Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some Quality Snark

From John Cole.

Please Stop Talking About Social Security

I appreciate that Obama needs an issue, but please don't put social security into the Washington water. Once it gets in there all the serious pundits spend their days figuring out how best to starve granny.

It's a lovely program. It's fine.

Saturday Thread


Every Conceivable Story

Howie's take on the universe of potential political stories.

My view of the Huckabee hype is fairly simple: Reporters have run out of things to say about Hillary, Barack, Rudy, Mitt and the gang. Every conceivable story has been written, from cleavage to laughter to multiple marriages, and it's only October. We need a dark horse to shake up the race. Reporters like Huckabee. So he becomes the flavor du jour.

Jonah's New Book Title


(ht reader m)

In Which I Learn Something From David Broder

"Reagan's 11th commandment" was not, in fact, Reagan's. D-Bro, Dec 6, 1966:

What White wants is a sort of national version of the "Eleventh Commandment, Speak No Evil of Another Republican" that California Republican chairman Gaylord Parkinson imposed in his state this year and which contributed heavily to the ultimate success of Ronald Reagan's campaign for Governor.

And Time, May 1966, dubbed it "Parkinson's Law":

In hopes of damping down the perennial feud between California's Republican moderates and conservatives—and thus lessening Democratic Governor Pat Brown's third-term prospects—State G.O.P. Chairman Gaylord Parkinson last fall handed the troops an Eleventh Commandment. "Thou shall not speak ill of any Republican," he ruled, and to everyone's surprise, Parkinson's law became holy writ.

Clinton Rules

It is worth a bit of time for us all to remember and reacquaint ourselves with the Dumond case and associated other bits of wingnuttery. This pet issue of the wingnuts was bouncing around for years. This book was released in 1993.

Sadly, Nexis TV trancripts aren't quite as fleshed out as they are now, with mostly just descriptions of shows rather than actual transcripts. I liked these two.


LENGTH: 35 words

START: 5.36
Forrest City. Convicted rapist was released from prison today by parole.
Visual - file footage of Wayne Dumond. He was castrated during his trial. Will live with his mother.



LENGTH: 26 words

START: 06.30
Wayne Dumond Rapist Wayne Dumond released from AR jail on parole, castrated while in jail by prisoners.
Visual - inmate.
END: 06.58

Neither is even what Dumond claimed. Earlier news reports talk about exonerating DNA evidence. Which didn't exist. I hope Mancow is haunted by the ghost of the woman Dumond killed after leaving prison.

Mancow in the Morning


LENGTH: 38 words

START: 23.48
The Truth. Rant about man Wayne Dumond (sp) accused of raping Clinton's cousin, man was innocent but was sentenced, two masked men burst into home and castrated Dumond before serving sentence.
END: 25.55

EventheliberalVillage Voice made it an issue. Wonder where Ward Harkavy is now.


The Wayne Dumond case really is a fascinating bit of 90s era High Wingnuttery. Unsurprising that Gail Collins would launder it to make it smell nice, instead of highlighting the fact that rabid anti-Clinton insanity and the VRWC directly led to the freeing of a guilty man and the death of an innocent woman.

Wanker of the Day

Fred Hiatt.


Over there.

Iraqi police say a bomb blast has killed eight people and wounded 13 in the Diyala Bridge area, southeast of Baghdad.

Officials say two policemen were among those wounded in Saturday's blast, which targeted an area of restaurants.

Media Matters

Goat fellatio edition.

Mickey Kaus wants you to think the "journalism" he and other reporters have practiced in recent weeks is the same as that conducted by Bernstein and Woodward. It isn't. While the Post reporters relied on multiple sources, named and unnamed, in order to report weighty allegations about contemporaneous (or very recent) incidents, Kaus and others not only reported, but repeated as fact, the claims of a single unnamed source about an alleged 14-year-old incident.

Worse, Kaus and his peers aren't even relying on their own source: They are relying on, and treating as uncontested fact, the purported claims of someone else's source. They do not know the source's identity, nor have they had the opportunity to question the source to determine his or her credibility. Indeed, they have no reason to believe the source even exists, save the word of two reporters who have already been caught making false claims about Clinton and about their own book.


Grrr. Argh.

Not Atrios

Friday, October 26, 2007

That Teenage Feeling

Late night rock on triple threat!

Great show.

...and bonus video.

Into the Night

This was JeffCO's idea.

Friday Night Thread

Out for the evening. Try not to shoot anybody in the face.


Coming faster and faster.

...and some more happy thoughts.

More than $23.6 billion in California housing wealth will evaporate if real estate prices continue to decline and foreclosures on subprime home loans soar, according to a new congressional report that indicates the fallout from the national mortgage crisis is worsening.

In addition, over the next two years, the state will lose nearly $111 million in tax revenue from the forecast repossession of 191,000 homes and the spillover effect on neighboring property values, said the study, released Thursday by the Senate Joint Economic Committee.

Afternoon Thread


Up Shit's Creek

Hulk Tie Boy has an AWESOME attorney.

Feeling the Doddmania

Caught most of this speech earlier.

Mr. President, for six years, this President has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t respect the role of Congress nor does he respect the rule of law.

Every six years as United States Senators we take the oath office to uphold the Constitution. Our colleagues on the House side take that oath every two years. That is important.

For six years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case and point is the current direction this body appears to be headed as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this Administration have been made in the name of national security.

The Bush Administration has relentlessly focused our nation’s resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill conceived war has broken our military, squandered resources and emboldened our enemies.

The President’s wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq and has made our nation less secure and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated in the world.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib – where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane and humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the nation, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay have instead become the very symbol for our weakened moral standing in the world.

Consider the secret prisons run by the CIA and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions – who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than the laws he had sworn to uphold.

And consider, of course, the Military Commissions Act – a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known – the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture – the list goes on.

Whoever you support, rewarding good behavior is always wise.


Whenever there are serious primary challenges against Democrats, the Villagers faint at the horror of those dirty fucking hippies daring to challenge the nobility of incumbents, usually not long after they've decried the power of incumbency in general terms.

But for some reason when Republicans face primary challengers from the Right there's barely a whisper. At least Ron Brownstein is going to mention it.

This ideological inquisition among Republicans isn't confined to the presidential race. The two House Republicans most critical of the Iraq war (Walter Jones of North Carolina and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland) have drawn serious primary challengers from the right. So had Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, the Senate Republican most critical of the war, before he announced his retirement last month. Virginia Republicans recently decided to choose their next Senate nominee by convention rather than primary -- a move that favors conservative former Gov. Jim Gilmore over moderate Rep. Tom Davis.

Wanker of the Day

Fred Hiatt.

The Time is Right

Majority would support higher taxes in exchange for universal health care. Of course if done right, instead of done-to-please-the-insurance-lobby-and-joe-klein, universal health care would be cheap for all involved.

What's rather frustrating in the health care debate is that there's a universally understood but rarely mentioned fact that insurance companies wield disproportionate power on the Hill, that their bribes lobbying dollars will prevent a clean universal health care bill from being passed, and that this fact should be understood as a sign that something is really wrong with the way our politics operates.

Property Taxes

It's not clear that this is a story about favoritism for a powerful pol. More likely it's just about Philadelphia's crappy property tax assessment system (though it could be a bit of both).

In a controversial vote, the Board of Revision of Taxes yesterday decided to put off until next year the reassessment of state Sen. Vincent Fumo's Green Street home, now on the market for nearly $7 million but on which the board has placed a market value of $250,000.

The 4-to-3 vote came on a motion from longtime board member Robert N.C. Nix III, who asked the board to reconsider that market value in light of the hefty offering price on the 27-room, four-story manse near 22nd Street.

Land and property owners in many places in this city are paying a pittance for property taxes, which tends to lead to un- and underdeveloped properties. Lots of empty undeveloped lots near me in part because it's cheap for the landowners to just sit on them.

Meet the Press


FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.


He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.


"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

Countrywide Narrows Stance

I think we're hitting the end of chapter one and waiting for chapter 2 at this point.

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, predicted a return to profit in the fourth quarter and for 2008 after its first quarterly loss in 25 years. The shares jumped more than 20 percent.

The loss of $1.2 billion, or $2.12 a share, compared with net income of $647.6 million, or $1.03 a share, a year earlier, the Calabasas, California-based company said in a statement today. The per-share figure excludes the effects of convertible preferred stock issued in the quarter. Loss estimates by analysts ranged as high as $3.47 a share by Morgan Stanley's Kenneth Posner.

President David Sambol called the third-quarter loss ``an earnings trough'' and said ``prospects for the U.S. housing and mortgage markets, as well as for Countrywide, remain very attractive.''

It's Official

Michael Gerson is the 6th fucking stupidest person on the face of the planet.

No linky, you can find it yourself.

Morning Thread

Old-fashioned kinetics edition.

I need some coffee.

Morning thread

Oh, our news media...

This is quite sad, but if there was a fantasy league for human interest story headlines, this would be a winner (CNN's homepage now):

"Pit bulls kill boy's Make-a-Wish horse"

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Evening Thread


White Guy To The Rescue

I'm really getting confused now.

What's The Game

Is this going to be another game of fretting and caving or is Mukasey's confirmation really going to depend on him being willing to unequivocally state that water boarding is torture. I mean, I certainly like me some Democrats playing hardball, but it should be noted that if the incoming Attorney General says that procedures the Bush administration has embraced are torture, in violation of statute, constitution, and international law, that sorta means he's obligated to start prosecuting people.


Because anti-gay bigots exist in the African-American community, it's okay for Obama to embrace them?

not understanding


I haven't been following this race very much, but here's an ad from Mark Pera who is challenging Dan Lipinski in the IL-3 Democratic primary.

He is raising money.

Shape of Earth: Opinions Differ

So, Charlie Rangel says he's proposing a revenue neutral overhaul of the tax system. The rough truth or falsity of this is an empirical question which can be determined by one of the various agencies and bodies that runs the models on such things. So either he is proposing the "mother of all tax hikes" as CNN tells me Republicans are claiming, or he isn't proposing any tax increase whatsoever, as Rangel is claiming. While the numbers would probably confuse Ted Koppel, there is in fact an answer to this basic question, and if one set of politicians is telling you something in opposition to this answer it means that they are lying and you are helping to communicate their lies to the public. That's journalism, baby!

They Make Appearances

From a Webb staffer:

Senator Webb will be on television this evening to discuss the administration’s escalating rhetoric and unilateral sanctions against Iran—and how both underscore the need for his Iran bill, which prohibits the use of funds for military operations in Iran without the explicit consent of the Congress.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC: 5:10pm

PBS Newshour: 6:30pm

NBC Nightly News: time TBD

There is a need. Any of his colleagues listening?

Thanks, Asshole

Nothing shall get between him and his photo op.

...and, while I'm linking to tbogg, it seems that Michelle and Howie have broken up. How sad.

And About These Kids Today...

Just kidding. Fresh Thread.


I'm getting emails from various 60s era types which roughly suggest that it makes sense that people who lived through that era see everything through the prism of that era because lots of stuff happened. I don't deny that the 60s were a significant historical and cultural time for the US for a variety of reasons, I just don't understand why 40 years later some people can't seem to comprehend any political issue without shoe horning it into some template stamped out back then.

So, yes, 60s was time of important change. Political battles had profound impact on many individuals then. I understand all that.

But whether it's conservatives trying to relive the "glory days" of the cold war, real liberals expecting that political activism in the 21st century should look 60s era activism, or fake liberals like Joe Klein desperately battling the dirty fucking hippies who apparently live under his bed, I just don't get it. Move on. Times have changed. And, yes, of course, lessons to be learned from the past, blah blah blah, but we don't live in the past.

Steny Comes Around?

Steny says pretty things. Will he follow up with action?

Fretting And Caving

As Yglesias suggests, the message that the public gets about Democrats is simultaneously they want al Qaeda to eat your babies and they don't have enough courage to stand up to George Bush. So, Democrats surrender to Bush and al Qaeda! Awesome.

The way to deal with this is get out and front and explain that giving immunity to AT&T does not, in fact, have anything to do with the safety of your children.

I recognize part of the problem is that there are lots of bad Democrats who think giving immunity to AT&T is the just and right thing to do. So it's time for the leadership to punish them.

We Write Letters

Please go here to cosign this letter to Harry Reid about retroactive immunity.

Exporting Democracy

Bush style.

WASHINGTON - Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House oversight committee, said Thursday that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has issued an order requiring his approval of any corruption investigations of himself or senior ministry officials.

Waxman, D-Calif., said the order essentially grants immunity to al-Maliki and his ministry at a time when fraud and abuse is rampant and hurting reconstruction efforts.

"These are not unfounded allegations," Waxman said. "This is Nouri al-Maliki's edict that no one will be referred to court unless he approves it."


Hey, it impressed Joe Klein.

I really don't understand that generation. I cannot imagine that 40 years from now I'll view every single political issue through the lens of some brief period in my youth. I don't even do that now.

"New Home Sales Rebound"

So sez the headline.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new homes rose by 4.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 units. That level of activity was still 23.3 percent below a year ago, indicating that housing remains in a steep downturn.

Analysts had been expecting sales would fall by 2.5 percent last month from an August sales pace that had originally been reported as 795,000 homes. However, that figure was revised sharply lower in the new report to show a sales rate of just 735,000 in August, the slowest sales pace in 11 years.

In other words, last month new home sales were reported at 795,000, an 8.3% decline from the previous month's 867,000. Last month's number has been revised down by another 8% or so, meaning that last month's decline was actually 18%. So, yes, relative to the adjusted numbers this month's number is up, but it's still lower than what was originally reported. Until it's revised next month.

...shorter me: the number is awful, and the only reason they can call it a "rebound" is because last month's number was much more awful than they originally reported.


Just so we're clear, the debate isn't between passing some potentially sensible modifications to the FISA legislation and doing nothing. The debate is between letting George Bush own the debate or not. Here's what's going on:

George Bush says "Give me everything I want, including retroactive immunity for telecom companies for breaking the law or I'll veto it."

Democrats then have a choice. They can send him more reasonable legislation, at which point he vetoes it and says the Democrats are going to let Al Qaeda eat your babies. Subsequently, they can either point out that George Bush vetoed the anti-Al Qaeda baby cannibalism bill or they can scamper like cowards and give him everything he wants.

Or they can just give him everything he wants right away.

This isn't about sensible FISA adjustments, this is about whether George Bush gets the power to do whatever the hell he wants because the Democrats in Congress think the best way to be strong is cave into the bullying of Mr. 24%.


Local patronage abuses are of course a bipartisan activity, but the Republicans seem to have a special talent for it.

The governor's comments followed a Daily News report that the Parking Authority payroll had doubled since Republicans took over six years ago, in a political coup engineered by House Republican leader John Perzel.

At least 20 Parking Authority employees are now drawing six-figure salaries, led by Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., a longtime Republican ward leader who makes $194,500 as the authority's executive director.

That's bigger than anyone on the city payroll. It's $50,000 more than Mayor Street makes and $30,000 higher than Rendell's salary.


"The Philadelphia Parking Authority has become a bloated political-patronage machine where employees feel compelled to contribute time and money to candidates to keep their jobs," McGeehan said in a memo to other House members.

Meanwhile, the authority has become "a quasi-law-enforcement agency" by taking over police functions including towing, impoundment and the new red-light-camera program, McGeehan said.

"No agency anywhere in the state with such broad law-enforcement authority permits any form of partisan political activity, and rightly so," McGeehan said.


Nouriel Roubini sez, "I told you so!!!"

And Two Weeks Makes A Trend

Not quite, but the weekly new jobless claims jumped a bit last week and has remained at that level this week. It isn't huge jump from where the number's pretty consistently recently, but still a jump.

And durable orders are down again
, with the previous figure revised downwards as well.

New home sales data at 10AM. That could be exciting!!

Like Tax Cuts and Puppies

Somehow I missed that massive political movement agitating for retroactive immunity for telecom companies.

Oh, wait, I missed it because it doesn't exist.

Morning Thread

Well, I guess as long as they're not "our own people"....

--Molly I.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Rock on.


How do you feel about media monopoly?

Not Atrios

"Smellier Than Stinky Tofu"

Howie Kurtz's good pal Michelle Malkin lets it all hang out again.

Afternoon Thread


Slummy Joe

I would've expected better from the Last Honest Man.


Of the presidential candidates, some currently hold office (Senate: Dodd, Obama, Clinton, Biden; House: Kucinich; Governor: Richardson) and some don't (Edwards, Gravel ).

For the ones who actually hold office I've been much more interested in what they do as officeholders than what they do as candidates. They all say they're great leaders, but some of them currently have the office, stature, and especially for Clinton and Obama, the hefty soapbox from which they can actually ... lead. They have the power to take something which is an issue right now and run with it, instead of thinking about all the wonderfully yummy things they'll do... if they win... 15 months from now.

They Write Emails

Chris Dodd writes to me:

Dear Duncan,

Let's get right to it and talk about how we stop retroactive telecommunications immunity from becoming law.

The way I see it, there are three ways to get this provision stripped from the final bill:

1.) The first step would be to make sure the idea doesn't make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- where it will be considered shortly.

If we can get it stripped there, it will have to be offered as an amendment to the overall bill where it will be a lot easier to get 41 votes against retroactive immunity than 41 to sustain my filibuster if necessary.

Take a moment and call up members of the committee, let me know what they said, and join others in tracking our progress in stopping the provision right there.

The other two ways:

2.) If retroactive immunity does make it out of committee, Senate leadership can honor the hold I've placed on any legislation that includes retroactive immunity.

3.) If leadership does not honor my hold, I remain committed to filibustering, and working to get the 41 votes necessary to maintain it.

This has the potential to be a long fight -- so let's build a solid foundation for our effort today by asking members of the Judiciary Committee to vote against any FISA bill that includes retroactive amnesty.

I'd like to see a little more spine, frankly, on these issues. People tell us they want to lead, but a little leadership right now would certainly be welcomed on these questions.

I don't want to, but I'm not afraid to do this alone.


Wanker of the Day

Tucker Carlson.


Now how about providing some rhetorical leadership as well.

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

Just Something You Do On Sunday

Not being Christian I always try to hesitate to comment on the substance of the professed faith of others, but I'm a wee bit shocked that ex-Senator Man On Dog sees his religion as a one day per week activity.

Did It On Purpose

I don't even know what Falafel Bill is trying to say here. But presumably he did this on purpose too.

During the course of Defendant BILL O'REILLY's sexual rant, it became clear that he was using a vibrator upon himself, and that he ejaculated.

Such the provocateur.

Because Our Discourse Needs More Creepy Lying Freaks

And on it goes.

NEW YORK A press conference will be held at 1:30 this afternoon at the Philadelphia Inquirer to announced that it has added former Sen. Rick Santorum to its stable of columnists.


The story in the paper today, which does not hint at his new role of columnist, includes: "Talking about the threat of Islamic terrorism is now Santorum's main occupation, though the Republican sounds laid-back these days. He is pitching a movie idea to Hollywood and laughed off speculation about a political comeback in Pennsylvania.

No More Lieberdems

Bob Kerrey says he's not running.

And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

What Are They Good For?

The Blue Dogs are, for the most part, the spoiled whiny children of the Democratic caucus, demanding that it's perpetually ALL ABOUT THEM even as they cause nothing but grief and heartache for the Democratic family. And, unsurprisingly, they're selfish little brats who, like their Dear Leader George Bush, will take their ball and go home the instant someone dares to offend their delicate sensibilities. And they're cheap.

A large group of “Blue Dog” Democrats has refused to give money to the party’s campaign committee so far this cycle, underscoring simmering tension inside the Caucus and concerns about the caustic language of at least one anti-war Democrat.

According to a review of Federal Election Commission records, 15 Blue Dogs have given no money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as of Sept. 30, despite heavy pressure from party leaders.

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), one of the 15, said he had donated on Oct. 1, but his staff would not say how much the congressman gave to the DCCC.

An additional 16 Blue Dogs have not given any cash but were exempt from party-mandated contributions because they are top GOP targets for defeat in 2008, party officials said.


But there is also lingering concern among the Blue Dogs — and resentment, in some cases — over comments made by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) to leaders of the anti-war movement.

In a late-August conference call, Woolsey encouraged the anti-war groups to field primary challengers to any Democrat who does not vote to end the war. While she later moved to repudiate the remarks, saying they were misunderstood, Woolsey’s statement angered many Blue Dogs and led some to withhold their DCCC dues.

Note that Woolsey has no official position in the DCCC (other than being a member like the rest of them), so it isn't as if her comments had anything to do with the committee itself.

Still one Democrat dared suggest that some of these bad Democrats who are helping to further the death and destruction in Iraq should have primary challengers and they clutched their pearls and fainted dead away at the horror of it all.

What big babies we have representing us.

Happy Housing News of the Day

Not so happy.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes plunged by a record amount in September as turmoil in mortgage markets added more problems to a housing industry in its worst slump in 16 years.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that sales of existing homes fell 8 percent in September, the largest decline to show up in records dating to 1999. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 5.04 million existing homes was also the slowest pace on record.

The weakness in sales translated into further pressure on prices. The median price -- the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less -- fell to $211,700 in September, down by 4.2 percent from the sales price a year ago. It marked the 13th time out of the past 14 months that the year-over-year sales price has decreased.

The 8 percent decline in sales was bigger than the 4.5 percent decline that had been expected.


Bad news for Merrill Lynch.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's biggest brokerage, on Wednesday said the summer's credit crisis triggered a bigger-than-expected $7.9 billion writedown during the third quarter.

Bad bets on mortgage securities and leveraged loans used for corporate takeovers caused the brokerage's first loss in six years. Merrill Lynch's quarterly performance was the worst by far of the Wall Street firms, all of which were slammed by the market turmoil.

Merrill reported a loss after paying preferred dividends of $2.31 billion, or $2.82 per share, compared to a profit of $3 billion, or $3.50 per share, a year earlier. Revenue, after factoring in some of its losses, fell 94 percent to $577 million from $9.83 billion a year earlier.

Senatorial Mush

Chris Dodd has put out a simple position: he'll do what's in his power to stop any bill which gives telecom companies retroactive immunity for their Bush administration sanctioned law breaking. In contrast, Obama and Clinton have put out mush. Greenwald:

Obama said only that "if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it" -- a transparent hedge given that it is virtually certain that the bill (being marked up this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee) will not come to the floor in its "current form." That makes Obama's statement virtually worthless, filled -- as intended -- with plenty of room for him to vote for amnesty if and when the Senate votes on it.

Clinton's statement was just incoherent -- claiming first that she hasn't seen the bill (which has been available for many days now) and thus "can't express an opinion about it," then vowing (so inspirationally) that she is "going to study it very hard," and then surrounding her "support" for a filibuster with multiple conditions: "As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently."

These statements are just manipulative and woefully insufficient. Leadership is about standing and galvanizing support for fundamental principles. And there just is no more fundamental issue than the rule of law principles and basic constitutional guaranteees that will be eviscerated -- still further -- if telecoms are granted retroactive amnesty and relieved of all obligations from having broken the law for years.

Stealing from Glenn again, here's the simple question to which there's a simple answer:

Will you support a filibuster of any bill that grants retroactive immunity to telecoms for enabling the Bush administration to spy illegally on Americans?

Call the Clinton and Obama offices/campaign and try to get an answer:

* Clinton Presidential: (703) 469-2008

* Clinton Senate: (202) 224-4451

* Obama Presidential: (866) 675-2008

* Obama Senate: (202) 224-2854

Even Joe Biden, who has been in the Senate since he was 30 and is not exactly known for his lack of verbosity, could give a simple answer to this one.

There's no reason for the United States Congress to sanction lawbreaking by the telecom companies and, by extension, the Bush administration. No one looking for the Democratic nomination should communicate ambiguity on this subject.

It makes you wonder

The well-titled Bradley S. Rocket points out one of more frustrating aspects of the modern media, the success of Gregg Easterbrook:

For reasons only known to himself and the demonic entity he sold his soul to, Easterbrook gets paid by several prominent publications to write about a wide variety of topics — including science, national energy policy, statistical analysis, movies and football — despite the fact that he’s really, really goddamn stupid and is wrong about everything.

I've always thought Easterbrook's NFL column is just an avenue for him to regurgitate all of his asinine thoughts in one spot while simultaneously leering at NFL Cheerleaders.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Risk Free

Look out.

The uncertainty among money market fund investors centers on what would happen if the SIVs couldn't repay their debts because their assets lost value. Some money market fund investors are, in turn, worried about losing money.

But that's unlikely, says Bruce Bent, who invented the money market fund in 1970. His firm, The Reserve, has about $83 billion in assets and doesn't hold investments in SIVs.

"In the history of the money funds, you've had a number of situations where the management companies have bailed out the funds," he said.

He thinks it's unlikely the companies running money market funds would allow them to "break the buck," as it's known in Wall Street parlance even if the funds lost money on SIV-related investments. The draw of money market funds, of course, is that an investor putting in $1 get $1 back plus interest. If a fund were to, say, give back only 90 cents for every dollar, investors would be outraged.

Still, it's important to remember that money market funds, though considered safe investments, aren't FDIC insured.


Some money market funds got involved in SIVs by lending them money. Now, though, as it has become more difficult for the SIV wheel to keep spinning some money market fund managers have grown concerned that SIVs are less likely to repay the money they borrowed.

John Atkins, a corporate bond analyst at IDEAglobal, thinks the market's pain could be widespread, though he cautions no one can know far the losses will spread or whether they will extend to money market funds.

I bet they sighed and rolled their eyes, too.

Mean-girl faces.

Not Atrios

Fresh Thread

Off to drink liberally.

Most Trusted Name In News

CNN reads your emails.

Hayward from Escondido wrote this:

We drove by a huge wall of flames in our Hummer. Thank God we made it out.


Email From: Hayward Ablohmie
Escondido, California

Santa Ana Winds

I think this is just a literary manifestation of one of the many varieties of California Exceptionalism that seem to exist in that state.


1000+ homes lost. Pretty awful, really. Not sure what else to say.

Afternoon Thread

I want to apologize to my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, and to Atrios and his family for any distress I may have caused them. Oh, and the troops.

--Molly I.

The Kids Are Alright

Yeah, I find this generational navel gazing to be a bit puzzling. I will add that aside from the 60s, the Clinton-era 90s was also I think somewhat of a unique time when the future looked bright and smart technocratic solutions could be used to solve all of our problems. Not so much a time of activism, but still a time when the possibility of solving problems seemed to be very real.

And then it all went wrong...


Live chat starts soon over at FDL.

And due to the wonders of the internets, you can watch it here too.

...i pulled the embed, go over there to find it



Countrywide plans to offer new mortgages to 52,000 subprime borrowers with $10 billion of home loans. It also plans to modify $4 billion of loans for 20,000 prime and subprime borrowers who cannot refinance, and $2.2 billion of mortgages for 10,000 subprime borrowers who are already delinquent.

"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented remedies," Chief Operating Officer David Sambol said in a statement. "We are determined to assist borrowers who have the willingness and wherewithal to remain in their homes, but need a little help."

Obviously the details matter and I haven't seen them yet, but this could be one of those win win things. Or it could be one last chance for Countrywide to screw people. We'll see.

What's It All About

I really have no knowledge of this case, but it apparently came to nothing.

DALLAS -- The U.S. Justice Department suffered a major setback in another high-profile terrorist prosecution Monday when its criminal case against five former officials of a now-defunct Islamic charity collapsed into a tangle of legal confusion.


President Bush announced in December 2001 that the Texas-based charity's assets were being seized, and in a Rose Garden news conference accused the organization of financing terrorism. Monday's outcome, however, raised serious questions about those allegations as well.

"I think it is a huge defeat for the government," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor specializing in 1st Amendment cases and terrorism prosecutions.

"They spent almost 15 years investigating this group, seized all their records and had extensive wiretapping and yet could not obtain a single conviction on charges of supporting a terrorist organization."


Juror William Neal, 33, who said his father worked in military intelligence, said that the government's case had "so many gaps" that he regarded the prosecution as "a waste of time."


Additionally, he said, the case should raise questions about the administrative process that enabled the government to shut down Holy Land almost six years ago, long before criminal charges were brought.

"That was a summary process that involved no trial, permitted the government to rely on secret evidence and barred the defendants from ever introducing their own evidence in court. Now we see when they are required to put their evidence on the table, the government is not able to prove a single charge," Cole said.

The mistrial was declared in part due to confusion about jury polling, but there wasn't a unanimous guilty verdict anywhere.

Don't Bother

It's hard to see why any Republican would really bother to run against Mark Warner.

And, no, this isn't concern troll advice. Just seems like a waste of money.

Y Kant Lee Siegel Read?

Poor sprezzatura.

What Do You Know

Must be some kind of miracle which will make it possible to announce the beginning of troop withdrawals right in the middle of the presidential campaign season. But that John McCain, he's very serious!


Just following up my somewhat unclear post from last night about gaffes. Essentially gaffes happen in politics when the vapid chattering class meets and decides a gaffe has happened. Now one might think that complete ignorance and/or mendacity about this nation's history would qualify as a gaffe. But it won't, because it's a gaffe which fits into the pleasing narrative about the great and glorious Christian nation of the United States of America. So Huckabee can make a completely false statement about the founding of the country and it fails to be a "gaffe" because... yes, Stephen, it's truthy.

Torturing the Shit Out of Innocent People

I'm proud to be an American.
Where at least I know I'm free.

And Henley reminds us of Saddam's torture state.

Good times.

"Battlespace Preparation Efforts"


Twin Peaks

While the big wave of subprime resets is in the pipeline, a second wave of dodgier "option ARM" resets comes a couple of years later.

Option ARMS are are adjustable rate mortgages with different payment options, including interest only and negative amortization payments during the initial periods. In other words you wake up a few years later with a higher interest rate and owing more than you did when you first bought the place.

Morning Thread


Monday, October 22, 2007


My guess is our elite media won't considered this manufactured bit of bullshit a "gaffe."

Nor should they consider it a gaffe when I assert that Tim Russert comes from a long line of child molesters.


Love the Gay, Love the Gay Haters

What is up with the Obama campaign.


For those of us who don't see every natural disaster as a chance to hope for the worst for our perceived political enemies,* let's hope things improve in SoCal.

*You have to be a moron like Beck to not understand that these parts of California are more likely to contain members of his political tribe, not mine.

Fresh Thread



Glenn Beck, CNN host:

I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.


The continuing adventures of Richard Mellon Scaife.

The I-Word

Ah, I remember a few short years ago when only crazy dirty fucking hippies on the internets would dare speak of our glorious Iraq adventure in such terms.

What the Fuck

New Mick Jones/Tony James band Carbon/Silicon has a new tune with an oddly appropriate title (.mp3).

Fading Issue

Josh writes:

It reminds me a lot of the situation during the impeachment crisis in '98-99. I was reporting on it at the time for the American Prospect and So I watched the dynamic pretty close up. And it was very, very similar -- even, perhaps, especially in the ways the numbers lined up. I went into the story with visions of Tom Delay as The Hammer, crucifying Republican moderates to push them to vote for the impeachment most of them obviously didn't have much stomach for. But the truth of it was a little different. He didn't need to break a lot of arms. It was actually a pretty calm and straightforward presentation -- focused largely on polls. Sure, most of the country was against impeachment. But for the core of people who got these reps and senators elected every two or six years, it was an absolute live or die issue. Go against them on this issue and the breach with a lot of these voters would never be repaired.

The flip side of the argument was that by November 2000 most people who opposed impeachment would have moved on to other issues. And the folks for whom it was a live or die issue on the other side were never going to vote for these Republicans anyway.

It was a convincing argument for virtually any Republican in Congress. And in terms of the predicted fade of interest in impeachment among middle of the road voters, it was on the mark.

The difference here, of course, is that I very much doubt Iraq is going to be a fading issue by November 2008. And even among independents, support for the war barely gets out of the teens. So a lot of these folks are looking at pretty bleak encounters with the electorate in a little over twelve months.

Impeachment faded because Democrats ran from it instead of running on it. There were literally no mainstream voices reflecting what most of the country thought about the issue.

Iraq is strangely similar. A huge majority wants out, and the Villagers to stay in. The disconnect between what the people want and what the Villagers know is what's best for them is stark, as it was during the great blow job crisis.

Iraq the issue won't fade, but Iraq the political issue might because the Villagers will do their best to make it fade.

"Moderate Grasp of Statistical Reasoning"

No that isn't something Andrew Sullivan has. He also has only a passing acquaintance with the particulars of most policy issues. It's why I'm always puzzled when people engage him on this stuff, instead of just mocking him for being an idiot, and in this case a racist idiot.


Broder's boy bounces all the way to 25%.

Inflation Ex-Inflation

Well, perhaps I have been wrong all this time and the Fed does focus on inflation minus the actual inflation part.

heckuva job.

A Very Minor Complaint In the Grand Scheme of Things

But, yes, the online ticket sales system for the Kimmel Center/Academy of music (orchestra, opera, etc...) is truly awful.

What's Your Money Market Fund Invested In?

Payment problems.

For all the pain in the mortgage market, investors who hold bonds backed by risky home loans have continued to receive their monthly interest payments — until now.

Collateralized debt obligations — made up of bonds backed by thousands of subprime home loans — are starting to shut off cash payments to investors in lower-rated bonds as credit-rating agencies downgrade the securities they own, according to analysts and industry executives.

Cutting off the cash flow, which is governed by rules and mathematical formulas that vary by security, is expected to accelerate in the months ahead.

The article doesn't mention it, but many "risk-free" money market funds are invested in some of this stuff.


Hold on tight.

SINGAPORE, Oct. 22 — Renewed concerns about the health of the American economy sent Asian stocks sharply lower today, and European stocks also registered declines in early trading.

Following a dramatic decline by stock prices in the United States on Friday — the 20th anniversary of the 1987 “Black Monday” stock market crash — investors in Asia sold off stocks on worries that the United States mortgage crisis would crimp demand among American consumers for Asia’s exports.

Hong Kong’s benchmark index of share prices fell by almost 3.3 percent, while in Japan the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped by more than 2.2 percent. South Korean stocks fell by 3.25 percent. Asia’s smaller markets were also hard hit: stocks in the Philippines slid by roughly 4 percent.

In Europe during early trading, London’s FTSE 100 was down 88 points, or 1.4 percent, but was trading off its lows. The German DAX stock market index was down 1.3 percent, and the Paris market had fallen by around 1.8 percent.

Fortunately my exurban McMansion futures will only go up up up up!

Morning Thread

I salute the least surprising story of the year*

Kid Rock arrested for brawl at a 'Waffle House'

Stay Classy America!

*next to Dick Cheney threatens to bomb a "four-letter nation" or as Bush would call it "France"

Sunday, October 21, 2007




Hey, let's run on the Abu Ghraib scandal! I mean, in favor of it!

Thread Away

Sunday Evening Fun

Out for awhile. Here's a song from The 1900s to keep you company.

Tweety's World

The dude has issues.

Auto-Fellating Incident



Nobody could have predicted that torturing the shit out of people might not be such an awesome idea.

WASHINGTON -- The FBI is quietly reconstructing the cases against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 14 other accused Al Qaeda leaders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, spurred in part by U.S. concerns that years of CIA interrogation have yielded evidence that is inadmissible or too controversial to present at their upcoming war crimes tribunals, government officials familiar with the probes said.

The process is an embarrassment for the Bush administration, which for years held the men incommunicado overseas and allowed the CIA to use coercive means to extract information from them that would not be admissible in a U.S. court of law -- and might not be allowed in their military commissions, some former officials and legal experts said. Even if the information from the CIA interrogations is allowed, they said, it would probably risk focusing the trials on the actions of the agency and not the accused.


But the CIA moved aggressively to take over the interrogations of Mohammed and other senior Al Qaeda detainees, beginning with suspected training camp coordinator Abu Zubeida, who was captured in Pakistan in 2002. Some current and former FBI officials said the spy agency began using coercive techniques such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, in an effort to get the detainees to talk immediately about the terrorist network's plans.

CIA officials told The Times that the FBI wasn't getting crucial information about pending attacks out of Zubeida that they knew he possessed, and that their "enhanced" techniques ultimately worked better and faster. Current and former FBI officials said those CIA techniques resulted in false confessions that were obtained illegally.

By mid-2002, several former agents and senior bureau officials said, they had begun complaining that the CIA-run interrogation program amounted to torture and was going to create significant problems down the road -- particularly if the Bush administration was ever forced to allow the Al Qaeda suspects to face their accusers in court.


"Those guys were using techniques that we didn't even want to be in the room for," one senior federal law enforcement official said. "The CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved."

A senior FBI official who since has retired said he also complained about the lack of usable evidence and admissible statements being gathered. "We knew there were going to be problems back then. But nobody was listening," he said. "Now they have to live with the policy that they have adopted. I don't know if anyone thought of the consequences."

You're Allowed to Speak Again

Bill Kristol's silencing spell on war critics has now worn off.

KRISTOL: They’re playing — they’re leap-frogging each other in the degrees of irresponsibility they’re willing to advocate. And I really think people are being too sort of complacent and forgiving almost of the Democrats. ‘Oh, it’s politics, of course. One of them has a non-binding resolution. The other has a cap.’ It’s all totally irresponsible. It’s just unbelievable. The president is sending over a new commander, he’s sending over troops, and the Democratic Congress, in a pseudo-binding way or non-binding way, is saying, ‘It won’t work. Forget it. You troops, you’re going over there in a pointless mission. Iraqis who might side with us, forget it, we’re going to pull the plug.’ It’s so irresponsible that they can’t be quiet for six or nine months and say the president has made a decision, we’re not going to change that decision, we’re not going to cut off funds and insist on the troops coming back, so let’s give it a chance to work. You really wonder, do they want it to work or not? I really wonder that. I hate to say this about the Democrats. They’re people I know personally and I respect some of them. Do they want it to succeed or not?

Flippity Doo Dah

Obviously not all people affected by the bad real estate market are blameless.

The local results: In the six months ending July 1 of this year alone, more than $1 billion in mortgages defaulted in Palm Beach County and along the Treasure Coast. Not every borrower, though, was seeking shelter. And not everyone was duped into an onerous deal.

"I had a guy who called me who owns 70 homes," says Stuart broker Michael Morgan. "I know a lady who owns 16. It's the room of 1,000 doughnuts. How many can you eat? Two? Three? Well, how many houses can you live in?"

At the top of the market, though, home sales were all about cash flow. In 2005, a Point Manalapan home sold for $1.52 million in April, $1.82''million in June and was back on the block in August for $2.25 million.

Dozens of local borrowers now in default loaded up on risk by taking out two mortgages simultaneously: one for 80 percent of the home price and another for the remaining 20 percent. Fifty-eight of those piggy-back loans imploded within four months.

"People do need to take personal responsibility," says Ellen Schloemer, executive vice president of the Washington-based Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group. "But I think people relied on their mortgage professionals to get them through it, when they probably should have thought of them as a used-car salesman."

In fact, brokers are targets for some of the fiercest criticism - even from other brokers.

A World of Cab Drivers

Little Tommy Friedman, age 9:

This is how scale change happens. When the Big Apple becomes the Green Apple, and 40 million tourists come through every year and take at least one hybrid cab ride, they’ll go back home and ask their leaders, “Why don’t we have hybrid cabs?”

Most people in the US don't live in a world of cabs and cab drivers, they're exotic devices as odd as the Disney monorail.

Luxury Soap

Lava Soap was and is, of course, a "special" soap with an "exotic" ingredient (pumice).


You do realize that he's going to be putting the presidential seal, and his name, on everything he wears for the rest of his life.

Matlock's Vision of Health Care

Well, really, the Republican vision, as slobbered over by cenrtist David Broder.

In this case, he is visualizing a radically different kind of medical marketplace, in which families armed with specific information about the treatment success and prices of hospitals and doctors can shop at will for the best quality and most affordable care.

We pay doctors to make these decisions for us because most of us haven't been to medical school. I know this point is simple and obvious and everyone makes it, but as I said before our elite discourse is so fucking stupid.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.

ABC’s “This Week” — Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Comedian Stephen Colbert; Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian; Sally Bedell Smith, author of “For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years.”

CNN’s “Late Edition” — Reps. Jane Harman, D-Calif., and Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich.; World Bank President Robert Zoellick; Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese parliamentarian; Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraqi government spokesman; Garry Kasparov, Russian presidential candidate.

“Fox News Sunday” — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.

Later Simels