Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is that a HELOC, or are you just happy to see me?

Tanta at Calculated Risk has posted a wonderfully informative piece, laying out what exactly the various types of loan types like balloons, subprimes, and the issues involved in refinance are, including a fascinating history lesson in mortgages and the issues at stake. She sums up a paticular issue I want to get into in the coming months:
And, predictably, we start talking obsessively about disclosures again. Of course loan disclosures can always be improved, but there gets to a point where some loan products are just simply so complicated that there isn’t any easy, clear way to explain them fully to most people. This is nature’s way of saying you shouldn’t offer those loans to most people. I have personally been known to get rather impatient with people who start nattering on about those stupid borrowers who took loans they didn’t understand (like balloons or IOs or OAs or whatever dumb thing we’re talking about). They weren’t supposed to understand them. By that I do not necessarily mean that they involve math-like concepts that are over a lot of people’s heads, although sometimes the weirder ones do. I mean that borrowers weren’t supposed to understand themselves. We were all supposed to look in the mirror and see the upper-middle-class people on TV sitcoms or financial-planning infomercials who will always be able to make those voluntary principal payments or handle those balloon payments or—snort—“invest” the principal portion of the payment in some fantabulous risk-free deal that made mortgage financing free after taxes or whatever that long song and dance is. You can write any pristinely clear mortgage loan disclosure document you want, but if the world keeps telling you it is your patriotic duty to confuse yourself with your economic betters, it won’t do you any good.

I can second this motion. I've had an ARM, a HELOC, and a balloon at one time or another in the last 5 years before I jumped into a fixed rate. My knowledge level of what was entailed by those products was not where it should have been. Fortunately, I was convinced that the party would eventually end, (thanks in no small measure to the clarion calls transmitted by s9 from his orbital redoubt), and escaped unscathed more or less. But I can tell you it's easy not to fully grasp what the risks are, and the "disclosure" process is not very enlightening, particularly since most brokers don't understand or don't want YOU to. The type of person who brokers loans is, and I'm being rather sweeping here, not ideologically predisposed to question the prevailing delusions about "innovations" and the new gilded age where risk seemed to be soley found in the rantings of mad socialists waving a copy of Das Kapital. My loan broker was convinced that democrats would destroy the economy with goverment regulation if they came to power. The idea that this unregulated ponzi scheme he was particpating in would do more damage than the most committed Marxist never occured to him. He was not unique in buying into this paradigm.

My purpose with posting this link is not just to start this discussion about this ongoing trainwreck, but to make the argument that what we have is not one of those neccesary bouts of "creative destruction" in the Schumpter sense, but really a failure of ideology. An ideology that posits that the market, any market regardless of complexity or history, functions best without regulation or oversight. The failure of this ideology, again, is the true lesson to be learned. Alan Greenspan's policy of living the Randian dream has produced what it always does, spectacular failure. Our challenge as liberals and progressive is to make this point clear. Unregulated markets, particularly in such essential areana's as credit and real estate, produce fraud and catastrophe for investor and homeowner alike. The lessons of the New Deal are still relevent as Tanta points out in her piece. And all the clever advertising about middle class homeowner as sophisticated loan expert and investor doesn't change that, or make people any smarter about these issues. Hell, even the "professionals" who were supposed to know what the score was were clueless. It's high time we had this discussion about what we can reasonably expect a regular person(s) to be able to sort out about money and finance.

So This Was Christmas

Dear Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Guardsman,

The editors of MojoWire have all been struck weak these past few days with severe gastroenteritis, so we didn't get this letter written before Christmas morning dawned, wherever you are... we're sorry about that. Not to steal any thunder or anything, but— you know— all three of us, at one time or another, have been stranded away from home, on Christmas, doing dirty business that couldn't wait or be delegated to someone else. I'm sure, therefore, that my comrades here won't mind if I write to you in the editorial plural.

We hope your Christmas didn't suck too badly. To tell the truth, I think we'd all have rathered you had a truly bodacious Christmas with all the trimmings and a nice, well-executed session of oral-genital stimulation just to round things out. We realize that a whole damned lot of you won't even be able to enjoy fantasizing about that. That sucks, it sucks mightily, and we just thought it might help to let you know that we empathize.

If you've read any of our archives, then you already know how we feel about The War and stuff. It might seem from time to time like we don't really give a damn about you— that every catastrophic clusterfuck that comes your way is just another reason for us to ring the bell, fire up the smoking lamp, and pat each other on the back about how we were right to make a protest all along— like it's some kind of gruesome game of Bingo for us, or something. If that's the case, if that's how you view what we write here, then we're sorry you feel that way. We never like making trouble when matters of "national security" are on the agenda. We do it because we feel compelled by a certain kind of patriotism to speak out, as loudly as we know how, when our country's political leaders have made, and continue to make, obviously disastrous decisions in matters of war and diplomacy.

"Our Country: Drunk Or Sober!" we'd say. Okay, that's kinda lame, but you get the point.

Anyway... we hope you had a good Christmas, or at least one as good as might reasonably be expected, given the externalities. We sure do hope your next one is a whole lot better.

That is all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm Intrigued... Please, Tell Me More About How To Enlarge My Theme Park!

The things I get in email because my address is on public file as a Green Party regular and a supporter of various bomb-throwing dirty effing hippie causes...

The most recent one is highly amusing. It comes from some jackhole running under the name Jamie Court.Check out how this message opens, and let me know if you have the same reaction I did.
I almost crashed my hybrid when I heard the Environmental Protection Agency had killed California's tough new auto emission standards. Our Oilwatchdog project had just helped to keep that federal power grab out of the energy bill. And it was the second time this week that corruption in high office shocked even me.
Zomg. You almost crashed... wait... who the fsck talks like that?

I smell the evil stench of a gutless right-wing shills trying to skullfarm the Greens again. (One of their favorite dumbass tricks. Shame it's worked so well for them over the years.) In addition to the spoor of high-grade bullshit artistry in the copy editing, I'm also seeing telltale bits of code in the HTML source of the email that screams its origins in a boiler room operation run out of someplace without an extradition treaty with the U.S.A. (Hah. You wanted to make it hard for me to grab that image of you, eh Jamie? Try harder next time.)

So, immediately, I'm off to SourceWatch (and other similar sites) to find out who these jokers really are. Turns out, hey, they're not the evil bastards I thought. (They use very dubious bulk email practices, however, and that really looks bad for somebody purporting to be a consumer rights advocate.)

Still, look at where Jamie goes next:
Just two days earlier Governor Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Núñez celebrated the California Assembly's passage of what they claimed to be historic universal health care reform. In fact, the anti-consumer bill would force families of two making $54,000 to buy health insurance without limits on premiums or requirements about the policy's benefits. Forcing patients to buy insurance policies they cannot afford and that do not protect them is hardly universal health coverage. (More on that lie here.)
Um, actually— I hate to be contrary, but it is a universal mandate. Agreed: it's just about the worst possible universal health care "reform" proposal anyone could possibly dream up, but it's not quite fair to complain that they're lying when they call it a "universal" one.
You can help us protect consumers from these threats and others in 2008. Please make a tax deductible contribution to FTCR today.

We don't ask often, but the end of the year is a moment when we need to gather our resources for the battle ahead.

It's been an honor and a privilege to rage for justice every day and set the record straight. And we hope to keep our uncompromising tradition of advocacy alive.

This week, for example, FTCR exposed how the big winners in the Núñez legislation also were the biggest contributors to his term limits extension initiative, Prop 93. Read our press release, yesterday's LA Times story, and watch Núñez respond on KNBC.
I don't know about you, but I'm shocked— SHOCKED, I say— to learn that politicking is going on in Sacramento.
It's outrageous that politicians believe they can fool people during the holidays because they think the media and the public are not watching closely. Well, FTCR is always watching and working to protect you.
I'll keep that in mind. By the way, where did you get my email address? I don't remember giving it to you, or inviting you to put me on your distribution list for likely suckers.
With your year-end tax deductible donation, we will be able to keep the spotlight on corruption and continue the rage for justice in 2008.

Happy holidays and thanks for all your kind wishes throughout the year.

Jamie Court
Jamie... do me a favor. Clean up your electronic messaging act, stop spamming people out of the blue with comically bad fundraising letters, and start paying attention to more important problems than yet another Schwarzenegger ballot proposition that probably won't win a majority of votes. I don't know... maybe you could pay some attention— even just a little bit of attention would be a start— to the ongoing fornication of the California budget by the governor's fiscal insanity.

Or something.

Oh, and whining about how Andy Stern is bad for unions is another great way to alienate friends and make new enemies. Just saying...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Democrats Brought Their Show To My Neighborhood

Last night, three of the Democratic Party campaigns nominating their candidate for President of the United States of America sent their local representatives to the monthly meeting of my neighborhood association. I dropped in on it to see what was up and how things were going.

Now, before I go much further, I should point out that I do live in a somewhat ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Francisco, but it could stand to have more Black and Latino people. It's got a pretty decent percentage of Asians in it, but it's certainly overweight with Whites and, worse, they absolutely dominate the neighborhood association. I looked around the room, and not a single face looked even remotely non-white to me. So— to be fair— I really should be saying that I dropped in on my local neighborhood white people association to see what the Democrats were telling them.

It wasn't all bad. It could have been better. I left more disappointed in the Democratic field than when I arrived.

The Obama campaign promised to send somebody, but they never showed. I know there are Obama supporters in my neighborhood. I see the campaign signs, and he came in second in the straw poll taken at the end of the evening (behind Edwards, who took almost 45% of the vote). I couldn't help but wonder whether the reason the Obama campaign didn't get their guy to the Taraval Police Station in time was that their campaign is badly in disarray, or if they deliberately snubbed the group on the [understandable] grounds that my neighborhood association is all full up with old, rich, white bitties whose greatest worries going into the February primary are all about whether their organic dog food is laced with melanine. If I were running the Obama campaign, I might be a little slow to kow-tow to that kind of audience too. Particularly, if I'm short of hands.

The Clinton campaign sent a pimply kid who couldn't have been much older than twenty, who didn't seem to understand that I couldn't care less why he likes Hillary— I wanted to know why I should write a check. (Do not tell me to write a check because you're swooning like the star football quarterback's prom date. I don't care.) They also sent a young woman with a fairly attractive appearance, but who was equally underprepared to speak coherently about her candidate. Yes, I understand how thrilled you were to be in the same room with Warren Buffett. Tell me why I should write a goddamn check, you blithering idiot. My take is that the Clinton campaign is phoning it in from San Francisco. Not a happy-making experience.

The Edwards campaign sent a very, very white and extremely well-prepared young man who, it seemed to me, was the only one in the room with a future in politics ahead of him. He managed to figure out what I was really asking about when I posed the question for all the campaign representatives to answer about how their candidate views religion and its role in forming public policy. He slathered on some nice rhetoric about how John Edwards likes to practice his religion in private, then he remembered the last clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which was pretty much the AAA answer I wanted to hear. The guy from Hillary's campaign was the most disappointing. He had nothing helpful to say. The guy from the Kucinich camp seemed thrown by the question and sputtered that people shouldn't be talking about religion in political campaigns. (My response to that: dude, it's too late to push that particular toothpaste back into the tube. We're going to have to talk about it, and I for one think it's about damned time.)

The Kucinich campaign sent an older white guy straight from central casting. He was an excellent representative for the Kucinich campaign, well-prepared, thoughtful and a good public speaker. His candidate has a few policy positions I don't like— in particular, I think his policies on free trade agreements is ill-informed and ideologically stale. He went off the rails a bit when he answered a question about "what does [the candidate] think about all the illegal immigrants." I'll be kind and just say that Kucinich's guy blamed NAFTA for all those phantoms that continually plague the slumbers of Lou Dobbs and his ilk.

The saddest moment of the evening for me came when the straw poll came in and not a single vote went to Chris Dodd. Bill Richardson got one vote, and Dennis Kucinich got another. The bulk of the votes were divided between Edwards and Obama with a not entirely bad showing for Hillary. Considering that Obama came in second without even bothering to have anyone show up and squid for him, I'd say he's doing pretty well West of Twin Peaks in San Francisco. I'm expecting the strong support for Edwards to start drying up after he gets pasted in Iowa and New Hampshire. I don't know where those people will go, but the cynic in me says they'd rather support a white woman than a black man.

At this point, I'm not sure I care much who the Democrats nominate. I'm going to hate him or her, whoever it is. It will take a monumental act of personal will for me to squelch my nausea and vote for them against whatever shrieking howler monkey the Republicans nominate. I feel the heartburn starting already.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Can Anybody Here Play This Game?

Further indication that CIA is collapsing. This ought to work wonders for their recruiting... wonderous piles of excrement. Yay.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Is this really a good idea?

I'm with Ezra Klein in asking, Is THIS really a good idea? If anyone has street cred on liberal side, it's the Krugman. Cranking out an attack like this isn't going to make me feel better about Obama's plan, mostly because Krugman is right. Mandates are essential to make universal coverage work. Personally, I think it would be better to expand Medicare to cover everybody and redo part D, but that's a tough political challenge. Obama is simply wrong on this, and please for the love of God don't pimp auto insurance as the basis of your argument. Mandates are the trade off for Community rating, among other things. Remember also the lesson FDR has taught us with Social Security. Bringing everyone into the system is the best way to protect it from poltical attack. It's at the very least a fair critique of his plan, this is not the way to address this with him. I cannot imagine what is wrong with these guys. Also, They need to get off the bong on Social Security.

Lies My President Told Me...

Okay, it should come as no surprise to anyone with an IQ equal to, or greater than, say, a carrot, that the President of the United States and his inner posse of flying monkeys and assorted vicious thugs, pimps and rubes clinging to what remains of the tattered coattails of this presidency... hold, on... lost the thread...

Oh yeah... the President's been lying again... This time? Iran!

That's right, do not adjust the vertical, do not adjust the horizontal (wow, did mojo just date himself, or what...). Your President is a lying to you about Iran.

Interesting story in the New York Times the other day regarding how the I/C came to change its mind about Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.

It is interesting to note the timing. Because according to the Times, even though the administration has had this information for more than a few months now, we are still hearing the fear pimpage re: The Iranian Flying Saucer Korps.

And apparently, according to further Times reportage, there was a meeting a couple of weeks ago that included Big Time, where the I/C had to break the news. Big Time threw a shoe over this, as might be imagined. He had to double his daily ration of kitten crushing and puppy kicking just to keep his shriveled up dog-turd of a heart from clawing its way out of his chest.

So now what? Well, they're not giving up on it, we can tell you that much. If you have about four and half minutes, get over to NPR and listen to this exchange between Rene Montagne and National Security Advisor Steven Hadley. Alas, I can find no transcript, but there are some priceless moments, primarily with Hadley doing a herculean job of trying to maintain the Iran-As-Would-Be-Nuclear-Bond-Villain narrative in the face of this new information.

As Hadley would have it, Iran is mere minutes from getting the bomb because they are enriching Uranium. Forget that there is no weapons program, they are enriching Uranium -- Boo! Eek!

That provides a pretty good moment of science fun, because if you're paying attention, you will note that Iran is "enriching" U to about 3.5 percent. About bare minimum for a running a reactor. To make a bomb, you need about 90 percent enrichment... and yeah, the tech jump between those levels is pretty steep.

Interestingly enough, last spring we were supposed to be treated to a new NIE regarding Iran and their thirst for the blood of the infidel. Yet, strangely, that report keeps getting pushed back. And now we know why; CIA among others were reassessing Iran's actual threat.

Now keep yer eye on the red queen...

All through August, 2007, we are being treated to bellicose bloviation from the White House and their minions about the threat of a "Nuclear holocaust" if Iran pursues nuclear weapons technology. However, it is at that time, the President has got the draft NIE in his hands saying "we assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007."

Even with this, the President is still trying to tell the American people and world that Iran is about to get the bomb. And even now that they have been forced into admitting that Iran is not seeking the bomb, they still want people to believe that Iran is a nuclear threat because it once had an unfulfilled program.

I wonder they will throw out next to try to convince us all that Iran needs to be invaded...

mojo sends

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Full Court Press

So... here I am watching Kobe Bryant of the Lakers absolutely school Marcus Cambee of the Nuggets in his own house, when I gloam on to this hideous story of Mike Huckabee and the parolee.
According to whatever accounts you read, he was either an innocent bystander in government, statutorily impotent and unable to influence the situation or an insensitive liberal criminal-loving drool-head who practically gave the parolee a new gun and a bus ticket to Missouri with a wink and nod. Hell, he practically told him to have a fun raping and killing spree..

Which is closer to the truth? I don't know, and frankly could not possibly care less. No, as a semi-professional watcher, what I care about is the timing of all this.

Welcome to the top tier Huck...

Now, all that said, I think I agree with Comrade Joshua over at TPM who says he is at least impressed with the cool manner with which the Huck's people are handling this so far, not to mention the Huck himself.

Regardless of any supposed inconsistencies in the guys story, he's being fairly smooth about this. Must be something in the water in Arkansas.

And again, I wade into the toxic swamp that is Free Republic to read the tea leaves; more to see what the trolls are doing. Because if this is going to propagate, then it needs to be pushed...

Here's what we come up with:
Posted by libstripper to faloi On News/Activism 12/05/2007 1:32:41 PM PST · 17 of 45

Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” Huckster, OTOH, has learned well from Slick and the Witch; he does his best to make the buck disappear entirely.
This is one example of "libstripper" a member since July, 2007.

Although, checking his post history he has been utterly silent until last week, when he started posting and commenting almost pathologically, and about every third post is something about how Mike Huckabee is a danger to himself and everyone around him.

I suspect there are others emerging from the shadows on other sites, giving similar run to the anti-Huck voice right now...

I'm not saying it's specifically anyone from the Giuliani campaign... I'm just saying it smells like rough trade to me, and it should to anyone who remembers the criminally insane political disease that was Lee Atwater.

A guy so full of treachery, his own physical brain poisoned and killed him in his sleep.

Okay Huck, now you see them... what are you going to do. Welcome to bigs, son...wear a cup...

mojo sends

Friday, November 30, 2007

Paging Dr. S9

Should I be pleased or distressed by the upcoming auction of the 700mz spectrum? Should I be encouraged by this story about Google? Or about Verizon's movement towards more open devices?

Why do I get the feeling Apple is once again ahead of the curve here..?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trouble in River City

Based on the clip piece I saw on TPM, I would say that Huckabee won this going away. This is not good news for the Giuliani Campaign.

The Rudy campaign expects to lose Iowa and New Hampshire, they are not spending much money there. They are waiting for Romney in the later primaries. The problem with that strategy is that it is based on the assumption of Romney winning both of those. Huckabee is a much stronger candidate in the South than Romney, and with the momementum and money he will get from those two, he will move directly into that area of the country where his persona and message will resonate strongest. Rudy needs to go after Huck now before he gets that momentum, if he is able.

I'm again surprised over how poorly these candidates looked in that debate. I'm certainly biased, but they appeared shrill, mean spirited, (except for Huckabee and the comatose Thompson) and devoid of any real policy agenda. None of these guys are ready for primetime. When Ron Paul looks to be the most sane and rational person on the dais, you are seriously in trouble.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming soon to a theatre near you!

Actually, it's already in select theaters such as talk radio and Fox News,


From the Philadelpha Jewish Voice:
The world's finest military launches a highly coordinated shock-and-awe attack that shows enormous initial progress. There's talk of the victorious troops being home for Christmas. But the war unexpectedly drags on. As fighting persists into a third, and then a fourth year, voices are heard calling for negotiations, even "peace without victory." Dismissing such peaceniks and critics as defeatists, a conservative and expansionist regime -- led by a figurehead who often resorts to simplistic slogans and his Machiavellian sidekick who is considered the brains behind the throne -- calls for one last surge to victory. Unbeknownst to the people on the home front, however, this duo has already prepared a seductive and self-exculpatory myth in case the surge fails.

The United States in 2007? No, Wilhelmine, Germany in 1917 and 1918, as its military dictators, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his loyal second, General Erich Ludendorff, pushed Germany toward defeat and revolution in a relentless pursuit of victory in World War I.

You can push the applicability of historical analogies beyond reason very easily, but this seems appropos considering the rhetoric of the GOP and the NeoCons since the war started going south on them. This is part of the reason I've been getting agitated by the behavior of the beltway press in this campaign. Nothing I've seen in the last several years as led me to believe the Timmy Russerts or the Loud Dobbs of the press would hesitate a moment to pimp this meme until it became the gospel truth. As long as they get their piece of the action, it's all cool.

I would also like to point out that you could easily argue that the stab in back theory conjured up by Hindenburg and Ludendorf to cover their own fat asses was then employed by Hitler to bring about his genocidal campaign against the Jews.

Now let's just consider an executive branch with virtually unlimited powers to arrest, imprison, and torture; a judiciary and congress that has essentially given its imprimateur to this powers, and then add in the need to come up with a scapegoat to preserve the idea of America Fuck Yeah.

Sleep well...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Systems Of Generalized Irresponsibility

Over at Left Business Observer, I found an old article from 2005 when they were talking about the housing slowdown, the insolvency crisis, and other generally unsexy topics now enjoying more currency among the dismal sciences. Buried a few paragraphs down here is the following delightful gem of observational comedy:
Why are bankers making such risky loans? One reason is that they're a little desperate; profitability is down sharply in the industry, and there's tremendous overcapacity. Another reason is that banks themselves rarely hold onto the loans; they're packaged into bonds and sold in large chunks to institutional investors. And the investors may assume that Alan Greenspan will save them should things go sour. Why not? He's done it many times in the past.

When risk can be passed along like that, there's an incentive to overlook it. It used to be said of Soviet-style economies that they were systems of "generalized irresponsibility." We've got the capitalist version of that going in the USA.
Emphasis mine, of course. (Remember, this was written in 2005. Most of the seriously dumb irresponsibility really got going in 2006 and early 2007.)

I'll venture a little further. It isn't just our banking system that's a system of generalized irresponsibility. How the fnork do you think we ended up reelecting the bozo who took the country to war on false pretenses and made us into a nation of torturers? Our whole political, philosophical and economic system has degenerated into a system of generalized irresponsibility.

Talk about your ownership society... does anybody in this country want to own our collective failures anymore? Not when you can keep passing along the risk debt obligation to future generations of taxpayers the unborn baby jesus. God will snatch us all up to heaven before the apocalypse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Would you like some Whine with that cheese?

Okay, here's the thing, I'm an Edwards guy with a dash of Kucinich. As far as I'm concerned, nobody even comes close in either party to talking about the things that truly need to be addressed in this country. I can live with Obama, although his consumption of the Social Security Kool-Aid is seriously pissing me off. I'm really not a Hillary person. I think she's a very competent, sharp, and politically savvy canddiate. My big problem with her is she has not clearly and decisively rejected the fundamental assumptions that have driven us into this NeoCon ditch in Iraq and around the world. Not to mention that she's far too centrist and moderate for my taste. She's probably my least favorite of the Dem frontrunners, although her worst, most PNAC-esque day is light-years better than any of the GOP torture-loving douchebags. I say this to provide some context for the following statement:

I sincerely wish the American press corp would stop acting like a gang of wretched fnorkweasels when it comes to Hillary Clinton. You people are convincing more every day I have to vote for her just to protest your HORRRRRIBle behavior.

Case and Point: This piece of excrement. What a shock it's coming from the Marty Peretz's Beltway Bro's at TNR. Rather than pull quotes out and comment, I suggest you read this piece and join me again for my overall take on this. Go ahead, I'll wait...
(insert Jeopardy music here)

Back? we go..

You should have noticed a few warning flags about Crowley's piece. First, the reliance on NYT reporter Jeff Gerth about Hillary Clinton. Remember that Gerth was the one who "broke", read dutifully acted as stenographer, for the Whitewater story. Most of his reporting on that story has been demolished, the work of serial liars and Clinton political enemies in Arkanasas and Washington. He is also the author of nasty book about Hillary. Which is not say his work should be ignored, but his history with the Clintons is relevent to the reader regarding his potential bias. Throw in a little Howie Kurtz for..umm..balance and you've got the recipe for a whiney hit piece.

What kind of balance or context should be provided in this piece and others like it when trying to understand why a campaign would act like this? If, of course, you are not content to accept the D.C. Press officially approved narrative that Hillary is a ballcrushing Bitch. I think one way to contextulize here is recall this event from 2000 Dem Primary. From Bob Somerby:

How had the press corps acted during the debate? “The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something,” Mortman reported. “What happened with Bradley?” a panelist asked. “Stone silence. Really,” Mortman said. And Mortman—a staffer in the original Bush White House—was not alone in his report. Eric Pooley described a similar scene in the November 8 Time:
POOLEY: [Gore’s attempt to connect with the audience] was unmistakable—and even touching—but the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.
Seven weeks after the Dartmouth debate, Salon’s Jake Tapper described the same conduct. Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, he replied to a question about “liberal bias:”
TAPPER: Well, I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.

That's the tip of the iceberg. We can get into the manufactured stories of Gore lying, the Naoimi Klein story about earth tones conjured up by Republican politial operatives and repeated as gospel by reporters even to this day, or the farcical coverage of the Bush/Gore debates. You get the point.

The obvious reason the linton people treat the press like the enemy is because they ARE the enemy. I don't blame them. In fact, stories like his make me feel a bit less frustrated. Finaly, someone gets it.

Crowley mentions the resemblance to the Bush attitude to the press. In truth, I don't blame the Clinton people that they modeled their press machine after the Bushies. Their model worked, to perfection. For Christ's sake, it worked to the point that journalists, highly paid, experienced jouranlists eagerly particpated in the outing of a covert CIA operative, a blatant political hitjob that rolled up the Agencies worldwide WMD counter-proliferation ops. The failure of the press to hold the adminisration accountable in that story is truly Fucktacular. They cannot even bring themselves to label a Bush lie as a lie. It's a deception, a misstatement, or a mistake. Better to call him a dufus than risk the ire of the White House when you call a liar a liar.

You only have to watch the performance of Little Tim Russert at the last debate to understand the Clinton campaigns strategy, and the wisdom of it. Stunts like that only reinforce this attitude at Camp Clinton. One only has to remember the lies of the Swiftboats, Al Gores internet speech, even this waitress debacle to want to blow a gasket when you read this sort of whiney dogshit from Crowley.

Look, this isn't a good thing. It's in fact a terrible development and bad for democracy. Candidates like Hillary and Bush who manage to conceal their strengths and weaknesses as possible Presidents weaken the ability of the public to make a good decision. My point is that it's not wholly a creation of the politicians and their operatives. The nature of the political coverage, driven by the business model of their employers, the nature of journalist as celebrity, and the anti-liberal bias of corporate press that has helped, if not driven the creation of this model. And yes, I said anti-liberal bias in the corporate press. Because if it's one thing The Timmy Russerts hate more than Dems, it's the HIPPIES.

And Timmy, your Bills suck ass.

P.S. Just revel in this statement for a moment:
Almost as important--in the Democratic primaries, at least--it is determined to show that it won't let that happen again. "They've cultivated this attack-machine image because they think that Democrats want that," says one political reporter. "They're pandering to the bloggers

Uhh..okay. You see S9, Hillary is pandering to YOU!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Connaissez Vos Terroiristes!

Apparently, because I like a little cardamom in my coffee from time to time, the FBI thought [briefly] that it might want to get to know me better.
FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here
By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.
He said, as if putting somebody on a terrorist list for ridiculous and illegal reasons is something the United States of America would never, ever do.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Are we there yet?

I'm thinking we're pretty close. This piece in New York magazine about an impending economic meltdown sounds like a mojowire anthology. To wit:
The willingness of consumers to keep spending and piling on debt in the midst of a slowing real-estate market is hailed on Wall Street as an act of patriotism, which Schiff considers perverse. Imagine, he suggests, that you ran into a good friend and asked him how he was doing. His reply: “I took out a third mortgage, maxed out my credit cards, and emptied out my kids’ college savings account so I could buy a bigger TV and a new car, and we’re going to Greece on vacation over the holidays. Things are great!” Schiff lets the idea sink in and then finishes the thought: “And we’re celebrating the fact that we’re doing this as a nation?”

We are celebrating it, or we were until the isssues of higher interest rate leading to APR resests leading to foreclosures leading to CDO issues started to appear on the radar.

The article lists five steps that could lead to hard times:
1. The Bottom Continues to Fall Out of the Housing Market
2. The Derivatives-Related Meltdown, Part II
3. Consumers Run Out of Steam (and Take the Economy Down With Them)
4. That the Rest of the World Decides They Don’t Need Us and the Dollar Tumbles Hard
5. That We Don’t See It Happening Because It’s a Slow-Motion Train Wreck

Sounds fairly plausible to me. Number 4 is the one that makes the most nervous. I see no happy there.

Now spice this doomsday stew up with the fact that we are tossing over a trillion large into Iraq and you've got yourselves a FUBAR event that will go down in the history books. A trillion that could have been invested in America's desperate infrastructure needs. But hey, we have HD televisions, right Mr. Kudlow? I hope all those consumer good we purchased by borrowing against our homes tasted good on the way down.

I guess we could always cut taxes, right?....Right??

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November...

guyfawkesthe gunpowder treason and plot/
I can think of no reason/
why gunpowder treason/
should ever be forgot...

I like to think there's a reason that national elections in the U.S. occur on or very near to Guy Fawkes Night.(Next year, our election will be the day before on Nov. 4) Remember, ladies and gentlemen, it can happen here... And no one wants that, at least, no one on my f-list...

mojo sends

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who We Are Now

I keep hearing the conservatroids spout the reasons we're fighting them over there instead of over here. Near the top of the list, every time I see it, is the whole "they want to go back to medieval times" thing (and, no, friends— we're not talking about "the Middle Ages as they should have been" in these arguments; the pitch is usually all about how medieval = barbaric. Those damned medieval enthusiasts and their hatred of American culture... um, yeah).

So. Let's put on our thinking caps, shall we? Consider this:

Fla. Mother Acquitted in Piercing Case

Oct 25, 2007
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — A woman who had her 13-year-old daughter's genitalia pierced to make it uncomfortable for her to have sex was acquitted of aggravated child abuse on Thursday.

The girl, now 16, had testified that her mother asked a friend in 2004 to shave the girl's head to make her unattractive to boys and later held her down for the piercing.

A jury deliberated for about three hours before deciding the mother's actions didn't involve punishment or malicious intent, or cause permanent damage or disfigurement.

The 39-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her daughter's identity, could have faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

The girl was not in court for the verdict. Her guardian declined comment.

"She was trying to protect me, but it hurt me," the girl testified earlier this week. "It not only hurt me physically, but it hurt me mentally. ... That's emotionally scarring. That's physical abuse."

Prosecutors said the mother called on a friend to shave the girl's head and do the piercing after realizing that she had been having sex, including with the mother's boyfriend.

Defense attorneys told jurors that the mother had trouble with her rebellious daughter and that the girl agreed to the piercing to help rebuild her mother's trust.

Child welfare officials were called after the girl became infected from the piercing.

Tammy Meredith, 43, who did the piercing in her home, was sentenced to a year in jail for her role. An arrest warrant has been issued for the mother's boyfriend on allegations he had sex with the girl.
(Check out this fine rant from Zuzu at Feministe on the subject.)

Now, I don't mean to go off on a rant here, but would somebody please remind me why fighting them over there is supposed to keep us from having to fight them here at home? I'm having a hard time seeing how that's supposed to work. Clearly, from the evidence above, it isn't working very well.

As Zuzu says, your boyfriend rapes your 13-year-old daughter, so... you think the appropriate thing to do is punish your daughter by forcibly mutilating her genitals? And the jury acquits you on the obvious charge of aggravated child abuse?

I would add this... and this is happening in America, where progress is progressive and the future is futuristic and none of us really are trying to bring back the torture chambers, the rape rooms, chattel slavery and the banal evil of the Dark Ages?

Go ahead. Pull the other one.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let There Be SLACK!

Consider the following excerpt from They Thought They Were Free, which gives an invaluable insight into what it feels like to be living through the fall of a democratic system into that of a fascist police state:
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, "everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to you colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to— to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked— if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in "43" had come immediately after the "German Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in "33". But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in— your nation, your people— is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done ( for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or "adjust" your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know."

I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.
Now, go back and look at that phrase in the penultimate paragraph, the one that says, "for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing."

Ponder that long and hard for a moment.

Then, click here. Further explanation here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Repost: Tremble before the All Poweful OZ!

Note: Apparently, the hate that consumed me when I first posted this laid some sort of technological voodoo on the Mojowire page. S9 has apprently exorcised the evil spirit responsible, and asked me to repost this.

David brooks is often heralded as many liberals favorite conservative
pundit. Perched in some of the most refined media real estate, the
New York Times opinion page and a pundit for the Newshour on PBS, the
sorts of people who read and watch these media outlets often regard
Brooks as an honest broker of conservative faults, willing to
criticise if warranted.

Naturally, this is an enormous crock of horseshit. David Brooks is to
moderation and constructive discourse as the Trojan Horse was to the
cause of Peace between Greeks and Trojans. Today's column in the New
York Times is a classic example of the wretched sewage Brooks serves
up to people desperate to find some comity and safe harbor in today's
politics. Let's take a look:

Alexander Hamilton was an ambitious young striver and
created an economy where people like him could rise and succeed. He
used government to rouse the energies of the merchant class, to widen
the circle of property owners and to dissolve the constraints on
commerce and mobility.

Anytime a conservative pundit invokes the founding generation, a
truly spectacular piece of schadenfreude is about to dumped on you
from on high. Alexander Hamilton is a favorite. Sometimes they get
creative and offer up Thomas Jefferson to confuse gullible democrats.
Let's plow on...
Abraham Lincoln was another ambitious young striver.
As a young politician, he championed roads, canals and banks so
enterprising farm boys like himself could ascend and prosper. While
he was president, the Republican Party passed the Homestead Act,
which gave people access to property they could enrich and develop.
It passed the Land Grant College Act, so the ambitious would have
access to knowledge. It passed railroad legislation to open vistas
for the young and aspiring.

This double whammy of Hamilton and Lincoln is a tell in a Brooks
column, you are about to be directed to gaze upon the Great Oz, while
Brooks operates the machinery behind the curtain. Why do you question
the Great OZ HIPPIE!...
Margaret Thatcher was another young striver. When she
became prime minister, she gave the British working class access to
homes and property so that they would become more industrious and

Oh God!..Thatcher?? Brooks must really be feeling hateful this
You’d think that in this and every election, the
Republicans would want to continue this tradition. You’d think that
they’d start every election by putting themselves at the kitchen
tables of middle-class families with ambitious kids. Their first
questions would be: What are the barriers to their mobility? What
concrete help do these people need to realize their dreams?
You would think that if you had been in deep cryogenic freeze since
the Lincoln Administration. Middle Class mobility? The Republican
party does not care about your kids, middle class. Unless they want
to bring their succulent young flesh to Washington so Dick Cheney can
feast on their youth and live forever? No..? Notice how Brooks
doesn't offer an example in policy terms that might prove the
existence of this mythical Republican Party? Is a Platonic form? Is
it a shadow on the wall? Does he laugh hysterically when he writes
these columns? I can easily imagine reading them over the phone to
Karl rove and laughing till blood comes out their noses. Yessss...the
republican party..patron of class mobility...

Yet at the Republican economic debate in Michigan
this week, there was no talk of that. The candidates declared their
fealty to general principles: free trade, lower taxes and reduced
spending. They talked a lot about the line-item veto and the Chinese
currency. But there was almost nothing that touched concretely on the
lives of the ambitious working-class parents who are the backbone of
the G.O.P.

Brooks: I'm shocked, SHOCKED there is gambling on here...
Reader: Your winnings Mr. Brooks.

The faux surprise is well played here. This is a common trope in a
Brooks column. You can almost see the moderate reader being drawn in.
"you see, hippie leftie blogger. He's different. He's a NIIIICCCCE


It would only be shocking if a GOP debate cut into the precious time
they spend endorsing torture and declaring war on Islam and dirty
immigrants to actually cough up something resembling an actual
policy. That's what those defeatist Democrats do. Remember, it is
gospel in Washington that voters don't care about proposals, only
image, a strong one of a decisive leader ready to kick ass.
Sometimes the candidates seemed more concerned with
massaging the pleasure buttons of the Club for Growth than addressing
the real concerns of the middle class. They talked far more about
cutting corporate taxes, for example, than about a child tax credit
for struggling families.

At other times, they sounded as if they were running
for a ceremonial post. The person who is elected president will need
concrete proposals, but the G.O.P. contenders scarcely have them.
Mike Huckabee has some sketchy plans. John McCain answered one
element of middle-class anxiety yesterday with his new health care
plan. Others seem to have decided concrete proposals are for geeks.

Brooks demonstrates the contempt he has for his readers in this
passage. Of course they act like this. This Administration won two
elections doing just that. George Bush ran on a tax cut proposal
based on utterly fraudulent numbers. Reporters treated it like it was
an actual policy idea equally valid to the reality based ones offered
by his opponent. Crunching the numbers is wonky, beneath the work of
political beat reporters. Did you know Al Gore lets feminist chicks
tell him to wear earth tones? Why would anyone in the Republican
party maintain the pretense of having a domestic policy platform?
It's pretty clear they can just mumble some pablum about taxes and
have it trumpeted it as divine inspiration from a midnight visit from
the ghost of Saint Ronnie by the beat reporters they are backslapping
on the bus. Brooks, of course, knows this and yet is perfectly
willing to pretend it's something new that just popped up rather than
business as usual. As if it was a recent development rather than the
perfect reflection of the Bush Republican Party. Yet, plenty of
people lap this stuff out like mothers milk...
In this way, the Republican Party has abandoned the
Hamiltonian ground. It has lost intimate contact with the working-
class dreamer who longs to make good. Instead this ground is being
seized by a Democrat. Over the past few months, Hillary Clinton has
issued a string of specific policy programs aimed directly at members
of the aspiring middle class.

Actually, John Edwards has based his whole campaign on exactly that.
Well, that and addressing issues of poverty and inequality, but the
Great Oz doesn't want to talk about that munchkin shit. Besides, he
gets girly haircuts from a hairdresser. Most of the Democratic
candidates have been jawing constantly about these issues in debates
and on the stump. Damn Socialists.

There's more, but I've decided to be merciful and not subject you to
the rest. The beauty of a Brooks column is the pretense that he is
the one conservative pundit willing to acknowledge the GOP glass
might be half empty. The fact it's a chalice of hemlock is artfully
ignored. The Republican party has never been the champion of the
Middle Class, it's the party of business, WASP values, and waving the
bloody shirt about some potential threat: Old Confederates, Catholic
immigrants, Commies, Hippies, and now the Muslim hordes threatening
to restore the Abbasid Caliphate. Democrats have their own history of
demagoguery to be sure. But Brooks intent is to divert you from the
fact the Republican Party is controlled by people who couldn't give
rancid crap about the Middle Class. They answer to constituencies
that have other priorities. So he offers up this faux surprise about
lack of policy proposals about class mobility, cleverly or not so
cleverly devising a make believe world where the GOP was a champion
of Middle Class success in some halcyon past. I particularly like the
pretense he is surprised that the GOP debate was anything other than
a sadism circle jerk about how torture is the defining characteristic
of the modern GOP man. He doesn't allow Ali the terrorist to spook
him, no sir. He orders that private to waterboard him one more time
for Uncle Sam, just because. Torture is like the new Old Spice.

I know John Tierney left a tough legacy to live up to in terms of
disseminating farcical conservative "commentary", But why do people
give this guy the time of day? Krugman and the besieged Bob Herbert
are the only reasons to read the op/ed section of that paper. The
rest is laughable hackery by charlatans like Brooks or my personal
favorite, increasingly shrill and bizarre ravings from the laptop of
Maureen Dowd. Who after lying about Al Gore for a year and half, is
now indulging her inner Mean Girls by going after Hillary Clinton,
and Barack Obama when she has time.
So can people stop pretending that Brooks is somehow "better" than
the mental patients at the Journal. At least those people don't try
to cover up what they are about...

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Mad props to Senator Dodd.

This Is Your Theory?

Dan Gross, writing for the Moneybox column at Slate, finds a nut:
The subprime mess has been spreading like toxic mold since the housing market peaked last year. So why did it take until now for the government to decide it should do something about it? I have a theory.
A theory? No, Dan— I read your article. You don't have a theory. You have a tenuous but firm grip on one of the few bits of reality not yet obliterated by the ongoing demolition of the financial press in the United States.

Unfortunately, you're using that grip to whack it around some more and help do more damage.
When individual borrowers began to suffer, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson didn't seem overly concerned. The market would clear out the problem through the foreclosure process. Loans would get written off; properties would change hands and be resold. When upstart subprime mortgage lenders ran into trouble, Bernanke and Paulson shrugged again. The market would clear out the problem through the bankruptcy process. Subprime companies like New Century Financial filed for Chapter 11, others liquidated or restructured, and loans made to the lenders were written down. Meanwhile, Paulson and Bernanke assured us that the subprime mess was contained.

But as the summer turned to fall, and the next several shoes dropped, their attitude changed. And that is because the next group of unfortunates to fall victim to subprime woes were massive banks. In recent years, banks in New York, London, and other financial capitals set up off-balance-sheet funding vehicles called SIVs, or conduits.
This is your theory?

You're going to be really impressed with my theory that bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. Have you heard it before? It's really very clever and revolutionary. It explains so much about how the universe works!
The entities borrow money at low interest rates for short periods, say 30 to 90 days, and use the funds to buy longer-term debt that pays higher interest rates. To stay in business, the conduits must continually roll over the short-term debt. But as they searched for higher yields, some conduits stuffed themselves with subprime-mortgage-backed securities. And when lenders became alarmed at the declining value of those holdings, they were reluctant to roll over the debt. Banks thus faced a choice. They could either raise cash by dumping the already-depressed subprime junk onto the market, or bring the conduits onto their balance sheets and assure short-term lenders they'd get paid back.

Large U.S. banks were reluctant to put the conduits on their balance sheets, especially Citigroup, which manages about $100 billion in such conduits. So Paulson sprung into action.
Or, something resembling action if you don't look too closely at it.
In September, the Treasury Department summoned bankers to suggest that they voluntarily work out some sort of arrangement among gentlemen and gentlewomen to prevent disorder in this market. (It was the same type of voluntary arrangement the New York Federal Reserve suggested Wall Street banks make during the 1998 Long Term Capital Management debacle.) The conversations bore fruit. On Monday, several banks announced the creation of a new mega-conduit that would buy some of the damaged goods from existing conduits. Voila! A federally suggested short-term bailout.
I love that phrase "a new mega-conduit" like you don't even know. That's bullshit so pure you could step all over it at 20:1 and still get $100/ounce for it on the street.

Dan. It's not a short-term bailout. It's bridge to a long-term restructuring of the mortgage securitization industry. I am, of course, trying to be careful what I say here. Progressives may want to pay careful and close attention to what's going on here, because there's a chance that what's happening in this disaster could be used to get some progressive leverage back into the hands of the middle class. These high-finance wizards have royally fnorcked themselves up here, and reconstructing the mortgage industry in the aftermath of their stupidity is an opportunity to get some things fixed that have been seriously messed up for a long time. Having the government reinsure some of these special investment vehicles could backfire on these bankers in a huge way. Let the nose of one camel into the tent, and pretty soon, you've got camels everywhere.
Today, Paulson delivered a speech in which he suggested that the mortgage industry take a cue from the big Wall Street banks and find an alternative to foreclosure, like re-adjusting rates or accepting lower payments. The industry should "get together in a coordinated effort to identify struggling borrowers early, connect them to a mortgage counselor, and find a sustainable mortgage solution." He continued: "Recent surveys have shown that as many as 50 percent of the borrowers who have gone into foreclosure never had a prior discussion with a mortgage counselor or their servicer. That must change." He announced that he was supporting an industry coalition, Hope Now, to coordinate such efforts, and declared: "I expect to see results."

These recommendations—and others he made—are all good and common-sensical. But it makes you wonder whether he's been watching birds for the past year instead of reading the headlines on his Bloomberg machine. For these measures are a little like distributing condoms at a clinic for teenage moms who are six months pregnant—good prophylactic ideas that arrived a half-year too late. Last year was a boom year for foreclosures, up 42 percent from 2005. And foreclosures have spiked sharply throughout 2007, up more than 55 percent in the first half of 2007; September 2007 foreclosures nearly doubled from September 2006. Rising homeownership rates (PDF), a success story routinely highlighted by the Bush administration, have fallen for the last three quarters.

Even as hundreds of thousands of people saw their homes dispossessed (some of them were probably speculators who may have simply walked away from no-money-down mortgages), the problem was essentially invisible to Paulson. Of course, it's doubtful Paulson knows many subprime borrowers or subprime lenders. On the other hand, the former head of Goldman Sachs is a member in good standing of the club of Wall Street CEOs. When the subprime meltdown began to disturb the CEOs' sleep, he responded with alacrity. Even as he had harsh words for the entire mortgage complex—from brokers to credit-rating agencies—and recommended far-reaching reforms, Paulson was careful to single out one class of actors for protection. He noted that the issue has been raised as to "whether greater liability should be imposed on securitizers and investors." In other words, should the Wall Street firms that peddled mortgage-backed securities that turned out to be worthless a few months later be subject to greater accountability through the legal system? His answer: "In my view, this is not the answer to the problem."
I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I say, to discover the high finance wizards of Wall Street caught red-handed with one hand in the till and the other mashing down the scale, but surely they're not the problem. No, not at all.

Fnorking wankers.

[Some links elided. See the original article for completeness.]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Where have I heard this before?

Isn't this essentially the argument the Greens have been making for the last decade at least?

I have enough to fret over in a day without worrying whether this organic Tibetan rice was really spirited over to my local Whole Foods in a hydrogen powered rickshaw, and whether that took more or less carbon than all the miniscule bits of electricity and storage space used in the writing, publishing, accessing, and Google archiving of that joke. Carbon consumption should be in the price of my goods, and then I can do what I often do as a consumer and make decisions based on price signals

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"We Are All Subprime Now"

The absolutely fabulous Tanta over at Calculated Risk outdoes herself* again, simultaneously smacking around the new WallMurdoch Street Journal and explaining in full-on geeky but still nicely accessible splendor just WTF has been going on in the business press with the reporting of the mortgage crisis. Hint: they're still racist jackholes. I know— you're so surprised.

Here's the concluding paragraph, but go read the whole thing:
The bottom line is, as CR notes, that "high-risk" lending was everywhere in the boom years. Of course there is a desire to collapse it all into the easy category of "subprime." And there has for a long time been a lot of political pressure to keep the association of "subprime" and "urban minorities" in place, because it has functioned as a good excuse for the subprime lenders (they "help" the poor and minorities, remember?). My view is that a whole lot of parties are very interested in maintaining rather than seriously analyzing a lot of faulty assumptions about risk, rates, and borrower credit characteristics. If this ain't "just a subprime problem," then an entire debt-based economy in which even the middle and upper middle class cannot afford homes given RE inflation and wage stagnation is suddenly in question. The last thing certain vested interests want to hear is that, basically, "we are all subprime now."
Tanta, you're my freaking hero.

* I think I got the gender right, but apologies if I screwed that up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Play Ball!

Turkey has had enough

I was beginning to think the danger was mostly past, since the elections in Turkey seemed to have gone peacefully and without too much controversy.

But it would seem that someone is interested in pushing this situation to the breaking point, whether attacks in Turkey were really the work of the PKK trying to provoke Turkey into some ill-conceived military action, or a false flag operation designed to create the necessary atmosphere for the Turkish military to take an action they have been wanting to take for years...

Here is some local reporting on the ground about what's happening:
New Anatolian and Turkish Daily News; both are saying that it is now just a matter of timing, and that U.S. warnings against incursion are falling on deaf ears, if in fact, those warnings are not just pro-forma, accompanied with a wink and a nod...

mojo sends

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Gun Whores of Main Street

What makes me mad about this story is perhaps the fact that no one --no one-- save a few socially maladjuted bloggers and the dirty fscking hippies have seriously asked the question that desperately needs asking.

But I see I am getting ahead of myself...

Okay... let's start with NPR's craptacular piece this morning "Blackwater Eyes Domestic Contracts in U.S."

In particular I would like to draw your attention to this bit:
"The first Blackwater employees arrived in New Orleans just 36 hours after the levies broke.
That's the lede of the story. And then nowhere is the question ever hinted at: If things were such a shambles, and we couldn't get the National Guard or FEMA in there, then how did Blackwater put the equivalent of a short infantry regiment, rapid reaction team into town within a day and half, while the flood waters were still rising?

As Dr. S9 has previously noted, in spite of the NPR happy talk about the humanitarian mission of Blackwater, they were there at first primarily at the behest of insurance companies to protect property, and then only later did FEMA and DHS decide it would be easier to hire mercenaries than to use legitimate law enforcement and government resources for certain functions in New Orleans.

So, yeah, I'm ticked that again, a major media outlet, and frankly one of the last ones I trust to give so much as the time of day, lets something like that slip. So then there's the nut of the story:
"Providing security after national emergencies is usually a function of the National Guard and local police. And during the Katrina aftermath, the Blackwater employees were paid $950 a day, or about eight times the salary of a New Orleans police officer."
Now to be fair (because after all, the Mojowire is nothing, if not all about the fair) they do extensively quote an ex-Air Force Attorney and fellow at G-Town Law, who says this talk of Blackwater getting contracts to work American streets is very unnerving.

Although he still skirts the main issue I have with all of this, he hints at it in this quote:
"The only difference between Blackwater in Iraq and Blackwater in New Orleans is that they are mercenaries in Iraq and they are vigilantes in New Orleans..."
Vigilantes... absolutely right. Albeit vigilantes with letters of marque and reprisal, apparently. Yeah, they're animals, but they're our animals...

The reason I bring this up is the fact that the übergrøppénfumbler of this delightful little enterprise is a guy named Erik Prince. NPR has a little bio of him along with their main story, and they note that the guy is associated with some far right wing Christian Dominionist and Republican groups.

Yeah, our nation's leading gun pimp is a right wing dommie... I'm sure you're shocked beyond all comprehension to learn this [/snark].

Okay... here's the other shoe: "Tiny Potrero Battles County and Blackwater USA." That's right lads...our Potrero! Ya got that?! Check it:
"The hamlet of Potrero in southeast San Diego County, 45 miles from the city and just 8 minutes from Tecate, is being ambushed. The attackers are county bureaucrats marching alongside Blackwater USA, the private military contractor that is getting so much bad press while being labeled one of the biggest mercenary firms in the Iraq War.

Blackwater wants to build an 824-acre training facility three miles north of Potrero. It will have 15 shooting ranges, an armory for storing ammunition, a course on which moving vehicles will be strafed with paintballs, a helicopter pad, several buildings, and other military accoutrements. But Potrero's oft-stated community goal is to "maintain the existing rural lifestyle by continuing the existing pattern of residential and agricultural uses on large 40-acre lots" alongside "generally undeveloped meadows, open spaces, and hillsides."[...]

[...]Last July, Blackwater hired as a lobbyist Nikki Clay, a longtime cheerleader for corporate welfare (Chargers, Padres) and former president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Blackwater brought on the developer-friendly environmental firm of Mooney, Jones & Stokes, along with other companies to make up their project team. The team quickly snuggled up to the County, which was not playing hard to get."
At this point there is a recall election spurred by this and threatened law suits, but it seems to me after covering other such development issues, that it's a done deal and they are only delaying the inevitable.

So aside from the obvious emotional ties the editors of this blog have for the small high desert border hamlet in San Diego County, there is another issue at work here.

For the last couple of years, there has been a semi-permanent presence in the hills of eastern San Diego County of the cream of the gene pool that Redneckistan could muster and put on our border to stop the hordes of the Brown Menance from coming north to take our lucrative dishwashing and crop picking jobs... of course, I am talking about The Minutemen.

Now given that DHS has not only the authority, but the will to use hired guns to do thing that a normal law enforcement officer apparently won't or can't, then I can only wonder how long it will be before there are semi-official Blackwater "observers" on the border with the Minutemen. And given their current proclivity for gun violence and their corporation's leading light being a radical dominionist, then I am wondering how long it will be before they start putting up barracks and training the Minutemen down there...

And how much of this will be done with the knowledge, funding and approval of DHS? Yeah, there are all sorts of ways this can end, most of them dark and unpleasant...

Quo Vadis,

mojo sends

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Where Do I Sign Up?

Oh, right... I sign up for this at U.S. Army Infantry Center & Fort Benning Chaplain's Office.

It's so nice to know that they don't particularly feel like pretending anymore not to be conducting a crusade.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Now, Some More Economic Doom... Ready?

Over at Econombrowser, Menzie Chinn asks what would be the effects of stagflation on the value of the U.S. dollar? I wrote about stagflation earlier.

Here's the nut section:
What this quote highlights is that while there are (at least) two categories of forces pushing down the dollar's value, there's one that might possibly push the opposite direction -- namely, inflationary pressures and the consequent policy response. While this seems an unlikely fear, I found this Reuters article of today of interest:
NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) market is likely to show inflation expectations rising through year end, a Pacific Investment Management Co fund manager said.

Break-even spreads between the nominal 10-year Treasury note yield and the equivalent TIPS should widen to near 250 basis points by December from about 230 basis points currently, John Brynjolfsson, a managing director at PIMCO, told a Euromoney conference on inflation-linked products in New York.

Widening break-even spreads reflect investors' rising inflation expectations.
Higher inflation implies a weaker currency over time. But to the extent that the Fed responds to observed and anticipated inflation, then this implies higher policy rates in the future. Then the big question is which effect dominates in moving the dollar. In addition, higher interest rates have an impact on output and asset prices at different horizons. Hence, a surprise in inflation could prompt an increase in the policy interest rates (relative to what was anticipated), which when combined with sticky prices would lead to a higher real interest rate that appreciates the dollar instantaneously and in the short run (Note: This argument relies upon a Taylor rule interpretation of monetary policy -- the currency value implications of which are drawn out in this post).

To the extent that higher interest rates depress economic activity in the medium term, this will tend to lead to a weaker currency at the longer horizon. This means that the path of the dollar may be subject to more influences than would be obvious at first glance. And that changes in policy rates may very well have different impacts at different horizons.
Shorter Menzie Chinn: the FOMC will get to decide whether you're going to be more screwed by higher prices for imported energy and manufactured goods, or instead by a tighter job market and downward wage and benefit pressures. Guess which one they're likely to pick for you!

My money is on the latter and against the former.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"...He Needed A Rescue."

ZOMG. Just, kill me. Kill me now. I can't compose any kind of coherent response to this. It makes me want to scream.
...The pro-war fascists of Gathering of Eagles found a father of a fallen Marine to beat up along the route: Carlos Arredondo, who marches in anti-war demonstrations pulling a flag-draped coffin adorned with a picture of his son. ...
Fascists. That's just about right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How influential is Iran in Shiite Iraq?

Dan Drezner argues that perhaps Iran's role in Southern Iraq is more problematic than appears at first glance:

1) Iran is playing a very active supporting role;

2) Iran does not appear to be playing a unifying role. The Monitor story suggests that this is because it lacks the capacity to do so:

Although Iran is closest to the council and its affiliate parties like Badr and Sayed al-Shuhada, it's also backing many other Shiite groups in southern Iraq including those that are openly using violence to oppose British and coalition troops, according to Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at London's Chatham House.

"The Iranians are backing as many horses as they can," he says. "But there is a limit to their influence, given how fractious Shiites are in Iraq."

There's an alternative interpretation -- it's possible that Iran lacks the interest. A fractious Iraq can serve as a buffer for Iran without triggering a security dilemma with Saudi Arabia or other Sunni states.

The Basra story is still developing, of course. Still, one wonders whether Tehran will be any more adept at nation-building in Iraq than the United States.

That final question is, I think, worth pondering. The common assumption is that Iran will back fill into Iraq in the wake of a US withdrawal, and essentially run the show, either directly or through proxies.(Your mileage may vary).

I'm not convinced that it's quite that simple or easy to predict. As the Guardian story Drezner cites indicates, Shia Iraq is a morass of competing factions, some of whom are supported by Iran, and others opposed to Iranian dominance in varying degrees. This is part of the problem in forming a national government. Of the three major blocs in the Iraqi government as we conceive them, Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, really only the Kurds are close to united. A recipe for political progress it is not.

Another important aspect Drezner doesn't address is that Iran's military/government structure is not simply a straightforward hierarchy from the Ayotallah Khaemeni on down. The Republican Guard, for example, is independent of the military, created as a sort of Praetorian guard in reverse to prevent a military coup in the early days of the Islamic Republic. It reportedly has it's own covert and intelligence elements. It is possible, even likely, that different factions within Iran's political and military structure are engaged in Iraq without close coordination. A wrinkle conveniently glossed over by war agitators and their stenographers in the national press.

To my mind, this muddy situation screams out for an effort to corral Iran into some sort of regional role as one of several to help restore a measure of political and economic stability to Iraq. An escalation of the current civil war among Shia could create a massive refugee crisis that Iran will have to deal with. A regional conflagration is perhaps not the golden opportunity for Iran made out by Neoconservatives and those trapped in the range of the beltway group think. The best leverage for that I would argue is a withdrawal deadline. Simply continuing to occupy Iraq only exacerbates the existing issues without exerting any pressure to change policy on the groups and regional players who are leveraging the current situation for their own purposes.

I'm not suggesting that Iran does not have a opportunity to benefit here, or that it has not been a bad actor, it has. I'm suggesting that like it or not, Iranian actions are the result of a complicated and sometimes contradictory political system, and that their capabilities and true interests might be more opaque than they appear at first glance.

Your Friend, The Sucking Chest Wound

The Sucking Chest Wound of Economics is stagflation. This is the condition where you have high unemployment at the same time you have high inflation. Under classical economic theory, this is supposed to be impossible. When people are out of work, demand falls, creating oversupply, driving prices lower not higher. Alas, were it so.

Those of us old enough to be alive [and young enough to have been mostly sober] through the 1970's in America have memories of varying clarity of a time when we had lots of unemployment, and prices were shooting through the roof. Classical economists were standing around with this sour look on their faces. "This isn't supposed to be happening!" Monetarist economics partly arose to prominence in the 1980's because, whatever their other failings, they had an at least half-assed explanation for WTF was going on.

There are now lots of competing theories for how and why stagflation happens. The monetarists only have one of several. The Keynesians, naturally, descended into the basement, sucked on a battery for a few years, and came back with a theory that explains it. According to them, there are two kinds of inflation: demand-pull and cost-push.
  • Demand-pull inflation is when demand rises and supply can't keep up, usually because of market failure and the general failure of capitalists to treat planners like human beings. It tends to come with low unemployment, rising wages, i.e. all the things that capitalists hate hate hate. The Federal Reserve usually gets excellent results in stomping on this kind of inflation by jacking interest rates up.

  • Cost-push inflation is when supply falls while demand continues to grow, which tends to happen when some public resource or environmental condition everybody is taking for granted suddenly comes up in short supply, c.f. the Oil Crisis of 1973. This is the kind of inflation that usually comes with high unemployment. It doesn't respond as well to interest rate hikes, because that just puts more people out of work and spreads the economic pain deeper and wider among the peasants. In fact, the traditional remedy for stagflation is to lower rates, eat the inflation, and treat or avert recessionary pressures on the economy first— then jack up rates again to kill the inflation you caused. The treatment is to shove something otherwise foreign into the sucking hole in the chest of your patient and hope you can deal with the inevitable infection later.
I bring this to your attention now as background to the news today that the Federal Reserve has cut both the federal funds target rate and the discount rate by 50 basis points. The guidance language in the statement from the Federal Open Market Committee says, and I quote, "Today’s action is intended to help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and to promote moderate growth over time."

Bullshit, I say. They're not worried about "disruptions in financial markets" causing a recession. How does that even work, anyway? They're worried about the possibility of stagflation caused by Peak Oil and the unwinding of the Asian currency dollar carry trade. That's what I say.

Did you notice where crude oil futures closed today?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Small Price

The Great Orange Satan thinks we suck because we're not banging the drums day and night about House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-FlyoverCountry) and his comment that 4000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq is a "small price" to pay.

Sadly, Mr. Boehner only spoke the harsh truth. Those dead troops are a small price to pay. They're little people, who don't figure much in the overall political, philosophical or economic system of America— unlike the 3000 or so people who got killed in the 9/11 attacks, who are all so much more important.

Losing those civilians was a huge price to pay. The U.S. troops in Iraq? Not so much.

This is a truth everyone in America knows, but no one can say it out loud. Except, a GOP congressman from Ohio who happens to be the House Minority Leader, of course. He can say it. The GOP won't raise an outcry. They know it's true. The conservative punditry establishment knows its true. Even the Democratic leadership knows it's true.

Sure, a few dirty f*cking hippie bloggers will piss and moan about it, but nobody listens to them. Besides, they also know Boehner is right. Every dead soldier is one less U.S. treasury payroll check that has to be delivered every month to somebody who volunteered to be a target in a shooting gallery. Right? Come on... we all know this. Maybe, we're all thinking, we can replace the ones who get killed with new recruits who will do the same work for lower pay. God bless America. Land of free market competition and entrepreneurial spirit.

We all know that 4000 dead troops is a small price to pay. It's the reason we aren't demanding that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq be repealed immediately, that all U.S. military personnel be withdrawn from Iraq with redeployment beginning immediately, and that all further construction of permanent U.S. military installations in Iraq be stopped immediately. It's the reason we don't really mind that our candidates for President and the leadership of both our major parties in Congress refuse to consider those ideas, much less advance serious proposals to that effect. It's the reason most civilians without any direct interaction with military personnel and their families are pretty much oblivious to the human costs of the war in Iraq.

Not enough U.S. troops have been killed, maimed, broken and their families destroyed for most of us to care. What's another thousand or so every year? As long as more Iraqis are dying than American troops, it's all good for us. Isn't that right?

Maybe, just maybe, this post I've just written offends your sensibilities. What are you going to do about it? I already know your answer to that. You're going to be outraged that I should be allowed to say such terrible things without having to pay any price for it. You're going to say I should be made to pay a price. A huge price. So, what do you have in mind?

And, don't you think that's a price Mr. Boehner should pay as well?

Petraeus Caesar

The other day, s9 put up this amusing/horrifying bit, saying: "I have no joke here... I just like saying President-for-Life Petraeus over and over again until it sounds almost normal."

This was based on a moment of clarity from Kevin Drum (link in original post) about the nature of Petraeus Iraqious and what might his intentions be once he brings his legions back from Persia/Mesopotamia and marches them across the Rubicon...

It was an interesting bit, to be sure, and I guess it's been kicking around in the back of my mind for a bit, because this morning I was over to Comrade Joshua's place and came across the following ominous artifact". To wit:
"Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

"I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, 'No, that would be too soon'," Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said."
Yeah... you can just rock me to sleep now, thanks!

mojo sends

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Intellectually Crippled Leading the Morally Bankrupt -- or -- Put Down the Friedman and Step Away From the Bong

So this morning I'm getting ready for work, listening to NPR as usual, and especially this morning, since they are the only news outlet not grotesquely pimping our National-Death-And-Grief-Fetish-Day.

But that only left the gateway open for this baleful artifact to drop through the aether and find its way into my's the nut:
We could abolish the income tax and the payroll tax, too, and replace them with a 23 percent national sales tax. All taxes would be paid at the cash register when you buy a grape slurpee or a Honda Civic.

This "fair tax" would instantly banish 8 billion pages of paperwork, and the more than 12,000 IRS agents who snoop on all our financial transactions. Economists from Harvard and MIT have verified that this plan wouldn't swell the budget deficit and would increase American jobs. [...]
I am then informed that the author of this ignorant screed is one Stephen Moore, one of the flying monkey, invisible hand gang at the Wall Street Journal's opinion page. However, if you gun his name through yer favourite search engine, you also quickly learn that he is also Ultra-Commandante of the Club For Growth. Yeah, try to quell yer surprise...

Do I even have to spell out what a whack-ass idea this is, even for the Club For Growth? I mean, 23 freekin' percent? And it will have no harmful effect on the middle classes and be revenue neutral? Wait for it; Moore has anticipated you and your pasty-faced, weak-kneed, surrender-cheese argument:
Oh, but wouldn't a national sales tax be regressive and hurt the poor? Nope -- under the fair tax, every American family of four would be able to purchase the first $20,000 of goods and services every year tax-free.
What planet is this guy on?! For a moment, forget the fact that implementation of some goofy system of accounting will be required, like a national sales tax receipt to track that first $20,000.00, the idea that 20 grand buys bupkis anymore is laughable.

You want to buy a new car for $20,000.00? That now becomes $24,600.00. Yeah, that won't have a chilling effect on durable good spending. Any savings you put away for health care, like the Club for Growth suggests we should through MSA's, gets eaten almost immediately by this tax, far outstripping any interest you might have accrued.

My favorite part is where they suggest that Social Security will be made solvent with this. So the point is not to keep working for the future, but spending for the future. Moore points out that paychecks would increase by 20 percent -- a whole 20 percent! However, spending it on anything will cost you 23 percent. So while it might spur thriftiness, that would in turn screw revenues.

The punchline here is that the Club for Growth is not interested in healthy government spending or taxation. They are interested in repealing out current form of government and economy and replacing it with an imperial plutocracy, and crazy-ass schemes like a national 23 percent sales tax are simply goofy ideas they float because one day they think one might stick.

Of course where he gets all this is from legendary right wing academicians Neil Boortz' and John Linder's book "The Fair Tax," where they plucked the 23 percent apparently out of their ass.

This is supposed to be the intellectual class of the right. So now, they are down to the economic equivalent of a Coyote and Road Runner cartoon, where they set out a bowl of free bird seed in the road, while holding a rope attached to one (1) Acme Anvil suspended above our heads, in the vain hope we will stop long enough to eat that the anvil will finally squash us.

Yeah, I've seen that one... it doesn't end well for the Coyote, either...

mojo sends