Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Tom Friedman:

This is my last column until April.

And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.



Evening Thread

With Hell's Grannies

Fresh Thread



Don't mean to steal the Irvine Housing Blog's schtick here, but it is immensely fascinating to look at SoCal real estate listings. The quantity of properties on the market, the absurd prices/appreciation rates that people seem to believe they're entitled to, etc.

And, hey, whatever price they can get, but there's 13+ months worth of inventory in that area.

Retention Bonuses

Nice work if you can get it.

Can't Outsource the Plumber

It's true that certain types of high skilled service jobs don't really face foreign competition.

Even college grads might want to consider blue-collar careers. Last year, because U.S. News readers tend to be college educated, we included only careers that typically require at least a bachelor's degree. This year we've added four careers that don't. Why? More and more students are graduating from college at the same time that employers are offshoring more professional jobs. So, many holders of a bachelor's degree are having trouble finding jobs that require college-graduate skills. Meanwhile, society has been telling high school students that college is the way, so there's an accelerating shortage of skilled people in jobs that don't require college. (Why else do you think you have to pay $100 an hour for a plumber?)

It's somewhat heretical to say, but I'm one of those who thinks that too many people go to college, though it may be individually rational for them to do so given the signaling nature of it. That is, going to college doesn't really transform people into better works for a lot of jobs, but employers require a college education because it's how people signal they aren't a "complete loser"* who couldn't even manage to graduate from college.

*To be clear, I don't think one needs to graduate from college to avoid loserdom. That's my whole point! It's just that in our society it's become an entrance ticket to a lot of careers even when the education you get in college isn't really training for those careers.

Looking for Help From Republicans

I have to admit likely Republican voters are kinda cute. I mean, it's a bit weird to expect to hear something about government addressing a problem from Republicans.

Democratic voters aren't the only ones worried. Foreclosures are a "big problem not being addressed," said Rachel Serianz, a 58-year-old education professor from Davenport, after attending a Mike Huckabee rally in Iowa on Friday. "Our whole economy is not going to be helped by depriving people of their homes."

Assuming the article is characterizing this person correctly, I think it's safe to say she's attending the wrong rallies.

Now I'm not claiming that Democrats are all awesome about everything, but occasionally think that maybe government's supposed to do something other than starting catastrophic wars sometimes.

He said the idea wouldn't be a government-mandated solution. "This would all be done on a voluntary basis," he said. The Romney idea seems to be a variation on the plan Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has created to get loan servicers and investors to ease the terms on some troubled mortgages. Aides say Mr. Romney has also talked about expanding an existing government-chartered, affordable-housing organization called NeighborWorks America.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, meantime, said his economic team was preparing a plan to combat the problem, though he didn't give specifics. "I believe that government action is the last resort and not the first resort," he told CNBC. A campaign aide indicated a new plan would come out after Christmas.

Media Matters

From Jamison Foser.

Morning Thread

Today's project: cookies.

--Molly I.




Steve Simels, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo a whoo.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Late Night at the Bar

Fun Fact

Ron Paul is older than John McCain.

Lord Please Make Them Stop

Maybe millionaire Mitt Romney should film a commercial of him sitting on the couch in his boxing shorts watching bowling on the teevee with one hand clasping a beer and the other one in a bag of pork rinds.

I heard the other day that Mitt Romney is so careful with his weight that he will pick the cheese off his pizza. Then I heard from another source that he eats pizza with a knife and fork. That's two sources, two angles: That's practically confirmation.

I just can't imagine the American people electing as president someone who does that to pizza. I'm not saying a president has to have a special knack for eating pizza - what you call "pizza talent" - but he or she has to respect the pizza, and look comfortable with it.

You want, as a voter, to be able to say, "He looks like he knows his way around a pizza."

There really is practically nothing worse about campaign coverage than Beltway elites imagining how "reglar folks" live and eat and then demanding that presidential candidates pretend that they're just like that!

Who the fuck cares how Mitt Romney eats his pizza?
Just kill me.

Evening Thread


Who Would Jesus Shackle

Huckabee makes his play for Rudy vote.

The Death of Super-Shitpile

Apparently the great idea of setting up a fund to bail themselves out - and conning others into contributing - isn't going to work after all.

"Nobody could have predicted..."


I've mocked the endless "McCain comeback!" narratives peddled by his sycophants in the press, but perhaps he'll end up being the John Kerry of 2008 after all.


The steak house as leading indicator came from Daniel Gross.

Morton's and Ruth's not doing well.

So Much For That

Schumer, last January.

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I think the bottom line is that the president will have no choice but to begin a withdrawal come this summer or fall of 2007. And that’s why I think the 2008 election, Tim, is going to turn on a positive platform. That’s what I’ve written...

MR. RUSSERT: Not Iraq.

SEN. SCHUMER: Not Iraq. I think we do have to discuss how to deal with the war on terror in the future. But I think that the president has shown so little veering from this plan, which is a disaster, that by 2000--early 2008, even he is going to be forced to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Oddly we'll still be in Iraq next November, soldiers will continue to die until then, though hopefully the lower casualty rates remain, there will be no substantial troop withdrawals, and the pony will not magically appear.

Still we can expect a Democratic establishment telling candidates "don't mention the war" once again.

Tent City

Tent City!

ONTARIO, Calif., Dec 21 (Reuters) - Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits "tent city," a terminus for homeless people. It is not, as might be expected, in a blighted city center, but in the once-booming suburbia of Southern California.
The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis.

There's a narrow window in the period just after people slip through the cracks when they are seen sympathetically, as "people like us" who had bad luck. As time goes by, they fast cease to be "like us" and sympathy fades.


Karma aside, this does point to the fact that sensible personal bankruptcy provisions are necessary for a well-functioning modern capitalist economy. While such laws do provide some relief for the debtor, they actually exist primarily for the benefit of creditors. Make it too hard or pointless for debtors to seek bankruptcy protection and creditors will get screwed too.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Brendan writes in to remind us of this from a 6 or so weeks ago.

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn't count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

``Be careful what you wish for,'' Westbrook said. ``They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they're getting is more foreclosures.''

As I wrote at the time I'm not quite sure that this article really proves the point that the Bankruptcy Bill is fully responsible for this, though the more I think about it the more it makes sense to me. If there was still a decent route to sensible bankrtupcy terms, people would prioritize the house over the credit cards. As it stands, it makes sense to walk away from the house and keep the credit cards.

The karma gods are laughing.

Leading Indicator

I forget who, but someone recently suggested that the fortunes of chain high end steak houses and similar were a pretty good leading indicator for the fortunes of a certain segment of the population. They're the kind of places that people who don't go to expensive restaurants all that often go to for "special" meals, and when money's tight those meals don't happen.


Shares of NEW YORK -

Shares of McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. sank to their lowest level in more than three years Friday after the company cut its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings guidance because of weak traffic.

The company is the latest restaurant operator to either slash its guidance or warn investors of weak earnings due to slow sales and traffic. Earlier this week, shares of Ruby Tuesday Inc., Ruth's Chris Steak House Inc. and Darden Restaurants Inc. - which operates the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains - hit new lows after telling investors upcoming earnings would not meet expectations. Seafood Restaurants Inc. sank to their lowest level in more than three years Friday after the company cut its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings guidance because of weak traffic.

The company is the latest restaurant operator to either slash its guidance or warn investors of weak earnings due to slow sales and traffic. Earlier this week, shares of Ruby Tuesday Inc., Ruth's Chris Steak House Inc. and Darden Restaurants Inc. - which operates the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains - hit new lows after telling investors upcoming earnings would not meet expectations.

Jingle All The Way

The economically rational thing for many underwater homeowners is to put the keys in the mail and walk away. I think it's pretty funny that the industry is hoping that social norms will prevent people from doing so. Perhaps they should spend a little time worrying about their own social norms which led them to hand out all of those bullshit loans in the first place.

ACA Fallout

The downgrade of ACA Capital has made Merrill a wee bit desperate. According to CNBC, they may have to write down another $7 billion on top of the $8+ billion that's already been flushed. They're trying to get $5 billion from a Singapore sovereign wealth fund.

Golden Duke

Congratulations, Vince Fumo!

State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Philadelphia) has been nominated for a "Golden Duke" award in the category of Best Local Scandal over at Talking Points Memo, a national progressive blog that helped push investigations into the firing of U.S. Attorneys by former AG Alberto Gonzalez.

Fumo's got some impressive credentials: a 139 count indictment for fraud and obstruction of justice that includes allegations taxpayers helped pay for his 33-room mansion, fix leaky toilets, work as a farmhand on his 100-acre hobby farm, pay his personal bills, organize fundraisers, and wrap 150 Vince Fumo bobble head dolls. He also allegedly used taxpayer money to hire private investigators to spy on his political rivals, his ex-wife, former girlfriends, and their new boyfriends.

Let's hope Anne Dicker can rid us of this awful man.

Fire Sale

Chrysler has problems.

Chrysler LLC has slipped into a serious financial crunch just four months after Cerberus Capital Management LP swept in to save the auto maker.

At a meeting earlier this month, Chief Executive Robert Nardelli told employees the company is headed for a substantial loss this year and is scrambling to sell assets to raise cash, according to an account by two people present that Mr. Nardelli confirmed.

"Someone asked me, 'Are we bankrupt?'" Mr. Nardelli said at the meeting. "Technically, no. Operationally, yes. The only thing that keeps us from going into bankruptcy is the $10 billion investors entrusted us with."

Deep Thought of the Day

Christmas seems to make a lot of conservatives really angry.

...for example...



"The prophecy of the holy highway..."

Ah, CNN.

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Company

Circuit City:

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Circuit City Stores Inc., the second-largest U.S. consumer-electronics retailer, reported a fifth straight loss and said it won't make money this quarter, when it typically generates most of its annual profit.

The chain dropped 32 percent in early New York trading.

The loss widened to $207.3 million, or $1.26 a share, from a loss of $20.4 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier. Sales dropped 3.1 percent to $2.94 billion, the Richmond, Virginia- based company said today in a statement. It was the third consecutive quarterly revenue decline.

Circuit City, which cut 10 percent of its U.S. workforce this year and hired people willing to work for less, is losing market share to larger rival Best Buy Co. Sales in stores open at least 12 months fell 5.6 percent in the third quarter.

Hop on Pop


Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

Morning Thread

You know, I'm an English literature major, and it didn't cause me to imagine my dad in a B-52 or a Santa suit or anything.

--Molly I.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Late Night

Rock on.

Evening Thread

Be excellent to each other.


I think it's fun to check out Intrade action, though I'm driven mad by people who think they're anything more than a reflection of the CW of the type of people who like to trade on Intrade.

Fun fact: At his peak, George Allen was trading at 32, meaning "the market" thought there was 32% chance that he'd be the nominee.


The Patriots Aren't That Awesome

Lyin' Mitch Romney:

CBS News: “Did you actually see — with your own eyes — your father marching with Martin Luther King?”

Romney: “My own eyes? You know, I speak in the sense of I saw my dad become president of American Motors. I wasn’t actually there when he became president of American Motors, but I saw him in the figurative sense of he marched with Martin Luther King. My brother also remembers him marching with Martin Luther King and so in that sense I saw him march with Martin Luther King.”

Later he said, “I can’t even give you the time frame. I just remember that we talked about it. My brother also remembers my dad having spoken about the fact that he did not do political events on Sunday but that he decided at the last minute that he was going to break that self-imposed rule and participate and I think he did so on a Sunday as I recall.”

He added, “You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech.”


Blame the Media:

Media coverage of housing trends often gives the impression that the market is worse off than it really is, according to the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Lawrence Yun, in presentations Wednesday to Kansas City area real estate agents, said the media’s biggest mistake was too much reporting on nationwide real estate trends. National trends alone, he said, don’t apply to many parts of the country, and reporting of them usually lacks perspective.

For instance, Yun reported that the national median (or midpoint) home price this year was on its way to its first overall decline since the Depression. Already, he said, the media drumbeat is repeating the word “depression,” thus depressing consumer confidence and keeping potential homebuyers out of the market.

The press spent the first half of the year or more dutifully advertising the NAR's absurdly optimistic projections.

Matt Drudge Rules His (and their) World

America's Worst JournalistTM Mark Halperin.

Why is Drudge highlighting the McCain story, but has not touched other political hot potatoes that are swirling in the ether? Answer that, and you probably will have a better handle on who the major parties will nominate than any polling data can give you.

As I wrote over a year ago:

I don't know if Halperin and Harris know this, or put this in their book, but one largely uncommented on fact is that Matt Drudge really really really hates McCain. At least he did in the past.



So enough of wasting time on dissecting the assets and liabilities and capital of individual monoliners; their business model is conceptually flawed in the first place; and their actual business practices have been even more flawed as they have now insured for years toxic RMBS, CDOs, and CDOs of CDOs. The wariness of rating agencies to downgrade the monoliners is understandable: such a downgrade will imply an instant death sentence for any monoliner that is downgraded; it will lead to loss of business for the rating agencies themselves; and it will trigger massive losses on muni bonds.

But the current charade of pretending that the monoliners are under review to give them time to raise more capital to avoid such a downgrade is another case of rating agencies supporting a rotten business model. The actual behavior of such monoliners has proven that they are not transparent, that they hold or insure a mass of skeletons and toxic waste securities and they have been dishonest in hiding from investors the toxic waste that they hold and insure. So it is time to stop this charade of rating forbearance and admit that the emperor has no clothes: a business model that cannot survive without an AAA rating is conceptually a business model that cannot deserve under any circumstance an AAA rating; period! Arguing otherwise is believing in voodoo black magic.

This is right. The whole system is screwed up.

"Taking Responsibility"

It's so absurd.

...adding, the absurdity is that society gets to chime in on what this girl should be doing with her uterus while simultaneously suggesting she's "bad" for having gotten pregnant. Teens have sex and some will inevitably get pregnant. We've gotten so weird about sex that we like to pretend teens don't have sex, which is even a big change from the "sex=death" era I grew up in when while people tried to scare us from having sex nobody really pretended it was uncommon.

...oy. link=death. C&P.

and more at LG&M.

Good Parenting

And more.

Still, with this latest episode in the lives of the Spears family, one can't help wondering who was the genius who contracted the sisters' mother, Lynne, to write a book on parenting. The project reportedly has been put on hold. But given the problems her daughters have had, it's hard to believe the book was ever in the works.

Now one can mock the mother for writing a parenting book if her schtick was defining good parenting for girls as making sure they kept their legs closed long enough. But this is exactly what the Inquirer is buying into. Her daughter got pregnant, so Lynne is a bad parent, and therefore it's absurd that she'd write a book about good parenting.

Slutty Slutty Slut Slut Slut Slut Slut Slutty Slut

Ah, the glorious Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nickelodeon, however, appears to have little alternative but to fire Jamie Lynn. No doubt her co-stars are furious that her indiscretion may cost them their jobs, too.

Bite me, Inquirer. Teenagers have sex. Frequently. This is perfectly normal behavior. Sometimes when they do they get pregnant. And when they do they can either carry the child to term or have an abortion. This isn't an "indiscretion." It's perfectly standard behavior no matter how much our stupid society likes to pretend otherwise.

Shitpile Squared

And another bond insurer is likely to go tits up.

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- MBIA Inc. tumbled the most since 1987, and the risk of default soared after the world's biggest bond insurer revealed that it guarantees $8.1 billion of collateralized debt obligations repackaging other CDOs and securities linked to subprime mortgages.

Credit-default swaps tied to Armonk, New York-based MBIA's bonds climbed 115 basis points to 595 basis points, the widest on record, according to CMA Datavision in London. MBIA shares plunged $4.73, or 18 percent, to $22.29 as of 9:38 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

MBIA posted a document on its Web site late yesterday showing it insured the so-called CDOs-squared, a potentially riskier form of security than what the company typically guarantees. Rising defaults on subprime mortgages packaged into securities have led to bond downgrades and threatened MBIA's AAA guaranty rating.

In case you were wondering what a CDO-squared is, it's when you have a piece of Big Shitpile (CDO) and you issue debt using it, or pieces of it, as collateral. Bad debt issued on top of bad debt.

Thursday is New Jobless Day

While new jobless claims still aren't extremely high, they've definitely been creeping upwards.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance rose to 346,000 in the week ended Dec. 15 from a slightly upwardly revised 334,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.
Wall Street economists predicted claims would rise to 335,000 from the originally reported 333,000 claims for the week ended Dec. 8.

The rise in new claims nudged the four-week moving average to up to 343,000, its highest since October 2005 when they measured 358,250. The moving average, which irons out
week-to-week fluctuations, was 338,750 the prior week.


Apparently banks are shy. They don't want their secrets revealed. They don't want to reveal their exposure to big shitpile. They don't want anyone - customers, investors, the press - to know that they want to borrow some money from the Fed. And the Fed is rewarding their desire to keep things hidden with an opportunity to borrow money without anyone knowing they're borrowing money.

It's so absurd.

New thread

Like to read?


Cab Drollery

Whiskey Fire

It's all good.

Not Atrios

Good morning, Atriots!

How come it gets into the news just fine when Republicans call Democrats "obstructionist", but when Republicans break the record for filibustering - something they assured us not that long ago was evil - the media doesn't appear to notice?

Well, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Harry Reid, unaccountably, never says, "Great! We'll be delighted to watch you explain for days on end why you think taking care of America is a bad idea! We'll get the popcorn!"

The guy just has no sense of theater.

Also, remember what Sara said:
Oprah Winfrey once said that the best advice she ever got in her life was from Maya Angelou, who said: "When people tell you who they are -- believe them."

I've gotten good mileage from this advice over the years. Being raised fundie, you spend a lot of your life being told to believe someone else's preposterous interpretation of events over your own lying eyes. Growing up this way really twists your reality lenses; and those of us who come out of it as adults spend a lot of time and energy learning to see and interpret the world clearly again. Angelou's quote is one of the mantras that gave me permission to trust my own observations of what people were saying and doing, knock off the false hopes and wishful thinking, accept this information as literal truth, and rely on it as an accurate indicator about how they were likely to behave in the future. It's knowledge that was acquired late, but has since kept me out of an amazing amount of trouble.

It struck me recently that, too often, we've been very slow to believe conservatives, even when they told us in no uncertain terms who they were. Some things were easy to acknowledge, even in the early years: they're the party of business, they don't care much about the middle and lower class, they believe in hierarchy and aristocracy and low taxes. Others came later: it took us a while to really admit to ourselves that they were pandering to racists, that they were perfectly willing to throw the middle class overboard, and that they didn't really care whether or not a rising tide lifted all boats. The hardest realizations have been the most recent ones: that these people are openly willing to destroy the Constitution, the country, and the planet in the name of privilege and profit; that they have absolutely no concept of the common good, and that the most horrible accusations they level at us should always be taken as an open admission of what they're intending to do themselves.

Not Atrios

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things I Learn Watching VH1

Hannah Montana is very popular (I knew that already).

Hannah Montana is played by Billy Ray Cyrus's Daughter.

Hannah Montana's father is played by Billy Ray Cyrus.

Holiday Schedule

I'm not really going anywhere, but posting will be a wee bit more inconsistent than you're used to until the new year begins. Some days the blog will go to 11, and some days it'll go to 5 or so.


My Cat Works For Huckabee


The Stupidest Scandals

I think the stupidest political scandals are the ones which involve "dirty donors" and associated calls to give the money back. Big bundlers and those big supporters who are effectively part of the campaign are one thing, but candidates really shouldn't be asked to respond to or denounce everyone who writes them a check. Given the donation limits for supporters of presidential candidates, no one donor can be especially important so the idea that the candidates are somehow tainted by them is silly.


Yes, it's even worse than we imagined.

Evening Thread

My cats are really stoned on catnip.


Tancredo drops out of Republican race, presumably so he can join the Sharpton/Tancredo Unity '08 dream ticket.

Long Hard Slog

'Tis the season to throw some coins Digby's way. I know that asserting the following annoys lots of people, but maintaining a blog for an extended period is actually a lot of work and tends to take over your life to a stunning degree. Reader support is appreciated.

More Thread

Should we all chip-in on Baby-Sized Grey Turtlenecks?

Afternoon Thread

Gotta run some errands.

Really Creepy

As I said, Rudy! is just one creepy dude.

ACA Downgrade

ACA Capital was downgraded to CCC, otherwise known as "crappy."

This should force many owners of Big Shitpile to put this stuff onto their books, as this move basically tells them that they can't pretend to have insured their risk away because their insurer sucks.

Not So Deep Red

Dem wins special election to Texas State House.

District went 34% to Gore in '00 and 36% to Kerry in '04.

Subprime Chat

Go talk with Brad Miller and Linda Sanchez.

Silly Sallie

CNBC: "Sallie Mae CEO sounded unstable [on conference call]"

Sovereign Wealth Funds

I suppose it's time to think about the implications of foreign government nationalizing US companies buying up assets.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Morgan Stanley, the No. 2 U.S. investment bank, reported a $9.4 billion writedown on Wednesday from bad bets on mortgage-related debt, leading it to take a $5 billion infusion from an arm of the Chinese government.

The writedown, nearly triple what Morgan Stanley warned of in November, pushed the investment house to the first quarterly loss in its 73-year history. Chairman and Chief Executive John Mack accepted blame for the fiscal fourth-quarter loss, and said he would forgo his annual bonus.


I can't believe the CNN reporter is patting herself on the back for maybe - she doesn't even know! - being the first reporter to cover the fire at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

McCain's Back!

That's what Brian Williams and NBC told me yesterday. I think it was because he got a few newspaper endorsements.

In the latest national poll he comes in 5th.

National polls don't matter, but he isn't doing well in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, etc...

Insure Yourself

It's hard to get a full understanding of this story. Essentially it's preferable for Big Shitpile to bail out their insurance company - essentially cover their own losses - and keep pretending they actually have insurance than to admit that their insurance company doesn't actually have any money to pay claims. This is due to the combination of exploitable accounting rules and reserve requirements for banks. If they have to admit that their fantasy income isn't real then they might be technically below reserve requirements.



New York Times news judgement lacking, film at eleven.

Not Atrios


Not really. Just hate when people write "BREAKING NEWS" in all caps.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Late Night Thread

Now with more fiber.

Evening Thread

Out for a bit, play with a bag of hammers [mp3] while I'm out.

"yokels and drunks," "cretins," "rat snitches," "snitch perverts," and "scum"

Sounds about right.

Story's Out

Sorry Oliver.

McCain's Back!

I know because GENBC just told me.

At least he's only a "self-described straight talker."

Atrios Love Child Scandal

Developing... because Matt Drudge rules their world.

Not So Shabby

Wish I could get a bank to loan me $7.6 billion to buy $6.8 billion in real estate. I might even make the payments on time.

Wonder if this is just one really stupid loan or the start of a trend.

In Defense of Jonah Goldberg

Ha ha. Just kidding. Jonah's one of the stupidest people in our public discourse and from what I saw leafing through the book before the hazmat team took it way did nothing to sway me from that opinion.

Still it is true that there are authoritarian streaks all across the political spectrum. It isn't confined to the right and nor is it confined just to the far right and far left. These days I'd say the most powerful authoritarians are the "centrists" of the Washington Elite Consensus who have never quite gotten their heads around the whole consent of the governed idea. Fake Washington bipartisanship, Unity 08, the collected works of David Broder are all manifestations of this.

Diverging Agendas

This analysis of the diverging agendas of the studios sounds about right. And, ultimately, it fits with in with what I wrote earlier, that to a great degree a desire to fuck over the writers has less to do with any rational economic incentives and more to do with competitive assholes being themselves. Personality, not profit.

Fresh Thread



Rudy is kind of creepy, has negative charisma, and isn't very good at press-the-flesh campaigning.

I'm not going to say these are the things which should matter so much, but of course they do have an impact. But no matter how big Chris Matthews' mancrush on Rudy is, the fact is Rudy doesn't come across as especially "presidential." He's actually quite odd.


While one certainly can't discount the negative effect his Mormonism, I've said quite a few times that I actually worry quite a bit about Mitt due to his incredible ability to just lie about everything.

ABC News' Rick Klein Reports: Mitt Romney attended a fund-raising reception for Planned Parenthood in 1994 in conjunction with a $150 donation his wife made to the organization -- notwithstanding Romney's contention that he had "no recollection" of the circumstances under which his wife made gave money to the abortion-rights group.

In the photograph obtained by ABC News, Romney and his wife, Ann, are shown in a yellow-and-white tent chatting with local political activists, including Nicki Nichols Gamble, who was then president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Wanker of the Day

Anne Applebaum.


Jane has a good rundown on the absurdity of Reid's claim that Dodd's actions had nothing to do with the pulling of the telecom bill. And I want to highlight this bit from Glenn:

The most important value of victories of this sort is that they ought to serve as a potent tonic against defeatism, regardless of the ultimate outcome. And successes like this can and should provide a template for how to continue to strengthen these efforts. Yesterday's victory, temporary as it is, shouldn't be over-stated, but it also shouldn't be minimized. All of it stemmed from the spontaneous passion and anger of hundreds of thousands of individuals demanding that telecoms be subject to the rule of law like everyone else. And this effort could have been -- and, with this additional time, still can be -- much bigger and stronger still.

One of my pet peeves has long been a certain strain of defeatism. Understandably we all feel defeated at times, but there's a certain kind of defeatist out there on the internets, people who spend most of their time chastising others for thinking it's possible to have any influence and attacking the "stupidity" of those who even bother to try. Maybe those people are right. Maybe there never is anything to be done. But if that's the case, get a new goddamn hobby. It's rather odd to spend all your time following political news and blogs if the only reason to do it is to provide justification for your view that All Is Lost. Just go out and have some fun instead.

The Cause

I do wish people would stop spending so much time worrying about what other people are doing with their genitals.

Francisco Nava '09 said his falsification of threatening emails to prominent campus conservatives and subsequent assault on himself stemmed from a belief that his actions would draw attention to the pro-chastity cause, attendees at a Monday-evening meeting said early Tuesday morning. The gathering included Nava, Butler College administrators and fellow Anscombe Society members.


Tweety really needs a little mental health treatment.

Where Did They Drop It

Who else got some?

Stipanovich, who earned $180,214 in 2006 as executive director of the State Board of Administration, was in New York in confidential meetings with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. underwriter of mortgage-backed bonds. Lehman was proposing ways to help the state manage the risk of its debt investments, according to a letter the bank sent to Stipanovich after the meeting.

What Stipanovich, 58, hadn't told his boss, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, was that Lehman Brothers was the same firm that had sold the state fund $842 million of mortgage- backed debt in July and August. Those securities defaulted within four months, and totaled more failing debt than any other bank sold the state, Florida records show. ``At the time, I never knew it was Lehman Brothers that actually sold us these investments,'' Sink says.

Sink also was unaware that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who incorporated Jeb Bush & Associates in February 2007, a month after completing his second term, had been hired as a consultant to Lehman Brothers in June. Bush is the brother of President George W. Bush.


``Lehman and the other big players in the market decided they didn't like this stuff in their own accounts,'' Sink says. ``Where did they drop it and who did they dump it to? It looks questionable to me.''

Joseph Mason, a former U.S. Treasury official and now a finance professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, says Wall Street had few takers for its subprime-tainted debt. ``When they couldn't sell it to more-sophisticated investors, they found less-sophisticated investors like local government investment pools,'' he says.

Har Dee Har Har


"He blinked," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said of Reid. "It's clear that this was not going to be easy. On the one hand he wanted to rush this process and think he could strong-arm everybody to giving up their rights as senators. They threw sand in the gears."

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the decision had nothing to do with the efforts of Dodd and his allies. Indeed, for most of yesterday, Dodd appeared to be fighting a losing battle. His initial filibuster effort was steamrolled when the Senate voted 76 to 10 to take up the measure at noon.

Dodd had set it up so this was going to take a week or more to go through the Senate sausage factory.



It's hard to express how odious I find Bob Kerrey.

Indeed. But he's one of the Villagers' favorites!


From Dodd:



Atrios seems to be stuck in a tube somewhere. Or perhaps a truck. Please to enjoy this Yes video anyhow.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dodd Wins!

Breaking news: Reid pulls FISA bill until after the New Year.

--Molly I.

Evening Thread


Political-Media Industrial Complex

Local version.

After being sprung from a New York City jail cell Sunday night, one of CBS 3 anchor Alycia Lane's first orders of business was to track down the cell phone number of Gov. Ed Rendell, sources say.

Rendell's spokesman Chuck Ardo confirmed this afternoon that Lane reached Rendell by phone Sunday night to "make sure he knew her side of the story because he is an opinion maker and runs around in influential circles."

Genuine Progress

Ah, our friend Professor George was part of the Terry Schiavo circus.

Those Wacky Conservatives

Wacky times at Princeton.

PRINCETON, N.J. — An alleged physical attack on a Princeton University student who is leading a movement to instill conservative moral values among undergraduates is rattling the campus here.

A politics major from Texas who is a junior, Francisco Nava, said he was physically attacked Friday, beaten, and rendered unconscious by two black-clad men about two miles from campus, he told the student newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, in an interview.

The rare incidence of violence within the Ivy League prompted an outcry from conservative students and faculty who said they felt singled out by the Princeton administration and the majority of the student body, who remained silent in the face of what looked to many like a politically charged attack.


But many conservative students at Princeton say they were being singled out for expressing unpopular views.

"There would rightly be outrage had the student been part of some other minority on campus," said a 2006 Princeton graduate who works at a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Michael Fragoso. "I have yet to see that right now, and that's rather disappointing."

"Are there double standards and reforms that need to be made? Absolutely," Mr. George said in an interview.


A student at Princeton University who said he was beaten unconscious by two black-clad assailants Friday has said that he fabricated the assault, and that he sent e-mail death threats to himself, three other Princeton students, and a prominent conservative professor at Princeton, Robert George, police said today.

The Boogey Man Is Real

This sounds about right.

This has been the year when many deeply held beliefs have been challenged. One such belief was that central banks have the toolkit to sort out any conceivable economic or financial crisis.

Last week’s co-ordinated liquidity action by five central banks taught us that this is not the case. The idea was that a co-ordinated response would reassure the markets, but it had the opposite effect. It turned out that market participants are not infinitely stupid. They know by now that this is not a liquidity crisis at its core. If it had been, it would be over by now.

It is a fully fledged solvency crisis that has arisen because two giant and interlinked bubbles burst simultaneously – one in property, one in credit – leaving banks and investors on the brink of bankruptcy, some hanging on by their fingertips. Yet there is nothing the central banks are offering at this stage to alleviate a solvency crisis.

There isn't a problem of perceptions or expectations. There's a problem.

And the Call Was Answered

The happy couple cuts the cake.

Cheek to Jowl

Sending up the watertiger signal.

(Picture by Brian Snyder of Reuters)

You And What Army

Notable that Royce Lamberth was the judge on this one, though I imagine we'll see the records some time after we see Karl's emails.

White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws.

The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration, which is fighting the release of records showing visits by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and prominent religious conservatives.

The New School Must Be So Proud

Bob Kerrey blows the racist dogwhistle.

Kerrey continued: "It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."

Second Deep Thought of the Day

Iowa is a must-win state for Democrats, but Giuliani and McCain keep getting do-overs until they win one.

Ron Paul Revolution

The email which pointed me to this blog post suggested that the LA Times was "one of the only" outlets covering this story.

I'm not in the "liberals who have a soft spot for Ron Paul" club, but he doesn't get the media coverage he has earned.

Feingold Statement

Probably futile. Too many Senate Democrats love their big daddy Republicans and just know that they wouldn't mislead them.

“I am certain that over the course of this week, we will hear a number of arguments about why the Judiciary bill will hamper the fight against terrorism. Let me say now to my colleagues: Do not believe everything you hear. Last week I sat with many of you in the secure room in the Capitol, S-407, and listened to arguments made by the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that several of the examples they gave were simply wrong. Simply false. I am happy to have a classified meeting with anyone in this body who wishes to discuss this.”

“Mr. President, this grant of automatic immunity is simply unjustified. There is already an immunity provision in current law that has been there since FISA was negotiated – with the participation of the telecommunications industry – in the late 1970s. The law is clear. Companies already have immunity from civil liability when they cooperate with a government request for assistance – as long as they receive a court order, or the Attorney General certifies that a court order is not required and all statutory requirements have been met. This is not about whether the companies had good intentions or acted in good faith. It is about whether they complied with this statutory immunity provision, which has applied to them for 30 years. If the companies followed that law, they should get immunity. If they did not follow that law, they should not get immunity. A court should make that decision, not Congress. It’s that simple.”

Obviously the smart thing to do is to reward people who have a proven record of corruption with even more unaccountable powers. It's the serious thing to do.

The War On God

It's hard to take peoples' religion seriously* when what they really want is Jesus in their retail.

*I don't mean all people, just this category.

Light'Em Up

Some senators promised to support Dodd. You know what to do.

Name Fax Phone

Feingold (202) 224-2725 (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 (202) 224-3553

Chris Dodd must be crazy because he isn't in Iowa today!!

Shooting it in the Head

One does wonder how Republicans have such superpowers, and Democrats do not.

Lott noted that technically, a hold is only a request from a senator to the party leader to be notified when a particular bill comes up. In real terms, "that's the same as shooting it in the head with a bullet," Lott said.

Wow! Except in Harry Reid's Senate, only Republicans get the bullets! Amazing!

Wanker of the Day

Harry Reid.

Deep Thought of the Day

Reagan ran a populist campaign.


It's amazing that a minority junior senator from Oklahoma has infinite power over the Senate, while the senior majority senator from Connecticut has none.

Metro board members from Virginia and the District are skeptical of Maryland's move, while officials in Annapolis insist that the state's commitment is ironclad. But those jitters are overshadowed by graver doubts about the federal half of the funding formula, which at the moment is being held up by a single senator -- Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- despite its apparent overwhelming support in Congress.

It's amazing how this stuff works!


Why do Republicans hate dogs? (Not to mention Bill Frist and kittens....)

Not Atrios

Sunday, December 16, 2007



From the Paul Green School of Rock.

Career Ender

To be clear, I have nothing against local TV anchor Alycia Lane aside from the fact that she decided to appear on Dr. Phil once. But if this report is correct...

More Evening Thread

Support Senator Dodd tomorrow.

--Molly I.

Shorter Candidates

Obama: The system sucks, but I'm so awesome that it'll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we're gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

Evening Thread


Oh, Alycia

Appears one of our local anchorwomen has a problem.

And the big story on Eyewitness News is that CBS 3 anchor Alycia Lane is currently locked up in a New York jail cell after being arrested early this morning for allegedly punching a female police officer in the face.

Daily News reporter Regina Medina is reporting exclusively that Lane, 35, was arrested at 2:04 a.m. today at the corner of W. 17th Street and 9th Avenue and later charged with one count of assault witih intent to cause physical injury to an officer, said NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves. The 10th Precinct officer suffered lacerations to her face, Nieves said. Lane was also accompanied by an unidentified male, according to the NYPD report.


Not everyone dinged by the housing crisis is a purely innocent victim. People should have been able to recognize that when the cost of owning (mortgage payment+etc) was much greater than potential rental income, that maybe these hot investment properties weren't so hot after all.

The Marin resident, Rose Hodges, said she attended Marin investment clubs and met many people like herself who wanted to learn how to invest in real estate.

"All these Baby Boomers started inheriting money from their parents and looking for ways to invest it. And the real estate market was booming," said Hodges, who learned the hard way that such investments can have a big downside. "It's crazy out there and people ought to know."

Medina, who got a real estate license early this year, said he dabbled in real estate for years and made some money before gambling too big and buying 11 properties at virtually the same time in early 2006.

He said he lost the luxurious, six-bedroom house he was occupying in addition to 10 others he was trying to sell, plus most of the limousine business he had been running for years. He said the financial mess has left him penniless, facing bankruptcy and lawsuits, and saddled with a $3.6 million tax bill.

A few years ago a light went off in my head when someone suggested to me that inheritance was the way that a lot of people were able to afford what I would've thought were unaffordable homes. Though I hadn't yet realized that lending standards and practices had gotten to be completely horrible as well.

Cheek to Jowl

The Last Honest Man will endorse Saint McCain.

Commercial Real Estate

I don't get out to burbland very often - and rarely farther than Cherry Hill when I do - so I'm curious if this kind of thing is, anecdotally, widespread. The US has an absurd amount of retail space. Even in my little journeys to Cherry Hill I can see shuttered minimalls and other retail spaces.

The Way Forward

Digby expands on my earlier post and gets it exactly right. I know this to be true, I imagine that you, dear readers, know this to be true. Do ClintonObamaEdwardsetc know this to be true?


Sacramento area:

Even in a region with more than 7,600 foreclosures in just the first 10 months of the year, no place has been hit as hard as Western Avenue in North Sacramento. On the block where Marshall lives, 16 of 45 homes have been foreclosed in 2007 – more than on any other block in the four-county region, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of thousands of foreclosure records. One block away adds four more foreclosures to the tally. Several houses – such as one next door to Johnson's – are for rent but can't find tenants.

The residents on Western Avenue can testify that the story of a foreclosure doesn't end when a homeowner or tenant loses a house. For those left behind, a foreclosed home isn't a memory, it's a festering sore that can threaten a neighborhood with problems from drug dealers to transients to prostitutes.

Not that Western Avenue ever could have been mistaken for a nice stretch of road in Folsom or Granite Bay – the street long has had problems.

But, by several accounts, Western Avenue was getting better when multiple new homeowners – most carrying expensive subprime loans given to borrowers with shaky credit – moved into the neighborhood during the past three years. They were chasing bargains and believing the hype about everyone being able to own a home.

Cash Bailout

This is pretty stunning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The political world is now looking at the immediate pain. And Senator Clinton looks -- has called for a freeze on foreclosures. Senator Edwards called for a rescue fund to be set up by the government for people who are facing these kind of foreclosures.

What do you think about those ideas?

GREENSPAN: Well, I think it's important to recognize that there are a very large number of people who are in very major stress and having great difficulty in paying off their mortgages and even when they've tried exceptionally hard.

But when you think of how you come to grips with this, it's important to help those people outside -- without affecting the mortgage rates and without affecting the structure of markets. Cash is available and we should use that in larger amounts, as is
necessary, to solve the problems of the stress of this...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Cash from the government?

GREENSPAN: Cash from the government, yes. In other words, if you're going to do that, it's far less damaging to the economy to create a short-term fiscal problem, which we would, than to try to fix the prices of homes or interest rates. If you do that, it'll drag this process out indefinitely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But by infusing cash, it sounds like you agree, then, with former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, who says that, right now, given this crisis, there has to be a bias toward activism.

GREENSPAN: It depends what you mean by activism. If you mean doing something that works, absolutely. If you mean doing something just for the sake of perceptions, that's very costly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you think that infusing cash, right now, would work?

GREENSPAN: I'm saying I don't know if it would work, but it would certainly help people -- it would help their incomes; it would help their personal state, without affecting the structure of the way markets are behaving and the way adjustment process is going on.

It's very critical that this thing reach a selling climax -- if I may put it in other words, exhaust itself. It's only when the markets are perceived to have exhausted themselves on the downside that they turn. Trying to prevent them from going down just merely prolongs the agony.

I don't have any idea what to make of this. I'm a squishy do-gooder liberal and I have no desire to throw huge amounts of cash at this problem. The idea that doing so wouldn't impact markets is absurd. And while it sounds like Uncle Alan just wants to help out poor Mrs. Jones, this is basically just a complete bailout of Big Shitpile.

As California Goes

I don't know if we are or will be in a recession, but the trend in California certainly isn't good. Unemployment there hit 5.8% in October. If it ticks up in November I'd say that's a good sign we have a problem.

Above All, Protect the Status Quo

Edwards on Snuffleupagus this morning:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Four years ago, The Des Moines Register picked you. They said, "His time is now," and it clearly gave a boost to your campaign then. So this endorsement of Hillary Clinton is a blow this morning.

EDWARDS: Oh, I think The Des Moines Register's a great newspaper with good people. There are good people there. I think it remains to be seen how important it turns out to be, but congratulations to Senator Clinton.
I didn't consider it a consolation prize. I'm excited about being on the cover of Newsweek. The only thing I would add is, we did have a very serious debate when I was at the editorial board about a really fundamental difference that I have with them, which is, I do believe we have to take on a very serious issue of too much influence of corporate power in Washington and how it affects the public policy in this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to get into that. Because here's what they said in the editorial this morning. They noted that they endorsed you four years ago, but then they went on to say this: "We too seldom saw the positive optimistic campaign we found appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."

How do you answer that charge?

EDWARDS: Well, we just -- what I just said. I mean, they have a position. I respectfully disagree with it. I think that if we're going to have serious change in this country, universal health care, attacking global warming, a tax policy that works for most Americans instead of just a few, a trade policy that creates jobs instead of costing jobs, I mean, all those things are going to require us to have a president of the United States who's tough and willing to fight these powerful corporate interests that stand between us and the change that we need.

And I think the notion that you can sit at the table and negotiate and compromise, and these powerful interests will give away their power, I think is a fantasy. If it were true, it would have been working over the last few decades. And it does not.

I think we have a huge fight, an epic fight on our hands against those powerful interests, not against politicians. Nobody cares about politicians fighting. But I think we need a president who's tough enough to take these people on and win, and I've been doing it my whole life.


It's very easy to exhort others to make courageous stands, and to imagine the courageous stands that we ourselves would inevitably make in those situations. But I'm reasonably sure that if I were working for a member of Congress who was planning on endorsing the American Surveillance State I would resign in shame and disgust.

Lindsey Graham's Realism

David Broder 3 months ago, quoting Lindsey Graham:

"What we do can affect the outcome. But if we don't see progress on two of the three big issues -- oil revenues, de-Baathification, provincial elections -- in the next 90 days, it may not happen. And Iraq could be a failed state."

Despite the president's words, that sounds realistic.

And now?


Here in Philadelphia we have a little issue with casinos being approved in neighborhoods over the objections of the people who live there. Now I don't really care much about casinos and gambling per se, but this isn't so much about putting gambling in neighborhoods as it is about putting really shitty development projects in neighborhoods. The gambling is a secondary issue. For those wanting more details, you can read here.

As is the case when residents dare to voice concerns about what is happening in their neighborhood, someone steps up to call them stupid and crazy and irrational. Here we have asshole Tom Ferrick doing just that.

The casinos are corrupt because the process which is bringing them to the city has been corrupt. It's that simple.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.

NBC’s “Meet the Press,” — Guests: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican.

•“Fox News Sunday,” — Guests: Former Sen. George Mitchell, Maine Democrat; Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Michigan Republican; Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat; Ted Leonsis, owner of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals.

•ABC’s “This Week,” — Guests: Former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat; Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman.

•CBS’ “Face the Nation,” 1 a.m. Monday on Channel 5 — Guests: Former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican; former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat.

•CNN’s“Late Edition,” — Guests: Former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat; Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware Democrat; Sen. Kit Bond, Missouri Republican; Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat.

Morning Thread

It's cold outside; who wants to snuggle?

--Molly I.