Saturday, December 27, 2008

Late Night


Saturday Evening Thread

For real this time!

Nobody Could Have Predicted

Actually I didn't because I had no idea lending practices had gotten so absurd. I did know that people were getting loans were bad ideas for them, I just didn't know that they were getting loans which were bad ideas for the banks.

During Mr. Killinger’s tenure, WaMu pressed sales agents to pump out loans while disregarding borrowers’ incomes and assets, according to former employees. The bank set up what insiders described as a system of dubious legality that enabled real estate agents to collect fees of more than $10,000 for bringing in borrowers, sometimes making the agents more beholden to WaMu than they were to their clients.

WaMu gave mortgage brokers handsome commissions for selling the riskiest loans, which carried higher fees, bolstering profits and ultimately the compensation of the bank’s executives. WaMu pressured appraisers to provide inflated property values that made loans appear less risky, enabling Wall Street to bundle them more easily for sale to investors.

It's a shame more journalists weren't spending time trying to figure out what was going on with the housing bubble instead of getting quotes from people with a vested interest in it continuing to expand, but you go to financial crises with the press you have not the press you want.

More Thread

On a holiday weekend.

Nightmare In The Strip Mall And Big Box

Still bad, but not quite the same.

Getting The Talking Points Wrong

As I've written before, I don't know Phoenix and don't know if the light rail system is a good use of public funds or if it's a "boondoggle." When I've written about it before, readers have written to complain that I'm wrong to support the project. I don't have any idea! I've just mocked some of the arguments against it. In general I think that transit sytems can work in places like Phoenix if land use patterns around the system are allowed to change pretty drastically, but that's not an argument for or against any particular project. Rail haters amuse me, as do city haters generally. It's just sport.

And here we have another.
Wow 1980's technology has come to the valley let me run down to the nearest light rail station with my camera!!! comical f'ing comical.

The real talking point, used by light rail-haters for a long time, is that it's "19th century" technology, not so dissimilar to the internal combustion or the automobile, but nonetheless a supposedly damning factoid.

The anti-light rail lobby has long dangled shiny "new" technology, like absurd Personal Rapid Transit vehicle systems, which miss the point of "mass" transit entirely, as a never-to-be-achieved alternative to light rail as a way of derailing projects.

Gas Tax

The advantage of a gas tax is that is does line up prices more closely with actual cost, due to various externalities, and that by putting the money towards SUPERTRAINS and other transit improvements the costs of a regressive tax can be turned into benefits for lower income people in the form of better transit service.

I won't be holding my breath, however.

Retail Bloodbath

Pretty bad, it seems, and there will probably be many bankruptcies in January leading to further problems for commercial real estate, and on and on.

Things in the UK aren't going well, either.


SF has a lot of public transit. But the BART/Muni split is annoying, and Muni has the Worst System Map Ever.



Over there.

BAGHDAD -- A bomb tore through a busy square in Baghdad at midday Saturday, killing at least 22 people and wounding 54, the Iraqi army said, demonstrating the precariousness of the relative calm that Iraq has been enjoying for months.

Morning Thread

B-b-b-b-but the little dancing lady on my webmail says mortgage rates are wonderful!

(Krugman: the hardest working man in econ. Does he never take a day off?)

--Molly I.


Rock on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Late Night


So You Want To Start A Blog

I think Ezra's advice is roughly right. The easiest way to drum up an audience is to find a some topic, issue, or unfolding event, and make it your own. Your blog doesn't have to just be that, but it has to be the go-to place for that, and then you can fill it up with crappy music videos or whatever else makes you happy.

"Advice to bloggers" posts always seem to make some people mad. Do whatever you want with your blog! But in recent years that's how people who wanted an audience managed to obtain it.

Whatever The Hell Day It Is Evening Thread



I think too often when such things are proposed the "perfect is the enemy of the good" syndrome sets in among good liberals. But a SUPERTRAIN in California is a good idea, and if they actually do it right will be a great idea.
That optimism in the face of a dire economic outlook is the product of the priorities of President-elect Barack Obama's administration; the likelihood of a big federal infrastructure investment; growing concern over climate change; the volatility of gas prices; Californians' backing of the $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure and strong support for the project from the state's potent congressional delegation, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"It seems like the stars are aligned," said Rod Diridon of San Jose, a member of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Building the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles and Anaheim line that will be the spine of the system will cost between $32.8 billion and $33.6 billion, according to the High Speed Rail Authority's business report. Extensions built later would cost another $12 billion. In addition to the $10 billion from state bond sales, the authority is counting on $12 billion to $16 billion in federal funds plus $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in private investment and $2 billion to $3 billion in local contributions.

Afternoon Thread


They Hate Him, They Really Hate Him

Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they're glad President Bush is going, with 23 percent indicating they'll miss him.


The three-quarters of Americans surveyed who say they won't miss Bush is 24 points higher than the 51 percent who said they wouldn't miss Bill Clinton when he left office in January 2001. Forty-five percent of those questioned at that time said they would miss Clinton.


The poll indicates that Bush has been compared poorly to his predecessors, with 28 percent saying that he's the worst ever when compared to other presidents in American history. Forty percent rate Bush as poor and 31 percent feel he's been a good president.

Only a third of those polled want Bush to remain active in public life after he leaves the White House, with two-thirds saying they don't want him to stay active in a public way. That 33 percent figure who want Bush to remain in the public eye is 22 points lower than those questioned in 2001 who wanted Bill Clinton to retain a public role.

Different Rules For Democrats

Krugman argues that Obama needs to be squeaky clean, though I think he leaves unsaid the real reason: while IOKIYAR, it isn't OKIYAD.

They Like Him, They Really Like Him

Strange days.
WASHINGTON — A month before his inauguration, Americans choose Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. It's the first time a president-elect has topped the annual survey in more than a half-century. President Bush falls to a distant second after seven years as the most-admired man. ... One-third of Americans call Obama their first or second choice for most-admired man. The only higher support for a man in the history of the survey was Bush's 39% rating in 2001, months after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.


Hey... It feels like a Saturday. been traveling...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Is Over. Go to Bed!

Saturday Night Thread


On The First Day of Christmas

My true love gave to me: A Brand New Thread.

Pity The Future Historians

50 or so years from now the history dissertations about this time will start being churned out. And those poor students will have to wade through the contemporary press accounts from the 9/11-Iraq war era. I hope their advisers provide them with puke buckets, because they're going to need them.

Afternoon Thread


Deep Thought

Remember when the obnoxious tone of anonymous blog commenters on liberal blogs was going to doom the Democratic party forever? Good times.

Merry Christmas

Celebrate the way the good Lord intended, with the cast of Star Wars and, of course, Bea Arthur.

It's A Wonderful Life

Especially appropriate this year.

Morning Thread

Travel day for me, so light posting for reasons in addition to the other ones. Can we call him Senator Franken yet?

They Like Him, They Really Like Him

I admit I'm still surprised by Obama's popularity. Maybe things have changed more than I thought.
More than eight in 10, or 82 percent, of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition.That approval is up 3 percentage points from when CNN asked the same question at the beginning of December.

Fifteen percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way the president-elect is handling his transition, down 3 points from the last poll.Obama's approval is higher than George W. Bush eight years ago.

Bush had a 65 percent approval rating during his transition, and Bill Clinton was at 67 percent in 1992."Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He's putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Late Night

Peace and goodwill and whatnot.

Can't Do Anything Right


WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush on Wednesday took the extraordinary step of reversing a pardon issued the day before to Isaac Robert Toussie, the Brooklyn developer convicted of a large-scale Suffolk real estate scam, the White House said.

Victims of the scam and Suffolk elected officials rejoiced at the revocation of the pardon, which the White House said was made Tuesday without the usual Justice Department review.

As if this will be anything close to the "worst" pardon.

Evening Thread



Major hit for Seattle.
JPMorgan Chase is notifying landlords it will pull out of all the downtown Seattle office space rented by Washington Mutual by the end of March. The New York bank is laying off 80 percent of WaMu's Seattle work force and consolidating the 800 remaining office workers into the WaMu Center headquarters building it owns downtown. ... WaMu leased about 700,000 square feet in Seattle, according to brokers and building owners.

Campaign Flashback

Fresh Thread

Busy day, light blogging from me.


Good enough for journalism!

Wednesday Is New Jobless Day

This weeek, anyway. Holy crap!

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped by 30,000 to a 26-year peak last week, government data on Wednesday showed, as the country's year-long recession continued to chill the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 in the week ended Dec 20 from a revised 556,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.

Good morning

Have a good rant.

Always worth reminding people, though, that the NSA spy program was not a response to 9/11, but just something the Bush administration started as soon as they took over, because they wanted to be able to spy on Americans, period. They've never shown the slightest interest in protecting Americans.

Not Atrios

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Please Kill Me

CNN just informed me that "Jib Jab is at it again."

Happy Christmas Your Arse

Tuesday Night Thread


Holiday Schedule

It's that time of the year again. Traffic drops, not as much news and blogging to talk about, and I'm busy with other things. So, holiday schedule's pretty much beginning.... now. Reduced posting, even more exciting open threads, pictures of SUPERTRAINS, etc.


I, too, don't mind the idea that Senate vacancies are sometimes used to appoint people who haven't really spent much time in electoral politics. One flaw in democracy, specifically our particular version of it, is that there's no real reason that the skills required to get elected match up all that well with the skills necessary to become an awesome legislator. So a lot of senators really do suck, and not just because they disagree with my politics, but because they're sub-competent dolts.

But as Sam says at the link, that isn't really an argument for Kennedy as opposed to plenty of other people who might be pretty awesome.

A Few Poor People Destroyed The World Financial System

It really is the most logical explanation.

No Earmarks

Obviously it makes sense from Obama's perspective to get a bill without earmarks, giving the executive branch much more flexibility about how to spend the money. It also makes sense from a negotiations perspective to prevent every member from demanding their little cut. But it isn't clear that this is actually better policy. Sure the earmark process is often flawed, and some resulting projects are absurd and/or corrupt, but it's also the case that members of Congress sometimes have a better understanding of local needs than the federal DOT does.

Pardon Season

It's quite likely Bush will pardon top Republicans including ones who could implicate him in the various crimes he's been responsible for, but the Villagers will cheer those pardons and continue to discuss the Marc Rich pardon, which was worse than the holocaust.


My hazy memory of recent history of newspapers&the internet is that as the dot com boom got going, many newspapers did try to embrace the internet and spent time and money thinking about how to do that. Then when the dot com bust hit there was an almost relieved "oh, good, you can't make money on the internets anyway" and such efforts were scaled back.

But, basically, newspapers could have done anything on the internet that anyone else did. I think there was some understanding of this early on, with Knight-Ridder and others setting up what were poised to be branded local portal sites (, but which sort of stagnated creatively, both in terms of content and potential revenue streams. The point is that they had fairly high traffic web sites and known brands and they could have leveraged that for lots of things. Free classifieds, online dating, concert and other event ticket sales (either directly or commission cut), affiliations with online retailers like Amazon, local search. Whether or not any of these or better ideas could provide enough revenue to support a rough approximation of their news gathering operation I don't know, but you got the sense that many papers weren't even trying.

And we shouldn't leave aside the issue of content, both in print and online. It seems that newspapers are partially hamstrung by outmoded notions of what print journalism is supposed to be and, frankly, they should think a bit harder about giving the people what they want. Failure to change was in part due to the notion that they were important civic institutions giving the city what it needed instead of what people wanted, which worked as long as the monopoly held. That doesn't mean dumbing things down or trying to be "hip," it means making it more interesting. People like stories. Lots of stories in my big dumb city. Tell interesting stories! The Philadelphia Inquirer should be more like The Wire and less like wire copy.

Lunch Thread


Doesn't Anyone Remember Anthrax?

It is weird that conservatives continue to celebrate the fact that "only" 9/11 happened under Bush's watch, as if catastrophic terrorist attacks of that magnitude have been a regular feature of American life.

But of course it wasn't "only" 9/11. We also had the anthrax attacks, which in my somewhat controversial opinion did more to drive the nation temporarily insane than the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 was horrific, but anthrax was 'OMG TERRRORISTS ARE GOING TO CRAWL THROUGH MY TOILET.' Anthrax made it seem like terrorism might become an ongoing feature of life.

And of course we've also had numerous soldiers killed by terrorist acts, as well as civilians, in Iraq. Plus, of course, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died while under our "protection."

Heckuva job, Bushie!

Still Really Bad

Housing market still horrible.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of existing homes plunged 8.6% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.49 million, from a revised 4.91 million rate in October, according to the National Association of Realtors.

It was the slowest pace in nearly 18 years.


A second report said sales of new single-family homes also fell in November, to the weakest levels since 1991, according to the Commerce Department.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 407,000 new homes was down 2.9% from October and was the lowest rate since January, 1991.

Shorter EJ Dionne

We should welcome hateful bigots into the party if they have a large constituency on the off chance they'll renounce their hateful bigotry.

Morning Thread


Monday, December 22, 2008

Bye Jim

I gather's Jim Brady probably isn't all that bad a guy, and we shall be forever thankful for him bringing us Box Turtle Ben Domenech, and one of the most entertaining weeks of my blogging life.

...ah, I see Jane's doing a retrospective. Good times.

Monday Night Thread


Whose Fault?

On the Lou Dobbs xenophobia hour I just learned that states are going broke because illegal aliens are taking all your taxpayer dollars.

Happy Hour Thread


Congratulations, Cokie!

You win!

Though my choice was Matthews & Shuster finding it weird that Obama... ordered orange juice in a diner.

2009 American Almanac

Otherwise known as the Statistical Abstract of the United States is out. Have fun!


Still requires legislative approval.

Montgomery County planners today endorsed building a light rail system along the proposed east-west Purple Line and recommended running the trains mostly above ground and next to the Capital Crescent Trail, a heavily used hiker-biker route.

I don't really know these communities so don't have an opinion about whether this is awesome or not. But in general the awesomeness of such projects depends on the degree to which land use and development patterns around the corridor/stations are allowed to change.

More info here.

What's The Problem

Emailers and commenters (here and elsewhere) have been suggesting that because Yglesias's boss acted like an idiot, Matt has to... I don't know, something. Look, even a fantasy version of editorial independence doesn't really include calling out your boss using your boss's printing press.

Trade Wars

Should be fun.

Seeking to avoid such a reversal, leaders from 20 major and emerging economies gathered in Washington on Nov. 15 for a global economic summit, issuing a pledge to refrain from protectionist measures for at least 12 months. They also vowed to reach a breakthrough this year on a stalled global trade deal that would bring down tariffs on a wide variety of exports, injecting as much as $100 billion into the global economy.

But nations have failed to comply with both of those promises, with many not waiting for the ink to dry on the summit agreement before reversing course.

For example, on Nov. 18 -- just three days after the summit -- India levied a new 20 percent duty on imports of some soybean oils to protect domestic farmers as international prices have dropped during the global economic slump. Experts in India think the government may soon raise taxes on other types of foreign-made cooking oils.

Increasingly, nations are rolling out support for battered domestic industries that critics are decrying as trade-distorting government subsidies. The United States, under fire for bailing out General Motors and Chrysler, on Friday announced that it was taking legal action against China at the WTO for allegedly offering unfair support of its export industry -- including the award of cash grants, rebates and preferential loans to exporters.

Deep Thought

It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right... Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.



Adding to the problem is that the fact that the 'guest post' seems pretty clearly to stem from inter-group Dem politics rather than any disagreement that some actual person has with what Matt said.

Right. There's nothing wrong with disagreements - within members of institutions and between institutions - but this is just 'WAHHH ONE OF YOUR PEOPLE SAID SOMETHING MEAN ABOUT US YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT US.' I mean, I have no idea if Third Way contacted Palmieri and complained or not, but in any case this sort of ego-smoothing is really really childish. But it's how the Village works! We are ruled by children.

Reality Bites

Even now my interpretation is that the Wise Men Of Washington who are "dealing" with this financial crisis believe they are dealing with a liquidity crisis rather than an insolvency one. They think that big shitpile is actually worth something, but that "financial actors" are "spooked." They think that if banks aren't lending it's because they have temporary capital issues because of this, instead of the fact that maybe banks aren't lending because recession is here and it's not the most awesome time to lend money for projects. And if only we can get mortgage rates low enough then absurd housing price appreciation can continue 4evah! As if that would be a good thing.

For five figures in Los Angeles, the offerings are pretty humble. Pretty typical is a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house on East 98th Street in South Los Angeles, near the intersection of the Harbor Freeway and Century Boulevard. Its listing calls the 738-square-foot house "great for a growing family." The seller wants $85,000 for the house, which sold in 2006 for . . . $365,000.

Chasing A Shrinking Population

Of course it makes perfect sense in a radio market already dominated by conservative voices to add even more after a Democratic landslide election.

Dying business. Good riddance.

Deep Thought

I guess The Third Way mostly involves whining.

Civil Society Costs

And the money's running out.

Reporting from Brentwood, N.H. -- Come February, the red-brick Rockingham County Courthouse, one of New Hampshire's busiest, will arraign criminal suspects, process legal motions and otherwise deal with murders, mayhem and contract disputes. What it won't do is hold jury trials.

The economic storm has come to this: Justice is being delayed or disrupted in state courtrooms across the country.

Financially strapped New Hampshire has become a poster child for the problem. Among other cost-cutting measures, state courts will halt for a month all civil and criminal jury trials early next year to save $73,000 in jurors' per diems. Officials warn they may add another four-week suspension.

Who Pays?

Hilzoy succinctly summarizes the deep injustice involved in ensuring financial executives retain their bonuses, company paid chauffeurs, accountants and private jet rides, while UAW workers and retirees must give up wages and benefits they won in fair negotiations.

Honestly: what sense does it make to stick it to a bunch of auto workers while letting the financial executives off scot-free? How can Richard Shelby get all upset about the fact that some blue-collar workers have, gasp, health care, and not about the fact that financial executives, on whom we have spent a lot more money than the Big Three ever asked for, get financial planners and chauffeurs? Just imagine the furious oratory we might have heard had the UAW succeeded in negotiating benefits like the ones people get at Goldman Sachs. (I'll bet chauffeurs would help auto workers concentrate more on their jobs...) 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Choke On Your Own Vomit

Mark Sanford's got a problem.

This city in the center of South Carolina is an ideal listening post. According to a range of indicators assembled by Moody’s — from job growth to change in household worth — this metropolitan area came closer than any other to being a microcosm of the nation over the last decade.

This is now an unfortunate distinction. Some 533,000 jobs disappeared from the economy in November, the worst month since 1974. In South Carolina, a government panel is predicting that the state’s unemployment rate could reach 14 percent by the middle of next year.

Yet questions confront the notion of putting people to work through federal largess. South Carolina’s governor, Mark Sanford, a Republican, has been an ardent opponent of federal aid for states, branding it pork barrel spending. If the money is delivered to state agencies like the Department of Transportation, which has its own list of priorities, Columbia might be disappointed.



...use this thread to contemplate the issue of editorial independence, and the various revenue models which make it possible or not.

Cheap Gas For A Little While Longer

I'm pretty surprised that gas prices have gone way done. No particular insight, but those (including me) who thought we were hitting a new higher priced paradigm have been proven, at least temporarily, wrong.


Blogger acting up. I'm sure atrios will be by shortly.  Lotsa NFL results today.

Evening Thread


Winter Solstice In An Urban Hellhole

Bardascino park.

Afternoon Thread



You and me, that is, and anyone who didn't set up their own Ponzi-ish scheme during the past 8 years. I think an appropriate symbol of this era comes from Steve & Barry's, a chain store I never went to, which filed for bankruptcy earlier in the year.

Even as its business imploded, it claimed annual sales of about $1.1 billion and sales gains of 20 percent in stores open one year or more. But the company’s strategy of operating on razor-thin margins and of adding stores in distressed locations with special payments from landlords became tenuous in recent months as the economy weakened.

It really was an awesome business model. Sell things at prices to low to cover your operating costs, and then make it up by taking big upfront payments from malls to open more stores which couldn't cover their costs.


I don't know if Rick Warren is a liar, stupid, or both (we're so often confronted with this question), but either way he isn't someone who should be listened to about anything.

And since he's demonstrably wrong, should he rethink his position?

haha, just kidding.


It's interesting reading about the state-level unemployment data. For places that I know at least a little bit it gives me a better sense of what it might actually mean. North Carolina:

North Carolina lost jobs at a record pace last month, pushing unemployment to a 25-year high as the outlook for the state darkened amid a deepening recession.

Employers slashed 46,000 jobs in November, more than in any state except Florida, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those job cuts pushed the unemployment rate to 7.9 percent from 7.1 percent in October, according to figures from the N.C. Employment Security Commission. The jobless rate is now the highest since October 1983.

I've long said that a deep recession has sort of been lost from our cultural memory. The last one was the Reagan recession, though as bad as it was it was actually quite short. There were regional pockets of deep pain in the Bush I recession, but nationally it wasn't that big of a deal.

Rick Warren Is A Big Fat Idiot

Which is why, even aside from his support for Prop H8 and his general horrible beliefs, it's such an insulting choice.

Wanker of the Day

Ruth Marcus.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.

ABC's "This Week" — Vice President-elect Joe Biden.


CBS' "Face the Nation" — Kerry Kennedy, cousin of Caroline Kennedy; Reps. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y.; Peter King, R-N.Y., and Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.; Joel Klein, chancellor, New York City Department of Education.


NBC's "Meet the Press" — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


CNN's "Late Edition" — Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Laura Tyson, former Clinton economic adviser; Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO.

"Fox News Sunday" _ Vice President Dick Cheney.

Hump Day

Happy Solstice.