Friday, August 31, 2007

Bush's Bank Bailout:

In a story incorrectly headlined Bush Outlines Aid for Mortgage Holdersm, we read:
Bush's proposals unveiled Friday are designed to help combat those defaults. They would make it easier for borrowers now holding adjustable rate mortgages that are resetting to higher monthly payments to refinance those loans using the resources of the Federal Housing Administration.
Why not simply let the banks and lending entities change the resets? Lower the reset number or postpone the date. That would mean a less profit for the banks, and even some losses. Why can't that be allowed to happen?


Thursday, August 30, 2007

That GAO report:

... saying that there is little progress in Iraq, is a stab in the back. Right?

UPDATE: Bill Kristol is on the case!   You knew he couldn't let that report sit there without a challenge. Here's part of what he's got to say: (excerpts, emp add)
A Pathetic Preemptive Strike
The Washington Post and the GAO try to mislead on Iraq.

The Washington Post, working hand-in-glove with Democrats in Congress, has gotten out front in preparing the domestic battlefield for September's fight over the war in Iraq.

The headline: "Report Finds Little Progress on Iraq Goals; GAO Draft at Odds with White House." Here's the good news: If this is the best war opponents have to offer, the administration is in amazingly good shape going into September.

The benchmarks they do use are often absurd. To take one example: "Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently." This is particularly silly.
Basically, Kristol is saying that September is too soon, that the standard should be improvement in various categories, and that the GAO evaluation is based on not achieving goals. But here's the question for Kristol: If it's too soon ("just two months after the major combat operations of the surge began") then why did Bush sign the legislation in May mandating a GAO report in September?


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Getting worn out:

Have you been following the economy and especially the stock market? You should, because economics is one of the largest factors in elections. It is certain that Bush won reelection and isn't totally in the toilet poll-wise because of the low-interest-rate-fueled housing boom. You say you didn't get a raise last year? Why worry, when your house has appreciated from $150K to $400K? At least for homeowners, that is. (Also, Alan Greenspan, by holding interest rates abnormally low for an extended periot of time, may be considered a Republican "operative" for practical purposes.)

So now that the debt driven post-2001 expansion is falling back on itself, there will be many folks hurting, and when people are hurting economically they vote for Democrats. Like it or not, Republicans always get the driver's seat on foreign policy; Democrats in economic down times.

That's why this summer's stock market action should be of more than passing interest. It is responding to the popping of the housing bubble. How serious is the problem? Nobody quite knows. Some say not to worry because the sub prime market is only $80 billion, which is nothing in a $13 trillion economy. Others say the problem is extensive and that the housing bubble, while it lasted, was what allowed the consumer to continue to buy stuff while wages were stagnant.

Most recently, the stock market has pinned its hopes on the Fed for a rescue of sorts, but it's not clear what monetary policy can do here. When nobody is trusted for a loan, and nobody wants a loan, lowering rates doesn't do much. Fiscial policy is more likely to work (redistritibutive taxes, government programs here - not in Iraq) but that only gets implemented after a recession is firmly in place.

What the underlying economic reality is, and the stock market's crude early-warning signs, bear watching. So what have we learned this summer? That the market is very nervous: a volatile mix of bullish enthusiasm (big in the last 12 months) and real concern that the U.S. economy and consumer is about to retreat. And so we've been treated to big moves on the upside and downside in the stock market. People will get worn out with all the gyrations. Then the direction will establish itself. It could resume upward, but is more likely to be headed down. So pay attention.


Bush is responsible for Abu Ghraib:

From Bush's speech on Tuesday:
Some say Iran's leaders are not aware of what members of their own regime are doing. Others say Iran's leaders are actively seeking to provoke the West. Either way, they cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis.
Let's do some substitution:
Some say Bush was not aware of what the U.S. military was doing in Abu Ghraib. Others say Bush did know and sanctioned the abuses. Either way, Bush cannot escape responsibility for what happened there.



Did you hear Bush's speech yesterday where he spoke of a potential Iranian nuclear holocaust? Not the short clips that were aired (if at all) on the television news programs, but the whole speech. Hugh Hewitt played much of it on his radio show Tuesday. And Bush really amped up the rhetoric. He spoke in that belligerent, pugnacious style that had all the trappings of a "let's step outside and settle this now" attitude. Maybe Bush was merely playing to the crowd, but it's entirely possible that the speech - and Bush's delivery - was a window into his mind and that of his advisors. If so, get ready for fireworks later this year. (Because in the winter months when it's darker, the U.S. has a military advantage over Iran what with all the night-capable equipment that it has.)

UPDATE: You can read the speech here (or download an mp3 - the fiery rhetoric starts at the half-way point).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dissenting voice:

In the wake of the Larry Craig story, Glenn Greenwald writes:
As [gay activist Mike] Rogers argued at the time, the story was relevant ... in light of Craig's frequent political exploitation of issues of sexual morality and his opposition to virtually every gay rights bill.
If having "strong family values" is -- as Craig claims -- the reason "first and foremost" to support someone's candidacy for President, then, by definition, whether one has "strong family values" is a politically relevant consideration for such a person.
I don't get it. Craig is representing his constituency. What does it matter that Craig's personal behavior is not in alignment with what the citizens of Idaho prefer?

Personal behavior is exactly that. Personal. The notion that because somebody says in public "A" yet in private does "B" does not give anyone a license to expose the personal. "Outing" by third parties is not a liberal value. Bill Clinton almost certainly at one point praised monogamy. Does that mean his dalliances were a legitimate political issue - as Republicans argued at the time?


Larry Craig:

Anagram for CRAIG is CIGAR - which is a metaphor for something the senator from Idaho craves.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Even more isolated:

Gone from the White House are Bush's buddies from his Texas days:
  • Karen Hughes
  • Harriet Miers
  • Dan Bartlett
  • Karl Rove
  • Alberto Gonzales
While the departure of Gonzales is a good thing, how Bush will behave without the emotional "anchors" of the Texas crew may be a cause for concern.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cat story:

If you are a sentimental type, you might find the story of a cat over at The Cunning Realist of interest. Be sure to click on the update link at the bottom.


Not enough fear in this country:

Story: (emp add)
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.

... ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony. The siblings set off the scare while organizing a run for a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers ...

Police fielded a call just before 5 p.m. that someone was sprinkling powder on the ground. The store was evacuated and remained closed the rest of the night. [...] Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14.

"You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know," she said. "It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out."


Broder can't say anything nice about Democrats:

But that's to be expected, since he's a Republican. His latest column is a wet dream about a Unity08-type ticket (Hagel, Bloomberg). What a waste of column inches, when he could be writing about the Iraq War, the relentless politicization of the government ("loyal Bushies"), or the recent mine tragedy. But no, he's got to say things like "Washington is gridlocked in partisan battle between two equally spent parties". Equally spent. 'Cause the Republicans have in over the last six yuears pushed too far with issues like Schiavo, dismantling Social Security, and earmarks galore, while the Democrats have pushed too far ... with what? They don't have a commanding position in Congress (Senate) and Bush's veto pen is at the ready. Yet Broder says that Democrats, who, if anything, are beginning their political ascent, are "spent".


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Using the pig:

From Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews: (Part Three, Cathedocracy, pg 231-2) (emp add)
The medieval mind delighted in reducing all aspects of the universe to imagery. ... [Among sculptors] the favorite pair of images, often rendered with striking grace, was the triumphant church and the sorrowing synagogue.

There wre, however, other images used for Jews in the graphic arts: the golden calf, the owl, the scorpion. In Germany, towards the end of the medieval period, a new one began to emerge: the sow.

[In Germany] it became the commonest of all motifs for the Jews, and one of the most potent and enduring of abusive stereotypes. It assumed an infinite variety of repellent forms. Jews were portrayed venerating the sow, sucking its teats, embracing its hindquarters, devouring its excrement. It offered rich opportunities to the coarser type of popular artist, presented with a target where none of the usual rules of taste and decorum applied and where the crudest obscenity was not merely acceptable but positively meritorious.

Its endless repetition helped on a process ...: the dehumanization of the Jew.

Woodcut of Jew playing bagpipes while riding a pig.
Here is Bill Kristol's opening sentence attacking "The Left" for being wrong on Vietnam: (emp add)
Like a pig in muck, the left loves to wallow in Vietnam. But only in their "Vietnam." Not in the real Vietnam war.
You would think that Kristol, who is Jewish, might have wanted to steer away from such imagery.

Steve Benen has more on Kristol's column (not about the pig reference):
I naively thought I could no longer be surprised by Kristol’s columns, but his latest gem pushes the envelope to new depths.


Friday, August 24, 2007

The lesson of Vietnam:

Hide out in the Texas Air National Guard and let somebody else do the fighting and dying.


If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

A couple of years ago I thought the economy was out of balance for a number of reasons. The main one was that there was a housing bubble. Other reasons included the current account deficit, anticipated inflation (by me), and consumer-driven economy fueled by debt. But mainly the housing bubble. So, during that time I took financial positions that would do well if the stock market declined.

Am I ready for profits? Maybe not, if Bill Gross's advice is to be believed, and followed. From his op-ed in the Post: (excerpts, emp add)
Why We Need a Housing Rescue

... policymakers must ... decide what to do about the housing market.

Granted, a dose of market discipline in the form of lower prices might be healthy, but forecasters are projecting more than 2 million defaults before this cycle is complete. The resulting impact on housing prices is likely to be close to a 10 percent decline. Such an asset deflation has not been seen in the United States since the Great Depression.

Fiscal ... policy should be the preferred remedy. In the early 1990s the government absorbed the bad debts of the failing savings and loan industry. Why is it possible to rescue corrupt S&L buccaneers yet 2 million homeowners must be thrown to the wolves today? If we can bail out Chrysler, why can't we support American homeowners?

This rescue, which admittedly might bail out speculators who deserve much worse, would support millions of hardworking Americans. Those who [are doing well economically and don't care about the homeowners] should look at it this way: your stocks and risk-oriented leveraged investments will spring to life anew. Republican officeholders would win a new constituency of voters for generations.
I'm for easing some of the pain for some homeowners (it's a complex formulation - there are greedy idiots who deserve there fate, others much less so) but since when was it government policy to make it safe for massive asset bubbles? Gross cites the bailout of Chrysler, but Chrysler's problems were of an entirely different nature (post 70's oil shocks, slow response to Japanese imports) and was not related to speculation, which is what the current liquidity and insolvency crisis is.

What Bill Gross is saying is that, at least in the equities market, if you were correct about the unsustainable nature of the boom, then you will suffer financially.

Obviously, the way to get rich is not to pay attention to fundamentals or even the technicals, when it comes to stocks. Just do what everybody else is doing. If things go well, you profit. If things don't go well, then tap the federal government. The result will be "stocks and risk-oriented leveraged investments" going up. What happened to the risk in "risk-oriented leveraged investments"? It went away, courtesy of the - wait for it - the U.S. taxpayer.

And the best part is this:
Republican officeholders would win a new constituency of voters for generations.
No kidding. I just don't want to hear any more shit about the wonders of the marketplace from now on. Gross' advice would explicitly help homeowners (all of them) at the expense of (mostly lower income) renters. That's not only market manipulation, it's morally wrong as well.


Krauthammer: To achieve our goals, regime change is needed in Iraq

From his column:
We should have given up on Nouri al-Maliki long ago and begun to work with other parties in the Iraqi parliament to bring down the government, yielding either a new coalition of less sectarian parties or, as Pollack has suggested, new elections.
That is a complete reversal of his pro-Democracy, purple finger, enthusiasm of two years ago.

Krauthammer admits the surge failed to achieve it's objectve. So end the surge and bug out of Iraq? No. He writes:
... replacing the Maliki government will take time and because there is no guarantee of ultimate political success. Nonetheless, continuing the surge while finally trying to change the central government is the most rational choice ...
It turns out that the surge wasn't the final effort after all. We just need more Freedman Units to "finally" get things right on the political front. And if that doesn't work, then Krauthammer will no doubt say that we need additional F.U.s to try to do some other "final" task. It never, never ends with the neocons.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Great Krauthammer column this Friday:

He elevates those he agrees with: (emp added throughout)
In the last month, however, as a consensus has emerged about realities in Iraq, a reasoned debate has begun. A number of fair-minded observers, both critics and supporters of the war, agree that the surge has yielded considerable military progress ...

... we have heard from Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution ...

... serious voices will prevail.   ...   Serious people ... argue ...

Krauthammer, like Bush, deploys the straw-man:
... the left will continue to portray Gen. David Petraeus as an unscrupulous commander quite prepared to send his troops into a hopeless battle in order to advance his political ambitions ...
Who on "the left" has claimed Petraeus has political ambitions? Nobody. They have portrayed him as someone who either (a) is a true believer - witness his positive statements about "progress" over the last several years, or (b) unwilling to stand up to Bush. On the other hand, who has claimed political ambitions? Indirectly, Bill Kristol:
[The left] sense that ... these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, ... will be future leaders of this country.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blame President James K. Polk for 9/11:

Via TPM, we learn the president is set to argue that, for an number of reasons, Iraq is like Vietnam, but with the focus on this:
The president will also make the argument that withdrawing from Vietnam emboldened today's terrorists by compromising U.S. credibility ...
Bush is right on the principle, but wrong on the history. The U.S. lost credibility in 1846:
Expansionists after the 1844 election shouted "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" This slogan [was] the position of [those] who wanted Polk to be as uncompromising in acquiring the Oregon territory as he had been in annexing Texas. Polk ... compromised with the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Aberdeen. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 divided the Oregon Country along the 49th parallel ...
The rest, as they say, is history. According to Bush-logic, Polk's compromising of U.S. credibility directly led to 9/11. Who can disagree with that? Only traitors and evil radical Islamo-fascist demons.

Bush can talk a good game about Vietnam, but clearly the United States has to undo the damage to its credibility in the order in which it took place. The solution to preventing another 9/11 is this:
  • Take back all of the Oregon Territory, up to 54°40', from single-payer Canada. (That'll teach 'em to waste money on health care!)
  • Push back the North Koreans all the way to the Yalu River. Vindicate MacArthur in the process. ("Old soldiers never die, they just reappear in different forms - like Bill Kristol.")
  • Take back Vietnam (South and North)
Then credibility will be restored and Bin Laden will be defeated, even if uncaptured and still at large.

SIDE NOTE: Like Al Gore, Polk was from the "Volunteer State", which goes to show that this country should never elect someone from Tennessee. In 2000, the Supreme Court was wise enough to prevent a second calamity. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Scalia for upending the popular will.


Monday, August 20, 2007

A Rove tidbit:

Dan Froomkin wrote this two years ago:
All you really need to know about the White House's post-Katrina strategy -- and Bush's carefully choreographed address on national television tonight -- is this little tidbit from the ninth paragraph of Elisabeth Bumiller and Richard W. Stevenson's story in the New York Times this morning:
"Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort."
Rove's leadership role suggests quite strikingly that any and all White House decisions and pronouncements regarding the recovery from the storm are being made with their political consequences as the primary consideration.
That's Frooomkin quoting a NYTimes article that cites Republicans and not official White House sources. So what role did Rove play managing post-Katrina reconstruction? What really happened? From Sourcewatch, we get this:
Bush dispatched Rove and "other aides to assemble ideas from agencies, conservative think tanks, GOP lawmakers and state officials to guide the rebuilding of New Orleans and relocation of flood victims," Jim VandHei and Jonathan Weisman wrote in the September 14, 2005, New York Times. "The idea, aides said, is twofold: provide a quick federal response that comports with Bush's governing philosophy, and prevent Katrina from swamping his second-term ambitions on Social Security, taxes and Middle East democracy-building."
So maybe that was the extent of it. But still, it would have been a good question to Rove on the Sunday shows: "What did you do in terms of managing post-Katrina reconstruction?"


Iraq progress report:

Only two governors killed so far this month.

Iraq has 18 provinces (or Governates). So 2 out of 18 is a mere 11%. It's as if, here in the U.S., five or six governors were dispatched by road bombs. That wouldn't be a big deal, right?


The Chinese just don't get it:

In the news:
BEIJING (AP) — Grocery shopping has become a painful experience for Zhang Xueyi. Meat prices have risen 50 percent in the past year, and eggs and other products are not far behind, forcing the 31-year-old railway technician's family to spend a third of its $400 monthly income on food.
After a run that has seen sizzling growth top 10 percent for four years, analysts say China's supercharged economy is facing strains that could break out into an upsurge of inflation.

... rising too [are] the costs of oil and electric power.
Silly Chinese. Do what the U.S. does and claim that the only important measure of inflation is "core inflation" which excludes food and energy costs. You see, that way inflation practically disappears. In the United States core inflation has been low for years. Therefore, we have no inflation. It's that simple.

OF INTEREST: In the story we also read:
The price surge has alarmed Chinese leaders, who remember that 1989's Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests were driven in part by anger at raging inflation that exceeded 18 percent a year.
Did you know that? I didn't. Continuing...
Local authorities have been ordered to subsidize the grocery bills of poor families.

Beijing has raised interest rates three times this year to cool the boom and avert a rise in inflation. After seeing the July price data, economists said they expect another rate hike shortly.
We could be seeing some very interesting currency rate dynamics for the rest of this year.


They say Bear rallies are the fiercest:

We're not in a bear market. Not, yet. But this kind of action is highly unusual:
TOKYO (AP) — Asian markets rebounded Monday, taking their cue from Wall Street's recovery late last week after the Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate. The Tokyo benchmark index jumped 3.0 percent after ending last week with its biggest point drop in more than seven years.
Australia's benchmark had its biggest one-day gain in almost a decade Monday as the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 surged 4.6 percent, or 261.6 points, to close the day at its peak of 5,932.6 points.
Benchmarks bounced back 5.9 percent in Hong Kong, 2.3 percent in New Zealand, 5.7 percent in South Korea and 5.3 percent in Taiwan. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 5.3 percent, and Singapore's Straits Times Index gained 6.1 percent.
There were lesser gains in other bourses, but to read about jumps of up to six percent is extraordinary.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Did you watch Karl Rove on the Sunday shows?

He's normally only seen and heard in short sound bites. But this Sunday, you could watch him for fifteen minutes or more and get a sense of who he is.

My reaction was this. He's
  • Uninteresting
  • Soulless
  • Not that sharp
  • Unpleasant to be with
I expected much more from this much vaunted "Genius".

On Meet the Press, he didn't even have good replies to David Gregory. One exchange:
MR. GREGORY: On national security, a signature issue for this president, you said this past week the Democrats have a problem on that issue. Back in 2002 you said this is an issue that Republicans can take to the American people because they, they trust Republicans to do a better job protecting Americans. And yet today, which party would do a better job, according to our recent polling, it’s actually a tie.

MR. ROVE: Yeah. I—look, first of all, we could go to polls all day long, and I—you quote polls, I’ll quote polls.
So quote some polls! ... But he didn't. And as far as general perception of Bush and the war, he could at least have said something like this:
Years from now, people will look back on the Bush administration as having protected the country from attack. That's something they don't appreciate today.
I happen to disagree with that (I think Al Qaeda is a bunch of thugs that don't have any resources beyond human bodies and truck bombs), but Rove could at least have claimed something that couldn't be proved wrong - since it's positing a situation in the future. Rove was very unimpressive. And, as mentioned before, unlikeable.

Over on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace was surprisingly harsh. Juan Cole has a good rundown over at Salon. Why was Fox hard on Rove? Was it to pile all the recent conservative sins on the scapegoat and send the critter out of the city, thus purifying Republicans? Seemed like it.

But back to Rove's intelligence. He sure didn't impress anyone today. But then, it doesn't take a lot of smarts to wage gutter politics, only the will to do so. If Rove is "Bush's brain" then we truly have a feeble-minded president in the White House.


Friday, August 17, 2007

On today's Yahoo Most Viewed News page:
Go for it, everyone!


Helicopter Ben to the rescue!


Increased volatility ahead:

Nothing like an emergency 1/2% Discount Rate cut on an options-expiration Friday to make the stock markets go wild.

Holders of Puts are totally screwed. And shorts will be squeeeeeeeeezed mightily.

Things are unraveling.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rudy Giuliani is Curtis LeMay without the experience:

That's one way to look at Rudy's statement that:
"Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South."
And there's Giuliani's advocacy of an even larger military (additional 10 brigades, newer submarines and bombers). But ponder the LeMay congruence referred to in this post's title. Giuliani is running a George Wallace -like campaign. He has to. He needs to get in tight with the Republicans that are the party of the Confederacy. He's from New York. He roots for the Yankees, no less. So the way to win in the primaries, especially the many in the south, is to be tough like Wallace. Giuliani promises to crack down on criminals and be law-and-order just like Wallace. Giuliani take Wallace's anti-black rhetoric and turns it in the direction of Arabs. He has very nasty things to say about liberals (although not unique among Republicans, he's the most strident).

If Rudy does succeed in snagging the George Wallace contingent (at least its 21st century version) look for an anybody-but-Rudy movement to throw its support behind somebody more sensible, like Romney.


All markets are the same:

At least right now, when a macro concern dominates. Here is the DOW and NASDAQ action today:


Giuliani: The terrorists are building nuclear weapons right here in the United States!

From selected quotes of his (no doubt ghost written) Foreign Affairs essay:
"We must also develop detection systems to identify nuclear material that is being imported into the United States or developed by operatives inside the country. Heightened and more comprehensive security measures at our ports and borders must be enacted as rapidly as possible."
If that's so, we need Rudy now!


Ultra-bipartisanship from David Broder:

In discussing a Fred Thompson candidacy, Broder writes:
Thompson, like many of the others running, has caught a strong whiff of the public disillusionment with both parties in Washington -- and the partisanship that has infected Congress, helping to speed his own departure from the Senate.
Yup. No distinctions are made here. The public is disillusioned with both parties. And there is the hoplessly partisan "Congress", which can mean Republicans or Democrats, but Broder is probably hinting at the party in power: Democrats. Hey David, Democrats have been in power for one measly Friedman Unit. Give Nancy and Harry a break!

Also, nice to see that Thompson departed Congress due to the partisanship that held sway while he was there - from 1994 to 2003 - when Republicans were in control for 6 of the 8 years.

Is Broder saying that decade-old Republican partisanship is a reason for Thompson to run in 2008? To clean up the mess, as it were? Looks like it.


George Will tells the Federal Reserve what their priorities should be:

In an op-ed that celebrates the pain of lenders and borrowers in the mortgage market, Will states:
The Federal Reserve's proper mission is not to produce a particular rate of economic growth or unemployment, or to cure injuries -- least of all, self-inflicted ones -- to certain sectors of the economy. It is to preserve the currency as a store of value -- to contain inflation.
Note Will's use of the word "proper". To the casual reader that might sound like "mandated", but it's not. In any case, let's see what the Federal Reserve has to say about itself:
What are the Federal Reserve's responsibilities?
Today, the Federal Reserve's responsibilities fall into four general areas:
  • conducting the nation's monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of full employment and stable prices
  • supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation's banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers
  • maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets
  • providing certain financial services to the U.S. government, to the public, to financial institutions, and to foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation's payments systems
For an overview of the Federal Reserve and its responsibilities, see The Federal Reserve System: Purposes and Functions.
So, by the Fed's lights, attending to unemployment is a responsibility. But Will, says no. Or rather, he narrows the definition of unemployment to "a particular rate" of unemployment, which usually flies by the reader when in fact it's part of the deceptive language Will uses. Try it yourself. That way, nobody is responsible for anything, because the "particular rate" is undefined and therefore potentially unreasonable, impossible, or otherwise unattainable.

Apply it to George Will. He writes:
The Federal Reserve's proper mission is ... to preserve the currency as a store of value ..."
Largely true. But how about this:
The Federal Reserve's proper mission is ... to preserve the currency as a store of value at a particular rate"
No, that's not the case since conditions are always changing and no central banker worth his salt would commit to maintaining a currency at a particular rate under all circumstances.

It should be pointed out that Bill Clinton also engaged in that kind of deceptive qualifying language. Repeatedly he'd say that Policy X would not be determined "solely" by Factor A, when in fact Factor A was the overwhelming determinant. But by using "solely" the listener was misled into thinking that the factor would be little considered, if at all.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


It was five years ago yesterday, that this blog got started, largely due to the encouragement and influence of pioneer blogger Ted Barlow (whose original blog seems to have tranformed into something else entirely). Thanks Ted!

A lot has happened since then. But the big difference between 2002 and now is that a whole lot of talented writers have emerged. And these people have been vital towards understanding and clarifying important policy areas (Social Security is not doomed, there are better and cheaper ways to provide healthcare, the Iraq War makes no sense, much of the economic "wisdom" you read in the papers has a pro-corporate tilt).

The liberal blogs have begun to influence the big press as well. Mostly it's fact checking, but that's almost enough. As Josh Marshall wrote, the media has become gradually more conservative over the last 25 years. That's due to a number of factors, mostly consolidation and abandonment of regulation (equal-time provision, fairness doctrine). But the result was a limited perspective on the world. Perhaps the best example of that is the Washington Post's never-ending cry that Social Security must be pared down. But we know better, thanks to the tireless efforts of bloggers who actually looked at the numbers and weren't stampeded into dismantling a program that, more than ever, is needed in a world where job changes are frequent and pensions a thing of the past. And then there's Fox News, a party organ masquerading as an objective news outlet - and influencing their cable-news peers.

Think about how dismal the situation was a little more than five years ago. The only place to read about politics was NRO and Mickey Kaus. Ugh. But that was all there was in 2001. Thankfully, that's all changed.

Where are blogs headed? Hard to say. The recent inclusion of video does not seem to be a step forward. On the other hand, group blogs are a success (allowing a single blogger to rest from posting, but still keep visitors engaged).

A few words about right wing blogs are in order: They don't matter since right wing radio is where the action is. Who cares about Powerline when you have Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Prager, Medved, Hewitt, Miller, Ingraham, Bennett, and Gallagher broadcasting throughout the day and night?

In any event, blogs have made a real difference, mostly for the good, and it will be interesting to see what they will look like, and how they influence the debate five years from now.


Shorter Robert J. Samuelson:

Stop worrying about Global Warming because:
  • "We lack the technology to get from here to there."
  • "In the United States, it would take massive regulations, higher energy taxes or both."
  • "[U.S.] assaults against global warming are likely to be symbolic, ineffective or both."
  • "We simply don't have a solution for this problem."
"To cut oil imports, I support a higher gasoline tax -- $1 to $2 a gallon, introduced gradually ..."
Why? Is it to use a regressive consumption tax to pay for "the huge retirement costs of baby boomers" now that Bush's tax cuts for the rich make redeeming the $1.9 trillion special-issue Treasury bonds much more difficult?


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fox "News" Channel edits Wikipedia:

A long list can be found here.

Mostly Olbermann, but also various deletions of less-than-glowing appraisals of Fox regulars (Wallace, Hume, Cameron. Smith).

Now that Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal, can we expect to see Paul Gigot "cleaning up" the Wikipedia page of Herbert Hoover?   Or perhaps, deleting the Lucky duckies entry?


No more buddies in the house:

Gone from the White House are Bush's buddies from his Texas days:
  • Harriet Miers
  • Dan Bartlett
  • Karen Hughes
  • Karl Rove
Bush doesn't seem to be particularly close to the new guys (Joshua Bolten, Robert Gates, et al). Does that mean that Bush will cling even closer to Cheney? (Who was sort of Texan)

As a result, is there a greater likelyhood of bombing Iran?


Monday, August 13, 2007

Swimwear for Muslim Ladies:


Found this from clicking on a Google at at alicublog, of all places. I knew about the head scarves, but is covering the legs and arms part of the rules?


With Karl Rove gone ...

Who will tell Alberto Gonzales what to do?


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Three out of four top Republican presidential candidates ...

Yes, it's only Iowa. Yes, it's a paid-for straw poll. Yes, some "big name" candidates ignored the event. But there was still a reasonably large number of candidates and voters. How did the Iowa straw poll end up?
1 Mitt Romney, 4,516 votes, 31.6 percent
2 Mike Huckabee, 2,587 votes, 18.1 percent
3 Sam Brownback, 2,192 votes, 15.3 percent
4 Tom Tancredo, 1,961 votes, 13.7 percent
5 Ron Paul, 1,305 votes, 9.1 percent
6 Tommy Thompson, 1,039 votes, 7.3 percent
7 Fred Thompson, 203 votes, 1.4 percent
8 Rudy Guiliani, 183 votes, 1.3 percent
9 Duncan Hunter, 174 votes, 1.2 percent
10 John McCain - 101 votes, 0.7 percent
11 John Cox- 41 votes, 0.1 percent
Huckabe, Brownback, and Tancredo got a total of 47.1% of the votes. All three of them don't believe in evolution.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Not a small player:

In the news:
NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street plunged in early trading Thursday, yanking the Dow Jones industrials down more than 100 points after a French bank said it was freezing three securities funds that struggled to find liquidity in the U.S. subprime mortgage market.

The announcement by BNP Paribas raised the specter of a widening impact of U.S. credit market problems.
Who is BNP Paribas? From Wikipedia:
BNP Paribas (Euronext: BNP, TYO: 8665 ) is one of the main banks in Europe and France.

BNP Paribas is the largest bank in the Eurozone by total assets and second largest by market capitalization according to The Banker magazine.
What is the Eurozone?
The Eurozone refers to the European Union member states that have adopted the euro currency union.

Members: Austria Belgium Finland France Germany Greece Ireland Italy Luxembourg Netherlands Portugal Slovenia Spain


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This is a test, only a test:


Blah, blah.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Steady as a rock:

Happy trading everyone!


Saturday, August 04, 2007

What do you call subverting democracy?

David Broder has the answer:
"... less-than-vital issue of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys ..."
Who cares if elections are being manipulated by the party in power? For Broder, it's all about bipartisanship. No matter what the stakes.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Solution: Tax cigarette smokers!

It looks as if the expansion of S-CHIP will go through (there are enough votes to override a Bush veto). And the expansion will be paid for, largely, by targeting the 25% of the adult population that smoke cigarettes. Excellent. And unlike a "traditional" regressive sales tax which has consumers paying more tax as the costliness and quality of product rises, the per-pack tax is more regressive. For a poor person, no matter how they downgrade the quality (and base price) of their smokes, they will be taxed the same. Congress couldn't do a per-smoker head tax, which is the ultimate regressive tax, but got pretty close.

For those that object to taxing smokers, a self-righteous and classic ex-smoker commentator over at Political Animal has the answer for you:
I quit smoking after six years and after acquiring a two-pack-a-day habit. I quit by throwing away my cigarettes and my matches. It was tough for the first three weeks, especially as I worked in an office where nearly everyone else smoked as they saw fit. After three weeks, my acute craving for smoking slowly subsided.

So, folks, I quit smoking by quitting smoking. Cold turkey. No drugs, no patches. And I never smoked again.

If I can do it anyone can.

So stop whining and just stop, if you haven't already. You're polluting someone else's air.

Bunch of overgrown infants.

Posted by: stopit on August 3, 2007
Spoken like an former addict. Is there a pleasure you like? Four cigarettes a day? A glass of wine in the evening? Fried foods? Well, there are former addicts who went too far, like stopit (2 packs a day!) that will tell you "anyone can" stop enjoying themselves and those who object are "overgrown infants" who should "stop whining".

So bring on the sin taxes. Bring on taxes for anything that's pleasurable. And for god's sake, please don't pay for anything out of the general fund, because that would mean taxing based on ability to pay.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Who started it?

From Wikipedia:
Page Three girl

A Page Three girl is a woman who models for topless photographs published on the third page of the UK tabloid newspaper The Sun. Although the women are sometimes nude, full frontal nudity is never featured.

The Page Three girl was introduced in 1969 when Rupert Murdoch relaunched The Sun.
What will a relaunch of the Wall Street Journal have?