Archive for August, 2007

Sweet Jeebus, I hope this is good.

Aug 31, 2007 in Uncategorized

I like horror movies.  I especially like the ones that can (tastefully) make me grimace and squirm in my seat.  That’s why I’ve had a big beef against a large section of the so-called “horror” movies that have come out within the past five years or so.  Sadly, most of them are PG-13 remakes of middling, Japanese mood/spook pieces which means that they rely heavily on child actors who call their parents by their first names and dress like they shop at Goth GAP.  Sure, they may have sexy bed-head style haircuts but aren’t the dark circles under their eyes terrifying??

Thankfully, we have directors like Rob Zombie who, even though records shite music, has got a talent for shooting some achingly painful cinema moments.  When I heard he was in charge of the contemporary take on John Carpenter’s “Halloween” my excitement over seeing a true skin-crawler over-shadowed my concern about the remake of an undebatable classic.  Let’s hope that the Register’s Damond Fudge isn’t misleading with his recent shining review.

-mg

We knew it wouldn’t last.

Aug 31, 2007 in Uncategorized

Equality is temporarily put on hold because, well, some folks don’t want gay marriage “rammed down their throats” or whatever rhetorical bullshit you prefer.

-mg

Big government to the rescue!

Aug 31, 2007 in Housing Bubble

Those free-market loving Wall Street traders reacted giddily today (+1.1%!) to Bush’s announcement that lifestyle obsessed Americans need not worry about the mistakes they made when they were mesmerized by the enticing loans offered by Ditech:

President George W. Bush today pledged to help people who have fallen behind in their mortgages keep their homes and to tighten safeguards against predatory lending, while rejecting a bailout for “speculators.”

‘I plan to help homeowners. The government’s got a role to play,’ Bush said in a statement at the White House. But, he said, `It’s not the government’s job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford.’

Holy shit! Did the most conservative, free-market loving Republican in the history of America just say that the government has a role to play in helping out homeowners?? Surprisingly, Republican bloggers are infuriated since he’s undermining their “boot straps” narratives. Chuck Schumer got in a good zinger:

Bush ‘is starting to sound like a Democrat,’ Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a news conference minutes after the president spoke. ‘The president has gotten out of his ideological straitjacket and seen that in times of crisis the federal government should help troubled citizens.’

But aren’t those people who thought that they’d be able to buy a Miami condo, shampoo the carpets and sell it for a profit also “speculators”? Granted this housing slump has just gotten underway but let’s not forget that the “Flip This House” phenomenon is still featured prominently on every domestically oriented cable channel and all of the accompanying commercial filler spots.

-mg

That said, I must concur…

Aug 30, 2007 in Legal, Politics

…I agree, I also don’t think what Larry Craig did should be a crime.

What the man did was engage in a series of secret codes devised by gay men to find other gay men, secretly, so as not to arouse (pun slightly intended, homophobic men get bigger boners watching gay porn than straight men do) the ire of a guy who isn’t interested in chowing down on some sausage. You tap your shoe, and you wait to see if the other guy taps his shoe. You move your foot closer, he moves his foot closer. This little dance continues until both men are, quite willingly, bumping and grinding in a stall.

Now, doing manly buttsex in a bathroom stall is certainly something that should probably net you a fine. But the officer was returning some of the signals to Craig in order to get him to the point where Craig was giving the hand signal. A straight man wouldn’t even consider doing such a thing, being extremely unlikely to be in on the code. Hell, I’m extensively familiar with gay culture, and this system of restroom cruising was complete news to me. I would never have understood what a tapping foot was to mean. However, who says the sex has to happen in the bathroom? Perhaps one man then follows the other to another location. Without expression of intent to fuck in the bathroom, the cop is really sitting on (no pun intended that time) nothing other than some dirty flirting.

It was definitely an overreach of unnecessary police power…but it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

-jb

How did we let talk of equality get into the Iowa Constitution?

Aug 30, 2007 in Legal, teh gay

A small victory for equality in Iowa, sure to inflame those against it:

A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa’s law banning gay marriage.

The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples.

“This is kind of the American Dream,” said plaintiff Jen BarbouRoske, of Iowa City. “I’m still feeling kind of shaky. It’s pure elation, I just cannot believe it.”

Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the ruling requires “full equality for all Iowans including gay and lesbian Iowans and their families.”

“The Iowa Constitution has lived up to its promises of equality for everyone,” she said.

Holy smokes, what were we snorting when we promised equality?

The judge was, of course, simply doing his job. For that, he will be roundly attacked as some liberal activist judge. There really isn’t any coherent response cited in the Register article as to why he was wrong, because he wasn’t. What he did was make a judgment that may not have been particularly popular, but which reflected the rights of citizens as outlined in the Iowa Constitution. Unfortunately, we have a majority still interested in repressing a minority, who care not one whit for their rights, nor for any Constitution that protects them. True to form, if the Iowa Constitution permits equality for gays, then theocrats and bigots will conclude that the Constitution must be changed to prevent such horrors:

House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said the judge’s ruling only illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

In my part of Iowa, gays weren’t exactly going on Pride marches, and “faggot” got thrown around liberally, but when it came down to having a lesbian couple for neighbors, our small town had a “live and let live” mentality. It simply wasn’t anybody’s business. Iowa has plenty of bigotry running around, obviously, but a lot of Iowans are higher-minded, and that’s part of our state’s reputation. We like to be fair, we like to be even-handed in our treatment of others, and we don’t begrudge people for being the way they naturally are unless it hurts somebody else.

We’ve learned that gay people are, just like straight people, pretty much made that way. The instant you’ve established that, the case for equality is a no-brainer. Judge Robert Hanson made the logical choice. The question is, will Iowa rise to the occasion, or succumb to the leagues of the small-minded and willfully ignorant? Will we live up to our Constitution, or shit on it?

-jb

Free market fantasies.

Aug 28, 2007 in Uncategorized

Provided for free I have Noam Chomsky’s lecture “Free Market Fantasies” which you can either download here or listen to live below. I’m sure it will sizzle the circuits of our “free-market” loving readers who are avowed “capitalists” that operate independently outside the evils of “big government”.

[audio:http://iowaliberal.com/stuff/chomsky1.mp3]

-mg

Black socks or grey socks?

Aug 28, 2007 in Media

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps talks with Bill Moyers about media ownership and the end result of private ownership of a public resource.  Are public airwaves being used to serve the interests of the public or are they being used to serve the interests of an increasingly narrow sector of the economy?  Is democracy the freedom to choose between ideas and their outcomes or is democracy the freedom to choose between Big Macs or Whoppers?

[youtube Xh4TivFhmHk]

-mg

Totalitarian shenanigans.

Aug 28, 2007 in Constitution, Iraq, Politics

This is the logical progression of Bush’s policies. The whole article is essential reading, but this story stands above the usual corruption:

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers – all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.

The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co.

“It was a Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT – news – people ) for guns,” he says. “It was all illegal and everyone knew it.”

So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.

For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.

Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics “reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.”

A Special Forces team went to the trouble to rescue them first in order to torture them:

According to their suit, Vance and Ertel gathered photographs and documents, which Vance fed to Chicago FBI agent Travis Carlisle for six months beginning in October 2005. Carlisle, reached by phone at Chicago’s FBI field office, declined comment. An agency spokesman also would not comment.

The Iraqi company has since disbanded, according the suit.

Vance said things went terribly wrong in April 2006, when he and Ertel were stripped of their security passes and confined to the company compound.

Panicking, Vance said, he called the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where hostage experts got on the phone and told him “you’re about to be kidnapped. Lock yourself in a room with all the weapons you can get your hands on.'”

The military sent a Special Forces team to rescue them, Vance said, and the two men showed the soldiers where the weapons caches were stored. At the embassy, the men were debriefed and allowed to sleep for a few hours. “I thought I was among friends,” Vance said.

The men said they were cuffed and hooded and driven to Camp Cropper, where Vance was held for nearly three months and his colleague for a little more than a month. Eventually, their jailers said they were being held as security internees because their employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents, the lawsuit said.

The prisoners said they repeatedly told interrogators to contact Carlisle in Chicago. “One set of interrogators told us that Travis Carlisle doesn’t exist. Then some others would say, ‘He says he doesn’t know who you are,'” Vance said.

Let’s see, what should the rightwinger response to this be? What would come out after they hummed the Jeopardy tune in their head for a few seconds, trying to figure out a way the treatment of this Navy veteran was justified.

Well, first of all, they’ll have to do anything they can to character assassinate this guy. Veteran, schmeteran. Sometime, somewhere, a superior officer criticized him (I hear that happens in the military). Secondly, reinforce the military’s rationale: Claim this whistleblower really was in on the deal; surely somebody can tie him to some of the dirty sales. If not, insinuate it anyway via anonymous sources. For the cherry on the cheesecake, check his voting record. Has he ever given money to a Democrat running for office? If so, he’s toast, because that would explain everything.

Please let me know if you hear a winger trying any of these tactics. It will happen, because this is such an obvious affront to what kind of a country we identify ourselves as. This doesn’t represent George Washington’s America, it represents George W. Bush’s America. Power rules, the truth must be punished. The GOP base, still in love with Bush despite their noise, still believes he’s the presidential incarnation of Jack Bauer, breaking the rules for the “greater good,” all because he wants to “keep us safe.” They entirely approve of everything done here, even if the men were physically tortured.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of story that makes those outside the Cult of Bush ill, and so it cannot be allowed to stand as is. The good Christians of the base cannot brag of torturing whistleblowers openly. They even need to make excuses for themselves, else their consciences threaten to stir. But deep down, their feelings towards Donald Vance (and his co-whistleblower, Nathan Ertel) are simple to sum up: “Fuck you, you should have kept your mouth shut.”

-jb

The ML-Implode-o-meter needs help.

Aug 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

They need help fighting a frivolous lawsuit brought against them by Loan Center of California.

The ml-implode-o-meter has been invaluable source of information and for an outfit like the LCC to blame them for their own previous bad decisions is preposterous.

-mg

Not ending any time soon.

Aug 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

I got home from work tonight and opened up the London Financial Times and two leads struck me.  One concerns the increased number of stateside credit card defaults.  The other has to do with the continued worsening in the home resale market.  Both of these appear despite the constant banter amongst various CNBC and blogger dunderheads who think that the worst is behind us, the damage is “contained” and/or wont last for the remainder of the year.  For them, increasingly widespread mortgage defaults in an economy that is built exclusively on the maintenance of suburbia is no big deal.  The one piece of good news concerns my boss boosting his stake in Burlington Northern so there’s one bright spot on my 401K.  Decide for yourself what it means for happy motoring nation when railroad stocks start climbing.

I usually shy away from predictions because trying to forecast financial markets over the long term is almost as impossible as predicting human nature.  That is to say that the possibilities are damned near zero.  This post of mine came as close as I’ve ever gotten.

After today, however, one thing that I’m one hundred percent certain about is that the network fortune tellers predicting a holly, jolly Christmas are completely full of shit.   Dr. Housing Bubble feels the same way and has drawn some pretty frightening correlations between now and the stock market crash of 1929.  In fact, he says that in some ways it’s even worse.

-mg

What’s your Walk Score?

Aug 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

Click here to find out the walkability of your neighborhood.

My address in Iowa City got a 66.

-mg

James Kunstler’s speech to the Commonwealth Club of America.

Aug 26, 2007 in Economy, Peak Oil, Uncategorized

[audio:http://iowaliberal.com/stuff/James_Kunstler_Talk_3-26.mp3]

Wall Street librulz?!?

Aug 26, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics, Uncategorized

Right-wing activist commentators and entertainers have built a cottage industry on selling the idea that college campuses are crawling with goatee sporting, tweed jacket clad Marxists that are actively trying to turn their Christian sons and daughters queer.  Fuel for the fire are stories like this latest Boston Globe piece about campus academia giving more to Democrats (librulz!) than Republicans (angels!).  Never mind the fact that corporate giving and cash from Wall Street is flowing overwhelmingly to the Dems this year but stories like that don’t play well within the accepted framework of Limbaugh-style talking points so you never hear about them.

-mg

But he’s such a hunk!

Aug 26, 2007 in Uncategorized

Some Iowa Republicans aren’t too happy about Mitt Romney trying to buy Iowa votes. One group, Iowa Values Not for Sale, remains unswayed by his chiseled features and his fat wallet. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost steam after the straw-poll despite the fact that his victory appears to have been bought and paid for.

-mg

We’ll post about Morrissey if we damned-well feel like it.

Aug 26, 2007 in Britpop

I’ve never held out hope for a Smiths reunion.  Well, not after 1996, anyway.  However, a great many ardent fans continue to harbor fantasies of sitting front row while Mozz croons over Marr’s rolling chords.  Adding another coffin nail to those dreams is news that Morrissey recently turned down $75 million to tour with Johnny Marr.  Andy and Mike could go fuck themselves, apparently.

-mg

Sacrifice.

Aug 25, 2007 in Iraq

Jason Hubbard will be returning home after his brother Nathan, 21, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. Being the family’s last surviving son he’s covered under the Army’s “sole survivor” policy.  His sibling Jared Hubbard was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004.  Unbelievable.

-mg

Relentless!

Aug 25, 2007 in WTF?

Out of our numerous entries, spammers overwhelmingly prefer this post more than any of the others we’ve ever composed. Any ideas why?

-mg

Iowa Under Water.

Aug 24, 2007 in Environment, Iowa, Iowa City, Uncategorized

That’s me holding a Smallmouth bass at one of my favorite fishing locales in Iowa City. It’s the railroad bridge perpendicular to Riverside Drive right next to the historic Dairy Queen. It is also the point where the then Western-most train depot led way for Mormon trekkers who made preparations for their arduous journey West.

Concrete pylons narrow the path of the water and produce a sizable increase in hydraulic velocity which results in a “scour hole “, or depression, following or immediately behind the pylons, followed down stream by a wide-spreading “riffle” where the speed and force of the water column disperses. Hungry predator fish will predictably hold right at the leading edge of the pylon where the quick water meets the edge of the slack water. They will use that area as an “ambush point” because smaller forage fish will lose control and get disoriented by the quick water and become easy prey for larger, more opportunistic species which will patiently hold position in the “slack” water in order to conserve energy.

This morning I couldn’t fish at my above favorite location because it’s completely under water. In the picture I’m standing on top of the train bridges’ xxxxxxxx-most pylon because with a couple dozen medium-sized minnows it’s the most opportune location for crappies, white bass and the occasional walleye (and since I’m a fisherman I’m not about to completely disclose why). Unfortunately, during conditions of heavy precipitation, leisure activities are put on hold. The Iowa River watershed is expansive but because of the wise management of the Army Corp of Engineers, Iowa City is normally spared the tribulations caused by weather related flooding. Other Iowa locales haven’t been so lucky, my hometown included, and growing up in a miniscule river town I know their plight.

Since this is an Iowa blog I welcome any all photo contributions. It’s always amazing to witness the climate extremes everyday Iowans endure. Here’s to hoping that all who read this blog are safe and have enough fresh water to drink.  The DM Register has coverage.

-mg

Polls. We got polls.

Aug 24, 2007 in Election crap, Uncategorized

Well, Century of the Common Iowan has the poll up, not us, and even though we appeal to much the same demographic the larger sample set they have will yield more representative results. Then again if there are no further polls the validation of the data collected will be questionable because of an insufficient time series, lack of descriptive estimates of numerical characteristics, and/or descriptions of correlations and so on and so forth, etc, etc. Jesus, I just remembered how much I despised my Stat classes in Snedecor Hall.

I’m not surprised at the number of Edwardians but check out all those Dodd supporters!

Go vote here.

-mg

Iraq facade.

Aug 24, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Glenn Greenwald, Iraq, Middle East

Following the First World War, the British replaced the Turks as the rulers of Iraq. Under the direction of General Stanley Maude, British forces occupied the country and faced anti-imperialist agitation from the start. Despite Maude’s claim that “Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators”, revolts against foreign rule became widespread. As a result, Lord Curzon, the then current British foreign secretary, made the suggestion of an “Arab facade”. He defined it as a:

“facade ruled and administered under British guidance and controlled by a native Mohammedan and, as far as possible, by an Arab staff . . . There should be no actual incorporation of the conquered territory in the dominions of the conqueror, but the absorption may be veiled by such constitutional fictions as a protectorate, a sphere of influence, a buffer state and so on”

Fast forward to the Iraq of today it’s difficult to note any meaningful differences. Those who champion a free and democratic Iraq will in the same breath speak of the convenient replacement of elected leaders. Nuri al-Maliki currently finds himself in that situation. With little to no control over the security forces under his charge, al-Maliki has become the convenient fall-guy. As Glenn Greenwald points out:

Fred Hiatt turned his Op-Ed page over to Allawi two weeks ago to argue — in the most establishment-pleasing tones — that “Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government” and that “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.” In other words, our wise Washington Leaders have done the Right and Good thing in Iraq, but that scoundrel Maliki is the key impediment preventing Success.

Enter Iyad Allawi as our new “native Mohammedan” who currently has the convenient backing of the most powerful GOP lobbying firm in the country. He’s got a lot of things going for him. He’s demonstrated his obedience to Washington for upwards of twenty years and, more importantly I think, he’s providing this administration with an opportunity to stall on promises of a troop draw-down because you “don’t change horses mid-stream” when we’re “turning a corner” on a “new ray of hope for Iraq” or whatever sound bite you like. It also provides a good excuse to ignore the much anticipated and vaunted report by General Petraeus.

-mg

Another cut and run Repubican

Aug 23, 2007 in Uncategorized

Sen. John Warner wants troop draw downs within one Friedman Unit.

-mg

Siouxsie Sioux

Aug 23, 2007 in Uncategorized

My fandom is confined to the incredible Twice upon a Time singles collection, but this song was the shiznit in the dizay for me…I must have watched it dozens of times. It feels just as good to me today. Good lord, she was a beautiful woman, goofy dance moves and all:

[youtube FBm-m67d3Bg]

-jb

Old people are fucking!

Aug 23, 2007 in Uncategorized

Today’s Washington Post is proudly proclaiming that yes, your parents are fucking!

“This study paints a portrait of this aspect of older Americans’ lives that suggests a previously uncharacterized vitality and interest in sexuality,” agreed Georgeanne E. Patmios of the National Institute on Aging, the primary funder of the study. “This has not perhaps been fully appreciated.” …

“We just don’t know very much about sexuality in the later years,” said Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York, a nonprofit think tank. “There’s been a tremendous amount of resistance to such studies. That’s what makes this so terrific.”

There’s been a tremendous amount of resistance because there aren’t too many people that are at all interested in senior citizens fucking.  But, I suppose it’s terrific news for all of you out there who are curious about your parents sexual well-being.

[youtube GxXcH0HWnoE]

-mg

Bush official in contempt of court.

Aug 23, 2007 in Environment

When will those little black-robed tools learn the limits of their power?

A federal judge in Montana has ordered the Bush administration’s top forestry official to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for the U.S. Forest Service’s failure to analyze the environmental impact of dropping fish-killing fire retardant on wildfires.

If found in contempt, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, could go to jail until the Forest Service complies with the court order to do the environmental review.

Noting that Rey had blocked implementation of an earlier review, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Malloy in Missoula, Mont., ordered Rey to appear in his court Oct. 15 unless the Forest Service completes the analysis before that time.

Obviously he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court because he’s a Bush administration official. Courts have no power over them. Congress has no power over them. There was an election, you see? That was THE accountability moment. There can be no more accountability! How can you waste the time of the Bush administration with such piffle:

Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, an environmental group based in Eugene, filed the lawsuit in 2003, a year after more than 20,000 fish were killed when toxic retardant was dropped in Fall Creek in central Oregon.

In 2005, Malloy ruled that the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it failed to go through a public process to analyze the potential environmental harm of using ammonium phosphate, a fertilizer that kills fish, as the primary ingredient in fire retardant dropped on wildfires.

It’s just fish, you see. They don’t matter, and there’s no way toxins in our fish could enter our bodies when we eat…fish. Anyway, it just ends up in the ocean, and the ocean is really big. Those chemicals just go somewhere, okay? It’s not like they’re going to pop up before Bush is outta there.

-jb

Michael Vick’s new jersey.

Aug 23, 2007 in Sport

The Onion nails it once again.

-mg

Bush administration relaxes standards on poisonous Chinese products? No way!

Aug 22, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Politics

This is so out of character.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn’t used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products…Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker.

The left and, by now, the middle know this is exactly how the Bush administration operates. The only aberration is that they didn’t publicize it as the “Lead-free Children Initiative.”

Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six hundred parts per million.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

The right, on the other hand, expects this kind of behavior out of their elected representatives. They demand that corporations be allowed to poison the public freely. After all, if people don’t like their children growing sick and dying, they’ll stop buying the cheap ass junk coming out of China, won’t they? Markets regulate themselves just fine.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”

“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened,” said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.

The problem with them, of course, is that they’re communist liberals and that this effort to keep poisonous toys out of children’s hands is just another socialist scheme to destroy our healthy economy. If a politician wants to let China ignore safety regulations, thus guaranteeing a certain number of sick and dead children, it’s OK, because he’s guaranteed himself a rightwinger’s vote. Yeah, every once in awhile a Republican ends up with a dead kid, but they know to suck it up for the party. If not, the extra campaign donation from Wal-mart helps make up for it.

-jb

Tony Snow’s cancer.

Aug 21, 2007 in Health Care, Politics, tony snow

Two of our regular commenters, amiably wrong but beloved Dana Pico and the crank troll LL, went rushing to Tony Snow’s defense after I lambasted his excuse for leaving that $168,000 a year wasn’t enough for him to “make it financially.” Tony has cancer, you see, so according to Dana, he’s going to go earn a bunch of money to leave behind. According to LL, I’m “picking on Tony Snow,” which would make me “small and petty.” Allow me to make a post out of my comment response:

Look…if Tony was making excuses to avoid saying, “I’m dying,” I can understand and sympathize. And if he actually said he just wanted to stack up some more money to leave his family after he’s gone, that would be another thing. But there’s a problem, fellas. Both you, LL, and Dana, have supposed these possibilities without any support whatsoever. I’m basing my opinion off what actually came out of Snow’s mouth.

So saying that he just can’t make it financially off $168K is an insult to the 95% of Americans who don’t make that much. That’s just a plain fact, and he’s still responsible for the content of his public statements. And if he’s going off to talk radio or Faux News again, he’s likely going to continue his career of spinning and criticizing others. If criticizing his comments is “picking on” him, then he should get out of the arena entirely.

It’s funny, Republicans say things like, “The 9/11 widows are having a ball exploiting their dead husbands!” and then whine at the backlash, saying, “What, can’t we argue with them?” I’m just asking why Tony Snow didn’t behave throughout his life like we’re told all good Republicans behave- and what are other Americans supposed to feel about the economy if he thinks he can’t make it on that much money? Tony’s sick? So are millions of Americans. Are his health care costs driving him under? Same for millions of Americans. What are they supposed to do when treating their cancer bankrupts them? How few have the option to go grab a new job that pays ten times as much?

If Tony Snow had cancer, but was pulling in $35K with no health insurance, he’d be irresponsible, or even worse, invisible, to Dana and LL. Such folks always are, until they’re somebody you know. As it is, Tony’s going to go rake in a pile of cash to cover his expenses, and part of his million-dollar job description will be to keep telling Americans they’d better guard their wallets from national health care and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If you’re stuck in the top 5% of earners, you gotta get in that 1%, bro! That’s the beauty of the American economy.

-jb

Biden and Edwards at the Hamburg.

Aug 21, 2007 in Election crap, Iowa City

John Deeth has got a jukebox full of great music*. He’s also got the skinny on recent Dem visits to Iowa City’s Hamburg Inn.

-mg

*Attempts to play Sham 69 will take you zinging off to some error page so be forewarned!

Fools rush in.

Aug 21, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy, Media

My worst fears of the News Corp. takeover of the Wall Street Journal may yet be realized. Bearish analyst Peter Schiff, President of Euro Pacific Capital, got shouted down for being anti-American when he appeared on FOX New’s Cavuto on Business and suggested that last weeks late stock rally after the Bernanke rate-cut life preserver didn’t mean that we’re out of the woods quite yet. Schiff got similar treatment when he (correctly) predicted last year that the fundamentals in the MBS markets were off kilter.

The Wall Street Journal is arguably one of the best news reporting organizations in the world. There is some flag-waving but it’s strictly confined to the editorial pages. You could make the identical observation of other noteworthy publications like the London Financial Times and The Economist. This stands in stark contrast to FOX News where the line between reporting and analysis is frequently blurred and rational decision making gives way to ideology and theology. If this trend ebbs into the business side of reporting there’s a great chance that their viewers will be as ill-informed of finance as they are the world around them. Cheerleading them on to ruin will be Neil Cavuto. As Adrian Ash writes in Whiskey and Gunpowder:

The one thing needful at the top of each bubble, the rabble also takes on the role of greatest sucker, too. Piling in as the smart money runs for the exits, the common or garden investor pays top price. He or she is then left holding the “asset” as its price collapses…and by that time, the Lear jets have long since cleared the tarmac…taking the money with them.

Think of it as the classic “life cycle” pitch from your financial adviser, only with a sidesplitting twist. There, you’ll find a retirement wannabe moving from “accumulation” to “distribution” and then “legacy.” In a market-wide bubble, by contrast, the smart money first accumulates an asset, before distributing it to the dumb money, which is then left holding a legacy of wipeout losses and debt.

FOX News gets a lot of scorn thrown their way for some obvious and infinitely discussed reasons but I think that some of the histrionics are a little undeserved when you sit back and consider the source of their frustration; a network built on cop chases, missing white-women and two-headed babies presented by a secular priesthood of sports jocks, their bimbo girlfriends and dirty old men. If you want to take financial advice from that motley crew then be my guest but here’s to hoping Murdoch will keep those same dullards out of the reporting offices of the WSJ.

-mg

Hawkeye felons.

Aug 21, 2007 in Hawkeyes

Congratulations to sophomore wide receivers Dominique Martinez Douglas and Anthony Maurice Bowman!  You’re the first University of Iowa athletes of the 2007/2008 season to get busted on felony charges.  They were arrested this last weekend for racking up more than $2,000 in purchases on a stolen credit card.  Never a dull moment at the U of I athletic department.

-mg

Best…comment thread…ever.

Aug 20, 2007 in Uncategorized

I think we have our first certifiably insane commenter.

Obama runs the gauntlet.

Aug 20, 2007 in Barack Obama, Election crap, Iowa

Jesus, I never thought I’d post a vid from FOX:

[youtube ucMXvMXQ7aw]

Doug Burns of Iowa Independent has a thorough blow-by-blow.

Dem contenders will be a little less eager to take Obama to task in the future now that he’s shown that he can turn the cross hairs into the spotlight.

-mg

Why does the 82nd Airborne hate America?

Aug 20, 2007 in Iraq

News from the ground:

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

The original article is here and it is a must read.

-mg

The Register on top.

Aug 20, 2007 in Media

This should help increase the advertising rates the Des Moines Register is able to charge.   They’ve topped a Scarborough Research list of newspapers with the most market penetration.   I’d like to believe that this is a testament to their world-class reporting but one must first consider that except for regional papers the Register has absolutely no competition.

-mg

Librul ravings!

Aug 20, 2007 in Housing Bubble

Ultra-Left, moonbat, commie Richard Bove says:

“There are too many people who have made too many bad business decisions that are getting bailed as a result of the Fed’s decision,” including Countrywide’s Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo, Bove said in an interview…

There are dozens of people who are getting bailed out and I don’t understand why they should be,” said Bove, a Lutz, Florida-based analyst for Punk Ziegel of New York. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke “should have let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

-mg

Market discipline is for suckers. Part II

Aug 20, 2007 in Economy, Uncategorized

After the Great Depression, government planners, most notably the Nazis, figured out that the sun had set on a system more closely resembling Adam Smith’s classical laissez-faire models of capitalism and that massive state expenditures were necessary to stimulate a dead-on-its-ass economy. For rhetorical reasons we couldn’t call that socialism so we came up with fancy names like Military Keynesianism and somewhere along the line that became what people think of as a capitalist economy when in fact it has little to do with the original classical formulations just as how the Soviet Union had little to do with Karl Marx’s philosophies on Communism. One key factor you can set your watch to is that when push comes to shove, large concentrations of power get the nanny state while the little guy gets to “pull himself up by the bootstraps”.

Ralph Nader illustrates some of these differences in a short quote from his last piece in Counterpunch:

My father many years ago asked his children during dinner table conversation: “Why will capitalism always survive?” His answer: “Because socialism will always be used to save it.” As a small businessman himself (a restaurateur), he was not referring to the little guys on Main Street. He was talking about the Big Boys. Today, we call these self-paying CEOs “corporate capitalists.”

By cutting the discount rate and dumping cash into the market to increase “liquidity” (a hand-out, basically) the Fed is in essence throwing Wall Street a life preserver. There isn’t any talk of a wider bailout yet but you can be quite sure that there will be should the bloodbath continue. And it wouldn’t be the first time. When malfeasance and folly resulted in the S&L crisis Wall Street headed straight to Washington, hat in hand. When the Mexican bubble burst and Goldman Sachs was against the ropes, John Q. Taxpayer was obligated to ride to the rescue. Nader’s article asks the obvious question; in a so-called free market economy why should we absolve the participants of risk?

More and more, corporate capitalists inside and beyond the financial markets do not want to behave as capitalists-willing to take the losses along with the profits. They want Washington, D.C., meaning you the taxpayers, to pay for their facilities (as with big time sports stadiums) or take on their losses because they believe that they are too big to be allowed to fail (as with large banks or industrial companies).

These corporate capitalists should be exposed when they always say that government is the problem whenever it moves to help the little guys with health and safety regulations, for example, but government is wonderful when the bureaucrats are summoned to perform missions to rescue them from their own greed and folly.

There are some basic truths that aren’t supposed to be uttered and chief amongst them is that regardless of all the lofty rhetoric about the grand nature of the free market, government intervenes heavily in the economy on behalf of private industry thereby mitigating or in some cases completely eliminating risk, a primary component of capitalism.
-mg

At least Tony Snow has an infinite supply of chutzpah.

Aug 20, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy, Politics

Hard times for Tony Snow

The 52-year-old Snow, the father of three children, earns $168,000 as an assistant to the president but made considerably more as a conservative pundit and syndicated talk-show host on Fox News Radio. He was named press secretary on April 26, 2006…

…”I will not be able to make it to the end of this administration, just financially,” Snow said. “This job has been such a pleasant surprise in how much I like it. I love it.”

Gosh, didn’t Tony save wisely when he was earning the big bucks, just like all Republicans do? Tony Snow can’t feed three kids on $168,000 a year? Tony Snow can’t pay his medical bills for the cancer treatment he just underwent? He’s in the top five percent of earners. Seems like ninety-five percent of America is expected to do just dandy on less…most on a lot, lot less. Does Tony have a color TV with cable? Look at that…he’s the cause of his own poverty. He really needs some pull-yerself-up-by-the-bootstraps Republican philosophy. Listen to Brian Pickrell:

Conservative beliefs and principles, on the whole, work. If you’re willing to sacrifice and work hard, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and be something better than you are today. You may hit a few bumps in the road and be tempted to just give up, but if you stick with it, you’ll be better off for it.

Brian would love to be earning $168,000 a year. Hell, he’d love to have a job right now, period. It’s hard to find a job to support a wife and two kids that allows you to blog all day from your desk. People just don’t understand how to reward a truly responsible guy.

Tony Snow probably has become accustomed to a lifestyle that can’t be maintained on $168K a year. What’s certain is that he can’t possibly be tired of lying. Since his first days, he’s done it with flagrant ease, dropping the most shameless whoppers and howlers on reporters and then laughing at them like they’re stupid for not lapping it up like bukkake queens. The only thing we can be sure he believes in is legal tender, and his stint as WH press secretary has undoubtedly ripened his financial prospects.

The other 95% us shall continue to make do. Coming up: Iowa Liberal’s first fundraiser! The liquor cabinet is looking mighty dry…time to see if this venture can generate some booze cash!

-jb

Market discipline is for suckers.

Aug 19, 2007 in Farming, Iowa

From today’s Des Moines Register:

Cass County farmer Blaine Behnken asked the candidates during today’s Democratic presidential debate how they plan to help small farms protect themselves from large companies that take over the rural landscape.

Behnken, 35, said he felt none of the candidates adequately answered the question and were, instead, largely sidetracked with a follow-up question about trade agreements.

“It seems like everybody is worried about war and health care, but I thought, well, nobody is worried about farming,” Behnken said.

An appropriate question to ask Mr. Behnken would be “do you have paid lobbyists w0rking on your behalf in Washington?”  If not, then you’re one of the tragic consequences of farm bills that disregard family farmers.

-mg

Oil: The difference between then and now.

Aug 19, 2007 in Energy

The Oil Drum makes some conclusions about supply and demand:

Rising prices had another effect in the 1970s, they spurred investment in exploration and production in areas that had previously not been cost efficient. Building rigs in the hostile waters of the North Sea, or in the wilds of Alaska, made little sense while Saudi crude was available for $3 a barrel. But if the Saudi’s oil was restricted, and the price had shot up north of $30, then a lot of new oil suddenly became competitive. And because the key expenses are upfront – building the infrastructure in the first place – then once the new oil came on stream then it was unlikely to be removed, irrespective of the price of oil. The oil supply curve moved to the right.

The impact of a supply curve that moved right (more supply at any given price), and a demand curve that moved left (less demand at any given price) was a collapse in the market clearing price. By 1985, the oil price had fallen back to $10. On an inflation-adjusted basis, oil was as cheap as it had been before the 1973 oil shock.

…And over the long-term, high oil prices will tend to encourage consumers to either reduce energy consumption or shift to other forms of energy. Similarly, investment in either inhospitable areas or in developing technologies will result in greater quantities of oil or synthetic crude coming on to the market. Each boom in the oil price sows the seeds of its own destruction.

The directions economic winds flow are well known. A higher price of oil will drive a pursuit towards other forms of energy. Unfortunately, in 1985 there wasn’t any need, as oil was still plentiful, and cheap to get once the upfront costs of exploration and drilling were addressed. The scope of the political problem with OPEC was limited and due to expire.

Twenty-two years later, the equation is vastly different. Politics won’t diminish the exports of other countries, the dwindling oil supply will. Oil prices could crash, I imagine, upon the invention of cheap fusion-powered cars, but outside of such science fiction stories, nothing stands to match the ubiquitous nature of petroleum in a time frame we will find comfortable. Oil will still be useful to us when it becomes rare, an inevitability that will send a shock through the markets that will make recent tremors look like tics. Our demand for travel can only dip so low, and the roads to affordable new kinds of supply are long and rocky.

-jb

Shorter Rudy…

Aug 17, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

[youtube xarwt3RJXy4]

Vote for me, folks, because the barbarians are at the gate!

What are Republicans running on this year besides xenophobia? Taxes? Abortion? Icky gays? Besides calling Democrats effete, girly-men they’re at a complete loss for ideas.  And what happens if Hillary is nominated?  Are they going to say she’s too girly or that she’s too manly?

-mg

Unbelievable.

Aug 17, 2007 in Energy, Environment

Jesus.  We use 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to produce the plastic bottles used for bottled water?  And judging by the wastebaskets here at work I’ll bet a sizable majority of that quickly ends up in the local landfill.

I’ve got a modicum of common sense so hearing that bottled water was no different than tap water didn’t come as an earth shaking revelation.  One of the dullards I work with “just couldn’t believe it”.  This is the same person who thinks that the Earth’s mantle naturally produces liquid hydrocarbons so I shouldn’t be that surprised.

-mg

Viva victory!

Aug 17, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture

Sharon, the legal czar over at our trusted friend Dana Pico’s group blog, ever ironically named Common Sense Political Thought, finally throws in the towel on our epic gay marriage debate.

Of course, she declares victory before scampering away. Yet I think on the merits of each reason she claimed gays don’t have a right to equal recognition of their marriages, I circumvented and surpassed her talking points. Sharon whined about my rough language, but freely and frequently dished it out herself. I waded through the muck and dealt with the logic just fine. And I feel just fine, despite being called all manner of names and having my faculties attacked at every juncture. Why? Because I know the difference between reason and rhetoric. I don’t really care what I get called (full disclosure: actually, it always stings, for about 2.5 seconds…), what concerns me is the thought that my reasoning might be in error, invalid, incomplete, or lacking elegance. Typically I feel I lack elegance, and that I’m missing something which will drive my points home into the heart of my opponent, but I take care that my premises are factual and that my conclusions validly follow from them. If not, it’s time to rethink my position, isn’t it?

I will admit, Sharon did make me dust off a few cobwebs and actually go look some things up. It’s been years since I bothered going twelve rounds with one of her kind, and she was one of the more sophisticated among them, heavy on legal precedent, careful to avoid too many explicit negative comments about homosexuality or any but the most vague references to religion. But in the end she was left tangled in her own rhetoric, mocking my strange practice of consulting the dictionary to define words, ignoring the precedent for my Constitutional philosophy, and refusing to answer a question as fundamental to the question of treating gays equally as “Is homosexuality a choice?” A red herring, said she. The very crux of it all, said I.

But, like Chomsky always says, don’t take my word for it. Check it out, tell me what you think. Did I refuse to answer any questions? Did I refuse to explain any position I took? Did I avoid Sharon’s actual arguments in favor of straw men I felt easier to take down? Did I misuse any logical fallacies, or rely on any for an argument (I said RELY, I’ll gleefully sprinkle some rhetoric on top of my logical foundations)? Did my arguments become stale, unable to flow or expand to accommodate new information given to me? Or was Sharon painted into a corner, left with no option but to repeat herself over and over again and marvel that it didn’t work on me?

The method of argument is a wonderful thing. All the noise dissipates, and it becomes quite mathematical. And opposition to gay marriage is fundamentally irrational. When all the facts are in, it simply doesn’t add up.

Incidentally, Andrew Sullivan’s wedding to his partner Aaron is approaching. His “jitters” are moving and, as always, thought-provoking. I wish him the best. One day this entire nation will honor the Constitution and recognize his humanity, and therefore his equality.

-jb

UPDATE: After shutting down comments, in a thread where I was severely outnumbered by rightwingers, Sharon writes a post titled, “Liberal Bloggers in the Echo Chamber.” Priceless!

Enjoy your echo chamber, Sharon…I’m not sorry to have disrupted it!

What a bargain!

Aug 16, 2007 in Uncategorized

The Pentagon paid a South Carolina parts supplier $998,798 to ship two 19-cent washers.  

-mg

Countrywide is bankrupt.

Aug 16, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble

Countrywide, like a lot of the home owners they servicem, are completely tapped out:

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) — Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, tapped an entire $11.5 billion bank line as the global credit crunch curbed access to short-term financing…

… “When a company draws on its bank lines, it just basically gives off the impression that it has run out of options,” said Christopher Wolfe, managing director at Fitch Ratings, which today dropped Countrywide to BBB+, its third-lowest investment- grade rating. “Typically these bank lines are there but not really meant to be used.”

This means that it’s very likely that they’ll be filing for Chapter 11 protection soon. I’m absolutely positive Dana and LL will expend great amounts of time excoriating these 100+ mortgage companies for their short-sighted bumblings and recommend they forgo government protection and simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Yup, that Bush economy is ticking right along!

-mg

Final Frontiers.

Aug 15, 2007 in Iowa, Science

I never quite understood this drive to colonize either our moon or Mars. I’ll admit that when thought of in terms of the enormous sums we shovel into the coffers of Halliburton or Blackwater, manning a space station seems a helluva lot more compelling mode of Military Keynesianism. Still, I’ve always thought that we could probably save the money and colonize an area just as inhabitable and crummy; the Arctic. I may be on to something. Turns out Tibet is most like Pluto. I would have guessed Humboldt, Iowa in mid January. It’s cold, lifeless, and the inhabitants certainly behave like bizarre, single-celled organisms.

– mg

Long way down.

Aug 15, 2007 in Housing Bubble

What is it about flying that always encourages any latent upper respiratory illnesses you may have lingering in the background to come bursting through with Shakespearean revenge? I just returned from my sister’s wedding in Seattle yesterday and I’ve been hacking up cobwebs and lime dust since our layover in Denver.

I’ve always thought Denver a very unremarkable city. Probably because I went to college at Iowa State University where everybody just looooooves Colorado. Iowans, especially those west of I35, are absolutely enthralled by the state and somewhere along the way all that unchecked adulation left a bad taste in my mouth. I think it’s because for some of these Midwesterners it’s the first major topography they’ve ever encountered in their lives which, understandably, leaves a major impression on the psyche. The mountains are indisputably beautiful regardless of how many times you may have seen them. That is if you can see them through the quite sizable smog layer that accompanies most major metropolitan areas. And like most cities these days Denver is also plagued by rising mortgage default rates. Looking down from the plane you can see miles upon miles of tract housing erected out on the desolate east Colorado prairie. All of them with lawyer foyers and accessible only by car. I thought that it would be interesting if like playing a computer game such as SimCity you could click on an icon and light up all the houses that are currently receiving thirty, sixty or ninety day default notices.

Even while our Empire of Debt is crumbling before our eyes cable news is packed wall to wall with doe-eyed pundits predicting an inevitable upswing delivered just in time for Christmas. Divinations like these couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s a chart showing ARM reset schedules:

The truth is that we’ve got a long time before the last of the resets start resulting in defaults. In fact, the worst is yet to come because when people finally abandon their foolish pride, leave the keys on the kitchen table and walk out that front door it will take months before those houses move their way through the local inventory and their values slowly erode. And remember, all the NordicTracs, plasma televisions and Ethan Allen davenports that are packed into those ugly tract houses were purchased by loans predicated entirely on imaginary “equity” so the devaluation will cascade through all areas of the economy before we finally hit rock bottom.

-mg

Benedict Rove.

Aug 15, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

Andrew Sullivan on Rove, being as polite as is possible with the pigfucker:

The man’s legacy is a conservative movement largely discredited and disunited, a president with lower consistent approval ratings than any in modern history, a generational shift to the Democrats, a resurgent al Qaeda, an endless catastrophe in Iraq, a long hard struggle in Afghanistan, a fiscal legacy that means bankrupting America within a decade, and the poisoning of American religion with politics and vice-versa. For this, he got two terms of power – which the GOP used mainly to enrich themselves, their clients and to expand government’s reach and and drain on the productive sector. In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America’s 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country. Such a choice was and remains despicable.

Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war – and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so.

The only thing that weighs in Rove’s favor is that Bush’s team also included Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Was Rove the sole architect, or did he merely execute the dreams of the PNAC cabal? It’s hard to believe the man had any real principle or belief whatsoever, except worship of power. If he was more than passingly acquainted with the Constitution and the grand vision of our Founding Fathers, it was in order to undermine it.

Karl Rove didn’t just try to gut the goose that laid the golden egg. He put it through a wood-chipper, beak first. His mindless and soulless desire for victory at all costs infused old allegories with new meaning. Every story of those who lost all that mattered in their quest for power possesses fresh ink. History has repeated itself again.

Will Karl Rove look back and lament his proclamations, as Machiavelli did? Further Republican defeats may do the trick, as this is the only language he speaks. There was no ethic, no morality, no honor, no humanity in this depraved fuck. Only a dream of a “permanent Republican majority,” most vivid in his mind as his eyes looked upon the ashes of 9/11.

While Rove leaves, his legacy endures. Most will see the damage, but to the GOP faithful, he taught them everything they know, including how to spin his departure. He’s gone because his presence hurts future election campaigns, but he will continue to live on in the heart of the GOP for at least a generation. After that? The heat dissipated, he’ll be resurrected as a hero.

Our country has seen few worse traitors.

-jb

The Phoenix effect.

Aug 13, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble

We are no butterfly.

When our wings flap, the earth shakes.

From New York to Frankfurt to Tokyo, markets were jolted in the past week by fears that Americans are failing to keep up with their mortgage payments and the ripple effects that could have on the global banking and financial system.

The fallout could further depress U.S. housing prices by making it harder to find buyers for a glut of foreclosed homes. That, coupled with a drop in the value of investments, could leave U.S. consumers feeling poorer and less likely to spend on domestic and imported goods.

Around the globe, small-time investors are taking a beating. Stock prices have slid in recent days as fears of the market crisis infected markets worldwide. Worried investors sold stocks but finding buyers was hard, which caused share prices to dip even lower.

“We all feel threatened, problems on the stock exchange have consequences for the economy of America and of the world” said Gabriella Savarini, a 69-year-old shopkeeper in Rome. “America influences all, for good or for bad.”

The question is, is this a ruffling of the feathers, or are the wings on fire?

– Total consumer credit: $1.7 trillion.
– Credit card debt carried by the average American: $8,562.
– Total finance charges Americans paid in 2001: $50 billion.
– Percent of U.S. households deemed credit worthy by the lending industry: 78%.
– Number of credit card holders who declared bankruptcy last year: 1.3 million.

Enter the comfortable and dutiful economic columnist to assure us that after the fire, the phoenix will rise again.

When the dust settles, investors will have learned not to put blind trust in rating agencies, which are paid by bond issuers and so have an incentive to exaggerate how safe bonds are. And when the dust settles, the market for subprime mortgages will revive and thrive in dull obscurity.

Don’t worry, folks…the rich will remain rich, and vampire creditors will have figured out exactly how much blood the American consumer can lose before they drop dead.

One might reason that if vampires exist, so also must the phoenix. America has risen from the ashes before, but one must ask, have we truly been in this situation before? History does repeat itself, but which old story is being retold here? The junk bonds fiasco of the ’80s, as Sebastian Mallaby claims, or a much older and familiar tale for mankind, that of Rome?

-jb

Nedra Pickler must never write about Democrats again.

Aug 10, 2007 in Journamalism, Politics

I have NO goddamn clue why Nedra Pickler (I mentioned her before here) keeps her Associated Press job, but why she gets to keep writing hit-piece articles on Democrats year after year demands rectification! It’s about time to hire the A-team to go after whatever editor keeps assigning her to write articles about Democratic candidates.

Her latest target: John Edwards. Now I don’t really give a rat’s ass about Edwards’ campaign. As far as I’m concerned, he couldn’t beat Kerry in 2004, he couldn’t bring in his home state, he looked like a scared puppy at a loss for words going up against an easy target like Dick Cheney, and he freakin’ resigned his Senator job after one term…in other words, he’s over. Running in ’08 is just ridiculous, when absolutely nothing happened since ’04, except that he barely stopped campaigning.

All that aside, that’s still no reason to endorse another classic pile of junk from Nedra Pickler, pretending to be some objective analyst. This about made me go find some food to spit out:

Anger can be a tricky emotion for a politician. In 2004, Howard Dean was known as the angry candidate and it proved to be part of his downfall.

Well, I was going to fire off some rounds at Nedra, but I’ll be damned if every single article of hers I looked up from 2003/2004 on Dean is in oblivion. Go ahead, try to find one. ABC, WaPo, Yahoo…and you’d think AP articles would be sprinkled all over…and every time I got, “Article not found.” Did the AP do some scrubbing? Beats me, though if I were a rightwing blogger I’d declare it fact.

Anyway, Nedra’s already had her little shot at Obama, and now Salon demonstrates that Nedra’s up to the same tricks with Edwards.

Could the AP please be bothered to stop letting Nedra Pickler cover Democrats? The Associated Press supposed to be transparent, authors are supposed to be invisible and merely convey the news, but Nedra Pickler keeps trying to make the news (earning the wrath of Atrios…scan the whole page). Time for the woman to get “human interest stories” duty covering church restorations and new ideas in gardening, and for the AP to quit impersonating the Fox Opinion Channel.

-jb

Oof…

Aug 09, 2007 in Journamalism

Stephen Bainbridge fails to understand that the press is indeed the fourth estate, with a duty to perform that no democracy can survive without.

Fallows’ claim that it’s “obvious” that journalism isn’t a regular business is precisely the sort of hubris that leads journalists to think of themselves as some sort of fourth branch of government, with a mandate to act as an ombudsman for society. It would be silly, if it were not so pernicious.

Gee, where did people get that silly idea?

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

-Thomas Jefferson

Or…

Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or witty saying; it is a literal fact, — very momentous to us in these times…Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. Writing brings Printing; brings universal everyday extempore Printing, as we see at present. Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures. The requisite thing is, that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite. The nation is governed by all that has tongue in the nation: Democracy is virtually there.

-Thomas Carlyle (1841)

To the extent that our journalists are pressured and shaped to basically sell advertising, our democracy is perverted. That Bainbridge finds this “silly” reflects a true lack of seriousness and execrable corporate worship.

-jb