Saturday, April 19, 2008

Late Night


Apples and Oranges

That liberal media strikes again.

Time For Another Blogger Ethics Panel


To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.


Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.


In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

Fixing the Internets

Larry Kudlow:

Uncapping the payroll tax reveals still another cultural misstep by Sen. Obama. He apparently has a difficult time understanding that nowadays, a veteran fireman or a veteran cop, married to a veteran schoolteacher, will make well over $100,000. In fact, they can make close to $200,000. Yet Obama still wants to go ahead and tax both the first and last payroll dollar of this group at a very high marginal tax rate by uncapping the Social Security (FICA) tax.

The FICA cap is an individual cap, unaffected by income earned/payroll taxes paid by your spouse.

(ht reader js)

And On And On

Good thing that surge fixed everything.
BAGHDAD - Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening a new uprising if an American-Iraqi crackdown against his followers continues.

The cleric says he is giving his final warning to the Iraqi government to stop working with the U.S. military against him or he will "declare an open war until liberation."

Saturday's statement has been posted on al-Sadr's Web site.


Staying up late and being woken up by cats at 6:30 = bad combination.

I'm thinking a little sleep deprivation therapy for the kitties is in order.


Just because I miss him.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twice-divorced former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took Communion at a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, breaching rules that bar those who remarry outside the Church from doing so.

As he left New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral with his third wife, Judith, the failed presidential candidate confirmed to Reuters that he took Communion from a priest.

Asked if he was uncomfortable with having broken the Church ban on the divorced and remarried taking Communion, Giuliani said, "No."

...adding that while it's nice on the rare occasions when the press reports on conflicts between action and stated religion in Republicans, this is a pretty dumb story. Perhaps if Rudy were still running for office it might have some relevancy if there was something else going on make it relevant. But what Rudy does in church is his business absent some other consideration.

Pep Talk

According to John McCain, we've all got the blues that only a gas tax cut can fix.

The Elite Of The American Press

Just the occasional reminder of what it takes to make it to the top of the elite press.

Straight Talk

Months and months of journalism to look forward to.

“Al Qaeda is on the run, but they’re not defeated” is his standard line on how things are going in Iraq. When chiding the Democrats for wanting to withdraw troops, he has been known to warn that “Al Qaeda will then have won.” In an attack this winter on Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runner, Mr. McCain went further, warning that if American forces withdrew, Al Qaeda would be “taking a country.”


In longer discussions on the subject, Mr. McCain often goes into greater specificity about the entities jockeying for control in Iraq. Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.


Few, including Mr. McCain, expect Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group, to take control of Shiite-dominated Iraq in the event of an American withdrawal. The situation they fear and which Mr. McCain himself sometimes fleshes out is that an American withdrawal would be celebrated as a triumph by Al Qaeda and create instability that the group could then exploit to become more powerful.

Censure And Move On

I've been trying to get a handle on just why attacking Move On is problematic in a way that criticizing other organizations isn't. It's certainly fair to criticize the leadership of Move On, and specific actions the group takes, but dismissing and marginalizing the entire organization is something else entirely. The issue is, I think, that Move On basically has no credibility other than what its members give it. Their power comes not from having a seat at any table, but they are instead empowered largely by the actions of its members. To dismiss Move On is to dismiss the large block of people that comprise it.

In the late 90s, the dirty fucking hippies were the crazy people who thought that Bill Clinton should neither resign nor be impeached. They were marginalized by the corrupt elites in our mainstream media who felt otherwise. In the great wasteland of our mainstream media there was almost no place one could turn to find someone expressing the majority view of the American public, that this whole thing was insane.

The Trivial

No one denies that the trivial things in politics can often matter much more than policy. The problem with our political press today isn't simply that too often they focus on the trivial at the expense of any substance, it's that they regularly send the message that the trivial is what's important. Not to them, they claim, but it's what's important to the great unwashed. Who knows where the great unwashed who turn on the teevee and see very important journalists telling them about the stuff that matters could have gotten that crazy idea.

What We're Dealing With


Overnight Thread

Friday, April 18, 2008

On My Mind

Three rules for the Progressive Blogs.

1. No Sexism.
2. No Racism.
3. No parroting of MSM/Wingnut bullshit.

Just my idea.

UPDATE: Yes, I mean YOU specifically.

Once more with feeling

Life is but a song.

Not Atrios

New thread

Thers has been on a roll.

Not Atrios

On Your Own

Gotta go cook my urban roadkill. Not quite sure what it is. Looks a bit like a giant ferret with a big white strip down its back.

Actual Economic Pain

Unemployment hits 7.4% in Riverside County in California. That's getting towards widespread economic pain territory. It's much lower than that nationally, but pain is increasing in areas.

Actual Elitism!

I bet some of these feckless people were on my bus today. Bill Kristol, however, was not.

Deep Thought

I'd never be so stupid that I'd forget I drove somewhere and take the elitist bus home instead.

Arlen Makes Pleasant Noises

As he often does to little effect. But in this case he's saying it to Fred Hiatt's Wanker Club, so maybe it'll nudge their opinion a bit.


I don't know if it's this evening's Obama rally or just the nice weather generally but this town's a zoo today. So many people out. Doesn't anyone work for a living anymore?

Dial-up rescue thread.

I have nothing to say except, "Stop the torture."

Not Atrios


Think the economy sucks. That's pretty astounding. People are more optimistic about their personal finances, lending some credibility to the inevitable Republican "liberal media lying about the economy" charges. Kidding, of course, but I am curious how much this is hitting people or those in their circle personally or how much it's just echoing back media reports about the economy. What portion of the public is in some way experiencing bad times either personally or within their circle of friends/acquaintances/broader family/etc.? Not sure there's any real way to know the answer to that.

Awesome Spring Day

A rare thing in Philadelphia. Fall is usually great, Spring not so much.

I may have to go find some critters to grill. Perhaps some downed squirrel will make me jes folks.

Here's Patrick Murphy with Colbert.

Buses - Not As Awesome As Trains

It's true that "yuppies" are much less likely to ride buses. The possibly apocryphal quote (the internet seems to make all quotes possibly apocryphal) from Margaret Thatcher is "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure." There are good and bad reasons for this.

Obviously there is the Thatcheresque class association. Poor people ride buses! Paint it green and tart it up to look like a fake trolley and such people will ride them because they associate those with tourism.

But there are good reasons people don't like buses, though some of them can be improved upon. Buses are generally slower and less predictable. The rides are bumpier and less pleasant. The routes aren't as fixed, and people are less sure where they go. Get on the wrong train and you can just get off at the next stop and return. It's less clear what to do if you go wrong on a bus.

But you can make a better bus system. With GPS systems you can have real time information at bus stops about when (and what) bus is arriving. The simple step of having good up to date maps and schedules, along with fare information, at bus stations is a big help. Transfers to/from other buses and trains should be free and easy. Express buses which don't stop every block should be on some routes. Giving buses the ability to force a stoplight change improves speed.

Lots of ways to make buses better, some of which require little in the way of capital expenditures.

Still they aren't a substitute for fixed rail. An important element of a transit system is to have it impact land use patterns, to have denser development around transit routes. Since bus routes aren't fixed, they're less likely to lead to land use changes.

After my nightmarish confrontation with Roger Simon, I rode the elitist bus home.

A Companion Question

As we know the perennial question about your modern conservatives is if they're stupid or evil, or if both what's the balance between the two. This isn't about all conservatives, just the modern conservative movement as it's currently represented in stupid crappy blogs, magazines, pundits, and NYT columnists.

A similar question can be asked about people like Michael O'Hanlon and Fred Hiatt. Do they push forever war in Iraq because they are conscienceless monsters who have no concern for the consequences of what they advocate? Or do they push for forever war because they have just enough conscience to care, but their ego requires them to be "right" so they keep dreaming of ponies? That is, they have consciences but their egos won't let them face them.

The Line That Matters


If Gibson was embarrassed by any of this, it didn't show.

Gibson knows what small town Pennsylvanians earning $200,000 want and need to hear.

Salts Of The Earth

The thing is, it's their job to have at least a vague notion what "middle class" is. Charlie Gibson is paid millions of dollars every year to deliver a half hour of the news every night. He has a large staff and plenty of people to do research for that. He's greatly concerned with what "regular people" think of things, supposedly. And he's an idiot!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Midnight Thread

Worst Ever

It's become so trite to suggest this, I know, but imagine if a Democrat had Bush's disapproval ratings. There would be nightly calls for his/her resignation!

Third Rails

I suppose class and Social Security are actually much the same. They're the "third rail" because the former freaks out elites and the latter angers them. The country loves Social Security and probably could handle a conversation about class if the Villagers didn't nuke any candidate who dared bring it up.

It's actually kind of funny thinking about how for so many years I'd internalized this notion of Social Security as the "third rail." You know, it's so dangerous that only really brave politicians would mess with it. Of course it's incredibly popular because it's a great program, people like it, and there's no reason to mess with it. But we've had decades of elites and the "pain caucus" and other wankerific manifestations of people who really can't stand the idea that old people get a modest guaranteed income after paying into an insurance system their whole lives.


There are a lot of dimensions to this, but, yes, media outlets of all kinds should consider whether they're really giving the people what they want or not. Obviously in advertising-based businesses advertisers are also their customers so this complicates things.

I think this plays out in different ways in different areas. George and Charlie are near the top of the pyramid, so they know what's best for you! Elitism, basically. And the you have local newspaper monopolies who justified their monopolies by imagining they were Very Important Institutions. Elitism again! Though different. Then you have CNN and MSNBC who wriggle around within the confines, roughly, of what they imagine journalism is supposed to be (not saying they live up to this concept, just that it impacts how they do things), though for some reasons various things like "informing the public" seem to come beneath odd arcane journalistic practices that no one but journalists care about.

But, yes, better product please!


I do appreciate the senator taking time to highlight the joys of rail travel. Via email.

PHILADELPHIA, PA—U.S. Senator Barack Obama will return to Pennsylvania tomorrow for a five-day “On Track for Change” tour where he will visit communities across the state by rail, road, and air in the days leading up to the Pennsylvania primary. Obama will kick off the tour tomorrow with town hall meetings in Erie and Williamsport and a rally in Philadelphia. On Saturday he will take the train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg – where he will hold an evening rally – with stops along the way at stations in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downington, and Lancaster.


I don't know if this earmark stuff will hurt McCain at all, but hopefully it'll highlight how dumb the whole earmark conversation is so that we can get beyond it. There are potentially issues with the earmark process, but there's nothing intrinsically wrong with earmarks themselves. Some of the projects are good, some are probably bad, as with every part of the federal government.

Afternoon Thread

I got nothin'.

Wanker of the Day

George Stephanopoulos.

Delegates Are Not Electors

It's difficult deciding just precisely what the stupidest moment of the debate was. One candidate has to have been when Charlie Gibson took a break from raping our a democracy and turned his attentions to raping the constitution, suggesting that a killed-by-amendment part of the constitution regarding the selection of president and vice president somehow should apply to the Democratic - and of course only the Democratic - primary. It was good enough for the founding fathers!!! WHY DO YOU HATE THE FOUNDING FATHERS BARACK OBAMA! WHERE'S YOUR MOTHERFUCKING FLAG PIN! BEN FRANKLIN WORE A FLAG PIN!

Groundhog Day

When I meet new people and get past the "what do you do," and then the "how do you make money," the next set of questions involves something like "what do you write about?"

Sometimes I jokingly say, "Bush sucks...the media sucks..." Though, really, it's not so much of a joke. Bush does suck! And as millions of people saw last night, the elite beltway media sucks Mickey Kaus's goats!

And they don't learn. Ever.

Deep Thought

Why does McCain not wear a flag pin?

Hell Comes to Philadelphia

I'm sitting here at the Reading Terminal Market. Politico's Roger Simon is also sitting at the Reading Terminal Market. His companion is, I believe, Dan Balz of the Washington Post.


Proving he's truly at one with the Village, John McCain thinks it's just an academic question of whether it was a good decision to invade another country, create a situation in which hundreds of thousands of citizens of that country die, cost a trillion dollars and 4000+ and counting US lives.

Because the Village is an accountability free zone, where as long as you agree with the serious people you can never be wrong, and even if you were it doesn't matter so stop mentioning it.

Thursday Is New Jobless Day

And new unemployment claims remain high at 372,000.

Business Hours

ABC Switchboard: 212-456-7777

Surveying the Nets

Reading around in various places on the internets it seems like conventional wisdom that Obama came across poorly in the debate and conventional wisdom among many (purported) Clinton supporters that complaints about the debate itself are largely due to Obama supporters being mad that their guy got roughed up.

Personally, while it would've been impossible for either candidate to look good while Charlie and George were gang raping democracy, I don't think Obama came off particularly badly. In the first half, which was supposed to be tough on him, I thought Clinton looked pretty uncomfortable with where her campaign had taken us. She was probably better in the second half. And while the bulk of the bullshit was thrown at him, I was just annoyed at the bullshit. There are genuine nonpersonality differences between these candidates which moderators who had any idea what they were talking about could have elicited. But when Charlie Gibson is a Laffer loving wingnut whose heart bleeds for the capital gains earnings of $200,000+ earners, and Snuffleupagus is a Sean Hannity sock puppet, that's not the debate we're going to get.


Over there.

BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest at a funeral in northern Iraq, killing at least 49 people, police said.

The bomber struck the funeral for two Sunni Arab brothers who had been fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, police said. Fifty people were wounded in the attack which occured in Adhaim, an area on the edge of Diyala province north of Baghdad.

It Wasn't Just A Nightmare


At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates -- or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for "what I think has been a fascinating debate." He's entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating aspect was waiting to see how low he and Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at the answer.

Morning Thread

Who brought coffee?

--Molly I.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Deep Thought

DC journalists are obsessed with serious policy issues.


I've rewound the tivo 8 times and each time I hear Pat Buchanan saying:

I think Obama sounded very defensive when he talked about the cookies.

??? I've obviously missed something.



NEW YORK In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate this year, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

ABC Switchboard: 212-456-7777

Switch to MSNBC

Keith not happy with debate.

...switching between Tivo tuners, Rendell is blasting the questions on the local ABC.

Light'Em Up

Complain about this atrocity.

Main ABC switchboard: 212-456-7777

...complain here.

So Stupid

..."Gibson and Stephanopoulos shame media, America". Indeed.

...My God. It gets worse and worse. Just move the whole thing to Fox.

So Stupid

Aside from the lack of policy questions, so far this "debate" has been played entirely on wingnut ground. If BillO and Sean Hannity hosted it the questions would've been the same.

In a general election debate it would make sense to get questions from the right like that, but in a democratic primary it's just fucking stupid.

I hope I have a superpowered liver.

...53 minutes in, policy! Though corrupted by Charlie Gibson's dream of a military coup.

So Stupid

29 minutes in, not one policy question.

...32 minutes in...

...35 minutes in...

...38 minutes in...

...41 minutes in...

So Stupid

17 minutes in, no policy questions yet...

...West Coasters can watch here.

How Bad Will It Be?

Eli, who hates us, provides a preview.

I suppose I should actually watch this one.

Unrelated, Joe Biden just told me that John McCain hates war more than any human on the planet, but that in his first term he might attack Iran.


I understand that the 486th Democratic presidential primary debate is this evening.


Fun Is

Dropping your house key without realizing while out for a run.


While I don't have too much hope that a President Obama would implement my very serious plan to close the incoming lanes of the New Jersey-Philadelphia bridges on weekends, I can imagine he's starting to at least have some sympathy for the idea.

Take This Job And Shove It

There's a weird retro vibe to this ad as it harkens back to a simpler time when saying your job sucked and your boss was an asshole was a perfectly normal thing to do. Now I get the sense that social pressure demands we worship our corporate overlords and thank them for the privilege.

Nice Work

I think it's time for hubby and occasional pro bono Atrios lawyer Adam B to take me out to a nice meal.

Queen Village author Jennifer Weiner will feed ideas to ABC Studios as part of a seven-figure, two-year agreement reported yesterday in the Hollywood trades.

"I hate to say this, but it's a really fantastic deal," said Weiner, a former Inquirer reporter who has written the bestsellers Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes and Goodnight Nobody, in an interview today. "I don't have to do anything."


Is it just me or have past papal visits been a bit more... dramatic, or something. At least the coverage of them. I feel like they were more along the lines of ZOMG THE POPE IS COMING while this time it's just another event.


AJ provides a useful service reminding us that sleep and sensory deprivation aren't mild forms of torture, but are actually quick ways to destroy someone's mind. Even simple solitary confinement, without any additional tricks, tends to drive people bonkers though not quite as fast.

Speaking of Blind Squirrels

Jay Carney finds a nut too!

Is it opposite day and nobody told me?

Blind Squirrel

Howie Kurtz finds a nut.

It's mildly amusing to watch cable hosts with multimillion-dollar salaries wring their hands over how Obama can't possibly relate to the struggling masses. When was the last time most of these people had a shot and a beer in a bar, or visited a small town unless it was to make a highly paid speech? It's a small irony of this "out of touch" debate that upper-echelon journalists with wardrobe allowances or kids in fancy private schools get to pose as the folks who are in touch with the great American working class.

You'll Never Guess The Answer

No, really, you won't.

Crazy Curt

I've been wondering what happened to Crazy Curt's legal issues. They sort of disappeared after he lost the election. Obviously they're less interesting now that he's out of office, but I still want to know!


I suppose it's link to Ezra day. I think one should always be rather suspicious of market-based arguments to explain the content of the product we call "news." MSNBC is a small part of a much larger organization whose interests are somewhat broader than just advertising revenue. Ditto ABC News, the Washington Post, CNN, etc. Even to the extent that MSNBC head honchos are trying to maximize advertising revenue and viewers of the right demographics, it doesn't mean they have any idea what they're doing. Their target audience for a long time was "moderate Republicans," believing CNN was "left," Fox was "right," and their sweet spot were people who voted Republican but weren't total Bush cultists. In 2004 there were about 5 of these people so I don't think this was a particular smart strategy. And despite Olbermann's long success, it took them forever to do what any intelligent programmer would do and pair him with companion programming that would appeal to the same viewers. How long did they keep Tucker's zero-rated show on? Clearly they had other motives.

Also journalism itself is hamstrung by weird professional codes and cultural practices for better or for worse. While they may not always be lived up to, they do impact how news is covered even if there are more appealing ways to do it.

Obviously the "market" matters, but the financial incentives must be thought about a bit more broadly.

One Blogger

Personally I've never cared, though I understand that others do, but I've still long been puzzled by the regularity with which media outlets are unwilling to name bloggers they reference or quote. It's weird.


I never really got Springsteen until I saw him live. He's good.

He's endorsing Obama. Perhaps Hillary should make a play for Billy Joel?

Wanker of the Day

Michael O'Hanlon.

In only 4 more Friedmans, we can, 7 years later, consider reducing troops in Iraq.

This war is so awesome, and it's even awesomer that its proponents are still very serious media figures instead of living out their lives in shame under a bridge somewhere.

Had Not Occurred To Me Before


[C]orporate chains don't have the menu flexibility to utilize leftover ingredients in tomorrow's specials.

Corporate chains probably are efficient in some sense due to standardization of portions and ingredients (though given portion sizes perhaps not), but without the flexibility to roll over ingredients they'll inevitably waste things. Also less fun.

Here in Philly the silver lining of our awful state liquor licensing system is that many restaurants don't have liquor licenses and are BYOB. Not being able to make money on liquor means that the restaurant has to be all about the food.

Record Low

Euro hits $1.596.

While more than a little distressing for those of us who like to travel to Europe and consume some of their elitist export products, it's probably otherwise a good thing for the US economy as it'll prop up our exports. Hopefully.

When In Doubt, Do Nothing

It's depressing that this Congress really is incapable of doing the right thing.

The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks — for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, was the main author of the Senate bill meant to help homeowners.

The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.

It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.

What won't be in the bill is a provision allowing bankruptcy judges to modify loan terms for primary residences, like people can for vacation homes and investment properties.

I'm fine with carving out a special bankruptcy exception for the standard 10% down 30 year fixed rate loan, but crazy "exotic" mortgages should go before the judge like everything else.


New housing starts were down 11.9%, to what I think is the lowest level since 1991.


It's a good thing we didn't leave Iraq and let a violent civil war break out.

BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.


I just got up - what's the news?

Not Atrios

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I'm going to sleep. Play amongst yourselves.

Know The Players

Roy Edroso guides you through the conservative blogosphere.

A Great Nation of Drunks

This Ivy League Ph. D earning liberal elitist has, on occasion, taken advantage of the common local PBR+shot for $2.50 special. Truly I am a man of the people!


The video.

Notable Quotables

"Maybe I am digging for the pony here." - John Sidney McCain, a little while ago on Hardball.

All Over The Place

I think it's fair to say that the polls are pretty much all over the place and we'll just have to wait for voters like me to actually vote. These are good for Obama. Others are good for Clinton, though perhaps not good enough for her to make substantial delegate gains.

What Fresh Hell

Had to, er, make a quick trip to the post office. What'd I miss?

Fresh Thread



John McCain's so awesome that when he proposes cutting gas prices by 18.4 cents/gallon by doing away with the federal gas tax temporarily this magically cuts the price of gas by 20%.


I'm still digesting the NYT Magazine profile of Chris Matthews. It's remarkable that it even exists as whatever its merits it's rare for members of the media attack their own like this. More than that, profile pieces of any kind are rarely this vicious. As our stupid discourse focuses on elitism this week, it's worth staring at this paragraph until your eyes bleed.

“I don’t think people look at me as the establishment, do you?” Matthews asked me. “Am I part of the winner’s circle in American life? I don’t think so.”

Annual salary: $5 million.


Of course we should build more trains. Any sizable population centers within 300 miles or so of each other should have a shiny fast train running between them.

Villlage Heresy

Stephen Roach writing about Greenspan:

Of course, squabbling over Alan Greenspan’s place in history is not going to get us out of this crisis. But vigorous debate about the past is absolutely essential if we are to avoid such a quagmire in the future.

But this is not how things work in the accountability free zone known as the Village. It's just a waste of time to look back and figure out what went wrong. Instead, we must turn to the people who screwed everything up and get their advice about how to fix things while studiously writing out of the picture anyone who was smart enough recognize the inevitable problems.

Our Stupid Discourse

It's depressing when I can't simply fault the media for it.

McCain's Base


So much for the liberal media.

John McCain and Barack Obama both appeared before the nation's newspaper editors yesterday. The putative Republican presidential nominee was given a box of doughnuts and a standing ovation. The likely Democratic nominee was likened to a terrorist.


It's really hard to see how the collapse of the housing bubble doesn't lead to serious pain due to a decline in construction and related jobs. Many of these are good blue collar jobs in an economy which doesn't have all that many good blue collar jobs due to the loss of the manufacturing base.

Sheets of uncovered insulation flap in the breeze from unfinished townhouse units in Allentown. Workers at a closed roofing plant near Quakertown are looking for new jobs. A manufacturer of construction trucks says sales are down. For more than a year, ''for sale'' signs have lingered in front yards across the Lehigh Valley.

Now, as the housing downturn lengthens here and nationally, other indications are that it's not just the real estate market that has slowed down. It's the economy. And it's not just people who need to sell their homes who are feeling the pain.


This Bloomberg piece suggests that the various financial instruments related to mortgage backed securities have become untethered from reality. Roughly it's another volley in the liquidity crisis versus insolvency crisis debate. Is big shitpile really as shitty as the ABX indices suggest? It's nice to blather on about how they've become untethered from "asset fundamentals," but I'm missing the argument about why this is. Sufficient speculative pressure can drive prices, but I haven't quite figured out how this makes sense here.

Biggest Loser

There's actually a bit of piling on in this article which is rare. I can remember how the press treated Clinton when his polls were low (kicking him repeatedly). Of course they treated Clinton like he was incredibly unpopular when his approval was in the 60s, too.

At 39 months in the doghouse, George W. Bush has surpassed Harry Truman's record as the postwar president to linger longest without majority public approval.

Bush hasn't received majority approval for his work in office in ABC News/Washington Post polls since Jan. 16, 2005 — three years and three months ago. The previous record was Truman's during his last 38 months in office.


This war is so awesome.

BAGHDAD -- Car bombs ripped through crowded areas at lunch hour in the former Sunni insurgent strongholds of Baqouba and Ramadi on Tuesday as more than 50 people were killed in one of the deadliest days in Iraq in months.

I only wish I had supported it so that I could get on the teevee to talk about it.

Morning Thread

Still stewing on this. Flame away.

--Molly I.


Rock on.

Monday, April 14, 2008


It's impossible to parody these people.

Immediately Review

I actually highly doubt Obama - or any Dem president - would follow through on this with any seriousness. But still I respect that for the moment it's on, rather than off, the table.


The reverse Midas touch presidency rolls on.

The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.

Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.

But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117 and the jeweler Zales will close 100.

Getting Older

I spoke in an undergraduate class today. As a friend of mine has said a few times about her students, pretty soon you're going to have to explain to them what the Lewinsky scandal was. This isn't a comment on the quality of the students, just that the degree to which 19 year olds have shared cultural and historic experience with me is shrinking fast. Bush v. Gore happened when they were 11. What's recent history to me is a vague recollection for them.

United Barcalounger '08

When I was a pup, we got spanked by presidents 'til the cows came home! Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions!

Good Question

We tried to warn you, Democrats. More than that we tried to help get rid of him.

No one listens to us stupid bloggers.

Thready thought

Has your candidate said anything about torture today?

Not Atrios

Evening Thread



I've been curious about how many people got busted for "smuggling" booze across the PA border. Apparently not many, with only 11 being nabbed in 2007.

I of course would never do such a thing because breaking the law is wrong.

Labor Wars

As you might notice there are dueling ads about an intra-labor dispute. I've been trying to follow it and figure out what it all means but I admit I haven't really figured it out.


It's only going to get worse...


Our fine journalists.

WASHINGTON After addressing the journalists gathered at the annual Associated Press luncheon in Washington, D.C., today, Sen. Barack Obama took a few questions. The last one from the audience, delivered via AP chairman W. Dean Singleton was related to how to troops to Iraq and the threat posed by, as Singleton put it, "Obama bin Laden."

Obama quickly corrected Singleton. “That’s Osama bin Laden,” he said. The crowd laughed a bit. "If I did that, I am so sorry," Singleton replied.

Stupid stuff like this shouldn't even matter, but if Obama's the nominee a substantial chunk of Republican chuckleheads will believe, or pretend to believe, that Obama really is a terrorist who wants to destroy America.

The Great Unwashed

If I lived in one of these mythical small towns where regular folks are supposed to live I'd be spitting at my teevee on a regular basis. I'd be annoyed that was being represented as part of some community of simpletons whose comfort zone is so narrow that they all freak out if someone dares to drink a different brand of beer.

Scrub A Dub Dub

Associated Press cleans up the stupid for Hadley.


Was hunting around in the archives and came across this. At some point comcast had blocked access to one of my accounts and therefore all of the pictures had disappeared. They seem to have returned. By woot:


BooMan reminds me that Democrats have been winning elections recently. One can be a bit sad that those election wins haven't translated into more positive legislation or accountability or an end to the war or... okay, one can be a lot sad.

But, still, winning is much more fun than losing! Every election between 1997 and 2006 felt like a tremendous loss. That sucked. It was rather depressing to be a Democrat. It wasn't any fun at all!

It's still not as fun as it could be. But it does indeed feel like there's been a shift in the country.

Train Blogging

My exciting new broadband wireless is working fairly well on a moving train. Outlet at my first seat wasn't working so I had to move.

This is the most exciting blog post ever!

Downsizing Youngstown

Not knowing the area or all of the details I don't really have any opinion about this, but this article about Youngstown, OH accepting its reality as a more sparsely populated city than it used to be and enacting policies based on that rather than dreaming of a population resurgence is interesting.

Gas Stations Drink Your Milkshake

Retail sales:

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rose 0.2 percent in March, pushed up by a jump in gasoline sales, a government report released Monday showed.

Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.1 percent, the Commerce Department said. Excluding gasoline sales, retail sales were flat last month.

Skin In The Game

That Rahm sure does have a way with words.

Wanker of the Day

Michael O'Hanlon.

The World Was Created Just For You

Funniest line quoted in the post linked below:

I would never want to use a search engine aimed at middle-aged, suburban white guys like me; I want the world.


Is this really how it's gonna be?

Update: Argh, I'm sure Chris' site will be back up eventually. In the meantime, enjoy some sheer blindness Jim Henley found on the White Guy Internet.

Further update: Since I can't get the link right now either, I'll have to settle for the little bit I quoted on my own site last night from Chris' post:

"The President of the United States has openly, proudly admitted that he approved the use of interrogation methods that are by every measure -- including the measure of United States law -- criminal acts of torture. It is one of the most brazen and scandalous confessions of wrongdoing ever uttered by an American leader -- and it has had no impact whatsoever. No scandal, no outcry, no protest, no prosecution.


No, it's obvious now that we must drink this bitter cup to the dregs. The sleepwalkers have encompassed us all in their nightmare. And how terrible, how terrible will be the awakening."

Not Atrios

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Great War

Wikipedia tells me that there were 885,138 military deaths from the United Kingdom, 1.4 million from France, and of course lots more from other places.

About Time

So I finally broke down and signed up for a Verizon wireless broadband plan, complete with little USB wireless modem. As I've written a bunch of times, blogging is a pretty easy life but it isn't compatible with having other stuff to do. And travel, especially, is something it isn't compatible with. It's really not pleasant to spend one's life hunting for an open wireless connection. And even if I'm intending to take a bit of a break blogging wise, the email never stops and it's better for the sanity if I can check it fairly regularly.

So far so good. Plugged it in and was up and running pretty quickly. It's a bit more expensive than it should be (about $60/month I think), but I suppose it's a necessary expense.

Pretty Damn Merciful

Not really all that big of a deal, actually.

No mercy shown for those who flee mortgage loans

KENNETH R. HARNEY | Washington Post Writers Group
April 13, 2008

WASHINGTON—The country's two largest sources of mortgage money have a blunt warning for anyone thinking about joining the "walkaway" trend, where homeowners stop making payments and months later send the house keys to their lender: You will feel the pain.

On March 31, Fannie Mae sent out new guidelines to lenders aimed at walkaways and other foreclosure situations. Fannie will prohibit foreclosed borrowers from getting another mortgage through it for five years, unless there are "documented extenuating circumstances." In those cases, the prohibition is three years.

Even after five years, borrowers with foreclosures in their files will have to put at least 10 percent down and need minimum FICO credit scores of 680.

Somewhat tangential to a question asked of him (I forget what) at Eschacon, Krugman commented that defaulting on their creditors was painful for a couple of years for Argentina and then everything started going quite nicely again, with people still willing to lend them money.

A bit later I remarked that the Argentina model would also be the case for people walking away from mortgages. It'll be a pain for a couple of years, and then everything would revert back to normal. Fannie's "no mercy" isn't exactly harsh punishment.

Outsourcing Blogging

Due to accounting related distractions.

What Digby said.

More Thread

Taxes are fun!

Afternoon Thread

April 13 already? ruh-roh.

Four Others

Often with this housing stuff I'm reading an article which causes some sympathy for for the subject until suddenly another fact jumps out and I'm just flabbergasted.

Repeated calls to the company and the broker for comment went unanswered. Cheryl Oliphant of Santa Monica, Calif., bought a house that lenders shopped to appraisers as being worth $550,000. The registered nurse now thinks the appraisal was inflated.

A novice real-estate investor, Oliphant said she used her retirement savings and bought at the top of the market, thinking she had a great deal and instant equity in the house because it appraised for $50,000 more than the $450,000 sales price.

"The appraisal was wishful thinking," said Oliphant, who could not provide the appraiser's name. "I became a little suspicious later when I went to refinance and the next appraiser was having a hard time finding the value."

Oliphant has been trying to sell the house at a $100,000 loss and plans to file for bankruptcy, losing her $50,000 down payment. She said she might ultimately have to abandon that house and four others she bought in Florida.

It's important to remember that in all of these bubble zones, the amount of rent that people could think about charging tenants came nowhere near the cost of owning. These were investment properties in the sense of "prices go up forever WHEEEEEEEEEEE" not in the sense that there was belief that the properties could generate revenue over and above the costs of holding them.

Deep Thought

Who Are They Then?

Quite often coverage of Iraq makes it sound like Iraqis spend their days hovered around television sets watching Hardball, as if our stupid political debates are at the center of their world. That's ridiculous, of course, but unsurprising given the general narcissism of our cable news talkers.

Please Kill Me

This Week on This Weak:

George Will, Donna Brazile, Mark Halperin, and Torie Clarke

Offense and Defense

95% of the time in politics, all that matters who is perceived as playing offense and who is perceived as playing defense. The details are usually irrelevant, although occasionally such things backfire. If you can get the press to report your team as playing offense, then you're winning, and the team playing defense is seen as losing.

I made that 95% figure up, though 80% of the time I'm correct about such things.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.

ABC's "This Week" — Former President Jimmy Carter; national security adviser Stephen Hadley.


CBS' "Face the Nation" — Defense Secretary Robert Gates; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.


NBC's "Meet the Press" — Democratic strategists James Carville and Bob Shrum; Republican strategists Mary Matalin and Mike Murphy.


CNN's "Late Edition" — Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Joe Biden, D-Del., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent; Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

As Meet the Press descends further into self-parody...

Even though it's too early to think...

The BooMan has a serious question:
The ACLU wants a special prosecutor to investigate Bush's admission that he authorized torture. I think that is a swell idea that is likely to go nowhere.

I hear John Conyers asked an assembled crowd today in Philadelphia whether any of them would object to impeaching the president. No one objected. Then he asked whether anyone would object to impeaching Cheney. Again, no one objected. I don't know the full context of Conyers' remarks, but the timing indicates it is related to Bush's admission.

If you were strategizing a blogswarm to get Congress, the press, and the administration to do something, what would you suggest we focus on? Should we focus on the lack of media coverage? Should we focus on getting a special prosecutor? Should we focus on getting the administration to comply with requests for documents and testimony from congressional committees?

I'm asking because I'm not sure what we should do, only that we should do something.

Personally, I think we should do all of those things.

Not Atrios