalemate, the stock market plunged a record 777 points in two hours. How big is that? A 7% drop that we saw this afternoon is a $1.1 trillion loss in wealth. Everyone with 401k's, IRA's, individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds in the market -- we're all affected. And the bloodbath is sure to continue tomorrow.

There is no shortage of blame to go around here. Investment greed is part of it -- from Wall Street banks to irresponsible mortgage peddling to individuals that bought homes they could not come close to affording. I'm not going to pretend I understand derivatives and complicated mortgage backed securities that fell like a house of cards. But that is why I, Joe Average American citizen, rely on elected officials to appoint people to positions to understand this and oversee it. So lack of regulation was a part of this collapse too.

So while I want the causes of this collapse to be investigated so we learn the lessons for the future, I am even more disheartened by the vote today. First of all no one wants to sign up for a $700 billion bill. It is a mind-boggling sum of money on top of all the problems we face and our kids and grandkids will face.

But when two of the foremost financial minds in the country -- the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman -- beg and plead for bipartisan action to be taken to avoid certain impending financial hardship for the country, it is deflating when politicians fail to take action. No wonder people think so little of their elected government in Washington D.C.

Politicians from both sides have to shoulder the responsibility of this not passing. From the Republican side this vacuum of leadership from the President to push this through is the single biggest reason why I want a change in November. The President's capital is so bankrupt from all the failures and missteps for the past eight years that he cannot rally a majority of his own party in Congress to support the bailout his Administration put forward.

Enter the Democrats. To their credit they got 2/3 majority of their Representatives to support the buyout. But what does the Speaker of the House do right before the roll call vote? She takes the opportunity to lecture the Republicans with a snotty partisan "We told you so" speech that added a degree of divisiveness that completely could have been avoided if she would have taken the "This is for the greater good and unfortunately is the medicine we have to swallow" approach.

So while I understand the Republicans' frustration with her pettiness and I somewhat sympathize with the reluctance of many not to support government intervention in the free market (I'm a free marketer myself), the majority of Republicans in the House refused to put the needs of the country ahead of either pure ideology or childish partisanship. It is just completely disheartening and frustrating.

How bad is it going to get? We are about to see. This piece from Steven Pearlstein's is the best summary I have read on the situation in one page -- "They Just Don't Get It."

The basic problem here is that too many people don't understand the seriousness of the situation.

Americans fail to understand that they are facing the real prospect of a decade of little or no economic growth because of the bursting of a credit bubble that they helped create and that now threatens to bring down the global financial system.

Politicians worry less about preventing a financial meltdown than about ideology, partisan posturing and teaching people a lesson. Financiers have yet to own up publicly to their own greed, arrogance and incompetence. And leaders of foreign governments still think that this is an American problem and that they have no need to mount similar rescue efforts in their own countries.

In the coming weeks and months, all of these people will come to understand how deep the hole really is and how we're all in it together.

They'll come to understand that the giant sucking sound they hear is of a massive deleveraging of the global economy and the global financial system as households and governments, businesses and investment funds adjust to living in a world with less debt and more inflation.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


"Katie, I'd like to use one of my lifelines."
"I'm sorry?"
"I'd like to phone a friend."

Funny stuff.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Live Blog: Debate Numero Uno

12 minutes to debate time. McCain chose to go forward with the debate, which was the right call. Regardless of what people think about the bailout -- and frankly I'm not completely onbaord with either position myself -- voters deserve to know what each of these guys think, especially in a challenging time such as the one we find ourselves in this week.

Tonight's live blog is sponsored by Wolaver's India Pale Ale. (I'm hoping that the Vermont brewers will see this plug and fill up my fridge accordingly.)

On a sobering note, Ted Kennedy was taken to a hospital tonight for a seizure related to his brain tumor. No matter the ideological differences people have with the man, he's one of the admirable figures of all time in politics.

One minute to go. The spinsters have already started. McCain's people saying he could be tired so don't expect much. Obama's people are tampering down expectations by admitting that their candidate rambles professorially.

Huge Jim Lehrer fan. He's a down the middle guy. Here we go!

Lehrer points out that the financial crisis is fair game tonight. Indeed.

It took Obama a minute to try to tie McCain into Bush's policies. McCain touts bi-partisanship.

Lehrer: "Let's go back to my question. Do you favor this plan?"

Just answer the @#%$ question.

McCain ties in Eisenhower (?!).

Ah, he's getting at accountability. Hard to argue with that. Yawner so far.

McCain recycles a stump line about pork barrel spending with the money for the study of DNA of bears. Interesting that a certain bridge to a certain island wasn't mentioned.

McCain points out that he didn't win Mr. Congeniality in the Senate. Amy points out that Sarah Palin won Ms. Congeniality in her beauty pageant days.

Obama attacks McCain directly for his tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans. Good move.

McCain jumps to the business tax & Ireland. Answer the #@%# question.

Obama, responding to the criticism that he wants to raise taxes: "95% of you will get a tax cut." This directness is exactly what he has to do. K-I-S-S, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Potential testy exchange over who is the bigger champion against wasteful spending. Bad night for oil companies. Both accuse the other of being in bed with them.

Obama doesn't address Lehrer's question about priorities given the cost of the buyout. He's also falling into the Al Gore sighing trap by laughing under his breath and mumbling catty comments towards McCain.

Lehrer tries to rope them back to commit to what each candidate will cut in the face of the financial crisis one of them will inherit in January.

Obama: Get out of Iraq.
McCain: Tries to tie pick on Obama re: offshore drilling in nuclear power.

Not sure what offshore drilling has to do with spending cuts.

Lehrer tries to ask the effect of the bailout question for a third time. He's persistent.

Obama: "It's your President that presided over this orgy of spending." Bam.

Sarah Palin is going to be pissed if McCain keeps dissing Miss Congeniality awards.

Amy just points out (via Chuckie Todd) that Obama is wearing a flag pin on his lapel; McCain is not. Funny.

Obama: $600B in Iraq, 4,000 lives, "we took our eye off the ball." He's doing better on his long-winded tendencies.

Good line from McCain: "The next president is not going to have to make the decision of whether or not to go into Iraq."

Obama just hammered McCain on judgment -- 2003 vs. 2007.

McCain: Obama cut off funding for the troops.

Lehrer can't get it off this back and forth.

Iraq is just a cesspool of debate....moving to Afghanistan. In theory this one should not be as contentious.

BTW, when bathing the boys tonight I asked them who we wanted to be President. Knowing that I like Obama, they shouted in unison, "John McCain!!" So I did what any responsible father would do.

I explained to the boys that John McCain wants to take their gummy fish and chocolate away.

I have twin three year-old Obama supporters now.

The body language is noticeably different between these two. Obama seems to be addressing McCain more when he speaks. McCain is looking away toward the moderator more.

The problem with foreign policy debates is that at the core, this is re-fighting Vietnam.

Both of them have bracelets from family members of soldiers. I hate this "Who loves America more" garbage.

McCain's temper is visually showing.

Moving to Iran....

McCain: No nukes. No argument there. A "League of Democracies?"

Obama: Policy on Iraq contributed to Iran's rise.

McCain hammers Obama on meeting with dictators (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela) without preconditions.

Obama completely fumbles this answer away. I agree with his premise that you have to keep diplomacy at the forefront. But Obama has GOT to be able to net his arguments out.

The "preconditions" argument is a complete difference of world views. Do you talk to your enemies or does giving them an audience legitimize their positions just by entertaining the discussion?

I agree with Obama, but he has to be able to explain this in a clear, concise manner for the average voter.

On to Russia....

Obama is really backed into a corner b/c unfortunately for him he can't see Russia from his house.

This debate spiraled downward. He said, he said.

Last question....

Chance for another 9/11-type attack on the United States....

McCain: America is safer than it was on 9/11, but we have a long way to go.

Obama: Safe, but a long way to go. Biggest threat is nuclear threat in a suitcase, not a missile.

I don't think either McCain or Obama tanked it. No major gaffes. Some good lines and points from both men. But so much of which one of these two appeals to voters depends on a person sees the world.

For me the nutshell of the two candidate's foreign policies is that McCain favors a stronger, more aggressive approach to dealing with those countries that have differences with the United States. Show them our might first, discuss with them second.

Obama on the other hand favors a more subtle approach where diplomacy is the first and second option, choosing to try to shore up America's image in the world as the best foreign policy tool to guarantee security.

Next Thursday, JoeBi and Tina Fey.

Cheers everyone!

To Debate or Not to Debate

What an odd, bizarre day for a birthday...

Congress is trying to hammer out a $700 billion buyout for Wall Street. Democrats back President Bush for the first time in years. The stock market tumbled 150 points in the first 5 minutes from the opening bell. There is a Presidential debate tonight that may or may not happen. And rather than preparing for the potential debate in Mississippi the two candidates are in D.C. (posturing?) trying to help hammer out the deal for the buyout.

On the bright side, Amy & I celebrated our birthdays with a rare night out last night. The kids were well taken care of by our friends Ann and Jeanne from our church. So we went into Raleigh to our favorite restaurant and enjoyed a couple hours away. We intentionally scheduled our night out for Thursday instead of tonight knowing that we would want to watch the debate. So it better happen! :-)


Update: McCain just announced he is attending the debate so the show will go on. Phew!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Jelly Belly Birthday

This week is birthday week at the Rutledge household. The boys' excitement has given an added jolt of energy to the celebration of their parents' birthdays. Normally Amy & I pass through this week with limited hurrah. But the boys would have none of it. A birthday to a three year-old is like a car to a sixteen year-old. So when they found out that their mom's and dad's birthdays were coming, every day they wanted to know about the cake, the presents, and the party.

Last night the boys and I made a birthday cake card for Amy as she was out with Tess. Then we hid it with her present -- two bags of her favorite candy in the world, Jelly Bellies -- in the boys' closet. When Amy came back to the house, the boys were just bursting to tell her what they had done for her. Luckily I held them off and convinced them that waiting until today when it would be a surprise was the way to go.

Owen and Gus were up before 7:00 this morning, ready to serenade their mom with "Happy Birthday." When they gathered up their card & their Jelly Belly gift, the boys barely let Amy out of the shower before they shrieked and shouted birthday wishes to her. (After the celebration, Owen, an avowed sugar fiend, was mostly concerned with whether Amy was going to share her Jelly Bellies.) Kids definitely know how to bring the energy & excitement.

Happy Birthday Amy B!

Monday, September 22, 2008


$700B is a lot for taxpayers to swallow. Once people start to realize what they're being sold, there could be (and maybe should be) a backlash.

Good read.

A Sense of Resentment Amid the 'For Sale' Signs

The comments suggest that the bailout could pose a stiff new challenge for presidential candidates and anyone else running for office this fall. The wisdom of the government's massive financial intervention hasn't been marketed to the masses. The nation's financial and political leaders are working round the clock to repair the shattered markets, and no one, from the White House on down, has spent more than a few minutes explaining to the American people why they're being asked to assume hundreds of billions of dollars of liabilities.

President Bush said little all week. Finally, in remarks in the Rose Garden on Friday, the president said, "These measures will require us to put a significant amount of taxpayer dollars on the line." All the rescue efforts combined may approach a trillion dollars.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tessa Messa

When Amy & I first had the boys we were all about making their baby food. We would stay up late at night baking sweet potatoes and butternut squash then puree it into ice cube trays. Gracious, the amount of time we spent doing that. And while it was a noble effort and my hat goes off to those parents that take the time to make their own baby food, I have to say that the practice has been a casualty the second time around at the Rutledge house.

Still as Tess has progressed from rice cereal to vegetables and fruits, she does not mind one bit that her mom & dad are taking the easy route. Actually, Tess doesn't really seem to mind a bit about much of anything.

Long live Gerber.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Typewriters, baby, typewriters

Of all the Sunday op-ed's I read today, this was easily the best. Thomas Friedman -- normally an energy columnist rather than a political columnist -- talks about the short-sightedness of an oil-only energy policy and the distractions from today's major issues by a campaign that chose to reignite the culture war in its attempt to win an election.

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”


I respected McCain’s willingness to support the troop surge in Iraq, even if it was going to cost him the Republican nomination. Now the same guy, who would not sell his soul to win his party’s nomination, is ready to sell every piece of his soul to win the presidency.

In order to disguise the fact that the core of his campaign is to continue the same Bush policies that have led 80 percent of the country to conclude we’re on the wrong track, McCain has decided to play the culture-war card. Obama may be a bit professorial, but at least he is trying to unite the country to face the real issues rather than divide us over cultural differences.

A Washington Post editorial on Thursday put it well: “On a day when the Congressional Budget Office warned of looming deficits and a grim economic outlook, when the stock market faltered even in the wake of the government’s rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when President Bush discussed the road ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan, on what did the campaign of Senator John McCain spend its energy? A conference call to denounce Senator Barack Obama for using the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ and a new television ad accusing the Democrat of wanting to teach kindergartners about sex before they learn to read.”

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

SNL returned with a bang last night.

(Ask this one about dinosaurs.) I love it.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Just Wait 'Til I'm Big

Poor Tess -- she doesn't stand a chance with these two for big brothers. She is so intrigued by Owen & Gus, following them with her gaze whatever they are in to.

Pretty soon she'll be crawling around and able to get to them and their toys. These two wild animals are in for a rude awakening. For now she watches from the safety of jumpers & swings.

Great weekend everyone -- cheers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Worm

School has resumed and with it comes the inevitable germs that preschoolers pass back and forth to each other. Gus has been sidelined for five days now with a bacterial infection that is a combination of a sinus infection and bronchitis or in kid terms that they can understand, a dinosaur with a cold. There is some name for it, but you get the gist.

Anyhow, this has been a challenging week for Owen as he has had to venture to school without his trusty companion. Drop-off has been a challenge as he has clung to my leg and cried as I try to walk out the door. At night Amy & I have separated the boys in an effort to keep the sickness confined to one child instead of spreading throughout the house. Owen has woken up every night crying to go back into his room.

But today he made some progress. I took him out for breakfast as part of a deal (bribe) that if I took him out for a bagel he wouldn't cry at school. So far, so good. Now Owen can relax and enjoy the simple pleasures, like finding a worm in the driveway.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Politico Friday

I was a good boy this week. No snarky comments about the GOP convention from the RutlFarm.

(Did you know John McCain was a P.O.W?)

Well, almost all week.

John Stewart sums up the spinsters' take on Sarah Palin better than anyone.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Skid Marks

Excerpt of the conversation this evening at our house as Owen came out of the bedroom for what I thought was his usual bedtime stall tactic.

Owen: "Dad, I need to go to the bathroom in the green bathroom."

Me, slightly annoyed at the latest stall game: "C'mon Owen, why can't you just use your bathroom?"

Owen: "Because there are skid marks?"

Me: "Skid marks?"

Owen: "Yeah. There are skid marks in the toilet. I need to use the green bathroom."

When I walked into the boys' bathroom with him, sure enough I noticed a remnant that had not been flushed down.

Me: "I suppose you're right Owen. By the way how did you learn what a skid mark is?"

Owen: "A skid mark is when a piece of poop doesn't flush down the toilet."

Me (impressed): "Who told you that?"

Owen: "Ummm, Aunt Mel."

I should have known. I should have known.