August, 2007 archive
Let a thousand flours bloom:
This is the real legacy of the last 7 years- a nation so whipped up into a frenzy over terrorism that you, me, anyone could be charged with a felony as long as some hysterical bedwetter somewhere thought we were committing an act of terrorism in our daily life. The Salchowâ€™s are just lucky they are white. If they had biked back to the scene wearing brown skin and attempted to make their way through the crowd to talk to the cops, they probably would have been shot.
But, then, hysteria and perpetual war pave the way for tyranny, do they not?
I really can’t improve on this and it’s too good to summarize. From DelawareLiberal:
Determined to get the Roadrunner (e.g. The TERROR!) once and for all – Wile E. Coyote played by the USA with the leadership brain power of George Bush and Dick Cheney get some â€œsure fireâ€ plans (PNAC)from ACME (played by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz).
Please note how much we resemble the Coyote right down right down to our â€œover the topâ€ (to the point of comical) egotistical bearing (e.g. â€œbring it on!â€ bravado, assorted Toby Keith songs) and big ears.
The plans for the â€œACME Sure Fire TERROR Eliminatorâ€ are rolled out and the Coyote builds a contraption (proudly undermanned and underplanned occupation to be staffed by Heritage Fondation Interns) while the Roadrunner (the TERROR) looks on quizzically.
Wyle E. Coyote (the USA) launches himself without any thought about what will happen next toward the Roadrunner. With perfect confidence in the efficacy of the â€œACME Sure Fire TERROR Eliminatorâ€, Wyle E. Coyote draws up next to the Roadrunner in an imposing clamor and cloud of dust (Shock and Awe!).
The Roadrunner slows to a stop. The Coyote, confident of his victory grins smugly (Mission Accomplished Photo Op). As the dust settles the Roadrunner is shown to be standing on an outcropping of rock, while the Coyote is standing on thin air.
The Coyote is suspended by his belief that he is standing on land. As long as WE (the Coyote) donâ€™t look down (The Patreaus Report) he/we will not have to hold a sign that reads â€œYipes!â€
We know they’re not doing this on principle, since they have proven over and over again that they have none of those pesky little principle thingees, so the question becomes, “What are they hiding?” (Most likely, evidence of things suspected, but that’s just a guess.)
The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.
The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House’s own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA.
Daniel DiRito at ASZ.
John Cole at Balloon Juice.
A modest proposal from a few miles up the road: Why not replace Maliki with George W. Bush? The reasoning seems pretty iron-clad to me:
. . . since George Bush has done such a wonderful job running America for the last 6+ years, I think in the event that we can’t establish a democracy much like ours, when and if we have to settle for the next best thing, an installed ruler of some sort, I think the Iraqi people should elect, and the American people should back, former United States President (when his time is up, of course), George W. Bush as President for life of Iraq.
Why not? Bush clearly wants to be a dictator, he feels the law doesn’t apply to him, or his minions and that it’d all be easier, just as long as he was the dictator. Besides, if things keep up the way they are, pretty soon, there’s going to be more sectarian divide in this nation than there is in Iraq and eventually, Bush is going to have to liberate this country from itself.
It’s a long way to the Greater Metropolitan Atlanta area, especially when you plot a route that includes a segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a great visit and worth all the miles.
We came home with a picture. Well, lots of pictures, but I forgot my Fuji, so this is the only digital one:
We came back by way of Fayetteville, North Carolina, where we had dinner with Mrs. Lt. First Son, who is waiting out his current
12 15 month tour in the s(pl)urge. It was good to see her.
I don’t have the time to summarize them, but there are a couple of new articles at Factcheck dissecting claims of pretenders to the throne of King George the Wurst from both the Democratic and Republican Parties that are worth a look.
Customers fight back:
Who has gotten tagged with these cases so far? Subprime lender NovaStar Financial Inc. (NFI) in Kansas City settled a class action suit for $5.1 million. And, consumers in Wisconsin recently won a class-action TILA suit (its under appeal).
As we proceeded southwards to the grandchild location, we caught today’s Diane Rehm Show:
In recent weeks the administration and some military leaders have said that the 18 benchmarks set by Congress may not be the best way to measure progress in Iraq. We hear different views on how progress there may be assessed.
Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution
Jonathan Weisman, reporter, “The Washington Post”
Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration.
You can listen to it here (Real).
Listening to Michael O’Hanlon try to find something positive from recent events in Iraq was like watching pretzels being made from human flesh–painful.
It is painful to watch a bankrupt ideologue try to defend his bankrupt ideology.
From a commentor at one of Gene Weingarten’s chats:
I will add to your list that I want a President who can speak without seeming like it takes every amount of energy he has in his body and brain to get the words out. Being a great aurator may not be the best qualification for President but since I watch a lot of speeches its important to me. Bush seems like every time he takes the podium he may collapse under the weight and brutal sheer agony of just having to mouth the English language.
Who referred to this:
After a month of almost no rain, we’ve had almost two inches in 36 hours. The brown grass is already green again.
I’m glad I hired my neighbor Danny to cut my lawn.
Robert Reich tries to explain.
Shorter version: Mortgage bankers and hedge fund managers saw a way to make
a few lots of easy bucks lending money to people who couldn’t afford the loans, then reselling the loans over and over again as investments. It’s part of the “everything should be for sale” mentality.
It’s called “securitization.” It means turning items that are not traditionally investments (that is, not stocks and bonds, but, rather, things like credit card debt and mortages) into things that look like investments (that is, turning them into “securities”–see definition number 6 here).
These things that have been “securitized,” though, have no intrinsic value (unlike a stock or a bond that, supposedly, is backed by the value of the products manufactured by the company issuing it). Those who buy those “securities” are investing in the debt of others and in the expectation that the debt will be paid off.
And, when persons suddenly can no longer afford to pay the debt, as when their mortgage rate suddenly goes up two or three percentage points, the “investors” are left holding a bag of useless paper. (Aside: When buying a house, 30-year fixed is your friend.)
Anyhoo, back to Robert Reich:
But what exactly happened to set this off? The story isnâ€™t simple, but Iâ€™ll try to state it as simply as I can. In recent years, with so much money sloshing around the global economy, American banks and other mortgage lenders found themselves with lots of cash. They thought they could make a tidy profit by pushing home loans â€“ not only on average Americans (whose eagerness to own a home or two thereby bid up housing prices) but also on poorer Americans who wanted to own a house but normally couldnâ€™t afford the interest on the loans. Oddly, private credit-rating agencies judged these â€œsub-primeâ€ loans to be relatively good risks. The loans were then sliced up and sold to other financial institutions where they were repackaged with other loans. Meanwhile, hedge funds created what can only be described as giant betting pools â€“ huge amalgamations of money from pension funds, university endowments, rich individuals, and corporations â€“ whose assumptions about risk were derived from the assumed low risks of the home loans (hence, the term, â€œderivativesâ€). Investors in these hedge funds had little or no understanding of what they were actually buying because hedge funds donâ€™t have to disclose much of anything.
It was not just a housing bubble but a financial house of cards that would tumble when central bankers tightened up on the global money supply in order to fight inflation, as they inevitably would, and when the home loans were thereby revealed to be far riskier than thought. Because the bad loans are so widely dispersed and because so much additional credit is connected to them through derivatives, a contagion of fear has spread through financial markets. The credibility of the whole financial system has become shaky. Large numbers of stocks and bonds appear riskier than before, which is why Wall Street is taking a beating.
In other words, the Fed has to bail out the speculators because weâ€™ll all suffer if it doesnâ€™t.
That doesnâ€™t mean, though, that the irresponsibilities now so clearly revealed in American financial markets should be excused or forgotten when the crisis ends. Wall Street has been living in an anything-goes world for too long. It has been widely â€“ and wrongly â€“ assumed that investors, creditors, and borrowers are smart enough to take care of themselves, especially if theyâ€™re big. Thatâ€™s wrong.
Poor people will lose their homes because they were sold loans they couldn’t afford with assurances from the salespersons that they could, indeed, afford those unaffordable loans, and no one, absolutely no one, who knowingly sold them those unaffordable loans will lose a home or see the inside of the pokey.
Mark my words.
Addendum, Later That Same Evening:
In the case of securitized credit card debt, the risk of default is negligible, because the default by a few of millions of credit card users has little or no effect on the value of the overall portfolio. But when you start looking at mortgage holders, whose debt is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, and see, suddenly, that hundreds or thousands of mortgage holders are falling into default, well, you can see what is happening . . . .
Securitization dot net, your free source for structured finance (whatever the hell that means) information.
My two or three regular readers have pointed out that the customers for many of the mortgages were adults who did not exercise due care. In many cases, that was the case. Nevertheless, I do think there were additional factors in play, so I’m putting my reaction to the comments up front, rather than burying them in the comments. Here’s what I originally wrote as a comment:
Unfortunately, as cases come to light, it’s apparent that many of the mortgage companies (Ameriquest comes to mind; remember, companies don’t sign consent decrees for nothing) exercised less than–er–full disclosure. Customers can’t ask questions that they don’t know to ask.
They were, in fact, selling the mortgage equivalent of toothpaste with antifreeze in it. Some of us (like Bill and Opie and, indeed, me) wouldn’t touch anything less that a fixed rate mortgage, ever. But we shouldn’t have to ask whether there is antifreeze in the toothpaste, either,
To call some of the mortgage sales practices “predatory” is to insult predators.
One of the damned shames of what’s going on right now is that Countrywide, which, by all reports, conducted itself with good business sense and treated customers fairly, is getting caught in the riptide.
Remember, too, that people do tend to be trusting (enron). They tend assume that, if a company (enron) is doing something, that something (enron) is not only legal, but, at some level, ethical (enron).
Until the roof caves in.
What a chicken shit outfit is the Current Federal Adminstration. Every time you think they can’t do something dumber, they prove you wrong:
As part of the DHS Chemical Security Anti-Terrorism Standards, facilities with more than 7,500 pounds of propane gas â€“ 1,785 gallons â€“ could be considered high-risk. To determine if a facility is a security risk, operators must process complete “Top Screen” safety measures, including vulnerability assessments, develop site security plans and implement protective measures approved by DHS.
“We appreciate the fact that Homeland Security does have a responsibility to the security of this nation, but in terms of what is considered a threat, I would think chicken houses would be so far down on the list that nobody would ever find it,” said Worcester County farmer Virgil Shockley, who has 9,000 gallons heating six chicken houses.
At the same time they pull this sort of stunt, they ask you to trust them in their spying programs.
Addendum, Minutes Later:
Richard Blair over as ASZ has another example of Bushie absurdity.
Atrios sums it up.
David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, in the Financial Times:
The US government is on a â€˜burning platformâ€™ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the countryâ€™s top government inspector has warned.
David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his countryâ€™s future in a report that lays out what he called â€œchilling long-term simulationsâ€.
These include â€œdramaticâ€ tax rises, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.
Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were â€œstriking similaritiesâ€ between Americaâ€™s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including â€œdeclining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central governmentâ€.
And, well, what else is new?
Via Le Show.
Steve Clemons analyzes the NeoCon rush to (another) war:
. . . Ledeen, James Woolsey, Norman Podhoretz, and others want war now with Iran. They want the bombs to fly. They are obsessed with delegitimating the important diplomatic efforts of Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, and others. They despise Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — and they are increasingly offering defamatory comments about George W. Bush himself at their small dinner parties and neocon gatherings.
Ledeen has a piece, “Talking with Iran,” that has just appeared in the Wall Street Journal that tries to savage those calling for negotiations with Iran. It’s embedded throughout with distortions, but it is an important case statement profiling neocon obsession with waging war against Iran as soon as possible.
Follow the link the see the whole thing.
A Northampton Township supervisor who circulated an e-mail urging the recruitment of Bucks County employees and vendors for a Republican voter-registration drive resigned yesterday from the executive committee of the county GOP.
Vincent J. Deon said he did not want to be a “distraction” in a letter to Bucks Republican Chairman Harry Fawkes giving up the volunteer party post.
Given his resume, the Current Federal Administrator will no doubt consider him a prime candidate for a position as a United States Attorney.