December 14, 2009 archive

Lieberman Lies Again

Apparently, Sen, Joseph Lieberman can’t keep his lies straight. Once again reneging on not just campaign promises he made in 2000 and when he ran as an Independent for his Senate seat. Just 3 short months ago he discussed the Medicare buy in with the “Connecticut Post”, a complete contradiction of his now adamant opposition to the latest “compromise” in the Senate version of HCR bill.

Szakos’ a Free Man

originally posted by Will Urquhart at Sum of Change

A while back, we covered a somewhat unique story. Joe Szako, the Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project, had been arrested while attempting to contact Anthem Insurance during a demonstration at their headquarters. We were there when Mr. Szako appeared in court, Tuesday September 22nd 2009, in Henrico, VA. You can read more about the arrest and watch video footage of the arrest here.

At the end of November, the case ended with Mr. Szako a free man, for the most part. He will have to stay out of trouble for six months (and yes, that includes any visits to Anthem’s headquarters):

The ‘Sycophant’ Tony Blair

I really like that descriptive name used as to Mr Blair, fits him well, editorial link for same below along with others.

Will the statements open up what others will say or bring forward as they might try and distance themselves from him?  

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

Now with World News.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Walkout heightens failure fears for climate marathon

by Richard Ingham, AFP

20 mins ago

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Developing nations staged a five-hour walkout and China accused the West of trickery as negotiators raced against time Monday to prevent a UN climate summit from ending in catastrophic failure.

While campaigners warned negotiators had five days to avert climate chaos, ministers acknowledged they had to start making giant strides before 120 heads of state arrived for the Copenhagen summit’s climax on Friday.

But their hopes were hit when Africa led a boycott by developing nations of working groups, only returning after securing guarantees the summit would not sideline talks about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Progressive versus President over jobs and Pentagon spending

A member of the House Progressive Caucus staked his reputation on restoring funding for a canceled Pentagon program and managed to secure $100 million for Lockheed Martin to keep the defunct and unwanted VH-71 presidential helicopter program alive.

President Obama said in Feburary that the project was “an example of the procurement process gone amok and we are going to have to fix it.”

However this Friday, The Hill reported Rep. Maurice Hinchley secured the $100 million commitment to the defunct program. Hinchley, a Democrat representing the 22nd congressional district of New York, said in a statement:

Although I was not able to achieve my complete objective, which was to fully continue all aspects of Lockheed Martin’s Increment 1 presidential helicopter, this funding will save about 250 jobs in Owego that would have been lost without it.

Housing Again


When I hear about arguments about the triumphant return of housing values I simply look at the above chart and realize that it is mathematically impossible.  Since the government is now the lender of first, second, and last resort at least they are verifying income even with FHA insured loans.  Yet the chart above showed how absurd lending standards got and were exploited especially here in California.  This was the fuel that flamed the housing price bubble.

Yet the major source of housing appreciation in the state is now gone.  The leverage to lift the world has been removed.  With Alt-A and option ARM products buyers were able to get 10 and even 15 times leverage to purchase a home.  Countless people making $50,000 a year went no doc and bought $500,000 homes.  The $500,000 home in California was the median home back at the peak.  Without this leverage, prices can only go up so high when they do start going up.  Real incomes are unable to support current prices in many places.  The $250,000 median price only reflects the large volume of sales in the lower end.  Next year we will see more price reductions at the mid tier as prices reflect the current economy and lack of maximum leverage products.

Reasons #5 – Option ARM Recasts

option arm loans outstanding

The bulk of option ARMs have yet to hit recast dates.  60 percent of current outstanding option ARMs find their home in California.  This is largely a one state problem.  Florida, Nevada, and Arizona have the remaining large share of the loans but no state comes close to matching California.  The problem with these loans are many are in the mid tier markets.  The subprime debacle has already washed away much of the lower end of the market.  Borrowers had less of a buffer in those areas.

Yet the option ARM does a good job hiding problems for a long time.  The teaser payment can last for a few years and once that first recast hits, it is game over.  Currently, 40 percent of all option ARMs are already 60 days late and we have yet to hit the major recast points.  Once these homes start selling at lower prices comps will also take a hit.

Open Thread


I’m Unemployed again and losing hope

Crossposted at Daily Kos

     So the bad news is I lost my job. The good news is, well, coming soon, I guess. If anyone knows of quality employment that can be found in NYC, please let me know about it in the comments below.

     My little adventure as a Paid Progressive Activist (Fundraising) has come to an end because I didn’t make my quotas.

     Our daily quotas were $125 a day or $625 a week. Mind you, we’re standing outside, freezing our asses off while busy NYers scuttle by, bracing themselves against the wind. It is not easy to ask for charitable donations in such conditions. If you make your quota you get paid $375 for the week plus bonuses. If not, you get min. wage. I raised $525 in 5 days, but it broke down to 28 the first day, 10 the second, 425 the 3rd, 5 on the fourth and 20 on the last, so I was dismissed. I raised $525 and will get paid min. wage at 40 hours for the week. It seems a neat little scam, don’t it? You can pay people min. wage then sack them the first week whether they are performing or not. Sucks. At least I’ll get that one pay check though.

    Frankly, I am running out of hope for both myself and the political/economic system that is broken beyond repair.

    More below the fold.

Pres. Obama: I didn’t Run For Office to Help Fat-Cat Bankers

[I posted this diary On Daily Kos this morning.  It’s on the Rec List and well received by some on all “sides” of this divide, although a few people also personally attacked me and rejected any attempt at reaproachment and peace.  There are some who personally hate me and seek no coalition on Daily Kos.  Rather, they seek total victory in which many people leave, especially the “evil” TomP.  I think that is harmful to all of us, just as a total victory on Daily Kos would be harmful.  The left and center need each other now.

It is not fun to lose friends, to be called a racist or to be hated.  Nonetheless, I have to what I think is right and speak the truths I see.  Others may see different truths and I should strive to respect that they do see things differently.  As a human being, no doubt I will fall short in that, but I’ll try anyway.  

I thought I should I post this diary here, where many people are more critical of President Obama.  The two updates are very important, for they are comments from strong supporters of President Obama who do seek peace and coalition.  Peace happens with people who have been “enemies” find common ground and cease hostilities.  I have to let go of past anger just as they do.  Anyway, for your comments.]…

On 60 Minutes last night, the President addressed many issues, including the economy.  One thing I found to be very important and encouraging was his strong statement regarding banks:

Obama: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

60 Minutes

There has been a lot of support and criticism of Barack Obama here, often much of it personal and not issue-based on all sides.

I believe the President when he says this.  I believe he really wants some change.  My hope is that he will take stronger measures to obtain change in our economy.

More, after the fold

Reform: Past, Present, Future, or Somewhere in Between

Once upon a time, we saw progress, particularly technological and medical progress, as both miraculous and uniformly desired.  The romanticized meta-narrative of the the Twentieth Century was that it was the age of startling innovation and that indeed humanity might find its salvation in the latest invention to improve the human condition.  The most common utterance at the time to describe this phenomenon was what will they think of next?  The airplane and the automobile revolutionized travel and with it the spread of information and population dispersal.  Penicillin was considered a wonder drug upon its introduction and indeed many lives were saved when it began being used on a wholesale fashion to combat infectious disease.  The first pesticides were considered miraculous because they greatly increased the yield of crops, with the hopes that their introduction would increase the food supply and in time make widespread hunger a thing of the past.  It was believed that our own ingenuity would be our salvation and in time, there was no telling what long-standing problem would have a easy, understandable solution.

Later, however, we began to cast suspicion on any advance lauded in messianic or wildly optimistic terms.  To our horror we discovered that the drug which took away morning sickness also created tragic, hideous birth defects in babies born to women who took it.  Then we read that the pesticides that, though they meant to increase the food supply, actually created major problems in the ecosystem around them—problems that skewed the natural environmental balance quite unintentionally but quite undeniably.  In attempting to eradicate one pest, we often caused a huge increase in population of another organism, creating a brand new problem in the process.  The system of pest control as set up by Mother Nature then was seen as more desirable as the one shaped by human hands.  And this idea began to take shape in the minds of many to the degree that this belief has many adherents in this age.  Take a stroll down the aisles of your local Whole Foods if you need a visual demonstration.      

But I will say this.  Old ways of doing things are not necessarily better ways of doing things.  Though we may have swung the pendulum from one side to another in the course of half a century or so, we shouldn’t lose sight of the true balance of things.  Anyone who has walked down a street where automobiles are not available and where all traffic directed down a major thoroughfare is pulled by horses knows the filth and the stench that fills the air and collects on either side of the roadway.  It is for that reason, among others, that the horseless carriage was developed in the first place.  We must not ever assume that the motives of those who came before us were summarily evil or distasteful simply because they did not have the ability to measure what they did by the power of hindsight.  Any of us could look like geniuses if we had that in our favor.  We often look for an easy enemy when the true hard work is to work to reach the point where we recognize that there are no easy answers and no easy targets.  Demystifying the past does not imply that we ought to summarily scrap its lessons.  The mythology of past ages needs to be removed, but those who view past behaviors and past events without rosy gloss can find many helpful examples for contemplation, provided, one doesn’t heave it into the trash can in one go, assuming the whole bunch is rotten all the way through.        

The larger point I am making is that it is tempting these days to assume that the advances of the past are purely evil, based on their unforeseen and unintended consequences wrought by best intentions.  We have gotten to the point now that we are reluctant at times to modify the world around us even in the slightest, lest we upset the fragile balance of energy, life, and movement that defines existence as  any being currently alive.  While we are humans, we are also animals, too.  Our will dictates the shape and pace of the world around us, of course, but so also does our very existence.  Global Warming is the buzzword phrase of the moment and while I do believe that human decision making has modified the climate and weather patterns for the worst, I do also know that the environment has a way of being adaptive that we often do not grant it, nor fully understand.  We see things through such selfish, human terms at times, and even our best intentions do not disguise the fact that everything often relates back to us in the end.  We were created selfish.  Self-preservation is what consumes us above any other preoccupation.  Still, this is an impulse we must fight against if we ever wish to live in peace with each other.  We have more in common than we admit, but it’s often the very things we don’t like to admit even to ourselves.  There is a limit to our understanding, and in fifty years from now, perhaps we’ll set aside Global Warming for the latest theory that defines our guilt and gives us a rallying point that demands we be unselfish not towards each other, but towards all living creatures.      

Whether we are kings and queens of the beasts is a matter for debate, but we do have the benefit of higher brain function, and this is what makes us so much more influential than the average mammal.  We seem to confuse at times the fact that we are both animals and also beings beholden to reason, somehow simultaneously separate from the fray.  We exist in our own orbit and while it is wise to understand that the earth does not strictly belong to us, we do modify it by our very presence.  When a butterfly can create a ripple effect just by flapping its wings, imagine what the average person creates by stepping outside on his or her way to work on the morning.  I’m not saying that we ought not be aware of our carbon footprint and we ought not recognize that being less wasteful and more protective of nature is worthwhile, but that one can micromanage one’s degree of social consciousness to an extent that ending up miserable is the inevitable byproduct.    

In a broader context to that, I notice how we lament the slow progress of reform and regulation.  Our split loyalties are often to blame for this as well.  If we were able to reach a happy medium between the supreme authority of old ways and the supreme authority of new ways, then we might actually get something done in a timely fashion.  So much of Liberalism and Progressivism these days is conducted from a defensive posture, with the belief in the back of the mind that no matter what is set in play, it will inevitably blow up in the end and create more problems.  Well, with all due respect, this is merely part of being alive.  Any decision made will create future problems that no one could ever predict at the outset, but this shouldn’t paralyze our needed efforts, either.  

Again, reform is a constant process of refining, re-honing, and revision.  It’s foolish to expect that one bill, one policy statement, or one innovative strategy will come out perfect and never need to be updated to reflect changing times.  Rather than seeing this established fact as frustrating or limiting, we need to modify our expectations.  As President Obama said last week in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “…[W]e do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected.  We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place.”  We are imperfect.  Our ideas, no matter how immaculately crafted at the time, are imperfect, and the passage of time will render them more imperfect.  

But there is a difference between expecting individual or communal perfection on a case-by-case basis and not striving to improve the lives of those around us.  A century from now, if there is a blogosphere, I’m sure many people will laugh at the nonsensical barbarism of a previous age where every citizen of the Earth did not have health care coverage from cradle to grave.  But in this hypothetical example, it would be easy for them to make this judgment if they made it based on a naive, cavalier understanding of our times.  If they viewed them purely through the lens of their times without understanding the events, beliefs, and myriad of factors which led us to undertake the great struggle before us, then their own perspectives could not be taken seriously.  Again, we might be wise to understand why we always seem to crave an enemy.  Voltaire mentioned that if God didn’t exist, it would be necessary for humanity to invent Him.  Likewise, if enemies didn’t exist, it would be necessary for us to invent them.  That the very same people who speak of unity and can’t understand why we don’t have it are among the first to construct an antagonistic force and project all of their frustrations upon it is the deepest irony of all.  Our most powerful enemy is us.        

Death Penalty: The Times Speaks Up

It’s a reason for optimism in the long battle to end State Killing.  The New York Times editorial today called for the abolition of the death penalty.  I applaud.  The abolition of state killing should be a mainstream, American idea.

The Times is angry and points out the obvious about the change in Ohio from 3-drug state killing to 1-drug state killing:

This is what passes for progress in the application of the death penalty: Kenneth Biros, a convicted murderer, was put to death in Ohio last week with one drug, instead of the more common three-drug cocktail. It took executioners 30 minutes to find a vein for the needle, compared with the two hours spent hunting for a vein on the last prisoner Ohio tried to kill, Romell Broom. Technicians tried about 18 times to get the needle into Mr. Broom’s arms and legs before they gave up trying to kill him. Mr. Biros was jabbed only a few times in each arm.

The Times gets quickly from the barbarism of the Biro and Broom executions to the main point:

The larger problem, however, is that changing a lethal-injection method is simply an attempt, as Justice Harry Blackmun put it, to “tinker with the machinery of death.” No matter how it is done, for the state to put someone to death is inherently barbaric.

It has also become clear – particularly since DNA evidence has become more common – how unreliable the system is. Since 1973, 139 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were innocent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

An untold number of innocent people have also, quite likely, been put to death. Earlier this year, a fire expert hired by the state of Texas issued a report that cast tremendous doubt on whether a fatal fire – for which Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 – was arson at all. Until his execution, Mr. Willingham protested his innocence.

Most states still have capital punishment, and the Obama administration has so far shown a troubling commitment to it, pursuing federal capital cases even in states that do not themselves have the death penalty.

The Times conclusion:

Earlier this year, New Mexico repealed its death penalty, joining 14 other states – and the District of Columbia – that do not allow it. That is the way to eliminate the inevitable problems with executions.

Put another way, abolition is the answer to the lingering horror of state killing.  Abolition cannot happen soon enough.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles

Years and Years and Years of supply

Jim Cramer Media Shill or Housing Whore?

On December 17th, 2008 Jim Cramer pronounced that the housing bottom will be in by June 30, 2009.

Well, I now have another contrarian point of view to proffer: The converted bears, as well as the panicked sellers desperate to bail out and nervous buyers afraid to jump in, will be dead wrong nine months from now, when housing prices bottom. In fact, I’ll call the precise date of the housing-market turnaround. It will begin on June 30, 2009.

In 2007 housings subprime market was just beginning to melt down all the while candidates were proclaiming that ours was a strong economy, and the Fed chairman was stating that subprime was contained, and there was no spill over into the broader economy.

These are the experts and yet they have been wrong at almost every turn. Listen to these asshats at your own peril. The government, media and banks are lying to you.

Take the jump to look at some numbers.

Load more