October 15th, 2008


The 24-hour-party turns into a fire sale.

The other day, Iceland reopened their stock market for trading, after their recent banking failures...

It promptly collapsed 77%. And Iceland's currency collapsed as well, to the point that it's practically untradeable.

Britain, whose pensioners, city councils, and universities had so much invested in Icelandic banks with attractive interest rates, are now stuck reading the small print of their contracts, while their accounts are frozen and inaccessable. Meanwhile, Iceland's bankers blame the British for triggering a run on the banks.

Back in Iceland, the locals are taking this opportunity to buy up all the foreign goods from the stores that they can get their hands on, because this country which imports so much of its items, is soon about to find themselves living off of obscure, unpalatable salted and pickled bits of fish and sheep that no other sane individual would touch.

It's fortunate for them, perhaps, that these are their national delicacies.

So, the big question is, how will this change the party? Where young Icelanders were once able to hold rich, lavish affairs in their spare time... now many of them will find themselves out of work, with time on their hands, and prone to partying just because... assuming they can afford to do so. Will we see Icelanders turning to homebrewed potato landabrugg, or perhaps to Brennivin? Or will they go overseas to work, returning home rich, with money that's actually worth something?

Somehow, I can't see the Icelanders starving to death... but shifting towards a future with greatly reduced imports will be a huge mess, I'm sure, and cause a massive shift in how they've lived their lives recently.  Will Iceland be indebted forever? Will things ever be the way they were again? *Should* they be?!

As an example of how nuts things are right now, we can peek in on stelpa</lj>'s reality...

Watching news. Today's news includes:

* Iceland is being classified by the UK government as terrorists. For serious. By doing this they can draw on provisions from the anti-terrorism laws to seize assets. I guess this means I should go blow something up..?

* The last big Icelandic bank has collapsed. It has been taken over by the government.

* The oldest, biggest import company in Iceland is on the verge of going under. My brother works there. I'm worried. . . .

Everything is falling apart.. . . The current exchange rate changes literally by the hour, so I couldn't give you an exact number. The Icelandic Federal Bank has frozen the Icelandic krona's value at a point that most countries refuse to accept. For my boy, who needs to withdraw his earnings through his Icelandic credit card, the loss of income is enormous, as the bank buys the dollars undervalued and sells it back in pounds at a monstrous difference.

As an example, if you were to buy Icelandic kronas with your 10.000 pounds right now, you would get the buy rate of 162,70 kr per pound. If you then changed your mind and bought pounds back with your kronas, the sale value is 211,98. Meaning you would only get 7.675 pounds back. That's without any banking fees or exchange commissions. Both of these values are based on the current (13:47 on oct. 8, 2008) exchange rate of my commercial bank, and not the international values.

It's an odd experience to enter my credit card number onto a site and be refused.

We are not accepting credit cards from this country. Please contact billing support...

News in Iceland... ... is piece after piece on what to do if you're about to succumb. The television hammers home information about the suicide hotline, emergency reception at the psychiatric ward, local GPs and talk about how important it is to talk to friends and family in this crisis. Celebrities give little pep talks and stress that no unhappiness is so great and no problem so insurmountable that there is no possible solution, no faint glimmer of hope.

Because the fact is that there is no such thing as national bankruptcy. As long there are people left alive, someone is producing *something*, and so the state, which is its people, can't go bankrupt. And so there is no way out. The idea of living in a slavery of debt and destitution with no hope for the future or their children's future has people killing themselves. Go figure....

One former Icelandic tourist either wants to help, or appreciates the dark humor of the situation, such as it is...
http://adoptanicelander.com .


Ooops. She did it again.

"Ya just get it..."

Or not.

And just when she started looking like a marginally competent talking point memorizer / cue card reader, too...

Listen to that crowd. Are you *sure* that's the Sarah Palin that everyone's so excited about?! Or is this something like a really bad car crash, where everyone has to slow down and get a good look? 


The final debate.

Well, the pundits are going to look at this and see something that they like... aggressive attacks and lots of red meat for the Repubicans... but what it comes down to is what voters think.

So, perhaps it's not the best of news for McCain that FoxNews' undecided voter focus group had only four voters who made up their minds... all in favor of Obama... and I just saw CNN's focus group, where three undecided voters made up their minds... all for Obama.

Another focus group
... this one by Stan Greenberg of 50 undecided voters in Colorado. Republicans and Independents outnumbered the group by almost 4 to 1, and yet half of the voters thought that Obama won the debate, with 24% giving McCain the victory and 26% seeing no clear winner. . . Once again, the focus group dials dove whenever McCain went on the attack, particularly when he talked about Bill Ayers and ACORN. . . The audience that gave McCain a 54/24 favorability rating, rated him 50/48 at the end of the night, whereas Obama started off at 42/42, but climbed to 72/22 after the debate.

I'll be reporting on the snap polls shortly, but I'lll just say this... it seemed to me that John McCain made arguments that just won't appeal all that well with undecided / independent voters... and going negative didn't score many points with undecided voters, and perhaps helped to turn them off to McCain's entire message... like the boy -- or old, curmudgeony guy -- who cried wolf. If you can't believe the attack, and question the judgement of making it when the country is facing so many serious issues, and immediately after talking about how bipartisan you are... well, it damages the trust that you hope that people will have in you.

CNN poll results are in 58% Obama, 31% McCain.. ending with a 66% approval rating, up 3% from before the debate. McCain ended at 49% approval, if I remember right... the same approval rating as from before the debate.

CNN was a bit tenuous when it came to their results, in that they had 10% more Democrats in the poll than Republicans... although there are clearly more registered Democrats than Republicans this year... so they broke down the polling to show just the response of independents. They gave Obama the debate, about 53% to 33%. Only about 4% of Democrats thought that Obama lost the debate, while about 9% of Republicans thought McCain lost... not a huge shift there as far as party loyalty, but it does indicate that a substantially larger amount of Republicans might be open to switching their votes, or might not be all that motivated to vote in the first place.

CNN's poll also pointed out that 80% of the respondents thought that McCain was more negative, and 70% thought Obama was more likeable. So, apparently going negative backfired, at least according to the poll data. Whether or not it left a seed of doubt in Obama's answers to the attacks remains to be seen... but I didn't see anything that McCain brought up that couldn't be addressed and would cause serious damage to Obama in the next few weeks.

The CBS snap poll results were even more decisive than CNN's polling. Who won? Obama 53%, McCain 22%. Who are you voting for now? Obama 28%, McCain 14%.

Ultimately, this was a debate that McCain needed to win decisively in order to quickly reverse the trend.  Clearly, his performance tonight, in and of itself, is not a game changing result. It seems to me that by now, most Americans have made up their minds, or at least are leaning in one direction or another. Most favor Obama... the ground game of the election clearly favors Obama... the advertising favors Obama... and the increasing obviousness of this fact is really starting to tip the overall argument.

Frankly, if this were the first debate, I think lots of people would view it as pretty even, with maybe a 10% difference in the polling. The fact that they aren't means one of two things -- or maybe a combination thereof -- either Obama did substantially better than McCain on the issues that matter to people, or most people are already leaning towards Obama anyway, and see him as their next president.  


More tasty neoconservative meltdown...

More humorous reactionary reactions from those funster neocons at the National Review, from tonight's debate... 

"McCain lacked the killer instinct.. . .And that . . .explains those insta-polls. McCain has no one to blame but himself."

"A couple folks here have been saying that McCain is doing better than in the previous two debates. I wish it were true, but I just don't see it. I think a few times McCain has come across as spluttering."

"A minute
they spend on who's being meaner or more dishonest in this campaign is a minute that helps Obama."

"To be honest, I don't think Mac works hard enough to master the economic issues, especially tax cuts and growth. He has supply-side policies, but he is not a supply-sider. It shows when he talks about that stuff."

if the dissatisfactions with McCain expressed to me at the Palin rally in Laconia, NH today are anything to go by, there's a 60-40 probability that any cries of "Kill him!" at a GOP event are directed at our guy."

Frankly, I liked it best when McCain credited Hillary Clinton with his plan for buying people's houses for them... with no exception for the speculators who were scooping up multiple houses and flipping them, either.

It was a stupid idea when Hillary suggested it... and I criticized it then, as a gimme for the crappy subprime lenders and speculators.  It's even more stupid now. Obama's plan of negotiating fixed-rate mortgages for people's primary residences makes a lot more sense... and puts the burden where it belongs!

People don't need to own a home.  They need somewhere to live, that they can afford... and these particular people have zero-to-negative equity in their property... so, if they can't afford a mortgage rate similar to that which they originally got on the house, perhaps they could be offered some kind of longterm lease contract, negotiated by a judge... but if they can't pay for any of the above, they shouldn't be given a home, any more than I should be given a yacht.

Ultimately, the real estate market needs a chance to correct itself, even as people need to have a place to live. Fortunately, there's an oversupply of housing in the U.S., so both are possible at once. If we start bailing out people with no equity in their houses that they've only owned for a few years now... what will we do when many, many others lose their jobs -- and they will, because this recession will last years -- and need a similar bailout of their fixed-rate mortgages?

Who should be bailed out first... those with the least means to pay for a house, who selected the worst mortgages, and who own the least equity in their houses... or those with the greatest means, who had good jobs, dependable mortgages, years of savings, and years of dependable home equity... only to run afoul of the economy in the months ahead?

Should *ANY* of them get their house for free.... or do they all just need somewhere to live, while the economy recovers? How do you truely recover the economy when demand for new housing crashes, due to the government preventing a market correction that would make housing as plentiful and affordable as it should actually be?

Really, the idea of buying people houses is as flawed as Hillarycare, Mk. I, only with even more gimmes for the people who got us in to this mess. This is *precisely* why Hillary's close connections with lobbyists and their money were so damning when she was running against Obama... and it also helps explain why McCain is acting like McClinton.

Given that John McCain isn't a Democrat, the only other excuse I can think of for adopting such a policy is that he's running on the National Socialist ticket this year.