Commentary on whatever I am thinking about, usually written while watching baseball.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Christmas Is the The Time to Say I Love You
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The FISA bill is on the move in the Senate.
My letter to the Senate Majority Leader.
To not hold telecoms accountable for their complicity in the Bush administration's crimes makes a mockery of the rule of law.
After all, those who haven't committed crimes don't seek immunity from prosecution.
Allowing these crimes to go unpunished does not serve the interests of the United States or its people. So why then would you capitulate to a wildly unpopular, lame duck president?
Please reconsider your course of action on this matter and send the message that there are consequences to criminal activity, no matter how deep your pockets.
You can e-mail your thoughts to Reid here. Sen. Chris Dodd has promised a filibuster. Throw him some support here.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Somehow I doubt the cost of document shredding has gone up 541 percent since 2000. So there must be some other way to explain how the federal government went from spending $452,807 on paper shredding service contracts in 2000 to $2,902,855 in 2006.
It’s nice to know that while the Bush administration covers its tracks, We The People foot the bill.
So, in addition to being a greenhouse polluter, coal is more radioactive than nucelar waste.
Don’t expect the Bush administration’s energy policy to change as a result of this. After all, the policy is based on who has the deepest pockets, not what's best for the country, planet or people’s health.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
When I read this, I knew it was bullshit, because George Bush has never done anything that has indicated a real conern for the nonrich. Therefore, the idea that Bush would unveil a plan to help people with subprime mortgages was patently ludicrous.
Distraught homeowners facing the grim prospect their monthly mortgage payments soon will surge found hope Thursday they can hold onto their houses by qualifying for a five-year freeze in loan rates.If this doesn’t strike you as U.S. Grade A crapola, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The plan is the Bush administration's biggest move yet to show it is dealing aggressively with the mortgage crisis. The escalating problem is becoming a political issue and threatening to push the country into a recession.
"The holidays are fast approaching and this will be a time of anxiety for Americans worried about their mortgages and their homes," Bush said. The administration's efforts, he said, are "a sensible response to a serious challenge."
I assumed that what was really happening was that banks were reposessing properties and then having a hard time reselling them, getting stuck with assets that are producing no revenue and losing value every day. I figured this plan was designed to keep the cash rolling in from mortgagees and to allow the White House to take credit for a politically popular initiative.
Turns out I wasn't cynical enough.
In fact, there’s a growing consensus among financial observers that the Paulson plan isn’t mainly intended to achieve real results. The point is, instead, to create the appearance of action, [kind of sounds like “it just looks like results,” huh? — Dr. S] thereby undercutting political support for actual attempts to help families in trouble.So, much like Bush’s tax cuts, this plan is designed to help the rich and marketed as assistance to the nonrich. (Remember that “By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum” bullshit?) And, like Bush’s tax cuts, this plan does almost nothing to help the nonrich.
In particular, the Paulson plan is probably an attempt to take the wind out of Barney Frank’s sails. Mr. Frank, the Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has sponsored legislation that would give judges in bankruptcy cases the ability to rewrite mortgage loan terms. But “Bankers Hope Bush Subprime Plan Will Scuttle House Bill,” as a headline in CongressDaily put it.
As Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard bankruptcy expert, puts it, “The administration’s subprime mortgage plan is the bank lobby’s dream.” Given the Bush record, that should come as no surprise.
There are, in fact, three distinct concerns associated with the rising tide of foreclosures in America.
One is financial stability: as banks and other institutions take huge losses on their mortgage-related investments, the financial system as a whole is getting wobbly.
Another is human suffering: hundreds of thousands, and probably millions, of American families will lose their homes.
Finally, there’s injustice: the subprime boom involved predatory lending — high-interest loans foisted on borrowers who qualified for lower rates — on an epic scale. The Wall Street Journal found that more than 55 percent of subprime loans made at the height of the housing bubble “went to people with credit scores high enough to often qualify for conventional loans with far better terms.”
And in a declining housing market, these victims are stuck, unable to refinance.
So there are three problems. But Mr. Paulson’s plan — or, to use its official name, the Hope Now Alliance plan — is entirely focused on reducing investor losses. Any minor relief it might provide to troubled borrowers is clearly incidental. And it is does nothing for the victims of predatory lending.
The plan sets voluntary guidelines under which some, but only some, borrowers whose mortgage payments are set to rise may get temporary relief.
This is supposed to help investors, because foreclosing on a house is expensive: there are big legal fees, and the house normally sells for less than the value of the mortgage. “Foreclosure is to no one’s benefit,” said Mr. Paulson in a White House interactive forum. “I’ve heard estimates that mortgage investors lose 40 to 50 percent on their investment if it goes into foreclosure.”
But won’t the borrowers gain, too? Not if the planners can help it. Relief is restricted to borrowers whose mortgage debt is at least 97 percent of the house’s value — which means that in many, perhaps most, cases those who get debt relief will be borrowers who owe more than their house is worth. These people would be nearly as well off in financial terms if they simply walked away.
And what about people with good credit who were misled into bad mortgage deals, who should have been steered to loans with better terms? They get nothing: the Paulson plan specifically excludes borrowers with good credit scores. In fact, the plan actually provides an incentive for some people to miss debt payments, because that would make them look like bad credit risks and eligible for relief.
Now, Mr. Paulson’s attempt to help investors, while doing little or nothing for distressed and defrauded borrowers, might make sense if his plan would reduce investor losses enough to seriously improve the overall financial situation.
But only a small fraction of subprime borrowers will qualify for relief, and many of these borrowers will eventually face foreclosure anyway. So the plan is unlikely to reduce overall mortgage-related losses by more than a few percent, at most — not enough to make any real difference to financial stability. Indeed, interest-rate spreads that have been signaling a crisis of confidence in the financial system didn’t narrow at all when the plan was announced.
Still, you might say that the Paulson plan is better than nothing. But the relevant alternative isn’t nothing; it’s a plan that — like Barney Frank’s proposal — would actually help working families. And that’s what the administration is trying to avoid.
And why should it? After all, who among us considers millions of families facing the loss of their homes a more significant problem than investors facing reduced returns?
I hate Fox News
Friday, December 07, 2007
Not our fault we suck
From an interesting Media Matters piece on responsibility and campaign coverage.
Of course character is important in choosing a president; of course personality will always play a role. The problem isn't that journalists think character and personality matter, it is that they are spectacularly bad at assessing these traits, and even worse at predicting how the candidates will govern as a result.In addition blaming other reporters or the entire industry — anyone but themselves — there’s also the institutionalized notion among journalists that they are smarter than news consumers. So reporters writing about John Edwards’ haircut or Hillary’s tits are just giving the public what it wants.
Remember: During the 2000 campaign, the journalists and pundits told us that George W. Bush was the honest one. The straight-talking Texan. They told us this over and over and over again, until many Americans believed it. They told us that George W. Bush could unite the country, unlike the divisive Al Gore.
The argument that journalists should focus on things like facts and policy isn't based on the premise that character and personality don't matter. It's based on the simple fact that the American people are far better at assessing character and personality than Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd and Matt Drudge and Mark Halperin. And it's based on the fact that NBC and The New York Times have the time and resources to determine if the candidates' statements are true and consistent and logical — but voters don't.
That's where we need journalists: to help us sort out what the candidates have done, what they say they'll do, how likely it is to work, and who will benefit. We don't need them to speculate about why they chose to wear brown shoes or three-button suits or what the music on their iPods says about their character. We can figure that out on our own. And we don't need them to tell us who is likely to win; we need them to tell us information that will help us decide who should win.
But what they are really doing is giving their corporate ownership what it wants: a distracted and ignorant electorate. Focus on bullshit like hair and wardrobe long enough, and We The People will vote against someone who provide their children with free access to health care in favor of someone who says, “Free-market principles are the only things that reduce cost and improve quality (of health care).”
And just look how well the free market is controlling costs and improving quality.
Newspapers aren’t written on a junior high school level because editors think readers are smart. And jokes like “To comment on editorials, call the Inquirer editorial office. Editorial Board members will roll their eyes and chuckle at your remarks” wouldn’t be funny if they weren’t an honest look into the smug, condescending minds in so many American newsrooms.
Quote of the day
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Imagine dancing at the command of a dim bulb like Duh-bya. I can see why Arlen might be miffed.
Taking offense at being described as a “puppet” of President Bush, Sen. Arlen Specter fired back at Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, suggesting the Nevada Democrat isn’t up to running the Senate.I can’t imagine why Reid would say such a thing about Specter.
Reid on Dec. 4 had blamed what he called Republican obstructionism in the Senate on allegiance to Bush.
“He is the man who is pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate,” Reid said, referring to the chamber’s GOP members.
A Senate Judiciary Committee vote on contempt resolutions against Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten were postponed following an objection by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Under Judiciary Committe rules, the vote will be postponed for one week.Nope, just can’t imagine.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Full of shit and unqualified to be president.
Reporter: I don’t know to what extent you have been briefed or been able to take a look at the NIE report that came out yesterday …It’s not like the NIE has been in the news. Oh, right. And it’s not like the NIE was discussed prominently at a “presidential” press conference. Oh, right.
Huckabee: I’m sorry?
Reporter: The NIE report, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Have you been briefed or been able to take a look at it –
Reporter: Have you heard of the finding?
I have a hard time believing a presidential candidate—even a Republican candidate—could be so clueless about the news that he could be unaware of a major development that relates directly to the job he wants. Maybe he was afraid The Base would think him a pussy if he said the NIE means that military action against Iran is no longer an option, which, to any sane person (read: not Dick Cheney), it does. Maybe Huckabee didn’t know what the Right Answer was and decided that looking stupid was a better option than offering an honest reaction to the report.
That’s not a guy I want running the country. The current squatter in the White House isn’t exactly a genius and prefers spin to honesty, and look where that’s gotten us.
But then again, maybe the Huckster didn’t know anything about the NIE because he watched Faux News.
Monday, December 03, 2007
I would just like to go on the record as saying that trading Jacoby Ellsbury for Johan Santana is a bad idea. Let the stinkins have Santana. After all, if they trade Melky Cabrera, who is going to play CF in the Bronx? Johnny Damon? If that happens, runners are going first-to-third on just about everything not hit directly at the left fielder.
And who's going to play CF if we trade Ellsbury? Sure Coco Crisp played great defensively last season, but his bat is a liability. Keep Ellsbury, trade Crisp and a prospect to Oakland for Dan Haren instead. Center field is huge in Oakland, and they could use a guy like Coco to cover it.
And even if we get Santana, what's he going to cost? Keep in mind that Santana has already turned down a four-year, $20 million offer from Minnesota. So we're talking, what, $25 million per year, for maybe six years? Here's how that contract will look in 2012: $75 million for three years for a 33-year-old pitcher. Lock up Ellsbury long term. It should cost a lot less than $150 million.