Friday, October 31, 2008

What Barack needs

Tim --

I know this campaign has asked a lot of you.

But in the next 5 days, Barack will need you more than ever before.

Together, we can make sure all voters head to the polls and make their voices heard in this election. And we can get Barack's message of change out to millions and millions of Americans in these final hours.

That's why I'm asking you to dig deep and make one final donation to help get us across the finish line.

I've been blessed over the last 21 months to have been invited into your communities and to hear so many of your personal stories.

Supporters like you have told me about loved ones who can't afford health care, and relatives who've been laid off from jobs they've had for decades. About family members fighting bravely in Iraq, and worries about affording college in a struggling economy.

But what I've heard more than anything else is hope. A shared hope that if we work together, we can change politics and make this country better for all Americans.

I know that we can make it happen -- and we are so very close.

The strength of this campaign has always come from the individual stories and hard work of millions of supporters like you.

Thank you for being part of this movement,


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich

“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Man Discovers Real Americans In An Odd Place

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is employed by a newspaper that publishes in the heart of a city—Washington D.C.—that has been identified by the McCain campaign’s chief geographer, Sarah Palin, as a place where real America does not exist.

The trouble with Washington, she has been advising real Americans, is that it attracts too many fake Americans who coddle terrorists--such as Democrats, independents who act like Democrats and Republicans who sometimes vote with Democrats, which obviously explains why Washington has been so corrupt the eight years of the Bush administration.

Impressed by these discoveries yesterday, Milbank went in search of real Americans in this political season.

He chose the nearby state of Virginia. You would suppose that newspaper sleuth could have flown to Utah or southern Alaska. But newspapers in Washington aren’t in much better shape financially than they are in Minnesota, Texas or California. So he judiciously decided to stay on budget and wound up in the city of Richmond, Virginia.

“I can’t get much more real American than Richmond, Virginia,” he told himself. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, the political hub of a state that has voted Republican in every presidential election in the last 44 years.

So here was a journalist Diogenes, on the prowl for real Americans. His roamings took him to the Richmond Coliseum, where 12,000 people had jammed their way to hear a political speaker. It was the maximum they could pack into the building. If you got there late, you were going to have to depend on loudspeakers or Fox News to meet the real Americans in Richmond. Milbank got there in time.

In fact he got there a couple of hours before the speaker came on. They played the national anthem. People sang it with gusto. Some of them had American flag pins. You couldn’t tell offhand whether they were hard-working and kind and good and courageous. This is the McCain campaign’s description du jour of people who are now enshrined as the real Americans, as opposed to Democrats. But Milbank figured there was a fair chance that some of them in the Coliseum might qualify.

He interrogated folks in the front row, people who looked suspiciously like genuine Americans despite the admission that most of them were Democrats. The interrogator was expecting anger and scorn in the wake of the McCain campaign’s robocall offensive depicting Democrats as subversives.

He got laughter.

“I’m a terrorist,” said a woman food vendor. “We’re probably communists,” said one of her partners. But what the crowd was there for was to hear the main speaker address whatever furies they were feeling over the phony “we’re the real Americans” postures the McCain people have adopted in the flagging weeks of the election bombast.

The speaker was Barack Obama.

What he said deserves an audience wider than the one in Richmond, not so much because it reflects a man still walking a higher road than his detractors but because it reflects a simple truth and a reality of an America that for all its present turmoil and pain and division is still a country capable of something rare and good and great when it remembers its history and its strengths.

“There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country,” he said. “There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country. We all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young old, rich, poor gay, straight, city dweller, farm dwellers, it doesn’t matter. We’ all together.”

But sometimes we’re not. National elections have that wicked genius, bringing out the worst of what we are and who we are.

But coming together, in the worst of times, not necessarily the best, is the indispensable part of the American pilgrimage. Just as indispensable are leaders who remind us of what we have achieved when we come together to recognize our deepest needs and our deepest worth.

“There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq,” Obama said, “and patriots who opposed it. There are patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Virginia and all across this country who serve on our battlefields, some are Democrats and some are Republicans and some are independents. But they fought together and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag.”

The temptation for some is to discard this as campaign rhetoric. I don’t. It’s something to remember when most of the rest is forgotten.

By Jim Klobuchar

c Jim Klobuchar

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Titanic Survivor Can Tell You If We’re in a Recession

A 96-year-old woman in southwestern England has confirmed a joyless truth about the spreading economic swamp that has evaded regiments of financial analysts and Wall Street apologists for months.

The truth is that the swamp is deeper than you may think.

Milvina Dean is the last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. She was two months old when the great ship went down in the North Atlantic in 1912. This week the Agence France Presse revealed that Milvina Dean is auctioning off all of her mementoes of that grievous day.

She is not doing it to write closure to an event that defined her lifetime.

The last survivor of the Titanic is selling her keepsakes to pay for her nursing home costs.

They keep going up while stocks go down, banks go broke, the lines of the jobless lengthen, governments look longingly across the oceans to find new patsies for their debt, while fiscal eggheads and me-first brokers quarrel about whether all of this constitutes a recession.

The country of Iceland is now officially bankrupt after years of living high and thriving on tourists enthralled by the spectacles of fire and ice in their thermal fields.

In Ireland they are drinking morbid toasts to years of prosperity that the world applauded, years that have flown almost as suddenly as they arrived.

It’s global and there are villains enough to go around. At the head of the list is the American housing bust and the predatory mortgage loan bundling that created instant millionaires and kept the stock market flying to dazzling new heights. All this time factories were shutting down. And because of their increased productivity, working hours shrunk for those lucky enough to escape the outsourcing schemes that brought new riches to unregulated financial swashbucklers who were insulated against taxes by the government of George Bush.

In the meantime the real taxpayers shelled out billions for two wars, including billions never accounted for, billions that went into the hands of friendly contractors, and billions in taxes that will be dumped on the heads of children who are now being told by some wingnuts that it is not patriotic to pay taxes.

Many of these children are now attending inferior schools and will never be able to compete for the best jobs because there isn’t enough money to pay for their public education. Nor was there enough money to lift the some 40 million Americans living below the poverty line and the millions without medical coverage.

We are now in an election in which one candidate offers the hope of looking seriously at the economic wounds this country has absorbed, and bringing some level of ethics into the self-serving manipulations of the financial industry. He offers the hope that the qualities of fairness, trust and good will that have lifted this country to its finest hours can be restored somehow in these fractured times.

The other candidate is a man of merit who is campaigning angrily and desperately and who would almost certainly drag into his administration--or be afflicted by--most of the same forces that have brought the country to the turmoil it is in today.

The decision by the American public doesn’t seem that difficult.

By Jim Klobuchar

c Jim Klobuchar

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Need a laugh?

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid to be a heartbeat away from being President.
The old rancher said, 'Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle.'

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was.

The old rancher said, 'When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle.'

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. 'You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.

Fair well to Arms

Please John & Sarah don't insult we the working class. Go back to Alaska take your hot dog stand and work up a recipe for wiener water soup, it will help stretch your food budget. Joe six pack can be a new pitch man for Budweiser. Joe he'll work for an open tab, maybe at the bar were Cindy met John. John & Cindy can sign sit around signing souvenir photos former Washington has beens. Joe the plumber can run your health plan he'll do perfect for colonoscopy . Sarah your child should be placed into a family that will give him love and care, rather than have parents that exploit his dignity for their selfish political gain.

Joe the Plumber, meet Joe Six-Pack

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain had a message for the average American facing the economic crisis: Say it ain't so, Joe.

Time and again Wednesday, the Republican invoked the example of Joe the Plumber as a way of saying to voters: I'm on your side.

"What you want to do to Joe the Plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Obama disputed that, but whatever the details, Joe the Plumber had made an unexpected star turn in the third and final presidential debate.

"My old buddy, Joe the Plumber out there," Mr. McCain said, veering back to his economic Everyman later in the faceoff to make a point about Mr. Obama's health care plan.

So who is Joe the Plumber?

He's Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man hoping to buy a plumbing business who told Mr. Obama a few days ago during a campaign stop that his tax cut plan wouldn't help him.

Mr. McCain made Joe the symbol of middle-class voters anxious over the unruly economy whom both candidates will need in November.

"The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare, let's spread the wealth around," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Obama replied that he's on Joe's side by wanting to give most small businesses a tax break.

"What I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who doesn't yet have money, I want to give them a tax break now," he said.

Trailing in the polls and forced to relocate dwindling campaign resources among a few swing states, Mr. McCain needed to score points on several political fronts Wednesday night.

One was to send a clear message that on the economy, he's on the side of average homeowners, people worried about their jobs, families concerned about paying the bills.

Enter Joe the Plumber.

Mr. McCain also needed to put some daylight between himself and the unpopular President Bush.

In a year when many voters say they want change, the Arizona senator's dilemma has been how to break with the president without angering the GOP base. Mr. Obama says a McCain presidency would amount to a third Bush term.

After his Democratic rival tried again to tie him to Bush policies, Mr. McCain served notice that when it comes to handling the economy, he's no George W. Bush.

"Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago," he said. "I'm going to give a new direction to this economy in this country."

It was, perhaps, the best scripted line of the night for Mr. McCain, whose to-do list also included seeding doubts about Mr. Obama.

Against the advice of some Republicans who feared it would only increase the GOP candidate's negatives, Mr. McCain also seized briefly on Mr. Obama's association with former 1960s radical William Ayers. But then, lumbering back to more favorable talking points, he returned to the economy and Joe the Plumber.

As for Joe, who joins Joe Six-Pack in the pantheon of this year's political notables, he told reporters that being mentioned a dozen times in the debate was "pretty surreal," though he hasn't settled on a presidential candidate.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fear and the Sour Grapes of Sarah Palin's Wrath

There's a saying among the optimistic - fear is courage that has said its prayers.
But there are those - like the world's most opportunistic hockey mom Sarah Palin - who use fear to fuel pessimism and hate. Sarah Palin's brand of fear can be like a virus. Contagious. But you don't have to catch it.
You can see how destructive fear is. Just watch Sarah Palin rile up a crowd to the point where you hear shouts of "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" coming out of the audience.
Flashing her poisonous smile, Palin prefers to fan the flame of fear for her own short-sighted political gain rather than spread serenity, strength and real power.
This is how fear - at its worst - operates. You can see and feel the hatred emanating from the crowds hearing her attacks and accusations.
Does any thinking, feeling person really think Obama is a terrorist? The answer is no. But when the country is gripped in fear and knows in its gut that no one is home at the White House - it's human nature for some to want a scapegoat.
When you're in fear, reality becomes distorted - even for the most rational person. Sarah Palin is exploiting the nation's fear - and her supporters are goosestepping right behind her. People like Palin always have a final solution and though it's always temporary and transparent - it can wreak serious havoc and harm.
But you don't have to play into the trap that fear represents. Whether your fear is personal or political - and people like Gloria Steinem would say the two are inextricably intertwined - you can use it to challenge yourself, to motivate, inspire and rise above.
You don't have to deny fear - but you can decide not to let it dominate your life. Better to face your fears and conquer them - rather than giving in to worry and blame and taking on the soul of a Sarah Palin supporter.
Trust me, I'm not in denial. I know how tough it is out there. I work as an energy healer and success coach in Manhattan. This week, panicky friends and clients have been calling my office or coming in with frightening stories of people moving into "tent cities" or living out of their cars because their loans and credit lines were cut.
Celebrity clients of mine are downsizing dramatically: canceling house renovations and trips because they want the cash. They won't be lining up outside the soup kitchen but they won't be spending their money either. The hard times won't be over for awhile.
I wrote a book in 2005 encapsulating my work and philosophy called "Life Shift." The problem is - people want their life to shift only when they say so.
We're living through a Life Shift right now - but all most of us can see and feel is fear.
My work is all about making dreams come true but when times are tough I'm the last person who will tell you to deny your fears and chant a lot of positive affirmations.
Here's the real "Secret." The way to overcome the negative power of fear is to face the truth about what you're afraid of - and by doing so, release it.
What's your worst fear? Admit it - and write it down. Be honest - no fear is foolish! Are you afraid of:
1. Losing your job?
2. Losing your house?
3. Running out of money?
4. Living in a tent?
5. Panhandling on the street?
6. Dying of starvation?
Once your truth about your fear is out there - you can release it. Then you can powerfully shift your energy and focus on creating positive things you want to create in you life. Then you experience an authentic Life Shift.
We need our fear. It gets us out of the way of the bus. We just don't want to get stuck there - because then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we don't deal with our fear then we run the risk of becoming like Sarah Palin supporters - cowards in thrall to a steely, scary, incompetent scapegoater. We become people who run the risk of calling Obama a terrorist.
The only thing you have to fear is your own inner Sarah Palin.
Better yet, use it. Suit up, get on the ice, face your fears and say:
Puck you.
Aleta St. James

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Bailout is Still Bullsh-t

This bailout bill – or call it what it really is, an extortion bill – is the first salvo in a longer and much larger battle. Government actions this year and this bill have created an enormous ideological and political opening. We can start to overturn the neoliberal model, but it won’t happen by itself.

We saw what happened this week. The massive outpouring of real democratic opposition killed the first version, Paulson’s pig with some lipstick applied by the Democrats. So the same forces came back and threw some mud on the pig. They larded it with tax cuts – as if average people’s economic woes could be solved by conservative orthodoxy. The post-bailout narrative is already being written, and that is there will be no money for the government programs that are needed to revive Main Street. Single-payer healthcare would actually save us all money, but they say with a straight face that it’s socialism, after passing the biggest socialist expenditure in world history. Alternative energy and mass transit could create millions of well-paying domestic jobs, but there’s no money for that we’ll be told.

There are big opportunities ahead, we need to start organizing now to seize them. In NYC next week, The Nation is sponsoring an emergency town hall, ”Progressives Respond to the Wall Street Crisis,” on October 10. Clearly, the government won’t do what’s right for main street, unless main street steps up the pressure, stays informed, and gets even more active.

This is just the beginning!

Bailout is Capitalism Murdering Democracy

Indeed, if there's been any lesson in the last few years, it is that authoritarian capitalism — rather than democratic capitalism — may be the dominant ideology of the 21st century. That ideology may be coming to America. The Wall Street bailout bill is a lot of things — a giveaway, a heist, a legislative manifestation of crony corruption. But it's structure is pure authoritarian capitalism.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What they won't say

Tim --

If you saw tonight's debate, you saw Governor Sarah Palin give a spirited defense of the same disastrous policies that have failed us for the past eight years.

She couldn't identify a single area where she or John McCain would change George W. Bush's economic or foreign policy positions.

If you want something different, Barack and I need your help.

Make a donation of $5 or more right now to bring about the change we need.

The change we need is fixing this broken economy from the bottom up -- not tax breaks for the wealthy and huge corporations that ship U.S. jobs overseas. We need to focus on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban and restoring America's standing in the world -- not an unending commitment in Iraq.

Let's be clear: Governor Palin and Senator McCain are offering nothing but more of the same failed Bush policies at home and abroad, trying to disguise them in the rhetoric of change.

Americans need real solutions and real change.

We're in this together and there's a lot to do before Election Day. Please make a donation of $5 or more right now to support this campaign for change:

This is the most important presidential election you'll be part of in your life.

Thank you for all that you're doing.

Now let's get to work and change this country,


The dumbing down of the GOP

Why aren't more conservatives disgusted that their party nominated a person devoid of qualifications for the vice presidency (again)?

By Joe Conason

Oct. 04, 2008 | Sarah Palin's debate performance should signal the beginning of the end of her fad. But for the moment it is worth looking at the meaning of her nomination, without the protective varnish of what conservatives usually dismiss as political correctness.

Why should we pretend not to notice when Gov. Palin's ideas make no sense? Having said last week that "it doesn't matter" whether human activity is the cause of climate change, she said in debate that she "doesn't want to argue" about the causes. It doesn't occur to her that we have to know the causes in order to address the problem. (She was very fortunate that moderator Gwen Ifill didn't ask her whether she truly believes that human beings and dinosaurs inhabited this planet simultaneously only 6,000 years ago.)

Why should we ignore her inability to string together a series of coherent thoughts? As a foe of Wall Street greed and a late convert to the gospel of government regulation, along with John McCain, Palin promised to clean up and reform business. But when her programmed talking points about "getting government out of the way" and protecting "freedom" conflicted with that promise, she didn't notice.

Why should we give her a pass on the most important issues of the day? Supposedly sharing the fears and concerns of the average families who face the burdens of mortgages, healthcare and economic insecurity, Palin simply refused to discuss changes in bankruptcy law and proved that she didn't know the provisions of McCain's healthcare plan.

All the glaring defects so blatantly on display in her debate with Joe Biden -- and that make her candidacy so darkly comical -- would be the same if she were a hockey dad instead of a "hockey mom." In fact, the cynical attempt to foist Palin on the nation as a symbol of feminist progress is an insult to all women regardless of their political orientation.

There was a time when conservatives lamented the dumbing down of American culture. Preservation of basic standards in schools and workplaces compelled them -- or so they said -- to resist affirmative action for women and minorities. Qualifications mattered; merit mattered; and demagogic appeals for leveling were to be left to the Democrats.

Not anymore.

Actually, the Palin phenomenon is the culmination of a trend that can be traced back to Dan Quayle, the undistinguished Indiana senator whose elevation onto the Republican ticket in 1988 had nothing to do with intellect or experience and everything to do with the youthful appeal of a handsome blond frat boy. (That was how Republican strategists thought they would attract female voters back then, which must be why they believe Palin represents progress.) Quayle too was unable to articulate, let alone defend, the policy positions for which he was supposed to be campaigning. He too had to undergo the surgical stuffing of stock phrases into his head as a minimal substitute for knowledge and thought. And in the same sad way, he too benefited from the drastically reduced expectations applied to anyone whose inadequacy is so obvious.

Quayle deserved more pity than scorn, however, because he seemed to know that he was fighting far above his weight class. Palin evokes no such sympathy, with her jut-jawed, moose-gutting confidence in her own overrated "common sense" and her bullying insistence that only "elitists" would question her expertise.

As Biden showed quite convincingly when he spoke about his modest background and his continuing connection with Main Street, perceptive, intelligent discourse is in no way identical with elitism. Palin's phony populism is as insulting to working- and middle-class Americans as it is to American women. Why are basic diction and intellectual coherence presumed to be out of reach for "real people"?

And why don't we expect more from American conservatives? Indeed, why don't they demand more from their own movement? Aren't they disgusted that their party would again nominate a person devoid of qualifications for one of the nation's highest offices? Some, like Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker, have expressed discomfort with this farce -- and been subjected, in Parker's case, to abuse from many of the same numbskulls whom Palin undoubtedly delights.

The ultimate irony of Palin's rise is that it has occurred at a moment when Americans may finally have grown weary of pseudo-populism -- when intelligence, judgment, diligence and seriousness are once again valued, simply because we are in such deep trouble. We got into this mess because we elected a man who professed to despise elitism, which he detected in everyone whose opinions differed from his prejudices. That was George W. Bush, of course. Biden was too polite and restrained to say it, but the dumbing down is more of the same, too.

-- By Joe Conason

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The voters are angry -- and don't know why

What happens when the messy thing called democracy collides with the financial markets in full panic.

By Walter Shapiro

Oct. 01, 2008 | "Congressional inaction has put every American and the entire economy at the gravest risk.''

-- John McCain, Tuesday

"Continued inaction in the face of the gathering storm in our financial markets would be catastrophic for our economy and our families."

-- Barack Obama, Tuesday

Money talks -- or moans, in the case of most stock portfolios this week. That is why the most revealing responses to the market mayhem are not what the two presidential candidates say, but what their campaigns pay to put on television.

The morning after the 778-point market mayhem, three TV ads were released with public fanfare, two by the candidates themselves and the third by the Republican National Committee blasting Obama. It was stunning how unresponsive all three commercials were to the real-world details of the worst financial crisis since brokers drank their martinis in speak-easies. Both campaigns seem determined to cling to their familiar arguments (Obama is too liberal and McCain is an out-of-touch Bush III) in the face of the dramatically reshaped realities on Wall Street.

Yes, there was taffy-pull fact-stretching in both the McCain and RNC spots. McCain's own commercial tried to blame Obama and the Democrats exclusively for the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac -- without ever deigning to mention that his own campaign manager, Rick Davis, was paid nearly $2 million to help shield the loan giants from stricter regulation. At least, the McCain ad had something -- however factually questionable -- to do with Wall Street. The Republican Party ad went after Obama as a (yawn!) liberal big-spender who will purportedly cost the taxpayers $1 trillion, not counting the bailout.

Speaking to the camera for two minutes, Obama had more than enough time in his own commercial to add unaccustomed heft to the standard 30-second sound bites of the campaign's living-room wars. Obama, to his credit, made serious arguments. But they were about tax cuts, which have about as much connection to the Wall Street crisis as McCain's Ahab-like obsession with congressional earmarks. Obama's claim that "my plan offers three times as much tax relief to the middle class as Sen. McCain's" provides little balm when the stock market lost more than $1 trillion Monday (admittedly, it regained about two-thirds of that money in a Tuesday rally).

What are the roots of this bipartisan politics of irrelevancy? Both campaigns are basing their TV ads on non sequiturs, presumably because they believe that most voters cannot handle a serious discussion of the liquidity crisis on Wall Street.

Sadly, this cynicism may be justified. A Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that 43 percent of all voters admitted that they feel "confused" by the proposed plan to stabilize the financial markets. At the same time, voters grasp that something important is happening -- 54 percent say, in response to another question, that they are paying "a lot" of attention to the bailout debate in Washington. Pollster Andy Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, said that it was virtually "unparalleled" to have this simultaneous level of interest and confusion in a policy debate. "It's a tough one to get into the nitty-gritty of," said Kohut. "It is not like gay marriage that is easy to grasp no matter what your point of view is."

This more than anything may explain the incoherence of Monday's House vote rejecting the bailout plan as 133 Republicans, mostly from the right, and 95 Democrats, mostly from the left, joined in a populist revolt against the bipartisan establishment's best effort to staunch the bleeding in the financial markets. Yes, the bailout plan was badly explained (it would presumably cost significantly less in the long run than its advertised $700 billion price tag) and was rushed to the House floor with self-defeating haste. But in voting it down, the House was most of all proving yet again that it is the most representative branch of government. If 43 percent of the voters say they are confused (not to mention the ones who are ashamed to admit it), it should be no surprise that a House majority shares their bafflement.

No one -- not even Sarah Palin -- is claiming that the incredible shrinking stock portfolios are God's will. But it is fair to note that the Jewish New Year comes at a particularly inconvenient time for resolving the congressional impasse. The earliest that the Congress will reconvene is noon on Thursday -- and even then arcane congressional rules prevent the House leadership from immediately considering a revised bailout bill unless (ha!) there is unanimous consent. So, at minimum, two more days of white-knuckle stock trading are on the horizon before the House can attempt to salvage its own rescue plan.

While congressional strategies can change faster than a 17-year-old can text message, the shell-shocked House Democratic leaders are currently torn between two gambits as they grope toward a majority. One notion is to depend on "buyer's remorse" among Republicans and some wavering Democrats who belatedly discovered Monday that the pension funds and 401Ks on Main Street tend to evaporate along with Wall Street. The other option is to add inducements to the bills for liberals (extended unemployment insurance, increases in food stamps, maybe middle-class tax cuts) in an effort to add to the 140 Democratic votes for passage. But there are two risks for the House leadership to this tilt-left strategy: They could lose more Republican votes than they would gain, and the Senate (which needs 60 votes to shut off a filibuster) might balk at the revised legislation.

For all the talk of leadership in Washington (and out on the campaign trail with Obama and McCain), the nation is locked into politics dictated by the Dow Jones average. If the markets remain upbeat or, at least, calm, Wednesday and Thursday, Congress will presumably interpret this financial respite as an invitation to dither. But a further collapse on Wall Street may give rise to renewed cries that the bailout is too little, too late or, conversely, too lavish. In short, this is what happens when that messy thing called democracy collides with the fearsome force of the financial markets in full panic.

-- By Walter Shapiro